We thought God is awesome and all-powerful, but why do we suffer? We thought God is loving, but why He allow us to suffer?
If we have these sufferings and offer these sufferings to somebody else they become sacrifices. If we do these sacrifices in the name of love, they become blessings.
If we have these sufferings and always complain about they become miseries. If these miseries are done in the name of self pity, they become curses. You will notice that all people who complain have a miserable life. Look within your family, examine your siblings; those who always complain are the ones miserable.
Fr. Arlo illustrated the interaction of these. There is a man who owns a tiny house. One night, somebody is knocking at the door. When the man opens it and it is Mr. Suffering. The latter is looking for a place to rest for the night but the man did not allow him to enter the house. So Mr. Suffering looked for other places to stay. The next night, another one knocks at the door and this time it is Mr. Love also looking for a place to stay. Since Mr. Love has a good aura, the man let him enter and give him a place to rest for the night. Mr. Love stayed in the house for days. Until Mr. Suffering knocked again at the door still looking for a place to stay. Because Mr. Love is already inside the house and the man learned a lot from him, he let Mr. Suffering to enter and stay with them. They lived happily together. The devil learned about this and was very disappointed. He sent his messenger, Mr. Self Pity to destroy the closeness of the man, Mr. Love and Mr. Suffering. One night, Mr. Self Pity comes knocking at the door looking also for a place to stay. The man let Mr. Self Pity into the house and all of them lived together. The days passed and Mr. Self Pity as advised by the devil started ridiculing Mr. Love. He persuaded the man to kick Mr. Love out of the house since he brings problems to them. Most of the belongings of the man are being given to the poor because of Mr. Love. So the man was convinced and told Mr. Love to leave the house. More problems started when Mr. Love left and the life of the people inside the house became miserable.
Remember that the best companion of suffering is love and the worst enemy of love is self pity. Suffering with love makes our problems seem easy but suffering with self pity makes our life more miserable.
But still, why God allows us to suffer? We thought He loves us, but why He let problems happen to our life? This is the big question. But the big answer is may be because God wants us to need Him. He wants us to be closer to Him.
It is said that man has emptiness inside until God put a heart on each one of us. Initially it was planned that the original shape will be valentine shaped. But He had a second thought and cut the Heart into two. He gave the half to us and the other half was placed up in heaven. Physiologically, you will notice that our heart is not valentine shaped. Apparently, it is cut into portion and you will recognize that it is oriented to the left which looks like the half of a valentine shaped heart. But man does not believe about this and seeks his heart everywhere.
Man seeks the other half of his heart in MONEY. It is apparent that the more money you have the more problem you will also have. In fact, most of the problems of the rich people do not necessitate money. The late Kristina Onasis, wife of Aristotle Onasis, a Greek shipping magnate has many houses all over the world but none of which she called home. Maybe we have all the riches in the world. Maybe we can buy whatever we want. Maybe we can go wherever we want to go. But we can never find the other half of our heart in money. Fr. Arlo shared that in his years of priesthood, he does not have any case of a dead person bringing the title of the house in his coffin. =)
Fr. Arlo also shared his story, while riding a jeepney going to Quiapo, he saw a poster about what money cannot buy. It says “Money can buy books but not knowledge. Money can buy medicine but not health. Money can buy companions but not friends. Money can buy bed but not rest”. Meaning to say, the best things in life are free. To illustrate this, try to breathe deeply, the air you are breathing right now is free. Breathe more deeply, if you farted, that’s a bonus. =) But if you are sick, the air you breathe has a tag price on it, it has a fee.
Money is not eternal. Credit cards for example, there are many people buried in credit because they thought that they can pay their credit card. If you have many credit cards that will be a burden for you. Credit Card Companies cannot build their big offices if they do not make money from you. They become rich because of the interests they are imposing when we purchase. Remember, you cannot find the other half of the heart in money.
Man seeks the other half of his heart in SEX. If we talk about sex many are awake, but if we talk about God, many are asleep. =) In psychology, it says that it takes only one woman to prove man’s masculinity and vilinity. If you have other women other than your wife, that is not masculinity and vilinity, it is insecurity.
There was a group in a university who posted an announcement. It says “Flash… Flash… Flash… There will be a meeting at 6 o clock this evening at the 6th floor of this building on May 6, 1996. But seemingly, nobody paid attention on the announcement. A member of the group got a bright idea and suggested to the group to change the wordings of the poster to catch the attention of the people. They changed it into this “Sex… Sex… Sex… There will be a mating at sex o’ clock this evening at the sexth floor of this building on May sex, nineteen ninety sex. Everybody noticed the announcement. =) We cannot find the other half of our heart in Sex.
Man seeks the other half of his heart in MARRIED LIFE. In the Middle East, it was found out that there is 7-8 cases out of 10 have marriage problems. You cannot find the other half in married life.
Look for the other half of your heart in GOD. You can find the other half in God. The other half is place up in heaven and you need to become closer with God to find it. If there are problems in your life right now, you will know that you will become complete if you are closer to God.
As someone says “Peace is not simply absence of Conflict. But Peace is the presence of God”. If you have many problems, it will be easy if there is the presence of God. It will be your coping mechanism.
In health, the anti depressant pills’ main composition is Serotonin. This can also be found inside the brain. Chemical substances connected to neurotransmitters are connected to Hypothalamus which is the seat of emotion. When you are happy and lonely, the Hypothalamus controls it. And don’t you know Serotonin is activated when you pray? This simply means that praying is anti depressant. The adaptability of the Filipinos is visible to other places and cultures because we pray a lot.
It was also found that sun rays activate Serotonin. In the USA, they have a long winter season, and within that period sun rays are most of the time not visible. And because of this, there are high cases of suicide because many people are depressed. Philippines can still stand because we have so much sunshine and prayers. Coping mechanisms are built in within us because we always pray. If you are lonely, pray. If you felt alone, pray. If you face trials, pray.
But why we still suffer? Who started suffering? What went wrong? Where and when did it start?
When God created the world, He created man. When God created man, He gave him body. In Filipino word body means “Katawang Lupa” and body in Latin means humus or soil, in Filipino “lupa” and Bisaya “so-el” =) That is the reason why we are called human beings. And humility means “sumasayad sa lupa” (touching the soil).
Fr. Arlo best illustrated the discussion showing a plastic bottle as the body, the soul as the shape of the bottle, the spirit as the clear water and the sins as the dark water.
The soul and personality of a person is the shape and the spirit is water in Hebrew means ruah. In Filipino it means “hininga”. When God created man, He breathes into his nostrils. Thus, breathing is a symbol of life.
But still, what went wrong? The original design of man is Adam and Eve. God created man with his image and likeness. God intended man before the world begun to be holy and blameless. This is the benefit Adam and Eve had. Until one time when Eve was chasing the butterflies and Adam chasing a deer, the serpent called Eve and asks her if she wants to be like God. He persuaded her to eat the forbidden fruit; Eve disobeyed God and ate the fruit. This is when our sins started.
The second design of God that is holy and blameless is Mama Mary. That is why she is called Immaculate Conception. Mama Mary is the opposite of Eve. Mama Mary was obedient and Eve was not. If you spell “Eva”, it is the opposite of “Ave” which means hail, also pertains to Mama Mary. She showed her obedience when she said “Let it will be done according to your word”.
The real sense of Idolatry is making us like God out of sheer greed and selfishness. Like what happen in the Maguindanao Massacre where 57 people were killed. The people behind the ruthless crime were playing like God because of their greed. For married couples, the manifestation of Idolatry is when one of the couple acts like he/she is correct all the time and the other half is always wrong. This is playing like God. And a person who always feels that he is right is difficult to change.
Fr. Arlo poured dark water on the plastic bottle which signifies our sins. If you are living beyond your means, it brings more dark water. When you have illicit relationship here in the UAE, it brings more dark water. If you are a child who prioritizes playing games in Play Station than reviewing your lessons, it brings more dark water.
This is what went wrong; sins cause our sufferings and problems.
But there is still hope. We can make our sufferings redemptive. How can we do it?
Let it absorb the sufferings of others. Fr. Arlo shared a story when his friend bought a car before the New Year. He parked the car in the garage facing the street. During the celebration, one of the fire crackers went on the wind shield causing the glass to shutter. Making the event a redemptive action, they let the car absorb their bad luck to all the coming years. Redemptive action can also be seen in the time of Jesus because He carried all our sufferings for the sake of removing it from us. For the parents, we work so hard in order to remove the sufferings of our children. If we carry our sufferings to carry the suffering of others, that is a redemptive act.
For example, if you lost your cell phone. To console yourself, we say hopefully the one who got it need the phone more than I do. If we lost something, let it absorb all the sufferings that can happen to your love ones.
Have strength and endurance. Manny Pacquiao has mastered his and his opponents’ boxing stance. During the Pacquiao-Hatton match, large contingents from the UK went to watch. The British teases the small contingent of Filipinos. But when Ricky Hatton was knocked out by Manny. The Filipinos start singing “Ricky Hatton falling down, falling down. Ricky Hatton falling down.” And the British shut up. =) We need to have the strength and endurance to make our sufferings redemptive.
Have humility and purification. Even if we are already successful, we should be grounded. Just like electricity, the power cannot flow on the wire if it is not grounded. No matter how talented we are, if we are not grounded, the power of God will not flow. It is necessary to be humble to make our sufferings redemptive.
Unite our sufferings with Jesus. Because all of our sufferings have a direction, always remember that nothing comes by accidents. May be because God has lessons for us to learn. In school, we learn the lesson and then we take the test. In life, we take the test and we learn our lesson.
In the midst of your sufferings, let your hearts be closer to God. Little by little, every time you go to mass, every time you pray and ask for God’s help, every time you sing in the choir, every time you usher the people during mass, every time you serve the Lord and every time you do good deeds to others, your sins are gone. Like the dark water inside the plastic bottle, little by little, it is becoming clearer. And when the time comes that you are already with Jesus and hold on to your faith. Even if you put more dark water that shows sinfulness and trials, it cannot conquer your spirit in the love of God. If Jesus is in your heart, you can carry all sufferings that comes to your life.
Reflection: God gave us a choice between a blessing and a curse. What will you choose?