Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

Reflection on ‘PAIN’

June 6, 2009

I have watched the movie “G.I. Jane” (1997) more than twice.  I caught it either on HBO or Star Movies.  

In that movie, Command Master Chief John James Urgayle (played by Viggo Mortensen) teases his wards of US Navy SEALS into quitting as he inflict pain.  To which he said:

“Pain is your friend, your ally, it will tell you when you are seriously injured, it will keep you awake and angry, and remind you to finish the job and get the hell home. But you know the best thing about pain?….It lets you know you’re not dead yet!”

But what about the pain that we feel when we lose a loved one?  The pain of being heart-broken? 

I continue with the Reflections of Fr. Arboleda.  Here he argues that pain is part of life.  It is a reminder to us of God’s presence and life without pain, isn’t life at all.

Read on…..



Pain is one of those things that remind us always that all men are equal.  The young and the old suffer pain. The rich and the poor are visited by it.  The great and the humble are not spared by pain.  The great can rationalize over it but the humble knows how to bear it.  Indeed, there is no human being who is a stranger to pain.


There are those who suffer pain in their bodies.  There are those who suffer pain in their hearts.  And there are those who suffer it in their minds.  Pain is one experience that shouts to our ears how human, how vulnerable and mortal, and how much in need we are of others.  Pain, strangely, is one of those that mark our humanity.  It is one of those things that make people ever so lovable.


I surely do not wish that anyone should suffer pain of any kind.  Much less would I want to inflict it with malice on anybody.  But when it comes, both as sign of our humanity and as a signal warning us of our illusions, pain has to be welcomed.


Down to brass tacks, pain is a very demanding but generous customer.  When it comes, it does not leave us alone.  It claims for our attention and taxes our very person.  But if all the time it was there, we were patient, attentive and generous, it purifies us and makes us better persons.  Any person who knows how to suffer pain emerges from the suffering purified, even-tempered and a thousand times more compassionate.


There are times and moments when we have to savor loneliness and listen to what thoughts it brings to our mind, for such thoughts usually come from our innermost selves.  We sometimes reject them because they reveal the truth to us or are painful to face.  Moments of loneliness can be turned to moments of solitude with ourselves and with God.  We all need these moments for we cannot go on forever escaping from our own selves.


Many young men and women do not fine themselves because they hardly allow themselves a moment to be positively and creatively lonely.


It is sad that in spite of the advances of medicine, pain still belongs to our human vocabulary.  What is worse is that we have built the illusion that our world must become painless.


If we are wiling to embrace life for what it is, we should be willing to welcome pain, too, for life without pain isn’t life at all.  Pain is very much a part of life.  And God has not taken away pain in order that we may not forget Him and the Kingdom He promised us.  In fact, the greatest illusion a man can ever have is to believe that in this life, he can be perfectly happy.


Life on earth is but the beginning of life and pain is but a passage towards the fullness of life, which will come only when we are delivered of this life where we are imprisoned in matter, limited in our movements and bound in time and place.


Even as we live, we are being delivered unto life.  Just as there is pain when a woman gives birth to a child, so there will be pain even as this earth delivers us unto true life.  Pain is part of our deliverance.  If we welcome pain we shall be delivered unto life, God’s life.


Reflection on ‘Joy’

May 8, 2009

Joy.  The burst of enlightenment.  The feeling you experience when someone, something makes the sun shine on your day.  I continue on sharing here the reflections of Fr. Arboleda in St Paul Publications “Prayers for Busy People”.

Here, Fr. Arboleda speaks that ‘Joy’ is God’s gift of life.  You wouldn’t feel that burst of enlightenment without God making you experience life.  Let us feel loved by our Creator, whenever we feel “joy”.  Read on…..



Joy is one of the most elusive of all human experiences.  You can’t catch it when you want it and you lose it even when you are already touching it with your fingertips.  But when you give up chasing it, it alights on your head, like a butterfly, and changes the world for you; the ordinary becomes extraordinary, the drab colorful and the workday special.  And you are taken aback, always in surprise, because joy comes when you least expect it.


Joy can come from many sources.  And most of where it comes from are ordinary and simple.  Joy can come from a smile, a kind word, the sunrise after a nightlong rain, a flower that blooms from a plant you’ve cared for, a long-lost friend met in a busy thoroughfare, a good meal, a moment of recognition.  Sometimes it also comes from silence.  But joy comes, it does come.


The only condition – and this is the most difficult to arrange – is that you yourself must be ready to welcome joy.  You must never lose your sense of wonderment and awe, your capacity for surprise and playfulness.  Joy does not come to those who have turned stiff not to those who have remained but superficial.  Joy comes when we are most childlike.


Joy comes to everyone: but it can fill us only by the amount of space we give it in our hearts.  Strangely, our hearts have been created by God not just with the capacity for joy; God has put in them also the longing and the yearning for joy.  Yes, the human heart is ever longing to be filled with joy.


The joke, however, is that when we focus our attention on the absence of joy in our hearts and if we spend our energies to fill that absence, we never will be truly joyful.  On the contrary, our awareness of the absence of joy even intensifies.  The least joyful persons are really those who spend a great deal of time and energy seeking joy.  They drive themselves chasing joy but joy is always a step ahead of them, so near and yet so far.


Joy is, first of all, a gift of life itself.  There is harmony in life.  Such harmony made earthly paradise what it was.  It is harmony of things, of all living beings where each has a place under the sun.


To anyone who seeks to restore such harmony to life, life pays joy in exchange.  It is enough to remember great persons and many others like them who may not be as famous, who have given or are giving their lives in order that social justice be established, exploitation stopped, the hungry fed, the naked clothed, the sick cured.  Doubtless, these people never lived easy lives; but one could easily see in their eyes the sparkle of inner joy.


Joy is a gift of God.  There are many things in life that cannot be appeased by things material.  There are many things in the human heart that, humanly speaking, cannot be erased.  Can a man who has betrayed his friend or wife be ever at peace?  Can a sinner be ever joyful as long as he lives in guilt?


Joy is God’s gift because joy is what comes when our guilt is taken away.  And only God can forgive our sins and can take away our guilt.

Reflection on ‘Love’

March 25, 2009

I continue with the Reflection series of Fr. Arboleda.  This time, a reflection on ‘Love’.  We hear several cliches such as “Love conquers all”, “Love is blind” and so on.  This time, Fr. Arboleda equates ‘love’ with ‘goodness’.  To truly love something or someone is for the goodness in us to share with the goodness of another.  Love would strive in us not to hurt the one we love.  Perhaps we could only say ‘I love you’ when our own ‘goodness’ is willing to overlook the external beauty and see only the internal goodness of the one we love.


The Bible says that man has been created in God’s image and likeness.  What in man corresponds most to God’s being is his capacity to love.  And we resemble God most by the manner we love.

Love, unfortunately, has become one of the most misunderstood and confused words in any language.  Some want it to mean nothing more than the attraction between the sexes.  Others want it to mean mo more than desire and its satisfaction.  And when others speak of it, it seems that love and sex are synonymous.  It’s all so sad because love understood as any of these is hardly love.  It is confused: the wrapper is taken for the content.

Love is really like life.  It is so vast in its meaning, so varied in its expressions and so rich in its manifestations that one has to be fully alive in order to understand love fully.  As someone wrote: The best definition of love is a loving person.

If love is that capacity which makes us resemble God most, then we have to affirm as well that the measure by which we can test our loving is God Himself.

God created everything not because he had to, but because, in His boundless love, He so willed that even His creature, man, should have a share in His Godhood, not by force but by free response of love.  Man is free precisely because freedom is the necessary condition for loving.

Jesus became God’s Word of love to all men.  He came to heal the brokenhearted, to free the prisoners, to restore the sick to health, to forgive all sins.

St. Paul beautifully points out to us that Jesus expressed the greatest manifestation of God’s love: Though He was in the form of God, He emptied Himself and took the form of a slave… obediently accepting even death, death on the cross.  Jesus lowered Himselft to the lowest known state so that He could raise us to God.  In His love of His Father and of us, He sent the Spirit to dwell among us, to enliven us and to be the love that binds us together in one family of God.

The measure of love, then, is not what our hearts dictate or what our desires lead us to.  Love is very much greater than what I now can feel.  It is much more than the urges I feel within.  Love is, above all, the goodness that is within me that I must share with the goodness of other persons in communion that is stronger than death.

 In this sense, love includes the goodness of a man seeking the goodness of a woman, the goodness of a parent toward his or her child, the goodness of a friend seeking the goodness of another.  Love never dies because goodness never dies.



September 19, 2008

Continuing on my series of Reflections.  Again from the Reflections of Fr. Andres Arboleda, as printed on thebook “PRESENCE; Prayers for Busy People”.

In here, Fr Arboleda speaks about how should our attitude should be about work, and not just to look at it on the financial gains it gives us.  Read on…….



People speak of work in terms of gain, salary or pay alone.  In short, in terms of money.  Of course, work is one of the ways man earns his keep; but there is much more in it than earning a living. There is something in work which makes man like God.  There must be something in it which is more than mere toil or sweat.


Work has not to be taken as something opposite to play because, truly, work without the creating and liberating element which play provides can only be unpleasant, boring and, at the same time, depersonalizing.  No human being will remain human if he is either treated no more than an element of production or the extension of the machine he uses..  And no human being would appreciate and enjoy work if his attitude towards it is reduced to what he gets from it.


When Adam and Eve were created, they were placed in a vast playground – the Garden of Eden.  It was only when they turned away from God that they had to work.  By the sweat of your face, God told Adam, shall you get bread to eat.  From the beginning, work was supposed to be liberating, creative activity through which man found joy in being God’s co-creator, like Adam before sinning, having the capacity to subdue the earth and exercise minion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on earth.


Perhaps the time would come when men would no longer be driven by greed and lust for possessions when they work, or when men would look for work as not just a manner of earning money but a manner of affirming their dignity as God’s co-creators.

Reflection on Giving

August 20, 2008

This is my third post on Reflections again taken from the Reflections of Fr. Andres Arboleda, SSP.  This time, he talks about Giving and how our Lord Jesus Christ manifested self-less love through giving His very life for us.  Read on…..



A giant tree in an uninhabited jungle, a saying goes, doesn’t make any noise when it falls.  The giant tree makes no noise because there is no one who hears it fall.


Yes, a man who lives by and for himself alone would be like that giant tree in the jungle.  When he dies who would miss him?  Who would remember him?  What would be his life’s worth?


Jesus spelled real human greatness when He said, “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)


There is one measure of greatness which is truly universal.  It is a measure that goes beyond race, color of skin, culture, age, sex, wealth and what have you.  Anyone can lay his life down for his friends.  All it takes is that greater love one puts into it, a love which is greater than one’s own self, a love which is capable of giving till it hurts.


In any state of life, the crucial point is really one’s ability to die to self, to lay down one’s life so that one’s friends, the person one loves, might have fuller and more meaningful lives.


It is sad that a good number of people end in marriage not really because they look at it as a real vocation wherein it is possible to live up to the measure of love Jesus proposed, but more out of desire to possess the person loved or, worse, because of convenience or because they have no choice any longer.


Yes, marriage is a genuine vocation to which young couples have to give considerable thought and period of preparation.  It is ever so easy to say, I love you, and I do, but it takes more than just human capacities to be able to translate these words into a lifetime commitment.


There are those who choose to forego marriage and commit themselves perhaps to the noble profession they exercise, or even just to the task of helping parents, brothers and sisters and trying to lift them up from a life of privation.  At times they go through extreme sacrifices only to feel as if shackled by the seemingly unending and growing demands from them.  At times they even feel they are doing a thankless job. These persons are like the seeds in the Gospel which have to die in order to give life to the plant.


And there are those who, feeling they are called to the religious or priestly life, take seriously the thought that their vocation is to singularly live Jesus’ ideal of love: to lay down their lives for their friends.  When one tries to live such an ideal, he will find very real obstacles from outside, like times when he comes to discover how precious really are the things he has renounced.  It takes some heroism to live such a life.


Jesus’ measure of real greatness isn’t that simple and easy.  Strangely though, within the folds of a life of giving there is so much joy.

Reflections on “Meaning”

July 23, 2008

This is my second post and again, I adopt on the reflections of Rev. Fr. Andres Arboleda as printed on the book “Presence, Prayers for Busy People”, copyright 1991 by St. Paul Publishing, Makati.

What differentiates man from animals is the ability to look forward to tomorrow and to look beyond the externals. While man can see beauty in a flower and think of either God or a loved person and even of love itself, a beast will stop short at seeing the flower as something good to eat or not.

What makes man worthy of the same name is his capacity to see beyond there here and now and perceive meanings.

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl describes his experiences at the Nazi concentration camp where he was detained during World War II. In the concentration camp the prisoners were stripped of everything that made them experience personal worth: name, respect, professionalism, family, knowledge, wealth, etc. He noted that some of the prisoners gave up surviving when everything that made them feel they were someone was taken away. Others got crazy and behaves even worse than beasts, capable of killing another man for a loaf of stale bread or rotting potato. And finally, he noted that those who had something or someone considered more precious than their own lives never lost their will to live even as they were not afraid to either suffer or die. From this experience, he believes that man’s life and even just his survival is determined by what meanings he perceives and chooses to live and die for.

We can push the statement further by saying that a person is worth what he chooses to live and die for. Heroes and saints, as well as villains and criminals, are a proof of this statement. If heroes and saints are great, it is because they have chosen to live and die for causes and meanings greater than themselves or things lower than themselves to live and die, like money or power.

How a man discovers what meaning to give his life is a story of both the environment he lives in and the choices he makes. What counts is what values in life he discovers and ultimately makes his own. “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.” (Mt 6:21)

One of the most trying things about being young is that of being in a stage where one has to choose what values to live and die for. Human society is full of models and examples of persons who have embraced their own values. If there are rock stars and actors and actresses making it to the limelight and to wealth, there are also those who, like Francis of Assisi of long time ago, leave behind them a life of ease and comfort to pursue ideals of nobility and service. And what is awful is that today’s young man or woman is left alone to choose.

To discover which model one has to choose, one need not look beyond or outside himself. Instead, one should look into his heart. If he does, he will surely discover passions and drives that are either constructive or destructive: his capacity to love or hate, to give or possess, to build or destroy, to forgive or avenge. When he chooses what is positive and shuns what is negative, he will naturally discover what model or example to embrace. And there he will discover the meaning in his life.

Reflection on “LIFE”

July 18, 2008

I came across this Reflection by Fr. Andres R. Arboleda, SSP, published in “Presence, Prayers for Busy People”  (St. Paul Publications, Makati copyright 1991).   I find it very meaningful especially to a person searching for the real meaning of life.  Read on.

Life is indeed, so short. And, oddly enough it is much shorter for those whose lives they find meaningful while it is too long for those whose lives they find meaningless.

Couldn’t it be that life is what meaning we put into it?

Now and then, I also ask what meaning has my life really. Often, I feel like I know but at other times, my thinking looks like a useless mental exercise. Life is just so vast, so full of mysteries that before I can put meaning to my life, part of it is gone and the meaning I try putting on it is already partly exhausted.

Life, so it seems, is like dry sand slipping through my fingers. When I try to hold on to it very tightly, as if squeezing it, it slips away faster. But when I try to cast it away, it sticks on my hands. Sometimes, I think, to appreciate life best, one has neither to hold on to it tightly nor to let it go so carelessly. The sand in the hourglass is life. It is better to let it flow freely, although not carelessly.

How we take life is often dictated by what priorities we have. And life, being so vast, offers everything which can be a priority to us. A student ever so eager to get out of poverty would say, “Life will be meaningless if I don’t finish my studies.” A terribly-in-love woman would say, “Should I lose him now, my life will be meaningless to me.” And an alcoholic, trembling with the urge to drink, would be ready to give anything he has, even his dignity, for a bottle of liquor. Then, there is this young ambitious businessman who desperately wants to make his first million before reaching forty. He easily forgets he has a wife, children and friends. Only the first million seems to matter.

But now, what are the things that last which could have real meaning in one’s life? St. Paul has spoken so eloquently about them:

If I speak with human tongues and angelic as well, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecyand, with full knowledge, comprehend all mysteries, if I have faith great enough to move mountains but have not love, I am nothing. If I I give everything I have to feed the poor and hand over my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love never fails. Prophecies will cease, tongues will be silent, knowledge will pass away. Our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecying is imperfect. When the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away … Now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. My knowledge is imperfect now; then I shall know even as I am known. There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13:1-3. 8-13)