Keep on believing


I received this text message saying that as men become older, they become more attractive, and women find them more irresistible. Wow! The same text message says, though, that as men become older, they become more gullible and prone to believing such text messages!

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In today’s Gospel (Jn. 20: 19-31), we hear of the story of Thomas, one of the 12 apostles who did not easily believe the news that Jesus had risen from the dead. “Unless I see the mark of the nails on his hands, and put my finger unto the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Thomas is often called “doubting Thomas,” but perhaps, it is better to call him “honest Thomas” because he was honest enough to declare his unbelief, but did not totally close himself to the bigger truth that may come ahead.

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“Peace be with you” is a beautiful greeting and an assurance for us whenever we find ourselves in moments of failure, darkness, temptation and doubt. How assuring to know that God knows and understands our human limitations and frailties. He is a God who waits, a God who encourages, a God who does not give up on us. It is as if God is telling us: “Even if you don’t believe in me, I believe in you. Even if you give up on me, I do not give up on you.”

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When things go wrong, all we can do really is pray and keep believing in God’s love. On a pilgrimage to the Holy Land recently, 76 fellow pilgrims and I waited for four hours before we could board our Dubai-Jordan flight. Then when we were at the runway already, the pilot informed us that there was a mechanical problem, so we went back to the tarmac and stayed there for three hours while the plane was being fixed. Finally, when we reached the border crossing, Israeli authorities informed us to come back the next morning for security reasons. There we were, two busloads of pilgrims hungry and exhausted, but still hopeful, joyful and peaceful. Why? Because of our strong faith in God who we believed had a plan for us, and never stopped loving us.

* * *

At the border, an Israeli soldier asked me if I had a weapon and I answered in the negative. Then he took out the crucifix from my bag and asked me: “Isn’t this your weapon?” For a while, I didn’t know what to say. Then I said: “Yes, that is my weapon!” He nodded and let me go, with a smile. It was quite an experience to be reminded by an Israeli soldier of something that is so important in my faith and in my life.

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Seated beside me on the Dubai-Jordan flight was a young Muslim who edified me so much. At one point in our conversation, he excused himself and told me he had to pray for a while. He bowed his head, opened his hands, and prayed. Just like that. How important it is for all of us to respect each other’s belief and be reminded that we, by no means, have the monopoly over goodness, truth, and God.

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My aunt,  Tia  Concha Pizarro, and her husband, Dr. Juan Pizarro, almost failed to join the pilgrimage because of health problems. But they ultimately did because they believed that it was God who had called them, and that God would provide. Well into their 80s and crippled with arthritis, they helped each other on. It was inspiring to see them walking slowly, hand in hand, and even more inspiring to see the other pilgrims taking turns in giving them a helping hand as we went on our journey. As  Tia  Concha put it: “I believe it was God who called us to the Holy Land, and I believe that it was He who provided those angels unknown to us, who are so generous and kind.”

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There is a little out-of-the-way store selling simple souvenirs near Lake Galilee where many pilgrims’ buses make a stop. It is owned by 77-year-old Abu Sarim, who was “expelled” from a nearby pilgrimage site because he could not pay the rent. This kind and generous old man was like a father to many, if not to all the bus drivers. Out of gratitude to him, and to help him, they bring pilgrims to his little store. Yes, we believe in the goodness of people. We believe that love begets love. And we believe that every person is worth stopping for.

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Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. We believe in God’s love and forgiveness. We believe that God knows, forgives, and understands. We believe that we have received more than we have achieved in this life. And we believe that it is better to believe in God’s love than to doubt it. I am one with you in the belief and hope in God’s unconditional love and mercy. Presumptuous? Again we say: It is better to be presumptuous of God’s love than to doubt it!

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On the lighter side, one of our pilgrims candidly said that in terms of finances, she had to make a choice between having facial plastic surgery and joining the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Finally, after much prayer, she chose the pilgrimage—and was glad she did. She was given not only “spiritual surgery” that removed her burdens and miseries, but also a real certainty and direction in her earthly journey. At the end of our pilgrimage, she was more peaceful, happy and free. And we, her fellow pilgrims, noticed that her beauty was enhanced!

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A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help me to believe and keep on believing in You, come what may. Amen.

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