Upon reading and reflecting the Book of Exodus and allowing it to speak, I realized how YHWH was so concerned and compassionate to His people Israel. In wilderness, difficulties and oppression, He didn’t abandon His people Israel. YHWH liberated them from the onslaught of slavery out of love. His heart was moved with pity and compassion by their groans and cries, longing and hoping for an opportune time that they may be freed from slavery. Out of His love for His people Israel, He called Moses. He made him an instrument for the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt. He became a great historical figure in the History of Salvation despite the fact that he was just a simple and an insignificant person during his time. He didn’t know how to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. He didn’t know how to speak. He was afraid to go and talk to Pharaoh what YHWH had told him, but YHWH still trusted him, called him and sent him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. He didn’t abandon him for He stayed with him and made him great.
With this insight that I gained, I am challenged to contemplate upon my vocation story. I admit, it was not my plan to enter religious life. I wanted to become a Chemical Engineer and to study in UP together with my brother who took up Mechanical Engineering. But, God has another plan in my life. I can’t explain in my own words why God called me in religious life. I don’t have the qualities that a religious should have. I don’t know how to speak in public for I have a stage fright. I am just an average person. I am afraid of risking my whole life for the people of whom I am going to serve in the future. But God, due to His unconditional love, made miracles in my life. I cannot help but be awed on some graces that He granted me, which helped me to strive to become a better person and an effective religious. In my great surprise, I just discovered that I have the capacity to be in touch with my humanity which I didn’t know that I can be capable of. Sharing this capability to others and being sincere on what is within in me, I am surprised to know that I was able to help them and to touch their hearts.
Relating this experience to what I learned from the Book of Exodus, it seems that I experienced in my life the hand of God liberating me from the onslaught of belittling my capacity to respond with His call out of love. Considering this, I realized that God is gracious. I used to be too focused with myself. My plans and decisions were all dependent within my own capabilities, which became a hindrance for me to seek God’s help and enlightenment into my life. But, when God entered into my hopes and plans, everything changed. I thought I was a failure for I was not able to fulfill my dreams in life, but it was God’s providential way to liberate me from this mentality. Too late that I realized I was becoming a slave of my own ego. But, thanks to God, He drove me out from this state.
The Book of Exodus has brought me a lot of lessons to be pondered in life. Its insights made me recall my personal stories that made me say in the end, God saved me from the wilderness of life. Truly, God never abandons His people because He loves them despite of their shortcomings and sinfulness. Considering this, it is true enough that God loves me unconditionally despite the shortcomings and limitations that I have. Words are not enough to explain how God is so gracious with me that even in trials and difficulties He never abandons me. He still says, “I will be with you; and this shall be your proof that it is I who have sent you.” Truly, God loves me and He made me worthy in spite of the fact that I am a wounded and unworthy person for His call.
Last Semester, when I received my grades, I was surprised and disappointed to see my grade in Fundamental Theology and Canon Law I. I received a grade of 2.25 on both subjects. It was a terrible and disappointing experience. I did my very best on best on both subjects. I tried my best to wake up at around three o clock in the morning just to study these difficult subjects. Unfortunately, my efforts were not enough to reach the grade that I am aiming for. Fundamental Theology and Canon Law I were two of the subjects that I consider difficult during my first Semester of my first year in AB Theology, the course that I am taking up now as my post-graduate studies in Don Bosco Center of Studies. It seemed that all the sacrifices, efforts and sleepless nights that I gave were all worthless after receiving such grade. It seemed that my enthusiasm to study not just for grades and passing the test alone, but for life and aiming for mastery has been shattered after getting that grade. After that incident, I became so lax in my studies. Discouragements and distractions were so strong and irresistible. I became impatient amidst difficulties, tests and trials in life. I felt hopeless in recovering the enthusiasm and the passion to study
After reflecting on what happened, I realized that I was fooling myself. My intention to aim for mastery for the sake of service was not my real intention. Sad to say, I study for the sake of grades. This what my ulterior motive dictates. This was the reason I am fooling myself with my “lofty pronouncement” that in my studies I am aiming for mastery and service and not for passing test only. Going deeply in my reflection, I realized that I am becoming untrue with my real intention to strive hard in my studies for the sake of service. This is the reason why I became too demanding of myself. I set up my own standards in aiming for mastery rather than considering the standards of God in my studies. I became an onslaught to myself. I deceived myself with my petty expectations and dreams that once I strive and sacrifice more for my studies, it is pretty sure that I will be able to get a grade of 1 on my subjects in Theology. I fooled myself dreaming of a “pedestal” that will make people recognize and appreciate me once I will be able to get a 1in Fundamental Theology and Canon Law.
Sad to say, yet enriching, I received a grade of 2.25 in both subjects. Average people who strive sweat and blood in order to aim for mastery would already be happy with this grade, but in my case who is standard-oriented and perfectionist, I am not happy and satisfied with what I received. At first, I considered this experience as a collapse, but it was too late to realize that it was God’s way to wake me up in my fancy hopes and dreams. I realized, God’s ways are not my ways and God’s thoughts are not my thoughts. I am so thankful to Him that through this experience He helped me to understand that grades does not tell or define who I am. What matters in life are not the grades that I received in school, but the learnings that I gained which could serve as a tool for me to serve God and my neighbor. With this, I was humbled. I slowly accepted the fact that grades are just secondary in life. What is more important are the learning and the way I strive with my studies which later will help me to be in communion with God and with the people around me. It will also help me to see other’s life patterned and converged with Christ’s sight
To end this simple sharing, I would like to share what Fr. Chito Dimaranan, my teacher in Fundamental Moral Theology, said to me when I opened up to him the discouragement that I felt in my studies:
If you study for grades and honors, you will always be disappointed. There will always be people above you, as there will always be people below you. In either case, you will be grossly misguided if you envy those above, and look down on those below. One ought to study for life, not for grades. One should study for others, primarily, and not for oneself. This is to have a pastoral reason for studying. Also, your disappointment really is very much a function of something else, like low self-esteem, for one. In other words, it is not the disease, but possibly only a symptom. At any rate, what is good for you to do is to make use of these disappointments as a motivation to get ahead of yourself, and not of others. As is true more often than not, our own worst enemies are ourselves, and in the same vein, our own best friends are ourselves.
One of the learnings that I gained in reading and reflecting the Book of Genesis was how YHWH have been so generous and gracious to those whom He called. It is right to assert that YHWH is a generous God, a cheerful giver and a gracious God for He really gives and provides if the person whom He called put his/her faith in Him and obey his commands. From this minute insight that I gained after reading and reflecting the Old Testament, I am challenged to contemplate upon how the grace of God is working in my life and I consider it knowing the fact that His grace is really working into my life. To be honest, I am not used to distinguishing how far the grace of God is still continuously working in me. I admit I am not yet fully open and disposed to His grace. Until now, I am still struggling to open my heart and to be aware of the power of His grace. I am still in the process of surrendering to His grace. This is the reason why I consider conversion or metanoia as a long and lifetime process for me.
Reading the Book of Genesis with full attention helped me to consider how God is so good to those whom He called despite the fact that they are the lowly ones, the less important and the undistinguishable for the proud ones. See, how God made them great! What was the secret of their greatness? God’s grace. And how did they accept the power of the grace of God to penetrate their lives? By humility and sincerity of heart. Humility and sincerity of heart are the two significant realizations that I have gained after reading and reflecting the Book of Genesis. I admit, I am not yet fully grown on these two realizations, so the grace of God finds so hard to penetrate into my heart. I easily squander His grace because of pride. I easily forget and neglect its importance into my life, which I recognize that I continuously receive it from Him, because of inattentiveness. When pride and inattentiveness enters into my life, my heart becomes numb for the grace of God. My heart is like a locked door and everytime the grace of God, which brings opportunities for metanoia, keep knocking on the door of my heart, my heart sometimes doesn’t mind for he is still busy of himself.
The Book of Genesis has brought me a lot of lessons in life. Reflecting upon its message and thoughts made me in touch with my humanity. I am also blessed that as I try my very best to allow the Book of Genesis to speak in me, true enough, the lessons about how the grace of God works in one’s life have touched my heart and have helped me to be in touch with my reality. Actually, allowing this lesson to speak in my reality, I realized that there are a lot of things that I need to accept and to ponder upon. Indeed, the lessons were challenging, yet good enough to start considering the fact that allowing the grace of God to penetrate into one’s heart makes a heart capable of conversion. Thus, change of heart is like putting letter “D” in the Italian word “IO,” which means ego or one’s self, in order to make it “DIO,” which means God. This principle invites me to live it because change doesn’t depend on me and on my own capacities. It depends on God, the “DIO”, and on how I combine the efforts that I exert in order to attain conversion in His grace.
To be honest, I am neither an avid devotee of Mary nor a diehard Marian religious, but I am struggling to become one. The only thing that I could share about Our Lady tonight is her significant role as the model of Chastity. My intention to share this thing is not to endorse the advocacy of the Livepure Movement, but to share my struggles in living the vow of chastity and how I consider Our Lady as the model of chastity.
Adequately considering myself situated on the influx of change in this world, a question popped-up into my mind; is Chastity still valid and possible today? We cannot deny the fact that the more the world engages herself in a massive change and liberalism, the more what is not to be exposed is being exposed, and the more what is not to be exposed is being exposed, the more our brain cells and our investigative eyes are getting wild due to the provoking and pleasing distractions we encounter. Who could say he is not being provoked when he sees intentionally or unintentionally a thing that he should not expect to see or he should not see? Human as we are, we cannot deny the fact that we are being provoked whenever we see a thing that we should not expect to see or we should not see because it is in our composition as men to be enticed and electrified whenever we see a thing that entice and electrify us. But, this is not proper for us because we are Religious and we have the vow of Chastity.
We accept and profess the vow of Chastity not because we fear married life, but we are called to be a witness of God’s love, to be a living protest against the narrow view which identifies love with sex and to be at the service of God’s kingdom. Unfortunately, as I reflect upon these things, I realize that it is easy to say than to externalize it. We cannot deny the fact that we fall short when it comes to externalizing our vow of Chastity in our day to day living. I don’t exempt myself in this difficulty for I also fall short as I do my very best to realize and externalize the vow. To be honest, I feel the shame of entering the chapel for personal prayer whenever I cannot resist the lustful thoughts that keep on bothering and distracting me due to unintentional exposures, mind-shaking provocations and stimulating images that I saw and entertained. Due to this experience, I realize how important the role of Our Lady is as I am struggling and persevering to live a chaste life. Through her examples, I realize that Chastity is still possible though the world misconceive it. Through her, I realize that to live a chaste life means to entail suffering, responsibilities and unselfishness for the sake of God’s love which greater than Human love identified as sex by the postmodern man. Hence, she proved to me through her examples that Chastity frees the heart of a person, so that he/she may become more fervent in loving God and in loving his/her neighbour.
Her examples are so immense, yet challenging for me on how I may be able to recognize more her role as I persevere and struggle to live a chaste life. Going back to my question; Is Chastity still valid and possible today? Yes, it is still possible because we have the model as we do our very best to live a chaste life, i.e. Mary, Our Lady of Chastity, who proved to us that to live a chaste life is possible.