Setting the stage for a purposeful and meaningful life

“Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.  — Mark 1:19

IT has been 11 days since my trip to the Philippines. I was joined by my sister, Raquel, her husband, Edmund, and their young children, Lauren, Francesca, and Gavin; and my other sisters, Roscel and Rina, with daughter in college, Ann.

On the first week of our trip there, we did outreach work at an orphanage in Quezon City, my adopted village in Taytay, Rizal where I’m building a chapel, and our hometown, Minalin, Pampanga. We brought hundreds of backpacks filled with school supplies and gave funds to local organizations in these areas to distribute Christmas baskets full of canned goods, rice, and other fresh food. It was the most powerful and impactful experience we had during our visit there that up to now, these encounters with the indigent children and their families linger in our minds.

These outreach projects have inspired us to continue our mission as a family of forming young people to recognize their blessings and to learn to share them with others, especially the poor, and indeed, to grow in the virtues of service and love for the people of God. We want them to experience what it is to have a fulfilling life through practices of charity towards the suffering and the destitute. We want them to know that happiness comes not only in having personal pleasures and wealth but also in being able to love and care for people generously and genuinely.

In a nutshell, we want them to become authentic disciples of Christ by not only professing their faith in him but also by putting their faith in action.

I realize that it’s what millennials now are looking for—a genuine faith rooted in the desire to serve those who are underprivileged. Millennials do not only need the imparting of knowledge of the truth, like that of our Christian faith. They also want to have real-life experiences of this convincing truth so that they can be secure about their identity, mission, and purpose in life.

I am certain that my three young nieces and nephew can speak about this contention after coming back from our mission trip. Their mom told me that they could not stop recalling and talking about their experiences of outreach, and sharing them with their teachers and friends. Francesca is even making a movie about their project, which her older sister named, Project Heart Work.

The way to convert people to see, live, and embrace the beauty of the Gospel of Christ is by providing them with opportunities to practice it. They don’t only learn the Gospel values in the classroom; they appreciate them more out there in the world with real people, as they minister to them. It’s even better that they become involved in these lived experiences of charity at a young age. It sets the stage for purposeful life during their adult years.

The Gospel this Sunday talks about Jesus whose desire is to make “fishers of men.” Isn’t this task being passed on to us, especially those of us who are parents and mentors?

Our mission is to form our children and our youth as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ, who lead lives devoid of obsessive self-possession, self-absorption, and self-entitlement, but filled with profound desire and purpose to help those in need and to make a positive impact in people’s lives.

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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.

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