Our Prayer

This week I have made significant changes in my daily routines, such that I’ve already succeeded in doing my physical exercises early in the morning, instead of the comfortable evening schedule, when there’s no more work and no more pressure coming. This has always been my weakness: mornings I still like to extend my time in bed, and be lazy before rising up. Yet I’ve found out that doing exercises in the morning is more effective, healthier and boosts our productivity throughout the day. So after fixing this, and coupled with my daily morning prayers, I think I’m in for better times ahead.

When our schedules are looking fine and well, we also have to look at other aspects that need to be fixed. A more disciplined approach on our prayer time should also be given attention, so that our relationship with God will be enhanced and developed. The “powers” that He gives the apostles and their successors depends on their communion with Him. As in the First Reading, the prophet Ezekiel is only to teach what he hears God saying, the disciples are to gather in His name and to pray and seek the will of our heavenly Father. Similarly, as followers of the Lord, we should ensure that we are devoting enough time for Him. When we wake up in the morning, the first thoughts that come to mind should be one of gratitude and thanksgiving. We should express our gratitude for the opportunity to wake up and make up for the shortcomings we’ve committed before. At the end of the day, we should also take a moment to pray, to reflect and be thankful before we retire for the night. Every week the Lord just asks of us an hour or two to worship; we do this by going to Sunday Mass. Many haven’t realized that we need these moments with God for us to become more effective in whatever we are doing. A strong relationship with the Lord through prayer is needed for us to discern His will for our lives.

Prayer is one of the most powerful forces in the entire universe. Said from a pure heart, it can unlock miracles to happen. There is however, a misconception about it. We always expect our prayers to be answered. And if we don’t get an answer, we wonder where God is. We have to realize that God answers our prayers with a “Yes”, a “No”, or “Later”. Personally, as long as it will be something good for us, it’ll be answered positively. However, our attitude should be one of trust and obedient humility. We have to understand what He wants us to do. We have to learn to trust in His timing. Remember, it is not about us, but it is about Him!

In today’s Gospel, the Lord assures us of His presence in our midst, whenever we pray as a community. (Mt. 18: 20) Aside from centering our prayers on knowing His will for us, we should also pray for others. The Responsorial Psalm today, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts,” is essentially telling us we can be His voice to others, especially those who are in a state of serious sin.

Let us pray then, that we become more effective disciples for the Lord, by submitting to and knowing His will, which will only be possible if we regularly commune with Him in prayer.

“God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5: 19)

Our Cross: Our Only Hope for Our Salvation

“Why do bad things happen to good people?”

I’ve been asked this question many times and it always feel awkward to answer it, as one may feel that I may sound like I haven’t experienced pain and suffering in my life. Yes, I’ve been through a lot; admittedly it’s difficult and always bring in a waterfall of emotions especially when a loved one is in pain and suffering. These thoughts occupy me as this Sunday’s Gospel speaks of Jesus telling His disciples,

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt. 16: 24-25)

Fact: All of the Apostles except St. John the Beloved died violent deaths. Yes, it’s true, and they died happily for Jesus.

Yet most of us think that being devoted Catholic Christians would bring us a life of comfort, prosperity and good health, that is spared from difficulties, trials and sickness. In his homily last Tuesday, the Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist; Fr. Armand said that we shouldn’t be praying that our problems will disappear, but rather that “we will have the courage to handle these with joy and humility.” Truly, it makes sense considering that life on earth is temporal and fleeting. If you’re jubilant now, it isn’t guaranteed to last till eternity; likewise, when you’re in pain, it won’t be for long either. A reminder lest we be led into thinking that everything ends right here, right now. No, we’re on a journey and the way we travel this pilgrimage will determine how we will be in our final destination. Meanwhile, we have to love and care for our fellow travelers who experience difficulties, in a way helping them carry their crosses too.

One of the saints I admire most is St. Anthony of the Desert. Research noted that he was born in Coma, Egypt in AD 251, to wealthy parents. His parents died when he was about 18 years old, and left him to care for his unmarried sister. Touched by the advice of Jesus which reads, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven” (Mt. 19: 21), the young Anthony gave away some of his family’s lands to his neighbors, sold the remaining property, and gave away the proceeds to the poor. He then left to live an ascetic life, placing his sister in a sort-of convent. Even after a time of simplicity, he again lived in the desert in a far mountain, strictly enclosed in an old abandoned Roman fort for about two decades. There he was fought by the devil in the form of wolves, snakes, scorpions and other wild animals. He was able to fight them off through sheer faith in God, such that they just disappeared as though in smoke. While he stayed there, his only communication with the outside world was through a crevice through which food would be passed by the people and he would bless them with a few words. He did not allow anyone to enter his abode; whoever came to him stood outside and listened to his advice. Anthony would prepare a quantity of bread that would sustain him for six months (!)

He chose to live a life of prayer and sacrifice to follow the Lord, and thus, denying himself, giving up his life for God.

Sacrificing ourselves for the sake of others, bearing our daily crosses, and offering all of it to God for the merits of others – not our own merit; this is surely a blessing that Jesus would bestow on us His followers. The perfect role model that He is, Jesus tells the disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer and be killed. He emphasizes that this must be done for the world, for humanity. This must be done to right the wrongs, to correct all our mistakes.

Just like Jesus, we should be willing to embrace these pains and sufferings — we shouldn’t be upset like what Peter did. At that time, possibly in a spur of the moment comment, he hasn’t appreciated yet that the Lord also said, “…and on the third day be raised.”

There’s a reason and a purpose for suffering and pain, just like what Jesus experienced, which eventually became a joy and a gift to us — our salvation and the gift of everlasting life. Imagine that for eternity! We rejoice therefore that the Lord wants us to remember: the crosses we have to carry can improve our attitudes for the better, define our souls and achieve our purpose even if its meaning and significance may still remain unclear. Denying earthly desires and comforts to help others will allow us to experience deep joy and grace if we look at it as opportunities to show our love and obedience to Jesus.

And so, we shouldn’t ask God why is this happening to us – rather be guided by what Fr. Armand has said, “What is God telling me from this experience?”

“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Rom. 12: 2)

It is Important that We Know Our Role

When we were still in our teenage years, experiencing anxieties and uncertainties were common, mostly due to unnecessary worries about our future. We want to get things done fast, in our curiosity to know who we will eventually become. We want to finish school in a hurry, do business or get employment fast, as we’re impatient to be somebody, someday. We’re living in a culture of speed and impatience that we want all things to happen in a snap of a finger.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks his disciples what he is to others. The disciples replied,

“Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Mt. 16: 13b-15)

Then Jesus asks his disciples who they believe that he is. Simon Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (v. 16) Jesus commends Simon Peter for this declaration of faith, telling him “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” Then Jesus calls him the “rock” upon which the Church will be built. This bold admission of Peter’s faith in Jesus set the tone for his role, one that is for his leadership in God’s Church, literally the first among the disciples.

Each of us has a unique role in the mission of Our Lord Jesus and His Church. We may not be as prominent as Peter who became the first among a long line of popes, but our role is both unique and necessary to God’s plan for humanity. We are all pieces of the God’s complex jigsaw; though each of us may feel irrelevant and small, but really uniquely essential.

Peter’s understanding of his mission may have been so vague and unclear on the day Jesus told him he was to be the foundation on which the Lord would build his Church. It must have taken many years for Peter to develop some understanding of those words. Yet as the Church grew, Peter fulfilled his mission patiently by doing the tasks that prayer and discernment revealed him day-by-day. He was not told everything at the start, yet his trust and faith in the Savior opened up the tasks that he must fulfill as the leader of God’s Church.

How about us? Have we understood our role in God’s plan for the world? Like Peter, we should ask Jesus in prayer and in faith, every day, to help us fulfill our part of His mission. We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit, through the daily events of our lives to slowly reveal to us what we have been called for. Our assignment is part of our uniqueness as a person, hence we shouldn’t compare ourselves with others. When we know what we’re tasked to do, we will experience deep fulfillment and inner peace, which only comes from submission to His will for our lives.

“Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.” (Ps. 138 : 8bc)

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.”

Six Secrets To Living A Life With No Regrets