Last Sunday, the Awesome Kids Ministry team taught the children about forgiving oneself.

They enjoyed a short skit and a balloon analogy about forgiveness.

For the craft activity, they made a hot air balloon artwork that reminded them that God sets us free and we must forgive ourselves.


Forgiving yourself is far more challenging than forgiving someone else because you must live with yourself and your thoughts 24/7. Despite the challenge, emotionally healthy people must have the capacity to forgive themselves when they have made a mistake.

I was reminded of a sixty-five year-old taxi driver I met few years back. He asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was a former OFW and shared my healing journey.

Like many others who learn of my concerns, he decided to open up about his life to see if I had any advice.

He’d been married for twenty-seven years, and had tried to commit suicide two years prior by overdosing on pills. His wife found his body and helped revive him. He was grateful he didn’t succeed in committing suicide, but said that, though he thinks his wife is a great person, he is not attracted to her. He said that ever since his suicide attempt he had been attracted to many of his passengers and one of these days would like to “take it to the next level.”

I didn’t really want to dwell on his attraction to his passengers, so much as try to get back to his childhood.

Many of the problems we have as adults have their roots in our upbringing. Come to find out, he had a very rough childhood. His parents were alcoholics, which drove him to seek aid and comfort from a male church leader he trusted.

This church leader tried to have an inappropriate relationship with him. So he was cut off emotionally from his parents, and spiritually from the religion that was supposed to sustain him during difficult times.

This sense of being isolated from his social world led him to make many bad choices, starting from a young age. These added up, until he felt like he couldn’t escape from the consequences.

He felt trapped in a prison of his own making, and that’s why he wanted to end his life. I told him that it must be really hard to carry all of these difficulties with him his whole life, but that it was time to forgive others and, more importantly, forgive himself.

I told him to write a letter to himself listing all the things he forgave himself for. Writing is very therapeutic, but it also helps to hear a message. So I wanted him to read the letter out loud to himself and process it aurally as well. Who knows if he ever followed my advice. Many hurting people know what to do, but don’t do what they know.

Sometimes our poor choices stack up, and churn the ground beneath our feet into quicksand.

We must remember to relax, breathe in, and not let our current situation rob us of the will to make changes. Don’t’ wallow in a temporary negativity—take action!

Don’t spend so much time going over the past that you allow it to define you.

Life is full of choices and every choice we make will either take us in a positive, life-giving direction or rob us of the opportunity to be a life-giving individual.

Forgiving ourselves does not let us off the hook, it does not justify what we have done, and it is not a sign of weakness.

Forgiveness is a choice that takes courage and strength.

Let us pray:

Dear Heavenly Father,

I understand that there is nothing to gain by holding myself in unforgiveness and there is everything to gain by releasing myself from unforgiveness and beginning the process of healing.

I want to move forward and make a positive difference in the future. I confess the ungodly accountability, self-abasement, and the vows I have made to never forgive myself. Because Jesus died for my sins, I choose to forgive myself–to no longer punish myself and be angry with myself.

I forgive myself for letting this hurt control me and for hurting others out of my hurt. I repent of this behavior and my attitude. I ask for Your forgiveness and healing.

God, help me to NEVER again retain unforgiveness of myself or others.

Thank you for loving me and for Your grace to move forward with You.

In Jesus’ Name,



Finally, I entered the seminary.

Not as a priest because I am happily married but as a lay servant.

Special thanks to the Erni Couple of our Light Group (LG), Bro. Anton and Sis. Flor.

There were so many challenges along the way but it was God’s plan that prevailed.

We attended the Jesus Encounter (JE) pastoral formation of the Light of Jesus (LOJ) community.


“You are the light of the world. Your light must shine before others so that they may see the good you do and praise God in heaven.” That’s our call, and we must find now the ways to live out that call as as a community of disciples of Jesus.





My big take away from the program’s experience of faith and love:

Jesus said that we are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world”. Being salt and light is not optional. Jesus did not say you can be…or you have the potential to be…He said you are.

When Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth”, He meant that all of His disciples were to serve as preservatives, stopping the moral decay in our sin infected world.

Christians, as salt, are to inhibit sin’s power to destroy lives. This in turn creates opportunity for the gospel to be proclaimed and received.

As “salt”, the Christian is to counteract the power of sin. As “light” we are to illuminate or make visible. Our lives are to be an on-going witness to the reality of Christ’s presence in our lives. When we worship God with pure hearts, when we love others as ourselves, and when we do good without growing weary, we are lights shining.

The more we look on the face of Jesus, like an impressionist painting, the more light we see and the more we are transfigured by it.

Jesus isn’t telling his disciples to let their light shine, only when they are with each other. No, He is telling them to let their light shine in the dark places.

Jesus is telling His disciples to let their light shine, wherever they are.

Let you light shine as a father.

Let your light shine at your work place.

Let your light shine in your neighborhood.

Don’t withdraw at the workplace.

When the opportunity knocks, don’t be a coward.

Light is worthless if it doesn’t shine.

God has chosen you and me to make a positive difference in the lives of mankind.

Jesus desires that we walk with Him, listen to Him and obey Him that we can be used by Him to bring about eternal change in the lives of others.

It is Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, living inside true Holy Spirit-filled believers Who causes us to shine brightly in a world of darkness!

We are to be salt for the world and light for the world — to the glory of God!

Let us pray.

Father, you are indeed worthy and deserving of a people who are fully committed to you and unafraid to say so. Forgive us for sometimes hiding our commitment to you in order to avoid unpleasantness from unbelievers. Help us to be unashamedly salt and light in your world, until you return with the full uncompromising brilliance of your Coming.

In Jesus’ name, we pray.



March 6, 2015 was my first major surgery. Nine (9) hours of God’s embrace in the operating table. I surrendered everything and the rest was history.

Last Sunday, during The Feast at Manila Hotel, God’s big message was “I am bigger than you are. Trust me!”

Who am I to question God’s way in my life?

I may never know the reason why but I entrusted everything to Him.

I may have a lot of questions but God is bigger than all my worries.


I used to have a habit of trusting myself. I formed this habit through years of trusting people, getting hurt and finding out I couldn’t trust them. This caused me to believe, If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself. If you don’t ask anybody for anything or open your heart to them, they can’t hurt you. But this mindset just kept me from trusting God. It was a bad habit I had to break. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (NKJV). When you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, the Spirit of God comes to live inside you. This is one of the greatest blessings of salvation: You don’t have to go through someone else to get to God. He dwells in your heart and you can learn to hear His voice.

Have you ever had to wait for something? I’m not very good at waiting, I’m not a very patient person. I don’t like waiting at the doctor’s office, I don’t like waiting for a table at the restaurant, I don’t like waiting in line at the grocery store or waiting in line to get on ride at the theme park. If I’m going to the doctor I want to schedule my appointment first thing in the morning. I will leave a restaurant if I have to wait very long. I love theme parks but refuse to go on weekends because I hate waiting in line. For me, waiting is a total waste of valuable time.

Yet, I have come to learn that there are times and periods in our lives when God says wait and through personal experience I have learned that when God is saying wait we need to wait, be still, be silent, listen, and let God do what it is that He must do. I have learned that if I will just serve Him while I’m waiting, worship Him while I’m waiting, and simply trust Him while I’m waiting; then when He has finished whatever it is He is doing in me, to me, through me, and for me is better than I ever thought or dreamed it could be.

If God has you waiting it is for Good reason and it is for your good. Be patient and let God do what only God can do in you, to you, through you, and for you. As you wait be obedient, surround yourself with the fellowship of other believers, be prayerful, search the Scriptures, and trust God to do exceedingly abundantly more in you and for you than you have ever dreamed he could do.

If God has you waiting this morning then you should simply say, “Lord, I’ll serve while I’m waiting, Lord, I’ll worship you while I’m waiting, Lord, I’ll trust you while I’m waiting. Lord, I don’t know exactly what I’m waiting on but I know it is for my good and your glory therefore I will wait upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised.”

I would like to share with you this praise and worship song from the movie ‘Fireproof’ entitled While I’m Waiting, an anthem for those actively waiting on the Lord.

While I’m Waiting

I’m waiting
I’m waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I’m waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will waitI will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience
While I’m waiting
I will serve You
While I’m waiting
I will worship
While I’m waiting
I will not faint
I’ll be running the race
Even while I wait

I’m waiting
I’m waiting on You, Lord
And I am peaceful
I’m waiting on You, Lord
Though it’s not easy
But faithfully, I will wait
Yes, I will wait

I will serve You while I’m waiting
I will worship while I’m waiting
I will serve You while I’m waiting
I will worship while I’m waiting
I will serve You while I’m waiting
I will worship while I’m waiting on You, Lord


Last Sunday, the children at Awesome Kids Ministry learned about Job. The kids enjoyed a video presentation about him.

Book of Job

So what would happen if we start to trust God during the raging seas of life? During the times we question, still thanking God like Job did, even though outwardly it appeared there was nothing to be thankful for, no reason not to abandon our trust in God and grow angry at Him. Why? Because God is faithful and just; He sees the big picture. He loves us enough to not always give us our way, to give us reasons to search for Him.

Job had 7 sons and 3 daughters. He also had 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 oxen, 500 female donkeys and a very large household.

One day, Satan told God that the only reason Job was faithful was because he had so much and he had an easy life. So, God told Satan that he could do anything to Job, except lay a hand on him.

Then Satan caused terrible things to happen to Job. A messenger came to Job and said that enemies had attacked Job’s flocks and stole his oxen and donkeys and killed his servants. Job was just thinking about how terrible this was when another messenger came and said that lightning had struck and burned up all his sheep. Then another messenger came and said that more enemies had raided the camp where all of Job’s camels were. All of the camels were gone and the servants who had been watching after them were dead.

Job was very sad. All of his riches were gone! At least he had his family! Job knew that all of his children were visiting his oldest son’s house. They were all together and they were safe. Then, a terrible thing happened. Another messenger came rushing up to Job’s house with more bad news.

“Your sons and daughters were feasting at their oldest brother’s house, when a very strong wind came up and knocked over the four corners of the house. The whole house fell down and crushed everyone in it. All of your children are dead!”

Job was so upset that he tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell down on the ground and began to pray. But he did not hate God like Satan said he would. He prayed to God and worshipped Him.

When Satan came before the Lord again, he told the Lord that Job would curse God if he did not have his health. Satan wanted to test Job again. The Lord knew that Job would pass the test so He allowed Satan to make Job sick.

Big sores appeared all over Job’s body. Even the soles of his feet and the top of his head had sores on them. The sores hurt and they itched. Job used to use bits of broken pottery to scratch his itchy sores. Even though Job hurt he still did not curse God. He did not understand why these things were happening to him but He did not hate God for it.

Job’s wife told him that he should just give up. He should curse God and die. Job’s friends came and visited him. They thought he must have been doing bad things for all of these bad things to happen to him. Job knew he always tried to do well. He told them that but they did not believe him. Everything was going wrong. Job loved God but he did not understand God. He began to ask God ‘why?” “Why was I ever born?” “Why didn’t I just die when I was a baby?” “Why am I alive?”

Everything was going wrong. Job loved God but he did not understand God. He began to ask God ‘why?” “Why was I ever born?” “Why didn’t I just die when I was a baby?” “Why am I alive?”

Finally, the Lord spoke to Job. He told Job that He should always trust God . . . even when he did not understand God.

After all, how can anyone understand everything about God? No one can know as much as God. God knows everything!

People may know about birds but God knows how to make birds fly. People may know about the sun but God causes the sun to come up and go down each day! People may know about animals but God made the largest animals and can control them!

Job learned and important lesson about God. He already knew God and loved Him. Now He knew that God is wiser and stronger than anything on earth. Job knew that he could trust God.

The God caused all of Satan’s wickedness toward Job to be stopped. He gave Job twice as much as he had before his suffering came upon him. He also had other children—seven more sons and three more daughters. Job had 14,000 sheep, 6000 camels, 1000 yoke of oxen, and 1000 donkeys.

Job lived to be a very old man and he was always happy and loved and trusted the Lord.

Job does not fail to praise God, even in his bitterest laments: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (1:21) and “With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding.” (12:13) Praising God in the most desperate of situations is quite difficult, and challenging even if one’s trust in God is great.

Sometimes it may seem that everything is going wrong in your life and that maybe God has quit caring for you. But remember the story of Job and remember that God always cares and will always help you through your problems if you remain faithful to God.


During my wife’s vacation last quarter of 2017, EDSA was a place of struggle – even until today. Monstrous traffic, smoke belchers’ haven and your patience’s tester to the hilt.


My wife and I during our EDSA travel sojourn. EDSA People Power Revolution black & white illustrations (photo credits to the owner).

As we traversed the highway and passed by the People Power Monument and EDSA Shrine, I asked myself – what did a bloodless revolution in 1986 make me who I am today?

When I went to Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as an OFW, we were reminded to always avoid discussing religion and politics because those are divisive issues.

But with social media, you can discuss anything under the sun and even upload photos/videos. Famewhore left and right and a lot political analyst wanna be.

Unfortunately, religion and politics have been weaponized and the issues that divide nations and societies are brought to our living rooms daily. Vicious wars are being fought because of it.

Back to the 1986 People Power Revolution, I was 6-year old when helicopters hovered around the city. There was panic and chaos in our neighborhood.

Everyone was hooked going to EDSA.

I wanted, too.

But, my mother asked me to pray for peace, instead.

It was difficult to fathom why there was such frenzy.

Few days later, it was an answered prayer.

As a young child, EDSA was a faith witnessing experience.

Three decades & two years, there was People Power at EDSA.

Epifanio De Los Santos (EDSA) in english, Epiphany of the Saints.

Epiphany, wikipedia defines it as “…an experience of sudden and striking realization. Generally the term is used to describe scientific breakthrough, religious or philosophical discoveries, but it can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective.”

Isn’t that what those who came to the EDSA Peaceful Revolution encountered?

We were called.

We came.

We prayed.

We shared.

We stood.

We were ready to sacrifice dear life for the country, for freedom from the Dictator and years of Martial rule and from decades of disunity and apathy.

Those who were non-participants living at that juncture in history and remained apathetic and shoved that “peaceful uprising” as a political exercise than an exercise of faith, will never understand the true meaning of EDSA.

For me, it is like the Hebrews crossing the Red Sea whilst being chased by chariot riding Egyptians during the Exodus and the other God-manifestations that they experienced.

I remembered how the world looked at us and followed our People Power peaceful, bloodless revolution and peacefully resolved the major barriers to peace and freedom.

There was the collapsing of the Berlin Wall in Germany, toppling of the South Korean dictator, overthrow of communist party in Romania and years later the disintegration of the United Socialist Republic of Russia.

The world had seen our contribution to freedom and we here, just brushed EDSA and labeled it political. Yellow. Cory. Anti-Marcos.

EDSA is not Yellow or Red or Blue or White or Orange or what-not!


As a growing believer of the Christian faith, EDSA was an expression of the Church’s love for country and leadership.

It is God’s gift to the Filipinos.

Will we be like the Jews who up to now is waiting for the Messiah when we Christians already know that Jesus the Christ already came?

Or will we accept EDSA as an epiphany — a gift of the Most high to His long suffering people?


This coming Palm Sunday, March 25 we will be celebrating World Youth Day 2018.

Today, the Vatican released Pope Francis’ message for the said event.

I was grateful that I attended the World Youth Day 2011 with the Holy Father in Madrid, Spain.

World Youth Day was a very important part of the legacy of Saint Pope John Paul II and his love and ministry to young people in the Church. It has touched the lives of many millions of young people and helped them to experience the catholicity of the faith, to deepen their commitment to the Lord and their sense of being part of Jesus’ family in the Church. In general, the young people who go have a wonderful experience.

It is a great institution in the life of the Church and there’s no other gathering of young people in the world that consistently brings together the numbers that World Youth Day does.

It is also a great blessing for the place that hosts the World Youth Day gathering.

When I was in high school, the Philippines hosted World Youth Day in 1995. I was not able to participate. I missed the event.

In 2011, I took the opportunity and I was blessed that I did participate in WYD Madrid.

I was impressed by the volunteers from the parishes. There were thousands of volunteers who just were so helpful in organizing and directing people and helping them and making sure that everyone had what they needed. The Holy Father had a meeting with them before he left to thank them for their generous service.

I think the presence of so many young Catholics was a great consolation to the Church in Spain, which has been suffering from the secularization of Europe.

Below is the full message of Pope Francis:

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God” (Lk 1:30)

Dear young people,

World Youth Day 2018 represents another step in preparation for the international WYD due to take place in Panama in January 2019. This new stage of our pilgrimage falls in the same year that the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will meet on the theme: Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment. This is a happy coincidence. The focus, prayer and reflection of the Church will turn to you young people, with the desire to receive and, above all, to embrace the precious gift that you are to God, to the Church and to the world.

As you already know, we have chosen to be accompanied on this journey by the example and intercession of Mary, the young woman of Nazareth whom God chose as the Mother of his Son. She walks with us towards the Synod and towards the WYD in Panama. If last year we were guided by the words of her canticle of praise – “The Almighty has done great things for me” (Lk 1:49) – teaching us to remember the past, this year we seek, together with her, to listen to the voice of God who inspires courage and bestows the grace needed to respond to his call: “Do not be afraid, Mary, because you have found favour with God” (Lk 1:30). These are the words addressed by God’s messenger, the Archangel Gabriel, to Mary, an ordinary girl from a small village in Galilee.

1. Do not be afraid!

As is understandable, the sudden appearance of the angel and his mysterious greeting: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28), strongly disturbed Mary, who was surprised by this first revelation of her identity and her vocation, as yet unknown to her. Mary, like others in the Sacred Scriptures, trembles before the mystery of God’s call, who in a moment places before her the immensity of his own plan and makes her feel all her smallness as a humble creature. The angel, seeing the depths of her heart, says: “Do not be afraid”! God also reads our inmost heart. He knows well the challenges we must confront in life, especially when we are faced with the fundamental choices on which depend who we will be and what we will do in this world. It is the “shudder” that we feel when faced with decisions about our future, our state of life, our vocation. In these moments we are troubled and seized by so many fears.

And you young people, what are your fears? What worries you most deeply? An “underlying” fear that many of you have is that of not being loved, well-liked or accepted for who you are. Today, there are many young people who feel the need to be different from who they really are, in an attempt to adapt to an often artificial and unattainable standard. They continuously “photo-shop” their images, hiding behind masks and false identities, almost becoming fake selves. Many are obsessed by receiving as many “likes” as possible. Multiple fears and uncertainties emerge from this sense of inadequacy. Others fear that they will not be able to find an emotional security and that they will remain alone. Many, faced with the uncertainty of work, fear not being able to find a satisfactory professional position, or to fulfil their dreams. Today a large number of young people are full of fear, both believers and non-believers. Indeed, those who have accepted the gift of faith and seek their vocation seriously are not exempt from fears. Some think: perhaps God is asking or will ask too much of me; perhaps, by following the road he has marked out for me, I will not be truly happy, or I will not be able to do what he asks of me. Others think: if I follow the path that God shows me, who can guarantee that I will be able to follow it through? Will I become discouraged? Will I lose my enthusiasm? Will I be able to persevere for the whole of my life?

In moments when doubts and fears flood our hearts, discernment becomes necessary. It allows us to bring order to the confusion of our thoughts and feelings, to act in a just and prudent way. In this process, the first step in overcoming fears is to identify them clearly, so as not to find yourself wasting time and energy by being gripped by empty and faceless ghosts. And so, I invite all of you to look within yourselves and to “name” your fears. Ask yourselves: what upsets me, what do I fear most in this specific moment of my life today? What blocks me and prevents me from moving forward? Why do I lack the courage to make the important choices I need to make? Do not be afraid to face your fears honestly, to recognize them for what they are and to come to terms with them. The Bible does not ignore the human experience of fear nor its many causes. Abraham was afraid (cf. Gen12:10ff), Jacob was afraid (cf. Gen 31:31; 32:7), and so were Moses (cf. Ex 2:14; 17:4), Peter (cf. Mt 26:69ff) and the Apostles (cf. Mk 4:38-40; Mt 26:56). Jesus himself, albeit in an incomparable way, experienced fear and anguish (cf. Mt26:37; Lk 22:44).

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (Mk 4:40). In admonishing his disciples Jesus helps us to understand how the obstacle to faith is often not scepticismbut fear. Thus understood, the work of discernment identifies our fears and can then help us to overcome them, opening us to life and helping us to calmly face the challenges that come our way. For us Christians in particular, fear must never have the last word but rather should be an occasion to make an act of faith in God… and in life! This means believing in the fundamental goodness of the existence that God has given us and trusting that he will lead us to a good end, even through circumstances and vicissitudes which often bewilder us. Yet if we harbour fears, we will become inward-looking and closed off to defend ourselves from everything and everyone, and we will remain paralyzed. We have to act! Never close yourself in! In the Sacred Scriptures the expression “do not be afraid” is repeated 365 times with different variations, as if to tell us that the Lord wants us to be free from fear, every day of the year.

Discernment is indispensable when searching for one’s vocation in life. More often than not our vocation is not obvious or evident at first but rather something we come to understand gradually. Discernment, in this case, should not be seen as an individual effort at introspection, with the aim of better understanding our interior make-up so as to strengthen us and acquire some balance. In such instances the person can become stronger, but is still confined to the limited horizon of his or her possibilities and perspectives. Vocation, however, is a call from above, and discernment in this context principally means opening ourselves to the Other who calls. Prayerful silence is therefore required in order to hear the voice of God that resounds within our conscience. God knocks at the door of our hearts, as he did with Mary; he longs to establish friendship with us through prayer, to speak with us through the Sacred Scriptures, to offer us mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and to be one with us in the Eucharist.

It is also important to dialogue with and encounter others, our brothers and sisters in the faith who have more experience, for they help us to see better and to choose wisely from the various possibilities. When the young Samuel hears the voice of the Lord, he does not recognize it immediately. Three times he runs to Eli, the older priest, who in the end proposes the right response to give to the Lord’s call: “If he calls you, you shall say: ‘Speak Lord, for your servant hears.’” (1 Sam 3:9). In your doubts know that you can rely on the Church. I know that there are very good priests, consecrated men and woman and lay faithful, many of whom are also young, who can support you like older brothers and sisters in the faith. Enlivened by the Holy Spirit, they will help you to make sense of your doubts and understand the plan of your own vocation. The other is not only a spiritual guide, but also the person who helps us open ourselves to the infinite riches of the life that God has given us. It is important to create spaces in our cities and communities to grow, to dream and to look at new horizons! Never lose the enthusiasm of enjoying others’ company and friendship, as well as the pleasure of dreaming together, of walking together. Authentic Christians are not afraid to open themselves to others and share with them their own important spaces, making them spaces of fraternity. Dear young people, do not allow the spark of youth to be extinguished in the darkness of a closed room in which the only window to the outside world is a computer and smartphone. Open wide the doors of your life! May your time and space be filled with meaningful relationships, real people, with whom to share your authentic and concrete experiences of daily life.

2. Mary!

“I have called you by name” (Is 43:1). The first reason not to fear is the fact that God has called us by name. The angel, God’s messenger, called Mary by name. To God belongs the power to give names. In the work of creation, he calls into existence every creature by name. There is an identity behind a name, that which is unique in every single thing, in every single person; that intimate essence that only God truly knows. This divine prerogative was shared with man when God invited him to name the animals, the birds and also his own offspring (Gen2:19-21; 4:1). Many cultures share this profound biblical vision; they recognize in a name the revelation of the profound mystery of life and the meaning of existence.

When God calls someone by name, he also reveals to the person his vocation, his plan of holiness and fulfilment, through which the person becomes a gift to others and is made unique. And when God wants to expand the horizons of life, he gives a new name to the person he is calling, as he did with Simon, whom he called “Peter”. From here comes the custom of taking a new name when entering a religious congregation, to indicate a new identity and mission. Since the divine call is unique and personal, we need the courage to disentangle ourselves from the pressure of being shaped by conforming patterns, so that our life can truly become an authentic and irreplaceable gift to God, to the Church and to all.

Dear young people, to be called by name is therefore a sign of our great dignity in the eyes of God and a sign of his love for us. God calls each one of you by name. All of you are the “you” of God, precious in his eyes, worthy of respect and loved (cf.Is 43:4). Welcome with joy this dialogue that God offers you, this appeal he makes to you, calling you by name.

3. You have found favour with God

The main reason why Mary need not be afraid is that she has found favour with God. The word “grace” speaks of love freely given, not owed. How much we are encouraged to know that we do not have to earn the closeness and help of God, by presenting a “Curriculum Vitae of excellence”, full of merits and successes! The angel says to Mary that she has already found favour with God, not that she will obtain it in the future. And the same formulation of the angel’s words helps us understand that divine grace is continuous, not something passing or fleeting; for this reason, it will never fail. Even in the future, the grace of God will always be there to sustain us, especially in moments of trial and darkness.

The continuous presence of divine grace encourages us to embrace our vocation with confidence; our vocation demands a commitment of faithfulness that needs to be renewed each day. Our vocational path is not without its crosses: not only our initial doubts, but also the frequent temptations that crop up along the way. The feeling of inadequacy accompanies Christ’s disciple to the end. Yet he or she knows the help of God’s grace.

The Angel’s words descend upon our human fears, dissolving them with the power of the Good News of which we are heralds: our life is not pure chance or a mere struggle for survival, rather each of us is a cherished story loved by God. That we have “found grace in his eyes” means that the Creator sees a unique beauty in our being and that he has a magnificent plan for our lives. The awareness of this certainty, of course, does not resolve all our problems nor does it take away life’s uncertainties. But it does have the power to transform our life deeply. The unknown that tomorrow holds for us is not a dark threat we need to overcome, but a favourable time given to us for living out the uniqueness of our personal vocation, and for sharing it with our brothers and sisters in the Church and in the world.

4. Courage in the present moment

From the certainty that God’s grace is with us comes the strength to take courage in the present moment: the courage to carry forward what God asks of us here and now, in every area of our lives; courage to embrace the vocation which God reveals to us; courage to live out our faith without hiding or diminishing it.

Yes, when we open ourselves to God’s grace, the impossible becomes a reality. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31). God’s grace touches the “now” of your lives, “takes hold” of you as you are, with all your fears and limits, but it also reveals his marvellous plans! You young people need to know that someone truly believes in you: please know that the Pope has confidence in you, that the Church has confidence in you! For your part, have confidence in the Church!

To the young Mary was entrusted an important task, precisely because she was young. You young people have strength as you go through a phase of your lives where energy is not lacking. Make use of this strength and this energy to improve the world, beginning with the realities closest to you. I want important responsibilities to be given to you within the Church; that there may be the courage to make space for you; and that you may be prepared to take on these responsibilities.

I invite you once again to contemplate Mary’s love: a caring, dynamic and concrete love. A love full of boldness and focused completely on the gift of self. A Church permeated by these Marian qualities will always be a Church going forth, one that goes beyond her own limits and boundaries to let the grace she has received overflow. If we allow ourselves to be truly touched by Mary’s example, we will live out authentically that charity which urges us to love God above all else and above ourselves, to love those with whom we share our daily life. And we will also love those who may seem hardly lovable in themselves. It is a love that is service and dedication, above all towards the weakest and poorest, love that transforms our faces and fills us with joy.

I would like to end with the beautiful words Saint Bernard used in a famous homily on the mystery of the Annunciation, words that express the anticipation of all humanity for Mary’s response: “You have heard, O Virgin that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer… We too, O Lady, are waiting for your word of compassion… In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life… This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet… Answer quickly, O Virgin” (Sermon 4, 8-9;Opera Omnia).

Dear young people, the Lord, the Church, the world are waiting for your answer to the unique call that each one receives in this life! As World Youth Day in Panama draws closer, I invite you to prepare yourselves for our gathering with the joy and enthusiasm of those who wish to participate in such a great adventure. WYD is for the courageous! Not for young people who are searching only for comfort and who withdraw whenever difficulties arise. Do you accept the challenge?


I met Ate Wendy Samonte after the closing program of SFC International Conference 2018.

She wore a facemask and thanked a group of brothers and sisters in the parking lot.

Bro. Cris Serdenia, a fellow servant leader in SFC Middle East introduced her to me.

Ate Wendy

Dear Lord, I come before You today in need of Your healing hand. In You all things are possible. Hold my heart within Yours, and renew my mind, body and soul. I am lost, but I come to You with grace. You gave us life, and You also give us the gift of infinite joy. Give me the strength to move forward on the path you’ve laid out for me. Guide me towards better health and give me the wisdom to identify those you’ve placed around me to help me get better. Amen. (Together with Ate Wendy & Bro. Cris.)

Ate Wendy was diagnosed with gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs), a rare type of cancer found in the digestive system, most often in the wall of the stomach.

She undergone surgery in 2016. She has no stomach anymore. Digesting food is a big challenge.

She shared her pains during chemo and CT scan sessions.

I felt her agony because I experienced the same.

Her optimism was a source of inspiration.

She went to the event as a victor and full of gratitude.

The SFC community was a source of hope.

Stories about Ate Wendy gave me a deeper understanding of God’s relentless love.

She was a living witness of God’s faithfulness.

Let us pray continuously for her complete healing.

Amidst her condition Ate Wendy remains steadfast in serving the Lord in whatever way possible, her gratitude prayer:

“Thank you God for being with me, inspiring me and using me to speak Your words to my brothers and sisters. Continue to use me Lord, allow me to see Jesus through the people around me and to experience Your great love.”