ELTON and Rosie finally had their church wedding last week. It was a beautiful and down-to-earth ceremony with few relatives, friends, and members of their Charismatic community. At the reception, one could feel their profound gratitude and joy as they shared experiences of faith and love.
Last January, Elton and Rosie lost their two-year old daughter who was sick with cancer. It was the most heart-wrenching ordeal for them. No words could soothe their wounds. No presence could completely heal their grief. However, amidst this experience of a deep lost is the loving support of a small Christian community who continues to profess faith in Jesus Christ. Elton and John, the doctors and the nurses, or the prayers of the community may not have saved their child from death, but the couple has found solace in the genuine faith and care of a Christian community.
At times, it’s not the triumph or the answered prayer that keeps us strong in faith, but it’s the witness of an individual, a family, or a community that continues to believe in Jesus and to live this faith joyfully despite life’s trials and tribulations.
I experience this also last Wednesday with a simple and humble Salvadoran woman who waited for two hours to take me out to lunch. She had been longing to do this for me to show her deep appreciation and love. Twice, our appointment canceled, but this time it happened. I could feel her excitement and joy. She was extremely elated that she could take her pastor out to lunch.
As I sat with her, I could not help but notice her faith and devotion as a Catholic woman. She shared how happy she is to have been part of a parish community where she feels nourished in her Catholic faith and where she feels the love of a second family. “It’s my seventy fifth birthday on Sunday, Father. My children want to bring me to Ensenada, but I’d rather spend my birthday with the community,” she said. “Let them take you on this family trip,” I told her, “and then come to the later Mass on Sunday.”
This woman has highly impressed me with her faith and humble bearing. She has grounded me in my true motive as a priest, which is to keep serving people like her who need to be strong in faith and to be affirmed with love.
“Who do people say that I am,” Jesus asked his disciples. They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the prophets has arisen.” Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.” Peter’s answer came from a deep encounter with God, not from intellectual pursuit. It’s the kind of faith that brought the Good News to the ends of the earth, the kind of faith that built up the Church.
It’s the same thing for Elton and Rosie and their small Christian community, and for my humble 75 years old Salvadoran parishioner. It’s their simple and genuine faith, their personal encounter with God, that inspires many people to believe in Jesus, the Anointed One.
Absolutely, many needs to know and understand better their Christian faith, but ultimately, it is the heart of a Christian that is filled with love for God and others that would bring another person back to God.
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Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas attended St. John Seminary in Camarillo, California and earned his Doctor of Ministry in Preaching from Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri. For twenty years, he has been in the parish ministry of large multi-cultural communities. Since 2002, he has been the pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Los Angeles. Please email Fr. Rodel at [email protected].