Brighter

My first Black Saturday recollection with the Light of Jesus (LOJ) community reminded me that in order for the light of God in our lives to shine brighter and brighter we have to consistently connect with the source of electricity.

Bawal ang jumper!

Bro. Alvin Barcelona, The Feast Bay Area District Builder reaffirmed what the bible said – we are the light of the world, so each of us is a light bearer.

Brighter

We experience a lot of darkness in our life. Sometimes we are scared, angry, sad, depressed, lost, and lonely. Sometimes we are sick and in pain. Sometimes we mourn the loss of someone we love. Darkness can also mean being in sin and unbelief. And then there is death– the ultimate darkness. It’s not good to be in the dark. In the dark, we cannot see. We cannot recognize others and even ourselves. We cannot recognize God and we are unable to see what He does in our lives. In the midst of our darkness, Jesus is there to meet us, to be with us, and to be our light. We know He is there because He, too, experienced all our darkness, even death. Maybe we don’t see Him immediately, but He is there. He may come in the darkest moments of our lives like a small flicker of light that would appear very brightly in the midst of great darkness. He comes to us because God our Father, the maker of light and giver of life, doesn’t want us to be lost in darkness. And when we live in the light, we see who we are, who others are, and who God is.

And as you know, light is intended to enlighten and drive away any form of darkness.

We have to realize though, that we do not have light on our own.

The light we radiate is the reflection of the light we have received from God.

We are to let our lights shine before men in such a way that they will see our good works and glorify God. That’s how we do it. We live for God.

We have to surrender our lives to Him completely. Christ says we are to “let” our lights shine.

In other words, when you get right with God and are filled with the Holy Spirit, He will simply shine through you.

Are you willing to burn brightly for the Lord?

Black Saturday Reflection

Yesterday, Good Friday, there was no Eucharist – simply a communion service, with the Body of Christ from the Holy Thursday Eucharist.

Today, Holy Saturday, there is no liturgy at all. The liturgy this evening is the vigil – the preparation for and entry into the celebration of Our Lord’s Resurrection. It is an Easter Sunday liturgy.

Fr. Andy Alexander, S.J. shared that on Holy Saturday we enter into the mystery. Today we contemplate Jesus, there in the tomb, dead.

In that tomb, he is dead, exactly the way each of us will be dead. We don’t easily contemplate dying, but we rarely contemplate being dead.

With death, life ends. Breathing stops, and in an instant, the life of this person has ended. And, in a matter of hours, the body becomes quite cold and life-less – dramatic evidence that this person no longer exists. All that is left is this decaying shell that once held his or her life.

Death is our ultimate fear. Everything else we fear, every struggle we have, is some taste of, some chilling approach to, the experience of losing our life.

This fear is responsible for so much of our lust and greed, so much of our denial and arrogance, so much of our silly clinging to power, so much of our hectic and anxiety-driven activity. It is the one, inevitable reality we all will face. There is not enough time, money, joy, fulfillment, success.

Our physical beauty and strength, our mental competency and agility, all that we have and use to define ourselves, slip away from us with time.

Our lives are limited. Our existence is coming to an end. We will all die. In a matter of time, all that will be left of any of us is a decomposing body.

Today is a day to soberly put aside the blinders we have about the mystery of death and our fear of it.

Death is very real and its approach holds great power in our lives.

The “good news” we are about to celebrate has no real power in our lives unless we have faced the reality of death.

To contemplate Jesus’ body, there in that tomb, is to look our death in the face.

Today’s reflection will lead us to the vigil of Easter.

This night, communities from all over the world will gather in darkness, a darkness that represents all that we have been reflecting upon today.

And there, in that darkness, a fire is lit. That flame is shared around the community until its light fills the room.

Then, a song of exultation is sung, proclaiming that Christ is the light of this night. And, there, in the light of Christ, we will read the scriptures that prepare us to celebrate God’s revelation.

This is the story of our salvation – how God prepared to rescue us from the power of sin and death. The God who created us, who led a chosen people out of slavery, raised Jesus from death.

We can rejoice that death has no final victory over us. We can celebrate our faith that we have been baptized into the death of Jesus, so that we might be baptized into his life.

As we behold the body of Jesus in the tomb today, and as we contemplate the mystery of our death, we prepare our hearts to receive the Good News of life.

We know that tomb will be empty and remain empty forever as a sign that our lives will not really end, but only be transformed.

One day, we will all rest in the embrace of Jesus, who knows our death, and who prepares a place for us in everlasting life.

Our reflection on this holy Saturday, and our anticipation of celebrating the gift of life tonight and tomorrow, can bring immense peace and joy, powerful freedom and vitality to our lives.

For if we truly believe that death holds no true power over us, we can walk each day in the grace being offered us – to give our lives away in love.

Cross

Today, for Christians, is a special day set aside to commemorate the death of Jesus on the cross. It’s also a day that we can set aside, no matter what religion or spirituality we affiliate ourselves with, and challenge the mystery of the cross. We can be authentic disciples by embracing our hearts and confronting the cross that we personally carry.

On this Good Friday, let us find our cross.

Cross

The Cross becomes a symbol, not of death and degradation, but of self-sacrifice, love, and our ultimate triumph over death. It is the very core of our Christian faith and it is a day we should treasure.

A cross can be embraced, and it can also be forced upon us – against our will. My question to you is: What cross do you carry?

The first cross that some of us bear is the Goat Cross. Some of us are undergoing some painful experiences inflicted upon us by others, as if we were a scapegoat, forced to bear the scars of other people’s sinful actions. As a result of the Goat Cross, we blame our parents, teachers, culture, the church or even our government. If this cross is carried, it frequently ends up in the courtroom.

Another cross is the Crybaby’s Cross. These are those who always say, have pity on me; I need special treatment; make an exception for me for I am a wounded disciple. We find comfort in asking: Do you see the heavy cross I am forced to carry in my life?

We have the Cranky Cross. Because we carry the cross of not finding a job; of being overworked and/or underpaid or the cross of sickness or of family problems, we become angry, bad-tempered, irritable, grumpy and crabby. Those of us who carry Cranky Crosses are crosses to others.

The Cross of Our Humanity is the cross of human nature. We can be stingy, eager to serve and also self-serving, kind and also mean. Such is the nature of the human condition, and often it’s hard to bear!

We further carry the Cross of Others. It’s heavy with sin and mistakes of our family and country. This is a difficult cross to embrace since it is a sharing in government’s guilt and sin. It’s hard enough to embrace our own sins, but to carry the sins of all with whom we are associated including religion, government and society is truly to walk in a saving figure’s footsteps.

There are many other crosses that we bear, but the heart of this reflection is a promise of a new era of justice and peace for all. You and I need to embrace and carry our crosses, to deny our very selves as we surrender to God’s will.

On this Good Friday, embrace your cross with great affection and love. When you do so, you can release from it the power to fertilize and pollinate humanity. Great is the power in each of our crosses to create a new breed of humans, true son and daughters of God.

My prayer for you is the grace to understand and embrace fully your cross on this Good Friday and every other day that you are called to do so.

Source: Good Friday Reflection: Finding and embracing your cross by Elton Letang

Deeper

These wonderful photos were taken by Bro. Ariel Barrera. As a servant of the Media Ministry, he captured the essence of being a missionary in action.

Deeper

Photo Credits to Bro. Ariel Barrera.

This was the challenge to everyone during the Light of Jesus (LOJ) Holy Week Retreat dubbed “Deeper” on Maundy Thursday at SM Mall of Asia Arena.

Special thanks to Bro. Topher Francisco and his Tropang Quiapo (Sis. Nene & Bro. Gilbert) for the company and also for tagging me along for a boodle lunch hosted by the Agojo couple (Sis. Marichu & Bro. Stan) from Lux Batch 23.

We are all called to become a missionary.

A missionary is a follower of Jesus who feels God telling them to share the Gospel with people who have never been taught about Jesus before. A missionary is not a better Christian than other followers of Jesus.

Missionaries are normal people who choose to obey God and tell people about Jesus in places all around the world be it big or small.

Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love.

An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, He has loved us first, and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast.

Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy.

Let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The Lord gets involved and He involves His own, as He kneels to wash their feet. He tells His disciples: “You will be blessed if you do this” (John 13:17).

An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others.

Every Christian should be on mission for Christ. Just as Jesus gave the disciples, and I believe He gives all of us, an imperative command, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20).

Jesus doesn’t say, wait till they come to you, rather you go to them, so in a sense, we are all Christian missionaries.

We may not be able to go into all the world, but we can go into the neighborhood, or wherever else we happen to be.

To seek those who are lost so that they might place their trust in Christ.

Spy

NaHudas ka na ba?

Holy Wednesday of Holy Week: Traditionally this day was called “Spy Wednesday” because today before the crucifixion Judas conspired to hand Jesus over. For this he was paid 30 pieces of silver.

The betrayal of Jesus by His very own disciple is a powerful reminder of the horrific possibilities within every human heart. There is much to learn from Judas, a man who studied under Jesus Christ Himself and yet betrayed Him with the unmitigated gall of a kiss.

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Why was Judas able to do this to Jesus and betray Him for thirty pieces of silver? Did Judas really belong to Jesus? From all indications, Judas never belonged to Jesus. He may have verbally aligned himself to Jesus but never really believed and followed Him. His relationship with Jesus was very superficial. This is why it was quite easy for him to exchange Jesus for silver. Man may claim allegiance to God yet never submit his life and soul to Him.

What Judas witnessed to us reveals that one can be in Christ’s service and still not know Him and acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord. When we seek Him for own purposes and attempt to make Him something we want Him to be, when we do not allow Him to prevail in our lives and when we make Him only as an afterthought, when the totality of the world’s possessions and treasures are more valuable to us than our relationship with Him, when we compromise our values and refuse to turn away from sin, we become a replica of Judas Iscariot and are destined towards total destruction

The story of the betrayal of Jesus still resonates in the hearts of men today, not only because of the audacity of Judas’ evil deed but it highlighted the weakness and wickedness of our flesh. We may attend church regularly and give Jesus intellectual assent but not our hearts, our lives and our total being. We could call Him King but only to assume our own thrones over His. We may approach Jesus with a symbolic kiss but never dare embrace Him. We may proclaim all our praises and worship and choose to be His disciple, yet not embrace a life of humble witnessing, self-denial and sacrifice. We may project to be loyal and faithful disciples but opt to be lukewarm and indifferent to Him when life becomes difficult and being loyal to Him becomes more of a burden than a way of showing love for God and His people.

Most of us say that betrayal is the cause for friendships to fail. Friends do not always have to agree but they have to be loyal to each other. The other disciples of Jesus failed Him in a lot of ways but they remained loyal to Him. But only one of them failed Him and had the imprudence to turn his back and sell Him. That was Judas Iscariot.

Jesus gave Judas every chance to reconsider his plans and redeem himself yet he could not do it. He could not get out from the stronghold of Satan which had its beginnings when he pilfered the money box of the apostles and later on reached its peak when he sold Jesus to those who wanted to persecute Him.

As friend and brother of Jesus, have we given some thought on how we have failed Him? Was there ever an occasion that we truly betrayed Him and turned our back on Him?

This Lenten season, Jesus wants us to examine our hearts and repent for all our sins. If we pray to Him with a contrite heart, He will never forsake us. He is our help forever and we will never be disgraced.

As we approach the passion and death of our Lord Jesus, let us all give time to our God by closely scrutinizing our hearts and examining how we have betrayed Him.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, give me the grace to be truly loyal and faithful to You in Word and Deed. In Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Source: PagadianDiocese.org

Mock

Have you heard of smart-shaming? This Holy Tuesday, let us reflect on how we treat others.

“Ikaw na magaling!” and “Edi wow!” was a popular catch phrase among young people.

These are just some of the common Filipino responses when someone gives too much information specially in casual conversations.

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Do you have a friend who respond with “Ang lalim oh!” to people who give deep insights on on-going conversation?

Or respond with a “Dami nitong alam!” to people who give interesting information while getting engaged in a conversation?

What supposed to be just a casual exchange of ideas suddenly turns into one party getting shamed because of providing insights, opinions, beliefs and interesting facts.

A fellow blogger Cynthia Ap shared why should someone be stigmatized for thinking differently? Or for being more perceptive or well-informed? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t stupidity, ignorance and stubborn rejection of new ideas be frowned upon instead?

She added that Filipinos live in a world encompassed by love for ignorance. We celebrate mediocrity and lack of insight like they are grand things to be proud of. I have often told my non-Filipino friends, “Filipinos are genuinely warm and friendly but most are not very bright.”

Some of you might take offense but take a look around you. What does the common Filipino watch on TV?

What does the common Filipino post on social media?

What does he talk about in social gatherings?

What does the common Filipino read?

How many of us even read?

Take time to reflect on those questions.

Now, when someone navigates from these ordinariness, we look at his deviation in a negative light. That instead of encouraging him to continue his pursuit of knowledge and his sharing of new ideas on social media or in real conversations, we shame him with responses like, “Eh di wow. Ikaw na ang matalino.”, “Wow! Talino! Sorry ha, bobo lang kasi ako.”

Faced with such comebacks, one can no longer continue with the conversation. What else was one supposed to say? It is the same when a religious person tells you, “Because God said so” which can be translated to, “I don’t want to think anymore.” What else can be said?

Why? Why must we have this mentality?

Is it because we equate being smart with arrogance? Do we find their intelligence offensive in some way, especially when they show it?

She emphasised that what most Filipinos do is, since they are too lazy to widen their knowledge either in theory or in practice, they’ll discredit those who do.

Instead of being curious, they will attack those who are. This is sad and embarrassing at the same time.

Smart-shaming is an effect of anti-intellectualism where people mistrust intellects and intellectual pursuits.

Isaac Asimov once said: “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

People who present a different way of thinking, and are perceived as a danger to normality are considered as outsiders with a little empathy to the rest of the population.

Hence, the birth of the idea that people who have a contradicting point of view are considered as elitists, arrogant, matapobre (anti-poor), and aloof.

One of the countries who values high-quality education among its people is the Philippines but ironically has an alarming increase rate of “smart-shaming.”

Why is this so? Filipino are not aware that smart-shaming is actually happening around us.

Smart-shaming continuously increase and happens every day due to lack of awareness among the public.

Sadly, the act of mocking smarter people than us is becoming a norm.

Whatever rationale or personal reasons people have behind it, smart-shaming has to be stopped.

Smart-shaming stops a person from pursuing intellectual growth fearing they might be mocked because of it. Knowledge and intelligence is power and people should not be teased because of the knowledge they have gained and learned.

Acknowledging their achievements will encourage not only the person to quench his/her thirst for knowledge but also would encourage others to be smarter.

Nowadays, information is readily available by just clicking on buttons in your computer screen. I personally cannot see why people stop learning when we have all the means to gather information. Life is, after all, a continuous process of learning.

As much as it stops intellectual growth, it also hinders people to express themselves freely.

Because of the fear that people will mock someone when their views and opinions opposes the other party, people tend to “just not talk”.

This causes a lot of great ideas and interesting opinions to be kept and slowly be forgotten.

The fear of being dubbed as a know-it-all hunt everyone.

But bear in mind it is better to be a know-it-all than to know nothing at all.

Voice

Back in the 80s and 90s, observing the Holy Week was a totally different experience.

Lola Trining, my grandmother (father side) thought me the importance of the Lenten Season. She paved the way for me to participate in the Holy Week traditions. She modelled the importance of fasting, prayer and moments of reflection.

Voice

Have you ever wished you’d hear the voice of God? I know I have. I’ve had those moments in my life, where I just wish that, that a voice would boom out from the sky—would come down from the clouds—and tell me everything was going to be okay, or tell me what I’m supposed to do next, or tell me what I’m doing wrong.

Today, things are different. Families often prepare for the Holy Week early, trying to look for the cheapest airfare options and resort rates.

A lot of people use the Holy Week to get together with family and friends; to relax and enjoy some time away from work and the office.

We can’t really blame them, though. Maybe it’s really the only opportunity they have to relax and recharge.

Despite this, however, many still use the Holy Week as a time for reflection and renewal of faith. People still flock to churches during Visita Iglesia; many still hear Mass on Good Friday and witness the Seven Last Words and Passion of Christ.

Majority of the younger generation have a different understanding of how the Holy Week is celebrated, maybe because of the practices they were exposed to while growing up.

But, this is not to say that all is lost. Here in Cavite, for example, the streets are usually quiet beginning Maundy Thursday until the wee hours of Easter Sunday.

If you go to places in upland area or Indang, Amadeo, Alfonso and Tagaytay – you’ll see lines upon lines of people waiting for their turn at the Stations of the Cross. And this includes young people; teenagers and children. Some of them may be too young to fully understand why they’re doing what they’re doing; but at least they’re on the right track. Let’s just hope they don’t stray from that path later on.

There are also some people who do their best to make the best of both worlds work.

They go on an out-of-town retreat or on a staycation, while they also spend some time for reflection. They don’t actually go to different Churches for the Visita Iglesia, and neither do they join retreats. But, they try their best to spend time alone with their thoughts and pray.

They find time to do some reflection. Often, the sincerest prayers and reflections are those that are said in times of solitude.

This year, many will troop to the resorts and vacation destinations during the Holy Week.

But, many others will do their best to be faithful to their hearts and find some alone time with God.

And I think this is what’s most important; that we all find time to stop and reflect – on our relationships with family and friends, on how we have treated others, on our dreams and goals, on our doubts and fears; on our life.

It doesn’t matter whether you do this while joining a retreat, a recollection or hopping from one church to another; or while vacationing with loved ones in a secluded island. What matters most is the sincerity in your heart; that you know why we are here; that you know how and why we were saved.

Listen for the voice of Jesus this week. He calls out for us. He thirsts for us while he suffers for us on the cross. Yes, he will exhale a final breath on Good Friday but he will also draw the first breath of new life on Easter Sunday.

Do not be afraid to join Him on this journey. Embrace the passion of this Holy and heart-heavy week, grounded in faith that the story does not end in sadness.

Self Talk

Because of The Feast’s series ‘Unleashed: Breaking Free from the Shackles of Unforgiveness’, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about forgiveness and how heavily it can weigh on us.

Bro. JB Rodriguez shared his story of a forgiving heart while being interviewed by Bro. Bo Sanchez. I did agree with him that when we are hurt, our first instinct may not be to jump at the chance to offer our forgiveness. Sometimes, we just don’t want to forgive someone, period!

It’s the last thing we want to do. Instead, we would rather sit in safety with our dear friends anger and stubbornness.

We face the world with arrogance and empty dreams to fill up our longing for acceptance and love.

Self Talk

Turn down the volume of your negative inner voice and create a nurturing inner voice to take it’s place. When you make a mistake, forgive yourself, learn from it, and move on instead of obsessing about it. Equally important, don’t allow anyone else to dwell on your mistakes or shortcomings or to expect perfection from you.

If forgiveness is such an integral part of finding inner peace, why does it seem like a burden on our to do list?

We tend to think that if we forgive the people who have hurt us, they’re being let off the hook. Even worse- they might do it again.

By forgiving, we become vulnerable once again, which may feel like an invitation to be hurt once more.

The truth is, whether you choose to forgive someone or not you have no control over whether they hurt you.

We cannot control the actions of others, but we can control the actions we carry out in our daily lives.

An empowered heart that offers forgiveness is able to grieve and liberate itself.

Don’t allow yourself to be anchored by anger and resentment.

Try to remember that we are all doing our best, and offer your compassion. Forgive yourself, for it will allow you to forgive others.

You’ll know when you’ve truly forgiven someone because you’ll feel it in every part of you. You’ll feel the sensation of lightness and relief within you once you are ready to forgive.

When we forgive someone, we free ourselves from the pain and anger their betrayal brought onto us. We let go of the resentment that we harbored within ourselves like a guarded ship yearning to set sail.

Seek the positive in the situation. Take the lessons you’ve learned with you, and remember that each experience is a teacher of it’s own kind.

Avoid negative self-talk.

Make a conscious effort to monitor the way you process information. If you are constantly dwelling on past issues and using negative words to describe yourself, or your goals, you must make a habit of retraining your brain.

Self-talk actually sends messages to your subconscious brain to form habits that coincide with what you are thinking.

If you continue to use the same negative self-talk, your subconscious will keep your habits aligned with the familiarity of past (and possibly bad) habits. On the flip side, using positive self-talk aids in reprogramming your brain to start forming goal-oriented habits.

This was our activity for the Awesome Kids Ministry and we encouraged the children to affirm themselves positively.

Positive affirmations are the personal short statements that help to derive desired outcomes.

Below is a list of positive affirmations that will help you get started. We also encourage you to create your own to be specific to your needs.

Self-Belief
I love myself for who I am
• Fear is only a feeling; it cannot hold me back
• I know that I can master anything
• Today I am willing to fail in order to succeed
• I have the strength to make my dreams come true
• I trust in myself
• I am proud of myself for even daring to try
• Today I put my full trust in my inner guidance
• I grow in strength with every forward step I take
• I release my hesitation and make room for victory
• I can do anything I set my mind to do
• I like myself better each day
• I am capable and strong
• I am a winner
• I am a deserving human being
• I am able to easily handle any problem I face

Healthy Body
I enjoy exercising more each day
• I choose to eat healthy food
• Each day I move closer to my ideal weight
• I deserve a trim, beautiful, fit & healthy body
• Today I love my body fully, deeply and joyfully
• My body has its own wisdom and I trust that wisdom completely
• My body is simply a projection of my beliefs about myself
• I am growing more beautiful and luminous every day
• I choose to see the divine perfection in every cell of my body
• As I love myself, I allow others to love me too
• Flaws are transformed by love and acceptance
• Today I choose to honor my beauty, my strength and my uniqueness
• I love the way I feel when I take good care of myself
• Today my own well-being is my top priority

Assertive
I state my feelings with confidence
• I am always treated with consideration and respect
• I believe in and trust myself
• I choose to respond to criticism in a constructive way
• I see criticism as information that empowers me
• I always feel safe and secure on the inside
• I graciously accept compliments from others
• I express my feelings and opinions honestly and openly
• I have a powerful positive mental attitude
• I allow others to make their own choices
• Others may influence my decisions, but the final choice is mine
• I feel powerful and confident
• I know that my potential is unlimited
• My assertiveness enriches my relationships
• I feel comfortable with the decisions I make
• My feelings of self esteem are strong
• My feelings of self worth are strong
• I have high self confidence
• I realize I have the right to change my mind

Success
I easily achieve my goals
• I have absolute faith in my success
• Success in mine to be enjoyed
• I am successful in all that I do
• I have everything I need to succeed
• I am living my dream
• I am experiencing fantastic success
• Today I open my mind to the endless opportunities surrounding me.
• I boldly act on great opportunities when I see them.
• My intuition leads me to the most lucrative opportunities.
• An opportunity is simply a possibility until I act on it.
• Today I see each moment as a new opportunity to express my greatness.
• I expand my awareness of the hidden potential in each experience.
• Each decision I make creates new opportunities.

Self-Love
I am filled with light, love and peace
• I treat myself with kindness and respect
• I give myself permission to shine
• I honor the best parts of myself and share them with others
• I am proud of all I have accomplished
• Today I give myself permission to be greater than my fears
• I am my own best friend and cheerleader
• I have many qualities, traits and talents that make me unique
• I am a valuable human being
• I love myself just the way I am
• I love and forgive myself for any past mistakes
• I look in the mirror and I love what I see
• I recognize my many strengths