My Difficult Journey as a Writer Finding Her Unique Voice

I’ve been thinking about this certain quote by American writer Jan Clausen for some time —

“How can a writer express what is most vital in her experience while anxiously watching her tongue lest she slip the wrong word?”

Then I came across an old scribbled note of mine from four years ago. I wish to share it here so you’ll see how I then thought of myself as a fledgling writer trying to find her unique voice. Oh, in fact, I wrote something along the same vein in a previous post – around the same time, On Finding My Unique Writing Voice.

Back to my scribbled note, most of it is still true of me though writing for work no longer takes too much of my time these days.

A work-in-progress, that’s what I am, as far as my being a writer (I’d like to think that of myself) is concerned.

I still have a long way to go before I can find my unique voice – in my personal blog and in the pieces I write for my work (even though I remain anonymous) – but I’m getting there.

Each time I post a piece of work content, over which I’ve spent precious hours laboring (researching, drafting, revising/editing, formatting, fact-checking, etc.) I get a huge relief and a sense of achievement, yet always with that nagging thought I can still make it better in the next article or post.

The more I write, the more passionate and committed I become to honing my writer’s skills, growing my craft, as they say.

My random personal thoughts find their way scribbled on my private paper journals every so often – there is nothing like handwriting…easier to get into that “sacred state of flow” as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist, describes that zone of “heightened focus.” Some I type in my digital journals, or in my personal blog.

As for work, I need to discipline myself to get wired in, the earlier in the morning, the better it is.

Like those athletes out there in the Olympics aiming to win even just a bronze, or breaking their personal records, so do I also aim to better my writing best with each piece I compose.

I used to teach writing, – enjoyed it much – but never thought writing for work is full of roadblocks: mental block, or doing my daily routine outside of work, of course.

And these I find as both a distraction and a diversion, each one pulling me away and pushing me back at the same time into the mode of writing and shutting me off from my immediate environment.

I cannot go back to class for now, though I hope so in the near future to attend writing workshops, or to secure a personal mentor to give me feedback.

Fortunately for me, in this age of the internet, there are many good and reliable resources for neophyte writers like me in the field of journalistic writing, blogging, and content-writing that I make use of.

Perhaps, this is why God has put me where I am now, so that each time I look out to the horizon – literally and metaphorically – I can see new frontiers waiting for me to forge, the doors waiting to be unlocked. The key. Myself. And I thank God so much for this talent and passion He has given me.

All for Your greater glory, O Lord!

Back to the present, nowadays, I continue to write on this blog of mine, not caring anymore whether there will be someone to read it or not. I write for the sheer delight of it without having to seek an applause or approval. While I still yearn for those caring enough to critique my writing for the sake of improving, I just content myself with nurturing this passion. I continue to read a lot and learn more about writing from experts.

As to the above quote, my writer’s voice is still a caged bird yearning to be free! Perhaps because I avoid discussing or expressing my opinions on difficult topics, such as politics — which most people on social media find it easy to do. But what I don’t like is how most opinions degenerate into expressions of hate or personal attacks, or how the rantings go on and on in each and every post ad nauseam.

Perhaps I still lack the courage or the venom or enough writing chops to help me crystallize my thoughts on such topics. Yes, many of the things happening in the country and in the world bother and pain me so much, or make my blood boil in anger and frustration. Yet, I’d rather write about what I think can help you and I grow to be the best human person we can become as we are meant to be by God.

Perhaps, in a future post, with the right words and form, my writer’s voice will find its way to say what’s on my mind.

One of my few attempts at digital 3D painting…




Lessons from Watching Birds Fly By

The pigeons and white doves flying about in our neighborhood have always fascinated me.

I also recall with fondness the little brown mayas back in our previous community who’d visit our backyard every single day, as soon as they learned of my bag of treats  for them– sunflower seeds.

So amazing how they quickly discovered where I put these, for then they’d line up, one by one, to peck at the plastic pack that held these precious delights. It was as if they instantly knew it was theirs for the taking.

Not only that, funny how they could also show their preference — just like any pet animals. These brown mayas would never want to eat any sunflower seeds, if I scattered them or even put them in a container on the ground! Maybe they thought the ground was not clean enough for them to feed on?

So each time I’d buy a new pack of seeds, I’d just place it on the sink counter outside. But they’d come only at certain hours of the day — in the morning and in the afternoon! Gluttony is never in the nature of birds.

Now in our present home, the pigeons here offer me a daily dose of delight, both sensual and spiritual, especially in this time of the community lockdown and restricted movements due to the Covid pandemic.

And they  provide me with inspiring life lessons as well, which I am sharing here.

  • Birds are so human in their ways.

Observing them for the most part, I’ve come to learn birds – pigeons, doves, and brown mayas — are as human as can be. The only difference is they take life as it is without much qualm, unlike our human tendency to whine or worry.

  • Creatures of habit and routine,  they start their day almost as the sun starts to rise and peer from the eastern sky. First order of the day is to stand in formation, if they happen to be in a flock, and fly together, circling the air above, as if paying homage to our Creator God. Then they go on flying up and low, round and round, above the metropolis, in what it seems to me their early morning exercise. To strengthen the muscles of their wings. To gain greater speed. To scour for food, like catch a worm or two, maybe, unless they have owners who feed them.

They disappear from my view for a while. Then one by one, they fly again to rest on the rooftop of the next building, where they stroll, flap their wings, or simply rest and gaze at the city below.

  • My winged friends enjoy bonding together as in a community, whether flying or at rest.
Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash
Photo by Gio Roca on Unsplash
  • But they also love to take some ‘me-time’ — time for being alone. Socializing and  being in solitude are essential to the well-being of our winged friends.

Just like birds, we also need time for our own ‘me-time’ — when we can go deep into ourselves, reflect, and converse with God, or even just spending some few minutes in silence to get our bearing and be nourished by Him.

  • They are masters in waiting meekly for their turn. Most of all, they are patient, relaxed, and ever so calm, serene and graceful. Nothing in their movements shows them to be worried or perturbed or restless.  Maybe because they trust in their Creator God to care for them no matter what. As is said in Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”

This nature of theirs speak to me clearly especially at times I get so overcome with anxiety, frustration, even despair.

  • Soar up into heights they fly in stately elegance, yet they humbly return and perch on the ground or wherever they can find rest in this urban jungle. Humility. It’s a constant reminder no matter where in life we go, how lofty or lowly our position in society is, or how much we have achieved or still striving to, our everyday living should be a reflection of Christ’s humility and obedience to God’s calling and mission for us.

Read also a related post of mine, Morning Lessons from the Birds.

I can’t help but compare these flock of birds with religious communities, such as those of contemplative nuns and monks. For while these religious communities are cloistered in their convents and monasteries and donned in their long habits, these birds are free to move up and around resplendent in their colorful feathers.

Yet both communities – human and avian alike — share the same pattern and rhythm of daily life. Communal yet with time for solitude and quiet; working/flying and worshiping, exercise, and rest — all these make up their everyday schedule. And let’s not forget the virtues of trust, faith, humility, and love that our feathered co-creatures mirror so well.

I do believe it is God’s way of showing us, through the pattern and rhythm of birds’ daily life which religious communities are practicing, together with the virtues they are striving to live out, that this way of life is good — for our physical and spiritual nourishment and wellness and growth.

I note from stories and status updates of friends and relatives, that many have been incorporating this pattern  and rhythm into their daily lives since the start of the pandemic. So it must be one good thing that has come out of this global health crisis. And it’s about time we did, don’t you think so?

  • Oh there’s another thing I almost forgot — singing is essential and second nature to birds, as well as religious communities — for singing is the highest form of praise we can offer to our Creator God.

“Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps the singing bird will come.” — Lois Lowry

Wisdom comes in all we see, God writes His lessons in each flow’r, and every singing bird or bee can teach us something of His power.” — Maud Lindsay




The Most Meaningful Preparation to Make for the Coming Christmas

“Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.” – C.S. Lewis

92 days to Christmas! I am sure many of us Filipinos as well as the rest of the world are having mixed emotions about the coming Christmas season. Can there still be Christmas, no doubt many are asking in their hearts — especially those who have lost loved ones, jobs, and livelihood.

True, we are living in such a most difficult, painful, stressful time, with the COVID-19 pandemic showing no signs of abating until a safe vaccine is found. Given this, despair and fear can easily take hold when sickness, death, and loss are around us.

Yet, amidst the gloom, it is heartwarming to hear of stories of sharing, caring, and helping one another. This indeed is the most meaningful preparation we can make for the coming Christmas. Opening our hearts and doors to others. Being more kind, understanding, and compassionate.

Christmas this year may be totally different from what we have been used to — but isn’t it time to celebrate Christmas in the way it is meant to be — without the trimmings?

To make this year’s Christmas more meaningful, especially in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, may we celebrate it with more love to share, with more humility to accept our circumstances.  For after all, Jesus Himself was born in a stable rude, in the company of animals and a handful of poor shepherds.

I find the lyrics of this Christmas song for children simple yet so full of insightful reminder for us all. Each of us even in our littlest ways can do so much to light up the world around us and bring cheer to those who are suffering or in pain. Let each of us reflect the Light of Christ through our words and deeds, and maybe God will grant us the miracle we yearn for at this time – for COVID-19 to go away.

The Friendly Beasts

1 Jesus our brother, kind and good,
Was humbly born in a stable rude,
And the friendly beasts around him stood,
Jesus our brother, kind and good.

2 “I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
“I carried his mother uphill and down.
I carried his mother to Bethlehem town.
I,” said the donkey shaggy and brown.

3 “I,” said the cow, all white and red,
“I gave him my manger for his bed.
I gave him my hay to pillow his head.
I,” said the cow all white and red.

4 “I,” said the sheep with curly horn,
“I gave him my wool for his blanket warm.
He wore my coat on Christmas morn.
I,” said the sheep with curly horn.

5 “I,” said the dove from rafters high,
“I cooed him to sleep, so he should not cry.
We cooed him to sleep, my mate and I.
I,” said the dove from rafters high.

6 Thus every beast by some good spell,
in the stable dark was glad to tell
of the gift he gave Emmanuel,
the gift he gave Emmanuel.




Remembering My Father

“Say not in grief ‘he is no more’ but in thankfulness that he was.” – Hebrew Proverb

Recently, my family commemorated the first anniversary of my father’s entry into eternal life. I still grieve at his passing and times when tears just well up in my eyes at the slightest thought of him.

Yet, at the same time, due to the raging pandemic, the pain seems to have been tempered by a sense of relief and gratefulness. Yes, it may seem selfish especially as I think of those who have suffered deaths in their families because of COVID-19. But to me and the rest of the family, it was a blessing in disguise that our parents had gone on when they did.

And as a tribute to my father on his first birthday in the afterlife, here I share another of Dad’s legacy to us his family and loved ones.

We grew up with Music at home, with different musical instruments: the violin which was Dad’s forte; harmonica, banduria, guitar, xylophone, and the organ. He even sent me and my sister to learn the piano in school from Grade 1 to Grade 3. But I grew tired of it.
My father’s violin and his loyal pet dog…artwork by another sister of mine
Dad was blessed with a deep baritone voice so he also taught us to sing, even teaching us the Solfeggio and letting us sing one by one. Singing together was one of our family weekend activities. We older ones were members of our church choir with Dad as the choir Conductor.
The nuns in the convent where my sister belonged would even request him to sing the Exsultet (Easter Proclamation) during the Easter Vigil each year, which he faithfully did, until my parents moved far outside the metropolis.
Dad also had a large collection of long-playing albums of classical music, Ray Conniff Christmas albums, plus many other musical records which we’d play and listened to on the stereo every weekend (often with him singing along or playing the violin).
Later on, he inspired one of my sons to play the violin and the banduria. Picking up from my Dad, my son learned the organ as well. Now a father himself, he guides his own children in playing the violin and the piano. Such is my Dad’s legacy of music to us, so cherished in our hearts.


To the First Woman Who Loved Me, My Mother

Today, on Mama Mary’s birthday,🌸 my copies of the printed version of the book on Moms — “To the First Woman Who Loved Me” — a book I co-authored with 40+ other authors and the eBook version of which we launched online on Mother’s Day last May, finally arrived. What a blessed coincidence💙
My copy of the printed book before an image of the Mother of Perpetual Help and my white rosary…

I just feel happy, motivated and grateful that God has granted me this opportunity to honor my Mom through a book article📖 and for making one of my dreams come true.👌💯

Front cover of the printed book
Front page of the Book on Moms
Back cover of the printed book…


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.



Reflecting on Life’s Paradoxes One Rainy August Sunday in Lockdown

Today is Sunday and it is the 155th day of our country’s lockdown. It is a rainy August Sunday.

And soon my mind starts to ponder on what has been happening since the beginning of this year, starting with the Taal Volcano eruption, in Tagaytay. Ashfall descended even upon parts of Metro Manila, and that was the first time many Filipinos had been made aware of the need to wear facial mask.

Phreatic volcano explosion of Taal Volcano, 12 January 2020

Image Source

Many of our countrymen living around the lake and depending on it for their livelihood were displaced and rendered homeless; many businesses around the area had to close shop. Because of this, a round of donation and fund drives began in many communities, including in my place, to extend help to our displaced, suffering brothers and sisters.

Just when life was slowly getting back to normal, the Coronavirus pandemic unleashed its fangs all around the globe. No escaping from the scary reality of it. And soon our lives have been far from what it used to be.

The NEW NORMAL is upon us all.

On one hand, I, just like many others, also regard this pandemic as blessing in disguise; a call for humanity to mend our ways, be more compassionate and caring, and for Mother Earth to heal. The reduced number of vehicles and factories polluting the air, not to mention the daily curfew imposed, adds to the much needed time for our environment to breathe and recoup.

The past few months have been a time of self-improvement and personal growth.

Many of us are learning to appreciate in a new way the more valuable things in life, especially,

  • Spending more time with our families and living life more simply;
  • Learning new skills and being more creative and productive;
  • Going back to the basics and finding more time with God in silent meditation and prayers, and
  • Continuing to be of help to our less fortunate brethren in whatever way we can.

Yet, as I reflect on what humanity has achieved so far, I also realize we are not much better than our forebears, as these hard realities show.

Life indeed is full of paradoxes.

  • We are supposed to have marched 2 decades into the new millennium. Yet, it seems we have retrogressed into the dark ages.
  • The more advanced civilization is, the more backwards humanity has become.
  • Hatred/hate speech, violence, brutality, lies/fake news, and divisiveness — all these are slowly eroding the human spirit.
  • I find it more heart-warming to watch videos or read about domestic animals – dogs, cats, birds, and even wild beasts, such as lions, bears, and apes, displaying human emotions.

Just watch this moving video:

Then you read almost daily in the news stories of how some humans are acting more like beasts. The capacity of humans to intentionally hurt or destroy fellow human beings is so heartbreaking and beyond me.

Not all is lost. I believe there is more goodness than evil in this world; more good people than the bad. Yet if we are not vigilant, the good among us will be devoured by the evil around us.

Reflecting further, I think of today’s most essential tools for making life easier. I couldn’t help but notice the irony of it all.

The Internet

Life before the internet was simpler, more peaceful. Internet was envisioned to make the sharing of ideas and information much easier and access to knowledge open for everyone.

But somehow along the way, information overload has overburdened our capacity for discernment, humility, and simplicity. As well as to be in Silence and Awe of the One from whom all things and beings come.

The less we know, the better for our ego.

Social Media

 Social media is meant to bring people closer to one another.  Yet, in this volatile, politicized world, social media clearly rips people apart.

Social media is meant to be a level playing field for all voices to be heard. Yet, social media has become a platform to drown out voices that differ from or oppose those of the powerful and the influential.

Social media is a communication tool for humans to use for their ends. Yet, social media seems to have used humans for its ends.

Even families and loved ones are not spared. Real conversations, face to face dialogues, or more meaningful interactions are being sacrificed in favor of too much attachment to our electronic gadgets.

While social media has succeeded in bringing out the best in us, it has also brought out the worst in us.


Technology ought to bring down social-economic barriers. Sadly, technology continues to put up barriers between the “haves” and the “have-nots” in this world.

For example, many poor people especially in far-flung areas cannot access the internet, much less own mobile phones or computers. But due to the precautions against COVID-19, schools are going online for their classes.

Plus so many other life’s hard realities.

How to deal with life’s challenges

I believe that when the going gets tough, we just need to be tough to get going. When I feel overburdened with my concerns and discomfort, I keep repeating this to myself, like a mantra. Be tough!

When fear overcomes, overcome fear with prayers and optimism.

Trust in God. In God, we put our trust.

These are just some of my random thoughts one rainy August Sunday in lockdown.


Dad, Mom and Me: It Wasn’t Always What You Think

This is my first time ever to write something like this, especially as it is about my beloved parents. I’m going out of my comfort zone as it isn’t easy to be writing from a deep, dark, wounded part of my soul. This piece is to be a blog post for the meantime, but I intend to include it in my “legacy writing” some day.

I’ve written several posts about my mother and one about my father. I have even contributed one article about Mom for a book project, which we launched last Mother’s Day. And in these articles, I have described almost an ideal loving relationship among the three of us.

But, let me break that myth for you. It wasn’t always what you think it was!

Ours was at times a Clash of Wills. Don’t get me wrong, though. I loved Mom and Dad so dearly and they loved me more than I could ever repay them that love.

You see, we three were first-born. Each three of us had our own unique, distinct personality and temperament, like chalk and cheese. I cannot even claim to be a blend of their best traits.

Yet, I assure you they raised me well and good and I have imbibed the best of their characters. Most of all, they loved me to a fault.

“You always want to have the last say, always!” That was Mom. Dad, silently approving.

Just in my late childhood, I remember being scolded for some wrongdoing – quarreling with my younger siblings – who to my sensitive heart were more bullish than me — for not doing my assigned chores right away or well enough.

“Okay so you know everything now, huh?!”  Mom again. Dad was often silent, but with a face like thunder.

“No, it isn’t like that, po!” I painfully defended myself.  Then I’d go off  like a loose canon, giving off steam.

 “Stop!” “STOP, I say!” Mom and Dad in unison – and even years later back into their home, I found myself arguing with them – often on little incidents that would flare up in the end. Nay, for me it was only rationalizing. To them, it was answering back.

Hot tears flowed, stinging my tongue with its bitterness. At times, my fists clenched to beat my chest so hard that it left me breathing hard.

I hated each scene. I hated myself even more. I was angry with Mom and Dad. Yet, I couldn’t hate them.

During such confrontations, I wasn’t my very best. Pride often overtook me.

Being the silent, aggrieved party riled me so. “Why does Mom have to see it her way?”  “Why can’t we just talk?” I groped for answers.

“Let me finish first,” Mom often would order me. The thing is, she sometimes drew a mistaken assessment of the situation. Hurting, accusing words would stream from her mouth.

So, my ears would flinch. My mind would rush to my defense.

And like any beaten animal, I felt like beating them in turn. Hurt for hurt.

Worse still was when Mom would recycle old issues. I felt like the worst person in the world.

All I had at such point was to reclaim my wounded honor, dignity, and pride, or to restore a sense of justice.

I failed to appreciate that what I felt was so much true for both of them, even more. They needed to restore their sense of parental authority. How I wish now I could have just embraced them and soothed their broken hearts.

But I guess in any family, in emotional struggles like these, compassion is hard to give no matter how much you love your parents or your siblings or your children. You only see things from where you are.

Sometimes, I thought Mom was just being childish. In that aspect, I thought we were alike.

Perhaps our ugly battles ensued when the Parent in me would clash with the Child in each of them.

Yes, I see now that was how we transacted with each other during our verbal fights.

If we transacted such that it was my Child addressing to the Parent in them, or vice versa, the result depended on circumstances. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.

Everything was fine, however, when we interacted with each other on the same level: Child-Child or Parent-Parent or Adult-Adult. For then, we understood one another. We were in harmony.

Mom hated the drama of reconciliation – so did I. But I – like the rest – needed to utter the magic words, “I’m sorry po,” whenever we erred. No silent treatment from us. No giving of excuses, too. They never wanted that.

Mom and Dad just wanted everyone to cool off – and be back to our normal, happy, loving selves. Sometimes, that was easy. On other occasions, it took a little while.

Our family’s saving grace during ugly scenes was my Dad. A paragon of patience he truly was. He’d come to comfort me after each clash, advising me to learn to let go and let Mom have the upper hand.

Humility wasn’t my best trait.

Fast forward to each of my parents’ waning years – specifically – on their death throes, their dying was in a way my own saving grace.

It gave me a chance to give back and care for them as they did when I was still an infant in their arms.

I cannot get over this striking realization: Mom’s hands were the first that held my tiny hands at birth – and in the first few seconds after her death, my hands were those that held hers. 

Photo by Liv Bruce on Unsplash

My Dad’s passing was even more grace-laden because God blessed me with the opportunity to be a co-caregiver with my sister even for a few months. Tearful goodbyes, expressing our filial love, humbling ourselves, and asking for forgiveness marked his last week of life.

Today, my heart still grieves for them. The grieving will remain for long, for grief never truly leaves. Yet, recalling their last days on earth helps me to soldier on — and to forgive myself, little by little, for the countless aches I caused them.

Photo by Emma on Unsplash

Moral Lesson: Treasure your parents while you still have them around. They may not be perfect — no one else is — but they are the only ones you’ve got. Life is short, so spend quality time with them as much as you can. Give them your understanding. Treat them with compassion and patience. Be easy with their shortcomings. Make their remaining years happy and fulfilled. Hug and kiss them, and say the words, “I love you, Mom. I love you, Dad.” Most importantly, when you’ve hurt them, or they cause you pain — for this happens in any family — ask to be forgiven and to forgive them as well.

For when they are gone, no amount of tears will ever bring them back.

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.4  —   (Ex 20:12)




On Capturing the Sacred Beauty of Nature

Sometimes we have to let things be. We have to let the sacredness of the moment pass us by without having to document it as it happens. To be more specific, I am talking about capturing in photographs the sacred beauty of nature as you see it in the here and now.

I know, I know what you are going to say.

Perhaps for photography buffs like me — you’d disagree with my above statement because you believe each moment is fleeting and there’s nothing like capturing it in a photograph to help you remember it. True.

But hear me out. I’m also much like you who almost never let a beautiful scene of nature pass by without me clicking on my phone’s camera button.

Yet — my AHA moment regarding the importance of a silent appreciation of Nature’s wonder came to me recently as I was about to do that. As usual, I’ve been watchful of the sky especially in the early mornings, midday, and towards late afternoon until sunset.

As soon as I saw the stunning colors of twilight in the skies, I rushed to get my phone only to pause and ponder: wouldn’t it be better to appreciate this ephemeral moment, this beautiful scene just in the silence of my heart as my deep tribute to the Great Artist Himself, my Creator God?

Sometimes we need to break away from our tendency to just click away anytime at something that catches our interest. Just like what most of us are doing at the start of a great — or even a simple — meal. Be at home or dining out, people tend to photograph every morsel of food before partaking of it.  Some even forget to offer a blessing or prayer of thanks for the grace of food; they are busy shooting the laid-out meal, dish by dish, to post the photos later on their Instagram, Facebook and other social media profiles. (More on this later in another post).

Photography’s vaunted capture of a moment in time is the seizure and freezing of presence. — Rosalind E. Krauss

Indeed –yet,  photography need not be too trite that it cannot allow us to step back and gaze in Awe and Silence at the wonder of Nature before us.

Photographing. Every. Scene. of Nature you see  is like stealing a kiss or plucking a flower from its stem. Or more bluntly, it is a sacrilege like photographing every moment in the Mass.

Not every wonderful scene needs to be Instagrammable. God’s wonderful work of Nature cannot just be confined to mere photographs, but should be enshrined in our memories and in our hearts.

He doesn’t take a photo or a video because he wants to remember – by which he means he wants to misremember because the moment is made up of what the camera can’t capture. —Jeanette Winterson

How about you, my dear reader, what’s your take on this? Do you think every scene of nature should be photographed? When is it okay or not to do this?



Gateway to God’s Grace

I’ve always enjoyed looking at the sky and I especially find clouds fascinating whatever form they take. Now I’ve been noticing, perhaps from the start of the year, cloud shapes are becoming more and more dramatic or strange or weird.

And now for the past several evenings, I’ve been seeing this kind of night sky…a bright, shining opening amid an enveloping darkness. Stunning, isn’t it? How amazing God’s piece of creation!

With the pandemic still raging, on top of the mounting problems we are facing the world over, I believe this must be God’s message of hope and assurance all will be well, with God’s grace!

It’s become sort of ritual for me to view the scene fronting me almost each evening —

“Shall I open the womb and not deliver? says the Lord; shall I, the one who delivers, shut the womb? says your God.” — Isaiah 66.9 (NRSV, Catholic edition)

Now, it strikes me that this Sunday Gospel and readings give the same message of hope and assurance from our Lord God.

From Zechariah 9:9-10, we read:

9 Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion! Shout for joy, daughter of Jerusalem! Look, your king is approaching, he is vindicated and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

10 He will banish chariots from Ephraim and horses from Jerusalem; the bow of warwill be banished. He will proclaim peace to the nations, his empire will stretch from sea to sea, from the River to the limits of the earth.

The second reading from Romans 8:9, 11-13  sets the condition with which we ought to develop in ourselves, in our daily living, — the gateway to God’s Grace.

The Gospel taken from Matthew 11:25-30 speaks of Christ’s assurance, of His offer of rest from our daily struggles.

Indeed, God speaks to us through His words in the Scriptures, through the people He sends in our lives, and through His wonderful works in nature.


Pruning: New Life, New Growth

Each time I prune my few potted plants, I always think they may wilt and die because of limited space and soil. Yet, each time they seem to grow even faster than I could imagine.

New life. New growth. After pruning, my plants start sprouting. They indeed continue to grow.

It’s the same with us. We need pruning in our journey to self-growth.

We need to shed leaves of our old selves, cut off the branches of our failures and shortcomings, and unchain the weakest links in our lives.

What are those weakest links, you might ask. Well, these are our inordinate attachments, our obsessions to things or people that limit or destroy our capacity to grow and become our authentic selves.

Pruning ourselves propels us to grow into the better persons we can ever yet become. It drives us towards our goals, as we go on improving ourselves and helping others grow as well.

Our limited circumstances or resources are not hindrances to our goal of growing ourselves. All it takes is a growth mindset ready to overcome any obstacles or limitations. It needs sheer willpower, decisive action, and a bit of creativity too.

Pruning in the time of the Pandemic

In this time of the pandemic and lockdowns, perhaps you have done some pruning in your lives, just like the rest of us. In fact, one good effect of having to stay at home and keeping safe from COVID-19 is many people have been forced to give up their favorite leisure activities, such as window shopping, going to movie theaters, and eating out. And as money have become tight due to the effect of the crisis on the economy, people have become more budget-conscious and wiser in spending money.

To relieve boredom or the so-called cabin fever, many have tried coping with the restrictions creatively. Cooking, baking, urban gardening, yoga exercises with the family, attending online daily Masses and other religious events – are some of the activities many of us have taken up these past few months.

Following live-streamed Masses and religious events has become daily New Normal…
The Holy Hour (Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament) on TV

Others have also become more entrepreneurial by putting up small home businesses delivering essential goods to our homes.

Re-learning basic home skills and learning new ones – because we need to be more practical — that ‘s what most of us are busy with nowadays.

Families have bonded more strongly. Doing things together as a family has become the norm — especially eating meals together. Even those who live apart from one another have come to get in touch more often through family video chats using Zoom, Skype Chat and Facebook Messenger, to name a few.

At the same time, caring for those in need, including front-liners, extending help in any way is a common sight to behold.  We have learned what is most essential in life, and who matters most in our lives.

Even the environment has benefited from the months-long lockdown and curfews, giving us cleaner air and clearer views of the horizon.

These are only some of the good many of us have experienced during the recent months. So while the pandemic has caught us all by surprise and changed life as we knew it then, it has given us time to look deeper into ourselves, prune away bad habits, cultivate good ones, and plant seeds of hope and love for a better humanity. Shedding our old selves to grow into our better, more authentic selves — may this be ‘new normal’ even long past this pandemic.

For us Christians, let us ponder more deeply this idea of pruning with these words from John 15: 1-6.

1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

2 Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more.

3 You are clean already, by means of the word that I have spoken to you.

4 Remain in me, as I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, unless it remains part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.

5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing.

6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a branch — and withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire and are burnt.