John

The Catholic Church celebrates today the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. His life was fueled by one burning passion – to point others to Jesus Christ and to the coming of God’s kingdom.

During the Awesome Kids’ Ministry service at The Feast, the little children was reminded to always put God first in their lives.

Like St. John the Baptist, every kid was destined by God for an important mission.

Putting God first is realizing it’s all about Him. Everything in your life is to be directed to Him. Your every breath is to go back to Him. Your every thought is to be for Him. Everything is about Him.

Scripture tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15, 41) by Christ himself, whom Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, John leapt in the womb of Elizabeth as they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41). The fire of the Spirit dwelt in John and made him the forerunner of the coming Messiah. John was led by the Spirit into the wilderness prior to his ministry where he was tested and grew in the word of God.

John broke the prophetic silence of the previous centuries when he began to speak the word of God to the people of Israel. His message was similar to the message of the Old Testament prophets who chided the people of God for their unfaithfulness and who tried to awaken true repentance in them. Among a people unconcerned with the things of God, it was his work to awaken their interest, unsettle them from their complacency, and arouse in them enough good will to recognize and receive Christ when he came.

God’s gracious gift to us
What is the significance of John the Baptist and his message for our lives? When God acts to save us he graciously fills us with his Holy Spirit and makes our faith come “alive” to his promises. Each and every day the Lord is ready to renew us in faith, hope, and love. Like John the Baptist, the Lord invites each of us to make our life a free-will offering to God. God wants to fill us with his glory all the days of our lives, from birth through death. Renew the offering of your life to God and give him thanks for his mercy and favor towards you.

“Lord Jesus, you bring hope and salvation to a world lost in sin, despair, and suffering. Let your grace refresh and restore your people today in the hope and joy of your great victory over sin and death.”

Cape

When I was a kid Papa Ramon was my superhero, he was like Batman, Superman, Flash and Thor rolled into one.

Last Sunday, during the Awesome Kids Ministry service, the children were able to honor their dad with a special craft activity.

Cape

If the scientific study of fatherhood has taught us one thing, it’s that there are data-driven, biological, and psychological reasons why kids seem to do better with dads.

We also had our Light Group (LG) meeting where we discussed the value of our father’s presence in our lives.

According to the Parenting.com website, even dads with average parenting skills can make a real impact on their children’s lives.

Four decades of research and hundreds of studies have proven what should be obvious to everyone: The more involved a dad is, the more successful his children will be. A father’s influence can determine a child’s social life, grades at school, and future achievements.

Involved dads = Successful children
The dad effect starts as early as birth. A review of studies by the Father Involvement Research Alliance shows that babies with more involved fathers are more likely to be emotionally secure, confident in new situations, and eager to explore their surroundings. As they grow, they are more sociable. Toddlers with involved fathers are better problem-solvers and have higher IQs by age 3. They are more ready to start school and can deal with the stress of being away from home all day better than children with less involved fathers .

At school, children of involved fathers do better academically. For example, a study by the U.S. Department of Education found that children of highly involved fathers were 43 percent more likely than other children to earn mostly As and 33 percent less likely to repeat a grade. They are also less likely to have behavior problems at school and to experience depression.

According to the Father Involvement Research Alliance review, girls with involved fathers have higher self-esteem, and teenage girls who are close to their dads are less likely to become pregnant. Boys show less aggression, less impulsivity, and more self-direction. As young adults, children of involved fathers are more likely to achieve higher levels of education, find success in their careers, have higher levels of self-acceptance and experience psychological well-being. Adults who had involved fathers are more likely to be tolerant and understanding, have supportive social networks made up of close friends, and have long-term successful marriages.

Everyday activities are important
A study by Brigham Young University researchers finds that involvement in everyday activities, such as eating dinner together, watching TV, playing in the yard, and playing video games are even more important to share with Dad than big outings or trips, although those contribute to children’s development as well. Fathers and youths in the study experienced more satisfaction and cohesion in their family when fathers were involved in everyday core activities.

W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, says that fathers’ special input differs from mothers’ in at least four ways: playing, encouraging risk, protecting and disciplining.

Playing
By asking parents of 390 families how they play with their children, psychologist Ross Parke found that “in infants and toddlers, fathers’ hallmark style of interaction is physical play that is characterized by arousal, excitement, and unpredictability.” Mothers, on the other hand, were “more modulated and less arousing” in their play. This became glaringly obvious to me when my husband left home for a year and a half to work in Afghanistan. My modulated play was not cutting it. Several months into the experience, our three kids began complaining to me, “You never tickle us.” I had to take a page from my husband’s playbook for a while.

A manual from the U.S. Children’s Bureau explains the impact of fathers’ play this way: “From these interactions, children learn how to regulate their feelings and behavior. Roughhousing with dad, for example, can teach children how to deal with aggressive impulses and physical contact without losing control of their emotions.”

Encouraging risk
Where mothers tend to worry about their children’s safety and well-being, fathers encourage their children to take risks. Psychologist Daniel Paquette’s review of scholarly research found that dads are more likely to encourage their children to overcome obstacles, to talk to strangers, and to go in the deep end during swim lessons. One study in the review (J. Le Camus, “Les interaction pere-enfant en milieu aquatique”) focused on a group of parents teaching their children how to swim. It found that “fathers tend to stand behind their children so the children face their social environment, whereas mothers tend to position themselves in front of their children, seeking to establish visual contact with the children.”

Protecting
Perhaps it’s their size, strength, or inclination to protect, but fathers appear to be better at keeping predators and bad influences from harming their children. Psychologist Rob Palkovitz said in The Atlantic, “Paternal absence has been cited by multiple scholars as the single greatest risk factor in teen pregnancy for girls.” When fathers are more involved, they can better monitor what’s going on in their children’s lives, including interaction with peers and adults.

Disciplining
Although mothers discipline more often, fathers discipline with a firmer hand. In their book Partnership Parenting, Drs. Kyle Pruett and Marsha Kline Pruett write, “Fathers tend to be more willing than mothers to confront their children and enforce discipline, leaving their children with the impression that they in fact have more authority.” Mothers, on the other hand, try to reason with their children and rely on kids’ emotional attachment to them to influence their behavior. Although Mom and Dad may not seem to be on the same page, this diverse approach can be very effective in disciplining children.

The good news about being a dad is that you don’t have to be spectacular at it to make a major positive contribution to your child’s life. W. Bradford Wilcox looked at data on delinquency, pregnancy, and depression in adolescents and compared the statistics with how the teens rated their fathers or if they lived with a single mother. He found that outcomes for teens in single-mother homes were about the same as those living with both a mother and a poor-quality father; teens had higher levels of delinquency, pregnancy, and depression. But teens living with their mother and father, with whom they had an average-quality relationship, experienced much lower negative outcomes. Teens who had a high-quality relationship with their father had even lower rates. Wilcox concludes that “great, and even good-enough dads, appear to make a real difference in their children’s lives.”

Pentecost

When was the last time you truly surrender your life to God?

Tough question.

Difficult to answer.

Profound reflection for today’s gospel.

The “big message” for Pentecost Sunday that reverberated in the ampula of my pancreas was to be more selfless. Give up our own way and trust that God’s way is better.

When you put yourself last, God puts you first.

God’s will is always better than your will. You cannot see tomorrow, but He can. He wants you to be happy more than you want to be happy.

God’s will comes from living in a relationship with Jesus, and this relationship begins when you surrender your life completely to Him.

Pentecost

Jesus wants us to be more humble in how we recognize the evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Lord is very clear that He will reveal Himself to us in recognizable ways, and so we have to look primarily at what’s going on inside of us. When we find ourselves capable of saying “I forgive” in the name of Christ; when we love those who oppose us and even make sacrifices for them; when we give of ourselves with delight and not grudgingly; all of these are sure signs that God’s Spirit is alive and active within us.

The word, Pentecost, comes from the Greek word for five, penta, meaning the fiftieth day. It was also called the Day of First Fruits, Festival of Weeks, and Shabuoth. In the Christian tradition, we use the color red, remembering the red flames of the Holy Spirit. It is a celebration of hope and renewal of purpose and mission.

If you have found that your Christian Faith is weak and not growing, you need to call upon the Holy Spirit. Whether it is a life-changing moment, or simply an ordinary moment when you need assistance, the Holy Spirit is there for you.

At that first Christian Pentecost, The Holy Spirit transformed uncertain, frightened, weak apostles and reconstituted the Twelve Tribes of the New Israel in the New Covenant. The flames that were unleashed that day continue to burn throughout the world in our day. The Holy Spirit can transform you too but you need to be more selfless.

It took Pentecost–and the power of the Spirit–to embolden the apostles to begin their ministry of preaching and baptizing. Conversions began to happen and the early church began to grow. And all of this took place without Jesus’ earthly presence among them.

We have to make way for the Holy Spirit in our lives.

We believe that through the Holy Spirit, God dwells within us and empowers us. We believe that even though we never walked with Jesus and the apostles, we are nonetheless accompanied by the same Spirit who is always available to us!

I will close with a wonderful and relevant prayer by St. Ignatius of Loyola called the Suscipe:
“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understandingand my entire will,

All I have and call my own. You have given all to me.

To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will.

Give me only your love and your grace.

That is enough for me.”

Let’s remember to pray for each other that we will achieve what Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20, “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

Through the Holy Spirit, may we learn to yield more in God’s presence.

Fellowship

God wanted us to come together so that we always know we’re not alone.

It was one of the best family days I attended in the community.

Finally, after almost two (2) years of planning, our Light Group had a chance to step back a bit, to unwind and to enjoy summer at its best.

Light Group

1 Corinthians 14:26 “Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you.”

It was a fun-filled weekend!

Just good vibes, more food, sunny weather and memorable memories of being one as a small family in the Light of Jesus (LOJ) community.

Our Light Group

Matthew 18:19-20 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

The venue was too big for us but our giggles and laughters echoed like a thunderstorm in the secluded resort tucked in the heart of Amadeo and Tagaytay.

My Light Group (couples) were the most generous and kind-hearted bunch of servants. They always went out of their way to serve each other.

Led by Bro. Allan and Sis. Bebet Gayondato everyone was inspired to give more and to share more.

Bro. Fred and Sis. Jane Pagala sourced out the venue and like any mission-ready servants, they brought an arsenal of home-goodies to make the fellowship a memorable event like no other from complete set of chafing dish and the best-seller Becky’s Kitchen sweets and knick-knacks.

Bro. Anton and Sis. Flor Erni generously contributed for the venue fees and brought freshly picked and sweet red makopa fruit or wax apple from their farm and also a hefty serving of fresh crabs.

Bro. Don and Sis. Emily Consuegra prepared a piping hot Sinigang during dinner and some “agua de pataranta” for the brothers to enjoy.

Sis. Faye cooked a delish original Bicol Express recipe- seafood and meat combined.

Bro. Mark and Sis. Lorrie Calangian prepared a sumptuous feast of all-time favorite Filipino breakfast. With barely no sleep, they woke up early and became the couple chef in tandem.

Fellowship

Some of the yummy spread shared during our Light Group fellowship.

Our LG was heaven-sent for me, a mixed of future business moguls but humble in serving God. A pure heart to love and to be of service to others for the greater glory of God.

Fellowship like what we did our LG, help us to keep our eyes on God.

He also works through them to provide us what we need in darker times. Coming together with others can aid in our healing process and give us the encouragement to move forward.

Coming together is a great way for each of us to grow in our faith.

God gives us a gift of learning and growing when we come together in fellowship we show each other how to live as God wants us to live, and how to walk in His footsteps.

When we come together in fellowship, it’s like us as a whole demonstrating God. Think of it like a cake. You need the flour, sugar, eggs, oil, and more to make a cake. The eggs will never be the flour. None of them make up the cake alone. Yet together, all those ingredients make a delicious cake. All of us together show the glory of God.

No matter where we are in our faith, fellowship provides us with strength. Being around other believers gives us the chance to learn and grow in our faith.

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.

Faci

According to the Bible, to become a servant of God and to enjoy serving others is not only a decision that a person needs to take, it is first a gracious gift from God. A voluntary servant, who submits themselves to a higher purpose, which is beyond their personal interests or the interests of others and a servant who, out of love, serves others’ needs before their own.

During the weekend, some of our Light Group (LG) members attended the facilitator workshop organized by the Light of Jesus community. It was a whole-day of fun, learning and empowerment. Special shout out to our service team for all their love!

Aside from spiritual maturity, the training was geared towards technical skills’ enhancement on how to serve others effectively and efficiently as a facilitator.

The biggest lesson I learned during the training was centered on personal mastery which means that you are committed for your continuous improvement in everything you do -in all areas of your life. In short, ‘you cannot give what you don’t have’.

Our servant trainer was Sis. Gertrudes ‘Ruth’ Collantes, who passionately shared her story of self awareness and the critical role it plays as a facilitator. She is the team head for the Servants’ Resources Development Ministry (SRDM) of the Feast Bay Area. She has more than 20 years of organizational development and training experience.

Sis. Rezza Custodio-Soriano, the Pastoral Council Co-Head thanked everyone for their presence and love for serving others.

Bro. Audee Villaraza, Feast Builder – AM Plenary Sessions shared her faith witnessing experience on the importance of light groups in developing a deeper relationship with God.

Faci

Nothing will help you get closer to Jesus more than helping others get closer to Jesus! An empowering weekend for our Light Group (LG) members

Looking at the big picture, I realized that being a facilitator was being Jesus to others.

  • Christ-centered in all aspects of life (a voluntary servant of Christ)
  • Committed to serve the needs of others before their own,
  • Courageous to lead with power and love as an expression of serving,
  • Consistently developing others into servant leaders, and
  • Continually inviting feedback from those that they want to serve in order to grow towards the ultimate servant leader, Jesus Christ.

We are called to be God’s servants in every aspect of our lives. It means serving others in accordance with the higher purpose of serving God.

I am excited for this new opportunity as part of my healing journey.

To God be all the glory!