It was a rainy Tuesday morning but the San Miguel Foods Inc – North Luzon Area participants were still enthusiastic to attend the Code of Champions seminar. It was held at the Hotel Gracelance, San Fernando Pampanga and was attended by 75 personnel from different areas of North Luzon from Pampanga until Isabela.
It is Sunday, the second day of this weekend spent in the Queen City. A family of three is seen entering the churchyard, a traveller is bringing his backpack with a package of “pasalubongs” most probably intended for his family in the province, or so it seems; a “fashionista” walks by in bright yellow and orange, a child with a string in his right-hand tied with a huge airplane-formed balloon is guided by his mother into the gathering crowd. In the distance, yellow-skirted women in white tops are seen dancing to the movement of the two-steps forward, one-step backward beat, with candles in hand. As the visitors pass through the center of the yard, most wave for an instant and bow to the icon of the Sr. Sto. Nino de Cebu in the East Side facing the Basilica. People coming from all over the numerous entrance gates began to fill the seats in the rectangle fronting the Church, awaiting the start of Holy Mass.
Prior to this moment at about five o’clock, I was awakened with a burst of energy as if after a full sleep, even though I rested just a few minutes past midnight. While intending to wake up at half past six, my senses activated so early. After my morning prayers, I wondered what to do next while waiting for my breakfast meeting. I took a shower and in the middle of the lather, it dawned on me that I go visit the Sr. Sto. Nino. It was an inspiration that was so strong I couldn’t resist. The night before, I intended to attend the anticipated Mass at the St. Joseph’s Church in Mabolo but rain prevented me from leaving, aside from the fact that best friend, business partner and brother Noel, is around prodding me to attend Mass tomorrow Sunday instead. Then in the middle of the meeting, while Bro. Noel was on the way out of the table to answer a call, he bumped into our other brother Ariel, whom I haven’t met in a long time (perhaps it was fifteen years though I can’t clearly remember). Both of them talked for a few seconds and then a few minutes after Bro. Noel told me about it, my long-lost friend came over and we had a group talk. While it was brief, it was very memorable. Authentic friendship has a way of re-connecting people quickly despite the length of time the separation is. Absence becomes immaterial as the lost time is regained after just a few minutes of togetherness. It isn’t only the voice that communicates, it also involve the heart. Afterwards, Bro. Ariel has to leave to attend to his youngest daughter in the other table.
The interrupted meeting resumed and after that, on the way to an alumni dinner meeting in the City Sports Center I mentioned to Bro. Noel that the rain and that “extended” meeting may have been a way for me stay in the mall and meet our other friend Bro. Ariel (who was supposed to fly to Manila but was prevailed by his youngest child to stay). And so I realized that was the hidden reason why my presence in Mass was “moved” to Sunday. The rain was a nature-provided accessory to the plan! Postponing it became more meaningful when I realized (while on the way to the Basilica) that the Lord was calling to visit the Sto. Nino de Cebu on that Sunday. And while it was intended to be just a short visit, the Spirit prevailed on me to stay and attend the Mass after I made the line to the historic icon. Wow. God’s wonderful plan for me that day. It was revealed moment-by-moment like a flower blossoming in season.
In this Sunday’s First Reading, we listened to how King Solomon responded to the question on what he would want from God:
“Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”(1 Kgs. 3: 9)
He didn’t ask for wealth or power, he asked for “guidance so he could govern God’s people wisely and fulfill God’s purpose for him.” Wisdom and discernment are two important gifts of the Holy Spirit. St. Bernard calls the Gift of Wisdom as “the knowledge which relishes things divine”. It is two-fold: “a light which illuminates the mind, and a supernatural taste which enables us to relish divine things as by a sort of natural attraction.” Hence, it is rightly considered as the most perfect of all gifts, the one which embodies all the others, just as charity embodies all the virtues. On the other hand, the Gift of Understanding helps us “get an insight into the Divine Origin of the truths of our Holy Faith, into the internal association of revealed truths one to another, into the value which they possess for our lives. It is like a new revelation.”
King Solomon made the perfect choice in asking God for the Gift of Wisdom. This gift is important for people to discern well the choices we face in life. With this gift, we will be able to look from the eyes of faith to choose things eternal, rather than be content with instant gratification and temporal passing fancy. It will enable us to be more patient with ourselves and understand our own foolishness and shortcomings. This will allow us to choose and make better decisions in the future. It will also open our eyes to seeing the treasures that last,
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a buried treasure which a man found in a field. He hid it again, and rejoicing at his find went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Mt. 13: 44).
This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us of how our priorities should be made. Sometimes we just have to be patient and listen to the calling of the Spirit. We have to trust. To discover Jesus and love Him and live life under the guidance of the Gospel is therefore the “greatest treasure and happiness of all.” As long as we are patient and prayerful, the ever-loving and ever-patient God will be with us in our journey towards obeying and loving Him more. Not that we become sinless but we become more conscious of our actions. We also become more humble as we gain knowledge and understanding of His plan for us. Rest assure that “… God makes all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his decree” (Rom. 8: 28 – 30).
Later that day, as the plane winged its way to bring me back home to Manila, I thought this must be one of the more beautiful visits to Cebu. While my schedule was hectic, the Lord provided me the energy to handle the meetings and the leisure time spent with special friends. There were a couple of challenges posed, but yes, with God’s grace, it was one fine Sunday after all.
When we discern and make a choice, we think forward of where this will lead us. Let it not overwhelm you. The passion should outweigh the sacrifice of the choice in order to maintain and nourish it. Pursue your goals enthusiastically as if everything depends on you.
The recollection made us reflect on our priorities in life. It is very applicable in the difficult roles that we are performing in our daily lives. As if God is sending His message to us through Fr. Amand.
Sally Sarte, Petron Corporation
My cousin Mary Joy and family came over from the US for their summer vacation. Always thoughtful and loving cousin that she and family are, aside from the “pasalubongs” for the family, they also brought me a copy of The Bible, a 4-disc DVD copy of the popular television mini-series of the History of Salvation of God’s people. The first episode of the mini-series was seen by 13.1 million viewers, the largest cable television audience of 2013 to date. There were inconsistencies as compared with the Holy Book but in general, it was able to meet its objective of telling one sweeping story with one grand, overriding message: “God loves each one of us as if we were the only person in all the world to love.”
One thing noticeable in the entire series is that in the different times and seasons of Israel’s history, God always anointed leaders to guide His people. From the time of Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, to Joshua, to the Prophet Samuel, to Saul, to David, etc., leaders, with God’s guidance, defined the direction where they would go. Whenever leaders followed God’s directions, which were coursed through the prophets in their time; they would always be victorious against their enemies. On the other hand, whenever they disobeyed or sinned against God, they would lose battles, and even suffer whether from defeat, death or loss of territories.
Being called to discipleship is a privilege. When one becomes God’s follower, one must also be ready to take a leadership role, whether in one’s family, group, community, or even His Church. Leadership requires responsibility to both God and His people. That’s why it took a special breed of leaders chosen by God to accomplish it. However, this type of leadership isn’t defined by how we define or perceive it to be. The only basic qualification is the willingness to go where the Lord wants us to go and trust in Him completely. For “as high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways and thoughts above yours” (Is. 55: 9). This requires the courage to humbly accept the Lord’s will. And God will take care of the rest.
Humility and courage are two attributes that God’s leaders ought to develop. These differentiate the believer from the unbeliever. Very different from how the world looks at it. But we need not look far to prove this point. The Twelve Apostles were the most ordinary and lowliest of folks. Yet when they answered “Yes” to God’s call, they were transformed into great preachers, great evangelists and great leaders. It takes courage to be truly humble. When they started to trust completely, they became courageous, to the point of being ready to give up their lives for God. Of course, suffice it to say, that because of their faith, the Holy Spirit provided them with various gifts to equip them for their mission.
Fr. Armand always reminds to “Believe before you doubt.” Our faith doesn’t operate in the way that God performs miracles to prove Himself first before we believe. He just wants us to trust and believe, even without seeing miracles yet in our lives. If we do see miracles before we believe, that’d be a blessing. However, I doubt if we’d be able to see it as such. For how can we say, “it’s a miracle” when we don’t have faith yet, right? Besides, even if there’s nothing happening in our lives, it shouldn’t matter. Let the intensity of our faith bring the miracles to us. While life’s trials and challenges may tear our spirits down, let us be consoled in the fact that Jesus has said and promised,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Mt. 11: 28 – 30).
I learned to let go of the things that bothers me and it feels much better. It was very refreshing for all of us. I always thought that retreat / recollections were always very serious. I didn’t expect that it will be this kind, having fun and at the same time there is concrete result for me.
Mark Anthony Ferrero, Don Bosco College, Canlubang
The seminar was very interesting without knowing that we are already learning how to deal with interpersonal relationships. Another lesson is that being true to oneself, reflecting and believing in being happy will lead us to being contented in life.
PO1 Gilbert Luzano III, PNP-PIO