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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Ash Wednesday

Today, millions of Catholics worldwide will have their foreheads blacken by ash. Some uninitiated people may think this odd. Some may even label this a 'calling attention to oneself.' Why do Catholics observe this ritual? For many it's a sign and an act of repentance. We ask the minister to put ash on our foreheads to remind us of our motal lives, our origin and our eventual destiny. From ash we were created and so to ash we shall all return.

But ash reminds us of one more important thing: that when we repent, our bodies die in sin but are resurrected in Christ. Like the ash that marks our forehead yet not forever there as it can be easily washed, our sins may mark our lives but they can be easily removed when we ask the Lord to forgive us. We die with our sins everytime we accept our faults and desire to be forgiven of them and resolve not to do them again. But we also rise again as soon as we receive God's forgiveness.

Yet Christ knows that we are humans, it's in our nature to sin. We commit the same mistakes over and over again. That's the reason why we have to ask for forgiveness over and over again. Ash Wednesday is also the first day of Lent. It ushers the triumphant entry of Jesus in Jerusalem, his passion, death and resurrection. Today, let us remember that we are sinful people and that we need God to heal us of our sinfulness. Let us make this day a special day for the Lord.

"Turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Allah, the Faithful One

N.B. I have always wondered how our Moslem brothers and sisters regard their God, Allah. I ask how they approach Him in their prayer. I found this poem from a Maranao website and I'm surprised at the similarity of our idea of God with their own as loving, forgiving, magnanimous and merciful God . Now, if only other Christians would realize this, I wonder how they would react. I'd like to get your idea after reading this.


A Poem by Jalylah A. Mala

(Sat. 04 September 2004)

Why did you keep your burden inside you when you have Allah to tell it to? Why did you fear everyone might hate you when you have Him
who understands you?
Why did you fill your heart with pain and anguish when you have Him
to fill it with eternal bliss?
Why did you choose to settle in turbulence when there’s His pure love
that speaks of peace?

Allah never left you alone,
He was with you all along,
He was tapping your shoulder when you almost wanted to stop,
He was putting a smile on your face when you almost wanted to give up.

Allah has seen the real person in you yearning,
He was wiping your tears off when you were down crying,
He has all the answers to all your questions but you just didn’t care,
You didn’t let Him be your guide because you weren’t sure if for you,
He was there.

Open your heart,
Let Allah wash away the hurt,
Embrace the greatest love He, alone could give you,
He will never doubt you, just be true.

Allah loves what He made,
“Nobody loves me,” that’s what you said,
He wants to see you smile so never lose hope,
So now hang on to His Paradise of heaven’s rope.

Pray to Allah for He listens to all prayers,
Believe in Him alone and not the deceiving others,
Do what He says for He is your mentor,
Love Him truly and not the impostor.

So listen now and lo!
Look up and take it slow,
Walk on to the life Allah chose you to live,
Live your life with Him and you will never grieve.

When you are in a discourse with no more to tell, let Allah’s love
be your word,
When you are in a battle unarmed, let His love be your sword,
When you feel cold, let His love warm you,
When you stumble and fall, let His love catch you.

When you can no longer think, let Allah’s love quicken your memory,
When you have no more food to eat, let His love fill your tummy,
When you can no longer breathe, let His love be your air,
When you have no more to drink, let His love be your water.

When you are lost in the rain, let Allah’s love be your shade,
When you can no longer hear, let His love be your aide,
When you are lost in the dark, let His love be your light,
When you can no longer see, let His love be your sight.

When you are bruised in a fight, let Allah’s love stop your bleedings,
When you can no longer fly, let His love be your wings,
When you are wronged in an argument, let His love unleash what’s true,
When you can no longer walk, let His love carry you.

When no one understands you, let Allah’s love be searched,
When no one listens to you, let His love be heard,
When no one believes in you, let His love be seen,
When no one trusts you, let His love be serene.

When you believe nobody loves you, let Allah’s love be your confidence,
When you doubt nobody protects you, let His love be your defense,
When you feel nobody cares for you, let His love heed,
When you think nobody minds you, let His love breed.

When someone fools you, let Allah’s love make you wiser,
When someone belittles you, let His love make you greater,
When someone scorns you, let His love admire you,
When someone abandons you, let His love show you what to do.

When you are weak, let Allah’s love be your strength,
When you can no longer smile, let His love be sent,
When you are lost, let His love be your way,
When you can no longer speak, let His love tell you what to say.

When you are afraid, let Allah’s love be your protection,
When you are confused, let His love be your liberation,
When you are ill, let His love be your remedy,
When you are hurting, let His love be your therapy.

When you feel like giving up, let Allah’s love push you,
When you feel tired and fed up, let His love’s purpose pursue,
When you reach the pinnacle of your journey,
The angels of the heavens will welcome you finally.

So go on,
Walk to Allah’s throne,
Dry your eyes now and believe,
You have a beautiful life to live.

Stand up and don’t be afraid,
Walk on to where the truth is laid,
Feel the presence of Allah’s love in every air that you breathe,
Feel the might of His power in every drop of hope you grip.

Walk on to the road leading to His heavens’ grandeur,
Put your best foot forward and think not of the obscure,
Don’t go a day without his love, you will never falter,
Don’t let the devil deceive your heart, Allah shall conquer it forever.

So, smile now oh dear,
Now it’s all clear,
The Almighty Allah is forgiving,
Just let go of your hurting.

Hold on and believe in Allah’s love,
That’s the best you can have,
Please never weep again,
And in your heart, let His love remain.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Rabbi, It’s not Good to be Here! But….

This is a homily I delivered to the JP community last Saturday.

Yesterday, I attended Mass at the college chapel. Atty. Jo Maribojoc of JVP was sharing her vocation story. After her sharing, an elderly Jesuit priest named Sergio Su (yes, as in seryoso!) gave a little footnote on vocation. He cautioned young people who were in that mass that many people think that vocation is a life-fulfilling career. He narrated a story of someone he knew, a man who entered the Cistercians and went out because “he did not find fulfilment there.” This man, said Fr. Su then married and begat children. Later on he felt that was not happy in the married life either and he “abandoned” his family because “he did not find fulfilment there.” This poor man, according to Fr. Su, is still looking for fulfilment. What he doesn’t know is that religious life and married life are not life-fulfilling vocations. They are life-spending vocations.

Allow me to reflect further on this theme.

There is nothing wrong in finding fulfilment in what one does. A social worker for example may find fulfilment in what she does; giving aid and providing resources to people she works with. There is indeed a fulfilling joy at having accomplished something; like a well written paper, a lecture delivered with panache or a project done with excellence. There is fulfilment too in relationships that go smoothly and have few kinks to iron out. Fulfilment is found in deeply consoling prayers, when one can almost touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak. These fulfilments bring joy but more often than not, the joys don’t last. At the end of the day the social worker may find herself burnt out due to the many demands of her work. The A student finds studying increasingly boring or the teacher may soon discover that despite his passion in teaching, his students never seem to appreciate his dedication. The same goes for friendships that take on a new and different meaning. Prayers too, no matter how lofty may bring aridity rather than consolation.

A person who insists that religious life can offer fulfilment to his needs may soon find himself exhausted, bored, unappreciated, therefore, lonely. Sooner or later, he will ask whether religious life is really cut out for him or he is just plodding through it all. Now when we begin to see our vocation as a matter of life and self-spending we also start to understand its mystery. Ignatius did not found the Society because he felt good doing so. He did not roam the streets looking for beggars and prostitutes because the task was self-fulfilling. Xavier did not frequent hospitals and spent a great deal baptizing children in far away places simply because he found joy doing so. These two Jesuits found their vocations not self-fulfilling but self-giving.

I imagine the many years that St. Ignatius spent writing letters and finishing the Constitution of the Society. I imagine him spending countless hours poring over documents and letters, straining his neck, blacking his fingers with ink stains, working in suffocating heat or freezing coldness in his room. I imagine too the many times when God seemed so distant to him when he was battling his own demons. I wonder how many times Ignatius cringed at his seat praying and consolation did not come to him.

I also wonder the distress and depression that Xavier went through during his trips to Africa and Asia. How many times had he cursed the waves of the Pacific that in several times tried to kill him. What hardships did he endure teaching little children the rudiments of faith. I imagine him waiting everyday for a piece of good news from his dear friends in Europe while he stared and counted the coconuts in Sancian. What could have Xavier done when those consoling letters never came?

Life and self-spending rather than fulfilling. This is also the theme of our Gospel today. Peter, in his classic impulsiveness blurted out to Jesus when he saw the latter transfigured into a dazzling figure, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Little that Peter knew that the Son of Man was to be handed to his accusers to suffer great torture and be sentenced to die. Peter was looking for self-fulfilment. He wanted to make the most out of the rare opportunities to behold the manifestation of God’s power right before his eyes. He wanted to linger on and savour every bit of that experience. After all, not many were given that opportunity.

But Christ did not come to have a self-fulfilling mission. He had to give of himself in obedience to Father’s will. That meant giving up everything he loved on this earth: material possessions, fame and even intimate friends. Peter did not understand this. The Mount Tabor experience was, for him the zenith of apostleship. It was only later Peter learned that Christ’s full transfiguration happened not on Tabor but on Calvary where he gave his life as an ultimate act of self-spending. Christ told Peter that they must hurry down from Tabor because he still had many things to do before they take his life. And Christ was right because the real battle was not way up there on a mountain but in the plains where the lame and the blind, the sick and the lonely, the abandoned and the oppressed are.

Oftentimes I feel like Peter. I look for self-fulfilment in what I do. I continually search for that elusive joy in the mundane task and the daily grind. And how often have I been frustrated trying to do so. I keep on insisting that happiness is in doing things, and achieving great happiness is in accomplishing greater things. When these things happen I find myself praying for release from this preoccupation and for a fuller understanding of a life-spending vocation. So that like Ignatius, like Xavier, I too, can find God in all things “in insta importune et opportune” (in season and out of season). And like Peter I may learn to go down from my mountain and say, “Rabbi, it is not technically good to be here. But I will prepare three tents, one for you, one for me, and let Ignatius and Xavier share in the third one. ” (Or better yet, I will prepare three tents, one for Xavier, one for Ignatius and one for You and me and let Peter, James and John patrol the neighborhood for wolves and intruders. =) )

Weng Bava, SJ
February 18, 2006
JP Chapel

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Greatest Lover in the World

When I was in college I read one of Johnny Hart's panels showing two ants (apparently a pair) talking atop a wall. This is how their conversation goes:

Girl ant: "Honey, do you love me?"
Boy ant: "Yeah, of course."
Girl ant: "Do you love me enough to die for me?"
Boy ant: "Yeah, why not?"
Girl ant: "Do you love me enough to die for me even if I weren't even born yet?"
Boy ant: "Isn't that asking too much from a guy?"
Girl ant: "I don't know, I just know someone who does."

Then the last panel shows that they are actually perched on a cross. (Oh, how I wish I could have that comic strip and post it here!)

That very simple comic strip says a lot of what I want to say here: there is an actual person who can love us more than what we can imagine. There is someone who can go the distance of loving us, to death, even if we aren't born yet. Now isn't that something to be grateful for?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

My Fish Stink, Lord! And my Bread is Soggy

Have you ever had days when nothing you did seemed right? Like one really bad event which led to something worse and turned really really worst. Yesterday was a classic day for me. First I lost two articles that had just been given to me by my friends. The first one was a black jacket that I had just left in our dining room. I know I am clumsy with my things but I did not expect that someone would actually take interest in a second hand jacket. I also left a new umbrella at the university (that was my 8th!). Two of my appointments were canceled. The web designer I was talking with couldn't get things done according to what we have agreed upon. Then I had a misunderstanding with someone who lives close to me. And on and on and on, like a long list of soiled laundry. These things can sometimes make me wish that I had stayed in bed all day.

Today's Gospel talks about Jesus multiplying fish and bread. A fellow scholastic preached about giving to God even the littlest that we have so He can make big things out of them. I'm wondering what would God do to my little "fishes" that stink. Will He multiply my mistakes? Increase the number of my short-comings? Increase my woes? Give me a string of fiascoes after one blunder?

St. Ignatius, our patron saint, teaches us to review our days before we retire to bed. From our experiences, we dialogue with Christ how our day fared. We give Him thanks for the blessings He gave us. We are to feel sorry for offending Him or for turning His invitation down to a fuller communion with Him. We also ask Him to give us courage and determination and strength to carry on even if we don't see the significance of the trials that come our way.

Though it may be embarrasing to give it to the Lord, I guess my fish still counts, no matter how stinky it may be. After all, Jesus likes stinky people.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Sacrament of Waiting

by Fr. James Donelan, S.J.

The English poet John Milton once wrote that those who serve stand and wait. I think I would go further and say that those who wait render the highest form of service. Waiting requires more discipline, more self-control and emotional maturity, more unshakeable faith in our cause, more unwavering hope in the future, more sustaining love in our hearts than all the great deeds of derring-do that go by the name of action.

Waiting is a mystery—a natural sacrament of life. There is a meaning hidden in all the times we have to wait. It must be an important mystery because there is so much waiting in our lives.

Everyday is filled with those little moments of waiting—testing our patience and our nerves, schooling us in our self-control—pasensya na lang. We wait for meals to be served, for a letter to arrive, for a friend, concerts and circuses. Our airline terminals, railway stations, and bus depots are temples of waiting filled with men and women who wait in joy for the arrival of a loved one—or wait in sadness to say goodbye and to give that last wave of hand. We wait for birthdays and vacations; we wait for Christmas. We wait for spring to come or autumn—for the rains to begin or stop.

And we wait for ourselves to grow from childhood to maturity. We wait for those inner voices that tell us when we are ready for the next step. We wait for graduation, for our first job, our first promotion. We wait for success, and recognition. We wait to grow up—to reach the stage where we make our own decision.

We cannot remove this waiting from our lives. It is part of the tapestry of living—the fabric in which the threads are woven that tell the story of our lives.

Yet the current philosophies would have us forget the need to wait. “Grab all the gusto you can get.” So reads one of America’s great beer advertisements—Get it now. Instant pleasure—instant transcendence. Don’t wait for anything. Life is short—eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you’ll die. And so they rationalize us into accepting unlicensed and irresponsible freedom—premarital sex and extramarital affairs—they warn against attachment and commitment, against expecting anything of anybody, or allowing them to expect anything of us, against vows and promises, against duty and responsibility, against dropping any anchors in the currents of our life that will cause us to hold and to wait.

This may be the correct prescription for pleasure—but even that is fleeting and doubtful. What was it Shakespeare said about the mad pursuit of pleasure? “Past reason hunted, and once had, past reason hated.” Now if we wish to be real human beings, spirit as well as flesh, souls as well as heart, we have to learn to love someone else other than ourselves.

For most of all waiting means waiting for someone else. It is a mystery brushing by our face everyday like stray wind or a leaf falling from a tree. Anyone who has ever loved knows how much waiting goes into it, how much waiting is important for love to grow, to flourish through a lifetime.

Why is this so? Why can’t we have love right now—two years, three years, five years—and seemingly waste so much time? You might as well ask why a tree should take so long to bear fruit, the seed to flower, carbon to change into a diamond.

There is no simple answer, no more than there is to life’s demands: having to say goodbye to someone you love because either you or they have already made other commitments, or because they have to grow and find the meaning of their own lives, having yourself to leave home and loved ones to find your path. Goodbyes, like waiting, are also sacraments of our lives.

All we know is that growth—the budding, the flowering of love needs patient waiting. We have to give each other time to grow. There is no way we can make someone else truly love us or we love them, except through time. So we give each other that mysterious gift of waiting—of being present without making demands or asking rewards. There is nothing harder to do than this. It tests the depth and sincerity of our love. But there is life in the gift we give.

So lovers wait for each other until they can see things the same way, or let each other freely see things in quite different ways. What do we lose when lovers hurt each other and cannot regain the balance and intimacy of the way they were? They have to wait—in silence—but still be present to each other until the pain subsides to an ache and then only a memory, and the threads of the tapestry can be woven together again in a single love story.

What do we lose when we refuse to wait? When we try to find short cuts through life, when we try to incubate love and rush blindly and foolishly into a commitment we are neither mature nor responsible enough to assume? We lose the hope of ever truly loving or being loved. Think of all the great love stories of history and literature. Isn’t it of their very essence that they are filled with the strange but common mystery—that waiting is part of the substance, the basic fabric—against which the story of that true love is written?

How can we ever find either life of love if we are too impatient to wait for it?

n.b. I "stole" this post from a fellow Jesuit's site. I know he won't mind.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Brother's Keeper's Prayer


I know I'm not perfect
And I appreciate the fact
That you don't want me to be one
You are just happy that I'm human
With all my faults and my weaknesses

But you won't tolerate my excesses
And short-comings
As much as possible
You want me holy
Despite my tendencies to sin and err

There are times when I feel that
I have done enough
But you still ask me to give more
To understand more
To forgive more
To sacrifice a little bit more

But sometimes I feel I want to give up
Sometimes I feel that you are asking
Too much and too many
And that you are difficult to please
And would take no for an answer

When I feel this, grant me courage
To go on, to continue loving
To continue giving the best I have
And being the best that I can be
Let me not be disheartened when things
Don't go my way or when events seem
To prove the otherwise

Make me more and more attuned
To the promptings of your Spirit
Teach me patience
Teach me endurance
Teach me serenity
In short, teach me to be
My brother's keeper.

Because most of the time,
I'm the one who need's keeping.