My Journey as a Writer
"The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord, and you also will testify."
- John 15:26b, 27a -
- John 15:26b, 27a -
Last Wednesday morning, the Feast of the Ascension, I joined the mini-retreat for moms. Fr. Nathan Cromly of the Eagle Eye Ministries talked about Eagle Moms. And I thought, what a powerful image—a mom with an eye of an eagle, looking out for her eaglet even from afar. This image stuck with me because I have an eaglet who'd soon be flying out of my nest and going to college.
That evening, at Galleria Mall, five much-sought-after schools sent out their admission representatives to talk about college applications and admission: Harvard, Standford, Georgetown, Duke and Penn State.
My daughter, who is a Junior, is looking at these schools. I always tell her, in an echo of what my college teacher had once told us, “Aim for the moon, so when you fall, you will land on the trees. Don’t just aim for the trees, for you may land on the ground.”
And so there we were. My daughter sat beside me, listening.
Come Q&A and here was my little eaglet, the second who would raise her hand amidst hundreds of students and parents in a huge ballroom of the Westin Hotel. And she asked, "What are you looking for in an applicant?"
I smiled and thought, that was a very simple question, but probably the one question that hounded all these students and parents who attended the event, and it drew the whole panel to give their thorough and comprehensive answers. And these were the answers (not verbatim because I did not transcribe, but as how it was ingrained in my mind):
“No, we don't look at just the SAT and ACT scores, although these are part of the criteria, and would ensure that the student would be able to handle the rigor of our academic load.”
“And no, we don't look at just the transcripts either, but these too would also reveal their historical performance, their consistency, and discipline with which they would handle academic responsibility.”
“The above two are just quantitative and objective measurements that we look at the bare minimum.”
“We are looking for something more because many students would be able to meet the above criteria. But what would set a student apart from the others?”
“We look at the student as a whole person.”
“No, we're not just looking at the well-rounded student, the student who is involved in many different and varied extra-curricular activities. We want to see the quality of the involvement of these students, not jut mere memberships and attendance to multitudes of clubs.”
“We also look at the well-angled student, the one who would own her passion and purpose, the one who would have the drive to go beyond what is expected of the norm, and push herself to be good at what she is doing and even not be afraid to explore and expand her own capabilities.”
“In short, we want to see a student who is deeply in touch with his identity and uniqueness--
...one who would embrace his voice that would show up in his essay,
...one who is deeply authentic to excel in his field of interest and endeavor,
...one who is true to himself,
because this student will make the greatest good and impact in the society.”
And I guess, for all of these schools, that's one thing that they hope to be their legacy, to send out men and women who can make a difference to the society as a whole.
Quoting Oscar Wilde, one of the speakers said, “Be yourself, because everyone else is already taken."
And I admire these institutions of excellence. I perceive that they see themselves as fertile soils for seeds to grow. But first, the seeds (these students) must know what kind of plant they are and will turn out to be and seek the right kind of soil where they will thrive, flourish and bloom.
This is the same message God had been telling me this week.
When the Lord had not spoken through my angel, He spoke through events, through people around me, through books and through the priest in his homily, when he told the graduating students, "This is not the end; it is just the beginning of another phase in your life. You will be sent out there to fly."
I thought of my daughter, my eaglet, who will soon be set free from my nest, to be trained to become an eagle, out there in college.
What can I give her?
Have I given enough?
She still has many questions left unanswered. The eagle mom in me longs to protect her from the strong wind of the world that may confuse her, from the predators that may harm her, and from the vicious hunters that may kill her spirit and identity. But she must fly if she is to become an eagle herself. I cannot clip her wings and tie her to my nest. I can only equip her and send her out to face the necessary elements that will make her strong and soar the sky with confidence.
And even if, someday, she does not become an eagle mom in the metaphoric sense of the word, she will certainly become a spiritual mother to someone, for all women are called to be that at every stage in our journeys. Spiritual nurturing is part of our call because eaglets—male and female alike cannot soar the sky without the eagle moms who would nurture them.
In my writing, I too have learned to embrace my identity. I found my niche.
In my spiritual journey, I have searched for my faith, and it led me to many places…
My faith has expanded and yet has remained deeply grounded in my heritage and my identity. And I have learned to embrace my faith.
I am a Catholic.
And I love my religion…
Because I also have seen people who are deeply faithful and pious. I’ve seen the devoted, the profound, the mystics, the Desert Fathers, the wise, the happy, the joyful, loving, and the humble… these small and great saints alike who would be salt and light to the world.
I love the mysteries of this religion… because it makes me more in touch with my humanity and limitations. It makes me accept that there will always be things in this world that I cannot fathom and answer…
Like how the Bread and Wine would turn into the real Body and Blood of Christ, that would heal my spiritual disease and transform my body into His body, the viral antidote to my weakness and sinfulness...
His Body in me, His Blood in me, and His Cells in me,
Because what I eat, I become.
Him in me,
I go to Church not for the music, because even without the uplifting effect of this, there is something more that uplifts me.
Not for the preacher, because even when this fail,
there is something more that will speak in and to me,
Not just for the community and fellowship,
because even when this too shall fail,
there is something more that binds me to Him.
I go because of His real and physical presence in the Eucharist, He, Who nourishes me, no matter where I am, no matter the language with which the Mass is spoken and celebrated, no matter who the priest who celebrates it.
The Eucharist is the same in form and substance,
One Baptism in Christ.
Because He had promised and He fulfilled His promise: "I shall be with You until the End of time."
And for me as a Catholic, it is in the Blessed Sacrament, the tabernacle where He assumes the form of the bread so my humanity could be united with His Divinity in the most physical sense.
And I know this is hard to accept and He had said so. In fact, many of His disciples deserted Him when He started talking about `eating His flesh and drinking His blood.' It’s something that logic and reasoning cannot comprehend.
But isn't that what faith is all about? When you no longer go by what logic and reason would tell you?
And as soon as I have embraced this identity, I found my niche—a Christian Catholic writer.
Catholicism is where I’m fed and nurtured. This is what I understand and what makes the greatest sense for me. This is where I thrive. This is where I give back.
But just when I thought I understood it all, my angel spoke, "You have not fully understood what it is to be Catholic."
And he surprised me. "You've not spoken much lately," I said.
I sensed his smile, and he said, "Because you've been doing much of the talking."
"Don't be. It is to be. Now that you’ve found your voice use it for God's greater glory and honor. Do not stifle your spirit anymore. Speak with freedom and liberty. As long as you’re confident of God's love burning in your mouth. All the words—whether praise or rebuke, whether words of encouragement or enlightenment—it shall fulfill its purpose, for the love that wraps around each word would be like a balm. Even though the words may be like a sharp sword that would cut through the heart, the healing balm of kindness, mercy, forgiveness and love shall instantly dress the wound and make it whole again. Nothing that comes from the mouth of the Lord will cause chaos and disunity but only to those hearts who are not yet ready. So discern the proper time when you shall speak in the name of the Lord because there is a proper time and there is necessary preparation for it, the way Queen Esther prayed and fasted for three days before she took upon herself to speak to the King on the people's behalf. You must also assume that same spirit of humility and submission to the Holy Spirit within you, to only go when summoned by the Lord and to speak only when prompted. With freedom comes restraint and prudence so you may know that what you do, you do for the glory of the Lord and not to satisfy yourself."
I turned to him and asked him. "So what is it that I have not yet understood about my religion?"
"It is all Universal and All-embracing."
I sat astounded, and the words of the Lord came upon me. "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God."
It came to me that as a Catholic, I must be all-embracing of all faiths. To embrace people of different faiths and seek to understand their faith is part of my Catholic identity.
“You must look for what unites and not what separates,” my angel said.
Then I came to understand, and my eyes were opened.
I saw how the people of other faith religions are in quest of the same thing—they are all in search of their identity, their purpose, the meaning of their lives, how to express their passion, to live for something bigger than themselves. They are all in search for God.
Even the pagans and the unlearned who have no knowledge of God would manifest this inner desire and this search by worshiping the sun or nature for lack of knowledge of whom to worship.
"They just have this inner instinct to worship something bigger than themselves. And how apt that they should find the sun to represent You, my Lord," I whispered in awe. "For aren't You like the sun, my Lord? Planets, the stars, the moon and other celestial bodies have their places in our milky way and revolve around the sun in such an orderly fashion. And as long as they stay where they should be and rotate in the manner that they are to rotate, everything is in order and harmony. But when one stays out of their own orbit then they collide with the others and cause harm and damage. Aren't we like those planets and celestial bodies, my Lord? We have our own place in this vast universe. It is so big that we should not even worry about using someone else's space. Yet when we stay out of our own orbit, that's when chaos happens and when we hurt ourselves and others. If only we are more mindful of the sun, that is You, our God, as the center of our existence, to revolve and rotate around You in a focused way, we would all live in unity, harmony, and peace."
"Truly, oh Lord, in our differences and uniqueness we can only come to unity with You and in You, because we are all made in your image and likeness. Only in You shall we achieve that oneness of body, mind, and spirit.
But to those who refuse your Lordship, who refuse to acknowledge their identity as Your mirror image, who refuse to surrender to Your love, who considers themselves or the world as their masters, you shall become like a sword that would divide—divide the father from the son, the mother from the daughter, the siblings from each other, for they shall not be of one mind and purpose. They shall be pursuing their own purposes and interests.
Only under Your Lordship shall we all be united—You, being the vine and us your branches. Apart from You, we separate ourselves from the body that is the Church. And You do not want to scatter but rather gather your people so we may all be one just as You and the Father are one. In humility, obedience, and self-knowledge we will all come together in peace, unity, and harmony."
Today, the Sunday of the Ascension, we remember the great event of Jesus gloriously embracing and claiming His full identity as Son of God and Son of Man—True God and True Man.
By assuming His throne in Heaven, He opened the gates of heaven to mankind again and gave him back his full stature of being a child of God. Jesus had united mankind once again to the Father. He had undone the separation that happened at the Garden of Eden when man rejected God and disobeyed His command, and in turn, God had rejected man and cast him out of the Garden. The Feast of the Ascension is the turnaround of the casting out of mankind from heaven. Today celebrates the opening of the Gate of Eden to mankind, and anyone who believes in this mystery will be welcomed.
And it is our duty as Christians to spread this good news to everyone. We are not to close the gates of heaven to people because Jesus had opened it to everyone. Who are we to do that? Our role on this earth is to invite as many people to enter heaven and come to eternal life. For what is eternal life?
"This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ (John 17:1-11)."
That is eternal life—full knowledge of God.
And that is our duty according to the Lord before He ascended, "to go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."
This was His specific command…
To make disciples of our children, of our family, of our friends and relatives, of everyone by making sure they are baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit—no matter what Christian denomination.
We have received One Baptism.
That is the source of unity of all Christians that we are all baptized in the same manner, with water, in the name of the Holy Trinity.
But we do not stop there, we are to teach them to observe what Jesus had commanded … and what is His greatest commandment?
“Jesus had replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
“Yes, this is how you are to teach men,” my angel said, “because love is the universal language that crosses all borders and barriers of dialect, race, culture, age, gender and all your differences. Love is the one that would unite mankind. It is your common identity because God is love. You must mirror His image, that is love. Let there be love and there shall be peace, unity and harmony. And that is your identity and the one thing you should seek to achieve in self-knowledge—to know how to be love in the middle of everything, how to express your love.”
“Your identity and purpose mix and intermingle with the means that you use to express love to God and to His children,” he continued. “You can express it in various ways—your work, your everyday activities, your writing, the songs that you sing, and so on and so forth, but it only becomes the perfect way of expression when done in the light of God, when done for His greater glory, purpose and in accordance to His will. Knowledge of God as the Perfect Image is a prerequisite for the knowledge of you as His mirror image.”
As though to reinforce the message, I hear in my mind St. Catherine of Siena again, saying, "Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire."
And St. Francis de Sales, "Do not wish to be anything but what you are and try to be that perfectly."
And St. Therese of Lisieux, “Perfection consists in doing His will, in being that which He wants us to be.
And finally, St. Peter, the first Pope as he spoke in 1Peter 4:8-11, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen."
And my angel finally said, “To be a saint is simply to be true to yourself, to your identity as a child of God.”
To heed to Jesus' prayer that all may be one as the He and Father is one.
To dispel the spirit that separates us and embrace the spirit that unites us
For in the end we are all in this same journey
Seeking our purpose
Seeking the meaning of our life here on earth
Seeking for fulfilment
Seeking for real happiness, peace, joy, love, belongingness
Wanting to live a life of purpose, of leaving a true and lasting legacy to the world
Seeking for the power bigger than ourselves
These are the things that unite us
And I as a Catholic will strive to live as one,
To embrace all faith without losing my own
To embrace all tradition without losing my own
To embrace all race, gender, beliefs without losing my own sense of identity and giving up my own beliefs.
"It is a tight rope to tread," I said.
"That's why you need the power of the Holy Spirit because it is that power that will make people believe, through the signs and wonders manifested through His power. It is the only way that people will come to believe in what you believe in."
The power of the Holy Spirit.
Forty days ago, I found my voice and came out a new man through the power of His Resurrection.
Today, I embrace my true identity as an heir through His Ascension. Now, I look forward to Pentecost, to be empowered to live out this call and identity, so I can fulfill that part of my call.
I have received, now I must give.
It is not enough to enbrace Him as my personal Lord and Savior. I am called to embrace everyone as He embraced them all in His love.
I can only love in the same way through the power of His Spirit.
The Paraclete is coming that He may unite all men into one family. Let us put an end to our dissensions and prove ourselves to be members of the brotherhood established by the preaching of the Gospel.
"Be prudent and watch in prayer so the Holy Spirit may come upon you in His fullness," my angel said. "Remember what Jesus had said, "'When the spirit comes, the spirit of truth, He will give testimony of me and you shall give testimony'."
"He is the power of the Most High so you too will have power and not rely in your own strength and own wisdom. Everything shall come from the Spirit."
My heart swelled in excitement and I thought, "The Spirit will help us become Soldiers of Light to combat against three enemies -- the devil, the world and ourselves (our vile weaknesses and earthly passions and inclinations)."
Let us therefore desire to receive Him and we who have already received Him in the Sacrament of Confirmation must prepare ourselves to be imbued with the grace to release His power within us so He may no longer be stifled by fear, ignorance and concupiscence.
Now I understand when you say, my Lord:
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12)
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