Lenten Journal – Day 30: of whose applause?

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent

John 5:44 – How could you possibly believe? You like to have your friends praise you, and you don’t care about praise that the only God can give!

I know by experience the feeling one gets when the limelight is on you, and you get all the applause and praise of the people because of the wonderful job you just did. You get acknowledged and affirmed of what you can do. Somehow it becomes your identity. It’s so easy to fall on the trap of pride and say to yourself, “yes, this is me. I’m awesome!” when you get so much recognition. Everybody becomes your friends. Then you want to have everything … and everything has to be perfect. You polish your image and would do almost anything to keep that perfect image of you and your life. Until everything begin to crumble.

It was by choice that I withdrew from the different ministries and activities in the church and other secular organizations. I secluded myself from everyone except from my family and a very few friends.  I’ve deactivated some of my profiles on social medias, and lessened my attendance on social gatherings. I chose to be alone.

Spending time alone taught me a lot of things; mostly about life and what are the things that are important in life. It has also taught me the value of friendship. I know a lot of people and they know me. We probably have shared meals and faced challenges together. But I can say that I only have a very few close friends. Friends who understand and accept me for who I am. Friends who will say their opinion regardless if I would like it or not. They are not afraid to hurt me; they tell the whole truth.

Spending time alone taught me to be silent inside. To hush down all the noises inside me and the desires that keep me from hearing the voice of God: to know Him and His will, so I can do the things that really matter in the eyes of God. He is the only one who really matters to me. And I know that I no longer need the praise of many others, because I know that I am loved and accepted by the few, and most of all, by the One who is Love.

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Lenten Journal – Day 29: Listen…and live!

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

John 5:25 –  “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”

I was dead, not physically but spiritually. I was dead because of my sins. I was burned to death; only to be called back to life. So from the ashes I rose up as a new creation. Before I was baptized with water and Spirit; I was just an empty shell and a hollow soul. It was through Baptism I gained life and became a daughter of the Most High. It was through the power of the Holy Spirit that made me to see and perceive, to hear and listen with my whole being, to live in freedom and to love wholeheartedly. That is life – to be aware and totally immerse in the presence and love of God.

How often did I forget about life? How many times have I fallen short of appreciating life? Have I really listening to the voice of God?

Lent is a season to reflect about life and death; how we live our lives; and how we die everyday. We die because of our sins, Jesus offers forgiveness and deliverance so we can live. But in order to live, we must die; die to ourselves, our selfishness and sinfulness. Are we willing to listen to Christ? are we willing to go with Him all the way to Calvary? so that on Easter, we would rise with Him into new life!

Lenten Journal – Day 28: Be well

John 5:6-7  When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”  The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.”

When I was diagnosed, several years ago, I was both relieved and very sad at the same time. I felt relief when the doctors finally found out what was wrong with me. But at the same time, I was crushed because it meant my whole life would change, my dreams and aspirations as well. I had to stop working and could no longer go on with my future study and career plans. I would not be able to function and work normally again. It took some time before I could fully accept the new realities of my life. Many of my well meaning friends gave me different advises. I had to offer Mass; pray more novenas, go to this pilgrim site, make a devotion to this Saint and to this Saint. I did all those things and more. After a while, my condition was still the same. I heard some said things like, maybe there is a sin in your life which you have not repented? Maybe you’re paying for your parents sin? And yes, I was also asked, “do you really wish to be well? Maybe you did not wish it enough?” Of course I do! But nothing seemed to changed. I cried to God and prayed more fervently. Surely something must be wrong with me and what I was supposed to do. Until I just gave up. I just didn’t care anymore.

When you hit rock bottom, find yourself in a pit, tried all possible ways to overcome the hardships without any results… it’s just tiring. At some point you begin to doubt, to loose hope and to loose the will to fight. You give in or give up. You just surrender. It is in that moment that you have a choice: either to give in to despair and bitterness or give up and surrender everything to God. The man in the pool (although I cannot blame him and fully understand how it must have felt being sick for 38 years!) was so focused on his own miseries and his inabilities to attain his goal, that he didn’t even recognized the greatest healer of all standing right in front of him. The One who could heal him both physically and spiritually, one who could make him whole.

Since Sunday, the gospel readings are about healing. This Lenten season, God reminds us to acknowledge our sinfulness and diseases. Jesus comes to heal us of all our diseases, forgive our sins and free us from bondage. And Jesus comes to heal us no matter what our circumstances, regardless of day or time, or if it was politically correct or not. He comes because He loves us so much and wants us to be well.

Lenten Journal – Day 27: Sloth

Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent

John 4:47 – When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.

When the royal official heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him. He traveled from Capernaum to Cana; on bare feet. He arrived back home next day, which means that it took time to walk just to see Jesus and ask Him to heal his son. The official was determined, because he loves his son very much.

I apologized for not writing my daily journal this weekend. I can find hundreds of excuses and most of them are actually valid. But I cannot fool myself. There is only one reason and that is sloth. I’m half way through Lent. I’m starting to miss the things I promised to offer as a sacrifice. I’m starting to doubt and loose focus. I’m starting to get tired….

What would have happened if the official gave up half way through? Or if he didn’t believe in Jesus words that his son would live? He would have probably go home and be met by weeping and news that his son has died. But because he didn’t give up, instead he persisted and persevered; he was met with the wonderful news that his son was healed. All his hard work paid off. He celebrated when he came home.

Lent is a hard journey. But I know, Easter will soon come; a day of God’s redemption and glorious celebration! I have to persevere on this road…. no time for sloth!

Lenten Journal – Day 23: Listen…and be beautiful

Jeremiah 7:23 – But this command I gave them, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.”

Someone asked me how long does it take me to put a make up on. I said around 10 minutes if it’s only a day make up, on an ordinary day. Otherwise, it would take longer time if it’s a night make-up for special occasions. I know some women (or teens) take longer time putting on make-up. I’ve learned from my teenage daughter about contouring or highlighting the brows and other stuffs which was not taught during my teenage years. I’m not so much into that because of my hectic schedule, but when I see my beautiful daughter, I could say wow!

Making ourselves look beautiful on the outside takes time, lots of efforts and learning experiences. Just like if we want to have a good and healthy body, it takes discipline, practice, will-power and strong determination. We can’t take a short cut, it takes what it takes. So it is with our soul and our spiritual life. We can’t short-cut it. We need discipline, practice, will-power and strong determination, combined with God’s grace and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. But unlike in the physical world where most of us have to pay to be beautiful and healthy; pay for our time in gym, to plan and buy the food we need to have a proper diet, maybe buy the right outfit, make ups, machines, and so on. God already created and made us beautiful, free of charge. And He gave us His Word and His Spirit, instilled in our hearts so that our heartbeats become a beautiful symphony of worship to Him.

Sin makes us ugly. Sin makes us “unclean”. Sin kills us. But what can we do? It is our fallen nature. We all commit sins, big or small. We all have the inclination to fall. This Lent season is a very suitable time to make ourselves “clean” again; and to be beautiful again. “Walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.”, says the Lord. Simple, isn’t it? Listen, obey and be beautiful!

Lenten Journal – Day 22: Learn and be wise

Deuteronomy 4:9 – But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children.

From today’s Mass readings, this is the verse that struck me most, “take care….watch yourselves closely….neither to forget….nor let them slip from your mind…all the days of your life….

Yesterday, I wrote about being forgiving and merciful; but does it mean that I have to turn a blind eye towards the wrongdoing? or the injustice? the oppression? For me, forgiveness and mercy do not mean tolerating or condoning to the destructive or abusive behavior. Yes, I can forgive but I should not be naive to let the other person continue his abuse against me; specially when others are also affected. Yes, I can forgive but it does not mean that I have to let a destructive person back into my life, just so he can take it away from me. I can show mercy by praying for the person who hurt me. I can lend a helping hand when it’s necessary and with the intention of convicting the other person to change his/ her ways. Yes, I can give my “other cheek” or walk “extra miles”, but I only have two cheeks and a pair of feet.

There is a time for everything. In Ecclesiastes 3:1 we read, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” And as time goes, we need to learn and be wise; in matters of life and love, of good and evil, of when to keep and when to let go. This Lent, I’m thinking: about the people who have hurt me, about the person who have hurt me most, about what have I done towards them and about what will I do about them.What are the lessons that God intended me to learn from or has the situation made me wiser?

Lenten Journal – Day 21: Mercy

Matthew 18:33 – “Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’”

Someone asked me yesterday, “Are you still angry at him?” A simple single question that sent my mind on different associations. I could say, no not anymore, and act as If I have already mastered perfection and holiness. Or I could say, yes I’m still very angry that I don’t want to see nor speak to him anymore or ever again; just to emphasized that he has done a great wrong towards me. Instead of saying yes or no to the inquirer, I said that I am no longer angry all the time, only occasionally. I’m trying to leave everything behind and move on to a better and brighter future ahead.

When Peter asked Jesus about how often must we forgive someone who have sinned against us; Jesus  did not only give him a number of times we must forgive but also a parable to help his listeners understand that it’s not a matter of numbers but of our attitude, our willingness and the condition of our heart. It is in the heart where our feelings, emotions and will reside. That’s why Jesus ask us to forgive from our heart. To pardon someone (by word of mouth) is easy enough, but it takes longer time to eradicate the hurt feelings, memories, pain and all other negative feelings that was created by the “sin” that was done against us. That’s where our “will” comes to play a big role. I have to “will” to be forgiving and merciful, regardless of how I feel.

Here are some of the things or what I call “truths” that helped me to be willing to forgive:

  • All of us are humans; fallen, broken and victims of the sins of our ancestors.
  • I too am a sinner (maybe a much greater sinner)
  • I have been forgiven by God; and in doing so, He gave me that gift of forgiveness to share to others as well
  • God has shown me mercy by not giving me what I deserve – the punishment of my sins; instead love and acceptance.
  • I don’t want to be judged severely, that’s why I have to be merciful. “Mercy triumphs over judgment” – James 2:13
  • It’s a call to all of us. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6:36

Others might have a different or addition to this list of ways of how to be able to forgive. But I am one hundred percent certain that by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, there will come a time when I will be completely healed and made whole again; and be able to be truly forgive from my heart.

Lenten Journal – Day 20: Domestic violence

Solemnity of Saint Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Matthew 1:24 – When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife

Last night I had a dream and when I woke up, I could still feel the tension in my body. I dreamed that I was in a small house. I was still young and living with my parents. The place looked like one of those poor areas where houses were so close to each other that you could hear your neighbors and they could look directly inside yours. Somehow I knew that my parents had invited our neighbor, a couple (husband and wife) living two houses away from us. They were coming over a bit later. I was standing inside a room that had a huge window. I could see the pavement outside; and the house across which was around 2 meters away. I could hear some fights from the house where the couple was living; screams, shouts and banging. I knew that it was a normal noise in the neighborhood. It was not something spectacular. The neighborhood was used to those kind of domestic turbulence. Then the husband went out of the house; a big man, wearing only pants without any shirt or anything on the upper  part of his torso. The wife went out as well after a minute. I could see that she obviously had been beaten and was crying. But she had to obey and to follow behind her husband. The husband passed my window. Our eyes met. I looked at him angrily. I wanted to do something. Then he asked me, “What are you looking at? do you have any problem with me?” He then took a piece of a cylinder metal and started to walk towards my window. I remember that I was angry and ready to fight; at the same time fearful of what would happen next. I remember that I called my father, so he could come in my room. Then I woke up.

Today, I’m offering my prayers and sacrifices for husbands/couples; that they may be more like Joseph. I pray as well for all battered wives/husbands or any member of a family that are suffering not only from physical abuse but also mental/emotional abuse. And may God forgive us if ever we have taken part to any violent or aggressive behavior at home. May God’s grace continue to renew us everyday, filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ.

 

Lenten Journal – Day 19: Day of rest; being home and replenished

Third Sunday of Lent Mass readings

John 4:15 – The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

The church teaches us not to fast on Sundays because it’s the Lord’s day; a day of thanksgiving and celebration of Jesus. I spend Sundays together with my kids, attending Mass, have a nice lunch and just rest or relax whole day. It allows the body to  calm down and recuperate after a week long at work; and all the household chores on Saturdays; and other social events we have been invited to.

Sundays also gives me time to reflect about the homily given by the priest; and how to apply it on my life. But most of all, it allows me to savor the presence of God in me and my life. We have just receive Jesus and it feels more than wonderful, beyond words. I feel home and replenished! And by God’s grace, ready to face again any challenges that may come during the week.