“Welcoming God’s love…”

Pope Benedict XVI:
“Welcoming God’s love means a Happy New Year!”

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Mama Mary, Mother of God

New Year Card - Copy

Happy Mother’s Day, Mama Mary!

Yep, this is our greeting for our dear blessed Mother. We greet her deep inside our hearts for she leads us to the love of her beloved Son – Jesus Christ our Lord! For the first day of the Year 2013, I preferred making this simple image from Photoshop – with “Believe” as a powerful teaching from Mama Mary.

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord…” (Luke 1:38)  –  Mama Mary teaches us to “Believe” because God knows who we are and what we are called to. She experienced lots of uncertainties (even suffered from them), but she remained certain that the Lord is there – He is in control of everything. He will always be there for us. As Mother of God, she teaches us to have faith in the Lord.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…” (Luke 1:46)  –  Mama Mary teaches us to “Believe” because deep inside us is the image of the Emmanuel – “God-with-us”. She sang one of the greatest songs in the history of mankind – the Magnificat – from her spontaneous response of joy in the Lord. We are the image of a loving God. As Mother of God, she teaches us to give our best shot.

“Do whatever He tells you…” (John 2:5)  –  And Mama Mary teaches us to “Believe” because we can find our true fulfillment in Jesus. She knew well that Jesus brings true joy and peace to all, and so she leads us to her Son. What we need to do is perhaps to have a listening and a pondering heart like her. As Mother of God, she teaches us to say our ‘yes’ to the Lord’s call.

“Mama Mary, thank you for leading us to Jesus always!”

Imagination for Holiness

StStephenMartyr

Here’s one model who brought imagination for good – St. Stephen.

Christianity had its difficulty being welcomed by the people during the time of the Apostles – just after the Resurrection of Jesus. This so-called “religious movement” was approached with much criticism, and to such extent, persecution. Christians had to struggle being accepted – socially, religiously and politically. In particular, religious authorities kept handing them over to trial – and also to challenge their religious views.

Stephen was no stranger to these. In fact, many religious authorities sought to challenge his views not only from Jerusalem, but also from other cities (cf. Acts 6:9). Or to hear his wisdom? To those who heard him speak, some were not so happy at all. They were disturbed because of his unchallenged boldness. Witnesses, like St. Luke, mentioned that it was “the Spirit” that prompted Stephen for such eloquence (cf. Acts: 6:10) But perhaps one interesting thing here this: how was Stephen able to be an effective recipient of this ‘wisdom’ as prompted by the Spirit?

My personal take on this is perhaps Stephen’s docility to let the Spirit use his imagination. As such, one cannot ‘proclaim’ something if that ‘something’ is not vivid to him. This might explain Stephen’s boldness which penetrated and disturbed those who heard him speak. Stephen’s imagination of the glory of God became so intensely real for him that it was so impossible for those disturbed to stop him, so much so that they had to drag him and stone him to death. Stephen’s vision of Jesus glorified made him numb with the furious reactions of the disturbed because he was already filled and preoccupied in reaching God for what he actually saw.

And yet, another remarkable act on how Stephen imagined God’s glory is observed in his prayer: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit…Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (cf. Acts. 7:59-60). At the brink of his martyrdom he mentioned these words – still filled with imagination! He might have imagined once more that God’s glory is when forgiveness reigns. That apart from what others consider God as a “punishing God”, his prayer again affirms a forgiving God.

Hence, Stephen’s heroic virtues remains relevant today, especially for the youth. We just saw how powerful imagination can bring. Those who were infuriated (opponents of Stephen) also imagined – but they imagined without a listening attitude, being noisy at all (cf. Acts 7:57). Such imaginations proved to be life-threatening and destructive. On the other hand, Stephen, who used imagination for good welcomed the Spirit, gave him the vision of the glorified Jesus, and even became a witness of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

And I am beginning to reflect that perhaps, Stephen was martyred at the very ripe of his youth. Even now, his heroism resounds to the youth. That’s why he is a model to the youth! Young people today are perhaps obsessively imaginative. But, what are their imaginations? Good to know. If we have the premise of searching a meaningful life, then we say that if we keep vividly imagining a meaningful life, then we have this sense of hope, fulfilling life. But if we vividly imagine a meaningless life, then it would be easy to have a hopeless, throw-away life.

In a similar way, one becomes either a saint or a sinner because of imagination.

Simbang Gabi Chronicle #4: IDENTITY

ImageDearest Friends:

Greetings of Christmas to you!

Today, December 19, our Simbang Gabi Chronicle leads us to the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth in the Gospel. With “identity” as the theme for our reflection today, I cordially invite you to see and feel the presence of God in our lives – how God works in us in special and unique ways. Hence, we are reminded of the psalmist’s song in the Holy Scriptures: “I praise you; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

With the Gospel today and the Psalm, I am reminded of the significance of my name. My parents named me after two great saints: St. John Bosco and St. Francis of Assisi. Up until now, they have been my examples on how I live my Christian faith. Even being named after them is already a gift and a blessing to me. In their lives, they remind me how God loves me so much – and I would love to proclaim it to everybody (amidst my lapses…). I could not just help but notice that this endeavor, a child being named after Saints, is gradually vanishing. It is a puzzle to me that many children are named according to celebrities (good if they serve as good examples) and other peculiar names. Now, what’s going on? What’s happening?

Perhaps, with the influence of social media and technology, we become attracted to what is “popular”, “tasty”, and according to public opinion, rather than on what is essential. We begin to identify ourselves with productivity more than our true identity. We confuse things between our needs and wants. We seek approval based on public opinion and not on the true and real. What happens now is a collapse of the search for meaning, which in turn would cause us to neglect recognizing our true identity as men and women in the image of God. This is catastrophic – and would be one of the greatest tragedies people would see.

But perhaps one of the greatest victories people would experience is to recognize our true identity as the beloved of God. Hopefully this Christmas Season, and the days to come, amidst a busy and noisy world, there would always be courage to stand for life identified in God’s love. This begins when we respect who we are – that we cannot just abuse ourselves and kill ourselves for the sake of getting more. There is more in respecting our growth, rather than in rushing our growth. Everything will fall in its proper place.

That is why if we decide not to screw up our identity by being absorbed by worldly dictates, it would be nice to always draw a demarcation line between what is necessary and what is extra. It takes time but it harnesses our will to search on what is meaningful in our life. After all, when we come to terms with God, He would not be asking us what were our accomplishments. Rather, He would ask us how we lived our life in His image. Christmas, aside from being a liturgical celebration, is also a celebration of human identity – for the humanity of Jesus (much the same with our humanity) was never an accident. Jesus’ humanity, as well as our humanity, has its purpose – and it is fearfully and wonderfully designed by God. We just have to search it.

“What have I discovered myself so far, in my search for meaning?”