Generating Hope


Three days after monster typhoon Yolanda struck Cebu, I went home to visit Bantayan Island. My heart sank at the horrific havoc the storm did to this once beautiful paradise in Northern Cebu. Particularly, I saw the sorry state of my hometown in Madridejos. The storm almost spared nothing. Trees and electric posts tumbled; roofs blown away and concrete walls were pounded. Poultry farms were knocked down with millions of damages to the industry. It also dealt heavy damages to public buildings and schools. The sight was tremendously heartbreaking. I felt the seemingly powerlessness of man over the forces of nature.
The faces of people I saw were painted with grief and angst. Some terror-stricken residents stared blankly of what remained of their houses or property. Others would not know how to start rebuilding with many unspoken questions in their hearts. The once soothing breeze from the sea was now felt with anxiety and mistrust. The dying of the sun over the horizon filled the island with a sense of fear. Darkness covered everything as night settled with an ominous aura of gloom. There was no electricity. Any means of communication was temporarily down. People returned to lighting candles and oil lamps. It was a return to a life of strict simplicity.
After the relief distribution, since our group could not make it to travel back to the city, we requested accommodation from the parish priest of San Vicente Ferrer Parish, Fr. Bobby Paraguya. His parish had the luxury of space and roof. We felt honored by his generous hospitality. That night, while the rest of the island was in darkness, we enjoyed light from the parish generator. It was always in stand-by. In cases of brown-out, it provided alternative power. That handy generator made me realize that it is a symbol of faith.
When storms strike our life and knock us down, we may lose power. We lose our light and leave us in darkness. In such cases, we turn to our alternative power. Faith is like a generator that re-charges us. It sustains our energy and provides us with added strength to carry on. We move forward provided by our faith in God. Our faith in Jesus gives us power to overcome our storms. It generates hope. Though bowed and bent, we are never broken. Faith makes us survive.
Christmas is a season of hope. The deepest lesson of Christmas is the sacred truth that God became man. God assumed our powerlessness to make us strong. In Jesus, we can pick up our broken pieces and arrange them back in order. When we recall the first Christmas, it was to a broken world that our Messiah came. His star over Bethlehem was an omen that the best was yet to come. The beautiful story of a world transformed and redeemed was just beginning. This child in the manger is still the hope of every generation. His presence can still provide us with an inexhaustible richness that defies our imagination. God can still amaze us with his pleasant surprises!
During the ordination of our new priest, Rev. Fr. Rosmon Valenciano at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes last December 7, the ordaining prelate was Bishop Patricio Buzon from the Diocese of Kabangkalan, Negros. He related his experience shared by Archbishop John Du of Palo, Leyte. One of the hardest hit by the typhoon was also Palo. It brought great destruction to houses and churches. Yet despite the magnitude of the damage, he told his priests to continue celebrating Masses in their parishes.
“The people need food, water and shelter. But more than that, the people need Jesus. Because Jesus will give them strength!” Indeed, we need Jesus. It is He who can give us extraordinary strength in extraordinary circumstances. Jesus can transform our helplessness. His hope can change our grief into joy.
A Christ-filled Christmas to everyone!
(This article also appeared in my Sunday Column “Sharing the Word”: Cebu Daily News – December 22, 2013) 
 

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