IN my work as a holistic doctor, I see the person’s physical illness. I also look into the psychological unwellness of the person, sometimes the spiritual dryness – so all areas of the person. I see the person as a whole human being, not just a body.

In the midst of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID) Pandemic, we see an uptick of cases of people going through a lot—just like you and me. Sometimes, I really get to talk about mental health or I get to do some one-on-one sessions with people who really need it.

In my work as a seafarers’ doctor, I see a lot of seafarers going through a lot of dire situations. And the first thing that I do is reassurance. I reassure the people that everybody goes through problems. It only depends on how you bear them. But I also help them by sharing three steps, in some way, how to navigate mental illness:

1. Recognize. When you see someone going through that—or if it is you—the first step is recognize the ailment. We cannot heal what we do not feel. We need to identify the problem so that we can solve the We identify what we’re feeling. Is it worry, fear, anger, sadness? And acknowledge them.

It’s okay not to be okay.

Because we grew up with the situation that if you’re showing some sadness, people admonish you, “Kaya mo’yan.—You can bear that. Huwag kang iiyak, Huwag kang iiyak. Don’t cry. Don’t cry.”

I advise my patients to allow themselves to feel such emotions in God’s Presence. I sit with them to search for “Why am I feeling this way?”

Emotions—especially the dark ones—are the windows of the soul.

They reveal our woundedness, our histories. They reveal our desperate need for God’s love.

First, Recognize—so that you don’t run away from them. Let these emotions lead you to the doorway to our God, our Healer.

2. Resolve.Gawan mo ng paraan.—Do something about it.

My body, my mind, my responsibility. Ouch. Very important. What I do is take things quietly. I sit down, I relax.

And I just take a deep breath– inhale, exhale.

The best resolution is just to focus on your breathing. You don’t do anything. Just focus on breathing. Because the mind, sometimes, it’s like a monkey—swinging from one thought to another, never stops, never sleeps.

What we encourage is to switch from a monkey mind to a monk mind—relaxed, still, composed.

And recognize that you are in the Presence of God. Do this—inhale, exhale, meditational prayer time. Just be still and you will be more receptive to God’s Presence.

3.Refer.The third step is Refer. You refer your condition to a specialist, to a doctor, yes–someone who can help you and your family—your friend, your therapist.

But I encourage people to refer their situation to God. We always have this declaration in The Feast: “I am completely perfectly loved.”

One of my favorites, when I am going through stuff, is I sit down and my faith declaration is: “God is with me. God is for me.”

Say that again and again, and before you know it, you’re already feeling God’s Peace.

My point, my friend, is: God is always with you.

Be reminded that you are in God’s abiding Presence. That whatever you are facing, you can face God and offer it to Him. God was in your past.

God is in your present. And God will always be in your future.

And that, my friend, is my one big message today. The one big message for today is:

God is always with me.

In every Feast, this is our God Encounter.

It’s good to be reminded every Sunday that God is always with us. This is our study – the third talk in our Feast series, Exodus. We’ve seen that God has always been with us to this day. We are going to read and be inspired as we reflect on how Moses encountered God in a very special way.

This is our declaration, my friends, during our prayer meeting, during our Feast gathering: We will have that nourishment, that God Encounter, and we will be burning with passion for Him. We’re not going to be burning out of the stress over the hard truths in Life.

Speaking about fire, this is where it gets very interesting – we’re going to talk about the burning bush. Open your Bible to Exodus 3. Let me start it: One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian.

And Moses led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God— Here we go:

I’m going to give you four Reflections, four Messages from this talk.

Here’s the first message:

Let God be your fire and fuel.

Just like that burning bush—it was on fire but it wasn’t burning out—you sometimes feel that you are so physically tired—even mentally tired. Like, after The Feast, “Oh no, it’s going to be Monday tomorrow!”

It may mean that you served very well—it was fulfilling, you did your best. But you’re like, “I guess my best wasn’t good enough.”

There are times when you are emotionally and even spiritually tired. And sometimes, you don’t want to go to The Feast, you don’t want to go to church, you don’t want to have that prayer time.

I urge you to have a self-reflection today and check what, or even who is fueling your life. Saan nangga-galing ang lakas mo.—Where is your strength coming from? Why do you do what you do? Is it out of pride? Is it out of desperation? Is it out of insecurity? Is it your desire just to get the approval of people? To get the crowd to like you, to love you? Is it your fuel—that you have your own little strength?

Or, the alternative: Is your inner fuel, is that Presence of God in your life?

Kayo po, aaminin ko na talaga: Pogi po talaga ako.—That’s why, I will already admit it: I’m really handsome. ☺ Because if you look at me, you’ll see: Presence of God inside.

More than a thousand years later, the Bible, in the Acts of the Apostles, there was fire there— on Pentecost Day. The Holy Spirit came upon the disciples of Jesus – like tongues of fire. Imagine, every person there was like a burning bush – on fire but not burning out. That is a beautiful illustration.

That same anointing is right here with us as children of God. I believe that we are called to burn with passion. Burn with so much life and thrive to be in the place where we can encounter God– to burn with His love, not ours.

If you are with someone today—family, friend, say this to that person:

To burn with love, not be consumed. Because we love with His love, not ours.

When I was younger, I always said, “Jesus in me, loves you. Because if it’s just me, I hate you.”


Message No. 2: Here’s the story in Exodus 3:4:

This is God’s second message for all of us today: God always makes the first move.


Did you notice in what we just read? God initiated the conversation. God is the initiator of the calling. God draws Moses and calls out his name.

God makes the first move. He is the One who is really wanting this relationship. Nililigawan ka ni Lord today. —God is courting you today.

Sometimes, we get this the other way around—this is our image of God, guys—we think God is like Christmas. If you’re naughty or you’re nice—that depends on how God will love you. No! God is not Santa Claus. God i s so much, much, much bigger than Santa. God is not a distant God. He’s not aloof. He is not insensitive to what’s going on with

your life. He knows your every need. He feels you. He cares for you way beyond you can care for yourself. As Sis. Michele Alignay, head of LOJ Pastoral Care, says in her book she introduced earlier, You Can Care for You.

That is the spiritual truth: You can care for you because God cares for you.

He is our fuel and you know what? Even if you haven’t reached out to God, today, we are reminded God wants you. God is reaching out to you.

If it is your first time coming to The Feast, welcome! God has called you to be one with our family. If you have been coming to The Feast, and you feel like there’s nothing going good for you, I don’t believe so. I believe God is working in you. Maybe patience is what God is working on in you. Maybe the fruitfulness that you are waiting for, it’s still happening in your roots. Still happening in your nourishment. It’s not yet time for that fruitfulness. I don’t know. But I know that God wants you here.

Today, I pray that our image of God changes to that of what we just read.

We are reminded that God initiates the conversation. We are reminded that God wants us. May we have that image of God that God is like manliligaw—a suitor— wooing you, courting you to come to Him. Because everything that we need— our health, our happiness, our fullness in life are all with the Lord.

Message No.3: God sets you apart for Himself.

That’s the truth. You are set apart. Let’s go through Exodus 3:4-6– when the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, the Lord said:

I love being a Catholic because we’re very familiar with the physical expressions of reverence. Like, we are so reverent when Communion happens. Because the Eucharist is the real Presence of Jesus. When we go to the Adoration Chapel, we take off our sandals. We kneel before the Blessed Sacrament.

But what does it mean? What does it mean when something is holy—when someone, when a place is holy? Sometimes, we think that being holy is being pious, doing charity, doing good works.

We also have that notion—Like people being too churchy, being too religious, saying, “Hindi ako pwede dyan. Masusunog ako dyan.—I am not supposed to be there. I’ll burn there.”

And we tell them, “Ang holy mo. Hindi ako maka-relate sa iyo. – You’re so holy, I can’t relate with you.”

When the Bible uses the term holy, it means something different. It literally means set apart.

There’s a passage in the book of Leviticus that says:

Did you notice? The opposite of holy is not evil. The opposite of holy is common. Because what is common is for everybody.

But what is holy is for God.

Let that sink in. You need to own this spiritual truth: God has set you apart for Him.

You come from The Feast, and you go home, right? And you put your shoes on the dining table. It’s not supposed to be there. Because the dining table is set apart for what? For eating, for food. Yes? And you do not bring the dishes to your bedroom. Because the bedroom is set apart for sleeping, resting, and for couples, lovemaking. Yes?

The point is, you are set apart. There is nothing special about the ground where Moses was asked to remove his sandals. No. It’s not the ground. It’s Who is on the ground. It’s the Presence of God.

And God is calling you to His Presence. God sets you apart by His Presence. Again, holy is not being pious or doing some good stuff. When you say holy, it primarily means recognizing that God is Present in your life.

Like, that’s why when you do your job, you do it for God. Because God is right there – Present in your job. God has called you and set you apart for that job.

Because it honors God.

Again, God is inviting us. We are invited to open up ourselves to that relationship. And that’s what God expressed in what we read. He said:

This is saying, “I have a relationship with your forefathers. I called them despite their being broken, wounded, sinful, and messed up. But I love them, anyway. I set them apart, anyway. And I am setting you apart, too. And I am calling you too. And I love you too.”

And here’s what happens next. This is funny. After God says He will rescue His people from the oppressive slavery of Pharaoh in Egypt, He says to Moses:

In Genesis, God partnered with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac– even Jacob. And even though they tried every time to do what God wanted them to do, they still failed. But God did not fail. God doesn’t give up. From Genesis now even to Exodus, God doesn’t give up. He now partners with Moses.

Time and time again—even in your generation—even if there have been generations and generations of sins, God still chooses you. That’s how God is.

Moses actually protested:

You know, you could imagine Moses is like a Filipino who (gently) says, “Who am I? Bakit ako?—Why me? Bakit ako ang pinili? Why was I the one chosen?”

No, I don’t think so. Moses was really (on top of his voice) saying, “Whaaat?

Bakit ako? Why me?”

You see the difference? It’s Moses actually saying to the Almighty God, “You picked the wrong guy. It shouldn’t be me!”

You sense his feeling of unworthiness? You see the hesitation?

Moses was saying to God, “You made a mistake! Hindi ako.—Not me. Huwag ako!—Don’t choose me!”

It’s hilarious that sometimes we also do that– when God calls us to do mighty things.

We think, “Sino ba ako? —Who am I? Hindi ko kaya ito.—I can’t do this.” But here is what God told Moses:

Did you get that? You make a note of that today.

In this entire conversation with God, Moses actually said, “No” five times— multiple times. We can relate with Moses– when God calls us to do things, when. God calls us to build a family, to start a business, when God calls us to go into that unknown territory—right into the Pharaohs of our life, will you say: “No. Why me? Who am I?”

But God said, “I will be with you.”

And here’s Moses’s second rejection:

Let’s continue with the fourth message: God is with you forever. God is always with me.

And this is where God introduces Himself. Despite Moses’s “No” to God,

God replies to Moses:

In ancient Hebrew, I am Who I am means

Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.

That phrase is so profound. And it’s so deep. Because it means being present now and being present in the future.

Eternal Presence.

Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh may also be translated as I am Who I am.

But it also means I will be Who I will be.

But it also can be translated as

I will be Who I am.

You know, the truth is God is not fickle.

He is not flaky. But He is for you.

He is consistent yesterday, today, and forever. He is consistent with Who He is. Generations upon generations, and centuries later, in the first letter of John, the writer defines God by His nature and His consistent action.

John says, “God is love.”

Yesterday, today, and forever.

So, let me go back to that mental note that I asked you to do.

When Moses said, “Who am I to do this? I am a nobody,” God told him, “I will be with you.”

Actually, if you look into it, really, Moses was a perfect candidate to save the Israelites. He was coming from the household of Pharaoh, he grew up in the wilderness, and he had a lot of credentials.

But Moses was saying, “I am not that person. Who am I?”

But God did not say, “Magaling ka naman, Moses.—You’re good. I believe in you. You can do it.”

That’s not the God we serve. When we are doubting ourselves, and we say, “Who am I?”

God said, “I will be with you.”

The original Hebrew word used in that statement was also Ehyeh. And God was already giving His name. Moses did not know it yet: God’s Name and God’s Nature are the same.

Some of you, my dear friends, need to hear this reminder, this word very badly. Because, perhaps, you’ve come to the Feast and yet you’re so hungry—feeling so alone. And afraid. And like Moses, you feel like, “Who am I? I feel like a nobody. I am trash. I am unworthy.”

You feel you’re a failure. And you’re worried about tomorrow. And you may say, “No, No!”

But God is telling you, “Yes, I am with you now. I have been with you.

And I will be with you tomorrow.”

Thousands of years later, again, Jesus commissioned His disciples and says these same words– after saying go into the whole world and preach the Good News. The last few words of Jesus to His disciples – extending it to all of us:

“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Because God is consistent, we can trust Him.

Let’s have this point of reflection as we go into worship.

Let’s pause for a while and really reflect on this: God is always with me.

In social media now, when you open it again, sometimes you see the pictures of the past. Yes? Throwback. Timeline. We are the ones fickle. We are the ones flaky. Sometimes we love God, sometimes, we hate Him.

But God is like a suitor: “Halika na… Love naman kita. — Come on, I love you. I will be with you.”

I want you to reflect on this: We’re so blessed to have God in our life. We’re so blessed that what a mighty God, what a faithful God we serve.

Sometimes, we forget. But I want to give you that evidence today. Go back into your life. Really. Go back.

Today is October 2022. If you look at the Timeline, maybe some of you, many years ago, baon sa utang—were deep in debt. But now, konti na lang – already little debts, or already all paid.

Some of you were praying, “Lord, wala akong jowa.—Lord, I don’t have a partner.” Ngayon, buntis na. — Now, already pregnant!

Some of you may be saying, “Lord, I feel so alone.” But now, you are with a spiritual family.

Last year, I fell into depression. Talking about mental health… Because that was a tough year. One of my colleague doctors passed away last April. And then Fr. Mike La Guardia (presiding priest in The Feast) passed away in August.

September, October last year, I was in the middle of that very down moment. Nagtatampo ako kay Lord. — Galit ako konti. — I was sulking, a little angry at the Lord.

But you know what? I can say to you and I can preach to you: At that time, God had always been with me—in my crying, in gritting my teeth, in my hurting. To this day, God has always been here.

I want you to look into your life. The evidence that God has always been

with you is when you really become grateful. One day, you will look back and that is one day you will say, “God has been faithful.”

See that He is faithful. That His promises, ever since, have been true, and will always be true. Because that is Who God is: “I am who I am. I will be Who I will be. I will be who I am.”

And that is His Eternal Presence in us. And His Eternal Glory.

If you actually analyze the objections of Moses to God, they were all about what Moses could not do. But today, if you read about the five responses of God to Moses, they were about what God is doing and what God will continually do. And Who God is.

So, my friends, stop focusing on what you cannot do. Start focusing on what God is doing. Start focusing on what God will continue to do. Go back. As we worship today, you can look back at what Jesus had already done for us. He left Heaven, and became man so that He could reserve us for Himself and call us His. He is welcoming you home again. He died and rose so that we can be set apart, so that we can be with Him forever.

As we worship, may our response be: “I want to know You more, Lord. I want to be introduced to Who you really are. And I am taking off my pride. I am taking off my fear. I’m taking off my insecurity. And Lord, I just want You!

That’s our prayer as we go because we have been praying for many things, we’re saying to God, “Lord, bakit? — Why? Why did this happen?

Or, “Why isn’t it happening?”

Too many prayers. But instead of looking into what we do not have, looking into what we are not, we look at Who He is. Look at God and shift your perspective today.

May I invite you to a prayer time today? Close your eyes, if you will, you can raise your hands in prayer …

Lord, we recognize that we are fickle. We are broken. We recognize that we are shameful. That we are not enough. We recognize that we are hurt, and we have hurt others.

But we also shift our perspective to recognizing who You are. We look to You. Not what we can do, but what You can do in our life. Not our burdens, but we look to You who is the blessing-giver.

Breathe in us again today, Lord. And may our image of You be not a far, far God who looks down on us, but a loving Father welcoming us. And despite our objections, Lord, You always draw us near to You. And despite our rejecting You are still re-directing us to Your Love, to Your Mercy. Oh, Lord, Jesus, we receive that spiritual truth today: that You are for us, not against us. That You will bless us, not curse us. We receive, You, Jesus. We are Yours.

You are always with me. Amen.


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