New

A new journey began. It will be a different world. More challenging but rewarding. As I look into the new horizon, hope breams eternal.

I know this is Your will Lord, not mine. But, I surrender to Your Holy plan.

New

“The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want…” – Ps 23

In one of the Jesuit’s reflection that inspires me, they shared that discerning God’s will for me does not depend on the skills I have learnt, much less on the level of my knowledge, but above all on the quality of my heart’s listening.

A listening heart knows how to be sensitive to God’s presence. It is built on a basic trust in God’s faithfulness and to his willingness to communicate himself: it is indeed possible to seek and find what is God’s project for me.

As I listen to God, I discover that I need to listen more to myself, even though I might have started with the idea that I need to listen less to myself. It is God who created me and sowed the seeds of desire in my heart, so I do have to learn how to listen to and understand my deepest desires, my dreams, my strong points, as well as my mistakes and disappointments.

Just as I cannot love others unless I love myself, so also I cannot really trust God without trusting myself and what God is doing in me: God’s will is myself!

I do this not in narcissistic self-admiration, where everything is centred on my needs, but in a spirit of deep freedom, the freedom to serve and to love others even when it means carrying the cross and turning the other cheek.

Like all successful communication, this requires time and patient effort, perhaps with the guidance of someone more experienced with whom I share my quest. This can only happen in the context of a stable prayer life, that includes the daily examen of conscience.

As life becomes more complex, and as we become more allergic to rules, discernment will assume a much bigger role in our lives and in that of our communities, including that of the big community, the Church. We are blessed that many who preceded us, including Ignatius of Loyola, have left us many helpful indications on how to discern our decisions.

As I continue my journey, I will continuously yield to His plans for me.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” – Mt 7: 7-12

Work

A dear fellow servant and an educator reminded me today to offer our work as our worship to God.

It was raining cats and dogs when the classes were suspended today in upland Cavite. My new textmate was NDRRMC.

With the gloomy bed weather, this thought came to mind: our work is a way to worship God. It has intrinsic value and can demonstrate God’s character when we do good work. Faith and work are to be seamless. Work is an expression of our life in Christ. Separating the two is like separating “being” from “doing.” How do you know who you are being without considering what you are doing?”

Work

Worship and work should never become two different things. We worship when we work and we work when we worship, especially when our work is derived from God.

Moreover, this very insightful sharing from Work Life online inspiration prodded me to ponder deeper.

In his book Holy Sweat 2, Tim Hansel tells the story of some body builders on a television talk show. They were showing off their muscles when the host asked, “What do you use these muscles for?” One man answered by flexing his muscles in one of those body-building poses.

“No, you don’t understand me,” said the host. “What do you use these muscles for?”

The body builder answered, “I’ll show you,” and flexed again, posing another way.

“No, no, you still don’t understand what I’m asking. What do you use them for?” and the guy posed again.

Many of us are like that. We attend church, go to seminars, conferences and Bible studies and keep building our spiritual muscles, but we do not use them for the reason for which they were created. We end up like the body builders, with well-defined muscles for show, just to look good, but they are good for nothing.

Jesus said, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32). When we participate and experience this truth, we make it our life story.

As Hansel puts it, “Your theology should become your biography.”

We learn to mesh our beliefs into everyday reality. Although it sounds simple, it actually is one of life’s greatest challenges.

We seldom understand that God is not just asking us to be spiritually committed to him. He wants our total commitment; every fiber of our being.

We use every dimension of our being when we work, so we worship him as we work.

As Christians we find our basic identity in Christ but seldom consider what this means.

We are more inclined to dwell on what we do and who we are – the urgent and the superficial.

Our identity in Christ is once and for all established when we put our faith in him, yet many of us don’t consciously dwell on this profound reality.

We simply go about living our lives, rather than thinking about our significance in Christ, thus blinding us from knowing who we truly are.

We develop this sense of identity and security in Christ as we spend time with him in prayer, offer our conscious praise to him and give him credit for all we are and have.

The more of his Word, the Bible, we put into our lives, the more aware we become that he is our prime motivator.

When we simply take God at his word, we find he is utterly trustworthy and creates opportunities for his Spirit to be manifested in our lives and work.

PREX

The Parish Renewal Experience (PREX) is actually not an organization but a spiritual formation that is considered as a new way of life in seeing Christ in others.

It’s a revival of one’s commitment as he strengthens his sense of belongingness to his parish and his Catholic faith.

I attended the PREX back in the late 90s at Parish of the Holy Cross in Makati.

This weekend, Ate Rea Rosales invited me to attend the PREX in St. Martha Parish, which is one of the young parishes in the Diocese of Imus.

Prex

The PREX is a three-day seminar consisting of talks on life experiences that will aid the participants to improve their relationships with their family, neighbours, peers, and to embrace God’s graces and love. It also aims to boost the attendees to share their 3Ts (Treasure, Time and Talent) in serving God and ultimately to evangelize their dearly brothers and sisters who are poor in spirit and bring them back to the Lord.

Fr. Mel Sandoval, our parish priest led the talk about renewal and being an active part of the Catholic church.

PREX is a rediscovery and a strong recall into belonging to our church. This is one way of learning that the parish is not a “We and They” relationship, but a family living and loving one another.

It started in 1970s and spread like wildfire allover the globe.

PREX enabled the lay servants to have a better understanding of the Word of God and allowed them to be of service to Him and His people.

I am looking forward this weekend for a PREX refresher experience.

We pray that all the participants will have a deeper encounter with the Lord this weekend.

Beup

The highlight of my Iloilo journey happened today. I hosted the beautiful wedding of our fellow servants Bro. Mark & Sis. Rebecca’s reception ceremonies.

The overflowing love and support from their friends, familes and relatives were a witnessing experience of God’s love.

Beup Wedding

Dear God, thank you for this joyous day. Thank you for Your Light that has entered Bride and Groom’s life. Thank you for all the miracles and blessings. Please bless this union. Help Bride and Groom find the perfect place in this world for their love to flourish. Let the radiant light of their love shine on all those around them. May all their future creations be blessed. God, bless them with the inner gifts of trust, compassion, forgiveness and truth that they may live and grow together in love and peace. Amen.

During the homily, Msgr. Joemarie Delgado highlighted the importance of having God as the center of the newly wed couple’s relationship.

It’s a love triangle for life.

Bride, groom and God.

To our newly wed couple, my wife and I offer this prayer:

Father, we pray that you nourish and encourage Mark and Rebecca’s marriage.

We pray that their marriage to be filled with friendship, joy, and love. May their life together embody warmth and affection, with the deepest love and intimacy between them.

Falling in love is not a choice, but being in love is. It is a choice that requires renewal day after day, year after year, lifetime after lifetime.

Love, deep love, is simple. It is a simple choice between kindness and generosity, or blame and criticism, moment to moment.

Our choices become our habits. When we make kindness and generosity our choice, our vision becomes clear — we see with clear eyes, the good intent behind actions, the pain behind harsh words, and the fear behind untruthful speech.

Father, we pray you help them make this choice day after day.

Father, we pray for a marriage that makes both Mark and Rebecca feel cherished, understood, and validated. To feel love, your love.

A marriage where they may argue, but they will never fight.

May they show one another only kindness, generosity, and patience, and in light of their own human frailties, offer the same heart towards themselves.

And in this spirit, may their joys know no decline, may they inspire confidence in one another, and may the beatitude they experience continue forever and ever, world without end.

May their love be like Juliet’s love, as boundless as the sea,
“My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.”

A marriage does not exist alone. It is a marriage of families, friends, teachers, and communities.

Father, we pray that we will uphold our duty to Mark and Rebecca’s marriage.

May they be there for one another when the going gets rough — and be there to celebrate with one another when things go right — sharing joy in the day to day vicissitudes of life.

Children will come, careers will take up time, in-laws will take up patience, and petty grievances, left to fester, will tear lovers apart.

The highs of marriage will wear off, but may they always remember their love for each other. May their marriage endure in a spirit of kindness and generosity.

Falling in love is not our choice, but being in love is. It is a choice that requires renewal day after day, year after year, lifetime after lifetime.

Father, we pray you will guide them, and with us, their family, friends, and community, help them make this choice and renew it day after day.

In good times and in bad, for better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.

In Jesus name.

Amen.

SCA

People come and go, but the mission continues.

This is God’s work. His victory not ours.

We would like to thank our student servant leaders who came and took part in bringing more youth closer to God through Student Catholic Action (SCA) movement in Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM).

We have new set of servants in the vineyard who undergone the pastoral formation program last weekend.

They said ‘yes’ to God’s call by serving others and we pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to empower them in this mission.

SCA

“God loves us the way we are, and no sin, fault or mistake of ours makes him change his mind. As far as Jesus is concerned – as the Gospel shows – no one is unworthy of, or far from, his thoughts. No one is insignificant. He loves all of us with a special love; for him all of us are important: you are important! God counts on you for what you are, not for what you possess. In his eyes the clothes you wear or the kind of cell phone you use are of absolutely no concern. He doesn’t care whether you are stylish or not; he cares about you! In his eyes, you are precious, and your value is inestimable.” –

Special thanks to our alumni for their unwavering support in sharing their talents, treasures and time for making the program possible.

SCA is the first student Catholic movement in the Philippines that started in 1936.

SCA came to PLM in 1981 and now on its 37th year, the movement stood tall amidst challenges in the past years.

How did SCA come to the campuses? Who started the spark that ignited the passion of serving others?

Here’s an article published last year about the selfless love of the Columban clergy that inspired SCA.

The Columbans and the Student Leaders they Molded
(by Milwida M. Guevara, SCA Alumni, originally published in Manila Bulletin, December 12, 2017)

I tried to focus on the celebration of the mass yesterday but my memory kept drifting to the past. My friend, Fr. Michael Mohally, a Columban priest, celebrated his 50th anniversary as a priest. His years were indeed golden, having served as a missionary, and dedicated to the formation of leaders through Student Catholic Action (SCA).

The Columban Missionaries are also celebrating their centenary in the country this year. They ran parishes, established schools, served as university chaplains, and worked with the poor.

Many Columbans died as martyrs in the Philippines. Fr. Thomas Flynn died in the hands of the Huks in 1950. Fr. Rufus Hally was shot dead in 2001. President FVR was personally involved in the rescue of Fr. Des Hartford who was abducted by militants in Marawi in 1997.

But we remember the Columbans most fondly for their work with students. They had a special knack for identifying those with great potential for leadership and held their hands and hearts in their formative years. The Columbans modeled the virtues of servant-leadership, sharpened their minds through “teach-ins” and conferences, and developed their love for others through immersion in marginalized communities.

I am privileged to walk in the company of colleagues whose values and work were shaped by the Columban Fathers: Ernie Garilao, former Secretary of DAR; Carn Abella, former President of DAP; Dr. Antonio Torralba, former Dean of Liberal Arts, UAAP; Atty. Hector Villacorta, Secretary of the Commission on Appointments; Tess Villacorta, former Executive Director of Children’s Hour; Tina Monzon Palma, ANC Anchor, Edna Zapanta Manlapaz, Professor, Ateneo de Manila University, and of course, the great Raul Roco. We were products of “indoctrination” of the Columbans on how to live a meaningful life through service to others.

SCA was introduced in campuses at a time when students were drawn to the ideals of Communism. The Columbans adopted the cell technique in formation. It is interesting to note that the ideals of Communism were propagated through the cell method. We met regularly with a group of students where we discussed how it is to be a leader, the meaning of love, and how virtues such as humility and courage, are acquired. But our discussions were rooted not on the teachings of Lenin and Trotsky, but on the examples of a much bigger leader, Jesus. We reflected on His Gospel and His life of love. It was in these cell meetings where I first listened to Raul Roco, dapper, dashing, and eloquent in flawless English and Tagalog. Every December, the Columbans gathered student leaders in every school, college and university, and “indoctrinated” them in Baguio – La Patria Hotel for the men and St. Joseph College, for the women. Coming straight from the province, you could imagine how I listened with starry eyes to Sonia Malasarte, Nonong Contreras, Tati Licuanan, Pablo Trillana, Fr. Sonny Ramirez, Imelda Nicolas,and Abelardo Cortez.

The Columbans also saw to it that student-leadership should be well-rounded. We had festivals throughout the year where we developed our talents in drama, debates, singing, dancing, arts, and sports. Those were the years when SCA sponsored college fairs where we had great fun in marriage booths, roulettes, merry-go-round, and ferris wheels. In the evenings, we swayed and boogied with the music of RJ Jacinto and the Electromaniacs.

The Columbans helped us to have a deep understanding of life. They led us in our work with communities in the peripheries. I credit my work with the public high schools and the slums in Tondo as the backbone of my obsession for justice and education. It is not strange that many of my SCA colleagues have a penchant for public service and have continued to work with the poor.

I met Fr. Michael 47 years ago. He had an innocent look on his face and was looking forward to his work in the Philippines. Little did he know that he would serve as the Director of SCA in public high schools for many years, sans any priest as assistant. He was forever running around all day in his small car saying masses all over Metro Manila, counseling hundreds of students, and guiding their activities. His heart broke (and so did ours) when SCA was outlawed by the martial law government.

But the Columbans probably will never realize how much their work with SCA has impacted on Filipinos. Their influence has multiplied a million fold through the work of former student leaders whom they have formed. Like ripples in a pond, the ideals of the Columbans have multiplied and changed the course of rivers and oceans. They have set the course for thousands of SCAns to do what is right, give without counting the cost, and work without seeking reward.

Thank you Fr. Michael and the Columban missionaries who have given their best to the country. Indeed, you made us hear the angels sing.

Alleluia

Are you living as an Easter people of God or still in Golgotha?

As married couples, there are a lot of practical lessons that we can learn about relationship from the death and resurrection of Christ as shared by Fr. Mark Demanuele, MSSP during the Easter Recollection organized by the The Feast Bay Area Couple’s Ministry.

As a missionary, Fr. Mark shared his journey of challenges as an Easter person.

Easter people of God

The beauty of the cross is in the promise of Easter, where God shows His natures as a redeemer and restorer. If your marriage is in a time of stress and pain, put your hope in the one who sees past the immediate circumstances of your life and into a hopeful and wonderful future. It is very possible that God could use the current difficulty in your marriage to create something even more beautiful and enduring than you could ever imagine. As you celebrate Easter with your family this year, take some time to reflect on the meaning for your marriage. Allow the wonderful and powerful spiritual truths of Easter breathe new life into your relationship, and your bond will be stronger for it.

He pointed everyone to the powerful exhortation of St. John Paul II back in 1986:

“We do not pretend that life is all beauty. We are aware of darkness and sin, of poverty and pain. But we know Jesus has conquered sin and passed through his own pain to the glory of the Resurrection. And we live in the light of his Paschal Mystery – the mystery of his Death and Resurrection. “We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!”. We are not looking for a shallow joy but rather a joy that comes from faith, that grows through unselfish love, that respects the “fundamental duty of love of neighbour, without which it would be unbecoming to speak of Joy”. We realize that joy is demanding; it demands unselfishness; it demands a readiness to say with Mary: “Be it done unto me according to thy word”.

In particular if Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up.

If Calvary means putting to death things in your life that need killing off if you are to flourish as a Christian and as a truly human being, then Easter should mean planting, watering, and training up things in your life (personal and corporate) that ought to be blossoming, filling the garden with color and perfume and in due course bearing fruit.

Jesus resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven.

Characteristics of Easter people as shared by Fr. Mark:

  • Easter people rejoice in Jesus’ death AND resurrection. (Romans 5:10)
  • Easter people preach the resurrection more than one day a year. (Acts 4:2)
  • Easter people long for their resurrection brought by Jesus as much as or if not more so than a temporary bodiless existence in heaven. (1 Corinthians 15; Philippians 3:7-11; Revelation 21)
  • Easter people long to see Jesus restore creation from the curse of decay. (Romans 8 )
  • Easter people speak up at great cost against the ‘principalities and powers’ of this world because Jesus is our risen King and he is king over them all. (Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 2:7-9)
  • Easter people are willing to deny themselves and lose all things for the sake of Christ now because Christ, by the power of his resurrection, has promised to restore all things and reward his disciples in the ‘life after the next life’. (Matthew 19:27-28; Mark 10:28-31; Revelation 21:5)

As an “Easter People,” our response to the gift of forgiveness and eternal life compels us to try to live lives that reflect our new status. We are a people forgiven, healed and renewed by Jesus’ Body and Blood, and we are called to share that Good News with the whole world.

Our response can and should be rooted in love. As Jesus himself has told us, love for God and love for our neighbor is the foundation of Christian living. Because God first loved us, loved us so much that we were given God’s only son for our salvation, our response to this love is not only to love God as deeply and fully as we are able, but also to love everyone else as deeply and fully as we love ourselves.

As couples, our relationship with God matters most.

We need to nurture the loving relationship of husbands and wives like how Christ offered His life in the cross.

In this time of violence, strife, argument and disagreement, God continues to call us to love not to hate. God continues to call us to look beyond the immediate to the eternal.

What in a moment of anger or outrage might satisfy our pride is most probably not consistent with the loving future God wants for us.

It is not God who has created the turmoil that surrounds us; it is turmoil of our own making born from our love of self above our love of others.

This Easter, amidst the joy and celebration of our new lives in Christ, let us also celebrate the joy of new life with others.

Let us begin to set aside our pride and petty difference that not only separate us from each other, but also separate us from God.

Let us strive to become an “Easter People” who know and reflect God’s love through our love for one another as equals—equally beloved children of God.

Real

Fr. Bob McConaghy, Spiritual Director of The Feast Bay Area puts it succintly that we are servants not volunteers in doing God’s work.

A volunteer can leave anytime but a servant has a giving heart.

They focus on others, not themselves. This is true humility: not thinking less of ourselves but thinking of ourselves less.

When we stop focusing on our needs, we become aware of the needs around us.

Real Servants

With my fellow servants in The Feast Bay Area together with Fr. Bob.

God is always more interested in why we do something than in what we do. Attitudes count more than achievements.

Jesus “emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant.” When was the last time you emptied yourself for someone elses benefit? You cant be a servant if you’re full of yourself. Its only when we forget ourselves that we do the things that deserve to be remembered.

We serve to get others to like us, to be admired, or to achieve our own goals. That is manipulation, not ministry.

Pastor Rick Warren shared these thoughts about being a real servant for God.

Real servants don’t try to use God for their purposes. They let God use them for His purposes.

We can measure our servants heart by how we respond when others treat us like servants. How do you react when youre taken for granted, bossed around, or treated as an inferior?

Real Servants Think Like Stewards, Not Owners

They remember God owns it all.

Servanthood and stewardship go together since God expects us to be trustworthy in both. The Bible says, The one thing required of such servants is that they be faithful to their master. How are you handling the resources God has entrusted to you?

To become a real servant, you’re going to have to settle the issue of money in your life.

Money has the greatest potential to replace God in your life. More people are sidetracked from serving by materialism than anything else. They say, “After I achieve my financial goals, Im going to serve God.” That is a foolish decision they will regret for eternity. When Jesus is your Master, money serves you, but if money is your master, you become its slave. Wealth is certainly not a sin, but failing to use it for Gods glory is. Real servants are more concerned about ministry than money.

The Bible is very clear: God uses money to test your faithfulness as a servant. Thats why Jesus talked more about money than he did about either heaven or hell. He said, If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? How you manage your money affects how much God can bless your life.

Real Servants Think About Their Own Responsibilities, Not What Other Servants are Doing

They dont compare, criticize, or compete with other servants or ministries. Theyre too busy doing the work God has given them.

Competition between Gods servants is illogical for many reasons: were all on the same team, our goal is to make God look good, not ourselves, weve been given different assignments, and were all uniquely shaped. Paul said, We will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

Theres no place for petty jealousy between servants. When youre busy serving, you dont have time to be critical. Any time spent criticizing others is time that could have been spent ministering. When Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was not helping with the work, she lost her servants heart. Real servants dont complain of unfairness, dont have pity-parties, and dont resent those not serving. They just trust God and keep serving.

If you serve like Jesus, you can expect to be criticized. The world, and even much of the church, does not understand what God values. The disciples criticized one of the most beautiful acts of love shown to Jesus. Mary took the most valuable thing she owned, expensive perfume, and poured it over Jesus. Her lavish service was called “a waste” by the disciples, but Jesus called it “significant,” and thats all that mattered. You service for Christ is never wasted, regardless of what others say.

Real Servants Base Their Identity in Christ

They remember they are unconditionally loved and accepted by grace, so they dont have to prove their worth when they are threatened by lowly jobs. Most of us are too insecure to be servants. Were afraid our weaknesses and insecurities will be uncovered so we hide them with layers of protective pride and pretensions.

One of the most profound examples of serving from a secure self-image is Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Washing feet was the equivalent of being a shoeshine boy, a job devoid of status. But Jesus knew who he was, so it didnt threaten or bother him to do it.

If youre going to be a servant you must settle your identity in Christ. Only secure people can serve, when you base your worth and identity on your relationship to Christ, you are freed from the expectation of others. You are freed to serve.

Real Servants Think of Ministry as an Opportunity, Not an Obligation

They enjoy helping people, meeting needs, and doing ministry. They “serve the Lord with gladness.” Why do we serve with gladness? Because we love the Lord, were grateful for his grace, we know serving is the highest use of life, and God has promised a reward. Jesus promised, The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me. And Paul added, He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other Christians.

Imagine what could happen if just 10% of all Christians in the world got serious about their role of being a real servant. Imagine all the good that could be done. Are you willing to be one of those people? Albert Schweitzer said, “The only really happy people are those have learned how to serve.”