Shake, Rattle and Roll

It’s that time of the year again – the sweaters come out of our closets, those breezy coffee breaks and the wistful mood is in the air. I try my best to be a prayerful person, by “best” I mean I try to make it a point to talk to the big man up there on a regular basis. Drivers must think I’m quite a crackhead from their cars as they watch me talk normally to myself. My life is an oxymoron.

As a born and raised Catholic; I was taught the value of connection from an early age, to find it and build it. No lie, week after week and month after month, I’ve attended mass diligently but today I noticed how stale my attempts have become. I would enter church, make the sign of the cross, say the prayers, listen to the sermon, take the eucharist, pray and then make the sign of the cross again. Done, done and done! It’s quite an easy process to do and it makes you feel good to be at His house and feel His presence.

Today, I laughed at myself. So somewhere between the above ritual mentioned, there’s a part where you wish peace unto others around you with hands clasped. I’ve been doing this every mass I’ve attended this year, heck! I’ve been doing this all my life! Whilst the choir sang their tune and the priest wishes us peace, we turned to the people around us wishing them peace as well. As did I, said one to the front, one to the left and the right but when I turned to my back, there was a lady in her classy beige coat who took more than my wish and stretched her hand out and said “peace be with you too”. It’s been awhile since someone has shook my hand and it occurred to me that I’ve lost my sense of grip. It was a matter of seconds but the touch of her soft warm hands and her sincere eyes caught me off guard. Yes, off guard. I have been doing this all wrong for awhile it seems.

Shame on me.

In my emptiness and yearning for His message to come to me as I prayed in church, my focus was on Him and only Him. That man on the cross, that guy up there and that spirit. It’s blasphemous to even speak of the Holy Trinity this way but as I rewind that moment at church over and over in my head, it’s quite an epic fail to think of your holiness to be so perfect and yet so flawed in its ways.

As we constantly seek his attention in our day, in our prayers and in our ways, everything else around us blurs away. I guess we have churches and places of prayer to go not just for ourselves but for everyone to be one with Him and experience his love from each other. Perhaps his invisibility (a physical sense) in such places brings about a transparency upon us; we’re on our knees and our eyes closed with prayer but maybe our prayers can be strengthened by the people around us in prayer too. To see them seek God, helps us seek God. To see their love, helps us see His love.

Our hearts go all out to Him night after night before we sleep, praying silently about our burdens and thoughts. Sometimes we tend to forget to open our eyes and get up on our knees to stand again; we blanket our prayers only for Him to hear and lose that human connection. It’s that you and me against the world feeling.

Tonight, practice to pray with your eyes and hearts open. Practice to accept and share the love and prayers to those around you. It’s like a double layer effect; I share with you and you share with me then up it goes up to Him louder, clearer and hopefully more whole. I think prayer doesn’t require you to beg and cry but rather teaches us to find, to build and to grow with faith. With this we’ll learn to stand and walk in faith.

Peace be with you.

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Judas Liked Bread

The Last Supper Restored, Leonardo Da Vinic

I am a born and raised Catholic, studied in a Catholic school all my life and an extremely active church goer at some point. All those three points are facts, today, those facts are still correct. I am the way I am because it is my imperative bestowed to me by family, tradition, society and well, because I was baptized. Before you start yapping about how generic this is going to be – no, I am not an atheist, agnostic, Jesus freak or any of those labels people use that relate to faith.

Now that I’ve cleared that out…

I try my best to regularly read the assigned biblical scripture everyday and with Easter Sunday right around the corner and Holy Week in our midst, I noticed something I’ve never noticed before. Not bragging – we were obliged to study an entire section of the New Testament in the bible for our board exam. We read about Jesus’ miracles, suffering, sacrifice and humanity. For years I thought that what I read was all about Jesus, how we should aim to be perfect like Him, that we should be holy and pure. That Jesus sacrificed His life for us to save us. And everytime I go to mass, I would think I know almost everything from the bible because that’s what we’ve been listening to all this time! So to me, it was a “no-duh” situation that the assigned readings is to simply state God’s amazing love for us through his son, Jesus. It was a beautiful love story.

Sorry, but that’s still not my point.

My point was that all this while, I was wrong. Okay, I didn’t really fast diligently as I was supposed to nor did I follow what I decided to give up. Confession doesn’t make me feel comfortable at all so don’t ask how long its been. That’s my point – the whole time I thought the Bible was to tell one of the greatest love story ever known, a sacrifice so that Jesus’ death will be self explanatory and that in my head, we’re saved. That we are holy because we pray and have faith.

But we’re not.

This week’s reading is about Judas, I saw a lot of myself in him. As much as I’ve always wanted to consider myself as one of those seeds that fell in the good soil (biblical reference), I think its not just what we say or do but our intentions and self reflection count in a lot. I always saw myself or wanted to be one of the disciples; meaning to say that I wanted to be part of the good side, you know, the strong bunch and who doesn’t?

To say and do the things we do doesn’t make any difference if we haven’t fully reviewed ourselves. Today’s reflection says:

“a person who intends to receive the Eucharist must not do so if he is unworthy to do so, if he has not examined himself to make sure he is in the state of grace, and if he does not recognize the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist”

In my own translation – don’t eat the bread if you’re not hungry.

Judas was actually part of the “good” gang, he was welcomed in and treated like their own. Yet day after day as I read into the scriptures, there was this obvious highlight of sin and wrong, why? well because he didn’t know what it meant to be a disciple, he didn’t know what Jesus meant to the world nor did he understand that there is goodness in everything thus he turned away to what he had.

To pray, to fast, to go for confession, to live in the church for the rest of your life is barely enough to feed faith. I’ve read this story so many times and saw something magical in it, this man dying on a cross which instantly saved the world. I thought that was enough to keep me going. Heck! I thought it was enough to say “close the books guys, we made it out!” Sometimes, doing the same routine feels like we’ve accomplished our goals, faith is not on a point system where if we do a million rosaries and walk the old lady down the road, we’ve earned a million bricks to our mansion in heaven. This is something we look after every second by the second; the moment we look away from all this normal things we do to keep faith, we tend to see something else shinier.

We are not enough, I don’t think we will ever be enough alone. To keep faith was something Judas wasn’t so good at because all he held was a piece of bread.

The Living Filipino

Today dear readers, Philippines has experienced rain that has been stronger than the infamous Ondoy that flooded the nation at the level of 455mm in 24 hours whilst today, in a matter of 22hours, we’ve reached water up to 472mm.

I’ve stayed home this whole week during my trip here in the Philippines and was left to watch Jessica Sanchez’s tribute, vampire marathons, Snow Patrol’s concert announcements, washing detergent promotions and the RH (reproductive health) bill that has deeply challenged my stand about my faith.

I’ve studied in Catholic schools and participate in Church activities all my life, my parents, teachers, peers, brothers and sisters taught me how to pray and most importantly, taught me that there is a God.  My 23 years on this earth I’ve been blessed the experience to taste financial challenges, a knife on my skin, a graduation, a family that prays together and the ability to understand in such an early age that there is good and evil in this world.

Since the dawn of time, Adam and Eve was the story that emulated sin before God. That eating that apple would banish them from the Garden of Eden forever. It was that VHS tape of 1994 that taught me the 2 stones Moses held up in the sky for people to read and remember the Ten Commandments. It was on my 5th year highschool bible class that I learned that the bible has two parts – what God can do and what God’s human son did in the world whilst he was here.

Watching friends and family I know that gathered the nation online and offline to be part of a prayer rally against the RH bill struck me because I wasn’t there.  Because whilst about seven thousand Filipinos stood and prayed outside in the rainy Edsa road, I watched the news and everything inside me didn’t think I should be there. Not because I’ve abandoned my faith but because this is where my faith stands.

I may have not lived in the Philippines but as an expat kid that watched the news of my country every dinner and came back home to see that Philippines isn’t as dangerous as the media said it would be, that average families have the capacity to drive two cars, malls have vendors always booming with the most authentic business ideas I’ve ever seen and college students more educationally and professionally equipped than a regular student abroad. I may have not seen the entirety of the Philippines but I have every hope in me that the Philippines can and will be a better country.

The RH bill is a bill that has been on debate for the passed decade; the Philippines that a possible Tiger country of Asia proudly roared its Catholicism to the world and this year, the sea of Filipinos have parted ways to go against and for this bill to finally end this debate. I’m sure there are other problems in this country that we should be arguing about, I’m sure that someone will come up to me and tell me that the government is corrupt and that the expats’ money shouldn’t be spent on distributing contraceptives in the Philippines, that as a Catholic, it is wrong to abort a child. That the Church is Pro Life.

Dear readers, I’m also sure that you have enough brains to know that I know that and so does the rest of the world. No government is completely clean from corruption, my parents and the rest of the OFWs (overseas filipino workers) want their money to be placed where they want it to be, that no shit abortion is a sin provided there are medical reasons to do so and finally, a life is all we have thus we should live this life to our fullest capability and quality.

The RH bill seems to come across as an attack and in some articles as “war” against the church. This bill has definitely brought thunder and rain in my faith; I usually don’t proclaim or enforce what I believe in upon others because at the end of the day, it is between me and my God. Just typing this, I can already feel my parent’s eyebrow raising and hurt from the community that I grew up in but I think that the hurt shouldn’t be placed there. It should be placed on every single young adult that brought a child in this world because they weren’t thinking of post sex. It should be placed on the kid on the road that the people rallied on for because as loud as we yell our beliefs, that kid will come back tomorrow and still beg outside your car.

The Church argues development and rise of promiscuity in the nation once contraceptives are distributed. That natural planning and chastity is what we should do; well, we’ve done it and tried it, why is there still a kid on the street? And why are there different faces we see suffering from natural disasters all crying out the same damn story that we’ve been praying for? The bill is not attacking families and the nation, its also not going to solve everything but the fact it’s trying to provide information to those kids who’s parents didn’t have the opportunity to have is a start. That providing individuals sex education of what your genitals can do and what you will feel at a certain age is normal and so does what happens after it….at a certain age.

A family is the basic unit of life and society, for those who’ve been blessed with a parent who guided and taught you what a vagina is and when it’s the right time to lose your virginity – good for you and God has truly blessed you! For those who never had that conversation with their parent and probably searched online for information, took part in school discussions with peers assuming answers from what they’ve heard and couple of years later realized they have mouths to feed before graduation, I pray that God may bless them as well.

Filipinos, we can’t just keep praying and rallying for every single thing we believe in and call it action. I believe in waiting for the right time, I believe in the people who dedicated years of research to inform the next generations that things happen but in God’s grace, we can do something about it. I believe that I have a choice to have that number of kids to reside in my uterus. That the Church is not the government; it is what Jesus told his disciple to build and be the home as well as the guiding hand to His followers. That parents should have “that” conversation with their kids once (maybe twice) and schools to provide sex education because family teaches you values and the educational system, well, an education. That not just as a nation or the government or the church but rather individuals, lets take responsibilities of our lives and the legacy of our country. That the RH bill is not telling the nation to have sex like animals but rather to make love safely and build a family responsibly. That it isn’t blasphemous to vote for sex education, family planning and healthcare for women because we only have our lives.

This to many, is a wrong decision and also a gamble, a shot in the dark by the government but we don’t pay the Church to sit and calculate the lives we’ve lost in early pregnancies nor do we ask the government to pray all day for the state of the nation. Philippines is a country that believes in a God, a country full of the most hardworking people I’ve known and country that strives to the better.

Let the government do what the government does and let the church do what the church does. And let’s all pray for the best because that is what our ancestors fought for, what every OFW worked for and all Filipinos live for. We can’t keep dying to prove a point.

Note:

–       I will not respond to any comments to spend my time and argue because I’ve said what I wanted to say but please feel free to share your thoughts 🙂

–       Don’t even think of throwing me the argument of disservice to the country and disrespect for our religion

–       Profanity towards me and other people comments is not allowed on my page.

–       Original copy of the RH bill – http://www.scribd.com/doc/49089913/Reproductive-Health-Bill-Original-Copy

–       Ondoy 2009 versus August 7: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/244837/tuesday-rains-surpass-ondoys-2009-rainfall-pagasa