How to Be Real Happy This Christmas

“My soul rejoices in my God.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.” — Luke 1:46-48

 

Christmas in this year 2020 is a sobering reminder that what truly matters most is celebrating the gift of eternal life, the gift of salvation that has come to us through the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The old-rose (pink) candle, symbolizing JOY, is lighted on the 3rd Sunday of Advent…

 

Before the pandemic came upon the world all over, most people had come to equate Christmas with the external trimmings — decors, new clothes, gift-giving, parties, holiday foods. We often exclaim it’s that time of the year again.

There is nothing wrong with any of these in themselves. There is nothing wrong in wanting to be merry and enjoy with our family and friends.

But what is sad is when the real meaning of Christmas — JOY —  is lost and Christmas becomes a commercialized, secular holiday.

But you see, that’s the irony. These external factors that we think will give us the so-called “Christmas joy” are also the same things that cause stress, anxiety, feeling of being overwhelmed. Some may even experience holiday depression.

The priest in last Gaudete Sunday’s livestreamed mass I attended related that some of his parishioners were expressing how difficult life has become due to the pandemic. And because they are feeling the pinch, they have decided not to put up any Christmas decor, not even a “belen” or the Nativity scene. “Oh how can there be Christmas if I don’t have a job or money?”

Perhaps many can relate or understand this.

But another reason could be because the basis for the expected happiness in this season is tied with the ephemeral or the superficial glitter that comes with it. So the real Spirit of Christmas is absent in the heart; it is not felt.

Why? Because we focus more on the material gifts we want to give and receive, instead of offering our best selves to the One whose birth is what we should be celebrating.

However, Christmas is more than any of these external expression of happiness.

The bottom line is if we forget the true meaning of Christmas, we will not be truly happy.

In his Sunday homily, the priest shared how to be real happy this Christmas.

BE CONTENT.

To be content is to be happy. To be happy and joyful with who you are  and with what you have. A content person is a happy person.

Like John the Baptist in the Gospel, he was content being who he was – that he was not the Messiah but the one paving the way for the ONE who is.

Jesus Himself was content to be born in a manger to a simple family.

2020 has brought so much pain, but is full of lessons to learn. As many now realize, a simple life is enough to make one happy. You can still be joyful even in the midst of lack. As long as you have your family strong and intact, as long as you have good health, as long as you are together with those you love, physical distance notwithstanding — these already can bring real joy and happiness.

BE GRATEFUL

A person who is content knows to be grateful. When you are grateful for every blessing you receive — big or small, good or bad happenings in your life — you learn to be happy.

Sometimes, we complain about not having enough, or not having those things we crave for. Yet, as we ponder, in God’s own time, He will grant us what is meant for us and what is good for us.

So, as we are reminded by the Gaudete Sunday’s Gospel, and as we are now celebrating the 3rd week of Advent, let us rejoice as we anticipate the birthday of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

CHRISTmas is a blessed event in our salvation history. Christ came into our humanity to be one of us. Emmanuel ~~ God is with us! And this should be Reason enough to be joyful and grateful this Holy Season of Christmas.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Yes — our problems now may seem too heavy for us to carry and leave a space in our heart to be happy. But do you know what can help alleviate such negative feelings and emotions?  Going out of ourselves, and giving time to help others in more dire situations.

We can be happier, when we  focus less on ourselves and be a good neighbor to our suffering brothers and sisters in our midst, so that we can bring to them the Joy of Christmas!

 

 

 

 

What the Lizard Teaches about Respect and Trust

It may seem odd to most of you, or it is something you haven’t given any thought to. But we can learn much from our fellow creatures, God-created beings like us. Just like the lizard, a common household fixture most of you take for granted.

The lizard that shares home with me is just a small, lithe, graceful brown creature with a pointed tail and 4 tiny legs.

my house lizard looks similar…but is less scaly and lighter in color than this one

Photo by Joshua Dixon on Unsplash

But do you know that lizards value their privacy as much as we do too? Take for example, my pet lizard — yes, I regard any lizard that find their way into my home as a pet, my ever respectful home companion(s).

Silent, unobtrusive, shy, and one who also values its own space and privacy, and yours — it would never bother me as I go about puttering around my home. In fact, one thing about lizards is most of them are not social.

But just like other creatures, they need food, and the sight of food is tempting. And according to the same source above, they spend their days sun-bathing on rocks, hunting for food or waiting for food to come their way. 

So when it sees me eating, it slowly inches its way up the wall where I can easily see it. It is its special way to ask for food. And I scoop a tiny clump of steamed white rice — I’ve noticed it doesn’t like brown rice — which I place in a nook on my kitchen counter. Then sensing that, my dear pet lizard, in a furtive move, crawls to the kitchen.

But here is where earning its trust is crucial. I need to respect its need for space — the lizard does not want you looking at it especially as it is about to nibble at the rice. It will slide back and let you finish whatever you’re doing.

But my lizard also knows I will never harm it at all. It trusts me enough to even let me know it has finished its meal.

You see, sometimes I feel like my lizard is a cat — aloof yet affectionate in its own peculiar way.

LESSON

Animals including insects, just like humans, deserve respect. You respect them and they respect you back. They learn to trust you, too.

We all — humans and animals — can co-exist in peace and love with one another. Yet, it is a harsh, sad reality that animals seem to be more respectful and trustworthy than humans.

“The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.” ― Alice Walker

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

“Animals are reliable, many full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal. Difficult standards for people to live up to.” ― Alfred A. Montapert

 

 

 

 

Mommy: My Beloved Rose in Heaven

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and for this reason I am sharing in full the article I wrote for the book dedicated to mothers, which I co-authored with several others. We first launched this book, as an e-Book, on Mother’s Day in May this year.

Front cover of the printed copy of the book

Mommy: My Beloved Rose  in Heaven

It has been five years, four months since God called my Mom back to His heavenly kingdom. Mommy, named Rose, was also a strong, faithful devotee of Mama Mary. This makes her more special and my memories of her more fragrant.

Front page…

My Mom, you see, was born on the feast day of the Queenship of Mary – one of the most popular Marian feasts in the Catholic Church. Years later, she and Dad, a Marian devotee too, wanted to wed on the feast of our Lady of Lourdes. But because the Church prohibits (yes until today) weddings on feast days, they got married a day after. As if that was not enough, Mommy passed on to her eternal home on the anniversary of the Miracle of Fatima (or Miracle of the Sun), again another day associated with Mama Mary.

So with that, let me recount a few vivid images I cherish about my Mom and the lessons she imparted to me that make up her total essence. Each recollection is a lump in my throat as it brings me back to my sacred past.

First, from my childhood:

I see Mom close beside me waiting for me to open my eyes, one birthday morning when I was six or seven, so she could be the first to greet me. She made me feel extra special that day. She did this too, to each of my eight siblings on their birthdays.

Mom speaking to my shy, grade school self, telling me, “Marichu, you are bright, intelligent.”

Still to my shy, self-conscious grade self, I see Mom boosting my morale and telling me, “Marichu, you are ‘kayumangging-kaligatan’ pang- Miss International yan.”

 Mom, you see, was fair of complexion, and so were my sisters. At the time, I was so aware of my brown complexion, the butt of teasing from classmates and friends who had lighter skin.

These pieces of memory show the significance of a mother’s edifying, reassuring love and belief in her child. It paved the way for me to grow more self-confident, comfortable in my own uniqueness.

More memories of Mom from my growing up years come to mind.

I remember Mom teaching my younger siblings and me to sing and draw; encouraging us to read books, and ingraining in us a love for reading. She would always tell us we already had a complete home library because we had the Bible, a big volume of the Complete Works of Shakespeare (that I still keep), and the Dictionary.

Yes, I grew up reading the dictionary as if it were a storybook. Mom had passed on to me the love for words, as well. I still see her at our dining table between chores, writing poems for my Dad while he was still at work. Mom was a schoolteacher of Pilipino and English before marrying Dad, so her love for literature and languages spilled on to me I guess.

Mom, together with Dad, established early on our daily family tradition of praying together before dinner, and eating together as well. Mom made sure everyone was present for prayers and meals because this is how a family can stay together.  This family tradition endured throughout my parents’ lifetime. In our own homes, the tradition of praying lives on. Being a devotee of Mama Mary, Mom instilled in us a love for the Holy Rosary, aside from the family prayers she composed.

Still clear to me is the image of Mom being well- groomed with a special misty sweet scent, even though she was home, taking care of her large brood. Until into her mid 80’s, she carried herself with elegance, prompting my Dad once to gush how beautiful as a rose she truly was.

I admire Mom’s way of growing herself. A full-time homemaker, yet she made sure to develop her own interests and hobbies as well. She read a lot, kept abreast with current events, and enjoyed spending the evenings listening to Dad regaling her with his day at work.

So, that’s Mom. A woman of deep, abiding love for family and for God – through firm yet gentle words and actions, she reared, disciplined, and molded us the way a schoolteacher, a principal, and a formator in the convent would. Thus, she helped produced a contemplative nun (a Pink Sister) and a diocesan priest from among us.

Growing up, I saw Mom evolved and my relationship with her deepened. Now, Mom was no longer a mere authority figure for me. She became my friend and confidante in a motherly way, especially during the biggest crisis in my life.

I saw her transformed into a doting, sometimes indulgent, loving grandmother. At this stage, having already a nun and a priest in the family, Mom became even more prayerful. With more time in her hands, she served God in the Church as a member of the Apostleship of Prayer.

One funny thing about Mom though was her penchant for shopping – like a child out to buy a new toy. Yet, that was also what made her human and adorable in my eyes.

Then the most defining moments of Mom’s character came during her final days at home, and on her deathbed at the hospital. Suffering from so much physical pain from a huge growth in her abdomen, she could only moan – in prayer! She would recite, over and over, invocations such as, Lord, forgive us! Lord heal us, O Merciful God!” So fellow patients in the ER, as well as her attending nurses and doctors could only look at her with astonishment. In the face of death, she showed fortitude.

All these precious memories are Mom’s legacy to me – the way she brought us up in faith and love, as well as her total abandon to God’s Compassion and Mercy in the midst of suffering and death. These are the enduring lessons Mommy showed me, which I hope other mothers out there can emulate in their own ways.

Back cover of the printed book
Cool Rose symbolizing my Mom…

Photo by Jodie Walton on Unsplash

NOTE: To order your copy of either the eBook format or the printed book, or both, kindly let me know in the comment box below, and I will e-mail the payment details. Thank you.

 

 

Sunday Morning Blessing

“And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that [is] upon the earth.” — Genesis 9:13

“And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and [there was] a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.” — Revelation 4:3

Rainbow on a Sunday Morning
At about 7 in the morning, this rainbow appeared after an early dawn drizzle…

It was a reassuring and delightful sight to behold God’s sign of His mercy and love in the morning sky. It was enough to perk me up as I started my day. It must be God’s message of assurance that all will be well in the world, and in my own personal life.

And to think this is the 2nd Sunday of Advent, — the message of which is about God’s mercy — and I had just finished putting up the manger scene, “belen”  the day before.

“Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation. ” – Psalm 85

“It takes sunshine and rain to make a rainbow. There would be no rainbows without sunshine and rain.” — Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart