Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lord, Why Me? "And Why Not?" God Answered!

Reading: Genesis 41, 55-57; 42, 5-7, 17-24

If you were the one to be thrown down a dried-up well, then taken out after an hour only to be sold to a merchant like a commodity, what would you feel? Joseph, the dreamer, could have asked himself a million times what he had done to deserve such an ill-treatment from his own flesh and blood. Jealousy, he would admit that but what they did to him was too much for the little favors he had been receiving from their dear old dad, Jacob.

Are you in this situation? In a situation where you don't know what life is up for you? Where there is no other way to move but out. Perhaps, we are asking God, "Why Me?" Then furthermore we complained, "I don't think I deserve this misery. I have been doing what is asked of me. Attended masses on Sundays and have been good to my neighbors, but why me?"

We don't know what God is up to, but I am pretty sure that it will turn out just perfect for us. Joseph, after being sold to the Egyptians was sent to a dungeon after he rejected the advances of his mistress. He was there, in the dark, like a criminal, a prisoner in a foreign land. He must have asked God that same questions we are asking now. He must have enumerated before God the good things he did and the irony of what is taking place with his life.

I remembered when I was sent out of the seminary formation in the year 2005. I asked God, "Why?" I could not understand and grasped what God was baking for me. But after 3 years, I found out that God allowed things to happen for me to be able to enjoy in the span of three years what I have been dreaming for - traveling. I have been in every known cities of the country, explored the heights of the mountains and the depths of the seas. I enjoyed the luxury of working and be surrounded with the company of great friends. Had he not allowed me to go through the pain of being sent out, I could not have experienced the travels I did for three years after that seemingly miserable year. And most importantly, I could not have experienced having to enjoy the very me that God created. Alone in the distant city of Cebu, I befriended myself and enjoyed my very own company.

We may not be able to see the hands of God in our situation now. It may seem too blurry and out of direction. But this I can attest, and this God has promised, He is preparing the best for us. The best that we have now may not be the best that God has in stored for you. He knows what is best! Just hold on and have faith!

Years after Joseph was sold to the Egyptians, He became the most powerful person in Egypt, next to Pharaoh. He became the governor and was in-charge of disposing the goods of the powerful country. God did not want Joseph to remain an herdsman in his country. God planned greater things for him. In order for that plan to be realized, Joseph has to be sold first.

I am sure God is preparing great things for you. Just hold on and have faith.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


(Tomorrows Gospel talks about the sending-off of the 12 apostles to their ministry. It is the same ministry perpetuated by the priests. I want to share with you this reflection I wrote some three years ago. Please bear with the seemingly misuse of tenses, I want to publish this as it is. For now, let me talk about reshuffling. For all you know, reshuffling is one of the most exciting events of a parish priests' lives. )

By: Sem. Erdman B. Pandero FY6 --- July 2009

I was wondering before what’s the big fuss about parish assignments and reshuffling. I mean, in the first place, priests know for a fact that he cannot stay in his assignment for life. Our years of seminary formation taught us to accept that our lives are no longer for us to decide but our bishops’. Yeah right, I was a little condescending to priests not wanting to let go of their present parish assignments. I was… not until last Sunday.

The SAHA Batch went to Lumbia Parish (our pastoral exposure parish) for the orientation and the assignments. Having perhaps the edge over something (huh?) because I was the BEC coordinator, I was pretty much confident that I could keep my beloved Batinay (I was assigned in the sitio of Batinay a year prior to the writing of this reflection). I had plans for the chapel. Great plans, so I thought!

But it seemed that the Parish Pastoral Plan was not in congruence with what I had in mind. The parish was then divided into 4 clusters (Centro, Airport, Pagalungan, Tagpangi) with a vision of bringing the sacraments and other services to the people without them flocking to the Centro. The formation team expressed their need for us to help them form formation teams in the clusters. There were 8 of us and there were 4 clusters. Using simple mathematics, this means there would be 2 of us assigned in each cluster.

The Pastoral Plan was just great. The vision and plans of Fr. Joe (then parish priest now Bishop of Malaybalay) was indeed bishopric. It was great… yeah…

Arn2, Junjie and I were assigned last year in Tagpangi. That means to say that one of us had to let go but it should not be me, so I thought! We decided to have our assignments be based on our charisms vis-à-vis the need of the clusters. (Vianney Month helped us to honestly see what our strengths and limitations are.) Craig and Ricky volunteered to help the Airport People. James’ musical prowess was greatly needed in the Centro. Pusoy and Chris stayed with Pagalungan, their previous assignments. Now, who would roll his mat and leave Tagpangi? Centro team needed help for the module making that would be used for the entire parish on their 3-Year formation program. That was my greatest strength; that was where I was most effective with – module making. I rolled my mat (over a cup of tears) and bid goodbye from my previous assignment.

Perhaps, God is baking a rather tastier cookie for me. Honestly, it took me sometime to win the Batinay folks’ heart. I was a little ‘off’ for them. Imagine this, I was assigned in the farthest end of the world after my 3 years work in a rather Americanized environment in Cebu City. It was difficult; I was literally struggling to be in and to be with them. Now that I am in, now that I am with them, now that I am a member of that community, now that I am in their hearts, God wants me out.

Lesson of the Day: This is not my ministry; my assignment is not mine to choose. This is God’s work, I am just an instrument.

My Realization: Reshuffling will always be painful to priests who give their all to the parish. It will always be painful but one has to move on. Next parish assignment please!!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Sheep Without A Shepherd!

Gospel Reading: Matthew 9, 32-38

Like a sheep without a shepherd. Have you ever wondered why Jesus often used the imagery of the sheep and the shepherd when He talked about His relationship with us? There were also other animals during His time. There were also cows, bulls, pigs, dogs, cats, and perhaps rabbits. But why the sheep?

Sheep are meek and fragile creatures. They have this dominance hierarchy. Wikipedia describes them as having the "natural inclination to follow a leader to new pastures." They don't think on their own, they simply follow their leaders. It doesn't make them less as an animal, they are just simply created that way. Naturally meek and trusting, they simply follow. This is the reason why shepherds are very much part of their lives. The shepherds guide them to the greener pasture, keep them away from harm, and tend to their other needs. An absentee shepherd will surely do harm than good to the sheep.

We do have a sheep here in the Archbishop's House. It was given as an offering to the Archbishop in one of his masses. We don't have any shepherd though, and I am not yet ready to take that responsibility. The sheep learns to live a life on its own. After months of staying here, the sheep tends to forget what it really is - a sheep. Now, it seems to be acting as though it were a dog. It is now eating left-over foods. Left on its own, the sheep tends to imitate the dogs nearby. It cannot decide on its own and live as it should be, a sheep.

Like a sheep without a shepherd. I can only imagine what will happen to me if Jesus were not with me. I am a wayward son. I easily get sidetracked. At times like the sheep in the Bishop's House who acts like a dog, I tend to forget that I am an adopted child of God, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and called to live as a member of a pilgrim community, Left on my own, I know I can create havoc and disaster.

My story is also everbody's story. Waywardness is the story of every man and woman. As Jesus noticed, we are like sheep. We need a shepherd who will be our guide. Jesus says, "I am the Good Shepherd!" He knows how to bring me to the right path, to lead me to greener pasture, and to tend to my needs. We all need the Good Shepherd.

There are times when we are a little bit off from the track, a little bit deaf from His calling, a little bit calloused in making moral judgments. Do not be afraid! Jesus, our Shepherd, is always with us. We may at times feel that we are at the edge of a cliff, rest assured that when we let go and let God, He is there, ready to catch us at every fall. Be trusting! Hold on! With Jesus at our side, we are no longer shepherd-less sheep for He is the Good Shepherd.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

If Only I Can Touch His Cloak...

Gospel Reading: Matthew 9, 18-26

If only I can touch His cloak, I shall be cured. I can only imagine how difficult it was for the woman to live a life of such misery for 12 years. During Jesus' time, a woman in her monthly period was considered unclean. Being unclean means no contact with anyone. Anyone who touched her or even rub elbows with her would also become unclean. One had to go through the ritual of purification every time one had contact with an unclean person. The woman in the Gospel today must be very, very lonely. She had no contact with anyone for the last 12 years of her life. She was physically and emotionally disturbed. Physically, having to bleed profusely was no joke. Emotionally, losing contact with anyone was a torture.

Let us see how she approached Jesus in comparison with the Roman official who met Jesus and knelt down before Him. The official had the face to face Jesus. He knelt before Jesus and expressed what he wanted from Him. On the other hand, the lady was behind Jesus. She didn't have the face to face Him. The Jewish community regarded her as unclean. Her religion considered her a sinner. She must have asked herself what had she done to deserve such bad fate. She must have asked herself what must she do in order to be healed and live a normal life again. Before Jesus, she felt that she was unworthy.

In one way or another, we are like this woman. At times we feel that we are not worthy of the love of God. When we honestly look at ourselves, we see so much of our sinfulness. The other night, a woman sent me a message. She told me she was such a bad woman and her sins were unforgivable. She could not even look at the cross without feeling unworthy.

If only I can touch His cloak, I shall be cured. This woman must have heard so many stories about Jesus. The streets in Galilee and Capernaum during Jesus' time must have discussed more frequently the many miracles that He did. The woman knew Jesus could heal her. But she felt unworthy to face Him. The only solution was to get the miracle out from Jesus without Him knowing it. Such a clever idea! If only I can touch His cloak, I shall be cured. Jesus turned around and said, "Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you!"

If only I can touch His cloak, I shall be cured. Let us learn from this woman and see our Christian lives the way she did. We are sinners, true enough, but we are still loved by Jesus. Even the tassels of His cloak can heal us. Let us then bow before Jesus, or kneel before Him, or like the woman, stealthily approached Him. Surely, in whatever ways we are doing it, He will listen to our cries. Surely He will also tell to us, "Courage! Your faith has saved you!"

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Extra Baggage! - 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Reading: Matthew 11, 25-30

I was 26 years old when I first had my chance to take a plane from Cebu to Manila. There seemed to be so many gates and so many directions to follow. People seemed to be doing their own thing. They didn't notice a lost soul wandering around and in them. Cool! I wanted to be cool and to act as naturally as I could. I didn't want to ask anyone. I wanted to be in! I didn't know what to do.

I was at the Check-in counter when the lady asked me, "How about your bag sir?" I casually answered, "No, I'm fine." I didn't know what she was asking about. I've seen in some movies that I need to drop my bag off but I didn't know when and where. And I was also thinking, if this the place to drop my bag off, how to reclaim it?

There I was walking down the hallway unto the Waiting Area with my heavy backpack and 1 big heavier carryall bag. I noticed that everybody seems to be simply gliding with small hand carry bags but there I was, overly burdened.

Life, they say, is burdensome. Even newborn babies know this. We hear them cry as soon as they are out. But notice that as soon as they feel comforted, they start to come calm down. They are still in the same world, breathing for their life, knowing by instinct that sooner or later, they will grow up and have to face the rugged truth about life. But the mother's caress is enough for them to be assured that it is difficult but it will be all right. The mother's caress is enough for them to sleep through the night.

We don't need to fly far away just to know what pain and suffering is. We look at our relationships now. We have troubled marriage, daunting in-laws, drop-out kids, and at times stubborn parents. We deal with each them on a daily basis. But like the newborn baby, we may not be able to get away from the situation but we will be comforted by the people around us. However, this people comforting us need the same comforting that we do. The comforting they can give is relative to their own personal circumstances. We need real and lasting comforting.

Jesus Christ comforts us. He said, "Come to me all you who are burden... and I will give you rest... For my yoke is easy and my burden light." At times we want to do things our way; solve problems and resolve conflicts the way we have been been doing it. He assures us that He will offer rest for all of us. He Himself knows how it is to go through the pains, difficulties, and challenges. He was once with us and lived us one of us. He knows all of it and He also knows the comforting of His own Father. This is the comfort that Jesus will give us. He will give us the love and comfort He received from His own Father. He calls us to take our rest. But at times we are too busy to notice Him. We are preoccupied with so many things that we fail to acknowledge this God who comes to us and offer us love, comfort and rest.

I could have enjoyed my first walk in the airport premises had I listened to the lady's invitation to have my bags be checked in. I could have glided through and enjoyed my first ever airplane flight.

On my succeeding flights, I made it sure that I only have my hand carry bag with me and nothing else. As to my extra burdens, well, I do have the entire airline attendants to help me with my baggage. Why bother adding burden to myself when somebody who knows the entire trip and the airplane capacity offers me some minutes of rest? Jesus does the same. He doesn't take away the burdens. He shares it with us.