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.

Pen

Who writes your life story?

Today, Good Shepherd Sunday the message of Bro. Audee Villaraza, The Feast Bay Area AM Session Builder was on Joseph in the bible.

He said, “Don’t be so focused on what God has taken from you that you can’t see or believe that God will do something through you and He will turn it into good.”

Those words hit me hard.

When confronted with suffering that won’t go away or with even a minor problem; when every day feels like an insurmountable struggle, and the details of the present are all-consuming, it’s impossible to imagine anything else is happening.

Pen

God sees how it’s all going to work out in the end. He has a plan and we are all a part of it. And when God writes The End, the story will be a masterpiece that will leave us in awe and bring Him glory.

Few years ago, I was in an excruciating part of my story. It felt like an unending nightmare. In fact, it was probably the hardest year of my life.

How could anything good ever come out of unimaginable pain?

I prayed, trusted and waited for the Lord to change my situation, yet nothing had changed.

It wasn’t the plan I wanted for my life. Or for my wife and for my family. I felt helpless and hopeless. I couldn’t see God working in any of it.

Somewhere, in the middle of all the pain, God became real to me again.

Those desperate years when the Lord was silent, he was not absent. He had been there all along.

He gave me strength and courage to face life one day at a time.

I am still a work in progress. I don’t know how things are going to turn out.

But we can trust that God is in the story. And he is orchestrating the tiniest detail. We may not understand why, but we can be certain that God has a glorious purpose to the pain we are enduring.

I’m still in the middle of my story. While none of us know the joys and trials we have yet to encounter, we do know that Jesus will be with us through them.

Who is writing your life story today?

In my life right now, I am embarking on a new chapter of my life. I am venturing this year to a new challenge soon. It’s scary. It frightens me and I often worry what the future holds.

What joys will I experience and what sorrows will I endure?

But when I do this, when I worry and fret what the next chapter holds, I get in the way of the One who is supposed to be writing my story for me.

So often we try to control the pen. We try to direct our own lives.

We need to give God control of our lives – to let Him write out our life stories.

He knows what lies ahead of us.

Through the whole story, the Author (our God) is with us. He isn’t just watching our story unfold; he is guiding it, moving it along. He is intimately a part of it.

20%

Are you prepared for famine?

Sand, sea and sun collided today at the Ministry Fair 2018. Donned in eye-catching summer floral OOTD (outfit of the day), the servants encouraged attendees to sign-up for a Light Group (LG) and also to join a ministry.

The Ministry Fair was so successful because of good preparation and planning.

It was refined each year as the team learns from experience. They did some adjustments and fine tuning every year.

Preparation

The Awesome Kids Ministry servants in action. My Light Group (LG) sharing insights about Bro. Bo’s message. Joseph wisely saved 20% of the harvested grain, and was able to save not only Egypt during the famine, but the surrounding nations as well. That should be our goal—to be faithful stewards now while times are good, in preparation for any future hard times. Attendees (bottom right) signing up during the Ministry Fair 2018.

Preparation and planning for special events is very crucial, be it large or small.

This holds true also in life.

Bro. Bo Sanchez shared this ‘big’ message today preparation is everything.

He highlighted the bible story of Joseph who was thrown in jail for a crime he didn’t commit.

In prison Joseph interprets the dreams of the cupbearer and baker of Pharaoh and his interpretations are exactly correct.

Unfortunately, the ungrateful cupbearer, who promised to remember Joseph, forgot all about his promise as soon as he was free, and Joseph had to cope with yet another setback, with another blow to his hopes.

Joseph had to languish two more years in the dungeon, but he did not grow bitter.

He is prepared for the challenges that come to him in life and thinks not only of himself, but always of others.

Preparation is the price we pay to become great.

Joseph was only 16 years old when his brothers sold him to the Ishmaelite traders.

The Pharaoh appointed him as the Governor of Egypt when he was thirty.

God spent 14 years just preparing his chosen leader.

Preparation takes time and let us be patient and not lose heart during the most difficult stages of our preparation in life.

Joseph knew Egypt was in the midst of an economic boom (part of the economic cycle).

Joseph told Pharaoh that for the next seven years they should save one fifth (20%) of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance.

This way, when the famine came they would have enough food to survive. The plan worked to perfection.

We can’t help but think about our own economy and how it parallels this story.

I came out of a time of great abundance when I was an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) and now I was in a tougher time.

OFWs that stored up provisionally during the boom time aren’t really affected by what’s going on right now.

They are barely affected by any economic slowdown.

Those that didn’t have the foresight to store up for the coming famine are faring much worse.

We can control how we handle our own finances.

There is always hope.

Bro. Bo encouraged everyone to live within their means and save the 20% of your earnings for investment.

Just as Joseph put Egypt on a pay-as-you-go economy and saved for the lean years, so should you and I put back some cash.

Pay raises are not forthcoming, and if our jobs are downsized, we are going to need cash to see us through.

Reduce expenses and save something out of each paycheck while you can.

Each of us must learn from the character of Joseph and examine the policies he put in place to administer the economy of Egypt and guide it through a massive downturn.

God will bless your efforts to manage your money and your life when you obey His laws and principles of financial management.

They were the basis for sound economic policies for Joseph, and they are sound household policies for you and me today.

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.”