For me, I learned to use it as an anchor to steady my doubts and quiet my fears when faced with certain situations. Primarily though, I use it as a guide as I go about my day-to-day living, sorting through its lessons in making decisions, whether big or small. One very positive use of my religion for me is my resolution to be a better person. I may not always succeed but it gives me the encouragement not to stop trying and rejoice at my smallest accomplishments towards this goal.
What Has My Faith Taught Me to Become a Better Person?
I have learned that I should not judge others especially when I am using outward signs of religiosity as standard. Make no mistake about it, performing religious acts like going to church and receiving the sacraments is very important but it does not necessarily make us better persons than who don’t. At best, this is an opportunity to remind those who may have forgotten to gently lead the way back.
I have learned the wisdom of forgiving and letting go of negative emotions. Now I understand the futility of holding on to pain, gripes, and thoughts of revenge because it is only me and my loved ones who suffer the most. I trust that justice will be done in its proper time.
Most importantly, I learned to appreciate what I have and be thankful for them. Through time, I found it a lot easier to be happy for the success of others instead of feeling bad that I didn’t get the same good fortune, knowing that what is due me is sure to come. I am thankful that I find peace in my faith as I face my everyday struggles to hopefully attain a better self.
An invitation for an interview with News to Go in Channel 11 with regards to a special segment about Simbang Gabi brought me face to face with my present thoughts about it. What started as a wish has now become a prayer. When before I wished for an easy life, now I prayed for the strength to face life, whether it be easy or difficult.
A Fulfilled Wish
Many people associate the completion of the Simbang Gabi or Midnight Mass to the granting of a wish. Just like my sister-in-law Levy who incorporated her and her husband’s desire to have a child with their attending and completing the Nine-Day Novena Masses, one cannot help but associate their son’s birth soon after as the fulfillment of that wish. Although the Catholic Church is quick to point out that there is no magic involved in the practice, this hasn’t prevented the faithful from lifting their innermost desires, dreams, and hopes to God.
An Answered Prayer
During my younger days, I did the same. I wished for material things and many others which I thought were the key to my happiness. For several years, I tried to complete the novena but never did until two years ago. During a very difficult time in my life, I found myself asking for a lifeline in what I saw then was the end of the line for me. My family and I attended the novena with nothing but a prayer to see us through. We did pull through, not without more challenges but this time countered by the growing strength of faith.
Wish or Prayer
This year, I expect to again complete the Nine-Day Novena. I have human wishes inside my heart which only God will ever know. I say my prayers, trying to do it in action as well. Faced with the question from the reporter of the above interview of whether I got my wish after completing the Simbang Gabi, it took me only an instant to answer that I did. I only had to look back to realize that the miracle or magic happened inside me.
Our Simbang Gabi wishes and prayers including the practices attached to it are the things that still hold Christmas and spirituality together. Nothing assures us more of the presence of God than a sincere wish and prayer that has been granted. For the Catholic faithful however, answers will come in the way God deems best for us.
The road to discipleship is never smooth. The way to following the path of Jesus is in fact filled with obstacles. At the end of the road however is a rainbow that promises eternal life.
Discipleship is a calling. It is said that all of us are being called in varying ways and forms. It is up to us to answer.
What is good about discipleship is that we are being asked to help spread the Word of God within our own ability and capacity. We are not being required to be eloquent speakers, high-profile personalities, or materially wealthy people. We just need to be doing whatever it is we are doing for the glory of God and not ourselves.
Although the most evident form of spreading the word of God is preaching about His words orally, there are other ways of doing it. We can preach through our actions. No beautiful words can measure up to acts of kindness, acts of sincere caring, and acts of love for other people.
The most critical test of discipleship is applying God’s words on ourselves. It is very easy to preach to others what to do or what to say. It will always be the ultimate test for anyone who seeks to follow Jesus to apply His words on a personal level.
Knowing the Word of God is not enough. There is the responsibility to use that knowledge to serve others and guide them towards the path to Jesus. Sharing one’s personal discovery of Jesus is something we must do as real witnesses for Him.
“If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”
Everyone of us is given the free will to answer God’s call in the way we choose. His call is urgent as there are so many hungering for His words. The road to discipleship may be rough but as true disciples, we will have the capacity to face and withstand challenges and triumph over them. That is what God promises us.
True discipleship requires at least three things from those who wish to follow Jesus: prioritize God, give up material attachments, and carry personal cross. These are all very difficult to do in the human level. With God’s grace though, it can be done.
To carry our personal cross is the embrace our share in the trials and tribulations of life. It is not about the exultation of pain to gain favor and glory from God but rather acceptance of the need to give ourselves to others in our daily living. Self-giving when done in love defines the true meaning of carrying our cross.
People will have different crosses to carry. It can be in the form of sickness, a difficult member of the family, material insufficiency, and other things and circumstances that make living life less smooth than we would want it to be. Crosses are the challenges we face that could either break us or make us stronger.
In the context of the Catholic faith, we are enjoined to carry our personal cross with unwavering faith that we will not only survive but also come out better after difficulties have been hurdled. God does not want bad things to happen to us but He allows this to happen as a result of our choices. The big and small personal crosses we hurdle are preparing us for greater crosses that will not only involve ourselves but others.
Truly following Jesus requires us to “deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him”. This is not an easy thing to do but it is the only way we can faithfully follow. We have to remove the focus on ourselves for us to be able to understand what following Jesus would entail.
There are no two crosses that are exactly the same but we need to avoid comparing with others. We will never really know just how heavy or light the crosses of others are. Our personal cross has been made specifically for us and no other. This means that God trusts that we will be able to carry it and fulfill our mission here on earth.
God will provide, always. This is a truth that is discovered in time as people go through their lives being provided for, one way or the other. Everything we need is within our reach but we tend to pursue it through all kinds of ways except through God’s help. The triumphs we experience in everyday life is a proof that there is a God looking after us and looking out for our needs in ways we cannot imagine.
Sometimes, in our earnest to pray for things we want, we fail to see that they have already been given. Maybe because they have been given in a different form from what we expect. Maybe we do not like to consider any other answer except those that we want delivered to us.
It is said thatGod answers our prayers either with a yes, no, or wait. Yes signifies that what we are asking will be beneficial for us and in accordance with our individual mission here on earth. No means that what we ask will not be good for us in the long run. Wait tells us that what we are asking for will be given in the perfect timing which is only known to God.
The wisdom of God in providing any of these answers comes from the perspective of someone who knows and sees everything. We often pray for something based on our view, not knowing its effects on ourselves and others. God’s answers invite us to ponder on the things we ask for, allowing us to consider possibilities that may not be very clear to us given our one-sided perspective.
Human needs and wants are endless. The feeling of contentment tends to be fleeting and temporary as we equate happiness with material possessions. God knows exactly what we need and He will give what we need exactly.
God will provide, always. There is nothing to fear. We do what we must and leave the rest to God.
I have never doubted that I am always under God’s protection. That is even if I am not actually at my best. I know in my heart that this is true and it has once more been proven one seemingly uneventful day.
This happened one day when I went to Quiapo in Manila to meet with someone regarding some documents I needed to submit. Being a strong believer in the Black Nazarene , I always make it a point to pass by the Quiapo Church whenever I am in the area. This is even if there is no particular favor I wish to bring to God’s attention.
I was actually in a rush that day to go home so I rode the first jeepney that passed in front of me. I am usually more cautious than that and tend to look at other passengers first for any sign of risk before I go in. The only chance I got to do that was when I was already inside paying for my fare.
Almost instantaneously upon taking my seat, I felt an unexplained chill come over me. I raised my eyes just in time to see the man in front of me and the man beside me exchanging suspicious glances at each other and then me. Without passing judgment on their character based on how they look , I knew that I and the other passengers who were mostly women, were in serious trouble.
My instincts are telling me to go down and ride another but I literally froze with fear. I remembered my children, two of which are still very young, and how difficult it would be if something bad was to happen to me. The best I could manage was to pray one Our Father.
The jeepney we were riding stopped upon reaching a red light. The man in front of me tried to transfer to my side as well but suddenly changed his mind. I looked around and saw that a police mobile car pulled to a stop beside us and I can see that there were two uniformed policemen inside. Out of nowhere, a man in civilian clothes who identified himself also as a policeman commanded the two suspicious men to go down. He informed us that these two were identified snatchers in the area.
That one Our Father I prayed was automatic, out of habit of knowing no other way to ask for protection and assistance from God. I am amazed at His prompt answer. I am grateful that He chooses to keep me safe.
It takes more than the sacrament of Baptism to be considered practicing Catholics. It would require truly understanding the faith and applying its truth in our everyday lives. Witnessing for Christ is not only about quoting verses from the Bible, it is also about living the meaning of the words found in the Bible.
If we are to think about it, it is not at all easy to be at par with the standards that are required of us. In fact, it can be very difficult and filled with obstacles. It would require us to give something of ourselves in the form of time, talent, knowledge, and even financial resources.
A practicing Catholic is not merely determined by the performance of services and rituals as provided by the Church. In order to be a good Catholic, actual acts of charity must be done while continuously praying and observing the prescribed practices of the faith. There is a need to concretize the faith by being of help to others who are in need.
In the practice of the faith, words have to be accompanied by actions. Without accompanying actions, our prayers will sound hollow and meaningless. Catholicism merely becomes a religion but true actions make it our faith.
The possible acts of charity we can extend to people around us are unlimited. There is not one act that will be greater than the other. What is good about all this is that we are expected to provide such charity within our capacity. No contribution can be so small as to be considered insignificant. There can be no better form of evangelization than attesting to the truth of the Gospel through our words and actions.
Catholics are bound to encounter opposition to the faith from the most subtle to the most vicious. There will be many thoughts, information, and thinking that will encourage doubt and weakening of belief. Catholics therefore , are called upon to defend the Faith not in a manner associated with violence and persecution but in a way that is steadfast and persevering in spite of difficulties.
Difficulties in life may prompt some Catholics to question the ways of God and then react by leaving the Faith. Many have tried to find comfort on something or someone who can be seen or touched. Catholics have been raised up to believe even without seeing and that is how faith is often defined for most of us.
It is almost impossible to have humans believe even without seeing. Physical proof is how we get to verify questions in our mind. The fact that we believe even without physical proof is a miracle in itself.
If we were to think more deeply and analyze the many times we have overcome problems we thought were unsolvable, we might just be able to find the proof that some of us may be trying to find. Faith is something we hold on to and not something to throw at the first sign of inconvenience.
No one ever said that all Catholics are assured of all the good things in life. It offers us one assurance though and that is there is a God who is looking after us, a God who knows us by name and knows all our troubles. There is a God who will make things possible but not necessarily easy.