Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lenten Retreat 2014

Saturday before Palm Sunday, a retreat for our community was perfectly held. Retreats like this are like breath of fresh air. It would have been perfect though if it was held in a retreat house by the beach, white sand, overlooking the crystal blue waters, with seagulls flying by it, inhaling the fresh ocean breeze and of course, if we're served with sumptuous meals. But that would have been expensive for sure. This retreat in our local church was free so can't be anymore grateful! :)    

Wishful thinking :)

The retreat was awesome nevertheless. One of the activities we did was to reflect on the story of Zacchaeus. We were given a few minutes to go out of the room, find a quiet spot around the church and reflect on the story. I decided to go inside the church, in front of the crucifix. I knelt down before Jesus and after saying my prayer, I felt like He whispered in my ear. 

Jesus: Joselle, write it down. 
Me: But Lord, I don't have a pen with me.
Jesus: Joselle, get your cellphone from your pocket and type it down.
Me: Oh yeah okay. (Jesus is techy! hehe)

In a few minutes, I was able to write my short reflection and when we got back to the room, we were asked to share it to the group. In my head, I said, "Lord thanks for telling me to write it down." 

After lunch, a sweet and gentle woman approached me and she asked me to send her a copy of my reflection and so this entry is for her. It is always an honor for me to share God's word.     

Zacchaeus the tax collector- Luke 19: 1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” 

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 

 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Was there a time in our lives where we had an urge to seek Jesus like Zacchaeus? Perhaps we were curious to the wonders he's done to other people and we wanted to be blessed like them too. Or perhaps there's emptiness in our hearts that no material things can suffice but only a genuine relationship to a great man. A man who doesn't judge us rather sincerely accepts us for who we are. Why do you think Zacchaeus was touched by Jesus? Because Jesus lovingly acknowledged him as a friend rather than a sinful man like the rest of the people did. In our lives, we try to live as comfortable as possible and live a good life. We find things that would make us happy and that would fill up the missing piece in our puzzle of life. But no matter what we do, our search for happiness never ends. Our earthly hunger is like a drug that temporarily satisfies us but never lasts.  Still nothing is able to satisfy our human desires. Zacchaeus was wealthy and if he will, could care less about this guy named Jesus but what made him seek the son of God? Perhaps it was the pure acceptance of Jesus and a genuine relationship that  He offered Zacchaeus. I don't know Zacchaeus much but maybe he's been longing for someone like Jesus in his life at that point. People regarded him a sinful man and casted him away so Jesus accepting him must have pulled a string in his heart. He must thought though Jesus was poor, his kindness and his amazing works were what drew people near him and made him the talk of the town. On the other hand, Zacchaeus was rich but never felt accepted and welcomed by people. Interesting. It just makes me realize that money can't buy everything. I liked how Zacchaeus repented from his sins and turned towards Jesus and that Jesus embraced him and saved him. 

I must admit that I was like Zacchaeus few years ago, I guess. Though I wasn't rich like him, my pocket was very rich in sin and made me hard to see Jesus. I felt like as if I was standing with the people in the crowd too short to see Jesus because the things that blocked my sight was way too tall. Things like jealousy, pride, selfishness, bitterness, bad relationships, bad media, vices,  and what not. I was amazed of how this simple man named Jesus was able to make a crowd go crazy over him. I was curious. What will it cost me to take a peek at this guy? So I climbed up the tree. I decided to go seek Jesus profoundly and joined a community. In order to climb up that tall tree, I had to let go of the things that weighs me down. I had to let go of the bad things so my climb up would be easier. And so I did. And when I reached the top and my vision of Jesus got clearer, I was filled with joy and peace that nothing can ever describe. He embraced me, loved me and asked me to stay in my heart. 

Speakers: Deacon Gerry and his wife


Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Back To Back Self Examination

What an interesting Monday had passed! I had to contrastingly examine two things in myself. 

First-- my conscience.
Second-- my job performance.

Examining ourselves can be compared to examining a car. When my car reached 100,000 miles/mark, I had to bring it to a mechanic to have it serviced, checked, replaced what had to be replaced, added some type of fluids to ensure smooth drive, and when I drove it, it felt like a brand new car again. It's same thing with us, we have to be assessed at some point in our lives. We need to be aware of what things we have to change and to improve on so we get better and keep on doing a good job. Anyway, back to the 2 things.

My conscience.

In our Catholic church each year, a group of priests hold a mass confession to prepare us and cleanse our heart, mind and soul for holy week. I'm so guilty of not going to monthly confession as what our church encourages us to do. I only go and confess my sins during Lent and Advent season. It's embarrassing and I really need to work on this. That was one thing I had to confess. hehe. 

My job performance.

At work each year, we fill out an employee self-evaluation at end of fiscal year. It is the perfect time to put our performance on paper and show off the hard work we've accomplished for the year. It has to look nice and impressive especially if we hope for a raise or promotion.   

I'm not gonna lie, in my employee self evaluation, I sounded quite conceited. I always do each year. Although I have been honest with my evaluation and my supervisors can attest to that, I don't know why at this time of year, I feel so stuck up. Who doesn't want a raise? Who wouldn't be static to get an excellent rating? They validate our performance and our worth to the company. It is good to be great at what we do and to utilize our God-given talents but it just doesn't come out naturally in me to give glory to myself. When I started to accept Jesus in my life, I learned to give Him back all the praises I get for He is the source of everything. At the end of writing my evaluation, I felt so consumed.

On the other hand, in examining my conscience, I had to strip myself from all vanity, glory and looked deep down my faults. It is not the most comfortable thing to do whenever I admit to a priest the repugnant and ugly things I've done but dude the moment I step out of the confession room, I feel so light and clean! I need not to uphold and display my strengths and my weaknesses and still I am accepted and loved by His grace! God loves me even when I don't deserve it. All He asks is for me to reconcile and repent! 

How divergent. 

This made me realize the difference between heaven and earth more.

We live in a world where we like to put ourselves on a pedestal. We love it when we're praised and when people value us. We like getting multiple likes in our IG and Facebook status. Everything has a price tag. We long for status, power, and wealth. In order for us to have all these, we basically have to earn it. We need to study to get the job we want, we need to work hard if we want to get our goals in life, and sometimes, when push comes to shove, we got to sacrifice some important things that blocks us from our success. We will do whatever it takes to reach the top of the world. But that is in the world. 

In heaven, we get there simply by accepting that Jesus is our savior. That simple. We don't need to write and elaborate all the good and bad things we've done because He is all knowing. No pretensions. We already have earned His grace by Jesus' laying His self on the cross. We just need to acknowledge Him, confess our sins and turn away from them. In doing so, we are humbled and He is lifted up. When we are heartily sorry for all our sins, we try to live a righteous way of life that pleases God, and if we believe in God the Father almighty, then we definitely have the key to unlock a reward bigger than we could ever have imagined. Eternal life. To God be the glory!