I give thanks to my God always, remembering you in my prayers, as I hear of the love and the faith you have in the Lord Jesus and for all the holy ones, so that your partnership in the faith may become effective in recognizing every good there is in us that leads to Christ. For I have experienced much joy and encouragement from your love because the hearts of the holy ones have been refreshed by you, brother. Philemon 6-7

The joy of being with our brothers and sisters was so great that it was almost touchable. I am starting this blog with the verse from Philemon that we received when I took the step of Welcome and Discernment. It summarizes everything that I felt during this weekend. I was not expected to be there; however, God’s plans are always higher than ours. Thanks to the Lord’s providence in such an unexpected way, I was able to come to the national gathering! I knew it was God’s plan for me to experience such communion with God and my brothers and sisters. I felt this JOY that was overflowing! Meeting everyone for the first time; yet, feeling like I knew them already. Feeling a connection that is beyond our visible realm but that comes from God. This JOY resonated in me and truly lighten a new fire in my heart. My heart has been refreshed and enkindled by the Holy Spirit and by YOU!

When I came to the gathering, I knew I was ready to make the first step of welcome and discernment. I knew I was exactly where God wanted me to be. With JOY, I took the step of welcome and discernment. It was also a step of Commitment in my mission as a disciple of Christ. As Father said it in his homily on Friday night, we have what the church needs right now: That JOY of the Gospel. No wonder Pope France wrote an Apostolic Exhortation with that exact title: Evangelii Gaudium! As Pope Francis said in THE JOY of the Gospel, “being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place.” The Joy that we share comes from Jesus’ Love for us! I know that I have been touched by our Lord’s love and mercy; and, this why I left everything to follow him. When I meet our brothers and sisters of the Emmanuel Community, I can see that same JOY. The same joy that pushed the Samaritan woman to scream that she has met the Messiah, the One who promised to quench her thirst forever. Or, the joy of the one who was healed by Jesus. Even when Jesus told him not to tell anyone; He could not contain his joy. He left praising and telling everyone what Jesus has done for him! This is what I encountered this weekend! It felt like being up in the mountains at the Transfiguration. The Joy of encountering Jesus as our Lord and God! I wanted to say like Peter: Let us all stay up there! But God whispered in my heart… We have work to do, my daughter! I knew better. The Transfiguration was an amazing experience that was meant to keep the closest friends of Jesus strong in the Faith. Unbeknownst to them, they were about to face the passion, death, and resurrection of their beloved Friend, Jesus. The Transfiguration was meant to be a taste of Heaven so they may recall this sacred and divine experience in their darkest moments. How ironic, that Santa Cruz became that for me as well! I could live there in this perfect union with God and my brothers and sisters until the end of times. However, as I was reminded by God through one of our priests in the retreat, this is not what this is about. We must come down the mountain. Experiencing this sacred moment is meant to make us stronger in our Faith and Love so we may keep the faith in our own passion, death, and resurrection in this life.

How hard it was to leave that mountain! Funny enough, the mountain was in “Santa Cruz”: HOLY CROSS. I think most of us can relate. How hard it is for all of us to leave such holy experience and come down to the realities of our lives. Yet, we have been enkindled so we may go back to the world and bring them the light of Christ. As we have heard it over and over during this week, The Lords wants to light us up so we can set the world on fire. Oh! how HE wishes that it was already burning. (Luke 12:49) So dear brothers and sisters, We got work to do! That blazing fire that we were in the mountain is now spread all around the United States. Let us keep it alive and burning by keeping our commitment of praise, daily mass, adoration and acts of compassion. Our pillars are really the answer for us to be the light of Christ to the world. Even if we feel that our light is small, we can light up the person next to us. Let us bring that divine encounter to the world, one person at a time!

I am keeping each of us in prayers! As we exchanged in the retreat, I want to say it you as well: YOU ARE GOD’S GIFTS TO ME… each of you, has brought me joy and encouragement in my own calling and I am thankful for YOU! I am not the best photographer, but I took some pictures of this spirit-filled weekend that I wanted to share with all of you! I pray and hope that I was able to capture a hint of the overwhelming love and joy in my sharing and the pictures!

With love and joy,

Mahalia (FL)

  1. Thank you for this beautiful testimony! It as a joy to share this special moment with you at the National gathering. God is good!

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