The Animal University

February 29, 2008

“…and you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all you mind and with all your strength…” (Mark 12:30)

A rabbit, a bird, a squirrel and a fish decided to put up a school together. They called it “The Animal University” (wonder why?) And they want all their students (meaning all kinds of animals) to take all the subjects in their designed curriculum.

The rabbit students were great at “Burrowing”, but they all failed at “Tree Climbing”.

The bird students were wonderful at “Flying” but miserably failed at “Burrowing”.

The squirrel students were terrific at “Tree Climbing” but nearly drowned at “Swimming”.

The fish was a natural at “Swimming” but was an “F” at “Flying”.

Result: Not a single student passed on the first year of “The Animal University”. (Taken from More Hot Illustrations, Wayne Rice)

Just like the animals in our story above, all of us were made for a specific purpose, often referred to as a calling or a vocation. And unless we know our vocation, we might try to do so many things and end up frustrated because of our inability to succeed in most of them.

Thus, the key is to know what God has specifically called you to do. This is where discernment comes in.

Discernment is basically knowing God’s purpose for your life on the basis of how God made you. Knowing yourself, therefore, is the first step to knowing God’s purpose for your life.

Unless you know your purpose, you might end up like the animal students — doing things you are not made to do.

Our over-arching call as Christians is this:

“…and you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all you mind and with all your strength…” (Mark 12:30)

Discernment comes in when we ask the question: Where can I best do that?

Your calling is where you can best love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strength on the basis of how God made you.

For some, they can best love God with everything they are if they practice their profession as doctors.

For some, if they remain faithful as priests.

To some, it is by becoming the best full-time mom that they can be.

For others, as an artist or musician.

How about you? Where do you think you can love the Lord with all that you are?

Yesterday marked a milestone for my life. It was my last official day as a practicing lawyer as I ended my four-year stint in government service. Today begins my first day as a full time Catholic Lay Preacher.

After much discernment, I have made the decision that this is where I can love the Lord best: To use all my God-given talents, energy and time to preach God’s love and mercy to everyone.

Pray for me. I am excited yet a bit anxious. What has God in store for His fumbling servant?

One bible verse which brings me peace in moments like this is from Paul’s letter to the Romans:

 “…And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose…” (Romans 8:28)

Know your purpose. Follow your call. And love God through this vocation by giving your all.

And you can be assured that all things will work for your good. That is my conviction. That is my hope.

Have a blessed day!

I remain, your friend in Christ,

Bobby Q.

Advertisements

My Little Evangelist

February 27, 2008

“…whoever obeys them and teaches others to do the same will be great in the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 5:19)

In one of our out of town mission trips, I witnessed a delightful moment between my two daugthers (ages 3 and 1).

As Mara (1 year old) started crying when she accidentally bumped her head on the dashboard because of the bumpy ride, Robelle (3 years old) quickly came to her sister, embraced her and said, “Mara, why cry? Jesus loves you…”.

Ahhh, sweet words to my ears. Preach it daughter! There goes my little evangelist.

What Robelle did for Mara is what I do for the crowds that I preach to. Preaching is basically telling people that there is no reason to weep or grieve because God loves them. That no matter what situation they find themselves in, God will see them through. That even if they bump themselves on the dashboards of life several times, God will always come to heal.

You know what? You can be an evangelist too. Perhaps you don’t need to speak before a crowd. Or preach before throngs of people. But you can say what Robelle said to Mara, right? Then you can become a preacher in your own little way.

Take a good look at that officemate of yours who may have just gone through a broken marriage.

Or that friend of yours who may recently lost his job.

Or that neighbor who is anxious about her finances.

Friend, be a preacher. Go and tell them about God’s great love for them. And tell them to follow Jesus and to obey his commandments. Minister to them. Guide them. Show them the path to life.

As the Gospel today says:

“…whoever obeys them and teaches others to do the same will be great in the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 5:19)

And if you yourself need the encouragement, allow me to preach to you a little then.

God loves you dear friend. You may not see or feel Him right now as you go through your fears, anxieties or pains. But He is there. Holding you. Carrying you. Keeping you company. And He is reaching out to you through this blog to tell you: “Child, why cry? I love you.”

*—————————–*

We got to our destination that day with Mara laughing and giggling. Nursing a slightly swollen forehead, she kept her energy up and playtime to its max. Perhaps not because of the icepack on her forehead. But because of the comforting words from her sister.

So many people out there are nursing a swollen forehead too because of the bumps and bruises of life. You just might be the person they need to cheer them up.

I need to end here. My little evangelist is calling my name. To feed her. Play with her. Tell her a story. I better do it now. Because pretty soon, before I know it, she might be all grown up and start travelling the world…simply telling people that there is no reason to cry because Jesus loves them.

Ahhh, sweet words to my ears!

I remain, your friend in Christ,

Bobby Q. 

THe Man on the Mirror

February 26, 2008

“…Then Peter asked him, ‘Lord, how many times must I forgive the offenses of my brother? Seven times?’…” (Matthew 18:21)

Britney Spears’ hit song, “Oops, I did it again!” may have been an appropriate background music when Peter asked Jesus the question above.

Most likely, Peter had someone in mind at that time. Someone who did something detrimental to him over and over again. Perhaps another apostle who may have been a constant irritant. Or some relative in the past who may have slandered him occasionally. Or some officemate, a fellow fisherman perhaps, who regularly stole from his catch of fish. 

Maybe you have someone like that in your life.

A drug addicted relative whom you may have bailed out from jail almost regularly.

An employee who can’t seem to follow your instructions no matter how many times you tell him.

A son who constantly falls into trouble.

I have my own list of people in mind. In my life, I have encountered people whom I don’t think deserves another chance. They lie. They can’t follow through. They can’t fulfill commitments. And often, I have always been tempted to give up on them. Until I see myself on the mirror…

There, before me stands someone who also does not deserve another chance. Somebody who often breaks his word. Somebody who constantly fails in his commitments. Somebody who can’t seem to be consistent. Somebody who finds it hard to walk his talk.

And yet he is forgiven again and again and again.

Only then do I shrug my shoulders and breath a sigh. How could I not forgive my fellow men if I am constantly forgiven by God?

Why don’t you do that now? Think of the person you hate the most. Then stand in front of the mirror. And remember how much that man (or woman) you see is loved and forgiven by God. Chances are, you will find the grace to forgive.

Thanks to mirrors. They reflect to you what you ought to reflect to others: “Forgiveness seventy times seven”.

Have a blessed day!

I remain, your friend in Christ,

Bobby Q.

As I Turn 35

February 25, 2008

“…More than that I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ…” (Philippians 3:8)

As I turn 35 today, I couldn’t help but ask the question: who or what is my greatest treasure in this life?

Could it be my wife?

I watched her this morning with keen fondness as we had our common prayer time. Her smile. Her hair. Her voice. Gosh. After four years, I am still madly in love with this woman. Could she be my greatest treasure?

Or could it be my parents? 

I was the guest speaker during the 10th year anniversary of my parent’s charismatic community in Davao over the weekend. There, I got to spend a lot of time with two people I have known the longest in my life. They who changed my diapers before. Took me to elementary school. Taught me how to tie my shoelaces. Skin a bit wrinkled, and hair a little whiter, but they continue to be my pillars of strength. Could they be my greatest treasures in this life?

Or maybe my children?

I spent the whole day today with Robelle and Mara. I played “shark” with them at the pool. Then we had biking at the park. Lunch under the trees. Then some boating by the lagoon. My two daughters are simply adorable. I would die for them. Could they be my greatest treasures in this life?

As I turn 35 today, I deviate from the usual reflection I do on the daily gospel. Instead, I recall to mind my favorite bible verse:

“…More than that I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ…” (Philippians 3:8)

Reading through it, I have found my answer.

Jeng, my parents, Robelle and Mara. I love them with my entire being. But when compared to the man on the cross, they only come second in my life.

Excuse me early today. I have to get dressed. I am going to mass…to spend time with the greatest treasure of my life.

God, thanks for 35 years of life!

I remain, yours in Christ,

Bobby Q.

Mr. Incredible and Superman

February 22, 2008

“…You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God…” (Matthew 16:16)

To the people closest me, I am known more not for what I do, but for what I can’t.

For instance, they know that I find it difficult to get my things in order. My office desk would be a good indicator. If an automobile is lost beneath my files, you won’t find it. In fact, they often refer to my document management style as a “piling system”.

They also know that I am clumsy. Seldom do I accomplish a menial task without hurting myself or hurting another. In the seminary before, I have been “honored” when they used the term “Bobby Move” to refer to instances when a person would slip or break some glassware. (Check out that term in Webster’s Dictionary. It may have gotten there by this time.)

 And I quickly lose things. Sometime ago, I even lost my car in the Megamall parking area bldg A. After an hour of searching, I realized that I left it in parking area bldg B.

This was perhaps the reason why God gave me Jeng for a wife. Ever since we got married, catastrophic episodes in my life have gradually lessened.

Jeng takes care of my files. She kept a compilation of my talks. She packs my bags whenever I go on trips to make sure I don’t forget anything. She keeps breakable things out of my way. Really. She was given to me to save me from a somewhat messed-up (literally, I suppose!) life.

The story of humanity isn’t much different.

Since after the fall of man, humanity always found itself in a mess. Since then, we often find ourselves in trouble.

We may not have a disorderly desk, but we have disordered priorities.

We may not break glassware, but we have broken relationships.

We may not have lost a car in Megamall, but some of us have lost meaning and purpose in life.

And everyday, we seem to always find ourselves in need of a rescuer. From our sins. From our weaknesses. From our challenges in life.

In the animated movie “The Incredibles”, lead superhero “Mr. Incredible” said in an interview, “I feel like the maid. Everytime I get things cleaned up, the world always finds itself in a mess.”

In the same way, that’s why Jesus had to come. That’s why Jesus comes to us everyday. To save us from our miserable existence. To clean up our mess. To put our life in order. To rescue us from every entanglement we find ourselves in. No wonder they call Him “messiah” (savior).

In the movie “Superman Returns”, there was a scene there when Superman hovered above Metropolis with Lois Lane. He told her, “You say that the world doesn’t need a savior. But everyday I hear them cry for one.”

In the same way, that’s what we do with God. We rely on power, wealth, technology, our skills and even our influence in telling God that we don’t need Him. But when all these fail us, who do we run  to? God. He alone is reliable. He alone is faithful. He alone will always come through.

I write this today likewise burdened with the many challenges of life. I have bills to pay. A family to feed. Worries to resist. Dreams to fulfill. A future to secure. But in the midst of all these, I always look up in prayer as I say what Peter said to Jesus:

“…You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God…” (Matthew 16:16)

How about you, dear friend? What challenges are you confronted now? What mess do you find yourself in? What weaknesses do you struggle with everyday? What worries confound you? What threats confront you?

In moments like this, who do you ask to save you? Power? Wealth? Influence?

Or do you turn to Him who was sent specifically for that purpose?

I, on my part, have learned my lesson long ago. In the same way that my wife was sent to me to rescue me in some way from my weaknesses, I know that Jesus also came to rescue us from ours.

The real Superman isn’t a man with a red cape and blue tights. The real Mr. Incredible isn’t a muscle-bound dashing debonair. Rather, he is a bloodied man with arms outstretched on a cross. And He is the glorious man arising from an empty tomb. Humanity’s savior is Jesus. Your messiah is God Himself.

Today, I challenge you to look up. Not to some superhero hovering above us. But to the cross. And hear the words that the man on the cross whispers to your ear:

“Child, be at peace. I came to save.”

A blessed day to you!

In remain, your friend in Christ,

Bobby Q.

The Caveat

February 20, 2008

“…You do not know what you are asking…” (Matthew 20:22)

Pregnant women are a totally unique specie. This was my friend’s conclusion after recounting to me his experience of his wife’s first pregnancy.

He recalls the time when at the height of his wife’s pregnancy, she woke him up in the middle of the night to ask him for grilled burgers. Grudgingly he obliged. After exploring every nook and cranny of the city trying to find a grilling burger joint that was open at 2am, he finally found one. As soon as he got his burgers, he immediately rushed home to recover his sleep. When he got home, his wife smiled apologetically at him and said, “Thanks sweetie. But I lost my appetite. Would you eat them for me instead?” Phew!

Pregnant women have one major concern: they don’t exactly know what they want.

One moment, they want grapes. The next moment they want green mangoes (and lots of bagoong please!). Sometimes they crave for ice cream, and sometimes they crave for lechon. There are times they want you always by their side, and sometimes they don’t even like the smell of you (Well, some who aren’t even pregnant don’t really like my smell at all. Ah but that’s another story.)

But what is true with pregnant women are also true with majority of humanity. Sometimes, we don’t really know what to ask for from God.

You pray for God to give you that handsome man to be your husband. Years after your wedding, you now complain to God for giving you a husband who snores mercilessly.

You pray for that high paying job. Then a year through the job you begin asking God for another job that wouldn’t be as stressful.

You pray for that visa only to go jobless abroad. Now, you pray for money just to pay for your fare back to the Philippines. 

Really. Do we actually know what we want?

The words of Jesus to the mother of the sons of thunder in today’s gospel can very well be addressed to us:

“…You do not know what you are asking…” (Matthew 20:22)

For indeed this is true. We don’t really know what we should pray for. Simply because we do not have the ability to see exactly what the future holds for us. Our limited vision of what lies ahead makes our prayers faulty and susceptible to mistakes.

Does that mean we should not pray for specific things anymore? Not so.

I think it is still good to pray for specific things. For that house and lot. For that promotion. For that child. For that healing. But at the end of each prayer, we must have a caveat (a legal term which means “notice” or “warning”).

We can say at the end of our petitions: “Lord, these are what I want. But please don’t give them to me if they won’t do my soul any good. Rather, give me what would be best for me given my circumstances.”

 Pray with me…

“God I know that you love me, and I trust your will. I will not pretend that I know better than you. I know that you know what is best for me and that whatever it is you allow in my life is always for my own good. Therefore, bring them on, Lord. I accept. Be it unto me according to your word…”.

One last thing: Don’t you ever wonder why pregnant women are not afraid to ask even if they know that they may change their mind later on?

Love. They know that they are asking from someone who loves them unconditionally. That even if they wake up their husband in the middle of the night to ask for grilled burgers, he won’t mind. Because he loves her. And nothing that she does will ever change that.

Now, multiply a million times the love of a husband for his wife. That’s how much God loves you.

Therefore, don’t be afraid to ask. But just don’t forget the caveat. It makes all the difference in the world.

Have a blessed day!

I remain, your friend in Christ,

Bobby Q.

In the Company of Greatness

February 19, 2008 

“…The greatest among you must be your servant…” (Matthew 23:11)

In C.S. Lewis’ second book of the Chronicles of Narnia entitled “Prince Caspian” (will soon be a motion picture), the true greatness of a leader was highlighted.

In a scene where the lion Aslan asked Caspian if he thinks he was ready to be king, Caspian responded by saying that he honestly thinks he is not. Aslan then told him, “Therefore you are ready to be king”.

I believe that the mark of greatness is humility.

Humble people are those who see their worth only in relation to how much they are valued by their God. Their abilities, gifts, and talents are always subject to His disposal. Their victories and triumphs are always attributed to God. Apart from God, they know that they will not be able to do anything.

Lest I be criticized, let me make it clear that I am not confusing humility with low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is not healthy. In fact, it can be very distructive. That is not what I am preaching here. I preach humility which is a trademark of true and genuine servanthood.

Take for instance most of those who became Pope. Most of them do not think they even deserved to be. Many have cried in anguish over the burden that was placed on their backs.

They became priests not for the title but for the service. They chose the priestly vocation  not for the affirmation of men but for the applause of God. That was why many of them were hesitant when chosen to become Popes.

And people who are humble servants, couldn’t help but be great.

In scriptures it says: “…The greatest among you must be your servant…” (Matthew 23:11) 

I was in a meeting last Valentine’s Day with a very humble man of service, great in the eyes of God’s people. I am talking about Socrates Villegas, Bishop of Balanga.

His office was ordinary in as much as his appearance was. He greeted us (there were two of us) with a wide smile and a warm handshake. For some reason, standing before this giant of our faith, I felt my knees weaken. I stooped low to kiss his ring like most of us Catholics would. While he allowed me to do what I did, I felt a slight hesitance on his part because of this gesture.

Our meeting began shortly. It lasted for only about 45 minutes. But it was a blessed forty five minutes. Because in that short span of time, I was in the company of greatness — greatness in the true sense of the word.

This was the same experience many had when Saint Teresa of Calcutta visited UST years ago. They said that she spoke for only less than a minute, but the crowd was in tears. Why? They were in the company of greatness.

This was what I felt in 1995 when I found myself in tears while shouting at the top of my voice as the late Pope John Paul II walked up the stage and waved at me (Yup! I knew he waved at me even though I was part of a crowd of 2Million. I think he even whispered my name!). Why? Because we were in the company of greatness.

Greatness is not about wealth or fame. Greatness is about serving others without counting the cost. And loving others the way Jesus did.

The person you are most with everyday is yourself. And so the question must be asked: Are you in the company of greatness?

I know I am not.

I am self-centered, sinful, arrogant, quick to judge others, pleasure-seeking and full of air. But you know what, recognizing these is essential. Not to wallow in self-pity. But to receive the grace for transformation.

To realize that we have nothing to brag before our God is a prerequisite to humiliy and eventually to greatness. There is nothing to boast about. Not our achievements. Not our grades. Not our paycheck. Not our reputation before men. Not even our good deeds.

If recognizing this is the first step to greatness, then I guess we are on our way there.

I remain, your friend in Christ,

Bobby Q.