Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Road to Freedom

Sometimes, we surprise ourselves. We do things that are "out of character." We know what we're doing is wrong and yet we do it again. We can't help it, is our excuse. We are "good", we tell ourselves, so we don't believe what we are actually capable of doing.

Probably. But we always have a choice. We can choose to say no to the habit, or the addiction, or the sin, or the person. We can distance ourselves from the source of our misery bit by bit.

Our friends and family can only remind us so much. But we have to see it for ourselves - the mistake, the destruction, the wrongdoing. Only when we own up to our actions and face the consequences do we become free.

And then we'll see the light. Our loved ones were right. We have stepped out of the darkness, and we look back and say, "What was I thinking? Why didn't I listen to them? What took me so long?"

The season of Lent is a time of grace, especially for those among us who want to get rid of something that is bad for us, and to change our lives for the better. Let us walk in faith and grab this opportunity being given to us to walk in the light and to be free.

Our lives won't be perfect instantly, but we can become better people, giving up one bad habit at a time. Let us pray for and support one another in this quest.

We can heal faster than we thought. We can move on better than we thought. We just have to follow the example of Jesus - His obedience, perseverance, faith, and love. It may sound difficult but this is our call, and we will surprise ourselves at our progress.

Forty days of Lent. Forty days of grace. Then our Easter will truly be victorious. By God's grace, we can do it.

P.S., If you succeed in this endeavor, tell me about it. Write it down and share it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Grace and Mercy

This has been a most challenging day for me, the kind that we all get once in a while.

During my prayer time this morning, several passages struck me, including the Gospel today, where Mark wrote this about the Lord: "He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, 'Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.'"

And this from the letter of James, which became my FB status for a while:

"But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind." (Jas 1:6, NAB)

Ask in faith. Don't seek a sign. I repeated this to myself over and over on my way to work. During the day, I had to face consequences of past mistakes, and to put myself at the mercy of others. If the letter of the law were to be applied, I would probably have been made to suffer more for my actions. I agonized over it the whole day, even as I went about my work and fulfilled my duties. I reminded myself to ask in faith, and to believe, not doubt. The wind would attempt to toss me about but I should remain steady.

Yet, guilt and fear gripped me. I was hard on myself, meting out the sentence already in my head. Then one word kept repeating in my head, as if whispered by a silent voice: Mercy. With mercy, I would not have to suffer the fate I was resigned to according to my own set of strict rules. I needed God's mercy. I needed to ask other people for mercy.

What did I do? I asked God for a sign. I always resort to this when my faith is at its thinnest, like it was earlier today. I begged God for assurance that He would show His mercy upon me and spare me from further pain.

He didn't have to do it, but God granted my request. I heard the word "mercy" from a friend tonight. I was shocked, and let the shock work through my little faith.

I would not know how to explain grace and mercy, but I have experienced it in my life. So many times, I deserved to be punished for misbehaving, but instead I had received nothing but kindness, goodness, and generosity.

Guess what, upon my return home and to FB, I saw this posted as the Word Among Us status:

How many are your mercies, O God - mercies yesterday and today, and at every moment of my life, from before my birth, from before time itself began! I am plunged deep in mercies - I drown in them; they cover me, wrapping me around every side. -Venerable Charles de Foucauld

This described my whole experience today. I was amazed; simply amazed. Despite the word not to ask for a sign, I still did. Even with my recidivism and habitual delinquency, I received pardon and mercy. The pill was not as bitter as I thought it ought to be.

If we were to use our human standards to judge ourselves, we would all perish. But God's grace is enough for us. Jesus' sacrifice has saved us. His mercy is from age to age; everlasting; abundant. These are not words I recite from memory, but are so real to me.

I do not deserve this, but I thank you, Lord. Thank you for letting me personally experience your grace and mercy, and for working through my little faith. Help me to remember all these tomorrow, and to focus on faith, grace, and mercy instead of fear, guilt, and pride. Amen.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Preparing for Lent 2010

I have found a good link for Lent 2010. It is quite comprehensive in information and links, enough to get one started early, and hopefully, properly, this year.

Not just because the Church says so, but I have found that Easter becomes more joyful whenever I go through Lent seriously, as in to the best of my abilities. During those years when Lent just passed me by without making certain decisions for more fasting, praying, and almsgiving, I did not experience the same triumphant personal rising at Easter as I did during my "good years".

So this year I will plan ahead a bit, and have less of the world, so I can have more of the Lord.

I will share with you my simple decisions for the season of Lent:

1. Fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (again, not just because it's "required", but it is good for the soul. Fasting is one meal and two snacks, according to our parish priest.)

2. Wake up 30 minutes early and incorporate more meditation/ reflection/ journaling into my prayer time.

3. Daily mass as often as I can.

4. One hour of adoration a week.

5. Go to Confession.

6. Revisit my spiritual book supply and read those I have postponed reading for one reason or another (not ready; no time; lazy; afraid).

7. Continue attending weekly bible study and serving in various ways at the parish.

8. Go on a personal retreat.

9. Join a Lenten recollection or day of prayer.

10. Do random acts of kindness to strangers and lovedones alike.

Sharing this makes it clearer for me and reminds me to be more conscientious in my decisions. How about you, my dear readers? What would you like to do this Lent, to know Christ more fully, and let Him more into your life? Feel free to post your comments. God bless!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Here I Am, Lord.

I staged a personal strike against God last week. I deliberately toyed with a plan that I knew went against His will for me, because I felt like pushing it. I wrestled with God. Guess who won.

Some kind of spiritual virus I might have caught somewhere caused me to think that I could go ahead with such plan, and that God would still bless me for He cannot help Himself. And then, the classic elder son syndrome crossed my mind, "After all, He blesses even the disobedient, the sinful, and the selfish. I just want this little thing. It's harmless. Surely I don't have to be obedient and proper all the time."

Never mind what my plan was. I hardly had time to hatch it! I was still trying to justify why I wanted it in the first place, when I received an invitation to a healing mass followed by a concert. I found myself saying yes even if I wasn't sure what it was going to be about. When I got there, lo and behold, it was a concelebrated mass. And God spoke to me there.

He showed me that I was just setting myself up again for heartache and failure. He showed me that He wanted to prevent me from getting hurt again, and that He was not withholding anything good from me. He reminded me of His personal love for me as His daughter. It took me a while to process what He meant.

So He spoke again. I went to mass the next day, and the priest spoke about obedience. I looked up to the ceiling and told God, "Yes, Lord, I can hear you. I will obey you." During communion, the choir sang an old song - Here I am, Lord. It always speaks to me about responding to God's call. I had to smile despite myself. I can run; but I can't hide.

Yesterday, being a first Sunday, was my turn again to be Lector. I read during my prayer time what was assigned to Lector I. There I saw Isaiah's words, where the song came from, and where my lifelong response came from:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”
“Here I am,” I said; “send me!” (Isaiah 6:8, NAB)

I just don't know how to get there. My will is not yet in accord with His will. The How, I believe, shall be revealed in due time.