Saturday, September 24, 2011

Thank God, I Changed My Mind!

Gospel for September 25, 2011 (Sunday)

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:
"What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.'
He said in reply, 'I will not, '
but afterwards changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, 'Yes, sir, 'but did not go.
Which of the two did his father's will?"
They answered, "The first."
Jesus said to them, "Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him."

- Matthew 21:28-32

* * * 

The other day (Wednesday, September 21st - UN International Day of Peace), the principal of the school (in Alabang) where I work, and I were supposed to go to Miriam College (in Quezon City), upon the invitation of the Associate Director of their Center for Peace Education, to view a film that they were showing to their students in celebration of the International Day of Peace.  However, the night before, my boss informed me that she had some urgent meetings to attend to and said that it was up to me if I still wanted to proceed to Miriam.

My first instinct was not to go anymore, since it was pretty far away (opposite end of 'my world'!), plus I also still had a lot of work to do at school.  However, I felt a strong prompting to make the effort and go!  So I changed my mind and went. 

Sure enough, the documentary was nothing short of inspiring!  I was soooo glad I decided to go!  It was the much-needed "boost" -- for me to start working on something that has been waiting in the wings for quite sometime now. (You Tube has a 3-minute summary of the 80-or-so-minute film which we viewed.  I invite you to watch it after reading this blog. Just click here.)

Anyway, that same evening, I was invited to a dinner for a priest-friend from Nigeria who was in town for a vacation (he used to be a guest priest in our parish a few years ago).  Since I already hosted a dinner in my home for this same priest about a week prior, I once again, thought of not going.  This time, it was my best friend who encouraged me to come along.  So for the second time that day, I changed my mind and went.

And for the second time, I was really "blessed because I came" (some of you would know that this is a borrowed line from a song!).  It turned out that it wasn't just any regular fellowship-type of dinner, but we also had a "caring circle" afterward. [A caring circle or CC is an activity where we read a Bible passage -- usually the coming Sunday's mass readings -- and then share with one another a line, phrase or sentence that "strikes" us the most and why.  Usually we relate it to personal experiences or what it means to us].  It had been sometime since I last attended one and it felt really good being able to share His Word with the people who were there that night.

In fact, this blog post is exactly what I shared with my friends in the CC that night.  I shared with them the two "changing of minds" I made that day -- and I further reflected on why I almost didn't go to both.  I realized it was mostly because of convenience and plain laziness. And this made me remember what I wrote in my previous entry about the Comfort Zone vs. the Courage Zone.  

Staying put in Alabang was the Comfort Zone choice while going to Miriam was the Courage Zone choice.  Staying home and doing other things would have been sticking to my Comfort Zone, but choosing to spend that evening with our priest-friend was stepping out into my Courage Zone.  But like I mentioned in that last post, great things do happen every time you decide to go into your Courage Zone... and this experience certainly proved it!  

May you too, be blessed as you continue to "change your mind" everyday and endeavor to seek His Will in everything that you do!

Monday, September 12, 2011

We Don't Have To Go Very Far

[Oh goodness, I'm averaging one post a month now... yikes! Must blog on!]

A few Sundays ago, I caught Bo Sanchez in a telecast of the Kerygma Feast (see for more details on the Feast) in which he was preaching about how we all live in either of two "zones" -- the Comfort Zone or the Courage Zone. He explained that it is only in the Courage Zone that we can achieve all our successes in life... that in order to reach our dreams and goals, we need to take a step outside our Comfort Zone (i.e. take some risks!) and move into our Courage Zone.  However, he warned that we should also never step too far out, thereby leaving our Core Zone -- which is defined by our core gifts, talents, skills, knowledge and inherent characteristics.  

Here is the full article which he wrote (and based his preaching on): "Everything You Want Is Found In Your Courage Zone" (I recommend you take the time to read this later -- it's quite lengthy, but it's really inspiring and makes a whole loooot of sense!).

* * * * *

Hearing Bo's talk got me thinking and reflecting on which zone I am currently in, specifically with regard to my ministry life.  

In light of mission or ministry work, one's first instinct is to think that "stepping out into your Courage Zone" necessarily entails going off to a far away, distant (or even dangerous) place -- such as a very poor area of some remote province; or to the mountains (where the indigenous tribes live); or even to other countries experiencing extreme poverty or war.  Or it means leaving all your material comforts to go live with the poorest of the poor. 

Of course, there are some people who are called to actually do this kind of missionary work.  And I will always admire those who take on this challenge and persevere in their missions.  However, we are all called in different ways -- and geography or distance should never be a measure by which to judge anyone's (especially your own) "Courage Zone."    

* * * * *

At first glance, one might say that I've somewhat settled into a Comfort Zone -- considering that I live, work, and serve (in ministry) all within twenty minutes of each other!  The furthest I regularly travel to once or twice a week is to Tagaytay, where I study and also do a bit of volunteer work.  Admittedly, it's all very convenient, logistically.  There are days when I do ask myself if I've indeed stopped "pushing" myself to get out into this so-called Courage Zone, which I know God constantly calls all of us to do.  However, as I reflect on where God has led me over the past two years and a half, I can definitely say that He has pulled me quite far out of my Comfort Zone!  

It was certainly never in my life plan to work at a school or for that matter, go back to school myself (to study)... but this is where I found myself after deciding to leave my job at the top of 2009.

And after two academic schoolyears, I am still struggling to get a good "foot hold" at my school job (five-minute walk away from home!) -- trying to figure out how to do my work best, how to reach out to the kids in the flock that God has put under my care.  Everyday is a day in the Courage Zone -- a challenge to be more creative, more engaged, more attuned, more involved with these children.

Likewise, in my ministry work with the hearing-impaired (this is the one that's twenty minutes away!), God continuously calls me to new things, to come up with fresh, exciting activities for the kids.  
with the students of the Joseph Gualandi School for Hearing-Impaired

As for studying again -- while it has been quite a challenge (you know, having to use my brain like this once more, haha!) -- my once a week classes have definitely been a great source of energy and joy (aside from knowledge and hopefully, wisdom!).  Studying God's Word equips me in more ways than one, to face the challenges that the Courage Zone brings day after day.

* * * * *

Anyway, the point of this post is really just this -- we don't need to go very far to discover or explore our Courage Zones.  We don't need to make drastic moves or go far away to say that we have "stepped out of our Comfort Zones."  

Sometimes, it is literally just around the corner.  Going out of your way to help a neighbor in need is already "stepping out."  Giving up your precious time to serve in your parish is already "stepping out."  Spending your weekends in outreach activities is already "stepping out."  In fact, serving your own family in the very confines of your home is already "stepping out."

There are countless of ways of stepping out --- and they will differ for each one of us. Some will be called to do more, others less.  

"From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required;
and from the one to whom much has been entrusted,
even more will be demanded." 
- Luke 12:48 (NRSV) 

The important thing is, that we do TAKE A STEP -- big or small, it doesn't matter!
The important thing is, that we GIVE BACK -- because we all have been BLESSED, one way or another.  
The important thing is, that we don't let our lives go by WITHOUT DOING ANYTHING -- that is, in service of Him and of others. 

So, whatever your Comfort Zone is, get out of it!  
And wherever your Courage Zone is, get to it!  
Remember -- "STEPPING OUT" also means "STEPPING UP"!

p.s. - don't forget to read Bo's article, if you haven't yet!