Coming back to life

Illustrated by Robert Labayen

A few weeks ago, I saw an old friend who should have been dead already.

Many years before that meeting, he was the best in his career. In fact, he was well-known. Then he became a drug addict. He was sick, depressed and seriously suicidal. Buti na lang, some good people cared enough to send him to the hospital. When I saw him again, he was a healthy, happy man serving the parish. Very grateful for his second chance. And doing great in his career again.

He told me, “Robert, use your gift of words. Write or give talks because there will be at least one person in the audience who badly needs hope and encouragement at that very moment.”

“But I’m not a great inspirer. I’m not even holy enough,” I protested.

“Just do it,” he insisted. “No one is really holy but God will use us at times.”

So, on this Holy weekend, let me share my three favorite stories of reconciliation.

The Prodigal Son

Jesus told this story of a rich man who had two sons. The first son was kind and obedient. The second one was a little more adventurous. He asked his dad for his inheritance and he left home to be on his own. He spent all his money on vice and gambling. Soon, he lost all the money. He found himself sick, sleeping in the streets and eating among the animals. When his pride ran out, he decided to come back home. His plan was to be a servant in his father’s house in exchange for food and shelter.

The father saw him coming from a distance. Immediately, the father ran to him and embraced him (possibly not turned off by the son’s foul smell.) Then he celebrated the son’s homecoming with a grand feast! To everyone’s puzzlement, the father never spoke a word of resentment. He was just ready to forgive!

Zaccheus

My next favorite story is that of Zaccheus. This tax collector cheated a lot that’s why he was unpopular in his town. One day, Jesus came to his village. A large crowd surrounded the rock star from Nazareth. For a good view, Zaccheus, who was a short man, climbed up a tree. Being a grown up and a government official, Zaccheus looked awkward and funny among the branches.

At this point, Jesus called out to him. “Zaccheus, come here. I will spend the night in your house.”

Zaccheus was so honored that Jesus called him by name. So humbled and so moved, Zaccheus immediately promised to return all the money he has stolen and to change his ways. It is obvious in this story that it was Jesus who initiated the reconciliation!

Mephibosheth

Finally, the story of Mephibosheth. He was a toddler when his grandfather and father were killed by the attacking soldiers of David. The maid who was trying to rescue him tripped and so Mephibosheth fell to the ground. He got crippled as a result.

Mephibosheth grew up in a place called Lo Debar. In this desolate place, there were no jobs, no food, no comfort and no hope. It was the most hopeless place in the world. One day, King David’s soldiers came looking for Mephibosheth. He was terrified. “King David wants to see you,” the soldiers commanded. “I can’t walk,” replied the trembling Mephibosheth. “We will carry you,” they said. And Mephibosheth thought he was going to be carried to his execution.

Now in the Palace, David treated Mephibosheth like the VIP of all VIPs! A quite unexpected turn of events. A preacher explained that God, like David, will look for us in the farthest ends of the earth and give us the VIP treatment befitting a long-lost child.

How many times does He forgive?

Now, I must admit that I don’t have the authoritative knowledge to make any judgment here. Was the Father fair to his other son, the one who stayed beside him? Why did Jesus honor the known sinner that Zaccheus was? Why did David give special treatment to the son of his enemy? The wisdom of God is a mystery no man can pretend to know. However, it was obvious that both the errant son and Zaccheus humbled themselves. The son swallowed his pride while Zaccheus risked looking foolish.

What I have heard from priests and preachers is that God can forgive us no matter how many times we sin. A verse in Lamentations says “His mercy is new every morning.” It is, of course, our option to sin again but we have to suffer the consequences. When we offend others, what we may get back are fear of retaliation, ostracism, alienation of friends, hurt, guilty feelings, stress, depression, physical injury, many others including state punishment. In case of the above, return to God.

Life is a journey and we are all works in progress. Our human weaknesses may make us commit mistakes, God’s mercy will give us the hope to start again. One mistake doesn't mean we are a failure and life should end. He is a God of second chances because He can see that our future is so much better than our past if we just stay close to Him.

I have sinned and have been through difficult, sleepless times myself. In those moments, I humbly accepted what Pastor Rick Warren wrote, “You never know God is all you need until God is all you have.”


The Kalachuchi Trees

In 2014, the kalachuchi trees in my garden were felled and uprooted by a typhoon. I asked the gardener to prop them up in the hope that they can live again. Today, those trees delight us with their flowers every day.

Yesterday, I came from a Holy Week recollection. The priest’s last slide said: Never give up on yourself…because God does not give up on you.


Coming back to life Coming back to life Reviewed by Robert Labayen on 12:26 AM Rating: 5

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