I was once a beggar

I was once a beggar, though not an ordinary beggar, but a religious one, a beggar of the good Lord. Every Friday I used to tag along with some few brothers down to Carbon market in Cebu with a sack on hand.

And we would be singing Marian songs along the way and pray the Rosary too.

“Ave Maria, pwede mangayo? Ave Maria, pwede po bang manglimos? I extend my hand asking for a piece of meat, a vegetable, a spoonful of salt, a rotten mango, a kilo of rice.

Some vendors and stall owners would scold us, “Why beg, when you’re healthy and can work for a living…” For them we were silly persons wasting the strength of our youth into silly things- like begging.

Still there were some who generously give their share of paninda. “Brother, i-apil mi sa imong pag-ampo…Brother please include me in your prayers…” seeing in their eyes, their deepest need of God, the depth of their desire for God fuelled me and my Franciscan brothers of the Immaculate to offer all we have, all earthly matter we put behind, all that used to concerned us means nothing at all, our folly we forget, our history we put aside, our dreams and aspirations we sacrifice, we offer, all to God.

After the whole day of toil, of asking, of pleading, of begging, of praying, we would carry our sack in our back bound for home.

Most of the items we collected were leftovers. We would then separate the spoils into 3 basins according to their expiration, on how many days they would last: 1st basin for the food that would survive for a week, the 2nd for half of the week, and the 3rd to be transmuted into organic fertilizers, great for our vegetable garden.

I had been living for months in a Franciscan monastery at the top of the mountain – it was heaven for me; the long hours of prayer, manualia, recreation, the Friday begging, the supernatural stories my brother shared, the rosaries we’ve prayed even during washing dishes and other chores…my parents didn’t knew what was I’m doing in Cebu, I only told them that I’m doing research or writing a book.

Then it came. One day, a woman knocked in the old door of the monastery looking for me…she cried and told me I needed to go home now…that I was a week late for enrolment…that my friends and classmates were looking for me…that my dogs were missing me.

My mother felt my hesitation of coming home, she knew my thoughts, she knew what’s in my heart…and she told me: “Doy, you can come back here if you want, but you need to go home now…”

I bid goodbye as the sun in the distance sheds its feast of light on the horizon. I thought my saints-in-the-making-days were over…

So what’s my purpose of sharing this poor narrative of mine?

Well, every one of us wants to do great things for our Beloved – for God… like the two faithful servants in today’s Gospel.

I presume that there was a point in our life where we were so badly wanted to become a saint.

Reflecting on the Gospel. I sympathized the fearful servant. Indeed, how hard it is to be able to do so little.

In my hospital apostolate, there was a nanay, in her 50’s, wearing a duster with strips of white in between, with no family, no money and even no bag of blood for her operation. If only I’d bring some money with me, am willing to give it all to her.

We talked and I got glued with her warm stories -how industrious her parents were, how she first met her husband, the joy of giving birth to a son…especially with her optimism – she still hope that despite everything she’s been through, she will be alright, “Hindi naman ako pinapabayaan ng Dios”, she told me with a tinged of conviction in her voice.

At that moment, I realized I had been talking to a saint…in her there is an underlying tone, a hidden attitude common to the saints… in her there is a sense of optimism, a keen sense of faith and hope…that God didn’t abandoned her alone and in need…She has met Christ, and she knows that there is no way that her tears go unnoticed, or her troubles unacknowledged…

At first, I got irritated with the whole idea of the pastoral visit. I thought it was a silly question to ask “kumusta ka?” when I knew that the patient is not okay, when I can read from her yellow eyes the pain she has, when she supposed to be resting now, yet here I am, so insensitive wanting to ask her if she’s okay, and out of her kindness, she sacrifices her valuable time of rest for me.

Late I realized that “Kumusta ka?” was an inquiry not only for the sick patient…but also for me, “Kumusta ba ako?”

In order not be totally consumed with these paralyzing thoughts of mine, I kept on thinking that I am here to visit my Jesus in the face of the sick patients. This wasn’t easy and never was. During the whole course of the apostolate, there were lot of times that I went out from the ward, allowing myself to breath, to relax, to convince myself that I’ll be alright.

After the whole day of wrestling with my issues and woundedness, at the end of the day when I’d brought my pain into prayer, when I evaluated myself, I came to meet my wounded God. Indeed, He was all there with me. In my prayer, I began to appreciate my share of woundedness. Somehow, it is my sacred place where me and my God met. God then became so real to me.

As I gazed my Jesus nailed on the Cross, somehow I began to see the beauty of His cross, the beauty of His wounds. I then realized that to see the beauty of my cross, the beauty of my wounds, I must journey into my darkness. I must face the deepest of pains.  I must go where I fear.  And I am finding that this journey is hard, long and difficult… and I could never make it by myself. But I know, deep inside, that I am never alone, because my Jesus is traveling with me and will always be…

So to end this somewhat zigzagging reflection of mine… I would like to think that the reason why some of us are not inspiring to be saints anymore it is because, we’ve tried… and we failed, and now we are afraid to try it again. We are like the unfaithful servant who was consumed with fear… and fear crippled the love he had for his master.

But Love casts out all fear. If we love Jesus with our whole hearts, minds, strength, and soul we will find peace in the midst of the greatest of trials even within our greatest fear.

God so love us. May our hearts expand to contain His magnanimous love.

 

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