Dear Fr. Raul,

When men commit crimes and are sentenced, they are sent to the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa. Women offenders, on the other hand, are sent to the Correctional Institute in Mandaluyong.

A few months ago, I organized a group of friends to visit the inmates at the Correctional so that I could say Mass with them.

The visit also entailed bringing the ladies some food to eat, magazines for their entertainment, and spiritual nourishment.

While we were having our meal, a few inmates joined us at the table. Leisurely, they went over the colored pictures of the magazines we brought for them. Some of them spontaneously expressed their wishes as they looked at the colored pictures of cars, houses, beautiful children, and all the delectable food being advertised in the magazines. One of them said, while looking at the advertisement of a beautiful house, “I wish I could buy a house like this for my mother. It is my mother’s dream that one day we would have a house we could call our own.” The inmate continued, “You know, she was really counting on me but I am now here, at the Correctional, I cannot earn for her.” She gave a deep sigh and said, “I wish I could get a house like this for my Nanay!”

Another inmate, while pointing at a picture before her, said, “I wish I could give a car like this to my mother. A simple car. A Toyota. That way my mother will not have to commute, or take the public buses or jeeps coming here to visit me every Sunday. My mother is old yet she visits me regularly, I know how difficult it is to travel to Metro Manila and within the city, especially because she comes from the province. Imagine she comes all the way from the province just to visit me here. She does not have the comfort of private transportation, I wish my mother had a car as beautiful as this.”

Still, a third inmate shared. From the simplicity of her heart, she declared, “Oh, I only wish I could buy vitamins for my mother. She’s very sickly. She hardly has money to buy medicines. If I could buy her vitamins to keep her strong and healthy, that would make me very happy and proud already.”

The fourth inmate at the table wasn’t saying anything. She was just looking at all of us with a quiet but disturbing gaze. I saw through her pregnant silence. I saw anguish and sadness in her eyes, I turned to her and gently said, “What about you, what would you like to get for your mother? What would you like to buy for your mother?” Noticing some hesitation and trying not to be threatening, I lightheartedly coaxed her, “It is just for fun. Let us talk about it.”

Before any word could escape her lips, tears started rolling down her cheeks. I felt she was feeling deeply about this, I wanted to provide her the opportunity to vent whatever deep-seated emotion there was attached to this issue. So, encouragingly, I asked her again. “What do you wish to give your mother?” She closed the magazines and then gave a deep sigh, hesitatingly, she began by saying, “I wish…” She paused, holding back tears,

“I wish my mother had a good daughter.”
Later on, I learned that she was an only child. She went into drug pushing and eventually killed somebody because of drugs.

“I wish my mother had a good daughter.” It is as if she had a genie’s lamp before her and she was rubbing this lamp for her wish to come true at that very instant.

You see, no matter how helpless we feel, we have only to leap into God’s arms. Then He will be so touched, as it were, by our confidence in Him that He cannot help but repay our act of trust with His unconditional fatherly love.

How does God feel about how we relate to Him? How does God as a Father, as a friend, as a brother, feel about the way we put him as the top priority in our lives? How do you think He would feel if He were just the God of last resort?

At the twilight of life, when we have given our very best to our ministry, when we have given our bodies, our time, our talents wholeheartedly for the service of the Church, God is simply going to ask us, “Have you been my child? Have you been my loving child? Have you always lived in the awareness that you are called to empty yourself and be nothing for me? Have you always lived by the conviction that even if you were called from nothing, you are called to be something, you are called to be somebody in My Kingdom? The only way to do it is by love.

Have you always lived by the convictions that I must be first, I must be last, I must be everything in your life?

I’d like to close by quoting a few lines from the late Archbishop of Chicago, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin: “As our lives and ministries are mingled together through the breaking of the bread and the blessing of the cup, I hope that long after I have entered into the mysterious silence of death, you will know well who I am. You will know because we will work and play together, fast and pray together, mourn and rejoice together, despair and hope together, dispute and be reconciled together. You will know me as a friend, fellow priest. You will know also that I love you, for I am Joseph, your brother.”

At the end of the day, let us just try to be saints together.

Looking For Jesus

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