I was sitting alone at one of the back pews of the church after a very long day in a very long week of a very long month. The priest’s homily was typical, at least, I’ve come to know that he has a theme that underlies each and every homily or reflection that he writes, and that is to instill in the minds and hearts of his readers/ parishioners that we should all take up our cross and follow Jesus, and it won’t be a bed of roses but it sure is the road to fulfilling our mission and seeing God face to face in heaven.
I once asked him, “Fr. Steve, how come you always talk and write about the hardships of Christ’s followers? Why don’t you give some air time to the blessings and joys of discipleship?” I asked that because that was what I thought I needed to hear. He replied, “Because that’s what everyone else is talking about, and what everyone wants to hear. Sure God wants to bless us but if we focus on being comfortable, we lose sight of the true meaning of discipleship. Someone has to speak that truth.”
So there I was, silently uttering praises and thanks to the Lord at mass for He had been with me, like He promised, as I struggled through my conflicting desires and juggled overlapping responsibilities on a daily basis. When the offertory came, the song was just “Take and Receive” but it struck a chord deep within me, and I found myself crying… alone… in a church packed with mass-goers.
I tried to do the trick that my friend Lysa from Viva Entertainment (whose birthday is July 25, happy birthday Lysa dear!) taught me: to look up before the tears fall and to wait a few seconds, then to look down and make a wide smile. It didn’t work. I couldn’t fight the tears streaming down my face, because I remembered how far the Lord and I had gone. He had been asking, and I had been saying “yes”, ever since I committed my life to Him in October 1993. Every command and direction that He gave me, I obeyed, even if it cost me to cut off my arm and to writhe in pain. As our former National Women’s Moderator Ate My put it, I often complained to God but eventually I always obeyed Him.
His latest mission for me was proving to be very challenging and I had to go back to Him for whom I made the promise of serving with my all, and steer my thoughts away from trying to please people and to accomplish my plans. After the mass, one of the kids who took the LSS last year approached me and asked, “Ate Ella, are you ok? You look sad.” I explained that I shed tears of joy, and expressed surprised at how transparent I was to her. I realized later that it was because she just graduated from Clinical Psychology!
The night before, I was at the Lingkod Makati anniversary, and I cried at an “offertory” song too, “I Offer My Life”, as performed by the Middle C band during their very memorable worship concert. It happened to be one of the cuts from the soundtrack of my life. It was so associated with me back in the day that during the first (and the best) surprise birthday honoring that the QT’s concocted for me in 2001, they sang that song.
It really captures what my heart is saying at the moment, as I’m about to turn a year older (againnnn!) and also about to celebrate my first year in the Lingkod National Office. It reflects who gave me this life and how difficult it is, and how joyful, to give it all back to Him, not in pieces but as a whole. It speaks of pain and acclaim; and of wishes and dreams that are yet to come true; and of offering this one life because broken as it is, it is all I can offer, and surprisingly, all that He wants from me.
So really, this is what I wanted to say:
I Offer My Life
All that I am, all that I have,
I lay them down before You O Lord.
All my regrets, all my acclaim,
The joy and the pain,
I’m making them yours.
Lord I offer my life to You
Everything I’ve been through
Use it for Your glory
Lord I offer my days to You
Lifting my praise to You
As a pleasing sacrifice
Lord, I offer You my life.
Things in the past, things yet unseen
Wishes and dreams that are yet to come true.
All of my hopes, all of my plans,
My heart and my hands are lifted to You.
What can we give that You have not given
And what do we have that is not already Yours?
All we possess are these lives we’re living
And that’s what we give to you, Lord