Toda raba Adonai! (or “Thank You, Lord!” in Hebrew). After seven holy weeks in the Holy Land, my heart is bursting in praise and thanksgiving. What a journey it has been, indeed! Such precious gifts God has given to me and my inspiring mission partner, Teny Mardo, in this mission adventure: one, the privilege to serve our modern-day heroes – our OFWs; second, the chance of a lifetime to see, hear, smell, taste and feel Israel – where my God became man; and finally, the life-changing Jesus experiences in the people, places and circumstances that God led me to. By bringing me to that side of the world, God blessed me with countless good memories, and here is my thanksgiving prayer for seven of my favorite experiences:
Thank You, dear God, for every Holy Mass in the Holy Land where I experienced each time the biggest miracle of receiving Your precious body and blood. To be in the places where You were born (Bethlehem), where You grew up, where You spoke, taught and brought healing (Nazareth, Capernaum), where You walked on water (Galilee), where You multiplied the bread (Tabgha), where You suffered, died, and rose again (Jerusalem)– and to receive You in Holy Communion in these places are the most sacred moments for me.
Thank You for the beautiful opportunity to serve the Church, through the Philippine Chaplaincy in Israel. This is truly Your work and Your grace has made all things possible for us to accomplish this mission assignment in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. There was no one there from CFC-FFL, but I am very grateful for this new experience of working and serving with our priests, religious brothers and sisters, and our hardworking migrant workers. You have deepened my appreciation of the heroic sacrifices our OFWs make for the love of family and for their great love for You. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit that has blessed our every activity – Liturgical Bible Study sessions, Sarap Maging Babae teachings, Bongga Ka ‘Day event, meetings, one-to-ones, pilgrimages, fellowship and get-togethers.
Thank You for the friendship and inspiration of the many saints whom I know interceded for so many of our prayers – Mama Mary, St. Therese, Don Bosco, St. Francis, St. Joseph, St. Anthony, San Lorenzo, and most especially my patron saint – St. Mary Magdalene. I believe my good friend, St. Mary Magdalene, made sure I got a glimpse of her hometown in Magdala and the rare chance to enter this majestic church in her honor in Jerusalem. Thanks to her for reminding me to constantly proclaim the same good news she carried on that joyful Easter day: Jesus is alive!
Thank You for bringing me to Mount Carmel. We were on our last week in Israel and You rearranged our itinerary such that we suddenly have to make an unplanned stop at the Church of Stella Maris in Mount Carmel. It is the same Mount Carmel where Elijah proved that You are God and no other; where the congregation of the Carmelites began, and then the devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. My parents got married on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel – July 16. This year, they are celebrating 40 years of marriage. My brother was born on July 16 too. In my heart, I know that it is our Lady’s gift that I should be able to say a special prayer for my parents and my brother in that beautiful church on Mount Carmel.
Thank You for the quiet time in Tabgha. As I looked in silent reflection at the Sea of Galilee, I can imagine You walking on those waters. What I did not expect was Your affirmation: “It is I. Do not be afraid.” Seven simple words. And it was everything I needed to hear. Thank You for answering the questions in my heart and for bringing calm to my ‘storm’. Because You assured me that it is You, I can walk on water too.
Thank You, God, for the gift of vocation to our priests and religious brothers and sisters. Thank You for the chance to serve with them, to talk, walk and eat with them, to hang out and have fun with them, to pray with them, to learn from them and to be blessed by them. These constant interactions with different priests, religious sisters and brothers have increased my appreciation of the gift of vocation. As I thank You for their vocation, I pray for them too.
Thank You for enriching my life with new friends who has touched me deeply by their sincerity, sense of commitment, and overwhelming thoughtfulness. Thank you strangers who have been kind, and for those who, after seven weeks, are no longer strangers to me. Thank You for blessing our relationships with the people that we serve and the people that we work with. May we grow in Your love.
I have been blessed beyond measure, and it is simply because God is so good. It is not a reward for any good I have done. It is because God wants to do good things for me. As I have been blessed, make me a blessing to others O Lord. As You are forever good, make me good like You.
May everyone who reads this believe the same truth that You are eager to do many good things for them too.
To my friends in Israel, “I give thanks to my God each time I remember you, and when I pray for you, I pray with joy.” (Philippians 1:3)
Toda raba, Adonai!