By the outpouring of graces from the Blessed Trinity, the Heart of the Lamb Intercessors (HOLI) successfully completed its Fourth Prayer Conference at St. Martin de Porres Parish in Paranaque City on June 30, 2018. The Theme of the conference was “Come After Me…”  in line with the Year of the Clergy, Lay and Consecrated Persons and our Diocesan  theme  “Kalakbay, Kaakbay, Kaagapay”.

Guest speakers were the Most Reverend Bishop Jesse E.Mercado, DD; Most Reverend Archbishop of Nueva Caceres, Abp. Rolando T. Tirona  PCD, DD; and Carmelite Lay Person Imelda D. Ramos, OCDS. The topics they discussed were  “A Call to Love”“A Call to Mission” and “A Call to Holiness”, respectively.

Bishop Jesse opened his talk with a call to the HOLI members to be happy, humble and holy.  Choose God above all things and follow a lifestyle of intercessions. The Call to Love means being a witness by  living the gospel message of love.  To love is a power, blessing and grace given to us.  We are all called to preach that love by our life.   We cannot give what we do not have. Catholic faith is all about relationship. We are all responsible unless we prove otherwise.

On Bishop Jesse’s sharing of his call to priesthood he  quoted Jesus’ message to the apostles — “Come after me!  It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you.” During his priestly ordination, his mother confided to him that she consecrated him to the Lord while she was still in her womb.  With motherly love and prayer, Bishop Jesse was well prepared to say “yes” to the call to priesthood.  To be a priest, you have to be different, to stand out and strive to do your  best always.  To be a priest is not to withdraw from the world but be immersed in it.  Be like a dough to God’s yeast.

A turning point as he was preparing for priesthood was the 30-day retreat that taught him how to relate, to put oneself in Jesus’ presence and to love Him so he can commit to Him. When you say “yes” to the Lord, you will be surprised. “By God’s grace I can be what I need to be.”

Lastly, among his missions is unity in his presbyterium. Bishop Jesse expressed the need for unity in diversity, recognizing talents and weaknesses.  He shared the core values of the Diocese of Paranaque with “OURS” as acronym:

–       Open to God’s grace and possibility of conversion
–       Unity in diversity
–       Responsibility that’s shared
–       Stewardship,  do acts of service.

All I have done is what’s expected of me, in the end we are all but stewards.

In closing, the Bishop shared some passages  written by Fr. Oscar Romero on what could be our response to God’s call to Love – ‘nothing we do is complete, no confession brings perfection;  we plant seeds, we water seeds already planted, we lay the foundation. We cannot do everything but do something and do it very well. Here I am Lord!”

Archbishop Tirona’s motto on his “coat of arms”  is “We belong to God”. At the start of his priesthood he had understood well that it is the Lord who called him, it is the Lord who sustained him, it is the Lord who taught him and he continues to pray that it will be the Lord who will lead him home.

We are all called to love and love’s mission is to facilitate development for heaven, build others up for heaven or to make it easy for others to go to heaven. Helping them grow in their faith in the Lord and never putting anyone down. What is the meaning of God’s love for us?

There are two major calls in us:  the call to Life and the call to be a Christian – be my disciple.  In the gospel of Mark 1:14-22 there are three action words given by Jesus:  He calls, He teaches, He sends. Come, listen, go! God calls out of love and he wants us to respond out of love.

Effect of discipleship is “Intimacy” which flows from attentive and humble listening, the very heart of discipleship is undistracted listening.  Have the time to listen to God. “Two ears put together make a heart”. St. Teresa of Avila underscores this Intimacy when she said that when you begin your life in prayer you imagine Jesus beside you  but as you progress in prayer you observe that Jesus is no longer beside you but in you. Jesus says “Come dwell in my heart as I dwell in you.”

We cannot understand our Christian mission without discipleship. The flipside of Discipleship is Apostleship which is the sending.  Mission is not only doing things for people but living the mission. Missioning is encouraging and inspiring us.  It is fidelity to the one who sent me. As envoy,  I must speak of the good news.  That Jesus is in our midst.

Be affected by the scripture of Jesus. Let the words of God be your personal stimuli and dwell on those words.  Start and build your day on those words.  Come Holy Spirit be with me in these moments of difficulties. The problem will not go away but you will be given the strength to face them. Carry with you the Holy Spirit. Be a prayerful witness. Pray not only for yourself and loved ones but for your enemies as well.

Effective witnessing is not pedantic but rather, works as a group, seeks out others and participates.  It leaves something good and lasting. “Words can move you but example can pull you.”

St. Therese of Lisieux the patroness of missionaries, wrote “put the love of  God in all the little things you do”.  Be a witness who is affected and transformed by the Jesus event. As St John the  Evangelist said “I have seen, I have felt Him”.

As a final message, in answer to the question of what do I do with my mission to evangelize:

–       Before doing something, be someone. Have the identity as disciple of Christ
–       Live a coherent Christian life as apostle, disciple and children of God.

Lay Sister Imelda Ramos’s talk on Call to Holiness began with a quote from Pope Francis: “Holiness is the most attractive face of the Church”. How do we make it attractive to others?  The key to the renewal of humanity is to revive the meaning of baptism which is to be priestly, prophetic and kingly. A priest offers. In the priestly function of Christ,  he offers and he himself is the victim. The priestly office of the lay is the same as we offer ourselves, the things we do. “And so, worshiping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrates the world itself to God, everywhere offering worship by the holiness of their lives.”

Participation in prophetic office. When God calls, he is not mindful of credentials. “See I put my words in your mouth”. We are called to evangelize; watch for occasions to proclaim the Good News. To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer.

Kingly is one who makes his own body obedient, he serves. Exercises a royal power over himself. Christ first learned obedience. A king learns to follow first.

She also talked about the threats to participation to the baptismal call. These are “Divided will and Disordered Desires” and the consequent harm they bring us leading up to the loss of God. As St John of the Cross prayed,  Lord help us in our struggle against divided will and disordered desires that are not in accordance with the will of God. “When you are in the brink of giving up, that is when you achieve your growth.”

We cannot be close to Christ  because we want to or because we go to church unless there is prayer in our life.  Mental prayer is taking time to be alone with someone we know loves us. Constantly practiced, we will end up looking like Christ.