Random thoughts on the new year

Random thoughts on the new year

January 25, 2024

The New year always brings with it a lot of expectations from most of us. We want that all the best happen to us, all our hopes met, our dreams realized. And so we make resolutions, promising to do better this year, to leave behind practices and attitudes that do not inspire and generate life. Instead, to embrace what is nurturing and life-fulfilling.

I heard a friend wondering aloud why the last day of the year seems to bring a certain feeling of nostalgia. I said perhaps it is because we are leaving behind something familiar and entering a year that is still unknown to us. Don’t we feel a tinge of sadness in our heart when we have to part ways with someone very close to us? This is also true even with objects or life experiences that we value so much because it is associated with someone we loved or with some beautiful memories of our life. The entire year was very much a part of us. The 365 days of the year were like a canvas filled with varied strokes of life experiences, some in bright palette, others in somber hues. Colors of various shades, woven together by life experiences and decisions made, make up each page of our life story. At the end of each year, we turn a page to begin another.

Positive experiences and fulfilled life goals will forever be treasured in our happy memory album and the not-so-happy memories tucked in the realm of our subconscious, only to surface now and then as a reminder of what has been. Nonetheless, we look at the past with gratitude in our hearts, strengthened by adversities that came our way.

Although it has always been a practice that resolutions are made at the start of the new year to guide and spur us on through the year ahead of us, I believe that its success lies on the person’s consistently renewing it daily. Human as we are, we tend to let go when things don’t turn out the way we expect it. Prayer and perseverance are the keys. Whether the resolutions concern a personal or others’ well-being, success in relationships, social or material endeavors, it is vital that there is a daily commitment on our part to work for its realization. We do our part and God will take care of the rest.

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Life is a journey towards eternity. As we travel along life’s paths, we encounter people who become part of our existence, fellow pilgrims whose life stories become intermingled with our own. Some may have only appeared on a few pages of our life story, some may have a chapter or more. Nevertheless, whether their stories are short or long, their being part of our life story was never coincidental.

Two of these fellow pilgrims have already reached their destination and have joined the Creator just recently, and I would like to pay tribute to them by mentioning them here.

We have lost two shepherds in a span of four days in this first month of the year. Bishop Ronald (Bong) Lunas passed on January 2, followed by Archbishop Fernando Capalla on January 6.

I met Bishop Bong when he was dean of studies and professor at the Regional Major Seminary of Davao (Remase). I was in Davao from 1996 to 2000 and in charge of our media apostolate while serving as superior of our small community there. The then Fr. Bong invited me to lecture on social communications at the seminary, which I did for three semesters until I was transferred to another assignment. I truly treasured that experience. I did not only share with the seminarians whatever little knowledge and experience I had, I also learned a lot from them.

Archbishop Fernando Capalla was the archbishop when I was assigned in Davao. He was well-loved by the people there. I believe it was also true with the other dioceses where he had served previously. I have many good memories of Archbishop Capalla as a friend and shepherd. A peacemaker and an advocate of justice, he was simple, humble and approachable, very unassuming in many ways but so full of wisdom. In the conversations we have had, his sense of justice and respect for the person was very evident. He told me once that, “one unchristian thing we can do to another is to regard the other person as if he/she doesn’t exist.” That piece of wisdom has remained with me ever since as a reminder to always treat another person with respect, whoever he/she is.

He used to come to the convent and whenever he was home and had time, would always say yes to an invitation for dinner at the convent. I could not forget one particular occasion when our General Councilor came for a fraternal visit. As a protocol, whenever there is a fraternal visit from our higher superiors, we usually bring them to the archbishop to pay their respects. When I called up Archbishop Capalla to inform him that our General Councilor was in town for a fraternal visit to the community, and asked if I could bring her over to greet him, he said to me at once: “why not I go instead to your place and have dinner there, instead of coming here?” I was delighted to hear him say that because the community was also happy to have him around. Needless to say, it was a dinner that was immensely enjoyed by everyone. Archbishop Capalla was very fond of the song “Fernando” by Abba. It came up during conversation at the table that our General Councilor, who was from Brazil, also knew the song. So we ended up singing the song to the delight of the archbishop, who also sang with us.

Bishop Lunas and Archbishop Capalla truly were shepherds after the Lord’s heart. And I am so blessed to have them graced the pages of my life. The words of the apostle Paul to Timothy are a fitting tribute to them who lived their life only for the Lord and his flock. “I know him in whom I have believed, and I am confident that he is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day.” (2 Tim. 1:12)

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