Last July 13, our CFC-FFL missionaries left for Brazil to attend World Youth Day. For each of them, it was an experience of a lifetime!
PUT ON CHRIST
A World Youth Day Testimony by Ina Gasgonia, Live Pure Movement Fulltime Pastoral Worker
As I look back on the past 18 days I spent in Brazil for the World Youth Day 2013, a deluge of emotions, memories and inspirations come gushing straight to my heart. Those were simply the best 18 days of my life to date, NO DOUBT.
The beautiful and kind people of Surui who welcomed us so warmly and made us family during the days of Semana Missionaria. The unspeakable joy of eating Churrasco. The excitement of enduring wet winter for the very first time. The challenge of communicating in Portuguese. The longs walks and dancing samba almost everyday. The magic of basking in the long beaches of Copacobana and Ipanema. The splendour of Cristo Redentor in Corcovado. And last but not the least, the powerful catechesis, the charismatic liturgies and the inspiring co-pilgrims I met along the way which all made the presence of Jesus so alive in these days of pilgrimage.
In each and every waking moment, I felt like I was starring the lead role in a movie with the camera, the lights and the sounds rolling in the background. This experience was simply too good to be true, I often told myself in amazement! Then, just as I was about to ask God why He sent me to experience such wonders, I would hear Him silently whisper to my heart over and over again, “Ina, see how much I love you. Remember, I am God, you are not.” With that, I have said my piece.
Hence, beyond my wildest dreams and expectations, to be sent to the World Youth Day for the second time around is simply an experience of pure grace and pure love from above. My heart is overflowing with gratitude for the gift that is World Youth Day – a gift undeserved which once again changed my life in a deep way through this amazing journey of faith, hope and love.
From the onset, applying for the World Youth Day this year was by itself a great leap of faith. With the big amount of money needed for the trip, I was very anxious at first. Will the ordeal be worth it? I often told myself. But God, in His mysterious ways, had bigger plans, He affirmed me that He really wants this for me. So, in His unique way of being a Father, resources came in incessantly, and before I knew it, all my bags were packed for Rio! From here on, God was already teaching me something about faith – faith is not merely believing that God can; it is knowing that He will.
And constantly throughout this pilgrimage, God affirmed me – why will I be afraid when nothing is impossible with Him? Yes, some days in our lives may be gloomy, but if only we put on faith, our life will have a new flavour, and our horizons will no longer be dark but will be luminous (Pope Francis).
Even without fully understanding what God wants from us sometimes, because it is Him who calls to us, wonders will definitely take place. Just like how He made it possible for me to go the WYD, I learned once again that putting on faith will always bring you more than what you have asked for. In retrospect, it was all worth it. Living in faith is worth it.
Coming to Brazil, I carried with me a lot of things – personal hopes and dreams, prayer intentions for family and friends, and important decisions in life I needed answers for. Along the journey, I was thirsting and yearning for these desires to find fulfilment in one way or another.
But God’s ways are really above our ways, I came looking for answers, only to discover that the one answer I was looking for was just right there in front of me. During the vigil at Copacobana, with the cool breeze blowing on my face, in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, I found the answer to all my longings – Jesus Christ is the answer. In Him alone, my hope is found. And with Him living inside of me, I am free.
Somehow, the newness of this experience revived in my heart the rock-solid truth that Jesus is all I need today and forever. I may not have all the answers yet to the cries of my heart at this point in my life, but it doesn’t really matter now. As long as I have God in my heart, I am filled with hope for the promise of a greater life ahead, and there is nothing that can ever take this away from me.
Everyday my heart will sing, “Lord, I need you. And when I cannot stand, I’ll fall on you, Jesus you’re my hope and stay.”
Gazing at the stunning site of Cristo Redentor at the top of Corcovado, it all made sense to me in a flash why Jesus sent me to the World Youth Day.
L-O-V-E. Love is the ultimate reason for it all. He wanted me to understand what that love meant for my life. All along, I needed the certainty that amidst the pains, fears, and frustrations I carried inside of me, nothing can ever separate me from the love of God. No matter how much I hid myself from the Lord, His love will always find me no matter what. With His arms outstretched welcoming me in Corcovado, I have found home in His arms of grace.
“No one can love you more than God loves you,” these precious words uttered by the priest I received the Sacrament of Reconciliation from nudged the deepest corners of my heart. With all my walls broken down, I don’t need to be afraid anymore. Jesus loves me for all that I am and for everything that I will become. And that is more than enough for me. Christ is my redeemer. With His love fully redeeming and restoring my heart, I can love again.
Put on Faith. Put Hope. Put on Love. Because once you do, you will put on Christ and His presence will fill your life with so much happiness (Pope Francis).
I will never be the same again after the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. This experience of heaven here on earth is something I will always cherish for the rest of my life. My only prayer is that as God has called me to be a Live Pure Movement missionary, may I sincerely and humbly put on Christ wherever I go so that I can become a joyful witness of His love to bring this world a ray of light.