Reflections on a Hillside

“But I say unto you,
Love your enemies,
Bless them that curse you,
Do good to them that hate you, and
Pray for them which despitefully use you,
and persecute you.”

Following Jesus often sounds foolish and foolhardy
in the face of the self-serving pragmatism of the world.

And yet, his way seems to me the only way the world can save itself from self-destruction.
The world has never seen so much material goods as in the present times;
and yet there are billions who survive on less than a dollar day.
Who will feed the hungry, clothe the naked and welcome the homeless?
Not the bankers or the brokers in Wall Street for sure;
but those who respond and resonate with the call of Jesus for love and generosity.

There has never been a more interconnected world than the one we live in now;
and yet we are kept apart from one another by so much
anger, hatred, violence and the desire for revenge and retribution.
Who will stop the cycle of violence so that we can live in peace and harmony?
Not world leaders who foment the anger and hatred among their own people:
but those who listen and follow the call of Jesus for love and forgiveness.

There world has never so much material comforts and luxuries as today;
and yet there has never been as pain, anguish and suffering in the world.
Who will ease the pain and bind the wounds to make us whole and holy again?
Not those who wallow in self-centered comfort or unconscionable luxury;
but those who take up their cross daily to live simple lives dedicated to loving and serving others.

Here is the Christ Challenge:
 “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? 
Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 
And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?
Do not even pagans do that? 
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

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Reflections in a Flower Field

For I have seen and touched Him risen

‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree,
“Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you.’

I often wish I had that kind of faith.
What works of wonder I would be able to perform.
But that would really scare me.
Sometimes, I’d wish I could see the Lord in a vision.
What a beatific experience that would be.
That would be even more scary.

So, I often temper my faith with a healthy dose of doubting.
I know God is present in my life but often I’d tell myself,
“You’re imagining things.”
For if I truly and fully believed God’s presence, it would scare me shitless.
I want God in doses I can handle.

I pray and pray everyday.
Hard and with a full heart.
And in the last moment, I’d back down and
take his presence in portions I can handle.
This is how I often feel:
“Yet, if he said he loved me
I’d be lost, I’d be frightened
I couldn’t cope, just couldn’t cope
I’d turn my head, I’d back away
I wouldn’t want to know
He scares me so
I want him so
I love him so”

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Reflections by the Forest Floor

“For the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation
than are the children of light.”

Honor among thieves.
Even they look after their own,
sometimes better than the children of light do.
But they do so out of fear and even anger and hate.
I believe that the children of the light do good
because of love and compassion.

This reality often makes me wonder at the interconnectedness of life.
How God draw something good out of something that looks bad.
A colorful wild mushroom impresses with her beauty.
And to think it grows out of the detritus and decay on the forest floor.
There is no limit nor anything impossible with what God can do,
even with our many mistakes and miscalls.

So, I exist in a web of relationships – links to nature, people, God.
I can choose to live my life using these relationships just for my self-satisfaction.
I can choose to live by what the world seems to go by: what is in it for me?
Or, I can choose to live my life in generosity –
to give and not to count the cost,
to labor and not ask for reward.

The more time I spend in silence and prayer,
the more I am prodded to live my life for others,
rather than living it for myself alone.
So, the choice for me is pretty obvious.
Oh, there are times of temptations when I would just want to wallow in selfish gratification;
or just to give up trying, doubting if my efforts are worth anything;
or succumbing to the blandishments of the question most everybody else seems to be asking
– what is in it for me.

Living under the cloud of the great unknowing,
I surrender myself to the great mystery and paradox.

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Reflections by the Ocean

The souls of men seem to be “in sin and error pining”.
All hopes are dashed into fears.
We are all longing for peace.
There was a man who understood our sinfulness.
In fact, he took our sins unto himself and calmed the storms.
When he was born, the angels proclaimed his peace to all men of goodwill.
At the end of his earthly life, his parting words were:
Peace I leave with youmy peace I give you.”

When he walked the earth, he showed the way to true and lasting peace.
It used to be that people lived their lives through prohibitions.
“Thou shall not do this. Thou shall not do that.” 
He changed all that and taught a radical way of living.
A new command I give you: Love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

He showed the power of love being stronger than hate.
It is like the light conquering the darkness,
or like mercy and compassion being more powerful than hatred and vengeance,
or like evil surrendering to the power of goodness.
From prohibitions to liberation.
Love and you can do as you wish.

But it is not going to be easy. He reminded his disciples:
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
And then he admonished them:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
And in the same breathe, he calmly assures us:
Do not fear.
Be not afraid.

There words are found 365 times in the Bible.
A daily assurance from the Lord.

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Reflections by a Lake

Money once spent or lost can be earned or found again.
On the other hand, time – once spent or lost – is gone forever.
Therefore, time is more valuable than money, or even silver or gold.

One needs money to buy a wide screen smart TV to enjoy great documentaries of nature. Or, one can go out into the mountains or walk by the sea
and be simply awed by nature herself – for free.

I can go to a spa, spend a pretty sum to pamper and relax myself.
Or, I can drown in the hugs and kisses of a loved one
and watch all the tension in me melt away – for a chocolate bar.

I can indulge in noise and mindless activities – for a fistful of dollars.
Or, I can spend time in quiet solitude to discover who I really am – for nothing.

I can choose to make my life complex and costly.
Or, I can choose to make my life simple and free.
Now, that really should not be a hard decision, shouldn’t it?

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And Then There Were Four

In the beginning we just had the yellow-orange hibiscus (gumamela). And then as the pandemic locked us in, we now have four kinds: yellow-orange, flaming red, old rose, and pure white.

And then, there are four mothers in our family: Anabelle, Kathleen, Iulia, and Lani. Here is wishing you love, joys, and blessings on this Mothers’ Day.

And then there are four E’s in Mother.

EMPATHY: Mommies must have left a piece of their heart to their children. For how else will they know that the tears are there even before they fall? How can they know the smiles are there even before they start to show? And how can they soothe all the pain by just the touch of their hands?

ENERGY: Mothers are usually the first to get up in the morning and the last one to sleep at night? Where do they gat all that energy? Just like the Energizer Bunny, they just keep going on and on and on.

ENTHUSIASM: Moms make everything seem fun. Often, we are aware of her presence in our lives during the difficult times. Have you also realized they are also there in the happiest moments on our lives. In fact, they are often the organizer, reason, cause of such joyful memories.

ETERNITY: Mamas are forever. Everything they are and do lasts a lifetime and I bet into eternity as well. Their love is forever. Their caring never ends. They are the closest intimation of God’s love for us in this world for our lives were made possible by them.

Four is a mystical and magical number. It is often identified with stability and creativity. It evokes loyalty, patience, wisdom and trust.

HAPPY MOTHERS’ DAY! Fourever

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Out of the Darkness, Light

Today is officially the end of the Christmas season. We have welcomed the coming of the Child who has brought us goodness and light. Wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid down in a manger. The Word made flesh. The same Word that was in the beginning. The same beginning when God said the words: “Let there be light!” And there was light. We rejoiced at the birth of a child; because the people living in darkness have seen a great light. And on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

In a few weeks, we shall be entering the Lenten season. We shall be reminded once more that we are the people living in darkness, in the shadow of death. And the Light, the Word made flesh, will once again vanquish death when he sheds the “swaddling clothes” in which they wrapped him and rises from the dead on Easter morning.

Life is not a journey from birth to age nor from the past to the future, but from surface to depth, from darkness to light, from death (or non-existence) to life. A baby in the womb may seem to be in darkness. But it is in fact aglow with the light from whence it came. In the same manner, the Risen Christ is not enveloped by an aura of light; instead, each cell in his risen body is shimmering in light. Light is being emitted by every pore in his body.

And so it is and will be with us. In the end will be a new beginning when we shall also be shimmering in that primeval light when God said, “Let there be light.”

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On Being A Father

Being a father 2

Now more than ever, we need fathers who can raise children
who would dream of goodness, kindness, love, compassion,
integrity, a passion for justice.

Then, we shall see the birth of the new normal.

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A Joyful Sad Christmas

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Anabelle and I spent many joyous Christmases in this house. Christmas is a time for joy for many people. Gift-giving, often lavish and extravagant, helps to make the season bright. Yet, the first Christmas was very simple and literally poor. It was about women (Mary, Elizabeth), poor carpenters and shepherds, no room at the inn, manger for a crib – all considered austere and at the outer fringes of Jewish society. But it was a joyous occasion celebrated by angels and wise men (not kings) from afar.

For all the joys of Christmas, most of my Christmases have always been tinged with a bit of sadness. But this year’s is turning out to be the saddest one yet. Yesterday, I saw the movie The Two Popes twice and in a very surprising way, it gave some perspective.

Christmas is the celebration of life. It is about the birth of Child. Life is the most precious gift we have received and we often take this fact for granted. But being alive alone should already be a boundless source of joy. And the child that is born today is a special child – he is God become human. God with us. He gave us life and he has come to assure us that he is always with us. We are not alone.

Here is the dramatic part. Pope Benedict in the movie pours out his heart how in his youth he was clear about what God wanted of his. And he was very assiduous and dedicated in following what he believed was God’s will. Now in his old age, there is only darkness and confusion. The faith he had in God is severely tested by the challenges coming his way. He laments, “I believe in God. I pray to him. Silence!”

Yet, there are simple joys in our daily lives. We can cling to the assurance that God is indeed with us. And we come to realize this when, in remembering and considering our life, things do work themselves out in the end. And Cardinal Bergoglio responds by telling his life story: how he was banished from his high position to serve in a remote rural parish, how in that desolation of his banishments he saw himself being molded and transformed by the abiding presence of God.

It is may be sad Christmas now. I remember and am grateful for the many joyous Christmases in my life. The Lord might seem silent and absent now. But I put my trust in his plan for me and trust the journey. His abiding presence will eventually bring me to my destination.

 

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The New Day Dawns

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It’s Christmas Eve and tomorrow the new day dawns. For the first time in my life, I am missing all the joy and excitement I have always associated with Christmas. I can still see all the hustle and bustle of Christmas around me: the decors, the carols, the lights, the parties, the get-togethers, and of course, the shopping. And yet, Christmas this year is not the same for me. It may be of my age. But it is something I can feel also in the air and it seems to be happening worldwide. Christ has been taken out of Christmas!

Christmas is now a global holiday, even in countries that are totally secular and in non-Christian countries. And yet, Pope Francis himself recently declared that Christendom no longer exists. He said, and I read his words with a lot of pain and sadness in my heart, “Today we are not the only ones who produce culture, nor are we the first or the most listened to. Christianity, especially in Europe, but also in a large part of the West, is no longer an obvious premise of our common life, but rather it is often denied, derided, marginalized or ridiculed.”

I find it even ironic that when the Filipino practice of the novena of the Misa de Gallo in preparation for Christmas has gone global, Christ has been slowly yet surely eased out of the celebration of his birthday. Santa and his reindeers have largely replace the Baby in the manger. Without Christ, there cannot be Christmas. If he is not in it, then it is an empty Christmas, which is the reason for my feelings.

We need to reclaim Jesus and put him back in the manger.

Maranatha!
Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

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