A Holy Life

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. – Jeremiah 33:3

The Season of Lent may be over.  So is the Holy Week.  

Did it bring us closer to God? I hope so, we all did.  With all the retreats, Visita Iglesias, Pabasa, Meditations on the Seven Last Words, Way of the Cross, pilgrimage, processions and the sacrament of penance, it’s impossible to ignore the presence of Jesus in our lives.

Now we’re back to the humdrum of our usual, ordinary days.  Slowly and surely, we will soon be snatched away from the serene state of being back to our toxic way of living if we let complacency rule.

Simon Wiesenthal once said  “For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.” 

We wouldn’t like that to happen, do we? So we remind ourselves to pray without ceasing. Holy Week or not. It is the only way to stay in tune with Jesus, that in whatever we do, we let Him participate.  In each moment, let us invoke His presence.  

It ain’t that hard. We just need some getting used to. What better way to do that than to practice.

Think of Him when you’re stuck in traffic, or when waiting in line. Pray to Him when waiting for someone in the coffee shop, or while walking in the park. Talk to Him in your mind and with your heart while working out, or while doing the dishes.

Jesus is everywhere.  You may feel His presence in the church or in a grotto.  But you can also feel His presence in the least likely places, if we only let Him in our hearts.

Truly Holy Week lasts but for seven days.  But a holy life is forever.

What Easter Means to Me

“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. ”  Luke 24:30-35

Today is Thursday after Easter Sunday. In the Middle East, it was a working Easter. That day being also the deadline for submission of month end reports, I struggled to keep my focus on the image of the risen Christ as I battle emails and phone calls, in between entering data to finish the tasks at hand. To top it all, my colleagues were on holiday and so my work load was multiplied like the bread to feed thousands.

By end of business hours, I was really exhausted but nonetheless, the Holy Spirit helped me through the day. So it happened that we were able to attend the 7pm Easter Mass. The smell of tires being burnt on the road leading to where Sacred Heart Church was located, dominated the festive atmosphere. That did not stop the hundreds who were inside the church compound to pray and praise God. And that was my Easter of 2015.

If the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a one day affair, I would really, really feel bad that a great number of hours on that day was taken up by my earthly duties. But as I continue to “follow” Jesus after He left the tomb, my eyes were opened.

Easter is our daily reminder that Jesus is alive and one day, we shall see His face when He comes again. My eyes were opened, that it is alright to fulfill our earthly duties when it glorifies God and the greater good comes out of it. My eyes were opened, that as we go about our daily lives, the Holy Spirit is ever present. Just like Jesus was, with Cleophas and his companion on their way to Emmaus.

Between life and death, we choose life. Easter is the life after Jesus Christ suffered and died on the Cross. We also died from our old selves during Lent and were renewed on Easter, forgiven of our sins when we repented sincerely. So therefore, let us celebrate Easter everyday so that the sacrifice of Jesus, the sign of His infinite and eternal love will ever be worth it.

Let It Go

“Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.” Ecclesiastes 7:9

My office mate have been singing “let it go, let it go” since I came to work this morning until now that work is over.  I love the song but to hear only those three words over and over (she hums the rest of the song), annoyed me. Until I realized it may be an angel’s way to get a message across.

My patience is on a limited supply usually on the first week of each month, with all the deadlines and the cramming.  God knows i try so hard to be nice.  But there’s a lot going on in my life too.  The personal stuff, if you know what i mean.  And it’s causing my patience meter to do a roller coaster on me.  So it’s hard to flash that smile.  The way to go for my face now is blank.  Like no expression at all.  Like i’m on an out-of-body trip to the nearest exit. Like i’m frozen or something.

Finally before the day is over, I get it.  Tell that to me again… LEt it go.  Let it go. Let it go.  And I say, alright! alright! alright!

This is synonymous with sacrifice because I have to part with what I have.  Apparently, no one ever lets go of what he doesn’t have. So let me see, what do I have now?  I have negative vibes. Worries. Stress. Pain. Insecurity. Sadness. Darn! I didn’t realize how much I have until now. These I don’t really need in my life. So yes, let them go.

It is probably the best way to partake in the suffering of Christ.  To let go of our own.  and focus on His Cross.

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.

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.

All The Sweet Moves

“For it is God’s will that by doing right you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” 1 Peter 2:15

Holy Monday, and here in Bahrain it’s business as usual.  I’m unable to go to Sacred Heart church all by myself,  yet thanks to technology, there is no lack of literature and videos that could somehow remind us of the importance of this week.  Not to mention the Holy Bible.

I’ve been distracted the past weeks.  Had recurring respiratory ailments, was busy with the tender , still concerned with Miguel’s pending leap from a career in films to a life in the kitchen, excited about Megan’s graduation, and worried about the hot weather when we come home for vacation in Pinas.

In similar situations prior, I vent all my perceived helplessness by binging on food.  They say sweets are great stress busters.  Especially chocolates.  But somehow added stress goes with the end result of having to lose the extra pounds later.  So eating just for the heck of it, is just a temporary relief.

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Now I found another sweet way to battle my way out of  the “insanity” of  it all.  Who says only the young can play candy crush?  It’s calorie free, but it’s bad for my eyes.  And it makes my back ache.  Yet for some precious MY moments when I reach home, I transform from a middle-aged, tired, sickly, corporate lady to a fresh and vibrant girl again.  All because of candy.

As I play it over and over, I learned that no matter how I try, if I am meant to stay on one level for a period of time, my jellies won’t get crushed, even if only one has to remain.

It’s not about the candies. It’s how they fall on my favor.   Because even with candy crush, someone wiser designed them so.  I just have to persevere. But not lose the enthusiasm  to play the game.

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Do you feel stuck where you are now? That you are heading nowhere despite the effort?  Do you instead get negative results after all the hard work and late hours? Do some obstacles block the plans that you so long prepared for?

We don’t have five lives.  But we have infinite chances to learn. We just have to try and try.  Even if all options seem exhausted.  We just need to wait. Try once more.  Until we got all the right moves. And everything falls into place.

He stirs my venti!

“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”  Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity.”  Joel 2:12-13

after my surgery,  from the recovery room onto my hospital bed where my kind kabayan nurses gently laid me, my anaesthesia started to wear out.  the images were still a blur.  i could hear them vaguely, but the tone of their voices were clear.  they were amazed at how i could still smile despite the pain.

it was not an inherent trait of mine.  i was a cry-baby.  as a girl, i was impossibly stubborn that my pout has been my trademark long before angelina jolie became mrs. smith.  then as a teener, my temper kinda mellowed when i began to read about personality development books.  that was when i learned that a smile matters.  that it could actually set the mood for the day.  and that the smile that you give away is contagious.  and it is free.

practice makes perfect.  now, even when i cry i still have that tendency to smile when someone else sees me.  smiles lighten burdens, hide the pain, ease suffering.  now even when trouble is way over my head, or when longing for my children almost kills me, no one would ever know.  because if there is anything else that i don’t ever run out of – guess what else? smile, smile and some more…

among many things that could bring a smile to my face, a cup of coffee is definitely on the list.  or should i say, cups of coffee.  i love coffee so much, that it is what i gave up this season of lent.  since ash wednesday, i tried my darn best to refrain from having my usual early morning cup, as well as the other cups throughout the day, and that final cup just right before i sleep at nights.

the best part of the coffee ritual for me is after i stir it. that is when the aroma and the flavor is at its peak, it almost takes over my senses. 

so do i miss my coffee cups?  yes i do! yet i still manage to smile.  because the Lord never runs out of ‘sugar’ and ‘cream’ to pour on my cup of life.  He also continuously stirs my heart, to prevent complacency from setting in. 

my coffee sacrifice is nothing compared to the Lord’s sacrifice when He gave us his life for the forgiveness of our sins.  as i feel the pain from the consequences of my own sins, i surrender my cup of life to Him with complete trust and utter submission. 

for as long as i live, i know He will go on stirring my cup.  but i won’t mind.  the Lord blessed me with a venti 🙂

 

   

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.

the carrying of the Cross

“Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.  So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).”  John 19:16-17

most people have moles.  some have only a few, others have too many.  a mole is a pigment or spot  which occurs when cells grow in a cluster instead of being spread throughout the skin.  sometimes it is  considered a birthmark.

in Filipino culture, the position of some moles in one’s body has corresponding meanings.  a mole on the nape means one has an extraordinary appeal to the opposite sex.  so that if you are a female, expect that you’ll have lots and lots of male admirers.  a mole at the back means one is lazy; and if on the foot means one is likely to wander.

one famous saying is that if  someone has a mole on his shoulder, he is “pasang-krus  (translated in english as “cross-bearer”).  this means one will live a life of everlasting suffering and hardship.  imagine the horror of a mother when she sees for the first time, that the infant she bore has that mole exactly where it was not supposed to be.

but come to think of it, all of us has a Cross to carry, with or without that dreaded mole.  the Lord never promised that our journey on earth will be a party.  there will always be obstacles along the way.  yet if we walk together with Christ and focus on our destiny, no burden is too heavy that we cannot bear it.

the crowning with thorns

“The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head.  They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they struck him in the face.”  John 19:2-3

a crown is always associated with power and authority.  a symbol of one’s superiority over his subjects.  it stands for royalty, pride, grandeur, wealth and pomp. 

but not the crown of Jesus.  it was made of thorns that pierced his head and caused blood to gush on his face.  his crown was a symbol of humility,  sacrifice and love. 

as human beings, it is in our nature to be drawn to that shining, sparkling crown which looks  magnificent on top of our heads.  we think that just because we wear one,  everybody would look up to us. then it will lead us to think that we are far better than everybody else who does not wear one. 

(please take note: we may also refer to physical beauty, wealth, power, fame as our crown.) 

but what if that crown gets lost? maybe stolen or perhaps taken away? and what if that crown is the only  source of our pride and joy? of our confidence and security?  what then  becomes of us minus the crown?  we feel worthless.  we  feel empty.

the crown of Jesus is way too painful to wear.  it requires the greatest and absolute self-sacrifice.  a self-denial that does not diminish, but rather increases self-worth. 

in the natural order of life, we are all part of God’s grand design.  though we are easily attracted to what is superficial, our instincts also move us to reach out and look after one another.  it is when we go against this basic human compassion, that we begin to be less than what the Lord has planned us to be. 

it is when we focus on the well-being of others that we experience true and genuine happiness.  because with the realization that we were able to serve, we validate our status as part of one community; that is God’s family.  and the more sacrifice that our service necessitates, the more meaningful our existence becomes.

we are also heirs to a kingdom.  the kingdom of God that lasts forever.  if we accept this truth, then we should likewise be ready, willing and honored to wear the crown of thorns.