Reflections



Saying Yes to God

THE MASS AND THE NEW EVANGELIZATION

CALLED TO GOD'S PURPOSE

A TIME FOR ALL SEASONS --INCLUDING RETIREMENT

Easter and Lent by Ramon Mescallado

Lenten-Easter Message in Filipino, by Fr. Jerry Orbus

Lord Have Mercy: Reflections on the Kyrie, by Donald E. Wood (9-1-11)

The Haiku of Prayer, by Donald E. Wood (9-1-11)

The Immeasurable Value of Attending a Retreat, by Karyl Pulsinelli (9-1-11)

On Aging: A Septuagenarian's Reflections from the Hill, by Narciso S. Albarracin, Jr., M.D.(9.29.09)

Easter Reflection : Christian Community, by Don Quilao (4.23.09)

Lenten Reflection: OUR LIFE AND SUFFICIENCY IS IN JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD, by Val C. Kiamco (3.9.09)

God is still on the Throne: Americans Prepare for Transition, by Deacon Dean Lopata (2-09)

The Abundant Life, by N. Albarracin, Jr (9-1-07)

Reflections on the Joy of the Lord,by Fr. Ramon G. Valera (4-25-07)

What Does It Take To Become A Shepherd?, by Tatay Perry Kenaston (7-23-06)

Easter Reflections: Easter as Laughter, by N. Albarracin, Jr. (4-11-06)

Lenten Reflections: A Desert Retreat for All, by Deacon Dean Lopata (3-28-06)

Lenten Reflections: What Did I See in the Mirror Today?, by Fr. Perry Kenaston (3-28-06)

New Year, New Beginnings, by N. Albarracin, Jr (1-1-06)


Saying Yes to God

Fr. John Pasquini
Pastor, St. John of the Cross
Vero Beach, FL

Every action we do, every one, is either a yes to God or a no to God. Ideally, we should do what we say we will do. But we all too well know that this is not always the case. Sometimes part of us says yes to God with our words and no to God with our deeds.

The Christian life is a life dedicated to continual repentance and conversion. We are all works in progress, all clay being molded by the hands of God. Let us always pray for the grace to have an open heart, to always respond to God's promptings of grace. Let us always seek to enter more deeply into the mystery of God. Let us be like King David, a man, despite his falls, who always got back up, dusted himself off and chased after God's heart.

The great theologian, Father Rahner, once said, "The Christian of the future will either be a mystic or nothing at all." Let us be something. Let us be people always seeking a deeper conversion. Let us be people who turn yesterday's nos into one of today's yeses.

(Excerpted from Florida Catholic, Venice edition, September 26, 2014).



Catechetical reflections:

THE MASS AND THE NEW EVANGELIZATION

(From the School of Religion Office, St. Andrew Catholic Church, Columbus, OH)

Ever since Pope John Paul II called for a "New Evangelization," many interpretations of that term have arisen. In reality, evangelization is not new to the Catholic Church and it is not something that only Protestants do. What the New Evangelization calls for is an outreach not only to those within our Church, but to all peoples. It is a renewal and "relaunching" of a mission that has always been appropriate for the Church.

In order for us, as Catholics, to be evangelizers we, in turn must be "evangelized". We must be poised to bring the Good News out into our communities and to live out Gospel values. Where better else to experience our re-evangelization than through the Mass?

We gather as people of God to praise and thank God. We hear the word of God. We listen to the homilist as he gives the words deeper meaning. We reflect on how the message applies to our lives. We reach out to each other as we exchange the Sign of Peace. We develop an intimate relationship with Jesus as we consume His body and blood. We give thanks to God and go forth in His name.

We are called to model the Gospel in all that we do and in all of our relationships. Of course, evangelization can take other forms, but let us never forget how powerful and life-changing our actions can be if they truly communicate our Catholic Christian values.



CALLED TO GOD'S PURPOSE

by Narciso S. Albarracin, Jr., M.D.

In this Sunday's (2/10/13) first reading, the prophet Isaiah, seeing himself in the mighty presence of God and after having been cleansed by a hot ember touched on his lip by a seraphim, hears God call, "Whom shall I send. Who will go for us?" Isaiah's response was brief, decisive, and immediate: "Here I am. Send me."

In sharp contrast, Jeremiah (first reading of 2/3/13), hesitant because of his youth, was reassured that "before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you."

Jeremiah was "appointed". Isaiah, on the other hand, "volunteered". In Jeremiah's case, God gave a statement of incontrovertible divine fact. In Isaiah's case, God gave Isaiah an open-ended question. God's process of calling people to service runs the gamut between these two extremes.

The initial response is usually a criticism - self-criticism. Jeremiah: "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child." Isaiah: "Woe is me. For I am a man of unclean lips."

Unlike Jonah, neither Jeremiah nor Isaiah put up too much resistance, however. They opened themselves to the grace of God; creativity, power, and purpose followed. As composer Carey Landry says in the hymn "Great Things Happen":

Great things happen when God mixes with us;
Great things happen when God mixes with us;
Great and beautiful, wonderful things;
Great things happen when God mixes with us.

Some find life, some find peace;
some people even find joy.
Some see things as they never could before
And some people find that
they can now begin to trust.

Some find health, some find hope,
some people even find joy.
Some see themselves as they never could before
And some people find
that they can now begin to live.

Some find peace, some are disturbed;
some people even find joy.
Some see their lives as they never could before
And some people find
that they must now begin to change.



A TIME FOR ALL SEASONS -- INCLUDING RETIREMENT

by Narciso S. Albarracin, Jr., M.D.

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven."
(Ecclesiastes 3: 1)

The author of Ecclesiastes wrote his book as a wizened man, enriched by observations and experiences gathered over a life-time and blessed by the distillation of knowledge into wisdom. I imagine him to be a septuagenarian, like many of us in the Renewal. There is a haunting ring and rhythm to his "there is a time to" declarations. A time to be born. A time to die. A time to plant. A time to uproot. Were he living in our generation I believe that he would have included this line in the often-quoted 3rd chapter of his book: A time to work and a time to retire.

Authorship of the Book of Ecclesiastes is attributed to Solomon. His world was agricultural. His metaphors were therefore much influenced by Nature -- birth, death, planting, harvest, killing, healing. Retirement was unknown in his day. With short life spans and no system for pension savings, a person worked until he died. As king, Solomon did not know retirement. Kings did not retire; they died, got killed, replaced, or deposed. Abdication, as the British Empire's King Edward VIII did in 1936, is a rarity.

The concept and practice of retirement began in the late 19th century. Germany is believed to be the first country to introduce it in 1880. At any rate, were Solomon a modern man, he would have included within the gamut of life and living the "season" of retirement.

There is an inherent aspect of time that may not be obvious to many, especially the young; that is the aspect of "timing". In music, it is better understood as beat and rhythm. There is a rhythm to life. Ecclesiastes implies it in his mention of "seasons" and in the rhythmic contrasts of life activities. A time to plant. A time to reap. One does not harvest when it is the time to plant, nor does one plant when it is the time to reap. Ignore the "timing" and the rhythm of life and living loses its desired smoothness. There is a time to go to college, for instance. Miss that time and life gets rougher. There is a time to marry and have children. Miss that time and you are forced to make adjustments or to compensate. And, if it is not forced on an individual by health and business reasons, there is an appropriate time for retirement.

Retirement typically gives an individual more "free" time and more "control" over time. Many retired Filipino Catholics, particularly those involved in the Renewal, volunteer their time to parish-related service. Some Filipinos I know purchase their homes deliberately close to church. They attend Mass daily. They serve as extraordinary ministers and lectors or choir members. They serve in prayer groups. They volunteer in various committees. Retirement becomes a time to work in the Lord's vineyard, a time to serve without thought of compensation, a time to say "thank you" for the Lord's generosity, graces, and blessings.

In some cases, retirement becomes a time for full-time service in the Lord's "business". Consider the case of our National Coordinator, Bob Canton. He took early retirement in 2008 from his secular job as Senior Auditor/Appraiser to work full-time in the service of the Lord as National Coordinator of AFCCPC, as ICCRS Council member, and evangelist of Robert Canton Ministries. It is obvious that the Lord is using Bob in His work of evangelization during his time of retirement. It is as if God is saying, "I have work for you to do, Bob" and many are blessed and served by his fiat. Bob says, "I am busier in so-called 'retirement' doing God's will to further His Kingdom. I am privileged to do His works. I consider myself very blessed in this regard."

Yes, in God's grand scheme of things, there is a time to work for pay and a time to retire which may free and yield time to practice discipleship in a special and more expanded way. There is a time to make a living and a time to live a life.

There is a time for all seasons. There is a time to work and raise a family. There is a time for retirement. For those so blessed and so privileged, may God bless you in your "season" of retirement. But whether it is time for work or time for retirement, time, no matter what, is entirely a gift to us from God. St. Ireneus said, "The glory of God is man fully alive." I'd say in a similar vein, "The glory of God is man using his/her time wisely, fully aware of its beat, rhythm, and seasons."



Easter and Lent

by Ramon Mescallado

The Resurrection confirms Christ's works and teachings. Our Lord's Rising from the dead justifies and proves His Divine authority. The Risen Christ also confirms the Truth that He is truly "I AM", the Son of God and God Himself.

There are two fundamental aspects of our Faith in this Paschal mystery: the Passion and the Crucifixion Death of Jesus Christ unshackled us from the chains of sin; and His Resurrection opens for us the way to New Life. Our New Life reinstates us in God's grace.

Our present day Paschal feast was prefigured by the Passover celebration in the Old Testament: The Lord freed the Israelites from bondage in Egypt; purified them of the idolatrous influences through their forty years wandering in the desert; thus, preparing them for their entry into the Promised Land.

Our Lord prepared for His public ministry of love by praying and fasting for forty days in the wilderness.

He was, of course, without sin and had no need to be purified. Like His Baptism, He fasted to be an example for His disciples to follow.

God loved mankind so much that He freed us from the slavery of sin by the Passion and Death of His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. "...though He was in the form of God, Jesus Christ did not count equality with God ...but emptied Himself...found in human form, he humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him ...(cf Philippians 2:6-9)

Christ's body was glorified at the Resurrection. But, during His public life with the Apostles and His disciples His Eternal Divinity was veiled with His Incarnated Humanity ---His human attributes were subject to physical, emotional, psychological forces. He felt pain of flesh and bones; He longed for the love of the very mankind He was redeeming from sin; His human psyche was anxious that He was being forsaken by His Father at the most crucial moment, on the threshold of death.

The three (3) pillars of preparing for Easter are praying, fasting, and doing acts of charity. When we pray, we elevate our mind and soul to God. To fast is to deny ourselves legitimate pleasures; in essence, "dying" to our selves, our desires, our worldliness. We do an act of charity whenever we are moved, motivated to direct our actions for the love of God.

The Risen Lord be with you!



Lenten-Easter Message in Filipino

By Fr. Jerry Orbus

B-A-G-E-T-S

B
BALIK (to return): Balik sa Diyos (Return to God)
Confession

A
ALIS (to remove, discard, dispel): Alis galit (Remove anger). Galit: Anger.
Forgive

G
GAWA (work, both noun and verb): Work (like in good work)
To spend time with, to call, to write, to share, etc.
To act

E
"EXPRESS" to express love to God. (Not Filipino, borrowed word)
Gratitude

T
TANGGAL (to remove): Tanggal vicio (To remove vice and addiction)
Vicio to tanggal in men:
Alak (wine, liquor)
Baba-e (women)
Sugal (gambling)

S
SACRIFICIO (To sacrifice, to give up, to offer)
Give up something you like.
With a smile and in secret.

(Gleaned from the Internet, 2011)



LORD, HAVE MERCY

Donald E. Wood
Westerville, OH

We who live out our lives in the setting of the Catholic Church too often slide over the words of liturgical prayer without a deep reflection on what we are praying and saying. This is a great shame for much of our liturgical prayer is either from scripture or has been based on scripture and written by many of the great saints over the last two millennia. When we listen to the church fathers' explanations of these prayers we find sources that can radically deepen prayer life.

The Kyrie is such a prayer. In the western church we are encouraged to listen to this prayer as one for the forgiveness of our sins. As such we wonder about the eastern liturgies where the Kyrie,"Lord have mercy", is repeated fifty or one hundred times. Maybe there is another meaning to this prayer. The following is from my prayer journal which was written after reading the introduction to the Byzantine office.

In an Abbey Church
Service of Compline

In the darkened church, hauntingly, the psalms climb out of the blackness, reverberating off of the massive stone walls of this ancient fortress of faith. As their last echoes fade away, the cantor for the seventh time this day intones:
"Lord, have mercy."

What does that mean?
Mercy: What is that?

"Christ, have mercy." We respond.

What does that mean?
Mercy: What is that?

It is not: Have mercy on me.
Just; Mercy.

What?

Mercy is loving kindness.
Lord, have loving kindness.

Now in the darkness the vision comes: The Word is before the Father asking for that which is necessary to keep creating all things; for all things are created by Him through the loving kindness of the Father. Without that mercy, without that loving kindness, the physical universe ceases to exist.

He asks: "Lord, have mercy."
The Father hands it to Him: "Christ, have mercy."

Now Jesus takes that loving kindness in His nail-scarred hands and with it holds together this broken universe.

"Lord, have mercy."

Here the Father says: "Christ, have mercy." Another block of love; another portion of the universe; another second of time.

"Lord, have mercy."
Here my Son: "Christ, have mercy."

Suddenly this is not a prayer of sorrow, sadness and guilt. Here is the central conversation of the ultimate power of existence and we as the body of Christ are invited, called, to join in.

WHAT JOY!

Lord, have loving kindness.
Christ, have loving kindness.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Let us give all that we have to join this prayer!
Kyrie, eleison.
Kyrie, eleison.
Kyrie, eleison.

FOREVER,
AMEN!

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The Haiku of Prayer
The Collect

Donald E. Wood
Westerville, OH

We are encouraged to enter into conversational prayer with God. For most of us this is often a rambling unfocused babble. I would like to introduce a prayer form that helps us move into a more focused mode. This is called The Collect which is an ancient form of prayer.

The Collect might be called the haiku of western prayer. The Collect is strictly structured like the haiku. The haiku is a poem of three lines with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line and five syllables in the third line.

The Collect is a prayer made up of a single compound sentence which has five parts.

This prayer form has been used for over fifteen hundred years. There are two schools of thought as to its origin: first, that it was the name given to the opening prayer which was used when the people collected for worship. The second idea is that it came from monastic practice. The choir chanted a psalm after which time was given for silent prayer and reflection. The leader would collect these personal prayers into a single short prayer of the community. This practice still remains in the Office. The Collect came into the mass in the middle ages. It is the predecessor of the prayer of the opening prayer or the prayer of the day. Unfortunately when the mass and office were translated into English after Vatican II the idea behind the formatting of the prayer was lost. But if you look at many of these prayers you can still find some of the old formatting.

Here is one of the ancient Collects from the fifth century, the Collect for peace that appeared traditionally in Vespers:

O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed: Give unto your servants that peace which the world cannot give; that our hearts may be set to obey your commandment, and also that by you we being defended from the fear of our enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Collect then is a focused terse prayer whose spiritual content is marked by forthrightness and is filled with fervor and sincerity. The prayer is a single complex sentence with four or five parts as follows:

Invocation:
     Almighty God,

Basis of petition:
     unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known and
     from whom no secrets are hidden

Petition:
     cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of
     your Holy Spirit

Purpose:
     that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify
     your holy name,

Ending Doxology:
     through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns
     With you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.

Many gems of this genre can be collected as you wander through the Missal or the Office and many can be found in various collections of traditional liturgical materials. It can be good practice to add this style of prayer to our prayer life and to our prayer journals. A good idea is to set up a journal of Collects both found and self written. The education that we receive in this prayer style by journaling can provide a source of prayer that we can call on at any time.

Here are three examples of Collects that I have recently found:

O God, who declares your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Mercifully grant us such a measure of grace, that we running the way of your commandments may obtain your gracious promises and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure: through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, world without end.

Lord, foundation of all grace, we pray you that your grace may always go before us and make us continually be given to all good works; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.

Father of all power and strength, we beseech you, grant us the grace to withstand the temptations of the devil, and with pure hearts and minds to follow you the only God; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God world without end.

Just as reading poetry does not exhaust poetry so it is with the Collect. We can appropriate Collects written by others as part of our prayer life and this is good. If we are to make the Collect an integral part of our prayer life, we need to compose Collects that reflect where we are in life. Here are a few examples from my prayer journal:

A Collect for springtime:
O Creator God, who brings all things into being; fill us with the joy of your ever new creation during this Eastertide; that we may learn to always praise you; we ask this through the Resurrected Christ, your Son, who lives and creates with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

At the death of a dear friend, Fr. Joseph Bownas O.C.S.O.:
O God, giver of life: Through the death of your Son bring our beloved brother Joseph into your eternal light; that before your throne he may ever sing your praise; this we ask through that same son our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

After a bad day:
Heavenly Father, giver of all peace: Remove from my heart all anger; that living in your peace I may witness to your love; this I ask through your Son my Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God world without end. Amen.

This style of prayer is of great beauty and utility. If you are conscious of this type of prayer it gives you an elegant format for leading prayers both in formal and informal settings. If you gather together great historical Collects in your prayer journal they represent the greatest of western Christian prayer. They are short enough to be memorized yet capable of carrying you into the depths of intimacy with God.

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THE IMMEASURABLE VALUE OF ATTENDING A RETREAT

Karyl Pulsinelli
Columbus, OH

A retreat refreshes and revitalizes, gives the opportunity for more time spent in prayer and contemplation, and rekindles and deepens one's relationship with God. One may take this opportunity to more clearly hear God's call and to seek God's healing grace and thereby attain a degree of spiritual renewal.

The purpose of a spiritual retreat, as an addition to daily spiritual activities, is to temporarily leave behind the usual distractions we all face for a time long enough to allow relaxation and for an inner change to occur: the ongoing conversion of heart that is critical to deepening faith.

The Catholic Encyclopedia describes the necessity of such retreats:
In the fever and agitation of modern life, the need of meditation and spiritual repose impresses itself on Christian souls who desire to reflect on their eternal destiny, and direct their life in this world towards God.

Yet, it is not only modern life that sends us forth to a period of quiet contemplation. A scriptural basis for understanding the importance of retreat that long preceded the modern world is easily found. We can turn to Jesus' actions and his suggestions to others as transmitted in the gospel accounts. Near the beginning of Mark's gospel, this is relayed: "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: 'Everyone is looking for you!' " (Mark 1: 35-37; see also Luke 4:42)

He undertook his solitary respite not when there were no other important matters to tend to, but because of the essential need to make time for prayer despite all the things to be done.

Sometimes Jesus would spend an entire night in retreat: "In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God." (Luke 6:12). And, this is also relayed: "The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.' People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place." (Mark 6: 30-32)

No doubt, the apostles were energized by the response of the crowds they encountered, but they still needed a chance to recharge before carrying on.

(Reproduced with permission from the author through the Columbus Catholic Charismatic Renewal Center).

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ON AGING
A Septuagenarian's Reflections from the Hill

Narciso S. Albarracin, Jr., M.D.
Columbus, OH
9-29-09

The "hill" metaphor reminds me of my trip to Medjugorye in 1999. The climb up the rocky Apparition Hill was not easy but then I was not alone; I was in the company of solicitous and helpful fellow pilgrims. Once up the hill a sense of fulfillment and the panoramic view of the countryside were overwhelming. Peace and a solemn quiet prevailed. I had my personal time with God. Thanksgiving was my dominant prayer.

I feel a similar sense of fulfillment, quietude, and gratitude as I reach the "hill" of being a septuagenarian and being retired. It had not been an easy climb but there are many fellow life journeyers to thank for. Most significant is my wife whose company was not only a loving assistance but also a complement to my personal deficiencies. The blessing of growing old together is not to be taken for granted; enjoying the hilltop with one's spouse makes the bonus years golden indeed. At this stage in my life, I fully realize the value and wisdom of the matrimonial covenant. There is security in each other's relationship. Loss of hair, hair pigmentation, visual acuity, agility, reflexes, all incident to normal aging, do not matter in a secure relationship. There is no longer a need to impress.

The metaphor to the hilltop panoramic view is my family of three married children and their children. They followed the formula that their mother set: have a college education, marry within the faith, keep your marriage a trinity with Jesus at the center, have children. They gave us 9 beautiful grandchildren ranging in age from pre-school to freshman college, all undergoing the same Catholic education that their parents had. The joy of grandparenthood rests on seeing one's children occupy their respective niches in the workplace (including household CEO-COO-CFO among the wives) and giving their children the security of marriage and a happy home.

Advice on parenthood goes seamlessly from mother to daughter and is mostly following by example with the freedom to reject immigrant practices and attitudes that have become irrelevant. My own father-to-son advice is brief: week-end is for family, Sunday is for church with the entire family, give your wife personal space (meaning times away from the kids).

Although my own Dad lived to be 91, a septuagenarian has to face the fact that he is closer to the end than to the beginning. Mortality, like birth, is a part of life. I do not concern myself on such matters as heaven and hell, but I do concern myself about my daily relationship with God. I am more concerned on the practical effects of my death to my wife and family. When the event comes my desire is to lessen as much as possible their burden. My funeral and expenses have been pre-arranged and my burial site has been ready and marked with my name. I have not however told the kids as they might freak out seeing a grave marked with my name.

My expanding Resume used to be my pride. At my retirement party given to gather friends, associates, and employees, my credentials and awards and honorifics suddenly became irrelevant.

At the hilltop, family is my pride and gratitude is my prayer.

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EASTER REFLECTION:
Christian Community

By Don Quilao (Toronto, ONT, 4-23-09)

Maybe some of us are wondering why in spite of the fact that we have good speakers and leaders, the community is still not growing as it should be. We try to justify that community growth is not based on quantity but on quality. We sometimes forget that quantity is the product of quality. The big question or challenge is, "Are we really building a Christian Community or just a group?" If we go back to the time of early Christians which we can read on Acts 2: 42-47, we will note how deep and strong the love of every member for one another was. They did not consider what they have as their own but for everyone in the community. A Christian Community should be a place of love, hope, peace, joy and healing. Everyone should be an instrument of love, more so, a blessing and inspiration to one another. Everybody should speak, act, and work for the salvation of every member. It should not be a place of intrigue, gossip, judgment and condemnation. We need to TRUST one another as God trusted us so much. We need to understand that we have different levels of spirituality. Our weakness can be the strength of others and their weakness can be our strength.

Although our goal is to be perfect, we cannot be, for only God is perfect. Let us accept the truth that we need one another. Let us support the strength of others and help them on their weaknesses. Let us be humble also to accept the truth that we need the help of others to overcome our weaknesses. False spirituality is when we become self-righteous as if we are the only ones who are good. True spirituality is when love, patience, understanding, and forgiveness go wider. When we learn to accept the strength and weakness of others and accept our own weaknesses, too.

We need to move forward from the emotional level of love to the spiritual level of love. Emotional level of love focuses so much on feelings, emotions and expectations. If this is not satisfied, it leads to frustration and condemnation. Spiritual level of love is to love like Christ, to understand that we need one another. We need to trust the goodness of the person. Let us not forget that whatever and no matter how big the sin of a person is, God is still doing everything for his salvation, as what He is doing for us, up to the point that He even gave His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to save us. Do not act the other way around, for we have no right to destroy what God is trying to save. Let us always remember that we are all so precious to God and the value of each one of us is Jesus Himself on the Cross.

Christian Community should be Christ—Love driven!

(Bro. Don Quilao is Eastern Canada Regional Coordinator of AFCCPC and is a member of the Editorial Staff of The Trumpet. He is the Head Servant of the Filipino Canadian Charismatic Prayer Communities, the umbrella organization of Filipino Catholic charismatic prayer communities in Eastern Canada, endorsed by the Archdiocese of Toronto, and affiliated with the AFCCPC. He has recently been honored to be chosen to chair the Canadian National Catholic Charismatic Conference to be held during the same weekend that the Baltimore National Convention will be held.)

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Lenten Reflection:
OUR LIFE AND SUFFICIENCY IS IN JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD

By Val C. Kiamco (3.9.09)

We all know that Lent is a period of penitence, fasting and almsgiving. But what does lent really mean for us?

The word "Lent" is derived from an old English word, Lencten, which means springtime. As a noun, spring means "a time or season of growth or development." As a verb, it means "to grow as a plant or to arise."

During Lent we do not fast because we just want to lose weight or are on a diet. We do it because we desire to be filled by God in His word and to be washed clean from our sins by His most precious blood. That is why we come to the Lord Jesus in repentance, prayer, and fasting because our life and sufficiency is in Him!

John 1:3-4 says that God does nothing except through His Son Jesus our Lord! "Through Him all things came into being and apart from Him nothing came to be. Whatever came to be in Him, found life, life for the light of men." Jesus taught His apostles the fundamental principle that "He alone is the life." John 10:10 says "I came that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 14:6 says "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me."

John 15:2, 5-6, "He prunes away every barren branch, but the fruitful ones He trims clean to increase their yield. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who lives in me and I in him will produce abundantly. For apart from Me you can do nothing. A man who does not live in Me is like a withered, rejected branch, picked up to be thrown in the fire and burnt."

In order for us to share our new life in Christ to others with power and anointing that draws people to God, we must be grafted to the vine. We must be totally attached to Jesus! We must become God's reservoir and not just a channel. Always receiving from God and being filled by His holy unction so that it can overflow to the lost, the unbelievers, the broken hearted and the unwanted.

Churches and ministries today are looking for better methods and designing new ways to draw people to God. But God is looking for prayerful, steadfast and faithful servants who will draw people to Him! St. Bernard said, "It would be in vain to try to save other people's soul while you lose yours." St. Alphonsus D' Ligouri also said, "I love Jesus so much that is why I desire to bring souls to Him, my own soul first."

OUR INTIMACY WITH GOD GLORIFIES HIM MORE THAN ALL OF THE GOOD THINGS THAT WE'VE DONE OR INTEND TO DO FOR OTHERS BECAUSE OUR LIFE AND SUFFICIENCY IS IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD.

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GOD IS STILL ON THE THRONE
Americans Prepare for Transition

By Deacon Dean Lopata
Spiritual Adviser, Severna Park, MD

Adjusting to 'transitions' in our personal lives, as well as in the life of our nation, is a normal part of the challenges we all face on a regular basis. Our faith and trust in the love, mercy and sovereignty of our God allows us to pass through these transitions, even the most difficult ones, with peace, love and even joy in our hearts. A new and very significant national transition is upon us.

Congratulations are in order for President-elect Barack Obama who will take office on January 20, 2009. For the first time in U.S. history, an African-American has won our nation's highest elective office—a significant breakthrough in our country's racial history. Americans of all nationalities can be proud that the dark shadow of slavery in U.S. history has, largely, been put to rest. In the midst of the election-related hype surrounding us for the last two years, we must be careful not to put our hope, a gift from God, in our politicians—they are only human. One day, those politicians will turn to dust just as all of history's greatest and worst leaders did. The banner we wave says this: My hope is in the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Our Lord and our Savior, Jesus Christ, is singularly risen from the dead and lives and reigns forever—even over the White House. As Christians in America, we all have an important task to play in this transition to new leadership in our country. The Bible commands us to pray for those who are in leadership over us. Let us pray for Obama fervently and faithfully, and cooperate with him whenever our conscience and the teaching of our Church do not bind us otherwise.

The focus of our prayer must always be: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." More specifically, though, what should we pray for? Here are a few things to consider:

  1. That Obama will personally turn to the Lord in daily prayer during his Presidency, continually seeking the Lord's wisdom, knowledge and understanding for his ongoing deliberations and decision-making.
  2. That Obama will soon recognize his personal need, and our national need, for God's mercy and grace. That God will continue to:(1) reshape his heart, (2) sharpen his mind, and (3) strengthen his hands to enable him to humbly, yet boldly, proclaim God's truth in love.
  3. That the Holy Spirit will sovereignly fall upon Obama and grant him a powerful anointing to: (1) bring him healing and wholeness; (2) soften his heart toward the things of God, and (3) enable him to provide holy and righteous leadership on behalf of all Americans—born and unborn.
  4. That the Holy Spirit will open Obama's spiritual eyes and ears, that he might: (1) see the face of God in all Americans—from conception to natural death, and (2) hear the voice of God daily throughout his Presidency.
  5. That, under the leading of God's Spirit, Obama will soon come to recognize the foundational and essential value of traditional marriage and family life, as defined by God, in maintaining a just and peaceful society.
  6. That Obama's staff members, cabinet members and advisors will regularly provide him, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, with Godly perspectives, guidance and recommendations.

In Luke 18, Jesus tells the parable of the unjust judge. The wronged widow finally gets her way with the judge by persevering in her quest for justice—by not giving up. For all Christians in America, this is a parable of encouragement for us today. We must not lose heart regarding the advancement of those things closest to the heart of God. Jesus said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these other things will be given you." We must continue to persevere in prayer and in prayerful action. Jesus said, "Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened."

The theological virtue of hope assures our hearts that God is still on the throne. No matter who sits in the Oval Office, God, in Christ, is still our ultimate leader. The living hope within us tells us that we are still 'one nation, under God,' not a nation under the whims of popularity or presidents. God is not an elected official, but an eternal Father who faithfully loves His children deeply and passionately, and is with us always, even to the end of the age. As Christians, we are a privileged people in that we already know how the story ends. Ultimately, and for all eternity, we are victorious.

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THE ABUNDANT LIFE

by Narciso Albarracin, Jr. (9.1.07)

The 14th National Convention held in July, 2007, had for its theme John 10:10, which states, "I have come to give life and give life abundantly."

But what is abundant life?

Bob Canton (Alliance National Coordinator and Council Member of ICCRS representing English-speaking North and Central America and the Caribbean) in his keynote address approaches this subject like many of us laymen would. When I came to the USA, he said, I set my goals early and immediately embraced the American Dream. I will work hard and become a millionaire and retire young. He found himself a job, started a side business, married a registered nurse, played golf, made contacts. Along the way in pursuit of the American Dream, he got detoured by reluctantly attending a Life in the Spirit Seminar. Not long after that he was offered, and accepted, servant leadership of a Prayer Group, and the Lord gave him a vision and a mission. Now he finds himself preaching the Good News and doing the very things that Jesus did — healing the sick, networking the scattered, building community. He loves what he does. He wakes up every morning and excitedly greets the Lord, saying: Good morning, Lord. Thank you for this day. I can't wait to do the things you want me to do. I feel like a million bucks! And then he declares, to the thunderous applause of the audience: Brothers and sisters, I have become a millionaire! That indeed is an example of the abundant life.

Bishop "Chito" Tagle (Archdiocese of Imus, Cavite, Philippines) approaches the subject like a priest and a theologian. You cannot fully grasp John 10:10, he said, without reading the beginning of the chapter through verse 18. Otherwise John 10:10 would be nothing but an empty slogan. Bishop Tagle is of course directing us to get hold of the "I am" declarations of Jesus. In the 10th chapter of John, Jesus declares that He is the Good Shepherd and contrasts Himself with the false shepherd who steals, robs, kills, destroys, abandons, and acts like a hireling. He then links the chapter with the 23rd Psalm where the sheep, in turn, declares that the Lord is my Shepherd and there is nothing I shall want. In other words, when one is in relationship with the Good Shepherd, the sheep is filled with the abundance of green pastures, still waters, guidance, safety, anointing, goodness, love, dwelling, overflowing cup.

Bishop Teodoro Bacani, Jr. (Diocese of Novaliches, Quezon City, Philippines) approaches the subject with a sense of immigrant adventure. I know why you came to this country, he said. To improve your lot in life. To get a job and a livelihood. But you may not even realize that you are not only getting but also giving. You are giving the world your faith, your music, your smile. And the manifestation of the joy of having a happy family with children and with only one wife and one husband!

What then is abundant life? To Bob Canton, it is a life with a mission and a purpose that is aligned to God's will. To Bishop Tagle, it is a life based on a loving relationship — with the Good Shepherd. To Bishop Bacani, it is a life not only of getting but also of giving — sharing one's faith, one's music, one's smile, and one's joy.

As an aside, I had thought that in a convention there was only one keynote address given at the opening of the conference, setting the key to the subsequent proceedings. In the 14th National Convention of the Alliance, each day opened with a keynote address. It is somewhat like a song that started in the key of C and transposed to the key of D via modulation and bridging through E-minor and A7. It made for a more beautiful and interesting song. As was the Convention.

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Reflections on the Joy of the Lord

By Fr. Ramon G. Valera

In the recent past I have seen a great revival of interest in the Word of God inscribed in the Bible. Translations of the Bible in various languages and dialects is a trend we all have noticed in our era. The Second Vatican Council has triggered this vast majority of love for the Word of God. More and more people today use the message of God, searching for the answers to many questions never before asked. I wonder and sometimes question myself, are people today interested in God's word?

Do people today listen to the Word of God with joy? The Book of Genesis tells us that God saw that everything He created was good. Isn't this a joyful announcement? Should we not rejoice in the good that God made for us?

In John's gospel, John says that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God. If the Word is God, then we can truly conclude that before we can hear or listen to the Word of God with joy, we need to have a personal experience of God in our lives. This is almost given because God is synonymous with the Word. Someone said that proclaiming the Word of God to people who do not know God in a personal way, or to those who do not have a personal relationship with God, is like reading poetry to those who do not have the slightest idea what poetry is all about. These people get bored very easily and are always in a hurry to leave.

How can we depart from boredom to a situation of joy in hearing the Word of God? The desert Fathers and many Saints have shown us the right way to do it. The first step is to retreat into the desert (a good example would be John the Baptist). For us, a "desert" is a place to be alone with God, a place where we encounter God, a retreat, a pilgrimage, a church, a prayer meeting. We take off from our usual joys, our household chores, our business or professional concerns, to be with God. What is significant in this level is the initiative that is involved in order to reach out to God.

Reaching out is opening one's heart to God who comes and fills us up. It is like saying, we take one step, God takes two steps towards us, to fill us, to renew us, to transform us, to mold us back into the original justice, the image of God that we have been created. In this level initiation begins and is accompanied with education and discipline coming from the Lord Himself. It is also in this level why some people can spend hours in prayer, meditation and reflection because they have now begun to experience the joy of the Lord. There is nothing that can stop them now. They have fallen in love with the Lord.

The ultimate part is the level of sharing this joyful practice with others, having experienced the goodness of the Lord in their own lives. People look at us and see the joy and peace and tranquility that radiates from us and they would like to be with us. They would like to become our friends. And then we can in turn help others by showing them the path to the desert, the place where they, in their turn, will encounter God personally. The experience of God is like the experience of love. You can tell people about it but they will not understand what you are talking about until they themselves begin to experience it.

Mark: 6:30-34

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

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WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME A SHEPHERD?

By Tatay Perry Kenaston

As one of the spiritual advisors for the Alliance, one of my wonderful assignments is to at times share some words of wisdom with you regarding a particular scripture passage. The following is such an attempt and through the grace of God hopefully it will bring meaning into your lives.

Several months ago, I sent Al Albarracin a proposed article for The Trumpet; however it was not in God's plans for me to share that particular article with you. What happened was that on July 17, 2006, I received a call from Al asking me to make some changes to the one I sent him earlier and as I began to read it, I began to think the following thought "Lord, is this really what you want me to share?" The answer came in a rather surprising way. That same night, sister Barbara and I were watching a little league game and during the game the following message was given to me: "You see my son, how I shepherd my people, tell them how much I love them and care for them"

Before beginning to attempt to put in to words some reflections, I believe it is important to share some background information about this Sunday's readings, especially the gospel in which Jesus saw those gathered as being like sheep without a shepherd.

During the time of Jesus and as we know from reading the history of the time, a shepherd was a very important person. Also, I might add that some of the major people in Old Testament times were shepherds (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David just to name a few). It was the shepherd's task to take care of the flock that was entrusted to him and with that as our background, I would like now to share the following thoughts about our gospel reading.

In today's message, Mark tells about a time when the apostles returned to Jesus to report all the incredible things that the Holy Spirit had been doing through them. They were so busy that they did not even get a lunch break. Jesus decides that they needed a rest, so he commandeered a boat, and took them all out into the quiet waters of Galilee, a temporary respite from the needy and demanding crowds.

The key to good rest is that it is re-energizing. How this happens for different people is quite dependent upon their personality types. People who are introverted find that they experience their best rest when they are alone, quite with their thoughts, and able to reflect on what God is doing in their lives. Extroverts, on the other need to be around people in order to get their batteries recharged. They need to talk to other people about what God is doing in their lives.

From what we can tell about the apostles, Jesus picked a mix of introverts and extroverts. Some of them appeared to be quite energetic and fearless (like Peter) while others were more contemplative (like Andrew and Thomas). Either way, Jesus shows his compassion for those who served him by going out of his way to see that they get the rest that they needed.

Using the previous illustration of how Jesus took care of and showed compassion to His disciples, I would like to ask each of you the following question: Can you think of vocations that could demonstrate the same qualities or characteristics?

To help with your discernment process, here are a few suggestions or examples: doctors, teachers, counselors, and parents, children, and little league coaches.

For the most part, I believe that most of us would agree that we can understand or see how a doctor could be a shepherd to us. After all, he listens to us, gives us advice, and most of the time shows us compassion. Truly these are signs or qualities of being a shepherd. I believe we could also apply the same analogy to both teachers and counselors. After all, they listen to us; they give advice, and also at the proper time show or demonstrate to us some compassion. What about parents? Some of us, especially those who are reading this article who are in the teen-age bracket may disagree that parents have the same qualities of being a good shepherd, especially when we stay out too late, or tell us to pick up our room or mow the lawn. But when it really matters, I believe you will have to agree with me that your parents always have your best interest in mind.

With that in mind, I would like to share a personal experience.

I first met my friend Don when I was very young and because of my illness he was there all the time for me and my mother. As time continued, my mother and I had to leave our home and travel to another city; however, once a month I would take a bus ride and visit my friend Don. When I reached 16 he and I drove to the driver license examination place and after passing the tests, I drove Don home and he said, "Have fun; enjoy the car." While traveling in the nearby hills the same day, I, like most inexperienced drivers, was driving too fast and within seconds found myself and my friend Larry in a snow bank. After being pulled from the snow bank, I drove Larry home and returned the car to Don, who at the time was having his lunch. Without saying a word, he said, "How are you? How is the car?" Needless to say I was very surprised that Don knew what had happened even before I said anything about the accident. Parents are like that, aren't they? After several years Don was moved to a retirement home and I would visit him during school breaks. Finally my brother and I decided to move Dad to a pioneer home in Alaska. It was while there that I had the chance to repay Dad for the many things he did for me. One day, it was my turn to feed Dad. He had lost his eyesight because of diabetes. It was while feeding Dad that the revelation hit me. This was what it means to honor your father and mother. It was now my time to be a shepherd to Dad and in doing so repay him for all the good things he had done for me.

My second experience is just an observation from the other night at the baseball game. As I watched the game, I began to think of the many parallels that a baseball coach/manager has in common with a good shepherd. After all they listen, give advice, and counsel, and instruct these young men and woman and in return when we watch the games we can see the benefits of their coach's hard work

So, how does one become a good shepherd? I believe it starts with our willingness to follow Jesus as best we can and as we do ask Him for the proper guidance, instructions, and time-outs with Him. Once we have done that, and let pride take a back seat, we can let Jesus work through us. When we do that Jesus is in charge and if He is in charge people will notice the difference.

Lastly, just as Jesus is the Good Shepherd and watches and cares for us, so too does He have permission to watch how we care and take care of each other. The question is -- are we shepherding each other as Jesus would?

I would also like to add another thought. It has nothing to do with the sharing I just did. It is instead an appeal to all of you to pray for vocations for priesthood and religious life. It is through our collective prayers that God will send to us the shepherds we need to guide and instruct us.

Please also join us in Anchorage, Alaska, in September 8-10 for our gathering, the First Alliance Regional Conference in the Pacific Northwest.

God Bless: Tatay Perry M. Kenaston

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EASTER AS LAUGHTER

by N. Albarracin, Jr.

The Book of Genesis (chapters 17 and 18) tells the story of God, Abraham, and Sarah. God told Abraham that Sarah will give him a son who "will give rise to nations." The Bible says that Abraham fell on his face and laughed. After all, he was way past retirement; he was 100 years old. When Sarah overheard this astounding promise, she too laughed to herself, saying "After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?" She was younger than Abraham. She was "just" 90 years old! The promise seemed so ridiculous, it was funny, and it provoked laughter. But God had the last laugh when a son was indeed born to Sarah. He was named Isaac, which means "to laugh." The Bible did not actually say this but here is what I can imagine -- when Isaac was born, God and Abraham and Sarah joined in a chorus of laughter, a laughter of joy, no longer a laughter of unbelief, disbelief, and skepticism.

When Jesus hinted on His resurrection using the Jerusalem temple as metaphor, people too broke into laughter. His disciples were more diplomatic in their doubts, which ballooned into fear during the dreadful hours of Good Friday. But then Sunday came and the women who went to Jesus' tomb to pay their last respects found the tomb empty and were told (Matthew 28): "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. he is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly to tell his disciples, 'He has been raised from the dead and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.'" The women left the tomb quickly "with fear and great joy." Luke's account uses a more striking sentence: "Why do you look for the living among the dead?"

Severely depressed, utterly confused, trembling with fear, hiding for their lives, the disciples took time to process the news that the women brought. But once the splendor of the new truth seized their consciousness and replaced their fears, I can just imagine how the congregation, in and with great joy, broke into collective laughter. Easter laughter! The laughter that brought the brilliant prospect of new beginnings. The laughter that broke through doubts and incomprehension and fear and brought forth the recognition that life indeed is a miracle. The laughter that replaced the fear of death with the joy and victory of living.

May this kind of laughter be yours this Easter.

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A DESERT RETREAT FOR ALL

by Deacon Dean Lopata

After His baptism by John in the Jordan River, Jesus came out of the river and was immediately baptized in the Holy Spirit by His Father in heaven. "This is My beloved son," the Father said, "with whom I am well pleased." The Scripture then tells us that Jesus was led into the desert by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil. Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights, no small undertaking for even a very healthy individual. Why did the Father insist that Jesus spend these intense forty days and nights in the desert, alone, fasting and praying? Jesus was about to begin His three years of public ministry. He was about to bring salvation to the souls of the earth's lost inhabitants. Jesus would not assume His role as our Redeemer, though, without opposition. He was about to invade another's kingdom—a land that had been stolen from Him in the past.

In the weather realm, when a cold front encounters a warm front, there is significant turmoil in the skies and on the earth. The clash of warm and cold fronts often produces powerful winds, rain, thunder and lightening, forces that at times can be very destructive to the face of the earth. In the desert, the Father was strengthening and empowering Jesus for the impending warfare in the spiritual realm. Light encountering darkness. Love encountering hatred. Truth encountering falsehood. Jesus, holy, sinless, the promised Messiah, the Light of the world, was about to begin His victorious three-year spiritual battle with Satan.

Jesus describes Satan thus: "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him....He is a liar and the father of lies." [Jn 8:44]. "The thief comes only to steal, slaughter and destroy. I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly." [Jn 10:10]. So Jesus had to spend a forty-day retreat in the desert in order to be fully prepared for the spiritual warfare He was about to ncounter in His public ministry. We are no different. We also need those forty focused days with Jesus in order to be strengthened and empowered for the work of ministry to which we are called. Even Pope Benedict and his staff are no exception. What follows is a communiqué from Rome reporting on the Lenten retreat of the Pope and his Roman Curia staff:

Pope in 1st Full Day of Lenten Retreat

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 6, 2006 (Zenit.org) - The spiritual exercises that Benedict XVI and his aides in the Roman Curia began on Sunday is a moment of encounter with God, says the retreat's preacher. Cardinal Marco Cé, retired patriarch of Venice, proposed in the presence of the Pope, and to the cardinals, bishops, priests and religious on hand in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel, that they undertake an "interior pilgrimage to him who is the source of mercy," Jesus.

According to Vatican Radio's report on this morning's meditation, the cardinal said that Christ "accompanies us through the wilderness of our poverty, supporting us on the way to the intense joy of Easter," the fruit of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, the "heart of our faith." Cardinal Cé explained that this encounter takes place because Christ first came in search of each of us. "If the grace of the Risen Crucified did not call us and did not seek us, we would never come out of our sloth and sin. Who will deliver me from this body of death?" asked the cardinal rhetorically. "The grace of God through Jesus Christ." If the spiritual exercises become an encounter with Christ, this meeting will also be "an act of love for the Church and for so many brothers who walk on remote paths" whom"Jesus wants to save," the retired patriarch said.

"The Gospel calls us to be involved, to feel questioned, and not to be mere spectators enclosed in the fortress of our rationality, but to react as those who find Jesus and let themselves be enveloped by his light. This is the meaning of Jesus' heartfelt desire when he said: 'Believe in me,'" noted the preacher. To take the Gospel seriously, always means"an encounter" in which the strength is found to be converted, "to orient one's life again to God, opening the heart wide to him in faith," he added.

In the second meditation this morning, Cardinal Cé left this message with the Pope and his collaborators: "We must have only one ambition: that despite our limitations, people see in us persons who really love the Lord, who are in love with him; where there is no gap between what they say and what they really are." Lent is "the time of grace to decide for the Lord," he said. It is beautiful "to think that God comes to seek us;" we must "let him find us in Lent." The spiritual exercises, whose theme is "Walking with Jesus towards Easter, Guided by the Evangelist Mark," will end Saturday.

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WHAT DID I SEE IN THE MIRROR TODAY?

by Fr. Perry Kenaston

The other day when I began my daily routine, and I presume that, like most of us, it is the same thing, one of which is looking in the mirror. For some reason, I took a few extra minutes to look at the person in the mirror and began to think to myself "who is this person in the mirror? Is it someone that I recognize or is it a total stranger?"

After finishing my daily routine, I began to reflect upon that still-lingering question in my mind. This led me to pray—"Lord Jesus help me to discover the real me during this period of Lent. I know with Your graces we can do this together and when Lent is over we both will have a better understanding of who I am. I know You already know who I am, but through Your graces and my humility and with the verses of Psalm 51, I can truly see and become the person You have always wanted me to be."

After a period of time, I again began to reflect -- could it be that simple? Could it be that I have been trying too hard to discover the real me? Perhaps I have become too much of a Martha and not enough of a Mary. Perhaps our willingness to surrender ourselves to the perfect will of God, as Our Blessed Mother did, is the key to real spiritual growth. Surrender!

For myself, I know that I am in need of a change and if by chance you also arrive at the same conclusion, I invite you to do as Our Blessed Mother did and surrender yourself to the perfect will of God the Father and in so doing reflect upon the verses in Psalm 51 as a means of meditation and a starting point.

May you have a blessed Lenten surrender!

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New Year, New Beginnings

by Narciso S. Albarracin, Jr., M.D.

(Reprinted from South Bay Times, January 2006 issue)

The words most frequently associated with the New Year are happiness, prosperity, and new beginnings. "Happy and prosperous New Year" is the message most frequently contained in Christmas cards anticipating the coming of a new year.

Prosperity may refer to the big profits of the businessman, high rates of return to the investor, another degree earned by the scholar, a promotion to the corporate achiever, abundant harvest of the farmer.

Happiness usually follows as a result of prosperity. But such happiness may be temporary and incomplete for profits may be lost, the stock market may "go south", the academic may not find a suitable job, the corporate man may get embroiled in an Enron-phenomenon, the market for the farmer's produce may not be favorable.

The word "joy" is also frequently used to describe one's good wish for the New Year. Although joy is frequently equated with happiness, the two are not exactly the same. There is a big component of pleasure in happiness. In contrast, joy carries a certain spiritual quality. One can have joy without the material things usually associated with happiness and prosperity. When Jesus said that "my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete" (John 15: 11), He had in mind both the poor and the prosperous.

There is another very practical wish that we give each other at the beginning of the year — the wish for good health. Indeed, good health is the infrastructure and the underpinning of a happy life. We are all familiar with the irony of the combination of unlimited wealth and limited health.

Without exception, everyone longs for a life of happiness, joy, prosperity, and good health.

But what happens when at the end of the year we find ourselves missing the mark. Our business ventures fail. Our personal relationships sour. Our family structure collapses. Our health deteriorates. Our dreams recede farther and further.

Fortunately our lives are not straightly linear but circular with forward motion, like writing the letter "O" in cursive repeatedly and connectedly until the end of the page is reached.

The New Year brings with it the hope of new beginnings! We are given new opportunities to rise up from the wreckage of the previous year and begin again. Much more than the vague longings for happiness and prosperity, the challenge of new beginnings directs us to look at our lives in serious review, gets us back to the drawing board, calls us once more to a commitment or recommitment. So another word frequently associated with New Year is "resolutions."

The real New Year's achievement is the inward change of a person — from bad to good, from good to better, and from better to best. Among Christians, such change can only be accomplished with and through Jesus Christ and the ultimate resolution is surrender to him as Lord, Savior, and Shepherd. Overuse has made these words trite. But looking at these words as "relationship roles" will refresh our understanding. We submit to and follow a leader or Lord. Our state of "lostness" requires a Savior. Because like sheep we have built-in weaknesses and we are unable to see the big picture, we need a Shepherd. Such surrender re-focuses a person's life to a life of giftedness, service, mission, and dependence.

Some of us may think that because we are not the likes of Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey we are failures. Our new beginnings in the New Year should direct us to reviewing and reconsidering our life paradigm — what is life all about? Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life, is recommended reading for each New Year. Each of us is uniquely gifted and equipped to carry out a unique purpose. Discovering and realizing that purpose will go a long way in giving us the happiness and prosperity and the joy that we all seek.

In this regard, I personally salute motherhood — good old-fashioned motherhood. I salute young mothers out there who persevere day and night to give their children new beginnings year after year. They have found their purpose and their mission: to bring forth the next generation and to nurture it. Many Filipino immigrants can look back at their lives and see mothers driven by the single-minded purpose of giving them — their children -- an education and the necessary tools for life's new beginnings.

The secret of a mother's strength is hope, the virtue that also strengthens all of us to face the New Year. Hope opens our minds to possibilities. Mothers look at their children and see in them future engineers, doctors, presidents, popes, generals, CEOs, star athletes, accomplished musicians. Armed with the same virtue of hope, we are strengthened to climb over the disasters of our past and begin anew.

There is another quality in this virtue of hope — hope is something that can be given. Although we may not be aware of it, we can actually be a source of hope to others.

The last New Year's Eve I spent in the Philippines was in 1998. My father passed away on Christmas Eve of that year and was buried the day before NY Eve. My mother had passed on four years earlier. Needless to say, our home environment was far from "normal" during Christmas of 1998. I was lucky to be included in the NY Eve festivities of my brother's in-laws. It was an evening of abundance in terms of food, drinks, and entertainment. I even got to explode a few firecrackers contributing to the fog-like mist that enveloped the neighborhood the next morning. In the midst of plenty that would have given me the pleasures of food, drink, and socializing, ironically I felt terribly unhappy and empty. For the first time I realized I was now an orphan. Mom passed on several years back. Now Dad was gone. Which introduces yet another thought that relates to New Year. Life as we know it sooner or later ends. For Christians however this kind of ending leads to another new beginning. It is a beginning that bids goodbye to the younger generation — the generation that we nurtured -- and brings a reunion with the generation that has passed on — the generation that nurtured us. For those of us who are retirees, we are closer to the end than to the beginning even if we keep consoling ourselves that age is only a state of mind. But fear not. A new beginning comes.