Being Jesus to Others

Up to now, I’m still savoring the Lord’s assurance last week: “Don’t worry, it is I.” For the 386 times the Holy Book mentions “Do not be afraid” — as if it’s not enough assurance from the Lord — He tells us that having faith will unlock the blessings that we long for. Or the fervent prayers that we obtain our innermost desires out of His goodness and mercy. Especially those petitions we believe is really good for us.

In the Gospel, the Canaanite woman (the Canaanites are generally looked down upon by the Jewish people) comes to Jesus with a deep faith, asking for help for her daughter, possessed by a demon. Jesus challenges her resolve by saying:

“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

And then:

She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

Such was her faith — very deep enough to convince Jesus to give her desperation, her heart’s hopelessness.

If you reflect on the reading, the Canaanite woman was actually very mournful, like telling Jesus, “What I am asking is nothing to you but everything to me”. Jesus could have persisted with his position that he was “sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” but her need and her desperation allowed Jesus to go beyond His limits (of His mission’s scope) to respond with generosity.

Loving others is not the love of family, or the love of friends, but the love of enemies. These are the people who are exactly that — unlovable — as we label them to be. This condition is exactly what it is: “loving until it hurts”. The Canaanite woman provides a different look at how we view compassion and generosity. We tend to give to others our excesses, which cost us almost nothing; and yet this could mean the world to them!

The Lord is the God of all. As Champions, we have a duty to embrace others in this world who may be different from ourselves, to respect and love them, especially our enemies.

So the next time we see a little girl in the street selling Sampaguita leis, an elderly needing help on something, presence in our child’s piano recital, or whatever; let us remember Jesus’ challenge. Let us be aware and reflect on those seeking our help: Are they the Canaanite women of our lives, hoping for us to share something which is not important to us but everything to them?

“O God, let all the nations praise you!” (Ps. 67: 4)

Breakfast of Champions

Good morning!

• You must have tried lots of strategies, yet, why are some people in your organization content with being deadweights?
• Are you at a loss in handling millenials in your workforce?
• Can you give a determined yes to this question: Do I inspire people in my workplace?

Every once in a while, answers pop up, mentors appear, inspiring insights are revealed. Allow us to invite you to listen to one inspiring speaker: a Salesian priest, an educator, an artist, a visionary, and a champion leader, Fr. Armand D. Robleza, SDB. He has authored many award-winning books including the CODE OF CHAMPIONS wherein he defines “Champions as meek people who inspire others with the passion that matters to them”.

Join Fr. Armand and his team from SOULBYDESIGN, INC. over breakfast on September 14, 2017, Thursday, 7:00-11:00 a.m. at Bohol Room of EDSA Shangri-la Plaza Manila. Registration starts at 7am. Savor a bite of the six secrets of living with no regrets. Cap your morning coffee with the million-dollar question: what happens to a genuinely happy person?

Investment for this valuable 4-hour session is only Php2,900 which includes already your hearty breakfast meal.

To register to this gathering, you may call 846 9865 / 0917 5034378 Madz Nayve or email us at soulbydesign@yahoo.com

See you there.

God’s Signature

The past week our fellow kababayans experienced fear and anxiety when news that North Korea’s military is “examining the operational plan” to strike areas around the US territory of Guam with medium-to-long-range strategic ballistic missiles. CNN reported that specifically, the statement mentioned a potential strike on Andersen Air Force Base designed “to send a serious warning signal to the US.” In the local front, a magnitude-6.3 earthquake shook Nasugbu town in Batangas and other areas in Luzon Friday afternoon.

These are stories and events that evoked fear and anxiety amongst people in Asia and the Pacific, more so that there have been terrifying events happening lately as well. Similarly, the Gospel tells of the story when Jesus walked towards the disciples on the sea, and “they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” (Mt. 14: 26-27)

Many times in our Christian life we have been reminded that as long as we have faith, we don’t have to worry or fear, as the Lord will be there to protect us. It comes with the assurance, “It is I”, which is akin to the signature of God.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the interpretations of the phrase “I Am that I Am”, (which is another way of saying it) is found in numbers 203-213.

Specifically, in 206,

“In revealing his mysterious name, YHWH (“I AM HE WHO IS”, “I AM WHO AM” or “I AM WHO I AM”), God says who he is and by what name he is to be called. This divine name is mysterious just as God is mystery. It is at once a name revealed and something like the refusal of a name, and hence it better expresses God as what he is – infinitely above everything that we can understand or say: he is the “hidden God”, his name is ineffable, and he is the God who makes himself close to men.”

In our journey of faith, the steps we take progressively become difficult and there are times we ran out of momentum such that we take a dip. Challenges in the form of difficulties on the road we take, critics that appear from the unexpected places, and our energies suddenly seem insufficient to carry us through, really bring us down to the ground. We feel the force of the wind and the courage that prompted us to start the journey can be clouded in doubt and darkness.

Yet it is in these low points of our life that the Lord challenges us to make the real act of faith, without the momentum and enthusiasm that propelled us to begin our journey. We have to remember that just like in Peter’s case, amidst doubt and fear, Jesus responded promptly to help in his distress. Let us remember that “Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter”. (Mt. 14: 31)

So the next time we experience distress, let us remember that “it is the Lord”, who said, “do not be afraid.” And He signed it to give us His promise and guarantee.

“Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.” (Ps. 85: 8)

Our Transfiguration

I remember someone close who, when I was still in my grade school years, asked me to beg off from attending Mass with my family because “Heaven is already here on earth”. Young as I was then, I’d question myself why my parents would always insist going to Sunday Mass together as a family rather than individually. I would have preferred to go Mass on my own convenient time, had my late Dad not stomped his foot down every time I brought up the idea. Years later, the person close to us was diagnosed with terminal cancer of the brain, and of course, we were deeply saddened by the news. Yet a transformation happened: he humbled himself before God, went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation several times, and spent his remaining earthly days in prayer and gratitude to the Lord. While it was sad, it was also a happy experience despite the pain of losing a friend who was then astray, but was led back into the fold before he departed. How the Lord ensures that we are given second chances!

The Feast of the Transfiguration is an event that Jesus provided His three closest Apostles Peter, James and John a preview of His Glory to strengthen their faith and eventually prepare them for the coming Passion, Death and the Resurrection.

Without the Transfiguration, it may have been very, very difficult for the disciples to undergo trials and suffering. Climbing the high mountain was in itself an ordeal, but it was well worth it in the end. They may not have lasted long, and may not have given up all that they had, but Jesus made sure they know what the mission is all about.

At times, we are so filled-up with worries about our ministries and obligations, yet we forget that Jesus is the reason for everything: it’s not about us looking how good we are doing our assignments, but it is really more on what the Lord wants us to do and learn from it too. We have to pray and listen to Him more, and allow the Lord’s light to illumine our souls, remembering that this is God’s work; we are only His vessels and ministers.

Real change and transformation happen more on the inside of us than outside. Change for the worse is really very easy, yet in the end, it is worthless and may even be tragic for us. On the other hand, change for goodness is very difficult, but it is much better and well worth it.

Like the Apostles, may we be enlightened by the Lord with an everlasting light that would allow us to see beyond earthly pains and sorrows, and into the majesty of God’s Power and Heavenly Glory.

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Mt. 17: 5C)

The Priceless Treasure

The last few years have been both an exciting and enlightening experience for me. In the corporate world, life is always tough and challenging as each new year we’re expected to deliver results that become tighter and tighter each time. We have to be more discerning in our priorities at work, and as well as our family and personal lives. While there is no let-up in our personal goals in raising the intensity of our attention and dedication in our chosen careers, we also become aware that age is catching up and that there should be a much better attitude in coping up with the challenges thrown to us each day. We have to be more prudent in ensuring that we don’t lose sight of our final destination and still make the workplace both successful and pleasant at the same time. Remarkably, with age comes wisdom and the realization that there are better ways of doing things, and there are better ways of handling relationships.

The “treasures” which we have chased in our youth are slowly fading in value and the more priceless ones suddenly become more visible and clearer. We are slowly led into the realization that there’s more to life than flashy gadgets, fast cars and plush homes. But this doesn’t come easy, as this isn’t obvious to others deprived of the gift of faith and discernment. It is not for everyone; it is only for those who strive to win the struggle between good and evil every minute, every hour, every day.

In the Gospel, the Lord Jesus likens the Kingdom of Heaven to a “treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” (Mt. 13: 44 – 46)

The challenge then is the search,

Where do we look in the first place? How do we find it?

When we become more faithful to Christ, we start to see things we had with no idea that they were around. We find greater treasures. These are glimpses of Heaven, of course. We long for it; we want to experience it. Nothing comes close yet not even pain and suffering can stop us from pursuing it. As much as we can imagine, what we experience does not even come close to a fraction of what Heaven really is. We simply can’t fathom it as it is out of our field of vision.

As we struggle and discern God’s will for our life, as we seek to know what is good and true, the wonder and awe of His providence is always beyond human understanding. Yet, this is also God’s presence — Emmanuel — in our earthly life. If we are prayerful and faithful, with the purity of heart and intent of seeking to know God more, we will be nurtured with Heavenly wisdom to allow us to grow and mature. We need the eyes of faith more than ever in order to know and identify these treasures normally hidden from our earthly view for us to see the pearl of great price that the Lord is talking about. A treasure whose value is beyond all that we can ever imagine. If we realize it, gaining wisdom is geared towards making the brightness of our souls become more like Christ. It is simply nurtured growth, a deepening of the faith to a wisdom beyond all understanding.

As we trek daily towards maturity, may the Father grant us the wisdom and grace to see more clearly the pearl of great price with the eyes of faith; that which is truly valuable, truly priceless and truly authentic.

“Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; for you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.” (Mt. 11: 25)

Growing into Good, Bountiful Harvest

The Gospel reveals that the enemy is always in perpetual plot against the Good of this Earth. In the Parable, these are portrayed as the weeds, whose vicious nature choke the good plants. Uprooting these vicious characters too early may bring more harm than good. These have to be timed well, so that the harvest will be bountiful.

Our Lord tells us about the mustard seed, which despite being small, grew into a big tree, that even birds become attracted to it. In similar fashion we are being encouraged to grow towards fullness of life in Christ.

Leaven (like yeast) is used by the Lord in another parable as a symbol of the awesome power of God. When left to itself, dough remains just what it is — dough. But when leaven is added to it, a transformation takes place which produces rich & fine bread when heated.

The Kingdom of God offers transformation when we receive Jesus in our hearts. When we yield to Christ, our lives are transformed by the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

At the early stage of reason, good and evil are sown in our hearts like small seeds which grow, and yield a harvest of either good or bad fruit — depending on what we nurture within us. Those who sow goodness will shine and reap the fullness of the Father’s Grace in the Kingdom of Heaven. Their light will be awesomely brilliant and will radiate with joy, beauty and fullness of love.

“Lord God, nurture the good seeds in my heart, aid me to resist the evil one, and may the Holy Spirit dwell in me forever, so that I will be transformed into the fullness of Your Love and Grace. Amen.”

Making The Soil Fertile

The Parable of the Sower is one of those Gospel readings that Christians are taught early on. Aside from its vivid message, the reading evokes distinct images, so much so the teaching can’t be lost to the reader — or so it seems.
Thus the question, why do people choose to be rocks, rather than fertile soil?
As I was reflecting on this, my schedule actually brought me to China, where aside from the usual tourist destinations, our colleague there brought me to a Catholic Church, whose structure reminds me of a typical Spanish-style architecture in provincial Philippines. The walls are essentially made of limestone thus, the charm brings you back to a place quite unlike China.

As we made our way through the courtyard, a model in bridal dress was posing for the lens. She is pretty, and she enjoyed the stone backdrop. Inside the Church, a speaker was doing something like a Christian Life Program or so I thought. Looking at him and the participants made me feel happy! Something like this in China should be good!

And so when I went out of the Holy Ground I whispered a prayer: May the seeds sown by the speaker fall into fertile soil so that more souls are converted for the Lord, and make Him known more in a beautiful and yet still distant-to-Christianity-country called China. May we do our share in helping these souls so that their growth will be nurtured towards maturity in the Faith.

“The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.” (Lk. 8: 8)

In Humility & In Faith

The Lord is telling us to become more trusting to Him and His promises. Most of us complain that as we get more assignments at work, our lives become more complicated and schedules become more tight. We become more stressed, experience more challenges and are rarely relaxed at home. We refuse to heed His invitation to get engaged in the elements of our Faith. We refuse to acknowledge the difficulty even if family life suffers. Most of us still project strength and thought we have it all figured out. We remain proud and don’t listen whenever advice is offered, even when things are on the brink of turning upside down. As if we can control everything on our own. We don’t realize how foolish, arrogant and even dangerous this attitude is. Short of saying we can even control nature itself!

Jesus projected strength and power close if not equal to that of the Heavenly Father (Mt. 11: 27).
Yet despite this majesty and power, He says “I am meek and humble of heart.” (v. 29) Two very different mindsets, that only Jesus can do. While the Lord could always distant himself from us, He offers hope and gave us the perfect model of humility. He has set the example, and He is encouraging us to do the same. This is not for Him, but is actually for our own benefit. Thinking that we can do it all by our own selves can result in our being overburdened; contrast it with those who work with Jesus, for whom the burden becomes light.

Thus, the Lord is asking a very personal question – can I accept being so close to Jesus that I surrender to Him, walk in pace with Him, and aligning every move with Him?

Let us pray, that we may strive to be humble and meek; just like Jesus who showed us the way.

“Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.” (Mt. 11: 25)

God First

There are many times in our lives that we have to make hard choices, whether about our family, friends, work, and future plans. Life will never be always easy and uneventful as we have to face and carry our crosses in some forms. Every single day we are confronted with choices and the Lord is exhorting us to remain steadfast and faithful to Him. While following Jesus and doing good for others we are assured that He knows about it; even the simple act of sharing and giving someone food or clothing or money. For making the tough choices and for sharing His love to others, God will reward us for our faithfulness to Him. This He’ll surely fulfill even if what we do are small and seemingly insignificant acts. Everything matters to Him so we shouldn’t let any opportunity pass away.

But is it really that easy? Considering that Jesus isn’t one person we see every day, like our family, our friends, does it really make sense?

This question is important because if we’ve noticed it, when we’re centered on somebody or something else, more often than not our lives were also in disarray. Many years back when I was a young adult learning to find myself in the world, life seemed to be both a maze and a mess. Situations which I don’t understand just pop up and it seemed then that there wasn’t a connection to what I’ve always wanted to achieve. Life and what’s happening around just didn’t make sense. Yet, Jesus found a way (He always does!) to talk and make me understand what life is all about. I’ve realized that ever since there is one constant — Jesus — who’s always there to “cure” or correct the knots we’ve created out of our failings and shortcomings. Every time we’re in a bad situation we always call on Mama Mary and Jesus always gets us out.

Yes, God is and will always be there. Always. We have to put Him at the center if we want to make our lives more meaningful. After the previous Sunday’s message telling us not to be afraid, the Lord is telling us this time to make Him the center of everything.

Put. God. First.

If we want to have better marriages, better families and better careers – we need to put God first as the center of our lives. Building a truly loving relationship with Christ – first – will only make all the other aspects of our life better. This means creating a relationship and learning how to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Loving God will help us understand fully how it is to love – a love that will help us to forgive those who we think don’t even deserve forgiveness. It will help us to love those whom we don’t think we can love. We have to make a conscious effort to see Jesus in everyone we encounter, every day. When we put God first, it means looking for Jesus in everyone, which means we are in reality putting Him before anything, and finding God in everything. And in the process, we are loving those around us (our families, friends) even more fully than we had.

“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation; announce the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” (1 Pt. 2: 9)

Six Secrets To Living A Life Of No Regrets