Every Saturday night at six o’clock, the young ministers of our Parish would gather together for a short fellowship as part of the ministers’ Sunday mass preparation. We would read the scriptures in advance then one by one, each minister will be asked to share their written reflections. Finally, we would end our devotion with each one offering a short prayer. Being one of the eldest, I took the cudgel of being the devotion leader. This Saturday was no exception, I just wrapped up the discussion, and as we were getting ready to pray, I asked Dave to begin the ‘prayer string’. Dave is the newest member of the Acolyte Ministry, which is the Ministry I am heading. He is a young boy, only in his second grade, and his father is actually a former Acolyte as well. Surprised by what he heard, he quickly straightened himself up, clasped his hands and closed his eyes hard. After a brief pause, I heard him stammered,
“Lord salamat po sa ginagawa Ninyong… kasalanan sa’min… Salamat din po sa binibigay Ninyong pagkain… Amen!” (Lord thank for doing sins to us. Thank you also for giving us food. Amen).
Realizing what they just heard, the other kids could hardly restrain from laughing loudly. I must admit I was also taken aback for a moment. Why would he thank God for giving him sins? Obviously, that’s not what he meant. But what struck me most was his next words. Why would he thank God for giving him food only? In my mind, I was already processing the many things I have to ask for the Lord’s help. My mother is undergoing treatment for cancer. Our parish priest has been vegetable for more than a year now after a serious stroke. My studies. Our finances. So, many things circling around my mind as I was trying to construct my words. But here was a little man thanking God for only two things, for giving him (forgiveness) in his wrong acts and for giving him food!
On my way home, I couldn’t help but reflect on that brief incident. I recalled a virtue I seem to have failed to exercise lately thanks to the many cares of work, family, and personal matters – the virtue of ultimate submission to God’s providence. As children of God, the focus of our hope should rest on the Ultimate Giver for He sees and provides for all our needs. It does not mean that we should not take forethought and that our lives be without a plan – that’s reckless and lethargic at the very least. But we should not be anxious about it. Anxiety takes the life out of our life. People know you live in the realm of anxious care by the lines on your face, the tones of your voice, the minor key in your life, and the lack of joy in your spirit. If I am to remove a word in the dictionary, it would be: anxiety – because we don’t need it! It has long been documented since early 1980’s that the leading cause of death among Filipinos is heart disease, brought about by poor diet and wrong habits. Behind it are years of accumulated stresses and frustrations.
Dr. Stephen Covey on his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, put it in the perspective of two circles: the Circle of Concern – the things we can’t really do anything about, and the Circle of Influence – the things we can do something about. According to him, as long as well focus our efforts on our Circle of Concern we accomplish nothing, except for the fact that we amplify our own feelings of inadequacy and helplessness. It is only when we work on our Circle of Influence that we begin to create a positive energy that changes ourselves which eventually will influence our surroundings. By working on ourselves instead of worrying about conditions, we are able to influence the conditions. In his book A Journey in Self-Discovery, John Harricharan playfully tells the story of Gideon (yes, the biblical character Gideon) talking to him about caring and worrying. We care because we try to make everything right. When nothing seems to work right, we worry and become fearful, and because of it, we short-circuit ourselves. Napoleon Hill expounded on it in his book Think and Grow Rich. According to him, worry is a state of mind based on fear. It works slowly, but persistently, until it paralyses our ability to think and destroys our confidence and initiative. In the bible, St. Paul seems to have understood this principle thousands of years ago and reminded the people in Philippi not fall prey to the trap. He said “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).
In our Lasallian Business Ethics class, we were asked by our professor to come up with a twenty-five year career and life plan complete with a financial analysis to back it up. As I was doing it, I tried to envision what I would like to achieve in the next years. I realized that there are so many things I wanted to do but I am not sure if my resources will permit me to accomplish them. And so I became worried and restless. If I do it, I certainly would have to sacrifice something else in place of that. If I don’t do it, I may have to live a life dreaming what could have been. The uneasiness lingers in my mind for weeks until that fateful night Dave said his prayer. The simplicity of the heart of this young boy has thought me a valuable lesson. Instead of me worrying in what I don’t have and probably would not have, I should be thankful with what I have now. It may be a small blessing, it may be just the thought of having the food to eat tonight, but at least I should be thankful.
We do not cross rivers before we come to them. While I work for what is best in my life, He works the best for me. I may not succeed as I hoped, but the Lord knows exactly His plans for me. It is for sure something that is beyond what I had hoped for. He has enough in His ocean to fill my pitcher!
Also, I realized, and now see clearer the next texts in St. Paul’s letter: “with thanksgiving”. Instead of focusing on the negative energy, fear, the Circle of Concern, I should overcome them with a thankful heart. Blessings brighten when we count them. It is better to lose count in enumerating our blessings than lose our blessings in telling our troubles. By having a thankful heart, it gives me a positive outlook which makes the burden a lot easier to bear.
The next time we have our fellowship, I should teach the other kids to pray like Dave.
Covey S. (1990). The 7 habits of Highly Effective People, Simon & Schuster, New York.| Harricharan J. (1986). When You Can Walk on the Water, Take the Boat, New World Publishing, Georgia, USA | Hill, N. (1937), Think and Grow Rich, The Ralston Society, USA | Cowman, L.(1925). Streams in the Desert, USA