Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Come, the hour has come...

And God called and said…

Come, the hour has come […] let’s go […]” 1   When one is summoned and the voice calling shows urgency, it might be very hard to drop everything behind yet, the person has to respond.  Each of us has had such an experience and how did we respond? I know how I would do, If  I was on the phone, I would either hang-up the phone and ran to the door and follow the voice or say to the voice calling  “I’ll be right there”. Yes, when we hear the ‘Call’ we can't help but respond to the voice. The response we give will depend on how attuned we are to the “Caller”.

We are still on the late Season of Advent, the preparation of the coming of Christ as an infant. In effect, sending Jesus to the world is like the Father was saying, “Son, It is Time, I have something for you to do.” Jesus was listening, attuned to the Voice of His Father and so without hesitation and without delay, he dropped everything he was doing and promptly obeyed. Could you see him saying, “I’ll be right there, Father.”? Yes, His obedience, that is what we celebrate on the winter night of “Christ-mas”… when Christ came down on earth as a child.

Let us not forget the role of the Mother's "Yes" in this greatest story ever told. Mary was listening, she was not only praying. She was waiting and in her heart she heard the call and her Yes was prompt as she said,
 "Let it be done unto me " 3

We know the story, The Creed that we recite every Sunday reminds us how Jesus spent his earthly life --how he was born of a woman in a poor stable and how he spent his thirty years learning and growing in wisdom under the care of Mary and Joseph, his human family. He was at that point of his journey when he heard another call, “This is my Beloved Son, listen to Him”.2 Yes, another call -- the time has come, the Father said so. Jesus, recognizing the Voice of his Father, the One who has been with him all along those 30 years responded to the call. He knew that His second yes is necessary. He was reminded of the work that he was sent for.

                                                 It is time. The world awaits God’s love. Jesus is coming, the Love made flesh for us!  Yes, Jesus knew as soon as he came out of the water, that the moment has come. He mus now leave their home in Nazareth. He must be about his father’s business. He looked at Mary, his Mother… She smiled. She knows... "The hour has come".

She knows., She herself opened her heart and soul to the Will of the Beloved when she heard Him call. Was it thirty years back that she too she said YES to the Voice?

For three years Jesus traveled the road  day and night spreading the Word of God; teaching about the essence of true love and healing their infirmities even when "he did not know where to lay his head". 4   Jesus knows that words are not enough for the world to understand what love is all about. He knows that if they could not understand love, how much more could they experience the real essence of Loving. Yes, for humanity to understand, to know and to experience love, he must show them how to live love, this is His mission...

That winter evening of his birth and the 33 years he spent on earth  were just preludes. When he hears those words again, “it is time”,  he knows exactly what he must do. He must drop everything behind and follow the road to Calvary.It is necessary...  "I must be of my Father's business."5 

The path of the cross he freely walked and on Calvary He lifted his eyes. 
The Father seems nowhere of sight, yet His presence is ever might
Enveloped by the Father's arms, the Master breathes his last, 
And from that breath comes forth the fullness of life 
The joy that awaits those in His presence
Those from whom He died for 
In following the will of God.
Life and Joy united
On the Cross

Yes, Advent is the season when it all began... the season when we await for Love to come. Love that was born on Christmas nightLove that journeyed on the face of the earth... Love that justified the world... Love that purified it and when all has been said and done, ultimately, Love perfected everything on the Cross...

We who embark on this Advent journey must prepare. The Love that urges us on is a relentless Lover, His love is faithful and He will not fail us. But there is one thing He will ask you and me... "Follow Me to the end".

There is no other way to accomplish this greatest love story that began on One Winter Night except through the Majesty of the Cross , on the sacrifice of Calvary, the sacrifice called joy.

"The Hour has come."  We have been journeying Advent for weeks, are we ready for the coming of Love on Christmas Eve?

This is our love story handed on to us who believe by Love Himself... Would you say yes when you hear on Christmas eve, "come the hour has come..."?

1 (Matthew 26:45-46) 
2 (Matthew 3:17) 
3 (Luke 1:38) 
4 (Luke 9:58) 
5 (Luke 2:49)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

With Our Lady...

A retrospect...

     Today, seven years ago, February 11, 2008,  I was 'there' at Lourdes, France. It was the 150th Jubilee of the apparition of  Our Lady to a young peasant girl Bernadette. 

Grotto of Massabielle, France "Lourdes Grotto"
      I was on my 8 Days Annual Retreat in preparation to my final year of formation as a Lay Religious Brother.

       I could still remember, I was having my breakfast at the retreat house, just a 30 minutes drive to the Shrine when the retreat master announced, "the Provincial approved the permission to spend this day, 150th Year of the Apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes to Bernadette at the Shrine."

A Blessing....

I spent the morning on "Jubilee Way" [Chemin du Jubilé] where I went on a personal pilgrimage. I re-traced and walked on the places where Bernadette Soubirous 'walked' leading to the site where our Lady appeared to her. At the beginning of the pilgrimage, all pilgrims were given an empty badge and at every pilgrimage site we obtained the site's souvenir sticker to place on our empty badge.

Jubilee Way

My Jubilee badge with 4 stickers 

The Basilica from the Outside

Crypt- Lower Church

Souvenir Video February 11, 2015 World Day of the Sick - Lourdes, France
Souvenir Video : February 11, 2008 World Day of the Sick - Lourdes, France

      Before noon I had the opportunity to come and celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation in English Language. Though my mom was born in Northern France, to speak a familiar language is a treat! "Homesick perhaps, after living in France for many years.

      I attended the Eucharistic celebration at the Crypt church. Finally the experience of being immersed on the Pool that cures many illnesses - both body and soul was the highlight of my afternoon. We, pilgrims prayerfully awaited our turn to enter the individual pool filled with the water of Massabielle. You would be surprised, men waiting for their turn to enter the pool room outnumbered women! 

       There alone, before the statuette of Our Lady of Lourdes, I renewed and resolved to be reconciled to follow the Will of God and asked Our Lady's intercession and protection on my journey.

        Just like each one who came to the Pool, my experience was beyond words...

A Blessing indeed!

My Pilgrimage that day was concluded with the Procession of Light. 

Just a reflection...

Who would ever thought that this young woman born in a culture where women are considered unequal to men and who were not even allowed to enter the synagogue to pray nor to read the Torah was the chosen one by God...for God-- a lowly peasant, perceived unimportant, to play a very important role in the history of humanity - to be the Mother of the Son of God and of His Church. 

Is there any other woman most celebrated in history than Mary?

 "[...] From this day all generation will call me blessed. The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name." - Luke 1:48-49

   Isn't it ironic? 
       But, that is the Wisdom of God...

"[...]God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong." - 1 Corinthians 1:27  

Though Mary was chosen, she needed to make an act of the will, to consent on her election.
God’s grace works only on subjects that are docile. “Be it done to me according to your Will.”

O Mary,Our Mother, pray for us and obtain from us many graces and blessings.

Song to Our Lady: 
O Holy Dwelling Place of God

Words spoken by the Blessed Mother at Lourdes
The Apparitions in Lourdes, France

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Intensity [of Love] to the end ...

Our journey through Lent can take us to many faces, corners and turns of life.

    I found myself tonight reflecting on the intensity of Jesus' love for his bride - the church. I wondered whether I could possibly dig further and understand the depth of His love for us who comprise the church - his bride. It may not be easy to understand but I don't give up easily... I want to know... for knowing is loving and loving is living with...

"Does He still experience pain and suffering  as He sees our unfaithfulness to grace? I asked myself. If so, how deep is his suffering?

I went to see Him in the chapel before I finally retire for the night, there at the foot of the cross silently I sat and listened to Him. The light was out, it was just Him and me - the Bridegroom and His friend.

Silence, only a light from a little candle was watching us as we talked...

After an hour of stillness, there was no answer from Him whom I love...

Inside my room as I laid my back in bed, and as I stared on the ceiling quietly, the Liturgy of the Hour Hymn "Roman VIII" came back from memory...

For to those who love God, 
who are called in His plan,everything works out for good.
And God himself calls them to bear the likeness of His Son
That He might be the first of many many brothers. (Rm 8:29)

"To be the likeness of His Son..."

I closed my eyes and prayed for rest of body and mind, allowing Him to 
penetrate my spirit and immerse me in His presence.

With my eyes closed, I saw the image of the vigil light at the sanctuary, the sole witness of my one hour conversation with Jesus. "There", next to the Beloved faithfully lit and watching tirelessly, "there" just like one of the seven wise virgins, this light is in vigil for the coming of the Bridegroom. Suddenly I realized, "the Lord is responding... He is sending me His message." 

"In the quietness of your heart, there I will speak to you.." (cf. John 16:4)

"How intense is My love, you are asking Me?"  It is, 

  • "intense enough to remain alive and warm from the time I was nailed on the Cross, until tonight as I embraced you with my presence".
  • "intense enough  to carry for you the Cross that unites us in love and for Love
  • "intense enough to patiently wait for you day and night for the day that you will come Home"
  • "See the vigil candle next to Me at the sanctuary, My faithful companion  day and night. Without a word but a presence. That is how much you mean to Me- silently I give you My light to accompany your journey 'til you find your way back to Me. It doesn't matter how long... I will wait for you. Love hopes...

I remembered you...

    You are the "vigil light",  one of the wise virgins that is and will be lit "pour toujours" watching tirelessly and in vigil a faithful companion of the Beloved. 

   The intensity of your love , though your light is subtle, quiet, unassuming, yet it is unconditional, faithful and visible to all as witness to God's love and fidelity. You knew Him. He loves you then, He loves you now and in the next... He knows, regardless of anything, and everything - for HIM, you will stay lit, giving light day and night to the "Offerer and the Offering", evangelizing the people without saying a word how intense God's love is for us His church.

"May my incense offering be as bright as your light for the Beloved. 
You are a presence that will remain in me, always."

Then I seemed to hear Him whom we love said, 
"and you, do you love Me as much?"

I replied,"Lord you know everything, you know that I love you...Not my will but Thine."

Only then that He put my spirit to rest....

Sunday, April 28, 2013

It is for you... suffering, sacrifices, prayer

How many times have we ever heard these words:
"Suffering is personal. Sacrifice is for others.Prayer is for God." (St. Gertrude the Great)
Many times when we make major decisions we consider the possible pros and cons of the decision (at least I hope so). More often than not we see ourselves in the scenario... "what if I decide this way or what if I do this way?" I often think, do we also consider the impact of our decision to the people that may be affected by it? Especially if those are the people that mean a lot to us? Like if we are adult and single -- our parents; if we are married -- our wife or husband and children? Or even in friendship -- our friends who accompany us live life each day, after all friendship is a gift from God.

I was in Ohio for few weeks helping out in one long-term care facility that has decided to close down. A friend's relative has a son, a young 54 year old man who has MS and is a resident in this long-term care facility. The man's mother is an elderly living in one of the homes for the elderly run by a religious organization. To cut the story short, the 54 year old MS patient is among those over 100 residents that the state was relocating to other facilities. It actually was a sad event seeing so many sick young and elderly being moved out to an unknown places for care simply because the facility they are now could not afford the cost of operation because of the health care system's highly regulated cost reimbursement.

The man's mother was hoping to have her son live with her in her place. She desires to take care of him but she knows it is not possible. He needs more care than she can provide and she knows he is just waiting for his time.  He is terminal.

I went to visit the old lady in her apartment which was located not far from where her son lives. As soon as she opened her door it was the picture of her son on the wall welcomed me as well as this beautiful saying beside her son's photo. With her permission, I took a picture of it. " Parting is when someone you love leaves you with a new presence and you are forever together apart."

I thought of this words when I remember St. Gertrude's words "suffering is personal; sacrifice is for others; prayer is for God."

Isn't it true, there are decisions that are within our control but there are decisions that we are bound to accept, beyond our power yet we accept it for we believe that it is for a common good.

This mother is suffering deep within herself because of the love of a mother to her son yet she knows it is for her son's good to find a place where his needs can be taken cared for -- not with her in her apartment. Suffering is personal. She feels it, she suffers in silence of letting go of her son that way. Sacrifice is for others. She sacrifice not being close to him for his own good. She prays and abandons herself and her son to God. Hoping God will make things better for both of them. She lives hoping against hope that God will never abandon those who love him.

" It is for you...."  These words carry a lot of weight... 

It is for you, that I suffer quietly.
It is for you, that I sacrifice my desire to be with you.
It is for you, that I pray to God that in parting now we can be forever together apart and in heaven we
                       shall meet again where there is no more pain of separation.

I remember Jesus' words to his disciples "it is for your own good that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Paraclete will not come to you, but if I go, I will send Him to you." (John 16:7)

I  could hear Jesus says this to each of us:

 It is for you, that my Father sent me to the world
It is for you, that I embrace the Calvary and the Cross for it is my love that says this is the way to be with you one day in heaven
It is for you, that I endure the separation so that one day we can be together forever as I welcome 
         you  in heaven.

      "I can't wait" 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Discernment: What is the right thing to do?

To respond to love or not to love?

Look at the man that was fastened to the Cross... He loves us yet quietly he raised his arms fearlessly and died for us ... because of LOVE. That we may have a way to go back to where we belong ... to Him and the Father in Heaven after our journey here on earth is over.

The cross is not a sign of defeat. I see it as a concrete sign of the triumph of Love that lasts for eternity.

What do is the right thing to do?

----Be an instrument of Love ---

Let go and Let the Master take hold of you

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Three lives, intertwined, they were confronted with a decision, each had a crossroad, they've crossed them and nothing was ever the same again

They were friends. They've known each other for a good few years. They shared lives, ate meals together, walked the journey together. There were nights where they had no place to stay, there in the wilderness they retired for the night. They were happy, sharing beliefs that gave them courage to stick together and continue the journey of knowing, believing, witnessing and sharing. It must have been such a beautiful friendship I imagine. Wherever they went they shared everything from hunger when food was scares; cold when dwelling was not available. I think the expression "all for one and one for all" was once theirs. Until one night each one of them was confronted with a difficult choice, a decision. Three lives, intertwined with each other yet as faced by a crucial decision, each took a different route, each saw, thought and reasoned differently and there at the crossroad, each chose different path and the rest is a story to tell.

I'm sure we all can relate to these three men.A beautiful friendship, probably now gone. Life goes on, decisions made have changed the path we've trod but still it gives us smile when memories come back or pain when disappointment was the memory we had.

Jesus, Peter and Judas, three good friends. Tradition says Judas was one of the closest friend of Jesus and that is why Jesus trust him to be the steward of the community's resources. They are poor. Judas must have earned the confidence of Jesus to be given such responsibility. Peter is known to all of us Christians by his primacy among Jesus' friends. Jesus see him as the rock where he will build His church. We know the story... Judas betrayed Christ to the Jewish authorities in return for thirty pieces of silver; the Gospels' accounts is silent as to his motives. Peter, "the rock" is there at the garden when Judas gives the kiss of betrayal and with his sword cut the ear of one of the soldiers. Bravery? Wait till he deny Jesus three times right at the moment when the Master needs him to defend him against the elders and priests who are interrogating him. "I don't know the man!" he said.

Jesus knew what was going to happen and it must have cost him so much to know that these two close and trusted friends of him will be the one who will lead him to Calvary. There, at the garden before Judas and Peter's human weaknesses overpowered them, Jesus prayed for strength and courage to do his father's will.

These three men were at the crossroad. Their friendship was put to the test."When we are on a crossroad , what we decide to do determines what comes next." -Jean Shenoda Bolen

Judas, having seen the impact of his betrayal of his Master and friend couldn't forgive himself. Overcome with remorse, he later committed suicide by hanging, and was buried in the potter's field.

Peter as soon as the cock crowed and he saw Jesus  looked at him with love and understanding and without a word. He probably saw the Master's love for him and remembered the words that Jesus'  said " I prayed for you Peter for Satan is asking for you." Peter cried in sorrow and repentance.

Jesus, in his humanity have asked the Father the possibility to let this "night" pass by him yet, he freely submitted himself to the will of his Father " not my will, but thine be done.." and there at the mount of Calvary, he gave up himself for love. "It is is finished...glorify thy name Father, the glory that I had even before time began."

Three men, three destiny - one led to his death; another to hope and Jesus to life.

God is Love. Love is God's name. Judas could have been saved if he only believed of this Love. He knew how serious was his sin and he couldn't believe that there is forgiveness for what he had done. It is said that the only person who cannot win forgiveness is the one who cannot forgive himself. If only he humbled himself and repented, he could have performed miracles just like the other chosen disciples. Jesus repeatedly say, "learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart". Humility and meekness that is all that Jesus is asking those who wishes to follow him. You and I.

Peter the rock, cried, repented and lived in hope. At the end of his life, there in Rome the eternal city where the heart of our faith is deeply founded, he gave up his life for the church. Crucified like his friend and master only he knew he is not worthy to be crucified the same way as Jesus, he asked to be crucified upside down.  Peter at the end of his life has proven that he is the "rock" where Jesus built his church.

Jesus in accepting God's will suffered everything in his humanity and in the end endured being deprived of any consolation from anybody including God the Father yet, he trusted God and drank the cup that was handed to him. Three days later, he came back, resurrected from the dead, lived forever.

 One died... another lived... and Jesus, glorified.

Do you see the difference of the decisions they made and how their decisions affected one another? Three lives, three decisions and nothing was ever the same after that night.

"Do you love me Peter?" Jesus asked the repentant pillar of the church.
"You know everything, you know that I love you." Peter replied to the Risen Christ.

If love, pure love, unselfish love, self-forgetful love for the good of another is the foundation of every man's decision, my guess is that we shall always know which road to take when we are heading
towards our own crossroads. Only love saves. God did not need man when He created the world, yet he needed Jesus to become man in order to save us. His love for us knows no boundary.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Season From Eden to Gethsemani

Moment of reflection ....

        Lent, a good time to enter into the spirit of what we believed-in as Christians. The essence of Lent can be summarized and make sense only when we grasp the reason of God creating man and woman; placing them in the Garden of Eden and God allowing Jesus to suffer in the Garden of Gethsemani.

Our faith is a relationship. It is all about God loving us and wanting to enter into an intimate relationship with us. He created the Garden of Eden for this unique reason  -- so that God and man can enter into a relationship of a perfect love. God wishes humanity to love Him with all their hearts and in full freedom of spirit. Meaning, to freely and consciously choose to love God in return. This is the very nature of God. He does not dictate, he does not insist, yet He makes himself known to us in discreet ways, through nature, people, instances, events around us with the hope that we would recognize Him.

But as we know, we all sin and denied God in so many ways. When we see pain and suffering or experience it ourselves, these are the signs of our fallen human nature. But God faithful to His promise to love us, He sent Jesus His only begotten Son to ransom us from the pains of sin that cause suffering. At the Garden of Gethsemani Jesus suffered in His human nature, "Father let this cup pass from me" yet in His free will He surrendered everything --"not my will but Thy Will be done."and overcame the frailty of human nature.

The ultimate sacrifice of God for love of man was Jesus' death. Jesus proves to us that God's love has no boundary, to the point of giving up His Son for the sake of fallen men and women that He created. Lent reminds us of this perfect and faithful love of God.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God except our own free will.  To be totally alienated from God, we must will it. But even we alienate ourselves from God still like a good Father, He awaits for our return, the return of His prodigal sons and daughters.

Lent is a good opportunity to rekindle the interior desire to reunite ourselves to God. Since we are human and not God, there is still a part in us that  is broken, wounded and needs healing. He knows it, He patiently waits for us to come to Him and be healed. "Father I am not worthy of your love, but only say the Word and I shall be healed."  Returning to God with a humble heart is like finding our way back home from dark alleys of life to the Garden of Eden where our love story with God had all began.

Now is the Time. Come back to Him.... to a new beginning, a threshold that will set your spirit free and be with Him again in the Garden of Eden where everywhere you turn you see only love. 'There' in the Garden is where we belong!


Now is the time, it is not late to go back to the Garden of Love....
This is the last week of Lent, come back to where we belong...

.... Jesus is waiting for us "with love"....