My Evangelization Story: declaration

Proclaiming and witnessing: declaration (Part 4b of 4)

The rewards of proclaiming and witnessing

I truly admire those who unselfishly share their resources for evangelistic works. This generosity of sharing time, talent and treasure is in response to God’s love, grace, blessings and salvation – a simple expression of gratitude.

After giving our best efforts, let us remember that the work of evangelization is not about us, it is all about God. Just like the process of germination, we acknowledge that our role in the setting is God’s co-worker in His vineyard: (i) He plant the seed in the heart of the person; (ii) we help cultivating the soil by providing avenues like invitation to the prayer meeting and community activities; (iii) then we let God water it with the attitude of surrender with the hope that God will bless our effort; and (iv) the last part which is already beyond our control is on how the person will respond to God’s call.

Let us be inspired of looking at the joys and rewards of our service. Just like the noble teachers or catechists, let us be more concern about the outcome (saving souls) rather than income (what monetary value we gave from it).

Let us remember that this journey of evangelization is also for us: to learn about humility, and compassion. At the same time, it can also be a means of affirming the gifts that God gave us – the gift of salvation – that we freely share to others. It sometimes requires us to look back to realize how far God have taken us in this worthwhile journey called life.

Empowered to pay it forward

As God continue to empower me, allow me to share with you a favorite passage that made a major impact on my evangelization story. I go back to this passage to draw strength and inspiration whenever tempted, discouraged, tired or harassed in my evangelization works and journey through life in general. It brings me to reflect as to the “Why and for whom am I doing this?”. This is when Jesus read the Gospel declaring and claiming God’s empowerment in Luke 4:18-19, it says:

ME

  The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The evangelization story: next chapter

 Until now I cannot still pinpoint when and how exactly my relationship with God started, but I am sure that without the presence of people who taught, encouraged and supported me to memorized prayers, go to Mass, serve at the parish and join religious organizations; a personal relationship with God would not be established. Because of their faith, hope and love to God, I experience and encountered God’s faith, hope and love in the different stages of my life.

As I continue to journey through life, God gave me Getti as life-long partner and evangelizer with whom, with expectant faith, and Elisha Marie as reminder of our life-long evangelization vocation, I am looking forward to another chapter of fruitful and grace-filled discovery, discipleship and declaration of the Lord’s Good News.

My Evangelization Story: declaration

Proclaiming and witnessing: declaration (Part 4a of 4) 

Personal and tailored-fit

In the recent issue of Youngster, it featured an article entitled Evangelization: the Pope Francis Way. What I like about the article is the portion where it reminded me that according to Jesus, our mission to be fulfilled on earth as Christian is to evangelize.

My favorite line from The Youngster article is the enumeration of the different means to make Jesus’ life known to all: fiery speeches to wordless witness, zealous crusades to open dialogue, scrolls of parchment to podcasts and blogs. Isn’t the line poetic? It sounded easy, but is it?

Evangelization is very personal – it is tailored-fit and there is no one-size-fit- all approach. As a unique individual, the Lord will call us in our least expected circumstances. For countless times, God met me when I failed, when I sinned, when I felt joy, when I was frustrated, when  I was afraid, when I was victorious, when I was tired – just about anywhere and anytime I called upon Him.

Be ready for the challenges

Since evangelization work is of God’s then it will be challenged by the negative force.  There are some challenges that will confront us in this mission. Allow me to share with my personal challenges:

Pride and self-righteousness: it is not about me, it is about GodThere was a time I realized that despite tremendous efforts, there seems to be little or no progress in my evangelization work. I found out the problem was with me: I developed pride and became self-righteous. I started to consider the change of heart of another to be my own doing. The work mission was already a “mining” task – a way to feed my ego. By God’s grace, I was able to correct myself and acknowledge that the task at hand is all about God and not mine.

Super Evangelizer: I cannot save the whole world all at once, only one-soul-at-a-time. With much enthusiasm and excitement to change stone into bread and water into wine, I started to have a vision of saving every person I meet. Eventually I began to feel tired and consumed from all the activities – I got burnt out. It was because I spreading myself thinly.

Then I came across a reading which I kept until now, which goes:

“A devout person once said: In my youth, fired with the love of God, I thought I would convert the whole world. But soon I learned it would be enough to convert the people who lived in my village. I tried that for a long time, but I was unsuccessful. Then I realized that my program was still too ambitious, so I concentrated on reforming the members of my own household. But I couldn’t convert them either. Finally, it dawned on me that I must work only upon myself. But I have stumbled in my attempt to accomplish even that.”

This inspired me to be very wise about rendering service and being protective of myself, because since I can only do the mission of evangelization one-soul-at-a-time.

Unworthiness and inadequacy: even if I’m young and not a good enough, God will empower me. As I grow in service, there were new assignments given to me. The reluctant me would always give an excuse of me being young, not yet ready or not good enough. For a time I was saying no to ”additional” work and eventually stayed in my safe state — comfort zone. Through prayers and encouragements, I began to take steps and exploring new grounds.

Ammunition for Evangelization

Based on experience, I realized that in order for me to be an effective evangelizer, I have to be in “mission mode” with 3A’s strategy: Attraction, Attention and Affection.

Attraction: I live my life being with hope, modesty, order, kindness, positivity and joy, despite the daily struggles and challenges. In a way, this created a sense of curiosity to some people around which resulted to them being attracted to what I’m doing as a Christian. When someone start to ask about when or where I go for Mass or request to be included in prayers petitions, I start to pray for guidance and courage to approach the person for a chat. I have proven that evangelization work is done through the daily words and action that speak about my life – it’s walking the talk.

kindness

Attention: It is important that I devout time, effort and resources in the mission to bring another to a personal relationship with God. As every relationship requires time, it is necessary to spend time with the person. I pay attention to details about the family, those around the house, the choices of sport, genre of music and films/movies and things that will make the person more comfortable with me. In this way, it will be easy for me to introduce to other persons with the common interest.

Affection: Whenever the person is sharing about a concern, difficulty, and moments of sorrow, joy or successes – whether small or big, I express affection with genuine concern. I find it important to be truthful and sincere in order to gain trust and to send a message mutual trust and confidentiality is highly valued. Reality is evangelization work starts with listening. It is always important that a person knows that you are willing and capable of listening, as this connotes understanding and acceptance.

It helped to do evangelization mission, however challenging, whenever I’m reminded by the Prayer of Jabez which says:

“Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!”

My Evangelization Story: discipleship

Following Christ: discipleship (Part 3 of 4)

Following and renewing

My baby steps toward encountering God started when my Lola taught me prayers. When I went to school we had religion class and Flores de Mayo during summer breaks.  Service to Church started when I became an Altar Boy then youth ministry member giving me opportunities to participate church activities such as retreats and Mass celebrations. In my adult life my some encounters with God were through the Christian Life Programs (CLP), leaders’ trainings, ministry services, outreach activities and reading the scriptures. My journey is usually shared with a friend or group of people who served as inspirations and missions.

JEsusLooking back, I realized that it took years to change my life what it used to be — where lying is an easy excuses to avoid being reprimanded, not going to Mass on Sundays will not affect my life, telling bad things about others will make me look good, I am poor and that taking someone else’s thing is a way to get even with the rich, respect is given only to those who are worthy of it in my standards.

Eventually, because of the people and circumstances, a lot of things changed as I decided to begin my journey toward conversion: I begin to be conscious about telling the truth, even if it means that I have to admit that I was wrong and it was my fault; I made it a point to go to Mass every Sunday and days of obligation; I try not to participate in non-sense conversations that damages another person — either I walk away or try to change the topic; respecting the value of hard work invested in acquiring an item; respecting and praying for people especially the elders, my parents and in-laws, leaders, people with disabilities, women, children as well as souls in purgatory.

I learned that God is giving us the affirmation and manifestation of His presence and the availability of endless blessings through the sacraments and prayers. I appreciated the value of reading God’s words through the Bible, hearing God through prayer and meditation, grace of forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, abundance of blessings for the family through the sacrament of marriage, availability to receive God through communion during Mass, sanctity of offering a child to God through baptism, availability of healing through anointing of the sick, and heavenly rewards for those who dedicated their lives via religious profession.Jesus washes the disciples' feet 3

It is daily struggle for me to follow Christ daily, but what is comforting is that God’s grace is readily available; I just have to call upon Him. What I firmly believe now is that God’s message of salvation through mercy and compassion is meant to be shared. Given my sinfulness, unworthiness and woundedness, God called me be a witness and a testament that He is a healer. He can make my story a testimony of how forgiveness and renewal is available to those who seek for them.

My Evangelization Story: discipleship

The evangelization story: discovering God (Part 2 of 4)

Evangelization is relationship-building

God continuously bring people into my life to be part of my evangelization journey: my Grandmother who taught me prayers; my Aunt who brought and encouraged me to go to Mass; my elementary teacher who encouraged me to become Altar Boy; my religion class teachers who were instrumental in nurturing my interest for study about Christianity and the Catholic Church; my fellow Sta. Monica Youth Ministry (SMYM) members who has been inspirations on how to be a responsible youth and in serving God through His church; my Brothers who are role model in dedicated service rendered as a Knight of Columbus (KC).

Ang Lingkod Ng Panginoon (ALNP) sisters and brothers gave me venue to continue my journey with God through service. Servants of the Lord’s Vineyard (SOLV) Sisters and Brothers accepted me as a family member the warm welcome, presence, prayer and support for Getti, Elisha and I. Our journey with Ligaya Ng Panginoon (LNP) has been teaching us a lot about marriage and how to work together with God as constant partner in our life as a family.

 Getti: my life-long evangelizer and partner

As I am reminded that evangelization is not a one-time big time journey, God sent my life-long evangelizer and partner in Getti. When I met and learned that Getti is a member of SOLV, I saw how dedicated she serves, how firm she is in her beliefs, how she keeps her values, how generous of she shares time and resources for the Lord, and how accepting and non-judgmental she is in her dealings with others.

I am thankful to God for Getti. She continues to be my daily evangelizer: on how to deal with parents and in-laws; how to handle resources; how to treat others with love and respect; how to share freely and not counting anything in return.  With her as my wife and life-long evangelizer, I know that God will shape me to the best person that I can be. Getti is a manifestation of God’s love to me and an affirmation that doing my mission as a Christian is life journey not meant to spend alone.

JAY&GETTI 0190

My series of discoveries of God was made possible through different relationships.  What is common about those who are instrumental of my encounters with God is that they were first my friends. Our friendships serve as foundation for me to know more about God and eventually led to personal friendship with Him. Their acceptance and sincerity played a big factor which established a life-long friendship that ushered my exciting journey as a Christian.

 

 

My Evangelization Story: discovery, discipleship and declaration

Evangelization: what does it mean? (Part 1 of 4) 

According to the document “Go and Make Disciples: A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States”, evangelizing means bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation and seeking to convert individuals and society by the divine power of the Gospel itself.

There are 2 basic factors involved here: (1) the proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ, and (2) the response of a person in faith, which are both works of the Spirit of God. It further says that evangelization must always be directly connected to the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no true evangelization if the name, teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom and the mystery if Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed.

In summary, the “Go and Make Disciples” document inspired the Diocese of Camdem, New Jersey to conclude that evangelization is not a program rather is to bring people into a relationship with Jesus.

My evangelization story can be summarized as experiencing a continuous three-step process of:  (i) discovering Jesus through a personal encounter with him; (ii) following Jesus, becoming his disciple; and (iii) proclaiming the Good News is to be a witness of Jesus. [1] http://www.camdendiocese.org/what-is-catholic-evangelization/

 

Precious coin

I always make it a point to pick any coin whenever I see one anywhere – be it in the streets, by the jeepney or on the floor of an establishment. The reason for this is that I believe that every single coin has a value, how small it may be. Come to think of it, there will be no 1 billion pesos if there there’s a lacking 0.5 centavos.

You and I are similar to a coin. Individually, we have our own value in God’s eyes. We are valuable to God. Each one of us is created in a unique and special way, collectively forming God’s body – His church.

Being part of God’s one body, we are called to contribute to God’s mission of spreading the Good News of salvation through our service. But there are times that we think and feel that we don’t have the talent, we are not capable or eloquent or fit enough to serve. Let us be reminded that even how little you have, but when offered whole-heartedly to God, He will bless it and turn it to something of great value. So serve the Lord: volunteer to arrange the chairs, to clean the room, to collect the garbage, to help out in singing, to welcome guests, to serve food. There are a lot of ways as long as you are sincere in your desire and will to serve.

One song that always moves me to reflect on how uniquely valuable my service to God is Corrine May’s Five Loaves and Two Fishes. The song was inspired by the Gospel of John (6:1-14) where Jesus fed the 5,000. It tells us the story of a boy who, upon hearing that Jesus and his disciples need food, presented his 5 loves and 2 fishes. Such an innocent act of kindness from that boy! The miracle that happened next was beyond his understanding: because of his 5 loaves and 2 fishes, Jesus feeds 5000 men plus the women and children!

So, what does it take from us for God to work miracles? It’s our “Amen”. Just like in the case of Mary, when God heard her “Yes” and He started to work on miracle right there and then by putting Jesus in her womb. God wants us to listen, obey and surrender whatever He tells us. We have to believe. We have to let go and let God.

Whenever discouragements and insecurities start to work its way in me, I remember the line from the song that says… “So take my five loaves and two fishes. Do with it as you will, I surrender. Take my fears and my inhibitions. All my burdens, my ambitions. You can use it all. I hope it’s not too small”. This line will usually bring me to an immediate awareness of God’s invitation to surrender whatever I have and that I just have to lift up to Him.

In our journey through life, there will always be obstacles and challenges that will come our way. We will be tested and crushed. But let us be reminded that all we need is to surrender to God. Let us bring our concerns, our aspirations, our dreams, our frustrations, our pains, our joys to Him as our gift, as our five loaves and 2 fishes. Inspired by the line from the song, we let God take our fears and our inhibitions, all our burdens and our ambitions. God can use it all, because for Him, no gift is too small.

You and I are priceless to God. That even if sometimes we see our worth as low as 0.5 centavo, God will pick us up. He will keep us and value us like precious gemstones of emerald, ruby, sapphire and diamond. Ready to be offered to the King of Kings.

Song for Getti

I have never considered myself good at singing but if I’ll dedicate a song or be requested to sing for Getti, it will be Air Supply’s “Come What May”.

The song uniquely summarizes how I see myself through her eyes and how I want her to know how much she made a big difference in my life, first as a friend, then as a girlfriend, as a wife and now as a mother of our Elisha Marie.

The song goes:
When she looks at me
I know the girl sees things
Nobody else can see

All of the secret fears inside
And all the craziness I hide
She looks into my soul
And reads me like nobody can

And she doesn’t judge the man
She just takes me as I am

Just like any other song, the best part is the chorus. As the song picks up to its climax, this part of “Come What May” never fails to bring a lump in my throat and moist my eyes:

Come what may, she believes
And that faith is something
I’ve never known before
Come what may, she loves me
And that love has helped me open a door
Making me love myself a little more

There were times when I consciously tried to avoid and deny a lot of my realities, but Getti helped me by being quiet, by understanding, by believing, by trusting. The non-verbal and accepting gestures she showed me made me understand and accept myself more. The lines of my song for Getti hit it to the core:

When I turn away
She knows those are the times
There’s nothing she can say

Nothing that anyone can do
And so she lets me live it through
And when I’m in my darkest hour of uncertainty
She just simply lets me be
And goes right on loving me

Our relationship was put into test when I was faced by so far one of the biggest blows in my life. I felt that the world was crumbling and told Getti that we can go for a “cool-off” while being on that state. She said: “No, I won’t bail out on you. I’m here to support and pray for and with you. Let me know how I can be of help. We can work this together.” With those words coming from her, Getti indeed was instrumental in helping me restore and strengthen my belief in partnership and relationship.

With God’s help, we surpassed that challenging stage and as I recall that, this part of the song now makes me thankful that Getti, together with God, stood by me:

And when it seems my dreams
Have all slipped through my fingers
When they just can’t be found
I turn around and there they are
Shining in her eyes 

Getti is a manifestation and affirmation of God’s unconditional love for me — the kind of love that don’t ask for anything in return, the kind that restores my belief in the goodness of woman (and man), the kind that assures me that someone cares and loves me… come what may.

Witnessing

How wonderful is the Lord for He has given me hope through Jesus Chrits’ resurrection during Easter! 🙏👍👏

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The following reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager (c) 2015, whose website is located at DailyScripture.net

Do you believe the Lord Jesus is truly alive and ready to make his presence known to everyone who believes in him? The first to see the risen Lord was not Peter or one of the apostles, but a woman noted for her demonized living! She had been forgiven much, and loved her Master greatly. She was first at the tomb to pay her respects. Unfortunately for the disciples, they would not believe her account of the Risen Master. Jesus had to scold his apostles because of their unbelief and stubborn hearts.
Are you like the apostles or like Mary – slow to believe or quick to run to Jesus? Do you doubt because you do not see? The Lord makes his presence known to us through the work and power of the Holy Spirit. He gives us the gift of faith to know him personally and to understand the mystery of his death and rising. Do you believe his word and do you listen to his voice?

After his appearance to his beloved apostles, Jesus commissions them to go and preach the gospel to the whole creation. Their task is to proclaim the good news of salvation, not only to the people of Israel but to all the nations. This is the great commission which the risen Christ gives to the whole church. All believers have been given a share in this task – to be heralds of the good news and ambassadors for Jesus Christ, the only savior of the world. We have not been left alone in this task, for the risen Lord works in and through us by the power of his Holy Spirit. Do you witness to others the joy of the Gospel and the hope of the resurrection?

“Lord Jesus Christ, increase my faith and hope in the power of your resurrection. And give me joy and courage to be your witness to others and to boldly speak of what you have done to save us from sin and death.”

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The following reflection is courtesy of PresentationMinistries.com (c) 2015. Their website is located at PresentationMinistries.com

TAKE THE WITNESS STAND

“They called them back and made it clear that under no circumstances were they to speak the name of Jesus.” —Acts 4:18
Jesus is risen, and we are His witnesses (see Acts 1:8; 2:32; 3:15; 4:33; 10:41; 13:31). Satan could not keep Jesus from rising from the dead, but he can try to keep us from being witnesses for the risen Christ. However, we should never stop “speaking of what we have heard and seen” (Acts 4:20) from the risen Christ, no matter how much we may have to suffer. The risen Jesus Himself will back us up by reprimanding those who do not believe our witness (Mk 16:14). He will also send the Holy Spirit to put the words in our mouths so we can witness (Lk 12:12). The Spirit will likewise convict of sin those who disbelieve our witness (Jn 16:8).

Therefore, witnessing is one of the most powerful ways of communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Acts 1:8). When we witness to our faith in Jesus, we share the faith and grow in it ourselves. Witnessing glorifies the risen Jesus, builds the kingdom of God, and accelerates our growth in holiness. Witnessing for the risen Christ changes the culture of death into a civilization of life and love. Therefore, Satan, “the prince of death” (Heb 2:14), hates witnessing, for he is especially defeated by our witnessing (see Rv 12:11).

Love God; defy the devil; be a witness for the risen Jesus.

Prayer: Father, may I witness for Jesus right where I am, and then to my neighbors and co-workers, and then to cities and countries (see Acts 1:8). Promise: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation.” —Mk 16:15 Praise: Praise Jesus, “the Resurrection and the Life”! (Jn 11:25) “This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it” (Ps 118:24). Alleluia! (For a related teaching, order our tape on Prophetic Lifestyle on audio AV 75-3 or video V-75.)

Experiencing God through Humility

This is such a promising day 😇 The Lord reminded me about humulity in prayer through the reflections courtesy of Don Schwager (c) 2014, whose website is located at DailyScripture.net:

Do you know and experience in your personal life the joy of the Lord? The scriptures tell us that “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Why does Jesus tell his disciples to not take joy in their own successes, even spiritual ones? Jesus makes clear that the true source of our joy is God himself, and God alone. Regardless of the circumstances, in good times and bad times, in success or loss, God always assures us of victory in Jesus Christ. Jesus assures his disciples that he has all power over evil, including the power of Satan and the evil spirits or fallen angels who conspire against us. In fact, that is why Jesus came into the world to overthrow the evil one (John 12:31). We, too, as disciples of Jesus have been given spiritual authority and power for overcoming the works of darkness and evil (1 John 2:13-14).
Self-centered pride closes the mind to God’s revelation and wisdom
Jesus thanks the Father in heaven for revealing to his disciples the wisdom and knowledge of God. What does Jesus’ prayer tell us about God and about ourselves? First, it tells us that God is both Father and Lord of earth as well as heaven. He is both Creator and Author of all that he has made, the first origin of everything and transcendent authority, and at the same time, goodness and loving care for all his children. All fatherhood and motherhood is derived from him (Ephesians 3:14-15). Jesus’ prayer also contains a warning that pride can keep us from the love and knowledge of God. What makes us ignorant and blind to the things of God? Sinful pride springs from exaggerated self-centeredness. It closes the mind to God’s truth and wisdom for our lives. The angels fell into pride and were cast out of heaven. The virtue of humility, the only true remedy against false pride, and which is very different from the feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem, leads us to a true recognition of who we are in God and of our dependence on God.

Humility is the only soil where God’s grace and truth can take root
Jesus contrasts intellectual pride with child-like simplicity and humility. The simple of heart are like “babes” in the sense that they see purely without pretense and acknowledge their dependence and trust in one who is greater, wiser, and more trustworthy. They seek one thing – the “summum bonum” or “greatest good” who is God himself. Simplicity of heart is wedded with humility, the queen of virtues, because humility inclines the heart towards grace and truth. Just as pride is the root or every sin and evil, so humility is the only soil in which the grace of God can take root. It alone takes the right attitude before God and allows him as God to do all. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6). The grace of Christ-like humility inclines us to God and disposes us to receive God’s wisdom. Nothing can give us greater joy than the knowledge that we are God’s beloved and that our names are written in heaven. Do you seek to be like Jesus Christ in humility and simplicity of heart?

The Lord Jesus wants us to know him personally – experientially
Jesus makes a claim which no one would have dared to make: He is the perfect revelation of God. One of the greatest truths of the Christian faith is that we can know the living God. Our knowledge of God is not simply limited to knowing something about God, but we can know God personally. The essence of Christianity, and what makes it distinct from Judaism and other religions, is the knowledge of God as our Father. Jesus makes it possible for each of us to personally know God as our Father. Saint Augustine of Hippo wrote: “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us to love.”

Seek God with expectant faith and trust
To see Jesus is to see what God is like. In Jesus we see the perfect love of God – a God who cares intensely and who yearns over men and women, loving them to the point of laying down his life for them upon the cross. Jesus is the revelation of God – a God who loves us completely, unconditionally and perfectly. Jesus also promises that God the Father will hear our prayers when we pray in his name. That is why Jesus taught his followers to pray with confidence, “Our Father who art in heaven …give us this day our daily bread.” Do you pray to your Father in heaven with joy and confidence in his love and care for you?

“Most High and glorious God, enlighten the darkness of our hearts and give us a true faith, a certain hope and a perfect love. Give us a sense of the divine and knowledge of yourself, so that we may do everything in fulfilment of your holy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Prayer of Francis of Assisi, 1182-1226)