I was brought up in a very religious environment. As a child, I was attracted to the life of St. Francis of Assisi, and dreamed of becoming a Franciscan priest someday. I was even sent to a Catholic high school, where I learned more about Christian values and how to live the Christian way of life. My stay in the Franciscan Seminary in Manila gave me insight that faith alone is lame, and that as believer of the Gospel, I cannot afford to keep my eyes and ears closed to the unjust realities around me where people are very poor and oppressed.
My exposure with the day-to-day sufferings of the poor in Manila led me to question God. Why did He allow His people to suffer? Why is it that the people in Smokey Mountain are extremely poor, while those in Forbes Park are lavishly rich? Why did God allow politicians to loot people’s money amidst hunger and extreme poverty? Why did God allow evil to triumph? How can a God of love permit war, poverty, injustice, and death, to happen in this world, letting the innocent as the usual victims?
With all these unanswered questions in my mind, I began to doubt God’s love and started rationalizing that God must be “dead”. The Biblical God who is ever powerful and loving is not real. Karl Marx was right that God is just an illusion that provides reason and excuse to keep this evil society function as it is. I started to denounce religion, believing in Karl Marx, that it is “an opium of the people”. It was then a turn around that I decided to leave my dream of becoming a priest.
I regarded myself as disciple of “atheistic existentialism” following the famous atheists and philosophers: Jean Paul Sartre and Friedrich Nietzsche. I enjoyed my new-found “freedom”: No God, no religion, no structured morality. Life, for me, is pure existence that ends at the grave.
I held on to this belief for years, not expecting it to ever change. But I met a woman who awakened my wandering soul. She was caring, kind, and very intelligent. Knowing my atheistic views, she tried to convince me that God is real and God is love. She would spend hours showing verses from the Bible or articles from books and magazines to support her argument. Most often we ended up in a “debate” about God and religion.
She was so persistent that I gave in to an invitation to attend a Life in the Spirit Seminar. As expected, there were lectures about God, who Jesus was, the Holy Spirit, love, faith, forgiveness, etc.. But I couldn’t believe in something against my intellect, against my better judgment.
I thought that was all for the 2-day Seminar. But the final activity is something I could not debate anymore. They call it as “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” where I never expected to experience a different kind of thing. During that moment I felt there was an energy that dawned on me when they prayed over me, and I felt somebody embraced me so tightly. Then flickers of thought came into my mind of images I was familiar with, such as the Blessed Sacrament in our parish church where I served as an altar boy, our family attending Sunday mass together, our small altar at home where we used to pray the rosary every 6:00 o’clock in the evening, my classmates in the seminary, and memories of my happy and God-loving childhood. At first, I did not understand my feelings, but later I realized it was Jesus who embraced me — who assured me that I am still loved despite my sins and unbelief in Him. In that very instance I felt unexplained lightness and peace.
From that time on, I recovered my faith in God and do not philosophize anymore. Indeed, my experience in the Holy Spirit is more convincing than any philosophical discourse.
Today, this woman became my wife. Together, we nurtured our faith in a God who truly existed and is alive. We became active members of a faith community, the BCBP. The teachings and sharing we heard help us grow spiritually, emotionally and socially. BCBP became a way of life to us, sharing our time with our brothers and sisters and putting God at the center of our business and profession. This led me to a personal relationship with God and a deeper meaning for my existence. Here I learn to simplify my life, to live each day relying on God’s graces.
Every morning, we have a couple prayer and a regular scripture reading which deepened our trust in God and strengthened our relationship as a couple. For us, even how busy we are, a day won’t be complete without praising and thanking God and asking His guidance and protection.
God blessed us abundantly by giving us a decent home, a cute and healthy son, a source of income for our daily needs and most especially, a loving relationship with my wife.
Before, I denounced God because of the suffering I saw around me. This time, I learned to appreciate God’s blessings which I often took for granted and become even more compassionate to those in need.
This time, the things that bothered me so much are given meaning and I do not question God’s ways anymore. For God said through the prophet Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither your ways, my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55)
Entrusting our lives in God’s hands now, we know for certain that we will live life to the full.