Today, Anabelle and I attended the Christmas Party of the retired teachers and staff members of Xavier School. The party was simple and pretty modest by local standards for Christmas parties. But it was fun and well attended. The food was enjoyable, complete with a lechon straight from Estrelle’s farm; the games were ordinary yet entertaining; there were no grand prizes like cars or trips but no one went home empty handed.
What touched me most about today was the support and generosity of the Xavier Alumni for their teachers. It has now become a tradition in the school that Jubilarians among the alumni do something special for teachers each year. They do this out of a deep sense of gratitude and totally voluntarily. They acknowledge the role their teachers have played in their lives, often citing instances of teachers putting them on the right track. Looking back, they realize how ‘Cher has been a presence and a good and positive influence in their formative years.
It brought back to me too bittersweet memories of my years of teaching in Xavier. This is where Anabelle and I met. We have developed many lifetime friendships here. And I have seen first hand the dedication and generosity that my fellow teachers would put into their teaching. I remember the long hours after school, and even weekends, that they’d sacrifice catching with paperwork and deadlines. I remember the love and caring that the teachers gave to the students, never expecting anything in return, but willing to spend that extra minute or even an hour with a student having difficulties. And the difficulties these teachers handled were not always academic. There were tears; there was laughter. There were questions to be answered; there were advices to be given. Sometimes in banter; other times in all earnestness. Nothing is ever too trivial to talk about with ‘Cher. And neither was there anything ‘Cher wasn’t willing to shoot the breeze with.
And the Xavier School teachers simply gave it their all. They made for excellent teachers. They make for even better lifetime friends. We still stick together till these days. I truly admire their generosity and this prayer of the First Jesuit truly is their own:
Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that I do your will.
I was a witness to a weekend of miracles, involving three ladies.
Friday was the birthday of Vida. We feted her with a birthday breakfast. I call Vida the Great Connector. He is very good at connecting and putting people together. I have gained new friends because of her great gift of relating people. And she does it in very special and unique ways – by staging and coordinating events/activities where people can discover themselves and also gain new friends. I have hiked Pico de Loro with her. We got lost but we built strong friendships. We have gone on a cultural trek to the ateliers of artists in Angono and Anabelle went home with a prized painting. We braved the foothills of Mount Banahaw to experience a culinary adventure like no other. Now, I am looking forward to roughing it out in Anawangin in another adventure for next year. Her miracle is her vibrancy and endless patience in gathering us her friends. It is like herding cats. But I guess we each have a role and she has embraced hers like Mary did at the Annunciation. Huh, where did that come from? Read on.
Saturday was the wedding of Gren and Benny. Gren is a strong and career-oriented lady, one who would easily intimidate would-be suitors. She had been hoping for a man but she has been waiting for so long she ended up being married to her career. Benny is our friend and a widower. Following his children’s advice/request/command, he remained single and devotedly took care of them. Both were resigned to what they thought was their lifetime roles. If ever the thought of marriage crossed their minds, they soon banished it with the question, “How can it be possible?” But with God nothing is ever impossible. so, one afternoon, Benny asked Gren to coffee. And – would you believe it? – it led them to the alter last Saturday and exchanged their vows: “May it be done unto us according to thy word.”
Sunday we dropped by the Discovery Weekend Marriage Preparation Retreat to see Lily and her fiancé, Steve. I have known Lily since she was a little girl, her mom being a colleague and a friend from work. Both of them are warriors schooled in the art of war, she being a captain in the Philippine Navy and he being a US Marine. And yet, here they were brought together by the power of love and peace. Theirs is a story worth telling over long nights and many bottles of wine. But to make the story short, God makes everything beautiful in his time.
Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. These event over the weekend are probably mere coincidences. They were planned many months ago by different people. By serendipitous synchronicity, they just happened one after another over a weekend. But seeing them unfold as they did, I couldn’t help but see, with the eyes of Faith, God’s hands in these events. God was showering us with his graces. Yes, I was a witness to a weekend of miracles.
I hear many people these days talking of their priorities. There should never be a plural for priorities. By its very nature, a priority can only be single entity. What happens when one has several priorities? In case of conflicts among the demands of so many priorities which one had precedence? This can cause confusion and can lead to waverings and vacillations, defeating the very purpose of setting a priority. When there are more than one priority, these become options.
Options by their very nature must always be plural. Options imply the ability to choose. When there is only one option there is no choice; therefore, the option is not valid. My priority is to lead a healthy life. To achieve that, I have the options of various food to choose from.
The priority of Christ was the Proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Quoting Isaiah, he declared his Mission, hence his priority:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Blessings are often identified with good fortune, joy and happiness, dreams come true, and the like. But grace can also be found in our pain and suffering, failures and disappointments, our tears and fears, even emptiness and loneliness.
For what are pains and sufferings if not reminders of our unrelenting need for redemption and perfection. Our failures and disappointments point out our inadequacy that keeps longing for Him who is perfect. Our tears and fears are but our longing for our final home and destination where there will be no more tears and fears. And it is in our emptiness and loneliness that God eventually finds a place for Himself.
It was the years he was incarcerated that Ninoy Aquino became a broken man, feeling alone and isolated; only to emerge a more spiritual person devoid of any personal ambitions and ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for the country. I see the same thing happening today to Leila de Lima. Thirdy Ravena almost got broken by his one-year suspension from playing in the UAAP. But it was the year that he found himself and became stronger. I see the same thing happening to Leni Robredo, who in spite of all the insults and brickbats being thrown at her, keeps coming back stronger and even more committed to her values and principles.
I am always captivated by the sight of a rainbow. It tells me something that red, the brightest color, vibrates at the lowest end of the color spectrum. And violet, the darkest color, vibrate at the highest. Vibrating at the highest level, I can imagine the colors being subsumed into the totality that is the color white. Red is often identified with anger; and violet with enlightenment. it is when we are at our darkest moments that we are about to enter into the light.
I love mornings and the freshness they bring
Yet I love the sunset as much as the morning
I only need to see them with joy in my heart
And the showers of blessings simply start.
I love being with friends and enjoy their company
Yet being alone is fine; for me it’s no misery
I simply tell myself that life is meant for the sharing
And that the ‘Me’ I share is truly capable of caring.
Children always make my happiness complete
Each moment with them is unique, ne’er a repeat
I love their wide-eyed wonderings and their ‘whys’
They are pure and innocent yet genuinely wise.
Every moment is indeed always a moment of grace
I only need to see God in all of time and space
Sometimes I close my eyes; sometimes they are agape
But God is always before me in this form or that shape.
Every sight and sound, every shade and smell
A lovely grace-filled story, they all tell
When God made the world at the beginning of time
He left His imprint in the universe’s beat and rhyme.
There was a time, I was driving Jonathan to school with Martin, I made a left turn signal only to go straight and drive ahead on four-way stop intersection. It was a good thing that the lady in the car coming in the opposite direction was nice and gracious.
She simply smiled and made room for my lapse.
I would often start doing something only to forget what it was I wanted to do.
Anabelle often misplaces her eyeglasses, only to find them sitting right in front of her.
Such incidents are among the ‘heartaches’ of growing old:
doing what I have not intended to do,
forgetting even the most recent thing that just happened,
looking without seeing what I am looking for,
listening but not understanding what is being said.
There are times I also feel old age creeping into my soul.
These are the times when I give in to jadedness and cynicism.
How I envy and continuously marvel at my grandchildren.
They always see the world afresh and with unending wonder.
Their curiosity is boundless and every experience is something they truly relish.
In laughter and glee, they would often say: “Wow, let’s do that again.”
Cynical old me would often say: “Oh no, here we go again.”
During times like these, I have realized that moments of prayer and silent meditation help me keep my cynicism and jadedness in check.
I am awed and sit in wonder as I reflect on the wonderful things
God is making happen to me and in my life.
These are Moments of Grace.
Still in all, I/m happy and deeply grateful.
‘Hope for the Flowers’ is one of the books that truly inspired me in my youth.
It is an allegorical tale of two caterpillars and their hopes and longings,
their search for meaning and their eventual magical transformation
into beautiful butterflies.
Advent is a time of hope and longing.
In man’s search for meaning, he longs for life everlasting.
In today’s secular society, man’s search for meaning, at its best.
is often about making a difference or making a contribution.
The after-life and eternal life are non-issues.
Yellow, one of the caterpillars in the book, would not have imagined
how she could be transformed from an unsightly caterpillar into a colorful butterfly.
But she trusted her instincts.
She ‘died’ in her cocoon to magically emerge as a butterfly.
The same hand that wrought the heavens with the stars and the planets
has written in my heart a similar instinct
– a deep longing and a fervent hope for everlasting life.
Advent is a time for remembrance of this hope and longing,
the time of waiting for the Incarnated One who will show us
how all of this will come to pass.