By Deacon Nemsy Gubatan
Psalm 9 declares: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will declare all your wondrous deeds.” Christmas is a good time to declare our tremendous gratitude for what God has done for us. It is the perfect time to count our blessings. So ponder upon the words of the following brave and fearless hearts living in an ocean of gratitude:
“To be alive, to be able to see, to walk ... it’s all a miracle. I have adapted the technique of living life from miracle to miracle.” – Arthur Rubinstein
“Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.” – Aldous Huxley
“Not being beautiful was the true blessing ... Not being beautiful forced me to develop my inner resources. The pretty girl has a handicap to overcome.” – Golda Meir
“Give thanks for sorrow that teaches you compassion; for pain that teaches you courage – and give exceeding thanks for the mystery which remains a mystery still – the veil that hides you from the infinite, which makes it possible for you to believe in what you cannot see.” – Robert Nathan
Now a quick story. Cindy went to a Catholic high school ran by nuns. Sr. Dolores was her English teacher during her las two years in high school. Sr. Dolores was her favorite teacher because she was kind, interesting, and loved her students. The nun also offered her time to tutor students on Saturdays who wanted to excel and to prepare for their college entrance exam.
Finally, Cindy graduated and went to college. She found college far more difficult and the professors less interested in helping out their students. Realizing what a gift Sr. Dolores was to her during her high school days, Cindy wrote the nun a simple but beautiful letter of gratitude.
Years later after Cindy graduated from college and began a career in publishing, she came across the name of Sr. Dolores in the obituary section of the local newspaper. So Cindy went to the funeral, paid her respects, and with a heavy heart started to leave the chapel. Suddenly, a humble nun approached her saying; “Thanks heaven you came. We have been trying to contact you. This is yours.” Then the nun handed her a piece of paper. Cindy recognized it as her thirty year old letter of gratitude to Sr. Dolores.
“It was in her prayer book,” the nun said. “She loved your letter. In her forty years of teaching that was her only thank you letter.”
So this Christmas, how can we thank God the Father for the perfect gift of his only begotten Son? Also, how can we thank the Christ child for coming into our world and into our lives? After all it is his birthday we celebrate. What is your personal gift to Him? Be extravagant. Don’t be stingy. Offer Him something that is intangible, pleasing, and unforgettable. Give Him your heart. Then the marvelous joy and peace of Christ will find you.
By Deacon Nemsy Gubatan
In the children’s book, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, the author Dr. Seuss criticizes the commercialization of Christmas and satirizes those who materially profit from them by exploiting the holiday season. Here’s the synopsis of the story.
The Grinch, a grouchy and selfish creature had a “small heart”. He lived on a mountain with his dog. From his mountain top he could hear the noisy Christmas festivities of the children and the people living in the valley. Annoyed and unable to understand the cause of their happiness, he planned to descend on the town to steal their Christmas presents and decorations to “prevent Christmas from coming.” And he did this successfully during the night.
But when Christmas came, the people were feasting and enjoying themselves as if nothing happened. So when the Grinch saw this, somehow his heart was moved and his “heart grew larger”. As a result, he returned all the presents and decorations he stole. The people where grateful and warmly welcomed him to their community. The Grinch then discovered that Christmas is more than just gifts and presents but is really about welcoming the new born Savior of the world. So as they often say – he lived happily ever after.
I have seen this kind of Christmas joy in the provinces of the Philippines. Barefoot children of poor families celebrating Christmas with great gusto and joy; grateful for what little they have, after first going to mass early in the morning. What’s wonderful is to see them sharing their meager food and toys with their neighbors. They are happy and content for what they have received. Apparently, their joy is their family and their faith. Also, without knowing it, by their faith and actions, they have made present the Christ child himself. This is our Christmas challenge, to make room for the infant Jesus in our hearts, and to engage in a conspiracy of love. This will bring us happiness on Christmas day.
“Christmas will always be as long as we stand heart to heart and hand in hand.” - Dr. Seuss
Dcn. Nemsy Gubatan
Mother Teresa of Calcutta does not need any introduction. Since I was young, I always knew her as a saint. What compels me to admire her is her heroic love of Christ. That’s why even some of the Hindus in India refer to her as one of their goddess.
Her heroic love was based on an intense and boundless love of God. On her way to the chapel very early in the morning she would silently pray:
“Each sigh, each look, each act of mine, shall be an act of love divine; and everything that I shall do, shall be dear Lord, for love of you.”
Then when she would put on her old sandals, she would pray:
“Of my own free will, dear Jesus, I shall follow you wherever you may go in search of souls, at any cost to myself and out of pure love of you.”
Now sharing her spiritual goals with the Sisters, she would say:
“Our vocation is not to work with lepers or the dying people; no, our vocation is to belong to Jesus. And because we belong to Jesus, like the vine and the branches, we produce fruit in abundance. As long as the branches remain united with the vine, they are capable of bringing forth fruit in abundance. For Jesus said: ‘I am the vine, you are the branches without me you can do nothing.’”
So what makes her heroic? It is her profound yet simple love of her Beloved. A love that does not demand anything in return but simply to allow her to continue loving the love of her life; Jesus the Son of God.
By Dcn. Nemsy Gubatan
Be not afraid to ask for God’s favor. The Son of God knows the nature of human needs and desire. There is no need to exaggerate or underplay our desires. State them as we actually need them.
Once a blind man begged St. Padre Pio to restore his sight, even just in one eye to enable him to see his love ones. The humble padre asked: “Only in one eye?” To which the man responded, “That would good enough.” Smiling, the padre concluded: “I shall pray for you.”
Weeks later the man returned overjoyed, thanking Padre Pio for his cure. “So are you seeing normally again?” the padre inquired. “Yes, just from this one eye,” the healed man answered. Padre Pio admonished: “Ah, only from one eye. Let that be a lesson to you. Never put limitations on God. Always ask for the big grace.”
Personally, most of the time I ask for what I basically need, I never underplay my wants. However, when praying for others, I usually inflate my requests. To balance things out however, I usually end up saying: “According to your will.”
Amazing though, when it comes to spiritual favors, I usually ask for the big grace: To be a better person, to increase in charity and humility. To spend more time in prayer and meditation. Then the big one; to see Him face to face, followed by a big sigh ... “When Lord, when?