Counting the Costs

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father- the Spirit of truth who goes out from the  Father- he will testify about me.” John 15:26

44 is the number of PNP SAF troopers who perished in Mamasapano in Maguinadanao, Philippines. 21 is the number of Egyptian Coptic Christians who were beheaded in Libya.  11 killed in the Charlie Hebdo headquarters in France.  I can mention a number, and probably there is a match to a group of human beings who died in some way that could have changed the way we think or live.

It is shocking to know how collectively a group of people could be wiped off from the face of the earth, and sad that what a majority could only remember is their number.

These people have names.  They have families.  Loved ones.  They had dreams. They had lives. Until somebody else decided otherwise.  And now their souls cry out with their own stories to tell.  We did not know them when they were alive, but now we know them because they are dead.

Some died because of freedom of expression, others for love of country. And lately, for love of God.

The thought of them left me to wonder. How long can I stand up for what I believe in?  How much can I sacrifice for those I love?  How far can I go amidst the raging waves of my own personal struggles?

We have only 1 God.  3 is the number of Persons in the Holy Trinity. 3 is the number of words that a martyr last uttered before he was beheaded- “Jesus help me”.  That sums up the answer to my questions.  We can withstand any suffering, endure all pain and weather any storm.  Because our Father loves us, Jesus saves us and the Holy Spirit helps us.

May we, who  are left to ponder on the countless lives lost for whatever reason, learn that the manifestation of our selflessness is the true essence of our humanity.

Please offer prayers for the souls of our brothers and sisters who died because war, violence and terrorism. May their souls rest in peace.

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Never Empty

Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” Acts 3:6

It was a great disappointment  that i gave in to my weakness on Good Friday.  Fasting was totally deleted as i hesitantly (with guilt that almost choked me), downloaded that salmon carpaccio and tonno. thanks to vapiano.  being in an Islamic country is not an excuse.  In fact, there are no excuses at all. The Muslims fast for forty days during Ramadan and I cannot, even for just one day.  Shame  on me!  God forgive me.

Yes I know if I prayed  hard enough, He will.  And maybe i can forgive myself too.  But not before I could sincerely ask for His forgiveness, do penance and make up for the grave sin that I committed.

So how do i do that?  I need the Helper, the Holy Spirit to get me through this.  Grace to sincerely ask for forgiveness.  Humility to do penance.  And charity to make up.  All these three, I need. Big time.

The first two is between my God and me. The third, I had to reach out to my brothers and sisters.  Be generous and kind.

There is a grave misconception about the word charity for me, that charity is an exclusive exercise for the rich.  So that it becomes synonymous with letting go of material  wealth or possessions.  Until I took into heart what Peter said.

I was waiting to get rich to be charitable and generous.  But i realized that even if I am not, I will never ran out of opportunities to be kind and giving.

My cup of blessings are full and overflowing.  And so does yours.  It  may not be quantified with monetary value.  But our cups are never empty.

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In the same way, that the recipients of charity should be restricted only to those who need money or things.  There is another class of poor in our midst.  There are those who may have all the riches in the world, but think they have no more reason to live for.

Even those who  are in dire need of someone who will listen in times of distress. Who will lend a hand in moments of weakness. Who will offer a smile when the whole world frowns upon him.  Rich or not, we need others to fill in a void in our lives.

God sends us to fill in that void.  Let us be that angel.  Let us be that someone.  Let us be that friend.  Because if there is anything that we will not be short of, it is ourselves.  we will always have something  to give.  Because the Lord fills up our cup.  And refills it each time we pour ourselves to others.

When Free Means You Pay

“A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  So by their fruits you will know them.”  Matthew 7:18-20

The freedom of expression is an inherent right of a person.  When it is suppressed or taken away, the normal human reaction is to fight for it,  just like any other person would, when his other rights as a human being are threatened.

Expression of one’s self can be manifested in a variety of means and form – in his speech, his manner of dressing, in art.  Whereas, there is no hard line rule on the “how”, indeed there lies in our sensibilities as civilized human beings, norms that dictate when one breaks the universal, though unwritten law where freedom ends and respect begins.

Expression of one’s self means to convey a message to another or a group for whatever purpose he intends to. One does not exercise that right just for the heck of it.  Aware or not, expression is communication.

What we choose to wear is a message about how we want to be perceived.  Such as, we don’t wear provocative dresses and expect others to think that we are conservative.  The same when we speak.  We don’t expect others to regard us seriously, when all that comes out from our mouth is rubbish.  in both ways, we communicate to others what our preferences are, and from that, inference about who we are is derived.

Journalism and visual arts are no different.  But there are instances when the freedom is used and abused.  And the right to freedom of expression is invoked like a safe hiding place for anticipated negative reactions. That is where trouble begins.  Responsible freedom of expression does not necessitate the invocation of a right.  That safe refuge of effective communication is handed on a golden platter without hesitation or fear.

Yes, there are ugly truths and gruesome realities that need to be known and shared so that the beautiful and the good could be achieved.  But if the expression of the ugly and the gruesome is done just “for the sake of art”, then freedom becomes a scary right to invoke.  when it is done to express oneself without purpose and without regard to the sensibilities of one person or the collective perception of one culture, race or faith,  then it is reduced to self-indulgence and selfishness personified.

To Christians, the art works of Mideo Cruz are offensive and sacrilegious.  To him, it is art, his freedom to express himself.  Our  humanity gauges how much we can tolerate. we need not see or hear more, we’ve had just enough. And to most, enough is way beyond tolerable level.

Let the forum at the CCP exhibit on “Politeismo” be an eye-opener not only for artists and writers, but for all of us.  We, who in the course of our daily lives just talk before we even think.  We who often just do, before we even consider to whose benefit our actions bring forth.  if our self-expression will bring pleasure and fulfillment to ourselves, yet cause the pain and anguish of another, or sow anger and hatred… Please stop!

Self-restraint for the good of the majority is a choice.  It’s time to exercise the freedom to choose.  And pray, our choices be wise.  For by their fruits, we shall know them…

“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

how to turn nightmares to sweet dreams

“Be brave and steadfast, have no fear or dread of them; for it is the Lord your God, who marches with you;  He will never fail you, or forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

i just love suspense and horror films.  especially the part when the lead actor runs for his life, stumbles and looks back to find the serial killer in whatever form (human or otherwise) within arm’s reach.  he then struggles to get back to his feet, runs again for dear life, until another obstacle gets in his way. then again, he overcomes, when i guess it is already his end.

through these series of what seems like a roller coaster ride, my heart beats as if i’m on a treadmill.  only, running is good for my health; and the “surprise!!!” scenes on the contrary, almost always give me a heart attack.

don’t get me wrong.  in life, i hate violence and gore.  the sight of blood even. and i’m afraid of the dark especially during the birthday or death anniversary of loved ones who already passed on.  so what’s with my preference with such film genre?

actually not all suspense and horror films satisfy me.  aside from those that keep me from falling asleep within the first fifteen minutes, which drama usually does to me, those of which good triumphs over evil are what i favor.  even if takes on to succeeding episodes or versions, i knew that in the last one,  only the good will prevail.

i remember the first time i learned that i’d be assigned in our office located abroad.  there were doubts in my mind and  intense fear in my heart.  i was so overwhelmed that one of my colleagues remarked that i asked too many questions which on hindsight, now sounded really silly.  he told me not to worry at all, and that everything would be taken care of.  i realized my doubt and fear caused me undue anxiety that obscured the great prospects that go with my new assignment.

sweet dreams

sometimes we create nightmares in our life that are in fact, unreal.  the only way we can overcome the torture and terror, is to wake up and find there is no need to be afraid.  the Lord is an ever-seeing and all-knowing God.  He sees past the limit of our boundless imagination.  He knows what lies beyond the road we are to take.  and the only way to overcome, is to surrender.  then nightmares would be no more.  only sweet dreams that can actually come true…if we just believe.

spring cleaning for body and soul

“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping and with mourning;  and rend your hearts, and not your garments.”  Return to the Lord, your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and repents of evil.  – Joel  2:12-13

spring cleaning is the season of the year when we focus all our energy into cleaning our house, top to bottom, room to room, corner to corner.  the purpose is to put order where there is disorder.  simplify the complicated.  eliminate clutter. give up excesses.

the first step is to stop and take a closer look of what had accumulated over the year.  then plan up a strategy on which stuff stays and which should go.  organize whatever is left.  then it’s time for the main task.  

to execute the strategy, it’s helpful to assemble an army of tools (vacuum, dusters, rags, trash bags…) and products (baking soda, vinegar, polisher, glass cleaners…) to carry out the job easier and faster.  after all is done,  it’s almost like you just moved to a new and better home!  and we all know how that feels like, right?

our body and soul need spring cleaning too.  and today, ASH WEDNESDAY, is the best day to begin.  stop and take a closer look at ourselves.  we would find beneath the surface all the negativity that had accumulated over the year – anger, frustration, despair, jealousy, envy and more.  they are the clutter that need to be eliminated.

deep inside we also find dreams, hopes, drive, anticipation, compassion, inspiration.  these we need to organize and put into their rightful perspective and at healthy doses.  in this process of introspection, we discover what we had become.  and to what extent we need to clean up. 

when the home is clean and clutter-free, it is always fun and refreshing to live  within.  so with the body and soul. 

today is the first day of Lent.  Ash Wednesday reminds us that By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”  Genesis 3:19

and because we are just guests in our earthly guesthouses, might as well make the stay worthwhile and the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross for our salvation worth it. 

Albert Pine once said “what we do for ourselves die with us, what we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.

a broken heart

“And He said, ‘What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.”  Mark 7:20-23

when we heard about the tragic death of Retired General Angelo Reyes, we were all shocked.  of all people, we never expected him to end his life with a single shot to the chest.

how ironic that  a week before valentine’s day, the officer and the gentleman died with a broken heart.

his achievements were eclipsed by the turn of recent events.  highlighted with scandal, his last episode was only a chapter of his life’s book.  we would never get the chance to read its entirety because it is in God’s hands now.

it is now futile to point out exactly who or what led him to do what he had done.  weeks before he died, he was maligned and verbally attacked in a senate hearing.  he was already judged by publicity in media, in streetcorners, in workplaces, in households.  he was betrayed by colleagues and fellow officers.  the final blow was the implied threat that his family would likewise be subjected to the same.

all these so-called ‘attacks’, he tried hard to battle.  his bravery as a decorated officer made him look like he would get through. 

yet he lost.  for the real war was waging within.  whatever his reasons to commit suicide were, only he and the Lord know now.

the general may have messed up.  but the senators did too.  and so did the officers who accused him.  everyone of us messes up.  who doesn’t?

what’s vital here is not to allow ourselves to be instruments of another’s heartbreak ever again.  let us not cause anyone to stir up any evil within that may yet cause him his life.

the truth is there will always be someone or something that would tempt us to mess up with our lives.  that’s okey.  as long as we DO NOT conform with them. our resolve, rooted in faith, would be our best defense.

but in moments of weakness when we do give in, let us not give up.  there is no power greater than the Lord’s.  let Him be our dependable ally.  our best buddy.  our personal savior.  our BFF.  our true love.  He will never, ever break our hearts.

in the spirit of our unity in Christ our Saviour, let us all pray for the soul of Angelo Reyes.  may he rest in peace, and may we all learn from the tragedy so that his death may not be in vain.

The Beatitudes – Our Program for Holiness

repost from Catholic Online 

The Beatitudes of the Gospel turn worldly values upside down. The world pursues happiness in wealth, power, fame and disordered sexual pursuits; whereas the Gospel demands of us values that are essentially different. The Beatitudes challenge us to choose: to live Christianity or to live by the standards of this world. The choice to live the Gospel changes our entire life and confronts every aspect of our human existence.

 The Sermon on the Mount presents the way to holiness and happiness
The Sermon on the Mount presents the way to holiness and happiness

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) – At an important point in the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi, a missionary gave him a book that contained the four Gospels.  This of course, was the Indian leader’s first exposure to Christianity.  He read the Gospels with great interest, and was convinced that the principles taught by Jesus could resolve all of the political, social and economic problems of his country.

Gandhi had to travel throughout Western Europe in order to muster support for an independent India.  Traveling through Christian countries, he was dismayed only to conclude that the Gospels are wonderful indeed, but he did not see anyone living their teaching.  For this reason, Gandhi never converted to Christianity.

We are all called to be saints.  Today’s Gospel passage reminds us of the program and lays out the path.

The Beatitudes contain the essence of the Christian way of life.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: The beatitude we are promised confronts us with decisive moral choices.  It invites us to purify our hearts of bad instincts and to seek the love of God above all else.  It teaches us that true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement – however beneficial it may be – such as science, technology, and art, or indeed in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love” (CCC # 1723).

The Beatitudes of the Gospel turn all worldly values upside down.  The world pursues happiness in wealth, power, fame and disordered sexual pursuits; whereas the Gospel calls us to embrace and live values that are essentially different, in order to transform this world, and reveal the kingdom.

The Beatitudes challenge us to choose: to live Christianity or to live by the standards of the world.  Do you want to give in to the demands of a worldly way of life, or have you decided to live true and authentic Christianity?  The choice to live the Gospel changes our entire life.  It tells us how we are to act, how we are to dress, how we are to speak and how we are to interact with people.  The choice to live the Gospel confronts every aspect of our entire existence.

A number of years ago I was invited to give a retreat to a group of lay people in New York City.  A seminarian graciously accompanied me in order to help with the practical details.  Prior to the evening retreat, we had a number of appointments, and so that meant that we would have lunch in New York.  The seminarian really enjoyed Asian cuisine, so I accommodated his palate by inviting him to lunch at a Korean restaurant.

As we went to our table, we were met by a Korean woman who graciously attended us with delicate courtesy. Having had many years of experience at my father’s restaurant, I was able to notice that her kindness, manners and spirit of service were far from ordinary. 

Towards the end of the meal, another Korean woman finished waiting on our table.  When we were ready, I asked her for the check.  She then proceeded to tell me that there would be no charge for the lunch because the first waitress took care of the bill.  I was very surprised and I asked her why she had decided to pay for our meal.  “She is Christian,” was the unanticipated answer from the waitress.

“She is Christian,” meant that all the other waitresses were not Christian, and that all though encountering a free meal in the middle of downtown New York City surprised me, they were not surprised at all.  They knew that this woman was different.  Because of her Christianity, she was different.

The four beatitudes in Luke’s Gospel sum up the eight beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel.  The shorter version in Luke’s Gospel is followed by four curses that underscore what happens to those who choose to live by the values of the world. 

Let us for brevity sake, consider the four beatitudes in Luke’s Gospel.

“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”  No matter how much or how little we possess, we are all called to recognize that everything we have comes from God.  God is our Father and he will provide all of our needs.  Creatures are simply stepping stones on the journey towards eternal life.  This beatitude calls us to be totally detached from the things of this world and to seek our true happiness in God alone.  However, at the same time, this beatitude also calls us to use our gifts, talents, resources and the things of this world to help all those who are in need and to create a better life for everyone.

“Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.”  Most of us have never suffered from severe hunger or thirst.  Most of us, despite the challenges of life, have never gone without a meal or never went without water.  The hunger that Jesus refers to concerns the hunger for the transcendent.  Secularism and materialism have deadened this natural desire for God.  The desire for God is insatiable in this life and can only be satisfied completely in eternity.

“Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.”  The Christian experience begins with the acknowledgment of our sinful condition.  “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5: 8).  Repentance allows us to experience true joy.  The humble person acknowledges sin, converts and becomes the loving recipient of God’s mercy.  No one can truly repent without true sorrow for sin.

“Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.”  Jesus knew that the life of the true Christian on earth would not be an easy one.  The authentic Christian lives a life totally in contrast to those who live by the standards of the world.  For the Christian, conflict will always be a normal way of life.  It is amazing what millions of our brothers and sisters have suffered throughout the history of Christianity for their Lord and God. 

In conclusion, the Beatitudes do not contain all of the teachings of the Gospel.  However, they do contain the most essential aspects of Christian behavior that we need to live in order to reach Christian perfection.  The Beatitudes of Jesus present to us an entirely new way of living our lives.  Granted, this new way of life is challenging and difficult, nevertheless, he alone offers to us all of the spiritual means that we need in order to live them with conviction in our daily lives.

We are all called to be saints.  We are all called to be heroes.  Now, more than ever, the Church needs new saints and new heroes.

by Father James Farfaglia, the Happy Priest, the pastor of Saint Helena of the True Cross of Jesus Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, Texas and a member of the Board of Directors of Human Life International. 

You can visit him on the web at www.donotbediscouraged.comThere you can find his books, homilies, articles and blog posts.

UPCAT and other admission tests

“Because He himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”  Hebrews 2:18

as graduating students this school year, Miguel and his batchmates have prepared really hard for college admission tests months ahead.  for UPCAT, he attended Brain Train review classes instead of enjoying his summer vacation.  for the test, together with other families, we travelled four hours to Riyadh and stayed overnight to prep the kids for the early morning schedule the following day at the embassy inside the Diplomatic Quarters.  the same for USTET and Mapua exam, just minus the travel time and overnight stay, but equals the stress, and excitement – or anxiety, depending on the level of preparedness for each student.  and the months of waiting for the results were just as heart-pounding as the exams themselves.

The Oblation

sadly, Miguel did not pass the UPCAT.  it’s human to feel so. but he did Mapua and we’re happy about that.  now we’re still waiting for USTET results.

when Miguel goes back to the Philippines after graduation, i can just guess how many more college admission tests he will take, and which university he will eventually enrol in.  at the end of the day, it’s really up to the Lord. our absolute trust is in Him.  His will be done…

it is understandable for the children, and for us parents, to be excited and hopeful about exam results.  although the outcome will not define their future, it is a crossroad where our children would inevitably have to decide on; to which direction they would take.

as parents, we too are given tests on and on.  some are easy, some are agonizing. some we pass.  but there are those that we fail miserably.  and when we do, it looks like we reach the end of the road and all we want to do is stop.   wouldn’t it be a shame to give our children that example?  that instead of us being their guide when they reach that crossroad, we, ourselves, drift away in our own road to perdition. 

Jesus Christ is the Son of God who became man.  and because he became man, He was subjected to tests.  like we are. no exemptions.  and He passed each test, to show us that we can too.

so next time we are given one, don’t hesitate to take it.  because if we pass, then we move on straight away. but if we fail, we will be given our second chance, and review where we went wrong.  both ways, we learn our lessons and become better persons. if we remain steadfast and constantly strive to be the best that we can for God, then we would surely pass the HAT – heaven admission test. 

when the time is now

“Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8

we’re now ten days into 2011, and i still don’t have a list of new year’s resolutions.  not that i even plan on having one, but it has been tradition that before the old year ends, the list should have been done and must be followed from Day 1 onwards.  but since it’s a bit late already, maybe my new year’s resolution is to not have any new year’s resolution at all.

before Christmas, Megan was giving slight hints here and there about what gift she really wanted-a canon 550d camera.  since it is quite expensive and we don’t have the money to buy one just yet, i told her that patience is a virtue. wittingly she responded that time is goldhaha!  that camera might as well be gold!

aah youth! –  carefree, always in a hurry as if there’s no tomorrow.  but only with age will they realize that time is just a passing fancy.  and i sure finally did. in fact, as i grow older, i perceive time as a curse.  especially when life is defined by the years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds, nanoseconds… 

when i was younger, i used to believe that time is really gold because our culture dictates our life in terms of the years that we live.  like when at 12, one has to finish grade school.  one can vote or date at age 18.  by 20, one has to finish college.  by 30, one has to have established a career already, earned his 1st million and settled down.  between 30 to 40, one should already have a family, built a house for them, sent kids to school…

between 40 to 50, one would be preoccupied with advancing with that career, take care of seeping health issues and playing on retirement plans.  at age 60 onwards, one should then enjoy the fruits of retirement, then eventually die of natural causes or old age.

imagine the frustration when one doesn’t catch up with the hands of time.  i won’t be surprised if that expensive rolex, that cheap wall clock or that annoying alarm clock can be as deadly as a butcher’s knife.  these timepieces may actually be the number one cause of stress.  and stress as we all know is the number one cause of any illness, or the reason some diseases get even worse  for that matter.

 it’s been two months since my surgery, and i’m still stuck here in my room. since i felt stronger, i think that i should be elsewhere doing something else, which “culture” expects of me.  but God put me exactly at this spot at this very moment. just as He planned.  building up my patience, strengthening my faith and bolstering my confidence in what He has in store for me.

we should be defined by the moments we live. not the hours we spend catching up with the future.  not the minutes fighting off the ghosts of the past.  we are in the here and now. and whatever we think or do now, will shape up our tomorrow .  or change how we look at our yesterday.

if you want a taste of hell, go ahead.  stare at that clock as it excruciatingly tick-tocks your life away.  waiting for that something that may just happen only after a century, or worse, may not happen at all.  do whatever you can wherever you are-NOW.

remember that in heaven, there are no clocks.  no calendars.  no new year’s resolutions. only moments of everlasting joy and infinite bliss with our Lord.  so savor each moment like you’re already in heaven.

forget SMP, just remember JESUS

“And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid, for behold I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12

in the Philippines, we celebrate Christmas the longest.  as early as September, we would not be surprised to hear Christmas carols and see lanterns hang on front windows.  amazingly, everyone tries to complete that Christmas list and constantly makes update from time to time.  soon as bonuses and cash gifts are received, off they go to night markets and malls to avoid that Christmas rush.  but time is never enough, that even on Christmas eve, some are still running to purchase that last pack of spaghetti and can of fruit salad.  oooops! only to be reminded, they still have to find that oh so affordable pear-shaped ham; if they are still available.

indeed, the holiday season is never that stressful, hypertensive yet exciting and fun than that of a Pinoy Christmas.  as cash runs out as fast as Santa’s sleigh reaches every chimney from the north pole (as we imagined when we were younger), we do get tired too.  it is during this slow-down episodes, that we tend to ponder what the ga-ga was really all about.  and we find ourselves going back to what Christmas really means.

it is not about money.

it is not about that tree, nor rice lights and lanterns.

it is not about the spaghetti…

nor the fruit salad, the ham or the lechon.

it is not about who will keep us warm.

indeed, it is never about us.

so what if we don’t have money?

or colorful trees and sparkling rice lights or star-shaped lanterns?

so what if we don’t have spaghetti, fruit salad, ham or lechon?

so what if there is nobody to hug us and keep us warm? we will only be teased as part of SMP or Samahan ng Malalamig ang Pasko (a group of people who will have a chilly holiday because they are single).

yes, i know it’s mind-boggling to ever imagine having to spend Christmas without any or all of the above.  but think of it this way.  at times when we are reduced to zero (as in nada, nil, kaput…in tagalog “walang-wala”, “said”, “ubos”, “limas”), the Lord is gearing up for our replenishment.  He empties us, to fill us up again.  and it is all because of love.  that is exactly why Jesus was born – to empty himself out for us to gain the fullness of salvation.  and that my friends, would not have been possible, if the first Christmas did not ever take place.

Christmas is all about Jesus.  if we could imagine vividly how he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in his manger, we can almost feel how warm and cozy baby Jesus must have felt when he was born.  Joseph and Mary were not rich.  there was no Christmas tree in the stable, but there came the wise men Melchor, Gaspar and Balthazar, and so did the shepherds. there were no fancy lights, but there was a bright star in the sky that was able to guide everyone to Bethlehem.  definitely no spaghetti, fruit salad, ham or lechon.  there were no parties but the angels kept on singing.  if we truly find in our hearts the essence of  Christmas which is LOVE, we will never again be part of SMP, ever. so be still everyone, warm up and just love one another. 

afterall, JESUS is the reason we celebrate Christmas.  no more, no less…