The Voice that will Soothe the Ache

ache

Have you ever felt that one instance among many when you pause and take in the view before you and…you just know that there is more to this life that you live?

Somehow, when you look at the sun rising and setting, you just know that there is this ache to be enlightened from all the mysteries that life brings.

Here’s something you need to ponder on: one day, everything will be put into the light and your questions will have answers. The emptiness that is there, despite you trying so hard to fill it in with the many things that you think will make you happy, will be gone when the appointed day comes that you meet the One who will heal that gaping hole in your heart.

But should we really wait for that day and then spend the rest of our days to while away? Or can we seek to hear an echo of what is to come? Maybe you simply need to take a step to be open to address that ache within.

I believe that when we were born, aside from the fact that the first cry we made was meant to expand our lungs to adapt to a whole new world apart from our mother’s womb, that first cry was the sound of the ache that our hearts make, reflecting the fact that we are not made for this world.

I guess the key is that in this busy and noisy world, we need to be stilled once in a while. The world has forgotten the value and beauty that silence can bring. Maybe because we are terrified of silence?  Maybe because when we are quiet we find that the issues that we have repressed come to the surface? We confront the truth of who we are and why things are?

It will only be in silence, however, that we will hear the voice that will break through the ache. That voice may not give you all the answers to your questions in one go but I’m pretty sure that He will give you one thing that will assure you that in this pilgrimage called life, you are never alone; He will give you hope.

So do not be so cautious with silence. It may be the answer you just need at the moment. Close your eyes. Feel your heartbeat. Lift your hands and with much faith, pray. In the calm, hear His voice say: “Come, child. Come.”

And you might hear a beat
On the door of your heart
When you do, let it open up wide
It’s the voice of Jesus
Calling you his bride.
So listen, little girl,
Somewhere there’s a King
Who will love you forever
And nothing in the world
Could ever come between
You, [my love] and this Lover.

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And Heaven’s Only Answer is the Silence of God

silence

There will come a time when the Heavens will lure you into an embrace that seems eternal. There will come a time, too, when it will laugh with you, sending sunshine so beautiful you will smile as it kisses the earth. There will come a time when it will send rain and despite the downpour and the incovenience, you still find a giggle in between sighs. But there will come a time that it’s suddenly quiet. Suddenly, not even an echo of comfort can be heard. Suddenly, the luring will be no more. Not a ray of sunshine. The storm will become unbearable, it will be even harder to hope. Suddenly, your heart shall cry and will ask just one question; that one question that is often hard to confront, often bitter to say: “Why?”

Defeaning the silence will be, it can drive you crazy. You will plead for a drop of consolation to satisfy your thirsting soul and yet everything is dry. Prayer becomes dry. The interior life will be dimmed by unanswered questions. Oh how you wish you can tell others of how painful it is! Oh how wish you can scream! But that will not be so in your everyday dealings because despite the ache, the peace and joy never left. No trace of the agony will even be found when people hold your hand and smile. You will find it insane for pain and peace to hold hands as if they are friends. A hint was all that He will leave you, though – whatever darkness this is, it is absolutely necessary for you. Hence, the peace. Hence, the joy. And you will find it so…insane.

But one day, He shall allow a trickle of water to seep through the cracks; a little ray of sun shall pierce through the gloom. Oh how this heart missed You, you will exclaim, and you want to savor in the moment. Then there it will be again, that dreaded silence you wish would just end.

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.”He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.”40When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!”Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open.He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again.Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners.Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand.”

-Matthew 26:36-46

Yet even if the Heavens will seem asleep while you weep and even if the world around you will be oblivious to your aching, take comfort in the words He said: “Get up and go.” You shall not remain slumped in that dark road forever. Learn to walk in the dark, He will seem to say. Put your hand in your heart and close your eyes, letting the peace affirm the thought that even if you cannot see, feel or hear, you know He never left; He is closer to you more than ever. You know how this will all end. He is and will always be anyone’s ultimate end. So you then will walk and the traces of fear shall be overcome by grace. What will be left of the questions is the one you know that will get you through this life with much contentment and joy: “What do You want me to do?”

I abandoned and forgot myself, laying my face on my Beloved; all things ceased; I went out from myself, leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

-St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul

Then later on you shall find a glimpse on why He said that it was absolutely necessary – this silence you wish to get away from: the longing for Him will bring you to find Him in others. To quench the thirst, even a little, you must share the water in your well to the one who will come to you and ask: “Where can I find this living water?” Go smile and find joy because the silence will caress you to love as He has consumed you with love. You will suddenly have this courage to head to the cross.

The dark will not seem so dark any longer. Hope will be revived in the heart. The aching for more will no longer be a bother “in this holy lonesome echo of the silence of God.”

Lord, Please Make Me a Saint

holiness

So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.
-Matthew 5:48

In time for All Saints’ Day, let’s talk about what holiness really is.

Once I had someone tell me: “Oh I thought you were holy. What a disappointment.” I heard this a few times in my lifetime whenever I find myself in disagreement with people I know or when I’d fail in being charitable to others. I would encounter the similar line too when people would hear news about someone involved in the Church and priests would often be the easy target. You would hear them say: “He makes me want to leave the Church.”

Ah, perfection. This is where we often get stuck: we think that holiness is ultimately equated with the dictionary-defined perfection. Google’s number one meaning actually says that it is”the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.” Other terms that come to mind are: unblemished, pristine, pure. Encapsulated in one word, “sinless.”

In the Bible verse mentioned above, the demand of holiness is indeed, “to be perfect as God is.” But what others miss out when they narrow down what holiness is to this particular passage are the verses that precede it. Verse 48 is simply part of Jesus’ discourse about loving one’s enemies. In fact when you look at the entire 5th Chapter of Matthew, Jesus was teaching His disciples about pursuing the things that we don’t normally do. He was teaching something contradictory to what our impulse can drive us into. Loving your enemies? Whoever does that? Rejoice when people hate you? How can joy even be a fruit of persecution?

Bottomline is, if holiness is being flawless then I think we should rethink the roster of Saints that are being venerated by the Church. Maybe, when we look at holiness we should not see it from the point of not being able to “miss the mark.” Rather, we should look at holiness as one’s relentless pursuit of the extraordinary. And this pursuit of the extraordinary is actually a very ordinary thing for all of us. One word, four letters: LOVE. To be holy is to relentlessly pursue to LOVE so that LIKE GOD “who is love,” (1 Jn 4:8) we can be LIKE LOVE HIMSELF. 

THE CALL TO BE (PERFECT) CHARITABLE

Consider this from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 826:

Charity is the soul of the holiness to which all are called: it “governs, shapes, and perfects all the means of sanctification.”

If the Church was a body composed of different members, it couldn’t lack the noblest of all; it must have a Heart, and a Heart BURNING WITH LOVE. And I realized that this love alone was the true motive force which enabled the other members of the Church to act; if it ceased to function, the Apostles would forget to preach the gospel, the Martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. LOVE, IN FACT, IS THE VOCATION WHICH INCLUDES ALL OTHERS; IT’S A UNIVERSE OF ITS OWN, COMPRISING ALL TIME AND SPACE – IT’S ETERNAL!

What does this mean for all of us? Simple: no one is exempt from being holy because all of us are capable of being charitable. ALL OF US ARE CAPABLE OF LOVING. Sometimes, we just turn off the charitable switch in us when anger, pride, fear get the best of us; when an external threat to our integrity as persons slaps us in the face.

All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity.
-Lumen Gentium (Vatican II), 40

Holiness, therefore, is not something reserved for the few; it is actually a call for each and everyone of us. If we are capable of loving another, why limit the love to certain persons? Holiness tells us: love your enemies as well. Love even those who you do not know. In other words: love everyone.

See the example of the Saints, the recent of which our generation got to know of is Mother Teresa. Well she had the choice to be comfortable doing mission for the Sisters of Loreto. She could even choose not to pursue the religious life at all and spare herself the heartache of being able to give herself totally for the poorest of the poor. But she didn’t! She chose to pursue the extraordinary. She chose not to exempt anyone from the fount of love she held within her heart. She chose to burn with love for God and do His will that God’s love may reach the least, the last and the lost. She chose charity. She chose perfection. She chose holiness. She chose the often difficult but joyful path to sainthood.

NOT SUPERHUMAN

Now, were the Saints superhuman? Does it mean that  Sainthood is synonymous to being sinless?

“Christ, ‘holy, innocent, and undefiled,’ knew nothing of sin, but came only to expiate the sins of the people. The Church, however, clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.” All members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners. In everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good wheat of the Gospel until the end of time. Hence the Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ’s salvation but still on the way to holiness:

The Church is therefore holy, though having sinners in her midst, because she herself has no other life but the life of grace. If they live her life, her members are sanctified; if they move away from her life, they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for those offenses, of which she has the power to free her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

-Catechism of the Catholic Church, 827

When Jesus said “be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect,” He did not mean that we should “not be human.” What He did mean by it is that we should avoid sin and live lives of love. The path to sainthood is a path that extends “until the end of time.” While we are alive and struggling to love at all cost, there will be moments of weakness. There will be moments when you will be tempted and there will be moments when you will fall. AND THAT IS PART OF BEING HUMAN. (That doesn’t mean that we should get stuck with that, though.) We have been caught up with the “Do Nots” of our faith that we forgot how to rely on GRACE. Without God’s grace, we will continue falling, we will continue failing. Without God’s grace, we will find it hard to repent and get up back again. The Saints were persons who relied on nothing but God’s love and grace. That was their secret of abandoning their lives for the sake of the call.

One prayer that I learned to pray daily was St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Suscipe which is the prayer of total surrender. The last two lines of the prayer goes: “Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.

It is even more romantic in my native tongue: Dagling tatalima ako, ipagkaloob Mo lang ang pag-ibig Mo. At lahat ay tatalikdan ko.

To put it simply, to be a saint is not to be superhuman. Saint Ireneaus said, “The glory of God is MAN FULLY ALIVE.” To be a saint is to be FULLY ALIVE: fully human CONSTANTLY STRUGGLING FOR THE DIVINE. Very human, very weak and yet made strong by God’s grace – that grace we have received during our baptism.

LIVING IN GRACE

Oscar Wilde said:

Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

We’ve heard this attributed, too, to a lot of famous people: “A saint is a sinner who never stopped trying.” And both of them are true! Like I said, holiness is not about being spotless, it is about trying and trying and trying and trying… to live a life of GRACE. To love our enemies may seem impossible at first and very much appalling to someone who never knew Christ but to us Christians, this can be done through grace! GRACE enables us to love even if it hurts. Grace enables us to rejoice when all things seem amiss. Grace enables us to forgive even if the other person isn’t even remorseful after doing us wrong. Grace enables us to live the Divine life. Grace enables us to make this earth our piece of Heaven. It makes us saints. It tells us that “impossible is nothing.”

Grace is the help God gives us to respond to our vocation of becoming his adopted sons. It introduces us into the intimacy of the Trinitarian life.
-Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2021

This grace is available to us abundantly. The problem is that in order to bask in God’s free-gift of grace is that we need to choose to cooperate with the Holy Spirit that fills us with it. Grace is God’s loving initiative to make us SAINTS, we just need to say, “Lord, yes, please make me a saint.” (cf. CCC, 2022)

EXTRAORDINARILY WELL

So does this mean just like the saints, we should do big things in order to be holy?

Whenever I speak to kids about sainthood and I would open the floor for them to cite what makes one a saint, I would always find them mentioning that one has to do something extraordinary to change the world. I will usually grin and flash the image of a 16-year old boy whose recognition of sanctity was simply because he did his duties extraordinarily well: Saint Dominic Savio. Saint Dominic became a saint simply because he fulfilled his roles with so much love and offered all his good works for God’s glory! He was a son, and he was a good one. He was a friend, and he was a loyal one. He was a student, and he was an excellent one. He did all things with love! 

Now Dominic got this from another saint who formed him well: Saint John Bosco. When one day Don Bosco found out that Dominic made severe penances because he wanted to be holy, the kind and saintly teacher reminded the young saint: “Do your ordinary duties extraordinarily well.” That he said, was the path to sainthood. Young Dominic took that to heart. He died at 16 and became a saint just because he chose the extraordinary way – love.

THE PATH OF GREAT JOY

And doesn’t love hurt? Isn’t giving off of oneself ,painful? Indeed, it is. But isn’t the path of the Christian the path of the cross? Isn’t the path of the Christian the same one that His Master took?

The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle.Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes:
He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.
-Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2015

But even if the road to sainthood entails a lot from us, even if it seems demanding, there is no other way to joy than to follow Christ. There is no road to holiness except through the cross. There is no other path to great joy than “loving until it hurts, until it hurts no more.” (Mother Teresa)

We are assured that when we surrender our life to God and when we desire Heaven so great to “love until it hurts no more,” we will find the joy and contentment that our hearts have been so longing for.

BEGIN NOW

Leon Bloy said something beautiful about what can be our biggest failure in life: “The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.”

Why? Because inherent in each of us is the desire to be happy. Ask anyone and deep down to the core, everyone wants to be happy. Everyone wants Heaven. This ultimate happiness can only be found when we become one with God. When we finally come face to face with “the one our soul loves.” And what path assures us of that? Yes, the way to holiness.

But that joy is not the only effect of treading the path to holiness. Saint Catherine of Siena said, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!” In a world that yearns for true and lasting happiness amid the indifferences, poverty and war, imagine if you choose to be a saint. Imagine if a lot of us will choose to be saints!

So why delay happiness when you can begin now? Why delay “setting the world on fire” when God can use you now? As we celebrate All Saints’ Day, may all of us aspire for greatness. May all of us desire nothing less than holiness. May all of us pine for no One else but God alone. May we all set the world on fire.

At this very moment, say: “Lord, please make me a saint.”

Sa Bawat Daan, Ikaw Lang

bawatdaan

May pagkakataon na dadating sa buhay mo na mawawala ka sa landas. Minsan, alam mo naman saan ka patungo, eh. Kaso mas nanaig yung pagpili mong tumahak sa mas masukal na daan. Mas nanaig ang “alam ko na iyan,” kaysa sa “tulungan Mo naman ako.” Mas nangibabaw ang sakit at hinagpis sa libu-libong pagkakataon ng ligaya ng nakaraan.

Mahirap naman kasi talagang sumunod sa Iyo. Akala Mo ba madali? Sinasabi Mo magmahal, pero bakit ganoon? Bakit minsan kalakip ng pagbibigay ng sarili ang pait? Bakit ko kailangan mahalin ang isang tao na ni minsan hindi nasuklian ang pag-aalay ko ng pag-ibig? Bakit ko kailangan maghintay sa bukas na hindi sigurado? Bakit ko kailangan um-oo sa pagiging mabuti sa aking kaaway? Sabi mo dadating ang araw na maiintindihan ko ang lahat pero hanggang kailan ako aasa? Gaano kahaba ba ako magpapasensya? Bakit ko ba nararamdaman sa pagkakataon na ito na iniwan Mo ako? Sabi Mo nandito Ka lang pero bakit hindi na kita nararamdaman? Bakit noong nakiusap ako na “payakap naman,” wala yung mga kamay na dati rati’y sumasaklolo sa bawat pagtangis ko? Kailangan ko ba dumaan sa dilim para makita Ka muli? Pwede bang “shortcut” nalang? Sumunod naman ako sa Iyo hanggang sa wala nang natira. Hindi ko parin naiintindihan.

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Scarred and Beautiful

broken

I realized that our painful past experiences have created in our hearts scars that, more often than not, will remain with us for as long as we live. Some of these scars come from wounds that have hurt us to a great extent that it continue to haunt us even if they have already been touched by God’s healing grace. Some of these scars, on the other hand, may looked healed on the surface but within the wounds are still very fresh. Whatever state we are in, one thing is for sure: we don’t have perfect hearts. We have patched up, stitched up, bandaged hearts covered with scars.

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How Don Bosco Guided Me through Life

donbosco

“Who is that man up there, Fr. Revilla?” I asked the white-haired priest who became my friend whenever I tagged along with my uncle who served in the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians.
“His name is Don Bosco,” Fr. Revilla replied with a wink.
“He looks so kind,” I said.
“He is and so should you be,” he said while patting my head. That was just one of the many encounters I’d have with the “kind man surrounded by children.”

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Haynako Lord, As Usual!

fly

He is at it again, pushing me to the edge.

A night before the report on the Trinity that I have been preparing for for two weeks now, I suddenly find myself at the edge of a cliff. I fall ill, I doubt the grace He has promised to give and I allow my knees to tremble in fear.

“Jump!” He says.

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