“I Have Seen the Lord!”
A WYD 2016 Sharing by Eloisa Joy Aguila
Mercy is such a beautiful gift – and I have been changed and renewed by this gift. This gift gave me new life. His mercy has redeemed me from my dark past. His mercy turned my weaknesses into strengths, my brokenness into something beautiful. It is His faithful mercy that allowed me to be the missionary I am today. His loving mercy brought me to where I am now and it has forever changed my life. And so this Year of Mercy has been special to me as it speaks of the powerful work and the loving plan of God in my life. The moment I knew that the World Youth Day was to be held in the Year of Mercy and in Poland where the Divine Mercy Shrine is, and where the two saints of the Divine Mercy lived (Saint Faustina and Saint John Paul II), I had this unspoken desire in my heart to be part of this pilgrimage. But since I was already able to attend the past two World Youth Days, I already told the Lord that it was okay for me not join this time around. For me, to go there for the third time was too much. But when God wills it, He will really fulfill it in your life. True enough, God had a different plan. In His loving providence through the generous people in our community and with the help of family and friends, I was able to join this life changing pilgrimage once again.
When God invites you to go somewhere or to do something for Him, He is definitely up to something great. God brought me to Poland to speak to me of things I had to hear, to remind me of things I already know but seem to have forgotten and to strengthen me for the future ahead. A lot has happened to me during the World Youth Day 2016, but let me share to you three highlights that I treasure the most and that I will keep in my heart as a missionary:
This WYD Pilgrimage allowed me to meet my life saint companions. During the World Youth Day, met two amazing saints who revealed themselves to me throughout this pilgrimage. Last July 22, on her feast day, Saint Mary Magdalene revealed herself to me. On a homily, I realized how much her life reflects mine. She was a great sinner. Possessed with 7 devils. And Jesus, in His love for here took it out all and gave her new life. She is known to be the Apostle to the Apostles as she is the one to proclaim to the apostles to Resurrection of Christ. Her life shows that women can be apostles too. She has been forgiven much and that’s why she loves much. She finds joy in suffering because she hopes for the resurrection. Her life speaks so much of how the Lord has brought my heart to where it is today as a missionary and I can’t thank God enough for leading me to her inspiration throughout the World Youth Day. Secondly, the WYD was special for me because of Saint John Paul II. Since 2012, the year my father died, the Lord has been using JP II’s words to uplift me from the pain of our loss. He has been my inspiration to see love as the explanation for everything. From then on, I realized how the love of God is the most powerful force that can change everything in life. It is because of love that we are here. It is because of love that we continue to exist. The whole WYD, Saint John Paul was very present. His saintly life reminds me that I too can choose to live a life of love – seeking to understand His love, growing in His love and sharing His love to the whole world. Like Saint John Paul, I desire to be able to genuinely live out his life motto, Totus Tuus, meaning “totally Thine” or “all Yours”. These two beautiful saints constantly affirmed me all throughout my WYD Pilgrimage – through the prayers I learned, in the churches we went to, through the people we met, in the blessed sanctuaries we visited and in the homilies of our dear Pope Francis.
This WYD Pilgrimage affirmed of my missionary lifetime calling. During this WYD, I was given the opportunity to serve our delegation as a Full Time Missionary. In all our experiences including the long walks, the physically exhausting days, the challenges we had to face as a group, I was reminded of how it is to truly serve others. To serve, in its truest form, means to think of others before yourself, to show mercy and compassion at all times, to desire the good and comfort of others before yours, to understand rather than judge, to accept rather than reject, to humbly share all of yourself to reach out to others, to be there present to help them, to comfort them, listen to them, to pray for them – to choose to love above all. In one of the Catechesis we attended to, Cardinal Dolan said, “Mercy is the love that fills in the gap. Wherever there is a gap, a lack, He wants to fill it with love. Where there is no love, put love and there you will find love.” To be a missionary is to be merciful – to fill in the gaps, the lack with a selfless giving of myself and of the love I have received from the Lord – and this missionary calling is lifetime, whether in full time work or somewhere else where God leads us to serve Him in the future. I am blessed and privileged to be of service to others during our whole pilgrimage. Life is fulfilled when it is lived with mercy – and that will be the better part, that will be the sweetest, the part that will never be taken away from us.
This WYD Pilgrimage prepared me for my married vocation. During the Days in the Diocese, my brother (Kuya EJ) and I were hosted together. I saw it as a time together with each other and the Lord before we both get married (him, on December and me, by next year). It was a special time that God gave the both of us. We were also hosted in families wherein we met different single men and women whose life stories reminded me of how we are all longing for happiness, for hope, seeking for the best in our lives, desiring to feel loved. We are able to build friendship with them, listening to them, sharing ourselves to them and praying for them. Hearing their stories, I was just so affirmed of how choosing God was the best decision of my life. I was affirmed of how beautiful it is to decide to open your heart to the love of Christ. It is true that only the love of God can satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. That beautiful moment when I said yes to Jesus Christ years ago was that same moment that led me to the married vocation I am about to enter months from now. God has filled my life with His love for the past years and I am just so sure that He has prepared my heart well for the next stage of my life. In all of the churches we went to, all the saints I asked for intercession, all the experiences of being able to have confessions and to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament – all the graces and blessings of the World Youth Day – has truly filled my heart and has truly renewed my spirit in preparation for the next exciting months of my life.
According to Pope Francis in one of his messages during the World Youth Day, “Jesus is the Lord of risk, The Lord of always going beyond. He is not the lord of comfort and couch happiness. It is necessary to exchange the couch with a pair of shoes that will bring you to where you have never been yet. If you do not risk, you won’t win.” Life as a missionary is always uncertain but the certainty of the love of God comforts me and assures me that there is nothing to fear. In my life now, there are a lot of risks to take – decisions towards our wedding day, discernment as to where God leads us in my married life, changes I have to embrace, limitation of our resources – but the World Youth Day strengthened my faith to see beyond all these risks. I just have to listen closely to where the Lord wants to lead me. When I hear His voice, all I have to do is to say yes, to take the risk, to have faith and for sure, in His loving faithfulness, He will be there to take full control. When the Lord invites you to experience something or to do something, just say yes. There is no other response fitting to an invitation of love but a wholehearted yes. Pope Francis sent us out with these empowering words, “Do not waste the gift you have received. He has already decided the next step of this great adventure for you.” How assuring it is to realize that the Lord loves me so much and that He has already long planned everything for me – my life as a missionary, my family, the relationships I have, the woman I have become, this gift of being able to experience the World Youth Day for the third time, my engagement with my missionary fiancé this year, our wedding next year, and all other things I have in my life. How exciting life is when lived in the love and the mercy of the Lord. I have been blessed with this great gift and now, it is time to share this gift to others through my life as a missionary. Like Saint Mary Magdalene, “I have seen, the Lord!” during our World Youth Day pilgrimage and now I am called to be a living witness of this great gift, of His love and mercy, to the whole world.