As a human being, I sometimes questioned God’s goodness or why He allowed things to happen the ways they do. I know that many people think that priests are supposed to have all the answers and are supposed to have a clear faith with no doubt, but people forget that we are humans, too. My faith and understanding tell me very clearly about God’s goodness and divine providence, but sometimes, my finite humanity with its emotions and feelings questions His timing and permission for certain things.
There are things in the recent time that challenged me — humanly speaking. While my heart of heart knows God and His everlasting love, my (human) psychological, emotional, and sentimental levels are often tested by my own self-created questions or doubts implanted by the Devil. That is why I take these matters to prayer, asking and seeking God’s divine goodness and love in my own life. I believe He had spoken clearly to my heart, and I would like to share some of the general revelations with you (and keep the personal and intimate ones to myself for they are very sacred and holy for me).
In my own prayers, I asked God about His love for me. I asked Him what am I called to do at this moment and what He wants of me! I asked Him to help me understand the times He has taught and personally shown me His everlasting love. Without a doubt, the Lord spoke, and He spoke in such ways that stilled my heart and calmed my spirit. Even though they were not what I wanted to hear or how I would like things to be, I know it is from Him because the things He spoke were what I needed to hear and they gave me rest. They were from Him because they were beyond what I wanted or expected, yet connected immediately and spoke directly to my heart of heart. I knew I had to listen and accept with love instead of what I wanted.
For this particular (spiritual) experience, I was outside sitting on a rocking chair. After I sat down, calmed myself, reflected on the scripture reading for the day, meditated on the passage, I then asked Him: “What would you like to speak to me, O Lord? I give myself completely to you, so speak if you are willing, O Lord, for your servant is listening.” It took a while. The winds blew hard at first, then they slowed down to a chilly breeze. The temperature and pace of the winds calmed me. My heart rate slowed down. My senses became more in tune and aware of what was going on. Then all the sudden, a small still wind blew. Within a split second, He spoke. It was not a verbal speech, but one that the mind, the heart, and the spirit immediately recognized. I knew it was Him because this was how He always spoke to me in the past.
Even though I cannot tell you the exact message for it is very intimate, personal, and sacred for me, I can tell you that He gave me the answer for what my heart was searching and asking Him for. There was a deep sense of peace for He affirmed that I am where I need to be, and the things that are going on now are simply parts of life. He affirmed what my heart yearns for, to be a priest serving His people and let go of the things that I cannot change or beyond my control. It was both comforting and hard because it was what I needed to hear, but at the same time, invited me to embrace what I would not necessarily like to accept at the moment. I still struggle with what the Lord said that day, knowing that what He said is true, yet to embrace the creative tensions that still exist in life. This is where my humanity comes in and where questions arise because I so want things to be my way or easier to handle. Yet, the Lord asked me to be in the storm, prioritizing my focus by remembering what I am called to do instead of worrying about the things that are beyond my control. Hearing God speaks is both satisfactory and challenging because it is the loving truth that is hard to swallow since He always leaves the conversation inviting me to grow where He would like me to be!
I took that particular instance and continued to pray about it. I made it my focus to continue to seek how God spoke to me in the past and how His love is constantly being manifested in my life. Through my prayers, I found that divine love is very simple, honest, true, and very consistent. It is always beyond what I think it would be or how it should be. It is both satisfying and trying, affirmative yet asking for greater depth or growth. I would like to share with you two examples of how God’s love has been manifested for me in my own parishioners. I hope you will see how subtle yet deep, simple yet full of love, honest yet full of respect, true yet full of compassion, consistent and full of mercy for me — and hopefully for you as well.
Leroy R. passed away a few months back. He had very little but he would always give what he could to help others around town and would never miss any collection at church. Leroy would always show up on time on Saturday. If I am one or two minutes late in opening the doors to begin confessions at 4PM, he would jokingly remind and pick on me. At 4:15PM, without fail, this humble man would kneel down to pray his rosary. I knew I could always count on Leroy; and if he was not there, it meant that he went up north to visit his family or was not well. There were times that he walked to church (just as he had to walk to work) when his old truck broke down. Yet, he was always there! Even though I knew little about him (since he was a private person), except for a very few times we talked, I love him because he was genuine and true. Leroy, for me, was the example of the widow who gave the two coins, with everything that he had to others. He told me stories of how people hurt or took advantages of him, yet he continued to help and be himself because he was a simple and good-hearted man. When he passed away, we finally found out how little he had. His living conditions were not good. There were times that he did not have gas or running water in his broke down trailer. He had very little that our parish came together to help his family paid for his funeral. Yet, he kept those things to himself no matter how much we tried to ask. Leroy was always smiling and be himself without letting the little that he had held him back from being whom God called him to be. Leroy was a simple, faithful, consistent example of God’s love for me (manifested through His own children).
Johnny E. is another example of faithfulness and consistent love for me. Johnny was an older parishioner — in his 90’s — who had a hard time hearing. I remembered him telling me before Mass in my third week at the parish: “Father, I have a hard time hearing. Sometimes I hear you but I cannot understand what you say. It’s some neuro thing. However, don’t worry! You can count on me. I’ll always be there at Mass and when you need something.” And yes, he was always there. I could always count on him at the last left-hand pew. He was always there until he was too ill to go to Mass. I can honestly say that I miss seeing him. Johnny was true to his words just as he was true to his faith, even at times when he could not get the best out of Mass. He was there because he was faithful and a man of his words. Johnny was another great example of God’s faithful, simple, and consistent love in my life, manifested through the faithful entrusted to me.
There are more numerous stories that I can tell but that would take a lot of space. There are still many people who are living now that I can tell their stories, but out of respect, I would just like to use two examples from two people who recently passed away so we can remember them in our prayers. So, I would like to end my reflection today by asking you: “What are some of the examples of God’s faithful, simple, and consistent love in your life? Who are some of those people who have taught you so much (with so little words) about faith in your own life?” I hope you can take some time to pray (and give thank) about these beautiful manifestations and examples and carry on their legacies with your own gifts of faith in life. May each and every one of us learn to appreciate, share, and be God’s beautiful, simple, faithful, and consistent love with one another.