We have just gone through the Lenten season, I know, but this random thought just hit me today:
Humanity’s greatest downfall and the dawning of humanity’s greatest hope took place in a garden.
Genesis 3 lets us in to the scene of the crime. Just like in any crime movies, the day started out like any other day. It was at the Garden of Eden.
In the middle of the humdrum, the day took a fateful turn. The questions were thrown at the unsuspecting victim — the woman. The lies were spoken; the serpent’s words were too alluring that the woman’s heart was deceived. Soon enough, the man, who was with her, also took part in the crime.
When the flesh of the forbidden fruit touched the flesh of man, the fall of humanity has begun. When their lips touched the forbidden fruit, it was the serpent’s kiss of death on humanity. And when the fruit fell to the ground that fateful day, humanity’s glory fell with it.
As sin entered into the world, it brought with it pain, tears, bloodshed, decay and death.
In another garden and in another time, we see another man. The setting of the drama is the Garden of Gethsemane.
But it wasn’t like any other night. This man was about to be sentenced to death, and he knew about it. He has seen how it will be like; he took part in making that plan. He knew how painful it will be — the physical pain of the thorns and the nails; the emotional pain of betrayal, false accusation and rejection.
He was about to pay for the crime that was committed at the Garden of Eden. This man was Jesus.
In this garden, we see him kneeling to the ground, overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, asking the Father if it’s possible for him to be delivered from what was about to transpire (Matthew 26:38).
But when he said, “let Your will be done,” humanity’s hope was restored.
At the Garden of Eden, we see Adam’s failure and man’s descent to hell. But at the Garden of Gethsemane, we see Jesus’ love taking over in order to redeem us and provide the way for us to heaven.
I join the millions of Filipinos who warmly welcome you to our country! You probably have heard how much our nation has prepared for your arrival, and I share in my fellow countrymen’s excitement about seeing you grace Philippine streets.
Your plane has just landed about an hour ago. Together with the bells of all Catholic churches and cathedrals across the country, we say “Mabuhay! Welcome to the Philippines Pope Francis!”
Millions of Filipinos are praying for you, and I am one of them.
I pray that you will have an enjoyable stay here. I pray for your safety and protection as you go through your itinerary. May God put a hedge of protection around you, and may He thwart any plan to cause you trouble or harm.
You are a good man, and you have taken the world by surprise because of your extraordinary charm and goodness of heart. Your unconventional stance on critical issues has restored a lot of people’s hope in the church, your humility has inspired not just Catholics but the world, and your compassion for the marginalized has brought the Catholic Church back to its core mission: To extend the love of Christ to the helpless, the poor and the needy.
I pray that through your leadership, millions of people across the globe will know Jesus as the only way to the Father. I pray that through your example, millions of people will be inspired to live like Christ. I pray that you will be a powerful instrument to open the eyes of the world to see Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith, and that no other name should be exalted in Heaven and on Earth other than His name.
Truly, you are one of a kind when you said that Jesus, not you, should be the center of everything. “From now on, enough of Francis, just Jesus,” you said.
I pray that through you, people will understand that all that they are asking for, believing for, praying for and hoping for can be found in God. And that they have direct access to Him through Jesus, without needing any human mediation.
May the LORD bless you and keep you, Dear Pope, as you lead the millions of Catholics across the world to the truth of the Gospel of Christ. May your life be a powerful testimony of the truth of God, before whom we will all give an account when we finally stand before His throne of judgment and grace.
I had a radical experience last week that changed me forever.
I was in Manila last Aug. 7 to meet up with a friend. It was already past 11pm, and I needed to reach my destination as quickly as I can. So I hailed a cab, told the driver my destination and looked outside the window as per usual.
I’m the type of person who normally engages random people on the street in a conversation. I love hearing stories, and I want to understand the people’s plight, their dreams, their day-to-day life, et cetera. Taxi drivers are among my favorite subjects. Well, they are human beings, too, who long to speak with another human being in the midst of a stressful day on the road.
As we passed by De La Salle University-Manila, we saw a huge crowd of college students. It was Happy Thursday for DLSU Taft students, so it’s obvious that this bunch of kolehiyalas just came out from a party. The cab driver began his litany on his skepticism about today’s generation. What future do we still expect for our nation if our young people are intoxicated with trivial things, he asked.
At that moment, I sensed that the Spirit was tugging into my heart to preach the Gospel to this man. My heart was racing inside my chest. That would be the first time that I will share the Gospel to a total stranger. The Spirit’s tugging was too strong to ignore, and I felt the urgency to lead the conversation to the Word because time was running out.
Help me Lord to speak, teach me what to say, I prayed.
Our conversation continued and shifted from one topic to another, including hazing, drugs, the Reproductive Health law and his view on celibacy. As I prayed in my mind, the driver suddenly asked, “Nagbabasa ka naman ng Bible di ba?” (You read the Bible, right?)
I grabbed that chance to lead the chit-chat to the Gospel. I asked him about his family and he shared a bit about his life. Then I told him about Jesus, and that no amount of good works can ever take us to Heaven, and that salvation comes only by putting our faith on the finish work of Jesus on the cross. He was responsive to the message, and I can see that I got his attention.
I reached my destination a few minutes after, so I wrapped up our talk as he pulled over. I asked for his name, Tatay Nardo, and asked if I could pray for him. He cheerfully agreed.
After praying, he asked if I’m a Christian and said that his hope for the nation was restored. I told him that it’s my full time job at the moment, to reach out and train the next generation for Jesus. I invited him to church and told him the nearest one in his location. We bid goodbye as he thanked me for praying for him, saying he was deeply moved.
I am in faith that the seed that was sown in Tatay Nardo’s heart that night will grow. That moment changed me forever, knowing that I am a missionary of the Word wherever I go. And as I write this down right now, I sense a new message coming from God.
Jello, are you ready for your next target?
What is it, Lord?
Take the bus.
Good Lord! *Nervous laugh*
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20;24)
I had a short but meaningful conversation with a friend this afternoon about hearing God’s voice and being patient when God’s silence is too deafening. She was asking for a clear direction from God about her career — tired of running in circles, weary of just going through the motions.
As she tells her story, God impressed a word on me:
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. (1 Kings 19:11-12)
Most, if not all of us, have been in the same situation. We sometimes grope for direction. We ask for signs, we seek advise, we look to the skies for answers. And when we don’t find what we’re looking for, we feel trapped, we question God, not knowing which step to take.
But sometimes God answers in ways that we least expect. We look for God in the powerful wind, but the Lord was not in the wind. We think that God was in the earthquake, but he was not. We squint and try to find him in the fire, but he wasn’t there either.
At times when we seek God, we tend to expect him to answer with a roaring thunder. We spend our time looking elsewhere, listening for signs around us, and missing out that still, small voice — that gentle whisper — giving us the answer that we’re dying to hear.
Sometimes, all it takes is to tune out from the world and take time to listen. Are you in a place where you’re dying for answers? Do you feel like God is playing games with you, and his silence is too much to bear? Do you feel lost because God seems too distant and unconcerned?
God isn’t playing hide-and-seek with us. Seek him, and you will find him when you seek him with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).
Let me end with an anecdote by my favorite author, Max Lucado, from his book, “A Gentle Thunder.”
Are You Listening?
Once there was a man who dared God to speak…
Burn the bush like you did for Moses, God. And I will follow.
Collapse the walls like you did for Joshua, God. And I will fight.
Still the waves like you did on Galilee, God. And I will listen.
And so the man sat by a bush, near a wall, close to the sea and waited for God to speak.
And God heard the man, so God answered.
He sent fire, not for a bush, but for a church.
He brought down a wall, not of brick, but of sin.
He stilled a storm, not of the sea, but of a soul.
And God waited for the man to respond.
And he waited…
But because the man was looking at the bushes, not hearts; bricks and not lives, seas and not souls, he decided that God had done nothing.
Finally he looked to God and asked, Have you lost your power?
And God looked at him and said, Have you lost your hearing?
What about you? Are you listening?
There are days when I feel too far away from God; days when my stubborn self wants to do my own thing, satisfy my own desires, do things my own way. There are days when my old nature gets the better of me, and I go back to my old ways.
Living the Christian life can sometimes be too frustrating, especially when you keep going back to your dead past, resurrect your decaying self that has long been dead, and do the things you don’t want. Sometimes we just want to give up altogether; succumb to the will of human nature and not fight back.
Maybe you’re just like me. Everyday is a battle against my own self: a battle between good and bad; a battle between God’s will and my own; a battle between God’s desires and mine; a battle to protect my God-given destiny. I don’t always win, and I sometimes wake up to another day feeling defeated.
But this morning, God hit me with this message:
“22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
No matter how deep the depths I have fallen into, and no matter how harsh the punishment I deserve, I am not consumed because of God’s great love. I thank God because he does not punish me according to what my sin deserves.
You might be feeling the pang of guilt for sins committed yesterday, and you slept last night with your hands stained with sin. But God’s love is constant, his compassions are new every morning. It’s God saying, “It doesn’t matter what you did yesterday. I still love you today, come back to me. Let’s start all over again.”
You might already be too tired asking for God’s forgiveness. Don’t be. Because God never gets tired forgiving us anyway.
His kindness leads us to repentance, and he renews his love to us every single day.
Whisper a prayer to God right now, and ask for the grace to live a life worthy of God.