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.

Lenten Journal – Day 18: Finding the way back home

In Luke 15:11-32, we read about the The Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Merciful Father and the Brother. I heard the story many times and have read countless reflections about the story. But this time, I asked myself, “What pushed the son to ask for his inheritance?” Probably to enjoy life or to find something more than just what he was used to: like many other teenagers or young adults that feel a need to venture out in the big wide world, a curiosity or longing to experience something that was beyond the comfort of their homes. Or maybe just trying to figure out their identity.

I just watched a film titled, “Lion” last evening. It is a film based on a true life story about a five year old boy who was looking for his older brother, innocently boarded a train, fell asleep and traveled so far that he couldn’t find his way back home. The story is different from the story of the prodigal son, but they both have one thing in common – the longing to find their way back home. Because in finding home, you find yourself.

So many times, I felt lost. I didn’t know who I am or where to go anymore. How can I find myself? How can I go from here to there? And where is there? Somehow, in the deepest part of my heart, there is a still small voice saying, “You are your Father’s daughter. That’s who you are and so much more.” And only in accepting that truth, I find my home. Because my home is with God, my Father and with my Beloved Jesus.

The road of Lent in life is long and hard. There are lots of soul searching and heart breaking sacrifices. The cross is waiting at the end of the road. But it’s the journey I have to take. As I go, I learn more not only about myself but about the things that are important in life. And knowing that Easter is right after, gives me much comfort. And I know that God is with me all the time and all the way through.

Lenten Journal – Day 17: Jealousy and Envy

Genesis 37:4 “But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.”

 

Jealousy and envy – those two feelings that pushed Judah and his brothers to plot against Joseph’s life; the very same things that drove the tenants to kill the owner’s son. (Today’s readings). Jealous of the father’s love; jealous that Joseph receives more favor than them; and the tenants are envious of what the owner has; they thought that they deserve to have what the owner has.

This Lent, God is calling us to go deeper into ourselves, to search inside if there are traces of jealousy and envy hidden within. Jealous of our neighbors wealth, status, accomplishments? Envious of what they have which we do not have ourselves? Jealous that someone else might have caught the attention of our beloved? that someone gets more affection than us? Envious that others are happier? better? The list can go on. It is so easy to fall into the trap of envy and jealousy, on this time and age of social media. We can easily compare ourselves with others, through Facebook or Instagram pictures, thinking that they have more than we have; their relationships are far better than ours. Maybe they are, maybe they have more than us, and that is the truth. And so what? what of it?

Envy is one of the seven capital sins; along with jealousy. It can drive a person into depression and despair; in gossiping and slander or badmouthing; and in worst scenario, leading someone to kill another person.

Kindness and love are the virtues that counter these sins of envy and jealousy. Loving by understanding, accepting and wanting the best for others. Kindness by being compassionate and thinking good about the others.

May this journey I have taken this season of Lent, helps me to be more kind and loving towards others. So, help me, God!

 

Lenten Journal – Day 16: Being Poor

Luke 16:20 – “And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,”

I have known what it was like to be poor; going for days without proper food. We used to call it, “forced fasting.” I remember how I would climb a fruit tree, just to have something that would satisfy my hunger. And I cheated, lied, borrowed money and made promises which I didn’t intend to keep, and the list goes on. I did all sorts of things just to be able to survive. Those days were gone now. It happened decades ago. Looking back, I could see that I was not really that poor compared to the poorest of the poorest. Of course, if I would compare my life with the rich people, then I could say that I am poor. But there are lots of things that I have been blessed with; good things like family, friends, a home, clothes to wear, good health, an education, clean water and so on. There are those who are poorer than me, who lack these common basic needs. I think about the homeless, the refugees, the orphans, etc. Maybe God didn’t make me a millionaire, but the call to help the poor is still valid and applicable for me.

In today’s Gospel reading, it doesn’t say anything about what was the rich man’s sin, not directly actually. The rich man was not harsh nor treated Lazarus with disdain or repulsiveness. His sin was not something he did but something he didn’t do. He was aware about Lazarus. But what did he do to help him? I, too, fall on that sin of omission. When I see a homeless or marginalized, sometimes I intentionally go another way around. I would try to avoid them. I fear them, as if being poor and homeless is contagious. I rationalized by saying to myself that it was their own fault; and that I have enough problems to deal with on my own.

Why am I hearing some roosters crowing?

God made me go through the experience of being poor  so that I could be more understanding and compassionate towards the poor people. Without learning the lessons in life, without growing in wisdom, compassion and love….. I become… I am the poorest among the poorest of all.

Lenten Journal – Day 15: Grace

Matthew 20:20-21Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him, with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”

As a mother, I can very well relate to Salome the mother of the sons of Zebedee, James and John. As a mother, I want the very best for my children. I want them to excel and have a good future. I want them to be successful and happy. I would do anything for them that sometimes, in the eyes of other people, could look like I’m spoiling them.

I also know that there are just some things that I cannot control. No matter how hard I try to be a good mother, children have different personalities, and there are some who can be a real challenge. In some occasions, I find myself on my knees and begging God to take care of my kid, to change her and bring her back. After trying every possible way, the only thing left is to pray and trust.

Today’s Gospel reading made me think and reflect of all the things mothers would do for their kids. There is nothing wrong with wanting the best for your children, but it should be balance with wisdom and humility. It should never be at the expense of other people nor should it be out of selfish motives. Our kids are not our extension or puppets to fulfill our dreams and needs. They are gifts of God with their own personalities.

This Lent, God is again calling me to serve. But I have to discern whether I’m going out to the extremes in the name of service, thus making service as a goal itself, like a kind of an idol. I have to search inside my heart if I’m doing all the fasting, praying, penance and service just to serve my own ego; making them like children or trophies that I can present to God with pride. “Look at me, Lord and what I have done for you. Can I now sit with you?” I must never forget that everything I receive is grace. There’s nothing I can do to earn grace.  Because it is freely given by our loving God. I have to remember that  I should be like my Master Jesus Christ. And He said, “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave;even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”              Matt. 20:26-28

Lenten Journal – Day 14: Discipline and Practice

Matthew 23:3 – “Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.”

Some people don’t like the word discipline. It sounds so harsh and self righteous. Some associate the word with the memories they have from early childhood. Discipline – we know it’s a necessity in order to grow and mature. We need it as well, to attain a higher education or achieve a desired goal.

Lent is also about disciplining our body, soul and spirit in order to be what God calls us to be; a better person; and to unite ourselves to Him and His Will. Of course, disciplining ourselves is a life long process and should be done everyday, in and out of the season, in all occasions. But there’s a greater emphasis on it during the season of Lent; or in some cases, a reminder that we should redirect our hearts and lives towards God. We are but frailty humans; not using this statement as an excuse but a fact that none of us is already perfect nor holy.

Disciplining our body through fasting by abstaining from meat or meal or other kinds of food, not because we want to be slimmer or save some money which we can use for some Easter vacation or other luxuries, but to unite ourselves with the poor and needy. We give the money, which we should have used for ourselves, to the poor instead.

We discipline our body to have a more structured time-table by prioritizing our time. We get up early to pray and go to bed in a proper time so that we could get up early next day without falling asleep in the middle of the prayer time. If we have never had any prayer time before, this Lent is a great time to start. It doesn’t have to be a long prayer; each according to one’s willingness and heart. God’s grace is free for all; His mercy  and love never changes.

Prayer is also a spiritual discipline that helps us grow closer to Christ; along with the reading and studying of His Words, meditating, reflecting, contemplating, singing or any other activities that help you to mold your spirit into submission to the Holy Spirit.

Disciplining our soul means being watchful of whatever comes into our senses, thoughts and hearts; be it through the TV, music, Internet, etc. Lent is a season when we grow deeper into ourselves through reading sacred or spiritual books. Time spent in Facebook or other social medias or TV programs, can be spared and used to read some books instead.

Discipline is something we do, train and practice many times, again and again and again. How can we set goals and not practice discipline?

Lenten Journal – Day 13: I refuse

Luke 6:36-38: “Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”

 

I refuse to give in. I refuse to give up. I refuse to give in when temptations are in front of me. I refuse to give up when tiredness and hardships confront me. Stubbornness you may say, but in a good sense. When I am pursuing something of importance; determined and unmovable in my attitudes, I can be stubborn. I wish I can say the same when Jesus sets higher standards and call to love.

” Be holy….” – 1 Peter 1:15-16

“Be perfect…” –  Matthew 5:38

“Be merciful…” – Luke 6:36

Sometimes, I refuse to be taught and accept correction. Pride sets in and reasons to prove that I am right; self-righteous covered in false humility.

Sometimes, I refuse to listen to anybody other than myself. I refuse to see the goodness of others, but instead judging them according to my own set of standards.

Sometimes, I refuse to forget the past, specially the wrong that was done to me, the hurt and the injustice. I refuse to let go and to forgive.

Sometimes, I refuse to see the sufferings and pain of others; to reach out and lend some helping hands. I refuse to see the homeless, or the refugee, or the addict, or the criminal.

When I refuse, I accept at the same time. When I refuse to be kind, I accept sin to come into my life. When I refuse sin, I accept life and love to rule over my life.

When I refuse, I have to be sure what I’m saying no to and to whom I’m saying yes for.