World Youth Day Toronto July 23-28, 2002
"Build a civilization based on love for the third millennium, by making Christ the cornerstones of your lives." These were the words of Pope John Paul II at the World Youth Day held in Toronto that year. His message was clear - "use your gift of life in building a future worth living". His presence was so powerful! His love for the church and the young was so evident that not one of us left the city of Toronto without taking-in those challenging words of the late heroic vicar of Christ. We were burning with zeal to be the "Lumiere du Monde et Sel de la Terre" ( Light of the World and Salt of the Earth). Though the Pope's body was wasting away and frail, his passion for life, love and service was so alive! Enough to stir in us the desire to take heed, listen and act!
These words .... "civilization based on love... make Christ the cornerstone of your lives... Lumiere du Monde" - they were like wake up calls to a sleeping soul... my soul.
After the WYD, I came back to New York a different person. There was something restless within me though I was trying to ignore it. The Holy Father's words were like an echo that kept coming back over and over again in my memory in next days and weeks that followed.
The time has come...
God is love. He chooses each one of us to be His witness in the world. However there are some who are chosen for a special tasks- to work in His 'vineyard' yet He never insist His rightful place in our lives. He gives us freedom to respond or ignore this call. The choice is always ours.
Flashback: During my junior high school and college days I have always been involved with volunteering works; summer services to the community. I was always happy coming home with stories to share- how I made myself useful by doing community services. In the Bronx- soup kitchen; nursing homes - visit to the elderly. In college, there were evenings where we went to a nearby nursing home to serve supper to the elderly residents.
"An encounter with Love"
Borrowed times are God's life surprises; gifts presented in different "packages" waiting for us to unwrap one-by-one as they come. These gifts always come at the right time --God's Time, when we are ready to receive it.
I have had quite a few of these 'gifts':
- my father's death - I realized as I "opened this package" that no matter how much we love this world, there will be a time when we have to let go of it. It is not up to us to know when and where will He call us back home, it is up to Him. So, if life is this short, and I have no say when will this gift needs to be returned to the Giver, then it does matter a lot how will I "unwrap" it;
- the event that caused several casualties at 9/11 attacks: unexpected loss of lives... things happened for a reason; we may not know it now but God knows and He is in control.
"...this night thy soul shall be required of thee,
- the message at WYD 2002 Toronto; ".. build a civilization base on love..."
- the summer service experiences I had that gave me a sense of how love can make a difference to the world and to the one who become an instrument of Love.
Yes, I heard the "call".
But the voice within me was more powerful.
The message was clear,- everything we have is a gift on "borrowed time." Life is the most precious... That I should make use of it wisely and not waste any moment, for today will be yesterday in no time if I missed the opportunity to live it - worthily; fully.
The interior restlessness was becoming stronger as days and weeks passed by. I was looking for an answer -I was searching / thirsting but at the same time unsure if I want to know the answer!
The God of love is calling me. I just knew it! Don't ask me how? I just know.
The self-offering with structured prayer, community and ministry to the poor, it was to this life that He was drawing my attention! I 'entertained' the idea and said, "Well, I can be a missionary for a year or two... but no Lord, not life with vows as religious- I can love and serve you as a lay person."
The more that I tried to ignore the 'voice', the more I can't stay away from it. It was one autumn afternoon of 2002 when finally God came and "settled' my predicament. I was with friends at Mount Vernon ,VA for the weekend enjoying the scenic road and nature walk when the majesty and wonder of nature before me - the autumn leaves, the changing colors of the foliage suddenly hit me like a clear flash of lightning! Being immerse with nature can bring a soul to contemplation of the Divine! It dawned on me that He is God and I am not! He made me realized through the majestic panorama of His creations that I should not fear! He'll take care of my concern. All I was able to say was, "O God what an awesome God You are! If you can create such beauty that changes from one season to another, always leading to a hope of a new life, You must know what you are doing! I don't know why you want me but I should trust You!
God's call never insists, he whispers, then lovingly and patiently He waited for the soul to respond at its own pace, in his own time...His time.
Living this life for many years now, I have slowly understood as I looked back of the past on how God has prepared me even before I knew it. He unraveled His plan in stages of my life...His time, a series of encounters when I deemed ready and able to understand the wisdom behind every visitation. My world seems unknown to many because it takes one to enter into its door, a door that leads to a "narrow road" as it may seem, but in reality it's the door that leads to a world full of love, for at the center of it is Love Himself.
I turned my back from the known world of a promising professional career
I fixed my eyes to journeying in the world of life fully given
A life whose sole purpose and desire is to be a witness of Jesus,"as a servant"
A life full of love, life, peace and joy... in the service of the Poor of Christ.
Life is beautiful and precious gift from God yet so short.
It is given to us for a purpose.
That is, to honor the Giver of life
Make full use of this gift for purpose it was intended to
So that your joy will be complete.
The God of love is not hidden.
He is right 'there' waiting.
His rightful place is our heart
Let not the world prevents us
from hearing His Heart beating in us.
A Heart that beats love
A Heart that sees love in all things
A love that knows no boundary
For He is Love himself
the people we cherish and love,
the blessings we received,
the life we have,
they are all gifts from God given on borrowed times.
We unwrap each gift as we journey through this land.
I hope that you too will see the wisdom of God at every gift you received.
Follow His leading
Borrowed times are God's precious moments with us, an encounter with Love Himself.
Take heed, listen, learn and follow the wisdom of this visitation
and experience the fullness of life in love, peace and joy.
A life in union with Him.