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.

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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.

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 curious case of Juan Dela Cruz

“But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead with our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…”  Ephesians 2:4-5

 

Once there was a man named Juan.  He was born to a loving couple of honorable descent.  Though they were not nipa-hutrich, their family was well-provided for.  They lived in a nipa hut surrounded by luscious vegetation, alongside a cool and clear river teeming with fish on which they could feed on.  His parents raised farm animals as if they were family.  Every morning they wake up to a burst of golden sunshine with sweet music of birds tweeting.  And late at nights, they sleep on lullabies of crickets as glittering stars lit up the evening sky.  Such was the simple life of Juan.

 

He grew up to be a robust and fine, young gentleman.  His father and mother toiled the fields with hopeful joy as they dreamt of a bright future for their young boy.  They sent him to school determined that Juan would become an educated man whose future would be as bright as the mornings they woke up to.  And studied hard did Juan.  He was intelligent and hard-working, and soon enough, he finished his studies with honors.  Indeed, Juan was a very bright young man.

 

But something happened along the way that slowly ate up the essence of Juan.  His knowledge grew inversely proportional to his morals.  The once simple Juan learned just oh so much, that simplicity no longer satisfied him.  The pride that was born of his acquired knowledge became a curse.  His simple needs became grand. And as such, he mistakenly began to equate success with having more and wanting all that the world has to offer.

 

moneyOn this basis, he started his own family.  He married the richest girl he met, built a mansion, had a string of flings, and had numerous off springs, legitimate and otherwise.  This he accomplished as he raked money in, regardless of the means, business, politics, gambling; name it, he ventured in it.  The simple Juan became Don Juan.

 

But everything has its price.  And Juan was not ready to pay.  One day, Juan was stricken with cancer.  As his family tried to have him cured by the best doctors and medicine that money can buy, his precious mri1stash of money started to dwindle.  So did his properties.  And finally, even his so-called friends.  He was so desperate to get cured that even that valuable piece of land on which their nipa hut once stood, he contemplated to sell.  Poor Juan.  Even his children’s children were now burdened to pay all the debts that he eventually accumulated not only because of his illness, but from all the vices that he unmindfully busied himself with, while he was on a roll.  Poor, poor Juan. Nothing left but his frail body and a broken spirit.  Is there still hope for poor Juan? 

 

Kabayan, why then do we get this feeling that we already met Juan?  Is it because we all knew Juan from somewhere?  As a child, maybe we had played with him.  Or maybe, we were seatmates at school.  Or worked with him in his firm.  Maybe we were at his wedding, or his children’s birthday parties.  Maybe we were drinking buddies? or one of his flings  perhaps? Or probably we were his physician, who tried so hard to cure him but didn’t.  

 

How the story of Juan ended is really up to us.

Because Juan Dela Cruz is a myth.  But his story is real...

His full name is JUAN DELA CRUZ…

And his full life is the CROSS.

 

cross

Curiously, it is also our story whose ending shall depend on our sincere repentance and submission to the will of God in the remaining moments of our lives.