Monday, November 30, 2009

Bo Sanchez on KCon

An update from my previous post. In the Soulfood Newsletter which I received in my email Inbox, Bo Sanchez apologized for the lunch issue. I'm pasting his apology below:

Now For My Apologies

I deeply apologize for what happened during lunchtime.

Araneta Coliseum has this bizarre rule that says participants can’t go out of the Coliseum without buying a new ticket in the afternoon.

Days before the event, we tried hard to convince the Araneta management to change this bizarre rule. But they didn’t budge. A rule is a rule, they said.

Again, I’m deeply sorry for any inconvenience this has caused you. There are just some things we have no control over—and this was one of them.

I’ve already spoken my personal opinion to my team: That if Araneta doesn’t change their unreasonable rules (there are others I’d rather not talk about here), we’ll hold the KCon in another place next year.

The KCon is for you—and I’ll do everything to make it great for you!

Ok, brother Bo. I have seen my share of venue and food arrangements issues with regard to huge conferences, and I do understand that there are constraints that organizers have to live with. I think that the people were blessed during the conference and that the hunger was worth it; even a choice for some.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Tale of Hunger

I do not have all the answers to the questions raised by this story, but I will share it anyway. For it is a true story.

If there is one world problem I would like to solve, it is hunger. I know it is linked to poverty, but for me, specifically, it is hunger. Maybe this is my road to creating my own Soup Kitchen. So whenever I hear of people unable to eat, whether women, children, businessmen, or laymen, I cringe and I want to give them a sandwich. Immediately.

I guess I take this from my father, who is celebrating his 74th birthday today. He taught us the value of a full stomach, and this in turn made me want to share it to the whole wide world. I know. It sounds like my head is up in the clouds.

There are times when I am faced with reality and I feel a sinking feeling in my stomach. Last night, I had such an experience.

My young friends from the parish were given tickets to the Kerygma Conference being held this weekend at the Araneta Coliseum by our parish priest, Fr Steve Tynan, mgl. I sent one of them a sandwich, although I later found out that six young people attended. My regret is that I did not plan ahead about the meal aspect of their day.

I watched the conference online via video streaming while puttering around the house. I overheard an announcement that meal stubs were being sold so people could get affordable food. I said to myself, "There you go. Food will be available for the 10,000 people in attendance." And I went about cleaning the house, updating my Christmas list, and planning my holiday menu.

One of the youth leaders who is now a single professional is staying with me while my parents are away. When she got home, I asked her how the day went. She excitedly told me about the inspiring speakers, the beautiful songs, and the nice giveaways. True to form, I asked her what they had for lunch. Being one of the first to start working, Jobelle always ends up spending for her younger friends, a practice that Fr. Steve and I warned her, and Julie, another working member of the youth group, against. They should know how and when to say No, and to start saving for themselves.

Before answering me, Jobelle's face fell and she said, "Ate, we didn't have proper lunch."

My heart sank. I asked why. She said, "We thought we could go out to buy lunch. But the guards would not let us out. It was allegedly 'Araneta policy' that people had to buy lunch from the vendors. But we could not afford the food. Not for six people. So we pooled our money together and bought hotdogs and fries, the only food we could afford. We just ignored our hunger and concentrated on dreaming BIG, as the conference emphasized."

A thousand thoughts raced through my mind. How could this have happened? I had been to the Araneta before with a water bottle and I remembered being required to leave it at the baggage counter. It was Araneta policy that spectators could only buy water, necessary for man's survival, from their authorized vendors.

It was frustrating to hear that. Since the young people could not bring food in, they would be forced to spend P495 on a pan of pizza that would not appease their hunger, as for them lunch would not be complete without rice. Jobelle said they were prepared not to eat again today, and it was not a problem.

I had a problem with that, however. How many among the 10,000 people in attendance knew beforehand that they could not: 1) bring their own food and drinks; 2) choose where to buy their food and drinks? It would have been more acceptable had the vendors carried lunch items on the P50 below range, which was all Jobelle and her group expected.

I hurriedly packed whatever food I could into a bag and firmly told Jobelle to bring it. They were to eat it before entering the Araneta Coliseum. I woke up this morning and found that Jobelle had left to attend the morning mass at their chapel before going to the conference.

I know it is the Kerygma brothers and sisters' dream to gather tens of thousands of people to worship and praise God, and to be inspired to surrender their dreams to God. But. I would rather that they had arranged for decent, affordable food for everyone with the owners of the venue first; and if that venue is strict, they should have chosen another venue.

I have nothing against the Aranetas, the Araneta Coliseum, or the Araneta Center. I grew up with fond memories of Fiesta Carnival, Ali Mall, SM the one and only ShoeMart, National Book Store, and Rustans. As an adult, I frequent Gateway Mall and am a fan of Cafe Bola. I bring my nephews to Disney on Ice and watch concerts with my friends at the Coliseum. Once, I joined my Lingkod brothers and sisters for a dance performance on stage, loved it, and vowed that "I will be back, Araneta."

I think, however, that somebody ought to give them feedback of the impact of their "no food and drinks allowed" policy. People should be allowed to go out for lunch. Otherwise it is almost criminal, detaining people against their will, and curtailing their freedom to choose. And their right to eat.

Hunger of these particular people may be a personal concern for me, and I will take steps to correct it. I told Jobelle to bring the young people here after the conference and I will feed them again. I have seen them grow into mature, responsible, and generous people, and it makes me happy to be part of that growth. I am not giving them fish, but I am also teaching them how to fish. I am part of a group of "older" people who support the youth ministry of our parish and the MGL in Manila. This is the new ministry that God led me to, after the single young professionals, and I have grown to love it.

I cannot help God solve world hunger instantly and permanently. But I can do whatever I can, whenever I can, wherever I can, to keep some people from being hungry. One meal at a time. For we are called to be God's hands.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ella Learns from Eleazar

Today we reflect on what Eleazar said and did for the love of God. He is a shining example for us since he did not waver in his faith and even died for it. Would that every Christian reasoned like he did. I am inspired by him. Emphasis below all mine. Those are the lines that struck me.

From today's first reading:

Reading 1
2 Mc 6:18-31

Eleazar, one of the foremost scribes,
a man of advanced age and noble appearance,
was being forced to open his mouth to eat pork.
But preferring a glorious death to a life of defilement,
he spat out the meat,
and went forward of his own accord to the instrument of torture,
as people ought to do who have the courage to reject the food
which it is unlawful to taste even for love of life.
Those in charge of that unlawful ritual meal took the man aside privately,
because of their long acquaintance with him,
and urged him to bring meat of his own providing,
such as he could legitimately eat,
and to pretend to be eating some of the meat of the sacrifice
prescribed by the king;
in this way he would escape the death penalty,
and be treated kindly because of their old friendship with him.
But Eleazar made up his mind in a noble manner,
worthy of his years, the dignity of his advanced age,
the merited distinction of his gray hair,
and of the admirable life he had lived from childhood;
and so he declared that above all
he would be loyal to the holy laws given by God.

He told them to send him at once
to the abode of the dead, explaining:
“At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense;
many young people would think the ninety-year-old Eleazar
had gone over to an alien religion.
Should I thus pretend for the sake of a brief moment of life,
they would be led astray by me,
while I would bring shame and dishonor on my old age.
Even if, for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men,
I shall never, whether alive or dead,
escape the hands of the Almighty.
Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now,
I will prove myself worthy of my old age,
and I will leave to the young a noble example
of how to die willingly and generously
for the revered and holy laws.”

Eleazar spoke thus,
and went immediately to the instrument of torture.
Those who shortly before had been kindly disposed,
now became hostile toward him because what he had said
seemed to them utter madness.
When he was about to die under the blows,
he groaned and said:
“The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that,
although I could have escaped death,
I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging,
but also suffering it with joy in my soul
because of my devotion to him.”
This is how he died,
leaving in his death a model of courage
and an unforgettable example of virtue
not only for the young but for the whole nation.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Greatness and the Beauty of Created Things

I love this. I think I have posted this before, but this is the first reading today. I love how the author cannot comprehend how people could appreciate the creatures but not the Creator. My experience is that when I see something profoundly beautiful, I am immediately connected to God - be it crashing waves on a rock, or classical music played live. God is the source of everything. I'll let the author of Wisdom do the talking.

Reading 1
Wis 13:1-9

All men were by nature foolish who were in ignorance of God,
and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing him who is,
and from studying the works did not discern the artisan;
But either fire, or wind, or the swift air,
or the circuit of the stars, or the mighty water,
or the luminaries of heaven, the governors of the world, they considered gods.
Now if out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods,
let them know how far more excellent is the Lord than these;
for the original source of beauty fashioned them.
Or if they were struck by their might and energy,
let them from these things realize how much more powerful is he who made them.
For from the greatness and the beauty of created things
their original author, by analogy, is seen.
But yet, for these the blame is less;
For they indeed have gone astray perhaps,
though they seek God and wish to find him.
For they search busily among his works,
but are distracted by what they see, because the things seen are fair.
But again, not even these are pardonable.
For if they so far succeeded in knowledge
that they could speculate about the world,
how did they not more quickly find its Lord?

AMEN to that!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Simplifying My Prayer

It is comforting to know that God still answers prayers, even to those who think they least deserve it.

I had a sad Monday. A bad Monday. A burst-into-tears-in-the-middle-of-the-workday Monday. There are a thousand theories and explanations for that, but bottom line, I needed a better Tuesday. So I prayed. And I simplified my prayer. Whenever I recognize my own helplessness, I tend to simplify my prayer, and it works every time.

I said, "Lord, I really cannot handle anymore stress today. Please give me a spectacular day. Not ordinary, because that won't do to make up for the terrible time I had yesterday. I need a spectacular day."

He answered it. He totally gave me a spectacular Tuesday.

I had a great Wednesday.

A smashing Thursday.

A fabulous Friday.

And today, well this was a smokin' Saturday.

I kind of get it that God works better when we let Him do His job without too much whining and nagging. But sometimes I still forget and insist on my own way.

I was asked to be a reader for anticipated mass at the last minute, so I was not really prepared mentally and emotionally for it. (Yes, control freak that I am, I like to prepare for my lector duty). I thought it was just going to be another mass when God would not speak, and I would just serve and then go home.

Lo and behold, the priest whom I did not know used as an example during homily that story about the man who would not let go of the branch he was holding on to in the middle of the night, and stayed there even if he heard the voice of God telling him to let go. The next day, after his ordeal, the man saw that he was only a few inches from the ground. The priest likened this to the widow of Zarephath, from the First Reading, who thought that Elijah was demanding her to bake her last bread for him, when the prophet was giving her a message from God, that oil and flour would not run out in her pantry.

I closed my eyes and felt this message being pressed into my ears, into my head, and into my heart. It is always darkest before dawn. When you hit rock bottom, there is no way to go but up. Let go and let God.

I was recharged with a dash of faith and hope again. Enough for another week. And I recognized my blessings again. My cup overflows with what God wants to fill it with. Everything is grace.

I will try to simplify my prayer and my life more. Less stressed, more blessed that way.