Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Answer is Yes, Lord.

Another week passed in my retreat.  I was asked to contemplate on Jesus' invitation to follow Him.  Part of my meditation was the Nativity.  I also contemplated on the Hidden Life of Jesus and dwelt on the Incarnation.  

Those were very beautiful and deep passages, but I only had a few minutes a day for "formal" prayer.  As advised by my SD, I walked the rest of the day in prayer, continuing what I had started in the morning through the Scripture verse assigned.

I was grateful that this time, the invitation to follow Jesus did not elicit fear in me.  I just said "Yes, Lord, you know everything, and you know that I love you."  I received the grace to be open, to surrender, and to wait on what the Lord will reveal to me at this point in my life.  This Yes followed a series of responses I had made since I had given my life to the Lord in 1993, and even before that.

This grace enabled me to weather painful news that the younger brother of one of my closest friends was diagnosed with cancer.  I was shocked but gradually came to realize just how much the Lord had enabled my friend and her family to face this crisis.

My response to Jesus' invitation to follow Him also allowed me to choose to be where I am right now, and not to resent it.  I have heard Him calling me to stay and I have decided to willingly stay.  I am able to embrace it because I know Jesus asked it of me and that means He will be with me every step of the way.

All of a sudden, the restlessness building up inside me dissipated.  It might come back but I have this to hold on to - that I have accepted who and where I am, and given the option of leaving vs. staying, I was invited to stay, and I gladly said Yes.

This gives me the freedom now to look at my life with more hope and confidence.  I can take stock of my roles and take them on with renewed strength.  

Jesus truly meets us where we are.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

An Invitation for All Catholics

I found a very beautiful and powerful commercial produced by CatholicsComeHome.Org for all Catholics.

It is an invitation to see our faith for all that it has contributed to the world. It is an invitation for all Catholics to come home.

For more details please visit www.catholicscomehome.org and go to the link to the Epic TV commercial.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Choices During This Retreat

This past two weeks of RDL have been the hardest as I saw the extent of my unbelief in God's love and mercy.  

My SD invited me to make certain choices, because we are all given the gift of choice.

  1. I will choose to believe that God, in His infinite goodness, does not withhold anything good from me.  If he delays, or if he declines, after my prayer, it means that that is what's best for me.  Period.
  2. I will choose to stay in my current situation and I will embrace it with acceptance.  Things are no longer thrust and forced onto me if I make a choice to stay and to accept.  
  3. I will choose to be grateful for my many blessings and not resent them or take them for granted.
  4. I will choose to love even if it hurts.
  5. I will choose to obey because I trust Him and have seen His mighty saving power.
  6. I will look more deeply into the life and teachings of Jesus, and this time when I follow it will be with a deeper knowledge of and intimacy with Him.
  7. I will choose to understand where people are coming from and not blame them anymore.
  8. I will choose to receive love.
  9. I will choose to look at myself first, if I am still okay, before performing my duties and imposing new and impossible ones.
  10. I will pray for the grace to patiently wait on the Lord.
Afterwards, I had dinner with a friend who brought a book for me to read, about Waiting.  The Season of Advent has started early for me.  

It is in the choosing that I respond to God's Love.  I choose Love above everything and everyone else.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Masses, Then and Now

Attending Holy Mass on Sundays in the Philippines has changed slowly but significantly since my childhood days.

I remember when I was a child, my parents would gather us five children, make us wear appropriate Sunday clothes, and take us to Church first thing in the morning, every single Sunday.  Whatever activities we had in mind, like going to our favorite restaurant, attending our classmates' birthday parties, or eating ice cream at home, would only come after the mass.

I was often told by my parents to stop fidgeting and fixing my dress during mass, and to learn the mass songs by heart.  They did not allow us to act up a storm at church, no matter how much we wanted to buy balloons or cotton candy from the vendors waiting outside.

That was when we lived in a small city within a province.  When we moved to Manila, we were shocked that masses were held inside shopping malls, children ran around the church throughout the Eucharistic celebration, and mass-goers wore anything from spaghetti-strapped tops to micro mini skirts.

I am not generalizing, in fact I have attended the most solemn masses in churches and communities within Metro Manila.  I am just thinking of ways how we could get our parishioners to participate more actively during mass in this day and age.  

Some people are in the habit of coming in late, and I know there are legitimate reasons for that, especially for big families, but some latecomers also choose to sit at the front pews, thus distracting the rest of the congregation and disrupting the solemnity of the mass.  I sit there thinking of how to share with them what we celebrate during mass, and who is in front - not the priest, but our Lord Jesus - but I know that is too self-righteous and holier-than-thou of me.  I pray that at the right time people would re-learn to genuflect when they enter the church, and to offer their hearts in gratitude and reverence to the Lord.  I cannot sit there and judge what is going on in people's hearts anyway.  But I wish they would show it with more zeal and passion.

Come offertory time, people who are seated in front do not even attempt to get the collection baskets, even if in our parish we do not have a ministry assigned to do this specifically, in order to encourage participation among the people.  If the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, I hope that we as his disciples and followers could imitate him.

We need to get our act together as we are a young parish.  We need to build the proper structures for all our ministries, and I do pray that the obstacles that hinder this would all disappear soon.  We need to set the tone during Charismatic Mass by preparing the choirs to lead the time of worship through music, and I have volunteered to help in this area.  We need to prepare the lyrics so that everyone can sing.  The parish pastoral council is doing a lot of marvelous work, and I am not complaining.

I pray that in our parish, we would all learn to pray together as a community, and to please God who deserves all our love and service.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Blessed are the Brokenhearted

I do not want to write when I am broken.  I want neat and happy endings to my entries.  Who would care to read about someone else's heartaches anyway?

I do not want to give in to my crying.  I suffer from migraine as a result, but I choose the pain rather than the tears.  Who would want to look at me when I am sad and lost?

I have an interior life which I try to face through a more intimate prayer time, and it's bringing me to a point of recognition of my brokenness.  It is so different from my physical world - of friends and family surrounding me everyday.  It doesn't show much, I hope, that I am walking through all my internal struggles, in search of a firmer relationship with God.  That is my ultimate goal that's why I'm enduring this retreat instead of quitting after it got too uncomfortable.  I'm keeping my daily routine.  I work, I relate, I chat, I eat.  I cannot sleep that much and I prefer long periods of silence.  

When alone, I talk to God and bring to Him all of my deeply-buried questions.  But the answers are too difficult.  I cannot cry even when I'm alone anymore.  It's as if I feel it is a waste, and a sign of weakness.  I used to be able to cry unabashedly before the small altar in my room.  These past few weeks of RDL, I have stopped myself after a few tears.

Is this normal?  Am I being too depressed by these reflections?  I should be lifted up and should experience peace and joy, right?  How come, even with all my efforts, I still feel the enormity of my discipleship, the loss of what I did not have, the challenge of my uncertain future?  The answer might be that I need not try too hard, I know.  But what I know and what I experience are two different things right now.

As an expression of faith I will declare here that I believe that God will lift me up at the right time, and that this journey through the dark valleys of my heart is just a part of it.  I will spread my wings, lift my head, and soar again someday.  

Tonight I will admit that I am ashamed of my own brokenness, and I depend on God to make me feel whole again.   

Tomorrow is one step closer to that day of flight, of freedom, of love.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Prayer for Reconciliation

This prayer was given to me for two consecutive weeks by Sr. Reylie for my RDL. I found it timely for my world, and the other parts of the world, this fresh morning. I am praying for all of us.

Prayer for Reconciliation

Lord Christ, help us to see what it is
that joins us together, not what separates us.
For when we see only what it is that makes us different,
we often become aware of what is wrong with others.
We see only their faults and weaknesses,
interpreting their actions as flowing from
malice or hatred rather than fear.
Even when confronted with evil, Lord,
you forgave and sacrificed yourself
rather than sought revenge.
Teach us to do the same by the power of your Spirit.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Resistance to Prayer

After I met with my Spiritual Directress last week, I began to feel the dread for the coming theme, "God is Faithful, but I am not Faithful".

This is an invitation to have a deep felt understanding of my sin and the disordered tendencies in my life, that I may feel shame and confusion, and so turn to Him for healing and forgiveness.

What disordered tendencies?

The week was to consist of reflections upon my sins, weaknesses, and failures. Not my favorite topic. Not the easiest, either. My natural reaction was to resist praying. To sit in front of my prayer corner and to tightly shut my heart, my mind, and my journal.

Then I read my spiritual article for the week, "Exploring Resistance". In it I learned that "resistance" is the spiritual term for "avoiding prayer". It is not bad and is often a sign that there's some growth, something new that wants to emerge in my life, some change coming on the horizon, and which I resist as a protection from the potential difficulty of change.

I prayed about how long I had been avoiding prayer. The answer was a surprise - for I had been doing it for almost two years now. I would go in and out of my prayer time and my prayer life, afraid to be too close to God, afraid to hear Him, afraid to respond to Him, afraid to face Him.

I tried to see what image I had on my resistance to prayer, and what surfaced was an image of an erupting volcano that I had been attempting to cover with my bare hands, to hide from God and from others. I could see that my hands were getting burned and sooner or later I would have to let my heart explode, and be exposed.

Deep inside, I was not seeing the good changes, only the bad. There were so many attachments, false treasures, areas of vulnerability, and sins that I had allowed to accumulate over those years of resistance. I saw this past week the patterns and dispositions of my heart.

My prayer guide invited me to shift the focus from my own sinfulness to my Heavenly Father's forgiving love. If only I could learn to see that despite all these imperfections, my God still loved me, in whole and not in parts.

I will see Sr. Reylie tonight. Sometimes the lessons just crystallize when I tell her about them. I tried, and I will share about the movements of the Spirit in my life. I cannot say that I enjoyed this week, but it is obviously necessary. RDL is supposed to bring out my issues and lead to my healing. I cannot resist that which I asked for.