Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

“And a voice came from the heavens, saying,
’This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” (Mt 3:13-17)

Today we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus. We learn of the voice from heaven with the proclamation, and similar messages actually appear in many occasions in the Gospel. “You are my beloved. On you my favor rests.” We may wonder, Is it possible for us to hear the same “mysterious” voice addressing us as “beloved”? Wouldn’t that be nice?

The answer is a resounding yes. Henri Nouwen put it best when he explained, “that the voice from heaven was not speaking just to Jesus or about Jesus. The voice is also speaking to us and about us. We, too, have been anointed as the beloved sons and daughters of God.”

How blissful, that we, like Christ, are God’s beloved children. In us, God is well pleased. Clearly, this is the highest form of blessing we humans may receive.

Maybe we were too little when we got baptized as a baby, so we weren’t aware of that voice. Or, in my case, I probably have been so “deaf” for a long time - I didn’t know how to open my ears to hear any holy voice or to receive any signals from God!

Thanks to the Grace of God, lately, in my prayer and meditation, I came to experience that incredible loving message! I'm grateful for the popular spiritual teaching, “It is only in silence that God's voice can be heard.” Mother Teresa elaborated, “God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, grass, grow in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” So simple and simplistic, and so true! Only when I set aside a time and a place to be with God and for God, in silence, I truly feel that God reaches down to speak to me in sweet, soft, intimate, caring, healing and forgiving tone; with no fanfare, God’s voice just enters my soul, my heart and my mind, in a very quiet and peaceful way!

May we learn to embrace silence and solitude, so that we can listen to God’s incredible voice of Love. May we experience the blessing and the presence of our God Immanuel – God-is-with-us… May we always be grateful for our enormous gift that we’re anointed as God’s beloved children.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Saturday after Epiphany

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” Jn 3:30

In prayer, I would often find myself focusing on my own wants in this life which would only distract me from what God wants for me as my true self. John expressed an abundant sense of humility by acknowledging God’s plan for him and God’s presence in his work. John knew exactly what God has called on him to do in his lifetime.

Defining our own purpose in life is a challenge we all endure but the most difficult part of this process is being able to hear and follow God’s lead on what is our purpose. When praying, I’ve found the noise of my self centered dialogue with God distracts me from being able to listen to Him. True humility isn’t just an act of modesty; it is a complete acceptance of God’s word, the truth and allowing His truth to guide our thoughts, words, and actions, ultimately forming our purpose. In carrying out God’s purpose, we will be filled with a climate of joy, just like John.

There are so many things in life, big and small, that preoccupy us but by keeping God at the center, we allow Him to take care of us and to bring us closer to being our true self. Our true self will do all things for the greater glory of God … God will increase and we will decrease.

Do outside influences determine how we should live our life or do we rely on God?

Lord, may Your love sustain us so we can discover and joyfully carry out the purpose you have laid out for us.

reflected by Greg Lontok

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thursday after Epiphany

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord”. Lk4, 18-19

Christmas and New Year celebrations are ending. Many people are getting back to work. As the spirit of the birth of the Messiah fades away to be replaced with the daily routine, this passage that Jesus read gives a wonderful reminder for people like me about the true mission of our Lord Jesus, mission that he lives fully to the end during his stay with us.

As I am asked to follow our Lord’s steps, I am invited to reflect on my own mission in the world. What is my personal mission statement? As I look around me, I see that every business companies and communities have their own mission statement. And they try to follow it as close as possible. I really believe that each of us somehow incarnates the Word of God and that each of us reflects uniquely one aspect of God.
What is the biblical passage, the Word of God that defines me and drives me?

Dear Father! You know me more than anybody because you created me! So tell me, Father, what is Your Word that you invite me to be the incarnation for? I am so overjoyed to understand how unique I am to you Father! Because of the way you create me and the time, the place and the experiences I live, I am expressing uniquely your Word to the world!

Let your Spirit be upon me so you can reveal me my mission in the world as you did for your Son, Jesus.

reflected by Michel Nam Phan Huy

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Feast of Saint John Neuman

“God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him [or her]. In this is love brought to perfection among us” (1 Jn:16-17)

Like many people, I am afraid of many things and events that are unknown to me. Some of these examples are: 1.) When am I ever going to get a stable, full-time job? 2.) When will I find the right person to love? 3.) When will I save enough money to buy a new car or a house? Since I am sensitive, I tend to be afraid of being hurt and hurting other people. I am also afraid of seeing my sins and admitting my wrongs because I feel terrible or humiliated after being aware of the not-so-wise things that I do. I judge myself often because I expect a lot of things out of myself, but at the same time, I am afraid of being judged. A lot of the time, I am not just afraid of the future, but I am also afraid of letting go of certain good or bad memories of the past. In short, some of the events or things that I feel scared of are not tangible and are not in my control!

I noticed that some of the times that I was fearful, I tend to be afraid of revealing myself to people because I make the wrong assumptions of them due to my mistrust of myself or them. Other times, I let my fearful moments and feelings take control of me and I feel angry, mad, worry, and sad towards events or things that I could not control. However, it is through these experiences of being frightened of certain feelings, things, or events that happened or never happen that I find God’s Spirit important and necessary in my life. It is in the times of fearing of not knowing how to forgive my sins because I feel humiliated that I learn to surrender to God and allow His Love and Spirit to dwell in my poor, negative, and fearful spirits. I learn to allow God’s positive spirits to dissolve in my negative spirits of self and others, so that I may be free.

Today’s readings remind me to let go of my fears and to trust in our Lord’s love. As John mentioned in the first reading: “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him [or her]. In this is love brought to perfection among us” (1 Jn:16-17), you and I are not perfect and probably will never be, nor were any of Jesus’ disciples perfect. But because our Lord loved the disciples and loves us, He reveals His love to us all so that we are made to perfection. We are perfect in the Lord because He loves us and we are perfect as His beloveds. When I find myself perfect in God’s eyes (because I am loved), I tend to be able to let go of negative, fearful, hurtful feelings easily. I find myself more compassionate towards others and myself because I believe that God loves others and me equally and unconditionally. It is very challenging to remain in perfection (or love) most of the time, so I ask our Lord often to help me to see and feel His love for me so that I may forgive myself or others easily. Are you willing to make the effort to remain in our Lord’s love so as to let go of your fears and learn to forgive in Him?

Loving God, most of the fearful feelings I have come mostly within me due to my lack of trust in You, others, or myself. Teach me to remain in Your love and grant me the graces to let go of my fearful feelings in order to embrace You, others, or myself with love. Teach me to trust in You and be patient for your help instead of being fearful at any uncertain/unknown moments!

Reflected by One of the Beloveds of God

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Feast of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

“When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd” Mk 6:34

Sometimes we all feel like lost sheep; but we are never without a shepherd. Jesus is our shepherd and no matter how lost, alone, scared, stressed or exhausted we feel, He loves us and is always with us and there for us.

This Christmas season was like no other I can remember; I don’t think I’ve been to Vietnamese mass so many times within two weeks. And any other year I would have found it a bit of drag…but this year was different, my heart was at peace. I was in shear awe when I looked at the Baby Jesus or the Body of Christ, sometimes on the verge of tears, thinking about how much God loves us that “God sent his only-begotten Son into the world so that we might have life through him.” 1 Jn 4:9. How amazing is it that we are given such a gift, a gift that truly never ends?

Like the miracle of the five loaves and two fish in today’s gospel, Jesus provides us with more than enough of everything we need. It’s all there in front of us, although we might not always see it or recognize it. Sometimes we’re not sure if this is even true, that God provides for us, because we’re caught up in all the pain and suffering we’ve felt in the past. But, whenever we are ready to take that leap of faith, bit by bit, He’ll reveal His plan for us, and will we ever be the same?

Lord, let us always remember how much You love us and see everything You have provided for us, Your little sheep.

reflected by Ylan Nguyen

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage. - Mt 2, 8

To find the King of the kings, the Magi went on a journey, asked questions and shared their knowledge. They have taken steps to find Him and were rewarded with the most wonderful gift: to give respect to the Incarnate Presence of the Word. Through their hardship the Magi were able to find baby Jesus, give respect and change the course of their life. It was 3 people not from God chosen people who went on a journey to find God Emmanuel.

Herod on the other hand stayed on his throne and was waiting for other to find the Savior. It is an irony that Herod a Jew who knows more about the coming of the Savior did not actively look for the Promise One. The search for God is not about only about knowledge only: it's about an experience of relationship with God, with other and with us.

Like Herod, how many times did I want people like priests or people who live their faith to promptly give me answers to my faith questions? And when they kindly ask me to pray, to listen to God and to discern, I felt impatient and disappointed. I come to realize that answers to my questions about faith are not what really matters. What matters are the many opportunities I have to encounter Jesus intimately through my questions, concerns, my fears, and my littleness. But did I seize these moments in my life to be closer to Jesus?

Dear infant Jesus, please give me the grace to stand up and search diligently for your Presence and be transformed by you like you did for the Magi.

reflected by Michel Phan Huy

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Saturday, the Octave of Christmas: Like Mary we are Theotokos, God-bearers

"As proof that you are sons [and daughters] God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, through God.” – Gal 4:6-7

People in Western world name this day as the first in the New Year: 1.1.11. Today, the Catholic Church celebrates one of its oldest traditions since the third century: the naming of Mary as “Mother of God.” Historically, the name given to Mary — the mother of Jesus — is in the Greek form Theotokos, or God-bearer. This name not only affirms who Mary is; it confirms who Jesus is, as God-with-us; it also attests to who we are: as children of God, as heirs of God.

It is easy to say that we are children of God, even as easy to proclaim it with our lips. But to believe this within our hearts, that is a challenge for a lifetime.

It occurs to me that an inception takes place in everyone’s life. As in the movie Inception, this simple idea can transform a person’s life. If planted deep enough within a person’s consciousness, it will change everything. The simple idea is this: God loves you as you are, personally, uniquely, without condition, without limit. Moreover, you are God’s Beloved, no buts and ifs. When we believe this and embrace it, our lives will be changed. For the past 25 years, this simple idea is taking deeper root within me – this inception through the Holy Spirit.

To be honest, I cannot say that most of my waking moments, or even everyday that I live out of this awareness. But I can say that it is happening more, through most days, and more and more moments of my life. I can tell the difference when it happens: I am more patient with the negative feelings that flow through me (anger, lust, jealousy…); I am more compassionate (willing to suffer-with) others and desire to live in greater solidarity (standing-with); I can laugh at myself more and give others the benefit of the doubt; I react less, respond more; I am less selfish and willful and more self-giving and willing to be lead; I put less pressure on myself and place more trust in God; I identify more with Mary’s “yes” in gratitude even though I do not know the “how” in uncertainty.

This inception to become God’s beloved takes a long time. Yet, the journey of a thousand leagues begins with one step. I find a joyful and hope-filled freshness to live this way, this first day of the year.

It is strange: when we take the risk to believe ourselves as God’s Beloved, we become like Mary, Theotokos, God-bearer.

Let us begin this first day of the New Year asking for this grace & embracing this gift:
“Lord, help me, this day, to trust that I am your Beloved. Help me to trust that you-are-with-me, especially in difficult moments today.”