The Most Proactive Person in the Gospels

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What would you do if you found out that your fiancée was pregnant before your wedding. And the baby isn’t even yours. The expected reaction will be anger and bitterness over such huge betrayal. In the heat of passion, one might even do harm to her, and people would have “understood” and “tolerated” it. This is the usual reaction response to such a situation.

A proactive person would respond to this kind of situation based on his values and principles, not to the situation or conditions. He is able to place a gap between the stimulus and his response. And in that gap lies his freedom to choose his response, taking responsibility for his decision and his action. It is not because “I was angry and blinded by my emotions.” but “I chose to . . . .”

Sounds too idealistic? Pollyanna-ish? Weak? Doormat? No, it is being proactive. It is possible and it works.

Joseph is the most proactive person in the Gospels. Imagine, he just found out that “she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.”  What does he do? He responds based on his values. “Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.”

He took pause. He exercised his freedom to choose his decision. He slept. And in his dream. He firmed up what he knew he must do. “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.”

Fairy tale? Just a story? If I look closer and deeply into my life, I am like Joseph dealing daily with such situations and calls for decision. I have often regretted moments of reactivity and I have found great fulfillment in my proactive decisions.

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My Song, My Life

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The Gospel reading for today is the genealogy of Jesus. It may have been fictionalized but it does make for interesting reading. Jesus’ family tree is a colorful one. It includes a murderer and an adulterer, Jews and Gentiles, the famous and the no-bodies, the powerful and the powerless. In a list that is usually all male, there are six females and several of them were known prostitutes.

One can read multiple meanings in this genealogy. One thing evident is that when one looks at one’s roots, a person’s story is like no other. There has never been one like me before nor will there be another one like me again. Cars or computers coming out of a factory are all the same. They are interchangeable. They may differ in colors but they are all exactly the same. And because of where we came from, we are one of a kind, unrepeatable, and all made to order.

I get a feel if this reality when in some quiet moments, I find myself singing a melody only I know in my mind. I move about to a certain beat that only I can hear. There is a certain rhythm uniquely mine that goes through mu whole life. Sometimes sad, often joyful. Sometimes low and sometimes high. It is my song. It is my life.

Christmas is the birth of the Christ. But it is also a celebration of the blessedness and uniqueness of every life that is born.

 

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Rejoice and Be Glad

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Every epic tale since time immemorial has always involved the hero going forth on a quest or a mission to rescue the princess, or to win a kingdom or to save his people from the enemy or an impending disaster. Along the way, he encounters all sorts of difficulties and obstacles. He is helped by a host of other people, many of them strangers. He is distracted by still many others, some of whom are close to him. In the process, he discovers himself and realizes that the quest was after all his own self-discovery. And in finding himself, he finds the redemption he started to seek when he first embarked on his journey.

Thus, it is in real life. We find ourselves only when we seek out the good of and in others. Only when we are able to go and survive the bottomless pit can we scale the heights of victory and success. It is our willingness to lose our life that we find and keep it, including often that of others.

It used to be that every birth is a welcome event. For, every child that is born could very well be the hero that his people have been waiting for. Every child is a wisp of hope, holding the promise of a brighter and better future.

Yes, even in the darkest nights (of the soul) and before the most frightening cross before us, there will always be the light beckoning us forth. There is always a reason for hope and redemption. The hero in us will out.

Therefore, let us rejoice and be glad.

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The Shit Hole We’re In

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Once, there was a toddler that fell into a shit hole and he was crying and crying. The people around gathered and tried to get him out. Some suggested to drop a rope or a ladder but the toddler wouldn’t know how to climb out. Others said to use a giant scooper but where to get the scooper? Still others said that someone should go down to bring the toddler out but no one wanted to get dirtied going into the stinky and filthy shit hole. As they were discussing, a man jumped into the shit hole scooped up the baby and it was now easy for the others outside to help them out.

This is the image of the Incarnation that Fr. Chito shared with us the other day during the mass for our small group at the seminary reunion for retired priests. God could have just dropped us a rope or a ladder to get us our of the shit hole we have dug ourselves into. He could just have simply scooped us out of that filth and mud. No, he jumped into the hole, joined us in the mud, and took us out into the light. Such is God’s love for us. he did it out of love and with joy – for us.

As for the man who jumped into shit hole, he was fuming mad looking for the guy who pushed him.

The world has never seen so much wealth and luxury as today. People think that comfort and leisure are theirs by birthright. There is always the tendency to take thing for granted. And everywhere and everyone has this feeling of entitlement. Life had never been this easy and pleasurable. Even preachers proclaim a gospel of prosperity.

Yet, life has never meant to be easy. It is meant to be deep like a hole, shared like rescuing a toddler out of the shit hole, and joyful like when one has served and saved another. God did not come in splendor and majesty. He came as a little baby born in very austere and spartan circumstances.

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Snippets of a Conversation

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I dreamt I was having this conversation in my dream last night.

“Thank you, Lord, for all the blessings you have sent my way. You have given me more than I deserve. My heart is overflowing with gladness and joy.”

“You’re welcome,” he said, “But I have in mind of trying something different.”

“Speak, Lord, your servant is listening,” I boldly replied.

“You have been having it good so far, right?” said he.

“Yes, Lord, and I can’t thank you enough,” said I.

“What if I took away the material comforts that makes your life so comfortable?”

“Lord, even if your were to take half of what I have, nay even one third or one fourth, I would still find reasons to be happy and deeply grateful to you,” I said in reply.

And then, morning broke. And then the reality came to me that I was dealing with a money problem that was so sticky it irritated me like a grain of sand in my shoe. It was totally irritating. I know I can pay it but I get the feeling I m being taken for a ride and I can’t seem to do anything.

And then, I got another collection notice. I was being dunned for a liability I do not owe. Sure, I can prove it is not mine but it takes so much effort. And then I broke down. What? You, who would gladly lose most of what you have, can’t handle these little bumps on the road?

“Lord, help me. My boat is sinking,” I was back to the conversation I was having in my dream. But this time in real life.

And he did not answer.

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Our Lady of Guadalupe

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Today is the Feast of our Lady of Guadalupe. In all the authenticated Marian apparitions, our Lady always chose to show herself to poor and simple people like Juan Diego, on Tepeyac Hill and asking them to deliver her messages. Today, the sight of her apparitions are among the top tourist/pilgrimage destinations in the world, often with opulent and magnificent churches and other structures. The poor and simple original visionaries could not have imagined nor expected what these places have become.

It is a far cry from how the world would have done it. The world would work through the rich and powerful, probably call for a press conference to launch a great campaign or an ambitious project. God works through poor and simple folks to serve as his emissaries or as they are properly called – prophets. These folks are usually not believed and even scoffed at. In the case of our Lady’s apparitions, the most difficult to convince and often the last to believe are Church authorities themselves. The most skeptical of the Resurrection were – you guessed it right! – the Church authorities of those times, the Sanhedrin.

Oh how God confounds the wisdom of the world with His folly for He often speaks through the poor to proclaim His Word. Thus, the song of Mary reverberates through the ages:

He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

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Praying For Hope

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Two persons looking at the same picture can see two completely different things. One person may see the dark clouds foreboding a coming storm. Another one will see the interesting interplay of dull and vibrant colors.

I have some friends, both on Facebook and off, who have such a rosy outlook in life. They always see the positive side of things and the goodness there is in people. Oh, they have their share of problems and misfortunes; but they’d see the bright side of such events and all the good that has come out of their previous mishaps.

I also have some friends who bitch and complain just about everything and anything, all the time. Nothing good nor positive things ever seem to happen in their lives. And when some good things do come; they look at them with suspicion and try to see the catch somewhere. They live their days in continuous gloom and portending doom.

We see what we seek. And from the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks. When we spill our cup, what pours out is what is in the cup. When we take the spills in our life, what comes out is what our hearts and minds are already full of.

Can we choose to be positive or negative? Or, are we naturally of positive or negative disposition. It seems to me that positive people find it easier to be hopeful. Is hope then something we choose to do? Or, is it like faith, a gift?

Whatever, I pray for the gift of Hope.

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