Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jesus Brings Glad Tidings on Christmas

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners,” (Is. 61:1) proclaimed the prophet Isaiah in the first reading of the third Sunday of Advent.

Back in my university days, I wasn't particularly attached to the Bible. I was more interested in reading philosophy. But Isaiah’s prophetic passage above never failed to touch me deeply whenever I heard it proclaimed. When recited by Luke in his gospel within the setting of Jesus standing in a synagogue, slowly unrolling a scroll of Isaiah, and reading it out to an enchanted and expectant congregation on Sabbath, the prophetic passage took on a new meaning of fulfillment (c.f. Luke 4:16-21) - fulfilled not only in the very person who read it, i.e. Jesus, the Anointed One, but also in the listener to whom it was proclaimed, i.e. me.

I, a foreign student struggling to make ends meet, was the poor; not only because of corporeal deprivation but also because of spiritual destitution. I was the brokenhearted, not only because my life then was filled with hardships but also because the deepest yearnings of my young heart – for love and dignity, for justice and righteousness, for happiness and the truth – somehow just could not be satisfied. I was the captive, captive of so many unrealistic dreams, captive of my own youthful passions. I was the prisoner, chained hands and feet by sin, incarcerated body and soul by the unrelenting grip of death. I was in dire need of the Anointed One’s glad tidings, healing, liberation, and freedom.

When my university chaplain, a young and exceedingly kind Basilian priest whose mission it was to help the lowly and marginalized, told me that in Jesus I could find my glad-tidings Provider, my Healer, my Liberator, and my Freedom, I dived right into his RCIA to find out whether Jesus was really the Savior who could solve all my personal problems. Finally at the Easter of my third year of university, I was baptized into the Catholic Church. Here I am 37 years later, I can honestly say that Jesus has given me everything Isaiah promised and more. There is not a day my heart doesn’t rejoice together with Mary, his mother, in the Magnificat: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Luke 1:46-47).

Yet our journey of faith is a long one, full of ups and downs and potential pitfalls. Like John the Baptist in the gospel reading, we must properly discern the role that God in His infinite wisdom wants each one of us to do. John identified his role as “the voice of one crying out in the desert”; he saw himself as the precursor that “make straight the way of the Lord’” (John 1:23). He was determined to serve the Lord in this humble capacity even though many of his followers wanted to make him the Messiah. In this Advent, let us discern with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit what our role is. What is the ministry that God wants us to serve? And in serving it, “may the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you…be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes 5:23).

Monday, December 1, 2014

God Will Deliver If We Have Faith

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Glory and praise to the Lord!

What a Gala last night! This is the morning after. Hope everyone had a good night of sleep, having heard the good news about the peaceful settlement of the FLL-S+L dispute. Not me. My head is a little heavy from lack of sleep last night. Still trying to recover from the "shock" my team and I went through in the last few days, even if it was a pleasant one. The euphoria – at least for me – from the FLL Gala last night and being in the middle of a huge crowd of nine hundred plus people certainly compounded the problem even more. But it’s a nice problem to have…

It’s not appropriate for me to delve too much into the specifics of what happened, not at this point. But this much I can say: this sharing is a sequel to, and hopefully also the conclusion of, a post I wrote with a heavy heart about a year ago: Blessed Are They Who Are Persecuted For the Sake of Righteousness.

My head is still spinning and I can't remember if I mentioned this to my team during this whirlwind-like process of the last few days in which things unfolded in rapid succession like a floodgate that broke open. One thing that we gained from this long and difficult ordeal is the comradeship of our team members. It's a bonding, a unity or solidarity, if you will, that jelled gradually through a long and agonizing process that took us through the thick and thin, the highs and lows, the triumph and the devastation. This is the "imperishable crown" that we won from this painstaking and excruciating race! (Cf. 1 Cor 9:24-25) While we don’t do good for the sake of getting merits, I’m convinced that this is a great merit that God granted us for our perseverance to follow Christ come hell or high water. It’s going to stay with us; and we’ll bring it with us on that day when the Lord judges the nations assembled before Him and “separates them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from goats” (Mt. 25:32).

It's by no means easy. Sometimes we were just hanging on by a thread, determined all the while to walk in the truth and, if it's God's will, ready to accept martyrdom. There were times when we felt like we were "shadowboxing" (cf. 1 Cor 9:26), that we were standing up against a mighty and unstoppable train hurtling toward us at maddening speed. In the end, it was God who gave us strength and saw us through. It took the courageous and determined intervention of a living saint whose body was completely drained of energy due to terminal illness; and the miraculous intercession of a heavenly saint – St. Mary Goretti – whose incorruptible body will be on its way to visit this part of the world when the Holy Father comes in the summer.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins. Amen! Amen! Amen!