Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Sacrifice

Kenyans rule the middle-distance and long-distance athletics contests, whether this be in the Olympics, Commonwealth Games or other prestigious contests. Catherine Ndereba won the women’s Boston Marathon four times, other being a two-time world champion. Paul Tergat and John Ngugi are spoken with reverence. 

So it was no surprise that in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the gold and silver medals went to Kenyans, while the fourth top finisher was from Kenya as well. But what was intriguing was the bronze medal winner who was Caucasian and wasn’t even known in his country.

Zane Robertson from New Zealand earned the bronze in the 5000m final at Hampden Park, Glasglow. Where did this bloke come from? The answer: “Nowhere”.

Seven years ago, together with twin brother Jake decided to live in Kenya and train with world’s best long distant runners.  They never visited New Zealand in that span of time. He said, "I've worked seven hard years and in the early years in Africa I sacrificed a lot. I don't see it that way anymore. I'm living the dream, travelling the world and having absolute fun living my life. Today, all those sacrifices I doubted originally, they've paid off."


In a similar vein, superstar footballer Lionel Messi said, "You have to fight to reach your dream. You have to sacrifice and work hard for it."  

I used to pity contemplative nuns who spend their entire lives behind walls, and away from people in the bigger community.  What sacrifice they offer: praying, reflecting, singing, living for the Lord. Yet their reward is far greater than any earthly recognition, any worldly possession.


How many of us have the passion of an athlete and the commitment of a contemplative nun in seeking the eternal company of the Divine, as promised by Jesus?  

“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:15-16) 

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Killing Children

Children have suffered, or have been killed, in conflicts or war in many parts of the world today. We’ve already read of the young and the innocent shot in schools by fools who have no respect for life. Most disturbing, though, are the senseless death of children in the hands of parents or their close relatives.

In the month of July 2014, we read of disturbing news about murdered children.

On July 8, Dayana Valencia, a 5-year-old girl, tried to stop her stepfather from attacking her mother, Facunda Velenzuelaleon, in their home in Kootenai County, Idaho.

The killer confessed to strangling his wife and to killing the child because she hit him as he was attacking his wife.

The crime was committed after the killer learned that his wife confessed to cheating on him during a trip to California. Dayana’s body had cut marks in her neck, throat and chin — and she had an electrical cord wrapped around her neck. The killer spared his two biological children by bringing them to a friend’s house prior to the killing.

On July 9 in Spring, Houston, Ronald Lee Haskell entered the Stay family home looking for Katie Stay’s sister whom he had been divorced. Failing to obtain an answer, Haskell shot Katie, her husband and their five children, aged 4 to 15.

One child, Cassidy, the eldest, whose skull was fractured by a bullet, played dead until the killer left. She immediately called the police to prevent him from killing her grandparents. The police intercepted the man before he could continue his killing spree.

The 15-year-old girl, in an interview, said that she felt as if angels were with her whispering to her to be quiet during the attack.

On July 10, a news item told of the Utah police announcement that Megan Huntsman, 36, admitted that she killed six of her newborns (from 1996 to 2006) and stored their bodies in a garage as “she was high on drugs and didn’t want the babies or the responsibility.”

It is incomprehensible that some people commit such horrendous crimes. Surely the justice system shall give them due punishment.

But what is far worse than the three instances is the institutional murder of children. Governments in a number of countries have allowed abortion, some with conditions, while others unconditionally.

For instance, Great Britain’s Abortion Act of 1967 permits abortion for a variety of reasons if certified by two physicians. In Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that abortion is legal for any reason at any stage of pregnancy.

In Sweden, abortion is legal in all circumstances within the first 18 weeks of pregnancy. Most shocking is Russia, where more babies are aborted than those who live,
and in China, where there is no defined time limits to access to the procedure.

What has become of the world? Do we not realize how precious the children are?

"See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)

Sunday, 6 July 2014

In A Woman

I received a call early in the morning of June 23 from one of the organizers of an event that honors women, asking me if I could write a poem to be read during the awarding ceremony.

As I rode on the bus towards my workplace, I scribbled a few verses of the poem I titled, “In a Woman.” It was not difficult. I remembered my late mother, Milagros Batulan, who dedicated her life to care for us, her children.

I recalled the times she accompanied me to the dentist when my tooth ached and when she bought me supplies in Sen Hiap Hing at the start of the school year. I could see her smile as she listened to my inaugural speech as national president of the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

I also thought about my wife, Debbie, who cared for our three children, bringing them to school and attending to important occasions in their lives.

I thought about my daughter Jam as she raises her two kids while working as nurse on weekdays. I thought about my daughter-in-law Krizia looking after her baby.

We find so much inspiration in the labor and love of women to their children, in the sacrifices they make to feed and raise their offspring, in their contributions to make the world a better place to live in.

It brought me to thinking about Mary, the mother of Jesus, who carried the Holy Child in her womb, raised him towards maturity and witnessed his death on the cross.

The poem was completed within the day. On June 28, I read it before the eight women that were recognised. The room fell silent except for my voice (I was never asked to read a poem in public before), and not only could I feel the joy in the eyes of the awardees but those of most of the women in the audience as well.

The organizers had placed copies of my poem in picture frames and given to each of the awardees. I felt humbled when the daughter of one of the recipients asked me to affix my signature.

Here is the poem I wrote for all the women in the world:

In a woman’s womb/Is sown the life of the earth/A child shall be born/To ensure every tomorrow/

In a woman’s eyes/Is seen the splendour/Of the seas and the skies/Of the creations from Above/

In the woman’s mouth /Comes the warmth of words/Of care and assurance/That we are never alone/

In the woman’s hands/We feel the touch of affection/The grip of protection/The refuge of helplessness/

In a woman’s heart/Is a limitless amount of love/ To a child, to a husband, to all/To fill the world with joyfulness/

In a woman’s soul/Is the presence of the God/Whose only Son was conceived/In Mary, the Queen of the Universe//

Woman,/You are the precious gift/Of heaven to humanity/You are the most cherished treasure//

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

No Superheroes. Angels Yes.

In Acts 12:1-11, we are told about how St Peter escaped from prison through the help of an angel. When he had reached a safe place, the angel disappeared and “then Peter recovered his senses and said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.”

During our gathering among TawagAwit members on 29 June, I posed the question, “Do you believe in angels?” Everyone nodded their heads.

Sis Debbie, an Auckland resident, told about Joel C., a neighbor in Cebu, who believes that he has the gift of discernment.   Visiting Cebu to repair her house and look for an occupant, she had a chance to chat with Joel who told her. “You know Debbie, as you arrived, I saw ten angels accompanying you.”

Of course, she was surprised. But she was amazed of the positive things that happened thereafter, including finding a lessee who agreed to pay advance rental for one year!

Bro Ferdie, for his part, told us on how difficult it is to find a parking space in the University of Auckland when he fetches his daughter.  He says a short prayer for an angel to help him, and always he finds a space.

Counting the number of times angels are mentioned in the Bible, the total is 273.  Two of those read: "Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke 15:10) and “And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world—to every nation, tribe, language, and people.” (Revelation 14:6) 

Superheroes are unreal. Angels? They are real, and you can always count on them in times of distress.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Two Saints

The Catholic Church welcomed two saints – St John XXIII and St John Paul II – on April 27, 2014 when Pope Francis canonized the two past popes to become members of the Communion of Saints.

After the celebratory feast on Easter Sunday, the faithful were gifted with the sainthood of two men who had differing paths, yet have contributed to Catholicism remaining as a vanguard against the changing morals of modern times.

St John XXIII through Vatican Council II made the Mass speak in many languages and allowed people to actively participate. St John Paul II, in his long period of papacy, was a pilgrim pope who tirelessly brought the Gospel to the four corners of the world and touched the young through the World Youth Day.  He was also the pope who canonized as saints the most number of holy people and martyrs in the Church’s history.

There have been issues regarding the canonization of the two popes, not just on the speed of the process, but also on their teachings and legacies. But one writer said, “Without assessing those objections, it’s worth noting that whenever a pope is beatified or canonized, Vatican officials insist it’s not tantamount to a declaration that every policy choice during their papacy was beyond reproach. It’s rather a statement that despite their human failures, they strove to live a holy life worthy of imitation.”

Let us rejoice and be glad for our new two saints. Let us make them our models for even with their human weaknesses, they offered their lives fully for Christ. I hear St John XXIII and St John Paul II resonate what St Paul told the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).