"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

30-Day Lockdown Retreat Journey: Special Day of Prayer for All Frontline Medical Personnel (DAY 15)


Today is Day 15 of the 30-day whole community retreat journey in light of the lockdown. 

Two Points Of Departure: A Personal Reflection About Love Shared Eternally Between Loved-ones and Ignatian Repetition

Some years ago, we went to Culion island for a gathering of young Jesuit priests and brothers. Something happened during the airport transfer from one island to the other. I remember vividly that upon boarding a small pump boat doubt came to me. I asked the boatman in Filipino, "Sir are we not overloaded on this boat?" Then he replied, "Do not be afraid! You are all priests anyway! Nothing will happen to us." In the middle of our trip our boat capsized. I thought it really was the end for me. As I watched the water engulf our frail boat and with it were our luggages. There were three words that came out from my mouth, “THIS—IS—IT!” All ten of us were calm during those tense moments but too absorbed in our thoughts and feelings. They were like me perhaps recalling memories. At some point I wanted to save some stuff of value but then I realised I did not have any strong attachment to those. Reflecting on that now the reason perhaps was the absence of strong emotions and memories since they were just bought out of practical need bereft of sentimental value, e.g., my laptop. All the worldly stuff could be replaced. They are good but they are not God. There was only one thing that I felt I was so attached to—the pair of rubber shoes that I was still wearing. When I was already afloat in the water I had no choice but to take it off. For a short while, I held on to one piece like it has so much value to me. But eventually I let go of it too. I remember while watching my rubber shoes drift away from my sight the memory of my youngest brother who gave those rubber shoes as a gift on my birthday rushed in. I could not let go of the shoes as I could not let go of the memory of my brother's love. That was the only difference between the laptop and the old rubber shoes. Indeed it was a priceless and fleeting moment for me to feel that and it stays with me until now.

The memory of loved ones, which is irreplaceable, will come during crucial moments—especially memories replete with love. These things you do not often sense their real value until they are gone forever. We find out that the material things that we put so much value on are transitory and fleeting just as its Best—Before expiration stamp on it. Even if a person has less, that person could be rich by virtue of the meaning connected to what one possesses no matter how little. The richest person on earth is the one who can find love in everything because the love they already possess lasts forever even after death with no Best—Before. Pope Francis said it so well, "The only thing that we can bring with us in heaven is that thing we have shared."

Yesterday, the Pope used a quite fitting image of the calming of the storm while Jesus and his disciples were at sea (Mark 4:35-41) in his most recent Urbi et Orbi (To the City and to the World) Extraordinary Blessing. It is a natural human feeling to be afraid in times like this just as the disciples were afraid, and just as I too was afraid for my life. But the Pope has repeatedly said, five times, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?" (v. 40). Jesus' question serves as a constant pointer telling us "It is I; do not be afraid" (John 6:20) Whatever happens in the coming days or weeks, obviously we do not know, but let us hold on to Jesus who is love Himself incarnate it is only love that matters now and the fullness of love is Jesus. Take every moment to relish this love now with loved ones. Do not let the distance stop you. Express through a text message, "I love you!" or a simple note that you can bring with you at all times. I have a nurse sister in New York who continues to work in the hospice and I sent her my love and prayer just yesterday telling her that today I send my prayers to God for her and all her co-workers and together with me in prayer is the whole Philippines. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has made today's 5th Sunday of Lent as an extraordinary day of prayer for all medical personnel.

Second point: A simple repetition is similar to what I just did recalling that fateful incident at sea. Do the same here using an experience that you had in the past.

What is Ignatian Repetition? It is a return to where you "have experienced greater consolation, desolation or greater spiritual appreciation" (SE 62) applying the wisdom of less-is-more by going back to the most essential. Coming from yesterday's theme of The Weeping Prophet Jeremiah, in today's Gospel, it is our Lord Jesus who weeps. Here is the painting "Christ at The Flagellation" by Antonello da Messina depicting Jesus in tears. Review the part "Yet I, like a trusting lamb led to slaughter..." that Jeremiah used to describe his state of suffering. Bring with you this "lamb" image which carries the same poignant image of the "Lamb of God" brought to the same slaughter-house. This is a mystery that is so deep that is why it is good to have a repetition.

Opening Song

Grace To Beg For: To ask for what I desire... to express my heartfelt sorrow for all of humanity undergoing pain and pray over my doubts before Jesus who says "Do not be afraid!"

Let us ask for the intercession of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, SJ (1568-1591). As shown in the painting "St. Aloysius Tends the Sick" by unknown, let us ask for his prayers. He is patron of all HIV and pandemic patients including medical personnel who take care of them. We commemorated St. Aloysius' or St. Louis' 450th birth anniversary last 2018 with special blessings from Pope Francis. He is also patron of the youth.

Word Of God: (See full texts below from universalis.com)

1. Mark 4:35-41 (“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?")
2. John 11:3–7, 17, 20–27, 33b–45 ("And Jesus wept"...; "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”)

Questions and Considerations To Ponder: Below is a listing of the Church's set of spiritual and corporal works of mercy–seven for each set. What small and realistic ways are you being called by God to respond in the coming more days of the lockdown? Within your family? Community?

Seven Corporal Works of Mercy:
1. Feed the hungry
2. Give drink to the thirsty.
3. Clothe the naked.
4. Visit the imprisoned.
5. Shelter the homeless.
7. Bury the dead.

8th As you may know already there is an 8th work which Pope Francis included. It is both corporal and spiritual. Look for ways that you can show kindness to sister or mother earth.

Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy:
1. Correct those who need it.
3. Give counsel to those who need it.
4. Comfort the sorrowful.
5. Suffer wrongs patiently.
6. Forgive all injuries.
7. Pray for the living and the dead.

Prayer Requests:
You can email request for prayers for the dead (Name—RIPusing 8thworkermercy@bloggercom—there is a DOT between 8thworker and mercy. It is restricted so that only me as blog author can read it. Others will NOT be able to read any email; instead they will get a message stating that this is private. We will offer your intentions during our regular 6:30AM Masses in our community of Jesuit priests and novices.

P.S. Feel free also to include the names of all who are sick (Name—Get well soon).

Fr. JM Manzano, SJ

Mark 4:35-41

Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

John 11:3–7, 17, 20–27, 33b–45

I am the resurrection and the life.

The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
  When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”
  He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”
  So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” And when he had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”
  Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.