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Posts Tagged ‘Closer to God’


holyweek

For us Catholics, today is the start of our Holy Week celebration.  I attended an anticipated mass last night and have the palms blessed.  I love how the presiding priest explained the meaning of the blessings of palms.  The way to Calvary is full of pain and thorns but Jesus emerged the winner through death and rising up again on the third day. He brought us tremendous blessings through the Holy Cross.

Max Lucado, a favorite inspirational author aptly put it this way and I quote, ” Jesus was not on the cross for His sins. He was there for ours.”

May you have a blessed and meaningful Holy Week.

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Hi everyone! How have you been? It’s been a while and there is no valid reason neglecting this blog except that I was just busy. It’s Holy Week  next week so I have to finish everything (gardening included) so I could at least spend it in quiet reflection and visit some churches for our annual Visita Iglesia.  Hopefully, Josef and I could do the Manila loop on Holy Thursday. I wish mom is strong enough to join us in the Stations of the Cross. I love visiting churches nearby during the season of Lent but I haven’t ventured in the churches of Manila yet  We have done the Rizal area as far as Morong and Cardona and several towns in Laguna.  Rizal province and Laguna have the most beautiful century old churches in the Eastern loop, well-preserved and they have lovely facades. One time, we tried the churches  in Marikina City, Josef was driving and we got lost along the way. Marikina has a lot of one-way streets and it was quite confusing.  Hopefully, we could do it again and I suggested if we could just take a commute since most churches in Manila are near each other.

I am catching up on my reading. All the Light We Cannot See is my first book of Anthony Doerr. It’s Goodreads’ choice 2014 winner. It is a historical fiction set during World War II, a  wonderful and moving account on the lives of two teenagers, a blind girl from France and a German orphan boy  who grew up in an  industrial and mining town  in Germany. I love reading about WW II, be it fiction or a true account of what happened. My parents  have their own personal account of it when the Philippines was occupied by the Japanese. The book is another facet of history as told by Doerr. I love Markus Zusak’s  The Book Thief  (read it twice actually) and almost all the books of Leon Uris about  the war in Poland and what life was like in Ireland during the Industrial Revolution, subjects that keep me awake for hours until my eyes  can no longer decipher the words. Here are some interesting quotes from the book. I jot them down as I read them.

“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”
“We rise again in the grass. In the flowers. In songs.”
“I have been feeling very clearheaded lately and what I want to write about today is the sea. It contains so many colors. Silver at dawn, green at noon, dark blue in the evening. Sometimes it looks almost red. Or it will turn the color of old coins. Right now the shadows of clouds are dragging across it, and patches of sunlight are touching down everywhere. White strings of gulls drag over it like beads.

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Thank you Lord

for these silent moments.

I am grateful

for the times I felt so down

and You made me feel Your

presence.

 

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I just have to share this. Another lovely blog post from my favorite author Richard Paul Evans and since he is an online friend at Facebook, I have the privilege of being updated with all his writings. It is a true story about his Christmas Box Foundation which helps abused and neglected children. The Christmas Box is the first novel that he wrote, rejected several times but when he self-published it, that was the start of his being noticed by readers. It is his personal story. He wrote it as a private expression of love for his two young daughters. It was not the first book I read though because I only found a copy years later. I guess that when you have something to say, say it and never mind if nobody listens or nobody reads it.

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Sometimes,I ask myself the same questions and oftentimes too, there is no answer and the easiest way is to give up. There will always be another option than the latter though, that of trying again and never losing faith that eventually, each will fall into place.  I believe that nothing is impossible with God, one kneels down in prayer and if we listen enough, He has the answer. He puts life back into proper perspective and we should not be blind to His call.

More than four years ago, I wrote about how it seems that when we move forward, there would always be something that hinders us but we have to go on making another step. Here’s the full texts of my earlier post:

TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK

Life is a dance. Sometimes, it is a harmonious fluid movement. We are in sync with the music, utterly attuned to the dance steps, well synchronized with the motion – two steps forward, one step back. Others may lead and others may follow. It is a mad dash to a world of perfect twists and turns, but the journey is not one long road to success and happiness. One wrong move, one wrong turn, one missed step would spell disaster.

We are constantly seeking perfection and excellence in everything we do but there is really nothing perfect in this world that we live in. Life is a meaningless pursuit without challenge. They say that the journeys walked in solitude are always the most remembered. There is something we always learn along the uneven pathways and the most profound events in our lives do not end with the six o-clock news and the setting sun.

Sometimes, I am amused by other people’s reaction upon learning that I have colon cancer and their usual question is “Are you really undergoing chemotherapy? You are looking good“. “Thank you“, I say. My big question is, how should one act and how should one look if you are diagnosed with this kind of ailment? True, it is a life-changing situation but I never think of it as a major setback. I believe that God won’t give us problems that we can’t bear. The agonizing moments that I have endured during the last few months have drawn me closer to God. God has been profoundly real to me, opening my eyes to the realization that not everyone  is privileged to endure even just a tiny prick from what He suffered on the cross. Martin Luther King aptly put it this way, “beneath and above the shifting sands of time, the uncertainties that darken our days, and the vicissitudes that cloud our nights is a wise and loving God“.

Life is a dance, and when we falter in our steps, God is there to do the rest.

(Just clink the link if you want to read RPE’s blog post).

 

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The Catholic church celebrates Ash Wednesday today, 18 February and it is the official start of Lent, the beginning of our Lenten journey. I attended the 6am mass at St. Jude Parish,  a beautiful celebration of reminding us what the season of Lent means, what the  ashes symbolize.We are encouraged to attend mass in order to begin the Lenten season with proper reflection, conversion and repentance. It is a day of fasting and abstinence. Fasting means restricting the food we eat and the number of meals and the size of it while Abstinence is abstaining from eating meat.The imposition of ashes is a reminder of our sinfulness and unworthiness, it is a renewal of our commitment to follow Jesus and acknowledging the sacrifice He had made for our salvation.  I think next to the Christmas blogs that I write every year, my Lent posts come close. I would like to share a post that I wrote four years ago because I think the message is never too old to appreciate and remember. I particularly like the beautiful Lenten reflection I found on EWTN entitled What To Give Up.

Give up complaining – focus on gratitude

Give up pessimism – become an optimist

Give up harsh judgments – think kindly thoughts

Give up worry – trust Divine Providence

Give up discouragement – be full of hope

Give up bitterness – turn to forgiveness

Give up hatred  – return good for evil

Give up negativism – be positive

Give up anger – be more patient

Give up pettiness – become mature

Give up jealousy – pray for trust

Give up gossiping – control your tongue

Give up sin – turn to virtue

Give up giving up – hang in there.

Beautiful, isn’t it? And you might say, it is easier said than done, after all we are just human, capable of making repetitious mistakes, capable of abandoning good deeds  and choosing the easy way out, more focused on material things that make life easier, or so we think. But everyday of our lives we are given the chance to do something good for others if not for our selves.  I remember the time when I was in the hospital almost six years ago, it was my first time to undergo chemotherapy. I was expecting that just like the rest of the patients at the Ambulatory Care Unit at the hospital, I would lose my hair but the chemotherapy nurse assured me that I won’t . I was apprehensive at first, who wouldn’t be, but  I gave up the thought of going bald and I was elated and grateful that chemo drugs for colon cancer treatments do not result to that grim scenario. That’s a small miracle  for me. God must be thinking , I don’t trust Him enough.

We are sometimes too quick to judge other people. The thing is, we must look at our own inadequacies first. Unless we know what makes them the way they are, we are not in any position to pass  harsh judgment.  Think kindly thoughts and think positively.  Trust in Divine Providence, give up worry. How often do we feel anxious  about everything in our lives?   We are endlessly worrying because we want everything to be perfect but this is not a perfect world. If it is, we won’t need friends or our neighbors or our families even,  to make us smile.  Benjamin Franklin said, “Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. keep in the sunlight.”

Give up discouragement, be full of hope. I’d like to think that’s something I got lots of. Giving up hope is like giving up life.  When you  are  confronted by  a life changing situation, hope is a precious commodity that you cling to.  No matter how painful your situation might be, you can and you will survive it as long as you don’t lose that thin thread of hope. Sometimes, trials are really just blessings in disguise. They are God’s way of telling us to trust Him, always.

It is not easy to forgive when you are full of  hatred and bitterness. Let  us not plant hatred in our hearts because in the first place, we are the ones greatly affected. Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

What better life this would be if only we can follow these simple steps. Happiness is the simple thought of trying not to give up, just hang in there.

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Maraming, maraming salamat LORD

sa lahat ng umaapaw na biyayang ibinigay Mo sa amin

na kasama si Pope Francis.

For all the inspiring and uplifting words,

for the messages of hope and love,

for making us feel so blessed,

Thank You.

We will continue praying for our beloved Pope Francis.

Please heal our hearts, heal our people, heal our land.

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There is no public event that the Pope has to go to  late this afternoon so I guess it is  time to update this blog  :)  I was glued to the TV since day one and that was when Pope Francis arrived here. It is now day three and I’ve played  couch potato to the hilt, drinking endless cups of tea and coffee in between, finding something to munch on and… reflect.

Kidding aside, I’ve never been busy updating my timeline on FB than the last three days.  I let my tears just flow and experience that wonderful feeling of being inspired, blessed and uplifted. Lots of thoughts are playing in my head but for now, they just remain beautiful moments that would make some beautiful memories to recall  when the Pope has gone back to Rome.  They are mixed emotions actually. It’s not everyday that the Pontiff visits a third world country like ours because he empathize  with the Filipino people and sympathizes with the survivors of typhoon Yolanda.  The latter is actually the main reason why he decided to visit the country – the highlight of his five-day visit.

Yesterday was the official start of the events that millions of Filipinos watched and enjoyed. Pope Francis made a courtesy call to Malacanang early in the morning and then later presided over a mass for the religious, priests and seminarians at the Manila Cathedral.  Everywhere the Pope goes, there are thousands and thousands of people lining up the roads, hoping to take a glimpse of him in an open pope mobile. It was a very solemn mass except that the priests can’t stop themselves to take pictures of the Pope via their tablets, cameras and cellphones. It was so touching to see the sea of humanity outside the Cathedral.

Here's what Pope Francis wrote on the Palace's guest book: "On the President and people of this beloved land of the Philippines, I ask Almighty God's abundant blessings of wisdom, discernment, prosperity and peace. 16.1.2015. Francis."

Here’s what Pope Francis wrote on the Palace’s guest book: “On the President and people of this beloved land of the Philippines, I ask Almighty God’s abundant blessings of wisdom, discernment, prosperity and peace. 16.1.2015. Francis.”

Filipino culture has, in fact, been shaped by the imagination of faith.  Filipinos everywhere are known for their love of God, their fervent piety and their warm devotion to Our Lady and her rosary.  This great heritage contains a powerful missionary potential.  It is the way in which your people has inculturated the Gospel and continues to embrace its message (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 122).  In your efforts to prepare for the fifth centenary, build on this solid foundation.

Christ died for all so that, having died in him, we might live no longer for ourselves but for him (cf. 2 Cor 5:15).  Dear brother bishops, priests and religious: I ask Mary, Mother of the Church, to obtain for all of you an outpouring of zeal, so that you may spend yourselves in selfless service to our brothers and sisters.  In this way, may the reconciling love of Christ penetrate ever more fully into the fabric of Filipino society and, through you, to the farthest reaches of the world.

This was part of his homily during the mass at the Cathedral. The beauty of our faith is shining through. He said, “do you love me?” as an intro to his homily quoting the gospel and everybody shouted, “we love you” then he answered “thank you very much”. I had a good laugh at that, he has a sense of humor.  Actually there are those moments that made me laugh and I clapped my hands seeing his lighter side. At the MOA arena, as he was  blessing the deaf-mute family who were privileged to share their journey, Pope Francis kept gesturing with his hands how to say I love you in sign language. Yesterday, while spending just a few minutes with the religious  at the Palo Cathedral, he asked them  to: first pray for him and second, to keep quiet as he smiled at them. That elicited a roar from the crowd. He blessed each religious and priests who came in wheelchairs. Unknown to the social media, he made an unscheduled visit to Manila  street children. During his trip to another event at the Mall of Asia arena, he stopped the pope mobile and kissed a child. He blessed each one of those in wheelchairs at the arena including a teenager with a cerebral palsy who gifted him  with a cross-stitch artwork with the image of Mama Mary.

It was signal number 2 in Tacloban when the plane bearing Pope Francis and his entourage touched down this morning and they had to cut his trip  short to Palo, Leyte and go back to Manila at 1pm due to the inclement weather.

A virtual sea of yellow, everyone wearing raincoats because of the typhoon.

A virtual sea of yellow, everyone wearing raincoats because of the typhoon.

This is my second chance to attend mass  (on tv) presided by Pope Francis. It was the best homily ever. Maybe it is even first in history for a Pope to celebrate   mass wearing a yellow raincoat and braving the winds and rains to give hope to the people of Tacloban and all the people of the Visayas region who are survivors of typhoon Yolanda. (I learned later that yes, it was his first experience to celebrate mass in a typhoon-stricken place).

It seemed like he also experience what the survivors did during typhoon Yolanda.

It seemed like he also experienced what the survivors did during typhoon Yolanda.

This is my simple realization while my tears gently flows as I watch the mass in Tacloban: I felt the presence of Jesus Christ in the person of Pope Francis. Even my  son unabashedly wiped his eyes when the mass ended saying “what a lovely homily”. 

“I have come to tell you that Jesus is Lord. And he never lets us down. Father – you might say to me – I was let down because I have lost so many things, my house, my livelihood. It’s true if you say that and I respect those sentiments. But Jesus is there, nailed to the cross, and from there he does not let us down. He was consecrated as Lord on that throne and there he experienced all the calamities that we experience. Jesus is Lord. And the Lord from the cross is there for you. In everything the same as us. That is why we have a Lord who cries with us and walks with us in the most difficult moments of life.” – Pope Francis (part of his homily in Tacloban)

He stopped briefly  on his way to Palo Cathedral to talk to a family along the road, blessed them and gave them encouragement. What is more touching as told by Cardinal Tagle was when he met 30 survivors for lunch, some lost as much as seven members of their family, some lost their limbs, some lost everything. Pope Francis was speechless and told Cardinal Tagle later that he is learning a lot. The resilience of Filipinos are truly admirable.

When you walk through life with pain and suffering, God is there walking with you, holding your hand lest you stumble and fall.

When you reach your destination, He is there rejoicing with you.  The beauty of it all – the beauty of faith working in your life, the priceless moments alone with God in prayer. They make life meaningful.

 

(photo credits: rappler.com, Official Gazette of the Republic of the Phils.)

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