In My Father's House

Poems, Prayers, Inspirations, Photos and Musings about life, love and what it means to be a child of the Father

Friday, September 30, 2005

God Delights in You

I just visited Naga where the Jesuits have a university. I joined the community of Jesuits there in their afternoon prayer. One phrase in their prayer booklet that struck me was this line: "God delights in you." I keep thinking about this even now. God delights in me? How and why?
How can God possibly delight in a person who keeps on doing what offends Him? How can He delight in me when I repeatedly commit the same mistakes, the same sins over and over again? How can Jesus positively be glad of me when everything I do seemed a failure, no good, not enough?

On my second day of stay in the Jesuit community, the Ateneo de Naga President, the genial and perpetually-smiling Fr. Joel Tabora, toured me inside the university church. He explained to me why this church is called Bicol baroque. In one of the stained glass windows, he pointed the image of a son crying, hugged tenderly and lovingly by his father. That, he said, is sin from the point of view of the Father.

God loves sinners. He must have loved me too. God delights in me. Not even though I am a sinner, not despite of, but because I am a sinner.

Friday, September 23, 2005

But Who Do You Say That I Am?

Footnote Jesus. That's how many of us know Jesus. We know him through a learned priest's homily, through a Bible reading guide, through movies, through casual strangers, through preachers that ride on the bus, through prayer leaflets, through Hollywood. And many times Jesus has been likened to a real estate agent's flyer: He does this, He does that. He gives this and that. If you take Him, He will make you _________ (please fill in the blank legibly).

Jesus has become a product to purchase, a line to commit to memory, a spam that we cannot delete. Who do you say that I am, asked He. Yet even his closest friends were at lost at answering him. Who is this guy really? Well, for one he is John's cousin. He is the carpenter's son. He performs practical magic. He associates with crooks and shameful people. No one seemed to know who He really was. So like a teacher who did not want to be embarrassed in front of his class, He called on his favorite (and presumably) brightest student.
Peter, who do you say that I am? By golly, You are the Messiah, the Son of God. Came down from Heaven to save us. And Jesus was pleased, only to later on learn that Peter simply browsed through a brochure advertising Jesus. We know what happened.

For this week, I want to reflect on the same question that Jesus asked his disciples some two thousand years ago: But who do you say that I am. Who was Jesus for me? Who is He? Who will He be?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The God of Wanton Excesses

Jesus has a penchant for overdoing things. When asked about the dwindling supply of wine at the Cana wedding, he produced several jars too many. When presented with loaves of bread and fish, he made twelve basketfuls of them. When questioned about forgiveness he advised to forgive not seven times but seventy-times seven times. He was fond of telling parables wherein those who were slapped should offer the other cheek, those whose linens were taken away should offer their tunics too and those pressed for service of one mile should do so for two miles.

Why did he do these things? As human beings we give importance to numbers, to things that can be quantified and measured. This is not our fault. Being rational people, we categorize things and experiences so we can make sense of them. The easiest way to understand them is to give approximate measure of their height, depth, length, number and so on. So for instance, when asked how rich a person is, we quote numbers. He earns six-digit figures. She drives a $50,000 car. When asked how beautiful a person is, we rattle off figures. She is five-eight tall, has C cup, 36-24-34 statistics.

We give too much premium on numbers and quite forget that there is more to life than figures from 0 to 9. In the above examples, Jesus used the very figures we are so familiar with to astound us, to shock us, to even make us disbelieve (for a moment) so we can come into a fuller realization of God's greatness. God does not deal with us as simply numbers in an equation. We can never be just one tiny, insignificant digit in the billions of people on earth.
our expectations. Blind people, the lame, those who are possessed did not just get healing. They too were forgiven. The adulteress was not simply forgiven, her dignity was restored to her. The paralytic was not simply healed, his ability to take control of his life was given back to him. Peter's betrayal was answered with three affirmative declaration of love, restoration of trust and a giving of power to do the same to others what Jesus had done to him.

And so, by way of example, Jesus imitates the Father's great love for us by exceedingetrayal was answered with three affirmative declaration of love, restoration of trust and a giving of power to do the same to others what Jesus had done to him.

Our God is a God of wanton excesses because we are loved much, much greater than we can ever imagine or ways we can count.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Throw Off Your Cross!

Yesterday Fr. Luis David of the Society of Jesus gave us a very radical re-interpretation of the Gospel text "Pick up your mat and walk!" (Mk 2:1-12). Instead of simply rehashing old biblical exegesis he emphasized the often neglected aspect of Jesus' mercy: the empowering and liberating kind of mercy. He said, Jesus is not simply desirous of forgiving us and healing us. He also wants us to take control of our lives, to throw off the yokes that burden us, to cast off the shackles that bind us. And sometimes, to throw off even our very crosses.

We have come to identify suffering as a form of doing good or being holy. Far from it, Fr. David says. Our crosses can become a self-deluding tool, a device for self-paralysis; all in the ruse of following Jesus. Many times we deceive ourselves into believing that only by suffering do we merit God's love and forgiveness. God is a God of mercy and love, He does not want people blindly following Him by making life more difficult for them. He doesn't want us dragging our crosses and mumbling along the way. God wants us to live fuller and happier lives. It's blasphemy to say that God requires our blood, sweat and tears for Him to be glorified.

Come to think of it, Jesus walked this earth of mankind for thirty-three years. And three of those years were the happiest years of His life. His activities showed it: he was fond of parties, of banquets, of visiting friends, of rests and story-telling. Only one day in his life did he walk towards the calvary. Would he rather prefer that we walk with Him in the calvary bearing heavy crosses than as a friend along the beach at dusk?

When our crosses prove to be too heavy, maybe we are adding more weight to it than is necessary. Jesus already carried the Cross for us and we need not carry it back more than we have to carry ourselves as freed and empowered men and women.

God empowers as he does challenge. He gives life as he does heal. He liberates as he forgives.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Nothing Lasts Forever

Yesterday I delivered an invitation letter to Fr. Al from the Dept. of English and Comparative Literature in U.P. Since he can't read the letter himself, he asked me (by gesturing and mumbling a few sounds) to read it for him. Being a distinguished alumnus and long-time faculty member of the Department (he was one if not the first to get a Ph. D from there), he was invited to attend today's 95th anniversary celebration.

He was so excited to hear the news and expressed that he would like to come. But he couldn't express it in one straight and coherent sentence. I had to coax out from him what he wanted to say by filling in the first two words that came out of his mouth. I was suddenly struck by the realization that this genial Jesuit has lost his gift of language, his ability to express in lush prose and poetry what he feels in his heart.

A few months ago, I was agonizing over the difficulty of reading his scholarly dissertation. And now, I am agonizing at what he is trying to say. From the brilliant scholar, beloved teacher of literature and untiring tutor to those who wanted to polish their English, Fr. Al has become a speechless songbird. I see in his eyes both the joy of the news I brought to him and at the same time the sadness and frustration that he could not share with me his precious memories of his bygone days.

In this Society of ours (our Jesuit congregation), nothing lasts forever. Not the gift of speech, the ability to speak in seven languages. Not the keen and sharp intelligence. Not the physical beauty or charm. Not the sense of humor nor the zeal and passion for work. Everything, everything can be taken, most of them quite literally, in fulfilment of what we pray everyday:

Take and receive, o Lord
My liberty, take all my will,
My mind, my memory
All things I hold and all I own
Are Yours, Yours was the gift to You
I all resign
Do You, direct and govern all and sway
Do what You will, command and I will obey
Only Your Grace, Your Love on me bestow
These make me rich, All else will I forego...

Nothing lasts forever. Except God's faithfulness and promises that at the end of our lives, after all the toils and pains of loving, ours is the Eternity to rest in His Loving Embrace.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sept. 11 Anniversary

Prayer for Peace in the Whole World

Lord God, we come together as people desirous to achieve peace in our world. We know the devastating effects of war and terrorism. We have seen the violence wrought by indifference and insensitivity towards the welfare our fellowmen. We gather as one people of different races, religion and nationality. We kneel before Your holy presence. We admit that there can be no peace unless we first have peace in our hearts.

Remove all hatred, all fear and all biases and all prejudices that have long taken shelter in our countries, in our cities, offices, schools, churches, homes and hearts. Banish every thought that puts our fellow human beings at a disadvantage or in a humiliating position. Make us all aware that we are Your children though we may have differences in opinion, ways of doing things, beliefs and skin color.

Remind us Lord that if we really want peace , we must strive hard for it and keep its spirit alive. We must never let a single ounce of discrimination seep into our judgment. May we not value people for what they have or not have but for what they really are. May You teach us compassion and humility and genuine care and concern for one another.

Heal our broken lives, our broken spirits and broken hearts. May Your kingdom reign in our lands, both now and forever. Amen.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Fr. Johhny's 100th Birthday

Last Thursday I attended Fr. Johnny Ledesma's 100th birthday. There were more than a hundred people who attended this genial priest's party which was held (through the kindness of the Archbishop of Manila, His Eminence Gaudencio Rosales) at Villa San Miguel, the Bishop's residence. Friends and colleagues, students and mentees attented this once in a lifetime occasion. (I mean, how many times can you really attend someone's 1ooth birthday?).

But there were no relatives who came to Fr. Johnny's party. Not that he outlived them all. No. He hadn't any. You see, Fr. Johnny was an orphan. His father was a U.S. soldier who went back to the states and left him and his mother. When he was five, his mother died and he was sent to the Hospicio de San Jose, an orphanage in Manila. A Spanish family would have adopted him but God seemed to have brighter things instore for him. On the day he was adopted, he cried relentlessly prompting the family to send him back to the hospice. They were probably thinking that something was not right with the child.

And they were true. Fr. Johnny turned too good to be just an adopted child. He would later on excel in his studies. He attended first the diocesan San Carlos Seminary but was transferred to Colegio de San Jose, a seminary run by the Jesuits. His formators saw his keen intelligence and holiness that they consented that he entered the Society of Jesus. After several years he was ordained and sent to Rome for further studies. It was in the Eternal City where he would spend several thousands of hours researching about Diego de San Vitores, a Jesuit Missionary in the Marianas and his Filipino lay companion/catechist Pedro Calungsod. It was his learned research that paved the way for the beatification of these two martyrs in Guam.

But what endeared Fr. Johnny to seminarians, nuns, priests and lay people alike was not his intelligence but his kindness and compassion for people. He helped countless seminarians to finish studying and through his writing and publishing of prayer booklets was able to finance their needs while they were in the seminary. Fr. Johnny understands too the turmoil and anguish of a sinful heart that it was reported that when someone approaches him for confession he will invariably say "Very good!," signifying perhaps "You are a true son of God. You made the right choice of going back to Him. "

Whenever I see people like him, I look at myself and ask: WILL I EVER BE LIKE THAT? But I know that God has also something big instore for me. I may not be a very holy or very intelligent person but I know He will be faithful to His promises to me. This I hold in my heart.

Happy Birthday Fr. Johnny!!! (Eh, shall I say more birthdays to come!)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Poem for Mother Mary's Birthday

The Blessed Virgin Mary Compared to a Window - Written in 1944

Because my will is simple as a window
And knows no pride of original birth,
It is my life to die, like glass, by light:
Slain in the strong rays of the bridegroom sun.

Because my love is simple as a window
And knows no shame of original dust,
I longed all night, (when I was visible) for dawn my death:
When I would marry day, my Holy Spirit:
And die by transsubstantiation into light.

For light, my lover, steals my life in secret.
I vanish into day, and leave no shadow
But the geometry of my cross,
Whose frame and structure are the strength
By which I die, but only to the earth,
And am uplifted to the sky my life.

When I became the substance of my lover,
(Being obedient, sinless glass)
I love all things that need my lover's life,
And live to give my newborn Morning to your quiet rooms,
-Your rooms, that would be tombs,
Or vaults of night, and death, and terror,
Fill with the clarity of living Heaven,
Shine with the rays of God's Jerusalem:
O shine, bright Sions!

Because I die by brightness and the Holy Spirit,
The sun rejoices in your jail, my kneeling Christian,
(Where even now you weep and grin
To learn, from my simplicity, the strength of faith).

Therefore do not be troubled at the judgements of the thunder,
Stay still and pray, still stay, my other son,
And do not fear the armies and black ramparts
Of the advancing and retreating rains:
I'll let no lightning kill your room's white order.

Although it is the day's last hour,
Look with no fear:
For the torn storm lets in, at the world's rim,
Three streaming rays as straight as Jacob's ladder:

And you shall see the sun, my Son, my Substance,
Come to convince the world of the day's end, and of the night,
Smile to the lovers of the day in smiles of blood;
For though my love, He'll be their Brother,
My light - the Lamb of their Apocalypse.

Fr. Thomas Merton

Oh No! Not Again...

The Filipino congressmen have done it again: Betrayed the Filipino people whose interest they have sworn to represent. These solons have put their personal and political interests above the interest of the nation. And by doing so they have put another millstone on the neck of the ordinary people.

I am so speechless...

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Filipinos and Calamities

My friends and I were watching a CNN Report on the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina to citizens of New Orleans, Louisianna. We were so surprised when we saw people screaming and getting all hyterical because their food supplies have not arrived on time. One colored woman said: "We are dying in here!" Another said: "People are getting desperate. They do anything just to survive."

We were surprised not because of the desperate situation of the victims, knowing that they live in the world"s most prosperous nation, but their reaction to the calamity that befell them and the seemingly slow delivery of basic services. (I don't want to downplay what they are experiencing. I know that lives have been lost and are being lost until this moment). Our reaction was coming from an insider to calamities. In a country where typhoons, earthquakes, flash floods, volcanic eruptions are very ordinary as they are experienced several times all year round, disasters become as common as rain.

Getting used to all sorts of disasters (whether natural or man-made) is like second-nature to Filipinos. In almost all disasters in the world, one or two Filipinos would be amo casualties (Twin Towers, Madrid and London bombings, sunk shipsng the and crashed planes, etc.). Foreigners are puzzled when they see a scavenging family, living inside a wooden cart, laugh and smile at strangers. It is only in this country where children and adults wave at reporters even when water has submerged their homes and destoyed their crops. I guess too much suffering has a desensitizing effect into it: the more you have it, the less you feel it.

But also, we have learned to be modest with our expectations of our government leaders. We have learned to temper our wish-list. When disasters strike we do not really expect that they would go all the way to rescue us and give us aid (unless of course when it's election time or when it is televised). But not all Filipino officials are like this, there are some who possess a genuine heart for the poor, but they are very few and far in between.

Third reason why we put a straight face against disasters is the very religious nature of Filipinos. People leave their homes invoking God for protection. Jeepneys, buses and taxis have a picture or two of the Child Jesus or Mary. Bridges and overpasses would have sayings like: Trust God. Pray. It helps! In all awarding ceremonies from movies to music, winners offer their trophies and thank God for their victories. We really are a people of faith. And this is what I think strengthens us in the face of the most horrible catastrophes. God is our sure help. He never fails. And we trust in Him.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Protestants Re-Discover Mary

On September 8, Catholics all-over the world (and some Protestants too) will celebrate the Feast of the Birth of the Virgin Mary. I have decided to quote Fr. Miguel Bernad, S.J.'s article which appeared on The Philippine Star for this ocassion.


MANILA, August 15, 2005 (STAR) AT RANDOM By Miguel A. Bernad, S.J. - A recent issue of Newsweek devoted almost half its pages to an article on new developments among Protestants regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary. A significant number of American Protestant theologians and preachers have come to realize that there is more in the Bible about the Virgin Mary than they had paid attention to in the past.

In general, Protestants have been reluctant to concede any special honor to Mary. They were willing to admit that she was the Mother of Jesus — and that was all. They condemned any special honor paid to her. "An ordinary woman, like anybody else," they said. "An ordinary housewife."

But of late, some theologians and preachers, by more careful reading of the Bible, have come to realize that Mary was really an important figure. Much space in the Gospels is devoted to her: the Anunciation, the Visitation, the hymn "Magnificat" that St. Luke puts in her mouth; the loss of the Child Jesus during a visit to Jerusalem, and looking for him for three days and finding him in the Temple.

According to the Gospel of St. John, it was at Mary’s suggestion that Jesus worked his first miracle, the changing of water into wine at the marriage feast of Cana. He did it after merely a hint from her.

But what really impressed the Protestant theologians and preachers was the fact that at the crucifixion, Mary was there on Calvary. A mother who is willing to stand the whole time while her Son was in terrible agony on the cross, just standing there till he died and then to be among those to take care of his body, must have been a woman of extraordinary psychological strength.

The Protestant theologians are saying, "We Protestants accept nothing except what is in the Bible, and yet, there is much in the Bible about Mary that we have not been paying attention to."

Protestants are not yet ready to accept the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (that Mary was sinless from the beginning of her existence in her mother’s womb), and the doctrine of the Assumption (that Mary is alive in heaven, body and soul, with her Son). But if they reflect on the data of Scripture, they will see that these doctrines are perfectly logical.

At the Anunciation, Mary is told that she would become the Mother of the Redeemer. She accepted: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word."

At that moment, by the power of the Holy Spirit, she conceived a Child in her womb. That Child was the Divine Word who thus becomes a man. It is in Mary’s womb that God becomes incarnate.

By becoming man, God sanctifies the world.

It is the beginning of redemption, culminating later on the cross. And this beginning of redemption takes place in Mary’s womb.

It is in her womb that we are all redeemed.

Surely (as Rahner points out) that makes Mary a very special person. She is more than just "any ordinary woman." More than just "any ordinary housewife." She is the Mother of the Redeemer as Redeemer. That entitles her to special respect and honor.

Article source

Did God Send the Hurricane?

This natural disaster is bringing together a perfect storm of environmentalist and religious doomsday sayers.
By Deborah Caldwell
What caused Hurricane Katrina to slam the U.S. Gulf Coast? Was it a typical late-summer tropical storm caused by wind, water, and heat? Mother Nature crying out on behalf of the earth’s pain? An angry God?

Depends whom you ask. All along the theological and political spectrum, Katrina has crystallized people’s fears into a now-familiar brew of apocalyptic theories similar to what we saw after September 11 and after the Asian tsunami several months ago.

At least one New Orleans-area resident believes God created the storm as punishment because of the recent role the United States played in expelling Jews from Gaza. On Sunday evening, Bridgett Magee of Slidell, La., told the Christian website Jerusalem Newswire that she saw the hurricane "as a direct 'coming back on us' [for] what we did to Israel: a home for a home." Stan Goodenough, a website columnist, described Katrina as “the fist of God” in a Monday column. “What America is about to experience is the lifting of God’s hand of protection; the implementation of His judgment on the nation most responsible for endangering the land and people of Israel,” Goodenough writes. “The Bible talks about Him shaking His fist over bodies of water, and striking them.”

Meanwhile, spiritual and political environmentalists say that massive hurricanes such as Katrina, along with the Asian tsunami, are messages from the earth, letting humanity know of the earth’s pain. These hurricanes are caused by global warming, environmentalists say, which are the result of using too much fossil fuel. They see the catastrophic consequences as a kind of comeuppance.

Katrina forced oil workers to evacuate rigs in the Gulf of Mexico; meanwhile, seven oil refineries and a major oil import terminal have been closed. The Gulf Coast region is home to a quarter of U.S. oil refining. As a result, Common Dreams, a liberal website, wrote Monday: “Oil may be achieving a new impact on daily news, people’s pocketbooks and world history--perhaps even the end of history and the world.” James Howard Kunstler, author of “The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the 21st Century,” predicted in his Monday blog: “It seems possible to me that we will be seeing gas station lines all over America within the week.” In another area of his website, Kunstler writes: "We are entering a period of economic hardship and declining incomes...The suburbs as are going to tank spectacularly. We are going to see an unprecedented loss of equity value and, of course, basic usefulness. We are going to see an amazing distress sale of properties, with few buyers. We're going to see a fight over the table scraps of the 20th century."

Stephen O’Leary, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California and an expert on the media and apocalypticism, says, “God’s got a two-fer here. Both sides are eager to see America punished for her sins; on one side it’s sexual immorality and porn and Hollywood, and on the other side it’s conspicuous consumption and Hummers.”

In some ways, these are mainstream feelings: In a recent CNN poll, 55% of those responding believe that global warming is causing the severe weather we've experienced recently, which is a kind of admission that a huge hurricane is part of the wages of (environmental) sin. Meanwhile, most polls show that 40% of all U.S. adults believe the physical world will eventually end as a result of a supernatural intervention, perhaps with a literal Rapture, Tribulation, Antichrist, and Battle of Armageddon described in the Book of Revelation. Nearly half of all Americans believe the Middle East will be “heavily involved” in the events surrounding the end of the world. And 40% believe the end of the world will come in their lifetime.