Oh that ache
That You are causing…
I give my heart.
a permanent void
in my being
that this world
just cannot fill.
How should I respond?
Will you teach me?
Guide me, please,
How should one respond to
a love as great
and as unconditional
as the one you have given me?
A love that overwhelms,
But at the same time,
An endless ache.
A deep longing.
I love you,
In the profoundest sense
That my humanity can make.
On Palm Sunday, I was given the task to raise the palms and have them blessed for our family. So I stood at the entrance of my hometown cathedral, waiting for the Holy Mass to start. As I stood there and waited, my mind took me to that ancient time in Jerusalem… I was there at the stone gates – perspiring and waiting, waiting excitedly for Him! – the one they call the Messiah! He will free us! He will free me! I have heard of His coming! So I flocked as the others flocked, with green palms in my hands, to welcome Him, my King!
We raised our palms to welcome our King, yet we chastised him few days later… We raised our voices shouting Hosana, yet we condemned Him to die a criminal’s death when we cannot accept the truth of His kingship…
His kingship is paradoxical: his throne is the cross; his crown is made of thorns; he has no sceptre, but a reed is put into his hand; he does not have luxurious clothing, but is stripped of his tunic; he wears no shiny rings on his fingers, but his hands are pierced with nails; he has no treasure, but is sold for thirty pieces of silver. [Pope Francis’ homily, Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, 20 November 2016]
I am back in the present, in my hometown cathedral, wearing modern-day clothes. O how fickle-minded am I, my Lord!… A lump was slowly forming in my throat. I tried to suppress my tears and my eyes started to moist. Sprinkles of holy water touched my arms and my face… Other mass-goers raised their palms and began shaking them, as if they were the people of Jerusalem. As I raised my palms, I offered up my sins, my weaknesses, my shortcomings. O my King accept them! Do not shun them away!
The cathedral bell rang, and the priest started to read the opening rites.
I may not say Mama Mary’s prayer with the same depth, conviction, reverence and awe, but she’s very loving to let me borrow some words of it to encapsulate my 30th birthday. I have taken them to heart, I feel, through the prayers of St. Pope John Paul II (who has become my favorite saint and patron):
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.”
[Luke 1:46-47, 49-53]
First, I want to tell you that I love you.
There was a period in my adult life in which I dwelt on the loss of you. For some reason, I kept on thinking of you and then shed tears. I kept on praying why the painful memory of you had to recur. And I now realize that it was the Lord. He didn’t want us to forget that you came into our lives, and suddenly left. Mama had an ectopic pregnancy and you died. This was when events were too painful to bear, crippling us to an extent that we had not made an effort to recognize that a little boy came to our family. Thus, you were buried in our backyard, nameless and without a tombstone. Your memory could have been lost in the oblivion had it not for the Lord’s mercy. You had to be recognized. I don’t know why, but the Lord chose me. To become restless and dissatisfied, and to be haunted by dreams of you. I am still in the process of finding out why, but if the Lord wills it that I will leave this life not knowing, I am thankful to Him that you are being remembered today by your father, your mother and two sisters. You are being remembered and have been given a name. A candle is also being lit and placed on your tombstone, in our backyard, during All Soul’s Day. Personally, I remember you, together with the unborn children, wanted and unwanted.
You could have been a grown man today. Twenty-something. And I’m sure you could have been as handsome as our Papa. You could have his light brown eyes, same as mine; or Mama and Ate’s dark, hazel ones. Your hair could have been dark and straight, like Mama’s; or Papa’s wavy, curly ones (when he was younger; today, he’s sporting a bald head). Oh my dearest, sweetest brother, I could have been your best friend. You could have told me your secret crushes and I could have told you mine. You could have coached me while I was playing softball in high school, and I could have tutored you on Math and English. Together with Papa, you could have warned me about the flippancy of some guys. Mama could have had a young and funny go-to guy. You could have been with me as we cheer for our eldest sister, and have seen her gracefully walk down the aisle and marry a good guy who is now her husband. You could have been a great uncle to our nieces and nephew. But my baby brother, I still envy you (in a positive way). You are there in heaven, beholding the face of our Lord. Please pray for us here on earth, that we will be receptive of the grace to yearn for heaven, and see our Lord face to face.
I love you dear brother. And see you, at the time the Lord determines.