This last Saturday, after my early morning walk, rosary, coffee, and prayer routine, I received an unexpected phone call from an airman from the local Air Force Base, wanting to speak to a priest. This person had not practiced the faith for a long time but was doing through some tough times. They went online and searched for a nearby Catholic parish and one of mine came up. I promised to meet the person… and I thought I could leave a little bit early in order to run some errands beforehand, not knowing how long it could last, since I had another appointment set up later in the morning, too. Nonetheless, things did not turn out as I would have liked, hoped, or planned; and from that experience, God reminded me of an important lesson that I do not personally like to accept.
As I was driving down the interstate highway, I could see it slowly happening in front of my eyes. A nail popped out of my front left tire and it began to lose air immediately. I had to quickly pull over to the side of the highway. It was not something I expected since I was having a full-day schedule! Nevertheless, I tried to find help, first by calling my car insurance’s roadside assistance number but they said the on-site arrival time would be around 45-90 minutes (maybe around an hour, at best) so I told them to cancel the request. It was a bit frustrating to hear the news of the long response time!
I opened the trunk and began to look into ways to change the donut-style spare tire. The tools provided were not the best and I was struggling to find the right grip and angle for leverage. I was not a happy camper at that time! Then, all of the sudden, I saw a truck pulled up. The gentleman came out and said, “I saw you trying to change a flat tire and I told my wife, ‘I got to give him a hand.’ So… Do you need help?” I, immediately responded, “Of course! Thank you so much!” He looked at the puncture point, found a screw in the back of his truck, and put one in to stop the air loss; he then filled the tire from his own generator-run air inflator. I thanked him for his willingness to pull aside and offer assistance! I mean, what was the chance that he was willing to help and had all the tools needed for the fix?!? For me, it was a sign of grace and he was truly my life-saver that day.
I was able to drive to a nearby mechanic shop. I thought they could repair the tire but the puncture was too big and damaged the tire too much so it had to be replaced. “Great!” I thought, “Another thing wrong today!” Nevertheless, the guy was able to find a used tire that fits my vehicle to replace and I was able to be on my way in less than 15 minutes. I was able to go to the meeting even though I was not able to run my previously-planned errands.
All of my plans failed and did not happen before that meeting, but I made it to the meeting with the airman, where I was needed to be on time. My plans fell apart but where I needed to be was not canceled! I did not get what I wanted to do before the necessary meeting, but somehow, God sent the right person at the right time to help me in my unplanned distress so I did not have to miss the time I needed to be present to someone who was in need of help. Hence, in our very own lives, too, we do have a lot of aspirations, desires, hopes, and wants, but not all of them are realized and able to come to fruition as we would have liked. Nonetheless, what we are called to do never changed! Our vocation, mission, and purpose remain steadfast and firm, grounded in God because they come from Him.
We are all children of our Heavenly Father, disciples of Christ Jesus, and instruments of the Holy Spirit! This baptismal vocation and mission have been given to us on the day that we were baptized into Him who loves us, the day when we died to sin and to this world in order to begin a new life in and through Him. Therefore, even though things can fall apart and get frustrating at times, that does not mean that we lose all hope and purpose, self-worth, and our God-given mission that are much more deeply grounded and life-giving than everything that we have come to plan and build for ourselves.
I can tell you that this truth is hard to accept, and I struggle with it every day! There are times in my life when I feel like more doors are being closed faster than they are opened. There are moments when I felt like that my life should be a little bit different than what it is now, perhaps deserved a tiny bit more chance, not having to deal with being unfortunately misunderstood or blamed for something or someone else’s actions. Yet, we do not always get what we want! Life is not fair. It is imperfect and messy. Nonetheless, life is still worth living because it is full of grace.
Furthermore, oftentimes, we, too, do feel that God is not fair when we think we should or deserve something better for what we have worked so hard for. Frustrations kick in when things seem to fall apart and we get stuck on the side of the road, even when we have tried so hard to care, love, and be faithful to what we have called to be. However, I can honestly say that I am grateful that God is not fair. If He is truly fair, I would not be here where I am today! If He is fair in judging and giving the proper punishment or sentence according to what I deserved, I would not be where I am today, for sure.
I am grateful for His mercy and loving forgiveness when I have failed to love Him. In my own failures and frustrations, I recall deep within myself that He is faithful. God did not send His only-begotten Son and poured forth the Holy Spirit in order to make things alright and according to what we like life to be, but to show us How much we are loved by Him! Our Savior and Redeemer chose to be incarnated and lived like us in all things (but sin) to personally sympathize and relate, especially to teach the truth in order to lead us back on course. Most important of all, He chose to give His life as expiation for our sins because He truly loved us. His death was the real, personal, intimate, and loving reminder that we are worth saving, even if it costs the unjust bloodshed and unimaginable price of the Son of God.
Therefore, we are reminded to give our all to Him, too! I know many people have many reasons to walk away from the Church… and trust me, I can find many personal reasons, too. I have honestly shared with my own parishioners that for every one reason that they can find to walk away from the Church, I can find ten more to walk away from the priesthood and my faith. It is not easy! I have been tempted. Nevertheless, this life and path of mine was never a personal choice, a career, or an option that is based on advancement, beneficial, humanistic, or secularistic standards. I am in love with Jesus Christ because I know deep within my heart that His love for me is real. My love for Him is that personal response to His first love for me! And, as much as there are temptations to walk away, and with many times that I have failed to love Him; for some reason, I can never leave Him because I love Him.
I try to love Him each and every day, and I still failed each and every day. However, I will not give up because true love never fails! He knows my heart and my real intention. He knows how imperfect and weak I am; nevertheless, He continues to call, strengthen, and transform my limitations, failures, and weaknesses by His loving grace. He has never abandoned or forgotten me, even when I tried to abandon Him in the past. His mercy is everlasting, genuine, and real; therefore, I cannot lie, reject, or abandon Him. As much as I have failed, as much as I am trying to be better in loving Him each day. I do not want to take advantage, abuse, taken for granted His loving mercy and forgiveness for me… I really want to love Him with the best that I can.
When things fall apart, plans fail, things are out of control, struggles are overwhelming, storms are too strong, and life gets very messy, I get tempted to give up and walk away, too! Nevertheless, for some reason, I am still here… kicking and screaming, pouting and frustrated, but never able to walk away. How can I walk away from someone who never left me? How can I abandon someone who never gave up on me? How can I let go of someone who has been merciful and forgiving toward me? How can I reject someone who truly loves me? I might kick and scream, angry and frustrated, but I can never let go. I try my best to love and all I can do is to love Him as I am able in each, every, single present moment.
I hope that makes sense. I am sorry if I am rambling on. I hope you can discover, taste, and fall in love with Him, too. I left my family with many uncertainties to pursue His will for me. Yet, through all the ups and downs of life, the many trials and hardships, I could never leave Him. Through my life, with all its blessings and challenges, I had given God many reasons to not love me, yet He never let me go. If I am the Almighty, I would have done it a long time ago, but this passionate and relentless Lover has always been there for me and with me…and that is why I am still with Him and able to try to be the person I am today. And, that is why, even when things fall apart and break down, I will always try my best to remain and walk toward Him.
I hope you would not give up and continue to love Him, too.