A Journey of Trust and Hope

Lent 2021. Photo: Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

Photo: Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

We were told that we would be spending about five days in Agoo (the Philippines). We were all excited except that we had to walk for five days from Malolos in Bulacan, to reach our destination Agoo in La Union, and we would be taking our journey without money for food or for renting a room. Along the way, we would have to beg from people without telling them the truth that we were seminarians. We were only given enough money for lunch and the return trip back to Manila. Five days…like the animals on the ark, we were sent out in twos.

The first day, we walked fast and covered as much distance as possible. On the second day, my companion complained that he could not continue because of the pain and blisters. He decided to return to Manila. I was hesitant to continue but decided to go on.

On the third day, my first day alone without my companion, I was caught in the dark along the highway in Tarlac without any house or building in sight. I was worried. Finally, I was able to find a home, but it turned out to be a karaoke house. I asked the owner if I could sleep on the bench. But he told me I couldn't because his customers were coming soon. An older man was listening to us. I waited. The man returned and said to me that after all the customers were gone I could sleep on one of the benches. The older man turned out to be the father of the owner of the karaoke house. The next day, I left early in the morning, leaving them a note to thank them.

On the fourth day, I was hot with a fever. So I went straight to the church. But I was bluntly turned down. Feverish, hungry and angry, in order to buy some medicine, biscuits and water, rather than asking for help from people, I used part of the money I had for my transport back to Manila. After walking around the town, I went to the police station. They asked me questions and checked my ID, curious as to why I was walking around. They gave me food and a bench to sleep on.

On my fifth day, I eventually reached the church in Agoo. The doors of the church felt like welcoming arms. I knelt before the altar and thanked God. I just thanked God. My five-day journey was the most humbling experience to be nothing and to beg. Jesus went through His own journey of 40 days. Lent is a journey. It is important to remember these things.

Trust and Hope

When I was hungry and angry at the same time, I gave into my needs because of pride and selfishness. We were told not to buy but to beg from people. I was tempted, and I gave in. For part of the journey, I learned to trust and hope in God. It taught me to depend on the mercy and compassion of the people God sent me and not to rely on my strength and power.

During Lent and at any moment of our life, we can rely too much on our own will. We tend to do things "my way." When we "fail," we blame others because we think so highly of ourselves as being incapable of mistakes and failures. We even blame God. After all, we think God owes us so much because we have done so much for God.

God wants us to succeed in life. He wants us to be faithful to Him. If you sin and fail, stand up and walk on. God's mercy and goodness are more than our faults and mistakes. The world demands that we become successful in life but never faithful. To prove ourselves to people. We aim to succeed in life at the expense of our relationships. Everything is about winning. It becomes difficult for us to accept, understand and believe that we are worth more than anything, we are unique and loved by God— even when we are hungry, empty, unfulfilled and losing in the eyes of the world.

Be Humble

Unless we learn to be humble, we cannot trust others or God. On Ash Wednesday, we are reminded that the Ash symbolizes our origin and destiny, our weakness and strength, our past and our future. It reminds us that we are sinners.

We are broken, weak, and wounded. But we are also capable of holiness and great things, of doing incredible things. Isn't it beautiful that God creates wonders from Ash, from dust—something we consider useless and meaningless. He made miracles that we call people!

Love

If I were to ask you to draw love, what would be the shape of love?

As a Christian, I believe the shape of love is the Cross. We all like love stories, but there is a far greater love story—our love story with God. From the very beginning, we were created because of love. Remember the creation story—it was love at first sight. When God saw what He created, He saw everything was good. But when sin came, that love story was broken. Both man and woman chose themselves over God and disobeyed God. Remember that God so loved the world He gave us His only Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, His most precious one.

Every day, God renews His love story with us. He rewrites the story in a different, profoundly more intimate and personal way. Jesus said that He no longer calls us slaves but friends and that there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. The shape of love is not the heart but the Cross.

Remember, Lent is a journey. Trust. Be humble and love.

Columban Fr. Kurt Zion Pala lives and works in Myanmar.

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The Columban Art Calendar is an iconic Catholic Calendar, well-known for its traditional religious paintings and liturgical information and is a major fundraiser for Columban Missionaries. 2022 marks the 100th edition.

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