Life Begins At 40

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”  Matthew 6:25-34

Life begins at 40. They always say, and yet when we reached that certain age, we already feel exhausted. Like we face a wall and BAMMMM!!! There’s nowhere else to go.  Nothing else to do but drop dead.

That’s just one of the harsh realities we face especially in this fast paced, buwis-buhay, survivor cum amazing race kinda life.  You slow down and you’re out of the game.  You catch your breath and you lose it even before you are able to exhale.

Even time offs are stressful! Packing bags, long queues at the airports, lost baggage, double bookings, unexpected weather conditions. Some things just gotta get in your way.  And before we realize it, we’re back to reality sitting behind our desk working our butts out or sweating it out on site.  Wherever, it’s the same old day.  We gotta do what we gotta do.

Yes, there are things that we ought to do now, that we don’t.  Like STOP!  and LOOK!

Today marks the beginning of LENT. Only 40 days of fasting, repentance, forgiveness, charity and prayer.  We owe it to God to look up to HIM on the cross. We owe it to others to look after them.  We owe it to ourselves to look beyond the world’s travesty. And we are in big trouble if we don’t know why.

40 starts today.  If we cannot stop, can we at least PAUSE? who knows?  This may be when “life” begins.

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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.

the tale of two friends

And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? – – `My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him.  For the Lord disciplines him whom He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.’

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather healed.”  Hebrews 12: 5-7, 11-13

i remember this story about two very close friends.  in fact, they were too close that they already treated each other as family.  one day, the other friend left and worked away from the other.  before he left, he asked his friend to take care of his mother while he was away.  he also entrusted his business and savings to him not wanting to bother his mother with finances.  on top of that, he also sent part of his earnings monthly.  his main concern was for his mother to be well taken care of.

two years after, the friend who went away came back.  only to find out that the friend he left behind betrayed his trust;  his money gone, the business went bankrupt and his mother neglected.  when he confronted his friend, this friend who betrayed him simply said he needed the money, but never asked for forgiveness nor did he show any remorse nor shame for what he had done.  he was even proud to say that he can pay him back anytime.  that was the last time they saw each other.

after some time, the friend had to leave his mother again.  but this time he made sure that he trusted the right people to care for her.  not long after, the friend who betrayed him was caught stealing from his place of work.  he was forced to resign without any benefits from his thirty years of service, or else the company would file charges against him.  he left the company empty-handed.  because of his lavish lifestyle which his salary alone could not sustain, he was also neck deep in debt with personal loans from other people which he could no longer pay.  his childred stopped going to school.  his house foreclosed by the bank.  and because he was already getting older, he started to get sick. 

it was time for vacation again for his friend.  during one of his routine visits to his doctor, he saw the friend who betrayed him in the hospital corridor, seeking treatment for his heart ailment in the charity section; pale, thin and weak.  but this then sickly friend was still hardened with pride.  he said he was supposed to pay back what he owed, but he got sick.  and yet, not a single sorry was uttered.  his friend who had long forgotten what he had done, simply said, “you know, my friend,  all our sins each have their own punishments.  maybe this is yours.”  and the friend who betrayed him, still proud and enrelenting answered back “you know what you said really hurts me.”  and the friend who betrayed him walked away, never looked back, not realizing the hurt he had caused the other.  now this friend who betrayed the other, has nothing.  no money, no family, no friend. 

when bad things happen to us, we associate it to God’s punishment for our past wrongdoings.  because i see God as a loving and gentle God, i refused to see him in this perspective especially when i was younger.  but when i grew older, i believe i also grew a bit wiser.

because by now, i know that everytime i sin, God calls my attention because he loves me and he wants me to change.   in subtle ways first.  but when i don’t listen, he jolts me.  like lightning in the middle of summer, i would be caught by surprise.  then, he gets my attention.  and i learn my lesson.  the hard way.

that does not mean that God is not a loving and gentle God.  He is.  it’s just that, i’m a stubborn sinner who needed something more than a push to make me understand. 

we can be the friend who trusts or the friend who betrays.  in which case, we can be forgiving like the other.  or really, really mean and proud, like the one who betrays him. 

the point is, when God does punishes us, let not foolish pride get in the way.  acknowledge that we had done something wrong.  ask for forgiveness.  resolve not to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.  or else, we would end up with nothing.  no love.  no friend.  no family.  no home.  and sadly, no soul.

a boy named CJ

“And He said:’I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself  like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’  And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”   Matthew 18:3-5

once in a while, i stumble upon stories of real people that deeply touch my heart.  even after the stories end.  this morning, i met a beautiful child named CJ.

his father, benette, who works abroad and was about to celebrate his birthday, called home and talked to his son, CJ.  he asked his father to look for his gift when he comes home for vacation in his ‘aparador‘. father and son also talked about plans to celebrate his sister Camille’s birthday and CJ’s becoming an altar boy, and eventually a priest someday.  the conversation was really sweet and touching, as detailed by benette in his facebook account.

that same night, tragedy struck. CJ was ran over and back by a ten-wheeler truck.  half of his frail body was crushed. he was with two of his cousins, Melai whose right arm was seriously injured and Melvin who was pushed by CJ to save him.  this happened three years ago.

it’s really hard to lose someone we love.  but to lose him unexpectedly and in a really gruesome way is even harder.  i recently lost dear loved ones recently too – my daddy, my childhood friend and best friend roobee, my aunts: tita fortune, tita estela and auntie bebeng, dearest friends boeing and eugene.  though really painful until now, i draw strength from the sweet memories they left behind.

but now, the parents of this little angel are still grieving, not only for the loss of their precious son.  but also for the elusive justice that they seek.  indeed as Catholics, we are taught to forgive.  but what is there to forgive, when the sinner does not repent? and where is peace, when there is no justice? 

i write this by God’s grace, so that readers may join hands in prayer to find justice for CJ and his family… to hope that this tragedy would never happen again to any family… and that  a boy named CJ would finally rest in peace.

even “Tigers” make mistakes

“And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick;  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  Luke 5:31-32

this season of Lent, we are reminded of Christ’s passion and death on the Cross for the salvation of the world. though He is God, He assumed human form for this purpose.  He had felt every emotion such as joy and sadness, anger and mercy.  He felt hunger, pain, cold and heat.  Jesus even felt extreme agony to sweat blood in the garden of Gethsemane.  He was also subject to temptation just like us.  but Jesus found favor with our Father because He followed His will to fulfill the Word.  thus He overcame all weaknesses attached to our human nature.

fame, fortune and power allow us humans to see ourselves as gods.  at the top, everything  to satisfy physical desires and cravings are just at our fingertips.  our nature looks beyond limited possibilities to what we  thought we are capable to do.  we are blinded by a false sense of security and a twisted view of happiness.  only when we fall, do we open our eyes and find the true form of our humanity.  and most of the times, we need to fall really, really hard to realize that we are not gods.  we are human beings. 

it is during these moments that we suddenly discover the folly of our ways.  we realize that if we only focused at the top as the only end to our journey,  we would see that the top is really a sad place to be.  it is where everyone else looks up to with intense want to be in that place.  but it is a place for just a few where discipline, perseverance, endurance and restraint are necessary to stay.  otherwise, one false move and way down deep is the only direction to go.  and as it is always said, the higher we have reached, the harder our fall .

Tiger Woods is no different.  he is one of the richest, most famous and greatest athletes of our time.  his accomplishments as a golfer raised him to even more spectacular heights.  last year however, on Thanksgiving night, the spectacle ended because “of irresponsible and selfish behavior”.  Tiger, afterall, is only human. 

if Tiger, whose life seemed too perfect, can make mistakes,  so can we.  but the good news is, God is always ready to forgive.  although sometimes we don’t understand why we do the things we would rather not, God knows why.  He can read our minds and see what is in our hearts.  and though He never condones bad behavior, He makes a way to turn our life around even if that means letting us fall.  because when we are down on our knees, that is when we get closest to Him.

For God the Father so loved us, He sacrificed His only begotten Son.  He has the compassion and mercy enough to forgive our sins when we are deeply sorry.  let us not then be judges to others.  for the measure in which we judge others, will be the same measure that will be used to judge us.

the suit

“Long before He laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love.” Ephesians 1:4

in two weeks, my son Miguel will attend his JS prom.  though he won’t admit it, we can see how excited he is.  that is the first major formal gathering where he will wear a suit. 

last night, we finally found one shop with a Saudi tailor.  he can speak a bit of tagalog, which made us feel comfortable with the thought that he might have many Filipino clients to be able to learn it.  first thing we asked was if they accept made to order so that the suit would fit better.  he said no and suggested that maybe one from his collection would fit Miguel like so.

after trying on two black suits and the pants that go with them, one fitted him handsomely except for the sleeve which was an inch too long and the pants likewise need a bit of cutting.  after necessary measurements for alterations, we went home with the hope the when we pick up the suit tonight, it would fit Miguel perfectly, as if made only for him in mind.

human beings are custom-made for God’s purpose.    He created us in a mold which is unique and different from each other.  He created for a specific reason. 

it does not matter how insignificant we may seem in the eyes of men or how unpopular we have become.    we may have sinned in the past, and therefore think that even God had turned His back. but sincerely pray for his forgiveness, beg if we must and surely we would taste the fruits of the sacrifice of  Christ on the Cross.  then, we will be even more beautiful in His eyes again.

we fit in God’s grand plan, a living testimony to God’s endless love and mercy.