Lenten Reflection – First Sunday of Lent 2018: Alone

Mark 1:12 –  The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

All of us, like Jesus, some time in our lives, are driven by the Holy Spirit to enter into a “desert” experience in our lives. I have never been in any country with desert. I have no way of knowing how it is to live in such a place. But I have experienced a “desert” period in my life; when I felt drained of energy, thirsting after something that would give me joy and life; surrounded by both “wild beasts” and “angels” and yet felt so alone and lonely. It was at that time that I contemplated about my life and about myself. I told myself, “This is not the kind of life I wanted to live; nor ever dreamed of. This is not even called living at all; it’s more like a zombie life. It is living in a rigid, monotonous and routine life; merely surviving. It is living in constant fear, fatigue, stress, sadness and loneliness.”

It was during those moments, when I was faced with the harshness of reality, that I questioned everything. I confronted reality and took a decision. I realized that I was all alone. I needed to take responsibility. I needed to stand strong and take actions all by myself. There were “wild beasts” meaning people around me that inflicted me pain and suffering, but there were also “angels” who were there and helped me grow and come out of this “desert” life. I’m grateful for both kinds of people.

I told a friend yesterday how important it is to be alone sometimes. It’s the time when you have to look into yourself and confront the truth about yourself; be authentic. It’s so easy to be somebody else or wear a mask when we are with other people. We have agendas, or ulterior motives, or we want to look good for others. But when we are alone, and there’s no one to please nor gain validation or approval, we only have ourselves. And who do we fool but ourselves? Why live in a lie when being truthful is more rewarding and fulfilling? So if you want to know yourself – then spend sometime with yourself, alone*.

*Know that you are not truly alone, because God is always with you no matter what. But i’s the feeling of being abandoned and stripped of everything. Just like Jesus shouted on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”


Lenten Journal – Day 40: It’s done!

Reflection on Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

It is done! It’s over! 

The deed of sale of our old house was finally signed and the property income would come in a few weeks time. We had moved to the new apartment, starting all over again from the scratch. I felt sad by loosing our house where we lived for almost 25 years. We didn’t just loose a house but a home where we shared a lot of memories together both happy and painful ones as well. I felt relieved that it was finally over; all the burdens, sorrows and depressions that we had while living in the house. I could finally see some hope in the future. 

“It’s over! There’s nothing that you nor I can do about it, because it’s the law.” These were the words of the judge when the divorce papers where signed in the court. Anyone who has gone through a divorce would know the indescribable feelings and million thoughts that goes through you all at once. 

“The case is close! It’s over!” These were the words of the social worker, together with the family therapist. Two years of therapy, family counseling, visits to psychologist and the social system, has finally ended. I was afraid. The same feelings I had when I finish my driving lessons and was given my license to drive. From then on, I knew I had to drive alone without my teacher sitting beside me. All the responsibilities were handed or transferred over to me. Would I be a good driver? Now that the family therapist signed me out, I could no longer come to her and seek counsel. Would I be a better parent to my kids? 

All of us go through a period in our lives that change us entirely. We feel sad of the painful past and what it has done to us, afraid to move forward in the future and insecure of what lies ahead. The disciples of Jesus had those feelings. When Jesus died on the cross, even after 3 years of training and living with Him, they were not prepared to go through this painful meaningless death on the cross. They doubted if everything was just a waste; afraid that same thing would happen to them as well, devastated for seeing the death of someone they love very much. They felt powerless to do anything at all. Jesus hanging on the cross, like a common criminal, was meaningless for them at that time. He didn’t do anything wrong, on the contrary, did everything that was good and taught everything about love. He was paying for a crime he didn’t commit. 

Yes, it’s over. But there’s a new beginning coming. A new dawn, a promise of something better. That’s life; like the changing of seasons and time, when one season ends, another begins. There’s nothing much to do but move on and face life with great anticipation. Because that is the promise of the whole Lenten season and the passion of Christ – that Easter morning, when everything would be renewed by the power of God. 

Lenten Journal – Day 36: Truth

John 8:32 – “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 

What is truth? Things that our parents told us? Our churchleaders, gurus or others? What is this “truth” that Jesus is telling us? Do we know the truth?

Knowing the truth is different from accepting it.  You might say that you know the truth. But do you accept it? Jesus is the truth; revealing God as the Father and as Love. As love is truth, we love without any deceit or lies. We love as the son loves the Father and as the Father loves Jesus His son. If we accept the truth that love doesn’t demand any conditions or expect anything in return, then we can live more freely. We love because we know the truth that we are loved by Love Himself. We love others knowing that we don’t need others to love us back because our happiness doesn’t depend on them but on the truth that we are loved by Love himself, no matter what. We are immersed in this love, molded and created anew to become Love. 

Once we know and accept the truth, we live it. Everyday becomes a new expression of love and manifestation of the truth. 

This Lenten season, God is calling us to look into our lives and into ourselves. Is there any deceit? Double-standard moralities? Lies? Repent for the Kingdom of God is near. 

Lenten Journal – Day 33: Repetitions

Fifth Sunday of Lent

John 11:40 – Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”

When I read this passage, I hear it again and again inside my mind but it is not Jesus, but me saying, “Did I not tell you?” As a mother of six kids, I asked that question countless times to my kids. And any parent would probably agree with me, when I say that dealing with teenagers is not easy. We need to repeat to them several times what we said  before it’s heard or responded to. I guess it’s the same with dealing with toddlers. Repetitions, rituals and structure are very important in bringing up kids. Of course, there are times when we cannot follow it rigidly. We need to give allowance and space for our kids to explore, learn and grow by themselves as well. Balance is the virtue of two extremes.

In the gospel reading today, Martha displayed one of the most astounding faith. She said, “And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” John 11:22. And when Jesus asked her if she believed, she said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.” John 11:27. But like other human beings, frail, sinful and forgetful, she forgot. That’s why Jesus had to say, did I not tell you?

Every year, the Church goes through the season of Lent among other liturgical seasons; same readings, message and rituals. I heard people saying that it’s just tradition and because it occurs every year, it has no longer value. For me, they are wrong. People forget. Repetitions are necessary to remind us again and again, Jesus message and teachings, His life, death and resurrection. And every year comes different challenges in life. So every year, we have different petitions or the opportunity to reach out and help different people. Everyday is also different. We strive to be better. Even in our prayer life and spirituality, repetitions can help us grow.  But as I mentioned earlier, not to be rigid, instead, giving the Holy Spirit the freedom to work in us. Balance is the virtue of two extremes.


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.

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!