Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Preaching the name of Jesus

It's late Sunday morning, and I'm making my way across the cathedral parking lot, past all the tents of religious goods, past all the "regulars" - the community of beggars who daily stand outside the church selling little candles for visitors to purchase. Suddenly I'm stopped by a striking young woman carrying a baby on her hip in a large piece of cloth slung over her shoulder.

Daisy and Norma, two of our cathedral friends.
"Gutom" - we are hungry - she says, motioning to her mouth with what must be the universal sign for food. As she guides me down the alleyway of the market to a small food stand, I realize that it is no longer just one woman but two...three...four women with two small children and two infants.

Waiting for the six cups of rice and six small fish to be placed in plastic bags, I remind them to thank the Lord for the food that He is providing. I tell them that I am a Catholic missionary and proudly recite the Visayan phrase I've been practicing: "Si Jesukristo nahigugma kaninyo - Jesus loves you!"

St. Augustine Cathedral in the early morning.
In response, I am met not with smiles but with slight confusion and disinterest. How do they not understand this simple phrase? I wonder, especially here in the market surrounded by thousands of rosaries, religious artworks, and statues of Jesus and His Blessed Mother. So I try again. "Nag simba mo? Are you going to attend Mass today?" More confused looks. Finally I bite the bullet and ask a question that we so rarely ask here: "What religion are you?"

"Islam," one of the women responds. Ah, now I understand.

"Catholic missionary ko. Ang akong Dios si Jesukristo - My God is Jesus Christ. And the rice is from Jesus."

There is power in the name of Jesus. Here in the Philippines, it's not often I have the chance to minister to someone who has not from her earliest childhood heard and been taught to reverence the name of Jesus. And so I forget what a privilege it is to know Him and to speak His name.
My God is not a far-off deity, but a loving Father and Friend Who provides even a breakfast of rice and fish to His hungry children today, just as He did 2,000 years ago.

"They saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, 'Come and have breakfast.' Now none of the disciples dared ask Him, 'Who are you?' They knew it was the Lord." - John 21:9,12

I pray that these women and children would also know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it is the Lord.

"Let the children come to Me" -- a beautiful stained glass in the cathedral.
"Therefore, God has greatly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." - Philippians 2:9-11