On Hope

Though you may lose your way, do not lose hope. Christ is the light. And if you find yourself blinded by the darkness of sin, take comfort that God Himself will seek you out. If you cannot see Him, then listen. The voice of the Spirit echoes. He will call out for you even before you call out for Him. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God…You may find yourself in a great trial, and your confidence in God may be shaken. Keep in your heart that often, God allows these trials in our lives to remind us to be dependent on Him, and Him alone. It is purification. It is our purgatory on earth.

Spiritual progress is often poisoned by the Devil with the worldly feeling of self-reliance. It’s an easy trap to fall into. But even in this great tragedy, Christ brings forth grace. If we humbly accept our weaknesses, then He becomes, as St. Paul writes, our strength. If you ever doubt your worth, if your past sins have weakened your trust in God’s mercy, simply look at the Cross. If God loved us that much, how can we not love ourselves? We are His children. We belong to Him alone. And our thorns? Why should you fear them? Why should it disconcert you? Why should you be discouraged?

Those thorns which pain you – give them to Christ for He wears it as His triumphant Crown. Still, if nothing seems to work, if the sight of the Cross frightens you, wearies you, worries you; if your thorns seem to be too much, then seek the bright light of Mary’s unstained mantle. Bring to the Immaculate the thorn – it is something which belongs to her. She will make it presentable to our Lord. Our mother truly is the bright moon in the darkest of nights, a constant reminder of the Sun’s promise of the day as she reflects His light.

And pray. Pray relentlessly. Pray even if you feel nothing. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. And work – serve others. The more you give of yourself to others, the more of yourself returns. It is the great mystery of our faith. It is the great joy of love. Charity is what heals the wounds brought about our disgrace. A cheerful service is the enemy’s worst nightmare. If you are full of joy and peace in suffering, then suffering will bring you the fullness of joy and peace. Do not lose hope. Instead, lose yourself in Hope.

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Close To You

Manila
19 October 2017

Dear H:

I am assailed by great temptations against purity. Many of my past sins have been resurfacing from the dark recesses of the life I lived before. Like old wounds which I thought had closed, they suddenly open and bleed with memories I would rather forget. The reopened wounds itch – they torment me with old desires. The enemy wants me to think that my efforts to live a chaste life are meaningless. Indeed, amidst the obvious horror of the sins of the flesh, the enemy is often able to present evil as something necessary. And to that, he tempts to even greater dangers, including the sin of presumption, by offering the possibility of simply committing sin, for there is the Sacrament of Penance anyway.

And then there are the relentless discouraging thoughts which press against my desire for a vocation. I find myself wrestling with questions and ideas about belonging. If the enemy finds a fortress stands in the way of his unchaste tactics, he devises a new one which appeals to the emotion. The old voice calls out to me – you don’t belong there, you’re not one of them, you will never be one of them. He fills my thoughts with envy, resentment, and loneliness. He stirs my pride by exaggerating false notions of alienation. You will not be happy in this path. You are not up to par with them. You are not smart enough. You are not holy enough. You are a sinner.

Today, in the Blessed Sacrament, God spoke. Despite of my frustrations over these relentless attacks, He made me realize that nothing has been left to chance. I am still here. I am fighting. He has not abandoned me in my trials. Every day, I make a choice to choose Him, and try to commit to this choice the best way I could. For every evil and impure desire, I mutter, “Jesus, have mercy! Mary, help me!” For every temptation to despair and lose hope, I hold closely to the firm and unyielding strength of the Cross.

And this choice I make, this battle I carry out, is truly not my own doing. It is the grace of God. I am still here because of Him. I am fighting because He is fighting for me. Anxious about these great tests in my spiritual life, I have overlooked that God’s grace has been at work all along. He has spared me from great falls. He has reminded me I am His and His alone. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s. God’s image is stamped on me. I do belong. I belong to God.

Whenever the pain of loving the Lord too little pierces through my heart, it is because I have wrongly thought I “needed” to get the approval of my God to be loved. After all these trials, I see more clearly that God loves me. It is not how I love Him. It is how He loves me. His love has truly been sufficient; I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me. Mother said these temptations could mean God is asking more from me. Perhaps, it is to grow in confidence in what He can do in my life. My trust still wavers, for it is weakened by pride and made fragile by my many worldly attachments. Going through these trials when choices must be made, God wants me to fully depend on Him. After all, if there are no tests, how would I grow in humility, prone as I am to believe I can do all things, and that I have done all things? With these challenges, I see once more how small I am, and how dependent I am on the grace of God.

With the intercession of our Blessed Mother, I count on the short reading from Judith from Monday’s lauds for encouragement.

“Besides all this, let us give thanks to the Lord our God for putting us to the test as he did our ancestors. Recall how he dealt with Abraham, and how he tested Isaac, and all that happened to Jacob in Syrian Mesopotamia while he was tending the flocks of Laban, his mother’s brother. He has not tested us with fire, as he did them, to try their hearts, nor is he taking vengeance on us. But the Lord chastises those who are close to him in order to admonish them.”

Pax,

F.L.

If Only

Manila
17 October 2017
Feast of Saint Ignatius of Antioch

Dear M,

There isn’t a day I wish the silence did not exist. It’s an embarrassing thought – to dwell on the lack of reciprocity. It’s a reminder of the loneliness that still exists, the black hole in the soul which I tried to, and which I still try to, fill up with fleeting, frivolous consolation. My failure to discipline the unskilled emotions, and to discern what was right from wrong led to this – another illusory pain that is as ironically as tangible as pain. Wasn’t it just a year ago when friendship meant something better? Wasn’t it year ago when conversations were easy, and natural? Now, not a single glance. Now, not a word. It almost feels like hate – the avoidance, the attempts to elude one another. Wasn’t it a year ago you would share table during lunch? Now, just distance. Always distance.

What use it is to psychologize, much less philosophize? I have projected personal deficiencies on the other. When the projections fit, I consciously and unconsciously objectify the other and put him on a pedestal. Oh if only I could be this or that! If only I have what is his! If only I am more of a man! If only I could be like him, then maybe I will not hate myself. And that self-hate – that selfish, self-loathing; that irrational self-critique – becomes a feeling. And when you act on the feelings, life becomes convoluted. Sometimes, it also means losing the possibility of friendship. Sometimes, it also means exposing yourself to many self-generated contradictions. Sometimes, it’s really just lonely.

And you know what makes it lonelier still? How little I have loved God through it all. Blinded by the passing, I could not even see the infinite passing by. Struck by self-pity, I could not even see the pity the infinite gave. Possessed by the creature, I could not allow myself to be possessed by the Creator – to be possessed by his love: his infinite friendship, his sharing table at the Eucharist, his easy way of speaking and listening in prayer, his real pain and death for me, his closeness – so close he resides in my heart. His glance – pierces and heals. If only I could love him, the way he loves me!

Pax,

F.L.

Notes #2

4 September 2017

Today is another battle with a bout of loneliness. I know its roots. I have been complacent the last few weeks, and have allowed myself to be carried away by the world. Frivolous entertainment, sentimental music, bad company – some because of my choices; some were choices made prior to my conversion which I still cannot cut off. I am lonely because I am also afraid about my future. I am lonely because the consolations offered by the world is so ephemeral. There are the shallow ecstasies of romantic verve and giddiness – and yet it all seems so hollow, and leaves me so hollow. The music I indulge in only makes me more sentimental, and thus, prone to gloom and loneliness. My friends – my old friends – put me in occasions where my weakness may be taken advantage of by the evil one. Thus, my scrupulosity too. Thus, my lonely view that I need to earn God’s approval. It’s just a rough day. I could barely get through my Rosary. I was near tears.

12 September 2017

Bring everything to God. He is scraping your heart, unearthing the embedded dirt and sins, which you need to see. Your heart must be emptied. It will hurt but not as much if you look at the other. Offer your loneliness for your siblings. Bring them at the foot of the Cross. You will experience pain. But you will bear it. Be firm in your resolutions. Everything will be easier with Mary. She will bring your soul the peace it thirsts for. Be open to her.

16 September 2017

Faith in action is love. Our foundation in life, which is faith, must be deepened through a commitment to prayer, continuous self-denial and renunciation of worldly desires, and active service. We must spend time in silence strengthening and building this foundation. We must listen to God. A deep interior life will help us recognize that God is everywhere. He has not abandoned us. He will not abandon us. Trust in Him as your foundation in life. I must built a spiritual fort and battle the passing, frivolous pleasures in life.

Proverbs 16: 9: A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.

23 September

A life of order is a life rooted in Christ. It is a life of peace because a life that follows a plan is a life that allots time to God. A soul that listens is a soul with order in life.

Listen to Christ. Let go of all the anxieties and noises which choke you, deafen you.

Offer once more your Cross to christ. Even if it seems like a dry, unfruitful encounter, persevere.

24 September

Do everything well. Even the house chores. Love the menial tasks. God desires mercy not sacrifices. He wants you to be humble. Look at Mary. She received the greatest grace and she responded with humility. Rather than insulate herself from the world, the first thing she does is visit Elizabeth. Her response to God’s mercy is Love. Love is service. Listen to God.

God wants to give you comfort and solace. God wants to heal you. But you have to open up your heart. Open up your heart to Christ.