The Bread of Life
By Nemsy Gubatan
Why are some people attracted to Jesus, while others are not? Of the six billion people on earth, only around two billion has some faith and belief in the Son of God. Why? I’m not sure, but for me, it remains a paradox and an enigma.
Sundar Singh who was a new Hindu convert to Christianity was distributing copies of the Gospel of John to passengers in a train headed for Bombay (Mumbai). One passenger took a copy of the Gospel and tore it to pieces, then in anger threw them out of the window. That seem to be the end of the episode. However, Divine Providence chose to involve a man named Ananda.
He was walking along the railroad tracks when he happen to pick up a small piece of paper, and with curiosity read the words which was written in his native language. It simply read, “the bread of life.” He had no idea what it meant so he inquired among his friends. He was told that the words were from a Christian book. However he was advised not to read the book because it would defile him.
But Ananda was fascinated by the words, “the bread of life.” He purposely decided to buy a copy of the New Testament in a book store. The clerk showed him the phrase where Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Ananda was intrigued and spellbound by the words of Jesus. As a result, he eagerly studied the Gospel of John, was attracted to Jesus, and later had a conversion experience. To everyone’s surprise, Ananda ended up becoming a preacher.
This brings us to the question why others are not attracted to Jesus. Consider the words of Jesus: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him.” Essentially, the root of the fascination and attraction to Jesus, is that it is a gift; a precious gift from the Father. That’s why even among Christian families, not all are attracted to Jesus. In my own family lineage, there are Catholics, Protestants, agnostics, atheist, and even Buddhist. Indeed, how true are the words of Jesus at the last supper: “Father all those you gave me, I would have in my company.” Clearly then, you and I were given by the Father to Jesus; that’s why we recognize Jesus, the Son of God, as our Lord and Savior.
As a parallel, it is noteworthy to discern that those who are attracted to Jesus are also attracted to the “bread of life”. Why? Because Jesus is our bread of life. He said so in John 6:32 and onward. He said the following beautiful and inspiring words of hope:
*** “I am telling you the truth, what Moses gave you was not the bread from heaven. It is my Father who gives you the real bread from heaven. For the bread that God gives is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
*** “I am the bread of life. He who come to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never be thirsty. Everyone whom my Father gives me, will come to me. I will never turn away anyone who comes to me, because I have come down from heaven to do not my own will, but the will of him who sent me. For what the Father wants is that all who see the Son and believe in him should have eternal life. And I will raise them to life on the last day.”
*** “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. The bread that I will give him is my flesh which I give so that the world may live. I am telling you the truth; if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you.”
*** “For my flesh is the real food, my blood is the real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I will live in him.”
These are powerful life giving words of Jesus. It speaks about Holy Communion as we know it in the Church. Receiving Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist gives us strength, hope and inner joy.
One time, Napoleon Bonaparte, a genius in war, met with his top generals discussing his many victories in the battlefield. One of them ask him which was the happiest day of his life. The generals wondered if he would mention the battle of Lodi, or perhaps his triumph over the army of Italy when he was a young general at the age of twenty six. Or perhaps he would cherish his victory of Austerlitz which made him master of Europe.
The emperor looked thoughtful for a moment, then said to his generals, “Ah, the happiest day of my life? That was the day of my first communion. I was near God then.”
Peace, joy, and inner strength; these are the fruits of receiving Holy Communion. It can be unforgettable. It can transform our hearts and bring dignity to our lives. No wonder Jesus intentionally instituted the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, because he wanted to make sure we have all the spiritual sustenance and provisions we need for our journey to the Messianic Banquet. That’s why St. Augustine said: “God is all to you: if you are hungry, he is bread; if thirsty he is water; if darkness, he is light; if naked, he is a robe of immortality.”
The Object of My Love
By Nemsy Gubatan
Looking for champions of our faith, we often look up to saints like Peter and Paul. After all, both of them were martyred giving up their lives as powerful witnesses of the Gospel. As a testimonial of their fidelity to Jesus, you can visit the eternal city of Rome, and there you will find the magnificent and separate basilicas dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul.
Of course they did not become saints overnight. Like us, they too struggled with the idea of being totally dedicated to following Jesus. Sometimes they would get things right and sometimes getting things wrong.
Like Peter, he fell asleep while Jesus was praying and agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane; although he was told by Jesus to stay awake and pray. There are times however, when Peter gets it right; like when he boldly proclaimed in front of the disciples that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God. Of course this enlightenment came for the Father.
The same is true with Paul; he too did not get it right the first time. In fact he was so busy persecuting the early Christians in Rome that God had to knock him off his horse on his way to Damascus to get his attention and get him on the right track. Obviously, both Peter and Paul struggled to get things right. However, in the end, realizing the object of their love, they gave their lives following Jesus. In the process they became champions of God’s love.
And so with us, sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we don’t. However, this does not mean that we don’t love Jesus or preclude us from striving hard to be a faithful follower him. Remember, it is in our missing the point, then getting the point, that we begin to know the patience, mercy and love of God. When we realize this goodness of God, we slowly fall in love with him. Note the beautiful saying: Trip over love and you can get up, but fall in love with God, and you fall forever.
There are times when I get the Peter and Paul syndrome. Sometimes my head gets it, but then my heart gets distracted and seduced by the world when things get tough. As a result, I get mixed up and confused. However, when my heart gets it; that Jesus is the sole object of my life, and he is the true source of my happiness, then I get things right. I fall in love with Jesus again, and I find peace and happiness.
I read of a young girl of 12, who is from the beautiful slopes of Garabandal, Spain. Her name is Conchita Gonzales. She is one of the four visionaries who had a series of apparitions of Mary, the mother of Jesus. This personal encounter with Mary completely changed her life in 1961. Her spiritual eyes were opened and her perception of life, in light of Mary’s admonitions became lucid.
One time she was interviewed by Dr. Jeronimo Dominguez at length, and I will just mention a small portion of it to bring home a point:
Doctor: The Virgin also said in the message that above all we have to be good. What do you think she meant by that?
Conchita: I don’t know what the Virgin meant. I understand it to be a life lived moment by moment offering everything to God. Living like a Christian, the way our conscience tell us, is what I think she meant.
Doctor: So everyone can be good?
Conchita: Sure. Everyone in the practice of their religion ... knows how to be good because each person has his own conscience and God speaks to each one through their conscience.
Doctor: What have you done or what have you tried to do to live the message?
Conchita: What would give the Virgin great happiness is a very difficult thing for me. That is to live each moment of the day doing everything for God.
So here is a young girl’s illuminated view of getting it right. Without mentioning it, her trajectory is simply to love God. With the aid of the Virgin, she desires to live each moment for God offering her very best to honor God. This, in her uncomplicated way, is being good. Needless to say, when we are good in the eyes of God, we will find happiness and peace.
Stealing the Heart of Jesus
By Nemsy Gubatan
There is an ancient legend about a Carmelite monk named Macarios who lived on top of a mountain – he was known for his wisdom and holiness. As such many people from far and near would venture to see him for advice.
One day a spiritual seeker named Albert dared to climb the mountain to see and consult with the old monk. Arriving, he greeted the old monk and said, “Master, you look pretty well settled in this peaceful place, do you still wrestle with the devil?”
The old monk smiled and replied, “Not as much anymore my son. I’m getting old and tired, and the devil is also getting tired of me – so he leaves me alone.”
“Well, is it a lot easier for you now Master?” Albert piped in.
The Master paused and said, “Not really. When I was young, I used to wrestle with the devil a lot. But now that I am older, I wrestle with God – and it is a lot, lot harder.”
With a bit of excitement, Macarios exclaimed, “So you wrestle with God – and you hope to win?”
“No, I wrestle with God and hope to loose so I can be reformed and transformed by his mercy and love. In this way, he wins, and I win too,” Macarios gently replied.
What an insight by the old Master: Let God win, let him have his way, and in so doing we can be magnificently changed and transformed into his image and likeness.
In our lives, it is easy to remember how we wrestled with the devil when we were young. There’s the wrestling with the ego, with vanity, and with prestige. There’s also wrestling with excessive pleasure, material possessions, and financial security. In the long run, we are faced with the question of who do we really trust – our judgement or God’s admonitions? The simple answer is let God win. Let this be our first non-negotiable pattern – always trusting and having confidence in God. Why? Because as St. Paul said, “All things work together for good to those who love God.” This means that if we love God and have confidence in him, in the end things will work out for us, especially things that really matters.
One time, Jesus appeared to St. Gertrude of Germany, saying to her, “The firm confidence a person has in me, believing that I truly can help him at all times, steals my heart, and I cannot but favor such a soul because of the great pleasure I experience in seeing him so dependent upon me.”
Without being too exaggerated, do you want to steal God’s heart? Who wouldn’t? It would be a blissful thing to happen to us. Nonetheless, as Jesus said, all it takes is total trust and confidence in him. This really means letting Jesus win in every turn and aspect of our lives. With this humble approach we can be truly elated and joyful.
Good and Evil
By Nemsy Gubatan
Life is about darkness and light; about good and evil. During the time of Jesus many jealous religious leaders tried to trap him by saying that Jesus was in cahoots with Satan. (Mark 3:22) However, it did not work, because others witnessed the power of Jesus in healing many people, convincing them that his power comes from God.
So if Jesus acknowledged the existence of supernatural forces or demons, we would be naïve if we deny their reality. Teenagers sometimes encounter demons when they dabble with the occult using widgie boards. The same is true with those who take excessive alcohol, drugs, or practice sinful habits like pornography and gambling. When they do this they become prime target of the devil’s invasion and possession.
Like the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, who killed 59 people had an uncontrolled craving for gambling. This brings about depression and temporary insanity caused by the devil’s invasion, and consequently becoming suicidal and violent to other people. But what is the root cause? The root cause is serious or grave sin, which greatly offends God. Unfortunately, the secular world has translated sin into a kind of mental imbalance instead of spiritual blindness.
Spiritual blindness prevents a person to distinguish between good and evil, between violence and love. It is being out of touch with God, and therefore out of touch with God’s holy will. Remember God’s holy will is always good for us. It helps us to be the best person we can be. It helps us to build the family of God. That’s why Jesus said: “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Mark 3:34)
Clearly, people who does God’s will, belongs to the family of God. Therefore it is lamentable to be outside of God’s holy will. That’s why Bishop Fulton Sheen once prayed: “I know dear Lord how crosses are made. Your holy will is the vertical bar, my will is the horizontal bar. When I place my will against your will, I make a cross. Grant that I may make you no more crosses.”
Looking back, think how many crosses we made for Christ because of our shortcomings and grave sins. Thank God we have confession. Because of this beautiful sacrament our spiritual eyes are opened, and we are drawn closer to the Son of God. As a result, our love for God blossoms and intensifies. That’s why G.K. Chesterton said: “Love is not blind. Love is bound. The more it is bound, the less it is blind.” Perhaps a true story can amplify this tenet.
Nelson Hutchinson, a young lad, lived in a small house with his parents on the Homosassa River, a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico. In 1940, his dad struggled to support the family as a commercial fisherman with a small boat. His mother was a devout Christian who loved to read the bible and go to church. But she did not own a bible, because she could not afford one. So she set aside a few coins whenever she could, but unfortunately financial emergencies would come up, and she had to use the few coins she has saved.
One day his dad came home from work with an empty boat; he had caught nothing. He looked defeated. So his mother got into the boat, arranged the nets, started the motor and headed towards the gulf. Along the way she prayed: “Father, I want a Bible for my home, but I don’t have the money. Let me catch enough fish today so I can buy one. Please help me.”
Arriving at the gulf, she lowered the net and moved the boat in a circle. To her amazement big mullets or fish started jumping into the net. As fast as she could empty the catch into the boat, and lowered it again, the same thing happened – big mullets jumped into the net. In an hour, the boat was filled with fish, almost to the point of sinking. To make a long story short, she went home, called her son to help her take the fish to a wholesaler. That day she earned much more than the cost of the beautiful Bible that she bought that day. She was happy as a lark, and her gratitude and love for God was without bound. Why? Because love is not blind, it can see and taste the goodness of the Lord. It is bound by her deep faith and trust in God’s compassion and mercy.
With this convincing experience, her heart was set on fire by the Holy Spirit. That’s why Jesus said: “I have come to light a fire on the earth, I wish the blaze were ignited.” (Luke 12:49) Obviously, Jesus is saying: “Away with doubt. Away with shallow and lukewarm love. Away with mediocre love. Live intensely for me each and every day.
That’s why Fr. McNamara keeps our feet close to the fire by saying: “The difference between us and the saints, is that the saints throw themselves into the fire of God’s love and emerge burnt, but magnificently transfigured, while the rest of us spend our lives walking around the fire, close enough to be warm, but never so close as to risk being touched by the flames!”
So what are you waiting for? Throw yourself into the fire of God’s burning love for you. As I said earlier: Away with doubt. Away with shallow and lukewarm love. Away with mediocre love. Live intensely for God each and every day. When you do this you will be happy and find inner peace.
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.