By Nemsy Gubatan
In the ceiling above the altar of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican is the magnificent painting of Michelangelo depicting the last judgment and the second coming of Christ. It portrayed myriads of souls ascending into heaven while others were descending into purgatory or hell. In spite of the genius composition of the artwork, Cardinal Carafa and his friend Biago de Cesena complained to Pope Julius II about the painting because it depicted nude figures of men and women representing human souls.
The great Michelangelo got annoyed at Biago for complaining to the Pope so he purposely painted his face with his naked soul in hell. With a stroke of genius Michelangelo also placed Biago’s face and naked figure just above the entrance door of the chapel so everyone would notice it. Greatly embarrassed, Biago appealed to the Pope for his face to be erased from the painting. Silently the Pope pondered the request then said: “My jurisdiction does not extend to hell, so what Michelangelo has painted, it shall remain.” If you happen to visit the Sistine Chapel, look for the face of Biago de Cesena.
Since no one really know the second coming of Christ as depicted in Michelangelo’s fresco, except God the Father, what do we do in the interim? For some who are artistically inclined, we simply engage in creative waiting. But what is it? Perhaps it is best to describe it as a metaphor.
It is like a trapeze artist who lets go of the swinging bar he is clinging to so tightly, and after letting it go, wait there in mid-air for the other bar coming from the other side to give him an new lifeline. This is often called the mid-air transition. It can be scary. It can be temporary, or it can be a quick transition to the next life. As always you hope for the best.
In 1995, I had this temporary mid-air transition. At the time, I was faced with two big dilemmas. First, I was notified by my employer of a factory closure due to lack of business. Second, I was suddenly diagnosed after a simple annual physical exam, of a serious ailment that could be terminal. At this point I felt disoriented. Psychologically, it was overwhelming because of the intensity of the problems. It was obvious that my life was “on hold.”
In this state of bewilderment, I noticed that I was not my usual self. Sometimes I ate too little, and sometimes I ate too much. Sometimes I was silent when I should talk, and sometimes I would talk too much when I should be silent. At times I tried to hide my fears, and at times I would overstate it. In a peculiar way, I would start things which I did not intend to finish, or at times finished things which someone else started. Puzzling at times, I would get tired of friends inquiring about my health, and at other times, felt hurt when they didn’t ask. I was a mix bag of “chips and crackers.” But there were moments of great light. By the grace of God, I had some insights of how to cope with this mid-air transition.
First, I realized that I was more than what was happening to me, or the gargantuan problems I was facing. I discovered I had spiritual roots deeper than my consciousness. These roots were divine grounding based on an intimate knowledge and relationship with the all powerful and loving God. This experience of the transcendent pointed me to the reality that:
* It is astonishing to know that we never feel alone when we are in love with the Son of God.
* Prayer moves the hand that moves the world.
* Love is a miracle because it is always willing to do the impossible, and for God, nothing is impossible.
* Love unlocks doors that were not even there before.
* Sometimes we seek answers to our prayers more than we seek the One who answers them, Jesus the Lord.
Considering all of the above, it is clear that this creative waiting is fruitful when we are grounded in the truth of God’s never ending love. In my case it has proven all of the above Christian maxims to be absolutely true. I survived both dilemmas and made me a confident, happier, and hopeful person. It has changed my life and perspective forever.
Who is Christ
By Nemsy Gubatan
Through the ages, Jesus Christ has been the center of theological debates. Mistaking Him for a “false god”, and because of their envy, the Pharisees masterminded his death. But Jesus rose from the dead, and the Jewish religious leaders schemed to dishonor him by saying that his body was stolen by his disciples. Even today, only 33% of the world’s population, or 2.5 billion people, believe Jesus is the Son of God. These believers, you and I, are known to the world as Christians.
Being a Christian, we accept Jesus as true God and true man. This concept is a paradox to the non-believers. However, this truth was affirmed in the Council of Constantinople in the year 553. It basically stated that Jesus had two natures, human and divine, although one person. It is explained in the Catechism (Para 470) as follows:
“Jesus worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin.”
Note that although Jesus was human, he never ceased to be the Son of God. That’s why He can forgive sins, walk on water, and calm the sea. He can cleanse the lepers, heal the blind and the lame. He can raise the dead and drive out demons.
However, as a human person, Jesus is like us in all things, except sin. He has never sinned. He was born in a stable in Bethlehem, through Mary, His mother. He was once a baby like us, and wet his diapers, and needed much love and care. He laughed, cried, got hungry, and got tired. He had to learn to walk, work, and help his dad St. Joseph who was a carpenter. He went to church, or the synagogue, and worshipped with his parents. He learned the Torah or the Jewish scripture. He felt the painful accusations, anger, and jealousy of the Pharisees. He encountered the violence and torture of the Roman soldiers. He experienced being abandoned and betrayed by His apostles. He was tempted by the devil like us, but defeated him. He experienced death as all humans do. But being divine, he rose from the dead on his own power. He then established his church on earth and promised to protect it till the end of time. Why? Because he loves you and me to no end. His love is everlasting and unstoppable. Knowing this, it is our duty to keep this divine love burning in our hearts at all times. That’s why Mother Teresa of Calcutta said:
“Be careful of all that can block that personal contact with Jesus. The devil may try to use the hurts of life and sometimes your own mistakes to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you. Not only does he loves you, but even more ... he thirst and longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close.”
I would like to amplify those words of Mother Teresa: “He misses you when you don’t come close.” So can we come close to Jesus? There are many ways, but here’s a simple and unique way.
One of my ministry is visiting nursing homes and homebound people to give them the Eucharist. Sometimes I conduct communion service in a nursing home where most attendees are octogenarian. As such they are mostly in wheelchair and oftentimes half awake. Towards the end of the prayer service, I approach them individually and give them Holy Communion. The challenge is sometimes they have a hard time opening their mouth; and when they do, as I place the host in their mouth, their saliva is all over my hand. If you are not spiritually awake, you will find this somewhat repulsive. But if you know that this is Jesus disguised as an old man or woman, then the saliva will not bother you. You will simply relish the innocent behavior of these children of God. For me these wonderful fresh encounter with the good Lord are moments that brings me closer to him. On the practical side, there are hand sanitizer dispensers around the room. I have never been sick or infected in these facilities in my years of ministry to them.
Who then is Jesus Christ? He is the only Son of God, who came into our world to redeemed us from sin, and to open the door of heaven for us. He is also, in some mystical way, the poor, the hungry, the marginalized, the elderly, the helpless, and the needy person. When we see this, because our spiritual eyes are opened, then we will be rewarded with inner joy and pure happiness.
Two Ways of Knowing
By Nemsy Gubatan
Basically, there two ways of knowing. First is through the intellect, reason, or the mind. The mind knows through analysis, by breaking things down and putting it back together again. When we do this, we know we are close to reality.
The second knowing is through the heart. The heart signals this via powerful feelings, emotions, and inspiration. However to be assured, the heart plunges into prayer and contemplation. This contemplation is simply the lifting up of our hearts and souls to a loving God. Doing this provides us illumination and a bridge to divine love.
That’s why in making personal decisions there is always the struggle between the mind and the heart, or between the intellect and strong feelings. Let’s try to understand this via a true story.
Emily was born with beauty and wealth in the big city of Manila, Philippines. Well educated and gregarious, she had many handsome and wealthy suitors. Finally, she was matched by her parents with an educated, rich, and good looking young man. However, the match was not a perfect one because Emily was not enamored and attracted to the young man. The reason? They had conflicting personalities.
On a beautiful Sunday morning, as Emily went to church, she met an ordinary, humble, and respectful young man. His name was Efren. They developed an instant rapport and liking for each other. The only problem was that the man had paralyzed legs and was on a wheelchair. Efren was a teacher in an elementary school and people loved him because of his courteous and happy disposition.
Eventually, love took its course. Emily was attracted to Efren because of his honesty, simplicity, and piety. She felt close to God when she was with him. Similarly, Efren was attracted to Emily’s beauty, charm, and sincerity. He felt accepted and dignified when he was with her.
Soon, Emily’s parents knew about this blossoming friendship and they tried everything in their power to break up the relationship. Threats and bribes were offered to Efren to no avail. Why? Because Efren was now deeply in love with Emily and nothing could make him change his mind. As the saying goes; true love never gives up.
So what happened? Did true love prevail? Yes, it did. Eventually, Emily and Efren got married in the church where they met. This was shocking to the parents and to a lot of rich and famous people in Manila.
That’s why St. Thomas Aquinas said in his manuscript, “Summa Theologica": “The intellect listens to the emotions. The mind is made to serve the heart.” To this we can easily add; because the heart is programmed to seek the highest good which is pure love. Unfortunately, the mind alone cannot fully reach God. It is the mind, in harmony with the heart, and guided by faith, that can truly reach God. No wonder, it is so important to lift up our heart in prayer and contemplation to Jesus. Why? Because if the heart is lifted up to God, the heart with its feelings and emotions will convince the mind to follow. Subsequently, when the mind and the heart are in harmony, the person’s free will is activated and many good, positive actions follows.
“Yes, I will follow you Lord, I will do good,” we sometimes say in prayer. The mind and the heart has moved the person to express this. If there is harmony, there will be inner peace and joy. When this happens, it is usually a sign that we are doing God’s will.
Our Greatest Potential
By Nemsy Gubatan
After Jesus rose from the dead, he surprised his gloomy apostles by appearing to them on the seashores of Lake Tiberias and invited them to have breakfast with him. After breakfast, Jesus asked Peter three times; “Do you love me?” To this, Peter responded, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Satisfied, Jesus then reminded Peter of his mission saying: “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep.”
So therein lie our greatest potential; to love God intensely and to bring souls to Him without counting the cost. Obviously, our capacity to love is linked with our capacity to serve. Why? Because we cannot love and be selfish. We cannot love and not be of service to others. That’s why Jesus said, “The greatest among you is the servant of all.” Obviously, this service is linked with our deep love of God. Without an intense love of God, helping others would be difficult.
This reminded me of what Jesus said to the holy nun and mystic Mary of the Trinity. Jesus said to her, “What does all the rest matter? Am I not with you? Then you will listen to me, then you will console me, then you will speak to me, then you will love me.” Clearly, Jesus’ ultimate desire is for us to fall in love with Him. Why? Because Jesus is lovesick for us. Yes, the Son of God, the One who died for us on the cross is lovesick for us. Because we are too busy doing other things, Jesus wants us to be aware of His loving presence.
Researchers give us the following statistics of how most working people spend their time on average:
Sleeping and grooming, 7.8 hours.
Commuting and working, 8.5 hours.
Housework and leisure, 4.2 hours.
Watching TV and reading, 3.2 hours.
Praying, 15 minutes.
No wonder Jesus is so lovesick for us! We give Him only 15 minutes each day. But there is really something more profound that is often overlooked. Consider what Jesus later said to Mary of the Trinity, “Yes, work is a great dignity, but what I desire is not merely your work, but yourself.” Wow! There it is again. Jesus wants you! All of you!
On one occasion I was speaking to a very active parishioner involved in a bunch of church ministry. She told me that often she was exhausted when she got home. Then I asked her if she was happy. She replied, “Somewhat”.
I reminded her, “You should be bubbling with joy with all that good work that you do for the Lord.” She groaned and said, “I wish. But I don’t feel as close to God right now. I’m tired.” So I mentioned the words of Jesus to the mystic Mary of the Trinity, “Work is a great dignity, but what I desire is not merely your work, but yourself.” Then I gently asked her, “Have you given your heart to Jesus lately? How often did you say I love you Lord? How much intimate and quality time did you spend with Him?
She was silent. Moments later, she said: “Thank you for your words. I have forgotten the object of my love.” Note what she said, “I have forgotten the object of my love.” And that’s the crux of the problem.
I recall a saying, “You can trip over love, but if you fall in love, you fall forever.” And that’s what Jesus desires, that we fall in love with Him without ceasing. In the final analysis, to love Jesus unceasingly, is our greatest potential. Practicing this will bring us inner joy and profound happiness. As Jesus said to the holy nun and mystic, Consolata Betrone, “Love me and you will be happy. The more you love me, the happier you will be.”
By Nemsy Gubatan
During the time of Jesus you would think that the world was falling apart seeing the brutality of the Roman soldiers and the ruthlessness of the Jewish religious leaders who were planning to discredit and kill Jesus. In this situation it appears, that evil has the upper hand. Even today there is so much darkness in the world with Christian persecutions and Christian values under assault by non-believers and the evil one. Nonetheless, in the eyes of Pope Benedict XVI there is always hope. Why? Here’s what he said:
“Evil has power via man’s freedom, whereby it creates structures for itself. For there are obviously structures of evil. They eventually exert pressure on man; they can even block his freedom, and thereby erect a wall against God’s penetration in the world. God didn’t conquer evil in Christ, in the sense that evil could no longer temp man’s freedom; rather, he offered to take us by the hand, and to lead us. But he doesn’t compel us.
Apparently, this is the way he wants to rule, that is the divine form of power. And the non-divine form of power, obviously consists in imposing oneself, and getting one’s way and coercing. What we know as Christians is that the world, in spite of everything, is in God’s hands. Even when man casts off what binds him to God and hastens toward destruction, God will create a new beginning in the midst of a floundering world.”
Wow! This concept speaks of Lent. Jesus will create a new beginning in us in the midst of our floundering. Those who went to confession during Lent knows about the breakthrough of a new beginning. As we came out of the confessional, we felt like walking away from sin, and beginning a new life of freedom in loving Jesus as deeply as we can. It is a fresh start offering Jesus a fresh committed love.
Clearly, Jesus offers us a second chance, over and over again, until we make it into the Promised Land. Therefore let us simply thank the good Lord for leading us to his altar of mercy and love, and to strengthen our freedom to be faithful to him to the end. For we know that true love stories never have endings; and knowing this gives us inner peace and joy.
By Nemsy Gubatan
For Jesus, reconciliation has something to do with offering gifts at the altar. He mandated that before we offer our gift to God at the altar that we should first be reconciled with our brother or sister whom we may have alienated, have bad feelings with, and have harbored resentment. Jesus does not want us to carry a heavy heart when we bring our gifts at the altar. He wants us to be joyful when we approach him.
Why is this? Because even our best Lenten sacrifices would lose its impact and value. As a result we could be spiritually limping all the way to Easter. So first, we should be reconciled with God through confession and sincere repentance. Then we should be reconciled with those whom we have alienated or vice versa.
The goal is to make amends as soon as possible. The obvious reason is that God does not want us to tarnish the gifts we bring to the altar during Lent. Also, He wants peace and joy reigning among His children when Easter comes. Unfortunately, there are times when reconciliation does not come easy, especially if we have been deeply hurt.
I remember many years ago when I worked for a boss who was so hard on me. He overloaded me with work and asked me to come in an hour early and stay an hour late. I surmised that it was because I became a good friend of his boss and he was jealous. Under such great pressure, I left the company and found a much better job with a new friendlier boss.
However the hurt was so deep that I had a hard time forgiving my old boss. The confessional was helpful but not fully effective. So I prayed for divine assistance. Six months later, I heard from my old friends that my former boss had a heart attack and was now on permanent disability. Suddenly my heart was flooded with compassion for him. I knew how he loved his work, and how he had great expectations for advancement; now it appears that he has reached a dead end.
I had mixed feelings, but mostly compassion and empathy. Immediately I bowed my head and sincerely prayed for him and his family. I also asked the good Lord to forgive me of harboring some ill feelings towards him in the past. Suddenly, freed from this shackle, I realized that resentments are burdens we don’t need to carry. Also I understood that now I can bring my gifts to the altar with pure joy and love.
Remember what St. Francis said; “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.” Likewise what Mahatma Gandhi advised; “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” And to these admonitions we conclude ... happiness are for those who can forgive from the heart and bring their gifts to the altar with perfect joy. When we do this, the invisible Jesus looks at you with great pride and longing ... longing for your intense love.
Love is Always a Choice
By Nemsy Gubatan
Princess Alice was the daughter of Queen Victoria of England. She had a 4 year old son whom she loved so much. But one day her son got sick with a deadly and contagious disease known as “black diphtheria”. The nurses told her to stay away from her son to avoid contamination. But one morning, as the Princess watched her son in a far corner of the room, she heard her son tell the nurse; “Why doesn’t my mother kiss me anymore?”
This was more than the Princess could bear, so with tears in her eyes, she ran to her son, picked him up and showered him with kisses.
This turned out to be the kiss of death. The Princess contracted the disease and in a matter of weeks, both mother and son were buried side by side. Was this a foolish act the Princess did? Perhaps. But who ever said that love is logical.
Look at the Crucified One, bleeding to death on the cross. To a pagan or unbeliever, what Jesus did, with all the power at his fingertips appear to be nonsensical. But to Jesus, it was the best thing he ever did. Why? Because He loves us, deeply and intensely. Also, because He knows that love is a choice; and He chose to love us without limit. That’s why a mystic once said that love is never stingy, it trembles when it thinks it has given so little.” So during Lent, we are invited to consider the idea of personal sacrifice. Why? Because love is sacrifice, and it means self-denial, or giving up something for a higher purpose.
I remember the time I asked my grandson what he offered up for Lent. He said: “I offered up complaining. Instead, I try to say something nice about other people.” I told him, “I’m so proud of you”.
Then he told me about Sharon, his classmate who offered up talking for 40 days. She did this with the cooperation of her teachers at Bishop Moore High School, her parents, and her classmates. To avoid irritating others, she carried a writing tablet to answer important questions. What a good choice of sacrifice.
After the Lenten season both Sharon and my grandson felt more centered in God and happier. So what do you intend to offer up for Lent?
PREVIOUS ISSUESThe Chaperon
By Nemsy Gubatan
Life is full of surprises. When we least expect it, the experience of a lifetime engulfs us and it becomes a milestone in our life. At first we think it is just a happy coincidence, but downstream we realize it is the hand of God. So let me share a personal story with you.
The phone rang and I grab it immediately. As expected, it was my good friend Florendo. He said, “Nemsy, there’s a university dance this weekend, and I have arranged a blind date for you. She’s rather charming and a good dancer. Let’s meet at the usual place and go from there.”
His invitation was rather timely and encouraging, because at the time I was keeping my eyes open for a possible partner in life. With eagerness, I told him that I was looking forward to meet this “blind date.”
At the appointed time, we drove to meet my blind date at her residence. What would she look like? Then it happened, I was formally introduced to her and I noticed that she was upbeat and had a big smile in her face. Well dressed in a semi-formal gown, she greeted us politely. I smiled back and shook her hands. Then, without missing a beat, she said, “I forgot to tell you that I am taking a chaperon with me.
“Chaperon!” I silently mumbled under my breath. I saw my friend nervously glance at me. Without hesitation my blind date continued: “Let me introduce her to you.”
Momentarily, she disappeared and came back with her chaperon. As soon as I saw her, I was dazzled by her charm and beauty. Wearing a simple dress, she looked like royalty to me. Although somewhat shy and unassuming, I could not take my eyes away from her. As she was introduced to us, she simply smiled and did not say a word.
When we arrived at the “Tres Hermanas” grand ballroom, in Manila, Philippines, the party was already at full swing. That night I remember dancing with my blind date, but the one time I danced with the chaperon I felt the evening was enchanted and the whole world seem to have vanished into oblivion. My wish at the time was that the music would never end. To my surprise I sensed that she was also enjoying my company. We were laughing and exchanging pleasantries with great delight. For me, the attraction was compelling, and I began to wonder if I was falling in love.
The days that followed confirmed what I feared most, I could not forget the chaperon. Our moments together that night, brief as it was, had captured my imagination. So I made up my mind, that I would see her again.
There is something magic about human love. In some small ways it mirrors divine love. Yet, in the final analysis they are complimentary. Obviously, God is the greatest lover of all. But we are called to experience this overwhelming and intoxicating love in both human and divine love. Note however, that this experience can only lead to a deeper relationship and endless joy. Why? Because life has no meaning without relationship and we are hardwired to find someone to love. And since God is love and the greatest lover, He is our ultimate goal. He is our heart's resting place.
By Dcn. Nemsy
Fr. Placido was a good friend of Padre Pio having gone to the same seminary with him. In 1957 he got seriously ill and was taken to the hospital in San Severo, Italy. One night, out of the blue, he suddenly saw Pade Pio at the foot of his bed assuring him of his recovery. The visitor then walked over towards the window, put his hands on the glass window and disappeared.
The next morning, Fr. Placido feeling rejuvenated, got out of bed and walked towards the window. There he saw the imprint of Padre Pio’s hand on the glass. The news of this travelled fast around the hospital and people flocked to his room to see the imprint for themselves. Even those outside the hospital heard about the story and they too flocked to Fr. Placido’s room. This created unnecessary traffic in the hospital so the authorities tried to erase and clean off the imprint, but it would not wash away. It was only after a few days later did the imprint disappear.
Fr. D’Apolito, a friend of Fr. Placido who saw the imprint during his visit wanted to verify this unusual incident. So he went to visit Padre Pio at the San Giovanni monastery and asked the holy priest about his surprise visit. Padre Pio simply said with a smile: “Yes, I went to the hospital, but don’t say anything to anyone.”
Ah, the beauty and simplicity of sanctity. It does bring inner joy and happiness.
By Deacon Nemsy Gubatan
New Year is upon us, a springboard for new beginnings and new spiritual blossoming; also a time for resolutions and good intentions. To pave the way, pause for a few moments, close your eyes, and ask the “igniter of divine love, the revealer of truth about ourselves, and the wind
of courage” ... the Holy Spirit, to overshadow us with wisdom and insight into what is best for us to fly into the arms of God, into the arms of love. Why? Because if we do this, our spiritual eyes will be opened and change will be possible ... because only pure love can make this happen.
So consider the following New Year’s resolutions suggested by Fr. William Bausch.
First, Pick Up ... meaning pick up and deepen your relationship with God. Spend more quality time in prayer, in adoration, and in reflecting on the direction of your life. That’s why Plato said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Where is your life heading? Are you loosing spiritual ground, or are you gaining confidence because of a closer walk with the Lord. Now is the time to examine your life.
Second, Put Down ... meaning put down last year’s baggage or garbage – emotional or material. Just like what happened to Julie. She was so upset at her mean boss she quit her job. Fortunately, she found a new one; but there she continued talking about her old obnoxious boss to her new friends at work. So they simply told her: “So forget him. Why not just enjoy your work here with us.” For sure, that was a good advice; put down your old emotional baggage.
Then another co-worker told Julie this story: “I moved a few years ago and I hired a professional mover to pack for me. He asked me what I wanted him to pack. I waived my hand and said, “Everything!” When I got to my new place, I realized that he had taken my words literally. So along with my furniture, he pack all my trash bins, my old garbage including old newspapers, and empty bottles. That was a big mistake.”
True statement, so let’s abandon last year’s baggage and garbage – material or emotional. Also let’s abandon our old bad habits, disappointments, and grudges. Let us start fresh with new positive expectations and new hope.
Third, Pull Back. Dr. Jerald Jampolsky wrote the book, “Love is Letting Go of Fear.” In that book he said:
“Have you ever given yourself the opportunity of going through just one day concentrating on totally accepting everyone and making no judgments? Then he continued, “Everything we think or say, reacts on us like a boomerang. When we send out judgment in the form of criticism, fury, or attack thoughts, they come back to us. When we send out only love, it comes back to us.”
So during this New Year let’s try to purposely and consciously to pull back from judging others and just listen and be positive towards them. If someone irritates you, just say a quick prayer for them. Try these New Year’s resolutions and you will find a quieter life and a happier one.