We are Holy Child and St. Martin, God called us in this vineyard

Feast of Pentecost

(Jn. 14, 15-16, 23-26)

The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Does anyone know the origin of rainbow? The story is told this way. different colors had an argument as to which of them was the greatest. Yellow insisted on its significance. Orange insisted on its importance. Green said he is No. 1. And the discussion went on and on. Then, God sent a loud thunder. Scared, all of them came together and all of them formed as one. And thus is the story of how the rainbow began.

 Today is Pentecost, the time when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, and came together as one. It was by the power of the Holy Spirit that the fearful, doubting and wounded community which Jesus began became empowered and emboldened to carry out its mission from Jerusalem to New Delhi  and to the ends of the Earth. Thus came about the Church, and that was how its story began.

 In today’s Gospel, the Lord tells us that if we love Him, we must keep His commandments. It is precisely the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, who will help us, who will teach us everything and remind us of all that the Lord has told us. Here at Holy Child and St. Martin, the presence of the Holy Spirit is present in all our ups and downs. There was a time when every inch of these pews were filled with people. St. Martin had a wonderful programs that served the needs of the people. It started as a mission station. Growth was so rapid that it became a Parish and was the beacon of hope in Daly City and the neighboring cities. Somehow, what has been a mountain top experience had turned into a rough and rugged road. The parish had to come down to the mission status. It has been 25 years now that the Church was stuck in  a Mission status. But we as a people, refuse to believe that our bus will always live in the mud. We somehow managed to move bit by bit and is almost out of the mud. Growth has become steadily going up and signs are very imminent that we will once again be back to where we were, a Parish status where we will be able to say, “We made it as the body of Christ, united with one accord to uphold the love of God in our midst.”

 We have made it again to the Day of Pentecost, the birth of Holy Child and St. Martin as one body of Christ. It has been 23 years now since the merger of two loving congregations. We continue to see the wonders of God’s love in our midst.

At Holy Child and St. Martin, there have been wonderful times where we encountered the presence of the Holy Spirit this past week. A week ago, our delegates to the Deanery Beloved Community gathering have experienced the pouring of the Holy Spirit with what they learned and whom they met at that gathering. Part of our Liturgy today are derived from that experience.

Yesterday, I was given the honor to do the invocation at the renewal, celebration and rededication of the Philippine Association of University Women USA  on their 51st year anniversary celebration at the Holiday Inn. Immediately after that, I attended the birthday celebration of Vanessa Dayrit at their house in Pacifica. Today, we celebrate the 75th birthday of The Rev. Dr. Lynn Bowdish.

With all the anniversaries and birthdays, there is one most special day for the whole body of Christ, it is the birthday of the Church. Happy birthday to you! Receive the Holy Spirit who will guide you into all truth.

At Dinner time, the father noticed his son so worried so he asked him, “What’s wrong son?” The son replied, “I’m worried about my bicycle being left outside” The father said, “Don’t worry son, the Holy Spirit is watching your bicycle. Now carry on with your prayer over the food.” So the son said his prayer, “In the name of the Father and of the Son. Amen.” The father asked, “Where’s the Holy Spirit?” The son replied, “He is watching the Bicycle.”

The Holy Spirit, as Jesus promised, “’guides us to all truth’. He guides us not only to the encounter with Jesus, the fullness of Truth, but He guides us ‘within’ Truth, that is, makes us to enter into an ever deeper communion with Jesus, giving us knowledge of the things of God. … The Church’s tradition affirms that the Spirit of truth acts in our hearts, arousing that ‘sense of the faith’ through the People of God, under the guidance of the Church teaching, unfailingly adheres to the faith that is passed on to us, deepening it with right judgement and applying it more fully in their lives.

We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God resides in each one of us. Let us recognize that. Let us not be blinded by our sight in our ways of ignoring each other’s work. We should never let our differences deviate us from our goal to arriving at God’s kingdom. We should always come together as one body of Christ, for in us, in each one of us, the messiah is present.

There’s story about seeing Christ in each other, adapted from The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace by Dr. M. Scott Peck

Once a great order, a decaying monastery had only five monks left. The order was dying. In the surrounding deep woods, there was a little hut that a Rabbi from a nearby town used from time to time.

The monks always knew the Rabbi was home when they saw the smoke from his fire rise above the treetops. As the Abbot agonized over the imminent death of his order, it occurred to him to ask the Rabbi if he could offer any advice that might save the monastery. The Rabbi welcomed the Abbot at his hut. When the Abbot explained the reason for his visit, the Rabbi could only commiserate with him. “I know how it is,” he exclaimed. “The spirit has gone out of the people. It is the same in my town. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore.” So the Abbot and the Rabbi sat together discussing the Bible and their faiths.

The time came when the Abbot had to leave. “It has been a wonderful visit,” said the Abbot, “but I have failed in my purpose. Is there nothing you can tell me to help save my dying order?”

“The only thing I can tell you,” said the Rabbi, “is that the Messiah is among you.” When the Abbot returned to the monastery, his fellow monks gathered around him and asked, “What did the Rabbi say?” “He couldn’t help,” the Abbot answered. “The only thing he did say, as I was leaving was that the Messiah is among us. Though I do not know what these words mean.” In the months that followed, the monks pondered this and wondered whether there was any possible significance to the Rabbi’s words: The Messiah is among us? Could he possibly have meant that the Messiah is one of us monks here at the monastery? If that’s the case, which one of us is the Messiah? Do you suppose he meant the Abbot? Yes, if he meant anyone, he probably meant Father Abbot. Certainly he could not have meant Brother Elred! Elred gets crotchety at times. But come to think of it, even so, Elred is virtually always right. Maybe the rabbi did mean Brother Elred. Of course the Rabbi didn’t mean me.

He couldn’t possibly have meant me. I’m just an ordinary person. Yet supposing he did? Suppose I am the Messiah? As they contemplated in this manner, the monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah and in turn, each monk began to treat himself with extraordinary respect. It so happened that people still occasionally came to visit the beautiful forest and monastery. Without even being conscious of it, visitors began to sense a powerful spiritual aura. They were sensing the extraordinary respect that now filled the monastery. Hardly knowing why, people began to come to the monastery frequently to picnic, to play, and to pray. They began to bring their friends, and their friends brought their friends. Then it happened that some of the younger men who came to visit the monastery started to talk more and more with the older monks. After a while, one asked if he could join them. Then, another and another asked if they too could join the abbot and older monks. Within a few years, the monastery once again became a thriving order, a vibrant center of light and spirituality in the realm. – Author unknown

The lesson here is by assuming the specialness of every person, we build a culture of respect that generates energy, creativity, and magnetism – something that people can sense and feel, and to which they are drawn. Highly respectful cultures treat every person with courtesy and interest, and convey the understanding that every member of the community is valued. By treating every person with the utmost respect, we develop a culture in which everyone wants to give their best to others, and expects to receive the best from others in return. It is the type of culture everyone deserves, and it is up to us to make it happen. In our daily lives, we can create a culture of respect with every personal interaction we have, whether it is with the health and wellness program, building and grounds, altar guild, a Eucharistic minister , or an acolyte. It is time for us to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit in everyone of us, in our passions and in our community building. Let us look at each other in the eyes of God.

The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church need a new Pentecost experience. It is time for us to stop insisting on our own colors, stop arguing and, like a rainbow, come together as one. We have a wonderful opportunity now for a fresh start and a new beginning. Let us be cleansed of the dirt and filth of the past, and put on a new spirit founded on Love, Compassion and Service.

We are Holy Child and St. Martin, united in one accord to uphold the Love of God in everyone. If we are to become once again a Parish two years from now, we must first need to learn to forgive each other, lift each other’s passion, love one another, see each other in the eyes of God, then come to God’s court and offer your praises and thanksgiving. Let us be focused and not fall along the wayside. Onward Holy Child and St. Martin for God has breathed the Holy Spirit upon us and dwell among us. Let us proclaim God’s love even with a low tone of voice not above our breath.

Pentecost need not be loud. They must start in the heart, in a listening and a prayerful heart. It was when the disciples sat still in prayerful remembering that the Holy Spirit descended upon them. Yes, God is most present, and speaks loudest when we are silent. Amen.

 

Reassuring Love of a Mother

Reassuring Love of a Mother

(John 17: 20-26)

 The Rev. Leonard Oakes

In the name of the One true God who is Love.

I love the Gospel lesson today. (Let’s read it altogether). If we read between the lines and the construction of the Gospel reading according to St. John, we will see the persistent petition of our Lord Jesus Christ asking God the Father to grant peace and unity among his disciples and his people so that in doing they will also be one with him just as he and the father are one. Yes, even to the very end of his earthly journey, just before he ascended to heaven, our Lord Jesus Christ’s concern is always been the unity of God’s people. He knew that when he will be away from their sight, there will be doubts in his disciple’s  hearts of his being the Son of God who came and dwell with them, crucified died and was buried for their sins and rose again from the dead so that they may also become partakers of that everlasting life. Now he is ready to ascend into heaven to sit on the right hand of God, yet he assured his disciples that he will come again in the end of times. This is the creed that we always recite during the service. This reading assures us of the love of Christ who promised to come back in the end of times and that he will go and prepare a place for us in heaven so that where he is, we may be also. He displayed the attribute of a loving God and a loving mother who before leaving the house, would assure a child that everything will be alright and that in due time will come back again and be with them. Jesus exemplified the love of a mother who would always pray to God for her family to be safe and trustworthy while he is away.  I miss a mother who is reassuring.  Before a mother leaves for work, or when a mother takes you to school, she always reassures you that everything will be alright. She prepares all our needs, our food, our books, making sure we are done with our homework, giving us comfort and making us feel at peace in the world around us even when she will only be away for a while. Thank God for mothers like you. You are the best gift God has ever made. God knows best what the world needs. Behind every good leader is a great mother.

Aboard United flight 1489 from Houston to San Francisco, I overheard a one year old boy crying continuously just about 6 isles before me. The mother did everything to pacify the child by giving him milk, pacifier and rubbing his back but the crying continued. I saw the mother stood up and carried her child to her bosom, his head pressed against her shoulder. I looked at the boy’s eyes, they were slowly closing as his mother dances him around and whisper a song while occasionally locking her legs when turbulence happens. I thought, I miss my mom doing that to me when i was a child. But not my sister who would scare me of a ghost so I could sweat a lot until I fall sleep, or an aunt who would spank me on my buttock and tell me to keep quiet and sleep.  Mother’s love is unconditional.

 I remember my mom telling me that while she was carrying me on her womb, she had to cross a flooded street amidst a pouring rain just to be at her business store and ready to meet her customers. When I was born, she had to carry me at her back every day from home to her store of about 1/2 a mile then carry me again on her way home. My dad then would come home late from work. I asked myself, did i greet my mom lately and tell her I am thankful of all the love and sacrifices she gave me? Did i send her something to buy something for herself? I should do that now, there’s no time to procrastinate. I want her to feel I love her so much and that I miss her.

 Last Monday, the family of one of the victims of the limousine Fire at the San Mateo Bridge that took the lives of 5 young women, 4 of them are mothers, asked me to do a prayer vigil in Castro Valley. As I passed by the site at the bridge, I saw a remnant of the fire and immediately a flashback came alive of what I saw on TV where the limousine trunk was engulfed with fire trapping those at the back, trying to squeeze themselves on that small window that leads to the driver’s seat but were unable to escape. I said my prayers as I drove by. I met the family and a 6 years old boy who said to me, “I wish there is time machine that would take my mom back” I thought about the other young children whose mothers were victims of the fire. We circled so closed with each other, lit a candle, sung songs, prayed and offered words of memories of their loved ones. The husband of the other victim remarked, “She was a great mother and a friend. Now I will have to carry her task though I know she will always be there.”

A man stopped at a flower shop to order some flowers to be wired to his mother who lived two hundred miles away. As he got out of his car he noticed a young girl sitting on the curb sobbing. He asked her what was wrong and she replied, “I wanted to buy a red rose for my mother. But I only have seventy-five cents, and a rose costs two dollars.”  The man smiled and said, “Come on in with me. I’ll buy you a rose.” He bought the little girl her rose and ordered his own mother’s flowers. As they were leaving he offered the girl a ride home. She said, “Yes, please! You can take me to my mother.”  She directed him to a cemetery, where she placed the rose on a freshly dug grave. The man returned to the flower shop, canceled the wire order, picked up a bouquet and drove the two hundred miles to his mother’s house.

After receiving and giving flowers to our living mothers today, will you also stop at the graveyard and offer a flower to your departed love ones?

My dear mothers in God, as I always tell you, I may not fully know what you are going through in your life, but let me tell you that I will walk that way with you if you will let me. I will keep you company in prayer until we both see what life has in wait for us. And as we walk I will remind you that we have many rugged roads in life that are common. We’ve been through this many times and in many changes. We’ve learned our lessons and we have the wisdom to think it through, the courage to do what must be done, the faith to know that there is love at the end of our rope. We may not know what is yet to happen, but we do know that we are not alone. We can walk together. We can walk with God by our side.

Let me say these again to all mothers, grandmothers and those who take the role of a mother, thank you!! We love you and will care for you just as you cared for us. May you have more strength to share your love and you always be surrounded with joy and peace. Let us be the one to reaasure also that we love and care for you.

To all of us,  will you turn to a mother or grandmother next to you and say, “I love you and thank you!” “Let’s give a loud round of applause to all mothers!” Amen.

“If you love me….”

Sixth Sunday in Easter C, May 5, 2013

John 14: 23-29

 “If you really love me….”

 The Rev. Leonard Oakes

 

Last Sunday’s reading is the continuation of Today’s Gospel. We read last Sunday of Judas, (not Iscariot), inquiring about this question, Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world? Jesus must have seen doubts in the hearts of his disciples, thus he said today, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.” “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

In this Gospel reading from John, the writer deals with the issue of the church living in a hostile world without the visible presence of Christ. He tells his community through these words attributed to Jesus that obedience and love are the conditions ruling the life of the church and therefore guaranteeing the sense of Christ’s living presence as God’s representative. John then goes on to make an additional promise that the Holy Spirit will teach them and bring to their remembrance all that Christ said to them.

Understanding the Love of God and obeying the commandments are difficult to attain without the help of the Holy Spirit who advocates the Love of God in Jesus Christ. Often times, we question the seeming absence of the Holy Spirit to interpret and give us signs on the meaning of all the things that are happening around us and in our lives. There’s so much hatred in the world. It’s easier to hate than to love. The worst result is when we give up on God and stop believing. When we stop believing, we shut our doors when God comes to us knocking and wanting to make a home with us.

On one Sunday morning, at 8 am, the mother started to worry why his son is not getting out of bed for Church. The mother knocked at his son’s room and said, “It’s already 8 in the morning, aren’t you going to Church today?” The door opened with the son still on his pajama. The son said to his mother, “I will tell you two reasons why I am not going to that Church: First, they don’t love me; Second, I don’t like them either.”

Then the mom blurted out and said, “Son, let me tell you two reasons why you are going to Church today: First, you are 43 years old, and second, you are the Priest.”

Sometimes we look at our coming to Church as an obligation or just a perfunctory work because our parents dragged us here or it may be that we don’t want to disappoint the priest or our friend thus we come anyway . Many times we make our reasons to excuse ourselves from Sunday Services because somehow we were successful in making excuses in our work place. These things continue to happen until we realized that we have shut our doors when God is trying to come and make a home with us. To love God is not to please those who are around you, but God alone. Your relationship with God depends on your pure intention to serve Him in any ways without complaining. (To love God is not like the puppy love you had in high school where you got crush on someone else and suddenly you just dumped her/him) Loving God is not asking the impossible to happen. I recall a favorite Tagalog ballad where a lady, after hearing the supplications of her suitor, tells him:

 “Kung talagang tunay na ako’y mahal mo,

Magtanim ka muna ng niyog sa bato;

ngayon din bubunga, ngayon din bubuko,

ngayon din kukuha ng igagata ko.”

(If you really, really love me, plant a coconut tree. Right now it will bear fruit, right now it will bring me coconut fruit, right now, it will give me coconut milk to cook my food.)

We can plant coconut seedling now, but how in the world can we expect it to grow instantly and bear fruits and give us coconut milk right away? Even in this age of instant coffee and instant marriage, we cannot have instant coconut milk according to the prescription of the ballad.

Love of God is unconditional, it is revealed to us through the Holy Spirit. The love of Christ will be revealed to us only with the help of the Holy Spirit. This revelation will freely come to us when we open the doors of our hearts to welcome God and make a home with us.

One of the wonderful things I learned at the Clergy Reflection, Education, Discernment Opportunity (CREDO) in Texas was about the forgiveness of one’s self.  Loving God is to be able to forgive others as well as forgive yourself. Being in Texas in the past two weeks for a 5 days clergy retreat, is a life giving opportunity and I thank you all for allowing me to participate. It opened my heart and mind on ways how to welcome God to dwell in me. Just being away for a week from life’s constant battle gave me the chance to unwind my burdens and renew my strength from various inspirations. Some of the plans and goals I came up from this retreat are of Financial Freedom, Work Load Management and Health Holistic plan. Financial burden, unmanaged work load and unhealthy life, to me, are the daily source of my stress in life. These three are not often talked about in public and even at home, and often times will result to a broken relationship if it is not dealt with Love. They are the culprits in the elevation of our blood pressure that may result to health complications and maybe early demise. These three, if not addressed earlier, will destroy the plans I have for my family, my community and myself. So i made resolved with good intentionality to address them and I would like to share them with you for your own reflections:

On Finance, some of the things I regularly buy outside such as coffee, tea, pastries and the expensive meals will have to be modified. I will start to cook at home (or ask my mom in-law to cook lunch for us). Start saving for the rainy day. You will never know what the future has in store. It’s good to be prepared. I will invite my family to plan with me for our monthly budget.

On Workload, I have to learn to say NO on requests when I know that I have other things to accomplish. Be able to manage calendars and reminders and being mindful of my personal and family needs. I will invite my family to plan with me for a quality family time and laughter.

On Health, I will set a walking sessions within the week for at least 1 to 2 hours thrice a week, participate in our Saturday HCSM Walkers at Lake Merced and a Golf twice a month. Regular deep breathing and relaxation sessions in between work, and oh! I would have to let go of my favorite cinnamon rolls, soda and ice cream. I will invite my family to go to grocery with me and choose healthy foods to cook. I will make sure I have a good sleep and be able to smile in the morning as i begin another blessed day.

Above all these, I have to learn to forgive myself. Refrain from blaming myself when I fail. Accept myself. Learn to say NO! Give myself freedom to change my mind. Become my own permission giver (It’s OK to relax, rest. Set a realistic limits. Under schedule myself.) Become my own best friend (Protect myself as I would my love ones.) Separate my past from my present (Future doesn’t have to be like the past. Control the present) Expect the best. Try not to anticipate the worst. And treat myself the way I want to be treated.

These things may not be made possible without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, our advocate, who constantly reminds me to do the right thing and stay focused. If God is love and I am His own and that my body is God’s temple, I must welcome God to dwell in me with all my heart, mind and spirit by taking care of myself.

How about you? Would you set a realistic goal for yourself now and be consistent with good intentionality? Should you rather choose to be at peace with God and yourself? Or dwell in the house of misery and despair?

Just as the Gospel today ended, I encourage you all to rise and let us be on our way to spread the love of God among others. Amen.