The Greatest Joy in our Sufferings

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An old man is silently dying to his hospital bed, but the weird thing about him is he smiles whenever he feels the pain. his attending nurse noticed it and asked him; “why are you so silent in your suffering? Are you not afraid of dying?” The old man answered with a smile on his face; “when I was a child, whenever I fall down and my knees get wounded, I groan and cry a lot. When I was a teenager, whenever I experienced failures in exams, broken-relationships, being reprimanded, bullying, and unfair decisions for my life, I complain. When I reached adulthood, whenever I feel like a loser, inferior and worthless I rebel, grumble, and hid grudges. Now I am old and dying does I still need to complain? Absolutely not! From all those experiences I realized the value of suffering in silence. It is in silence that I feel the presence of God, and that’s the greatest joy that I found in my sufferings. Thus, God is with me and through this pain I feel his love for me despite the many shortcomings and failures that I have in my life. So, I am prepared to die because God is with me and I am happy about it. Hence, suffering is inevitable, but the love of God in the midst of our agony will always be the same forever and ever.”

On Patience…Patience… and Patience

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picture taken from http://www.thepoortraveler.net

Heavy traffic in EDSA, long queue in the MRT or LRT waiting for someone for almost an hour, processing important documents and papers in some gov’t offices, choleric co-workers, uncooperative colleagues, demanding husband or wife, stubborn, rebellious children, waiting for the one true love, and so on. These are some of the many examples that irritates us and test our patience. It’s really difficult to be patient nowadays, looking upon our situation that we are living; a complex world full of impulse, stress, and anxiety. However, why is it so important to be patient amidst these realities? Why patience is still consider as one of the significant Christian virtues despite the undeniable fact that we are living in a compulsive-kind of world?

In a world filled with discourteous and rude drivers in streets, selfishness, individual differences that cause conflicts with co- workers and the constant demands of children and family, we often need patience just to keep it together. But, how? Here are the three things that we should consider about patience as a Christian virtue; (1) Patience understands and trusts God’s perspective. How many times have we lost our patience in God because of the trials that we felt was so unfair? The tendency is, we put the blame on Him, we complain, and we walked away from Him when we can’t bear the struggle anymore. But, have you ever noticed that in bearing it and keeping control over the impulse of it, we recognize that He understands us and we put our trust in Him? Thus, when trials come, be patient and hold on to Him. He understands our needs far better than we do. As much as we know what we want, He knows what is truly best! It is good that we allow us to be guided by these words coming from the book of Lamentations; “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD” (Lamentations 3:25-26). (2) Patience loves and respects others. One of our biggest challenges in life is trying to exercise patience in our relationships with others. We easily become annoyed when we encounter ill-mannered and difficult individuals. However, being fretful will not be a good means to treat them with love and respect. Remember; Jesus shows his patience with love and respect even to the die-hard sinners of His time. It’s hard to live life in the fullest when impatience overrules our lives. It’s also hard to gain trust from others when we let ourselves be controlled by being impatient. Many serious quarrel starts with or short temper over little annoyances or inconveniences. Hence, we must really exercise patience in order that we may love and respect others. Having this kind of patience that pertains to love and respect others truly treasures them and revered them in spite of their shortcomings. Let’s consider 1 Corinthians 13:4; In 1 Corinthians 13:4 we are told that love “suffers long,” or is patient. The passage goes on to describe how love is not selfish, prideful or rude, because it is after the welfare of someone else. Love is the basis, and patience is part of that process. (3) Patience encourages us to stand up with optimism amidst trials. This is another important reason why we really need to practice it in facing our trials and difficulties in life. In order that we may be able to consider patience as an encouragement, we must really cope with our daily annoyances and hardships without complaint and with optimism, knowing that God’s providence does not really permit any trial that will not be a source of good for us if endured unwearyingly. Hence, let us be inspired and fortified by the words of the Letter of James; “Brethren, you will always have your trials but, when they come, try to treat them as a happy privilege; you understand that your faith is only put to the test to make you patient, but patience too is to have its practical results so that you will become fully-developed, complete, with nothing wanting.” (James 1:2)

There is an old Dutch proverb that says, “A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.” We can’t deny the fact that in our experience it often shows that a patient person will always make better decisions and see more favorable and positive outcomes in life than a very intelligent person who doesn’t have the patience to wait for the right time and opportunity. However, how may we be able to attain better decisions and to be more positive in life despite the oppositions and hostilities that we encounter every day? Let’s always remember and consider three things why we really need to practice patience daily; (1) it understands and trusts God’s perspective, (2) it loves and respects others, and (3) it encourages us to stand up with optimism amidst trials. We ask the Lord who is very patience on us that He may grant us the grace to really practice patience as a very important Christian virtue for our lives wholeheartedly.

The Road of Uncertainty

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Life is like a road trip; exhausting, lengthy, time-consuming, and strenuous.  However, when you arrived at your destination or your journey’s end, what a great pleasure and joy.  In a road trip uncertainties are unavoidable to experience even though we know the direction of our desired destination.  Along a road trip we sometimes ask ourselves; am I able to arrive safe and sound at my desired destination?  Am I able to make it even though there are uncertainties, hesitations, worries, and fears inside my heart and head?  What will I encounter as my road trip goes on and on? Will I be meeting new co-journeyers along the road?  Hence, we cannot but ask a lot of questions as our lives goes on journeying in the midst of uncertainties.  Just like a road trip we cannot but place ourselves on a risk of continuing our journey for the sake of reaching our desired destination, i.e. the one thing necessary for our lives.

Yesterday we welcomed the year 2016 and we say our goodbyes to the year 2015.  For sure we have a lot of expectations and wishes as we welcome the New Year.  However, uncertainties, doubts, and hesitations disturb us when this question pops-up in our minds and hearts; what will be my 2016 as I go on in my life’s journey embracing the new chapter of my existence?  I myself also have this kind of mix feelings as I ponder upon the New Year.  Although I am assure that this New Year will bring a lot of good and unexpected surprises along my life’s journey, it’s also unavoidable on my part to have petty fears, hesitations, and doubts.

From this experience I realized the importance of placing our hope and trust in God.  He knows more what is deserving and better for us if and only if we start to believe in Him.  Though uncertainties make us tremble, placing our hope and trust in Him assure us encouragement and motivation to go on in life.  To whom shall we fear if we will place our hope and trust in Him?  Indeed, our life’s journey for this New Year will never be covered by uncertainties, doubts, and hesitations if we will place our hope and trust in God.

 

A Love Letter for Baby Jesus

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Dearest Baby Jesus,

One day to go before your birth. I cannot but feel more excited and cheerful for your coming.  I could say that I do my very best to prepare myself for your coming, but it’s not enough.  Anyway, I truly believe that it’s not on the grandiosity of my preparation what you would like to count on in me, but it’s my heart.  No matter how big or small my preparation for your coming, what matters most for you is the willingness of my heart to be open with the possibility for renewal and conversion.

Within this month I really do my very best to embrace renewal and conversion in my life.  Sometimes I gain and improve, at times I fall short.  To embrace renewal and conversion in life is really a win-or-lose experience.  It takes a lot of enthusiasm, determination, and faith.  It’s challenging, yet gratifying.  Dear Child Jesus, I’m sorry for failing you and also for not doing the good things that I ought to do.  I’m sorry also for my stubbornness and for doubting your graces and blessings.  I’m really so ashamed to welcome you, but you proved to me that I should not be ashamed in welcoming you despite the many failures and shortcomings that I have.  You still love me.  It’s a humbling experience to realize that your love helps me to move on and comforts me whenever I am anxious and preoccupied with so many negative things in my life.  I am so blessed whenever I fall.  You always say to me “Be still…Do not be afraid for I am always with you”.  As you always saying this to me I am always assured of your presence in my life. And, knowing you is one of the greatest gifts that I in my life.

As your coming is almost near, Lord, teach me to love just like the way you show your love on me.  Make me a channel of your love even though I am being rejected because of love.  It’s your love that make me realize who really am I; broken and unworthy, yet consoled and redeemed.  Clothe me with the mantle of your love that I may be strengthen and motivated by it to face life’s challenges with a positive outlook in life.  Although uncontrollable sadness sometimes distresses me as I wait for your nearing natal day, make me happy and have an eager and a joyful trust in you.  May I also learn to lean and to count on you as I really struggle for peace and serenity of my mind and heart.

Lovingly yours,

Alex.

#ChristmaSerye (The Real Christmas Expectation)

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What do you expect this coming Christmas?  New clothes? New gadgets? Overnight parties? New love life?  For sure aside from these we have a lot of expectations as we wait for Christmas excitedly.  Usually, when Christmas comes we really expect to receive something new and pleasing to our senses and expectations.  So, there should be something new when Christmas comes.

However, is this really the real spirit of Christmas?  Looking and pondering upon the Nativity scene, it was just a simple and ordinary Christmas celebration.  They don’t expect for something new, but they expect for the birth of the Son of God; the main reason of our Christmas celebration.  Actually, the stable of Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, reminds us that the real spirit of Christmas is not all about expecting for something new, costly, extravagant, and appealing; but it’s all about renewing ourselves to the Son of God born in a manger, i.e. Jesus.  He gave us the gift which greater than what we expect, i.e. His life, His love, and His mercy.

So, what we are still expecting for if He must be the real reason of our waiting and expectations?  Indeed, the most important thing in our expectation is to realize that it’s Jesus whom should be the main reason of our Christmas celebrations.  Without his birth, perhaps it’s worthless and pointless to celebrate Christmas just a celebration itself.

#ChristmaSerye (A Lesson learned form the Three Magi)

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One of my favorite scenes in the Nativity story is the bowing down of the Three Magi and giving their gifts in front of the Baby Jesus born in a manger.  From this scene, a question pops-up in my mind; what lesson could we learn about the Three Magi?

Reflecting about the role of the Three Magi in the Nativity story reminds me of an attitude that I must consider as I am preparing myself for the nearing natal day of Jesus, i.e. humility.  Being impressed, inspired, and challenged by the humility of the three Magi, it become clearer for me the message of St. Paul’s exhortation in his first letter to the Corinthians that Jesus is the Power of God and the Wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24).  At first, I find the bowing of Three Magi in front of the Baby Jesus ironic because they were considered wise, learned, and influential, and then without any hesitations they bowed down in front of a simple child born in a stable of Bethlehem, and not only that, they also presented their gifts to the child who was just an ordinary child.  But, as I am continuously pondering its message, I realized, this humbling expression of the Three Magi gives us an idea that Jesus is really an extraordinary person which even the Three Magi bowed down to Him because He is the Power of God that cannot be predisposed by the earth’s power, and the Wisdom of God that cannot be domineered or swayed by earth’s wisdom.  Yet, He humbled Himself and became like us.  He is God, but He chose to be in a form of a slave because He loves us so much and He cares for us.

What is the invitation of this for us?  It’s simple; it’s all about the significance of humility as our passage way for conversion.  The story of the Three Magi reminds us that through humility we will be able to recognize the significance of putting our trust and hope in Jesus who is full of mercy and love.  Without Him, it’s hard to live, it’s hard to be firm in our faith, and it’s hard to understand the beauty, the uniqueness, and the happiness of living with His presence this Christmas.

#ChristmaSerye (What makes us moved this Christmas?)

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What makes us moved this Christmas?  Is that the Thank you for your Love of ABS-CBN; or perhaps the MaGMAhalan Tayo of GMA 7; or maybe the Christmas TV jingle of TV five?  It’s really evident that what controls the real theme of Christmas is not the liturgy itself but the different TV stations.  Now, the main theme of the different TV stations for Christmas is all about love which I think is alright and somehow gives a gist about Christmas.  But, as I ponder this, another question pops-up in my mind; what kind of LOVE that Christmas wants to suggests for us today?  Is it what really ABS-CBN, GMA7, and TV5 proposing and emphasizing in their Christmas jingles?  Probably, they’re right in saying that Christmas is all about being loved and to love.  However, is that all?

For me, Christmas is not just all about loving itself, or saying it as the season of being loved.  It must lead us to love including those who does not love us and being rooted on the love of God who became like us in the person of the Baby Jesus born in a manger.  Yes, it is good to see in different Christmas TV ID station jingles the different faces and expressions of love in celebrating Christmas.  Nonetheless, we should not forget the real message of Christmas as love, i.e. the Baby Jesus born in a manger-the reason of love and ours loves.

Hence, what makes us moved this Christmas?  It’s up to us, but what I would like emphasize on my reflection for today is the Baby Jesus which really makes Christmas a season of LOVE.          

The Lord’s Tuwid na Daan

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Ano ang Tunay na Tuwid na Daan? (What’s the Real Right Path?)

I think we are all familiar as we always hearing about the Tuwid na Daan (Right Path).  For sure we all know that this is the political motto of the Aquino government and of the Liberal Party which assures a better and strong Philippines as a nation (Is this makes sense? Is this sounds appealing?).  Stating this fact, it is not my intention to endorse the Liberal Party for 2016 Elections nor elevating the Aquino’s Administration.  I used the Tuwid na Daan thing for my reflection in considering about the real straight and right path for our lives and for our welfare, i.e. the Lord’s Tuwid na Daan which is more powerful and greater than it.

The Second Sunday of Advent, which we commemorated last Sunday, and last Tuesday’s solemnity of the Immaculate Concepcion introduces and presents to us the real straight and right path for our lives.  Probably, this straight and right path is what we really aspire, dreaming, and hoping for-the path that which greater than the government’s Tuwid na Daan and for sure cannot be also controlled by its temporal and political power.  But, how we may be able to feel and embrace this path?  Here are the three things that suggests our attentiveness and awareness; (1) To feel and embrace the Lord’s Tuwid na Daan means to prepare ourselves with a welcoming attitude.  St. John the Baptist in the gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent encourages us to prepare the way of the Lord and to straighten his paths.  This is possible unless we welcome the Lord in our hearts through conversion.  So, the burning question is this; are we willing to change our old bad habits, vices, and intriguing values systems for the sake of welcoming the Lord into our lives?  The only way in order to prepare and straighten the way of the Lord is really to prepare our hearts with conviction and motivation for change.  By the way, what kind of way that John the Baptist is referring to us? Metanoia, i.e. our willingness to change of hearts or in other terms our capacity for Repentance starting from ourselves, and then our neighbors.  (2) To feel and embrace the Lord’s Tuwid na Daan means to straighten our heart’s path.  What do I mean in saying this point?  In the gospel last Sunday, St. John the Baptist challenges us to prepare the way of the Lord.  Good preparation of the Lord’s path starts from our hearts.  If our hearts are not ready and willing to receive the Lord wholeheartedly, what is the sense of our waiting and our preparation for His coming?  How could we fully enjoy His presence with joy, peace, and prosperity if mediocrity and disinterestedness sways and controls our hearts?  (3) To feel and embrace the Lord’s Tuwid na Daan means be humble like Mary.  In the gospel for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Concepcion, we witnessed how Mary humbly accepted the angel’s Gabriel announcement that she will bear the Son of the Most High.  From that instance, Mary gives us a hint on how to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord, i.e. humility.  Humility is not about being inferior to someone who is superior, rather it’s about trusting to the providence of the Lord in spite of our weaknesses and unworthiness.  It’s also all about being true, transparent, and honest in front of the Lord who is gracious in mercy and bountiful in love.  So, in spite of our shortcomings, do we still believe that we can receive the Lord through humility?  Are we eager and keen to be humble like Mary as our way of preparing ourselves for the coming of the Lord?  Are we ready to strive for humility even though it’s demanding and challenging?

Indeed, Ano ang Tunay na Tuwid na Daan? (What’s the Real Right Path?).  Perhaps, you’re still thinking about a path that is not frustrating, convenient, progressing, dignified, and well-paved.  But, how about our hearts’ path today, does it follow God’s standards and measures in order for it to be a straight and right path for our lives?  Today, God only asks us three things in order that we may be able to achieve the right path that we are longing for; (1) To feel and embrace the Lord’s Tuwid na Daan means to prepare ourselves with a welcoming attitude, (2) To feel and embrace the Lord’s Tuwid na Daan means to straighten our heart’s path, and (3) To feel and embrace the Lord’s Tuwid na Daan means be humble like Mary.   With these, we pray that God may gave us strength and inspiration in doing these challenges as we prepare ourselves for His coming.

 

Love Amidst Oppositions

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I am loved, you are loved, and we are loved. This is who we are. This is our real identity as we venture the different paths of life. But, sometimes we cannot deny the fact that oppositions come in an unexpected moments. So, we fail to realize who we are. We forget that we are not just ‘individuals’ but ‘persons’ who are loved and being immersed in love. Hence, in our lives, love is really a freely-given gift. We received and continuously receiving this gift, but the problem is we tend or unintentionally disregard or ignore the value of this gift simply because we have the tendency to be too focus to so many oppositions that affect our lives. So, we give up loving. Instead of choosing to be happy realizing that we are being loved, we choose to be sad. We choose not to love anymore. We close our hearts on the mere fact that we could still be loved amidst oppositions. That’s why we stop loving and allow ourselves be loved.

We have the tendency to give up when loving is so impossible amidst opposition. But you know, I know a person that He does not give up on loving you. Do you know who He is? He’s God. Remember this; since we were still on our mother’s womb, God does not give up on loving us. Even though we stop loving others and even ourselves, God continues to love us. Even we are unlovable, He loves us without any hesitations, without any second thoughts, and without any doubts. In spite of our sins, shortcomings, and limitations in life, He remains patient with us because He cares for us, and that’s how God loves us. He is willing to offer even His life just we feel and recognize His love, mercy, and compassion for us. Wow what a fantastic God! If all of us is like Him, for sure it’s easy to love, it’s easy to be merciful, and it’s easy to recognize that we are being loved amidst oppositions.

Why I am saying this? I just realized that in the midst of my brokenness, I forget the most essential and non-negotiable thing in my life, i.e. I am being loved by God. But, realizing that being loved by God is not enough. It is also serves as an encouragement for me to love despite the many oppositions that hinders me to love. Moreover, I remember what Leo Buscaglia stressed in his book entitled Love which for me serves as a reminder that even though we are being loved by God we have still the responsibility to love although it hurts;

One cannot give love what he does not possess. To give love you must possess love.

One cannot teach what he does not understand. To teach love you must comprehend love.

One cannot know what he does not study. To study love you must live in love.

One cannot appreciate what he does not recognize. To recognize love you must receptive to love.

One cannot have doubt about that which he wishes to trust. To trust love you must be convinced of love. One cannot admit what he does not yield to. To yield to love you must be vulnerable to love.

One cannot live what he does not dedicate himself to. To dedicate yourself to love you must be forever growing in love.

Hence, Love is power that manifested to us through the Love of God. We will be able to have it and to do it unless we are willing to be subdued and to be overpowered by it in spite of its pains and demands.

A Time to Move Forward

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“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy…”

 It’s really tiring to wait.  It really challenges time and tests patience especially when waiting affected greatly my other urgencies and main concerns.  Actually, we cannot but affirm the fact that waiting is an essential part of our daily experiences.  Life is an unfinished business.  It demands always something more and something yet to come.  So, it really takes to wait in order to live life in the fullest.

The gospel for today’s first Sunday of Advent gives me an assurance that waiting is beneficial and at the same time providential, unless I may not get tired of waiting.  Waiting is a time for moving forward, and this is what it means to prepare myself daily.  Waiting, however, has to be vigilant, disciplined, and generous.  Vigilance, discipline, and generosity are the three things that I should really consider and the invitation of the gospel for me today.  Indeed, waiting entails an effort of change starting from my way of thinking and doing always in accordance with God’s perspective.  I realized, it is in waiting that I may be grow in love.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy…” This statement really calls my attention.  It really summonses me to have a proper attitude in welcoming the Lord to work into my life.  But, how I may be able to do it?  By considering waiting not a tiring and tasking thing, but a means for receiving the Lord wholeheartedly, it assures that I may be able really to feel the presence of the Lord moving into my life.

Indeed, it’s really tiring to wait, but it’s really significant to wait because in waiting there’s hope.

May the Lord strengthen me, protect me from all anxiety, and make me holy as I wait in joyful hope for his coming every day and at the end of time.