The world today is like a wilderness.
There are wars in many parts of the world.
In places not visited by wars or violence,
there is the ever present threat of terrorism.
There is constant fear and panic in financial markets,
which are forever driven by greed and selfishness.
Yet in the midst of all this turmoil and drift,
there are voices crying out in this wilderness,
proclaiming that the Lord is nigh,
that salvation is at hand,
that man is born for greater and better things,
that love will save us all and that peace will eventually reign.
Do I join those in panic or am I among the proclaimers?
Every epic tale since time immemorial has always involved
a protagonist going on a quest or a mission to rescue people in distress,
or win a kingdom or save his people.
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.
Thus, it is in real life.
We find ourselves only when we seek out the good of and in others.
“I think; therefore, I am.”
Thus, Descartes has spawned the rationalistic and scientific culture
we see dominant in the West today.
It also explains the intense individualism (“I am.”) we see.
A more realistic philosophy, I believe, is
“I co-exist; therefore, I am.”
My existence assumes others in my life.
My being here is contingent on links to nature, people and God.
If nature were any colder, we would all be frozen stiff;
and if it were any hotter we would all be burnt to a crisp.
We need others to live as it takes a village to raise a man.
And finally, we need a loving God who has made this web and circle of life
the wonderful experience that it is.
And this God took on our nature and became like us
to teach us the ultimate lesson:
“We love; therefore, we are.”
Like a light piercing the darkness,
Like the sun peeking through the leaves.
God’s grace breaks into our lives
This is what happens when one believes.
He comes to be like one of us
To share in our joys and sorrows
From him, we’ve received the gift of life
And, indeed, all of our tomorrows.
The real encounter with Christ
is a life-changing experience.
His call is for us to change for the better,
to conversion and repentance.
Thus, we prepare for his coming:
Prepare ye the way of the Lord.
Make straight his path
for the Incarnation of His Word.
Our lives today are cluttered with so many things;
and yet emptiness reigns in many hearts.
There are so many lights we fail to see the Light.
There is so much noise we cannot hear the Word.
There is so much busyness doing business,
there is no time to live the Life.
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.”