February 1, 2017
“Reflection and Meditation”
Dcn. Garry Salguero
Last Wednesday, we talked about expressing our praise and worship. Tonight, I will share on reflection and meditation believing that we should also develop a culture that knows how to reflect and meditate to what God has given and told us.
The Book of Deuteronomy is all about Moses reminding Israel about their sins and their transgressions against God, and most importantly, God’s goodness, mercy and loving-kindness. Deuteronomy 8:2-6, “You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. Thus, you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.”
“You shall remember.” Do not forget. It is good to stop for a while and meditate about God’s goodness and faithfulness. As a Christian, as a person, as a ministry worker, when was the last time that you reflected and meditated on where you are now? Where are you going? If one is going to a certain place that he is not familiar, what he does is to stop and ask the people around for directions. It is very important for us that we should know where we are going and where we are now because most of us don’t give enough time for reflection.
I have asked people, “How much time do you give time for reflection? How is the quality of your meditation?” One person answered, “About two to five minutes because when I lay down, I tend to sleep.” We may only be spending a few hours out of a week to experience God’s presence and the sacred things in the Liturgy. Liturgy elevates man to God’s level, not bringing God down to man’s level, which is why the Celebrant says, “Lift up your hearts.” We give value to God.
Many people, especially those who are working, are now immersed in a culture where no one acknowledges that God is the Provider, Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Sovereign in all things. They are busy in their work and because of expectations, they are forced to choose and define their own lives, which affect their meditation time. Employers expect their workers to work at a scheduled time. Parents expect their children to excel in their studies. People are so busy with keeping up with the demands of the hectic schedule that they don’t slow down long enough to remember to draw the full meaning of their experiences.
We should use our memory. Our memories may either help us or hinder us. Man is designed to be reminded by his memory. Memory is the basic process of learning. We learn through memorization. Memories activate our senses and our senses activate our memories. We think of the food that we ate the day before, and it stirs our senses. If we are hungry, our body reminds us that it is time to eat.
There are times that we try to forget our experiences because of pain. We have to remember that we are not to focus on our mistakes, but to remember the lessons learned from it. Whether it is one being broken-hearted and thinking about the expenses invested in the relationship or it may be not being able to graduate and thinking about the parent’s expenses. It can also be someone that we have trusted and who disappointed us through betrayal, abuse or misuse of relationship. We try to forget what had happened, but we ought to remember the pain because pain is beneficial and good.
Pain is there to remind us that we can’t be comfortable at all times. In Psalm 119:71, the Psalmist says, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.” When a child learns to walk, there are times that he will fall and get injured. He is learning through pain. Pain also warns us that there is something wrong in the body. We don’t see what is inside our body, and when we have pain, symptoms show that there is something wrong.
Several months ago, when I was preparing to come to Church, I felt pain in my back when I was putting on my socks. I set aside what I felt and drove towards the Church. However, the pain became excruciating that I prayed that I won’t faint while I was at the Expressway. The back pain went to my stomach. When I arrived at the Church, I couldn’t stand or sit up straight, so I decided to go home, still with the excruciating pain. I had myself checked-up, and the doctor asked me to have an ultrasound because I was positive for kidney stones. I was asked to drink one liter of water before the test, but the pain became more intense. I was referred to a nephrologist, and I underwent another series of tests. I had already prayed and believed that nothing is impossible with God and God will heal me. True enough, the tests showed that the kidney stones were no longer there. Truly, God was in control of my situation.
We do not look back and reflect on what happened to depress us and to make our life miserable. We look back to see how good God has been. We do not look back to have regrets or to torment ourselves with useless self-accusation. We reflect to see how God works in our lives.
In one of our Bible Study, they asked me, “How do you reflect?” I told them, “In our Tagalog liturgy, use the words they say in their everyday lives.” Liturgy is not exclusive on Sundays only. We have said that liturgy elevates man; liturgy puts value to God; thus, use it every day. I told them, “Before you sleep, reflect. Don’t lie down or else you might go to sleep. Don’t close your eyes because you might sleep while sitting down.” Reflect on what happened the whole day. Confess, “Mahabaging Diyos, inaamin namin na kami’y nagkasala sa Inyo, sa isip, sa salita, sa gawa, dahil sa mga bagay na aming ginawa at nakaligtaang gawin. Hindi namin Kayo inibig ng buong puso; hindi namin inibig ang aming kapwa kapara ng pag-ibig namin sa aming sarili: kami ay nagpapakumbaba at lubos na nagsisisi. Alang-alang sa Inyong Anak na si Hesu-Kristo kaawaan Ninyo kami at patawarin, upang kami ay magalak sa Inyong kalooban at makalakad sa Inyong kaparaanan, sa ikaluluwalhati ng Inyong Pangalan. Amen.”
Talking to mostly teen-agers, I asked them to reflect upon waking up the first thing that they would do. In reference to their parents, what was their attitude when they were asked to do something? Did they grumble? How do they react to people they meet in school or when they were commuting? What were in their minds? What did they do that they did not love God with all of their heart? What did they do to commit something against God?
After the Confession, reflect on the Absolution of the Celebrant. “Kahabagan kayo ng Makapangyarihang Diyos, at patawarin kayo sa inyong mga kasalanan sa pamamagitan ni Hesu-Kristo na ating Panginoon, palakasin kayo sa lahat ng kabutihan, at sa kapangyarihan ng Banal na Espiritu panatilihin sa inyo ang buhay na walang hanggan.” We go back to the presence of God. Yes, only God can forgive our sins, only priests can give absolution, but it has to start with us. It is our decision; it is our choice; it is our stand; then, we forget our sins so that we can move on. We forget to erase, to clean ourselves and make a choice not to do the sin again.
In the story of the prodigal son, the son was accepted by his father even though he smelled, but it was his responsibility to clean up himself. The father did not make any condition to accept him. The son took it upon himself to change and to clean himself.
In Psalm 51:1-15, “Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your loving-kindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me… Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me… Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Your praise.” It is an expression of praise and worship. Remember not to condemn ourselves, but to learn from what we have gone through.
Deuteronomy 8: 2 says, “ Remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” What happened in the wilderness? Moses would always remind them of what happened in the wilderness, but what really happened in the wilderness? We can see the summary of what happened in the Book of Numbers. We really don’t pay too much attention to this book, but it is actually an epic travel log of Israel’s journey through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. In Hebrew tradition, the book’s name is called “Bamidmar” meaning “in the wilderness.”
The Book of Numbers can be divided into five sections: journey to Mount Sinai; trip to Paran; wilderness in Paran; the journey to Moab; the wilderness in Moab. In their journey to Mount Sinai, Israel made a covenant with God. God gave the Ten Commandments and they stayed for a year in this place. God instructed them to build a tabernacle. They also made a census, and they were given instructions by God to organize the structure of their community and putting into place the Tabernacle. It was a visual presentation to show that God was the center of their activity and their lives. The smoke that comes from the tabernacle signified the presence of God.
When they would move, the Tabernacle was in front, followed by the Levites, and the tribes, showing that God is always the first in all.
In their trip to Paran, after three days of traveling, the people complained about their hunger and thirst. God provided manna and water. In this trip, the brother and sister of Moses complained against him. In Paran, Moses sent out twelve spies to spy the Promised Land. The spies gave different reports and the people complained about it and they rebelled. They appointed new leaders and they refused to enter the Promised Land. Because of this, Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years, and was told that only their children will be able to enter the Promised Land.
On their trip to Moab, Moses had a moment of rebellion. He struck the rock twice and he was disqualified by God from entering the Promised Land. People had a moment of rebellion that resulted in snake attacks. In Moab, its king attempted to curse Israel. The king hired Balaam to curse Israel, but God told him not to curse but bless the people. At the third time that God talked to Balaam, He told him that nations will be blessed by the Israelites because of their king. Balaam was in the hill, and Israel was down there complaining and grumbling about having no food and water, but God was protecting and blessing them without their knowledge.
The Book of Numbers is a continuous process of the people rebelling against God, with God forgiving them of their rebellion and their complaints and grumbling, and God providing for them. Moses said that all of what they gone through were tests to know what was in the hearts of the people. At the first time that they got hungry, they said, “It is better in Egypt where they had leeks and onions.” I asked myself, is this really their reason for complaining – that they did not have leeks or onions? However, when we read in Exodus 16, we can see what was really in their hearts in their saying, “When we sat, we had pots of meat and we ate bread to the full.” Moses reminded them that the Lord is in control.
In a test, we could say that there should be no pain. Israel entered the Promised Land, why should they pass through the wilderness? They could have passed a tropical forest where there was an abundance of food. They could have passed through the river where there was water. It was a test for the people of God. In this, God was training Israel. This is the same with us. God leads us through experiences so that we can realize that we are dependent upon Him. We put our confidence in His spirit and no longer in the flesh.
The Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as [b]frontals [c]on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
“Hear, O Israel” also means “Listen, O Israel.” The Hebrew meaning is “Obey, O Israel, the Lord is our God.” The Lord is one. The Lord alone is our God. The Lord alone is worthy of our worship, our praise, and our love. Moses told the people to pray the Shema two times a day. He told this to the second generation because there were plenty of idols and they were falling into the trap of worshipping other gods.
Remember that God alone is our God because we will always be tested. God tested Israel in the wilderness, but there was also the test in the Promised Land. In Deuteronomy 8:7-14, “ For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you. “[c]Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become [d]proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of [e]slavery.”
In the land that God has given us, we will not lack, but we will have tests. There are enemies to conquer. There are formidable walls to conquer like Jericho. In Joshua 5:13, an angel appeared to Joshua with a sword and Joshua asked, “Are you a friend or an enemy?” The angel replied, “Neither, but I am the Captain of the Host. Remove your sandals because this is holy ground.” This is a reminder that God’s presence is always with us. An angel showed up to Jericho to remind us that God is fighting our battles. God can do all things possible and favourable. God knows what is best for us.
What formidable wall are we facing right now which we think is impossible to conquer? We think, “Financially, we lack. Physically, we are weak.” The Bible has full of witnesses who face their formidable walls because they were reminded that God is fighting their battle. Gideon had only 300 people in his army but was able to defeat thousands of his enemies. David faced the big armor and sword of Goliath, but used only a slingshot to face and defeat him. Abraham was old when he and Sarah, at the age of 90, had a son. Paul was imprisoned, but was brought to different places to spread the gospel. Stephen was stoned to death, but it triggered the church to grow. Jesus was arrested and condemned to die, but He delivered us from bondage and sin. Remember, God is in control of our lives.
At the Last Supper, on the night before He died for us, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread, and when He had given thanks to You, He broke it, and gave it to His disciples and said, “Take eat. This is My body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of Me.” He took the cup of wine, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them and said, “Drink this, all of you. This is My blood and the New Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins, Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of Me.” We are not only eating mere bread and drinking wine, but we are reliving the goodness and the faithfulness of God. God is good all the time.
Joshua copied Moses. He did not throw away all the principles. Joshua was a new leader. He knew three things which were God’s instructions. First, he sent spies like Moses and they were able to enter Canaan. Second, Joshua crossed the Jordan River just like Moses crossed the Red Sea. Lastly, in the last few chapters of the Book of Joshua, Joshua reminded the people of God’s goodness so that they would have hope and to be encouraged.
Remember, God can do all things possibly and favourably for us. In God’s faithfulness, He is with us even in dark moments of our lives. Even if we don’t know it, just like in Moab where the people were grumbling and complaining, God was doing something in their favor.