Advent: A Season of Joyful Hope and of Inner Renewal

Today’s Gospel Reading is from Mark 13:33-37

33 ‘Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come.

34 It is like a man traveling abroad: he has gone from his home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own work to do; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake.

35 So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow or dawn;

36 if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep.

37 And what I am saying to you I say to all: Stay awake!’

 

As we enter into a new Church year, a new liturgical year with the first Sunday of Advent,  may we remember the true essence of this Season of Joyful Hope. As we await Christmas, let us prepare not only our homes but also our hearts, by an inner renewal of ourselves.

Advent Candles

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How do we celebrate the first coming of Jesus Christ into our humanity? Here are some reminders the priest shared in his homily:

  • Watch
  • Look back
  • Look forward with expectation, with expectant hope
  • Let us rush to the Father as He eagerly wants to rush to us
  • God is inviting us to rush to Him as much as He wants to rush to us
  • In grief, there is gratitude
  • In grief, there is gratitude when we watch
  • We cannot let go of 2020 until it blesses us

 

 

 

What the World Needs More of is Love and Compassion to Help Fight Depression

“What the world needs now Is love, sweet love It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of What the world needs now Is love, sweet love No, not just for some, but for everyone”

So goes the 1965 hit song, “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” the lyrics of which were composed by Hal David and its music by Burt Bacharach. It was first recorded and popularized by singer, Jackie De Shannon. (Wikipedia)

To appreciate the context in which the song was created, 1965 was rather a turbulent year in America. From a blog post describing the significance of the song’s lyrics, here is an excerpt:

“What was happening in 1965? On January 2, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began a drive to register Black voters. Two days later, President Lyndon B. Johnson gave his “Great Society” State of the Union address. Almost a month later, on February 1, Dr. King and 700 demonstrators were arrested in Selma, Alabama. Later that month, on February 21, Malcolm X was assassinated by Nation of Islam followers at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. And on “Bloody Sunday” (March 7), Alabama troopers and civil rights demonstrators clashed, galvanizing the nation’s leaders to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965.[…]”

Because the world today – pandemic aside – has become more toxic than ever, this song should be popularized again.

Racism, poverty, hatred, violence, lies, fake news – these social ills continue to plague not only the US, but also our beloved country and the rest of the world.

What the world indeed needs now is more love and compassion, specifically more time away from social media.

I have been reminded of this song recently upon getting a bit fed up and bothered with posts purportedly aimed at people with poor financial capacity and know-how, such as those in the habit of borrowing money, not paying back loans, being ungrateful for financial help, not disciplined or able to save, et cetera, et cetera,  et cetera — that are  being spread on social media, and this is what I’d like to stress here.

There seems to be a lack of discernment and understanding on the part of those who make and/or share around such posts or messages.

These messages/posts may be true and valid, but are unkind and thoughtless.

Netizens who post and spread these get on their high horse as they shame, mock, and put others down on a public forum — thinking perhaps that by doing so, they will be able to make the person(s) at whom their posts are aimed to take the hint and own up to their existing debts, finally.

They also do this for a number of other reasons:

  • Give vent to their frustration and anger (understandably)
  • Feel good about themselves
  • Feel superior over others
  • Make others feel guilt/shame

Most likely, however, these very same people may also be feeling inadequate about their own financial capacity. In psychology, a feeling of superiority or exaggerated superiority — superiority complex  — is a sign of inferiority.

Such posts become viral — because many do relate. And such posts would even be used as illustrations or memes by some marketers or finance/investment gurus promoting the value of having investments/savings and the like, as part of their strategy. Maybe they do this without any intention of demeaning others, but only to drive home the importance of being money-wise and disciplined.

Again I say, such actions are bereft of any iota of kindness. No kindness nor empathy at all! Indeed, what the world needs more of today is greater love and compassion.

For the reality is that many Filipinos would also like to save even for an emergency fund. But many cannot afford to do so simply because they are living paycheck to paycheck, or are earning even below the daily minimum wage.

Thus, they only have just enough or barely enough or almost none at all for their daily needs or for keeping their body and soul and dignity intact.

Add to this the responsibilities of taking care of elderly/sick members of the family or of their growing up children.

With the pandemic, the loss of income has become an added scourge.

So what happens is some get into debt and are stuck. Those that avoid running into a cycle of debts by tightening their belts can only afford to spend for basic daily necessities with nothing left for savings. So rather than risk defaulting on the required monthly/quarterly premium payments, these ordinary Filipinos would rather set aside what meager amount they can in the safety of their homes.

Think about this: Not all those who are not able to save or those who tend to borrow a lot have such bad attitude or have no concern for their future as described in those viral, thoughtless, public-shaming posts on social media.

Sometimes, we need to look at individual circumstances to understand what each person is going through rather than make general assumptions or sweeping statements. There is no need to shout out to these people on social media to gain sympathy or make the other person toe the line.

If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. — Matthew 18:15

KINDNESS matters at all times and in all situations. My friendly reminder for those of us who are fond of posting such messages on social media —

Be grateful to be in a position to save or be of help.

Sometimes the Lord will put us in exactly the same situations as those who need money in order to understand others more. If you were in their shoes, how would you feel?

In short, let us:

  • Be more compassionate towards others
  • Be grateful for every blessing we receive, especially if we are free of financial insecurities
  • Pray for them — if we cannot help others —  that God sends them other angels on their path, people who can be of more help (for example, referring job opportunities, etc.)
  • Pray for ourselves too that we may not give in to the temptation of mocking or showing disdain to others, nor of judging others as helpless or lazy
  • Be more mindful lest we be overcome with the forces of evil — that seem to abound on social media nowadays. Yes, social media is getting to be more toxic with all the venom, hate, and lies being spread around.
  • Be more discerning as we sift through the craziness and confusion social media seem to offer, if we are not careful.
  • Pass on more edifying, uplifting, soul-inspiring posts and messages instead of those that destroy others.

The lesson here is while it is true there are people who do not know how to help improve their economic situations, or do not know how to acknowledge the help they receive, etc., just be thankful to be not one of them.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in your faith, so that in the power of the Holy Spirit you may be rich in hope. — Romans 15:13

Caveat: Another point to understand, we do not often know what others are going through. This does not mean condoning such bad habits or attitude. However, especially in these troubled, difficult times, we need to be more careful in our speech and behavior.  For who knows, our unkind words and actions may lead others to depression. I will discuss this more in another post.

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of…”

Rid yourselves, then, of all spite, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and carping criticism.  Like new-born babies all your longing should be for milk — the unadulterated spiritual milk — which will help you to grow up to salvation, 3 at any rate if you have tasted that the Lord is good . — 1 Peter 2:1-3

 

 

The 5 Essential Lessons You Should Know About Grief, for Mental Health

2020 has brought so much sorrow and pain to the world, in particular our country which experienced at the beginning of the year a volcanic eruption and now the compounding impact of two recent destructive typhoons. All this untold suffering has been affecting people’s mental/emotional health.

I understand the different emotions that come with grief because every now and then,  when I think of my parents, I feel sad. The pain of losing them may have lessened due to the passage of time — and I have accepted their passing as a natural consequence of their illness in their old age —  yet it still hurts.

But for countless of people who lost their loved ones to Covid-19 or to natural calamities that took place this year as well as to other causes, it must be/have been more devastating and unbearable. Most deaths were unexpected. Countless were not given the chance to say a proper goodbye or hold their loved ones for the last time or even see them off for burial.

It was just timely that a good friend and former classmate of mine at graduate school invited me to his webinar on mental health awareness, “Building Our Mental Health in the New Normal,” wherein he discussed about loss and grief, among other things.

As my friend stressed in his presentation, “the pandemic has not spared anyone – young and old, rich and poor, male and female – around the world. We are all in the same boat, but our reactions to the stresses brought about by this health crisis, including natural calamities, differ from one another.”

Here I share the 5 essential lessons about GRIEF you should know and how to cope in order to help keep your balance. This is also important if you happen to be in a position to help someone who is grieving over a loss.

Photo by Deniz Altindas on Unsplash

Grief comes in different stages. The conventional stages as developed by Elizabeth Kubler Ross in 1969, and which most of us are familiar with, include:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Today, there’s a new set of stages of grief – that which has been developed by Jill Johnson-Young:

  • Going through the trauma/crisis
  • Going through what is left over
  • Finishing with the relationship that was left undone
  • Saying goodbye and reorganizing
  • Bringing the lessons and realizations to our new world, especially in our prayers
  • Honoring your feelings; all feelings are valid

Grief is not just about the loss of loved ones, but also about the loss of something, such as jobs, finances, relationships, etc. In this pandemic time, grief is also about the loss of the freedom you have been used to because of lockdown and quarantine protocols.

Grief is not linear in the sense that you need to go through from stage 1 to the next – No. Rather, grief is a process. So when we help people with their grieving process, it is not about the stages of grief, but it is meeting people where they are.

Finding meaning is the sixth (6th) stage of grief, according to author David Kessler, beyond those more familiar stages mentioned above. Finding meaning in our loss(es) can help transform grief into a more peaceful and hopeful experience.

Especially in this time of the pandemic, in this New Normal of our life today, finding meaning is part of how we can develop our Emotional Hygiene.

Other invaluable insights about coping with a loss I picked up from the webinar:

  • In the new normal, we need to have a New Mindset coupled with Action in order to get New Results.
  • Meaning is our response to our loss.
  • Meaning is what we do after we have learned to accept. It does not and cannot take away the pain. It helps us move on.
  • Loss is what happens in life. Meaning is what you make happen after the loss.

Finally,  we need to be gentle and compassionate with ourselves. We need to be kind. Kindness matters in our healing process and those of others.

All these and more I have learned from that enlightening webinar, “Building Our Mental Health in the New Normal,” facilitated by my good friend, Dr. Nelson C. Magnaye, of Ateneo de Davao University. I highly recommend it.

If your school or workplace or community/family may find the need for a facilitated learning on how to keep your mental health in the new normal, please get in touch with him through his LinkedIn profile.

The webinar is good for 90 minutes and is ideal for 50 participants via Zoom.