The Season of Advent is quickly coming to a close. Last Sunday, Rex gave a talk at our parish for an event called XLT. XLT is short for “exalt”, which means to highly praise. The night started off with a couple praise and worship songs. Then following Rex’s talk, our pastor processed in with the Blessed Sacrament for a time of Eucharistic Adoration. Below is what Rex shared:
XLT December 2016
The Ultimate Gift
Take a moment and reflect on this Up to this point in your life- what is the gift you cherish most or is most memorable? [Silence] Now ask yourself, DID GOD KNOW YOUR HEART NEEDED THAT?
Good Evening! My name is Rex. Some of you may know me better as “that guy” with Rachel or Rachel’s husband. Before I begin I would like to thank Fr. Jim for the opportunity to share a part of my witness- my walk with Jesus and how He truly has been, and still is, the greatest gift I have ever received. I can see a look of surprise on some of the youth’s eyes, “Wait, what about Rachel?”
She is a direct outcome to how I’ve chosen to respond to this gift of Christ.
How I’ve responded to this gift
Some background. I am the youngest of four children to Filipino immigrant parents: a hardworking mother and a family-focused, sacrificing father. As for my siblings- I have two ‘street cred’ brothers, as I’d like to say and one very astute sister. There’s 12 years between my older brother and myself.
It would be safe to say that I have observed many good and bad things growing up with my family.
My parents presented me with the gift of Faith as an infant when I was baptized and growing up signed me up to go to Sunday School and youth group. Through the years, I thought of my Catholic Identity only to be on Sundays, Easter, Christmas, and when my parents made me go through Reconciliation and First Communion. Very much a ‘surface faith.’ Then, going through the ‘drama’ that is Middle School and High School (literally, I was in Drama Class in MS and HS) my Catholic Identity evolved, and still continues to grow and mold my life through the gift of Jesus, my God and Savior. .
As a middle-schooler, I attended the Youth Migrant Project in July of 1999 not expecting to encounter Jesus. I know the ministry of YMP has also touched many of your families, some here tonight. But boy that week changed the course of my life. The joy I had received from serving others was very much out of this world. It wasn’t just a moment in time that converted my heart (cause my conversation happened over a course of time and with life experiences), but it was a moment in time that God had spoken to me (through others and the experience) and said, Jesus is here [strike heart] and here [point] (among my brothers and sisters in Christ). He is with you. He has been with you. Serve Him. Will you let him enter your life? From that moment I never turned back and tried, when being aware of the gift of faith, to live it out the best I could.
God Very Much Knew My Heart Needed You – Needed Jesus [point to crucifix]
The choices I’ve made to unwrap it
On this 4th Sunday of Advent, I want to point out the power the Advent Season has to really impact your life. This season where we have time carved out to reflect and prepare a space to receive the amazing, awe-inspiring, indescribable, unchanging gift of Christ.
Once I made my choice to follow Christ, although I do so imperfectly (thank God for the Sacrament of Reconciliation), I chose to prayerfully discern the call to priesthood- after 2 years of my life devoted to that, Rachel and I began dating.
We received the Sacrament of Marriage in July 2010 and I was given the gift of being a Husband- it was on this day our journey began as a family.
When many see a young married couple, natural thoughts and questions arise, when are they going to start having kids? As if it were a guarantee. Jokes and references were made all throughout our wedding preparation and process but nothing could have prepared us for our family dynamic. Don’t get my wrong; children are the best gifts on this side of Heaven. So it is with absolute wholeness and God’s grace that I can happily share with you all tonight that Rachel and I have been blessed with eight of those very gifts after 6 ½ years.
After two years of being married, we had many great joys to celebrate- being a part of this faith-filled community, travel, life, friends, and especially reflected on when our family would be blessed with a child. It was in August 2012 that we conceived our first and I was given the gift to be a Father. I recall the time I was told about Casey. Rachel’s back had been hurting for a week straight and it was very odd and unusual. That day began just like any other for me- I went to work with the knowledge that Rachel had a doctor’s appointment to check out why she was having pain. That afternoon I received a call from a tear-filled Rachel, “the nurse told me I am pregnant.”
I cannot begin to describe to you the intense wonderment that came over me; I had of Hopeful Joy. However it was days later that I came to a sharp realization that we may not carry Casey to full term because of family history with pregnancy loss. So I knew that I had to prepare myself for what was to come. I had to be there as a rock and stronghold for my spouse and family.
When the news arrived that we would miscarry; it was heartbreaking, very. Even so was witnessing the mother, my wife enter into this world of grief. My world was turned right side up. My mind was racing 75 MPH – Were we ready for this gift?
You see, our world and culture today tells me this, that this gift I have been given doesn’t truly exist because my arms are empty, that I am no father, that oh that sucks, we just need to try again. The truth is- there is a whole lot of room when you enter grief to forgo the gift that God gives us- the gift of Jesus. I can say with certainty that there were dark times where I didn’t really care for that gift, that I was angry. BUT brothers and sisters, it was because of the Gift of Christ that led me through and out those dark times in order to lead my family. Because of his life- the path became clearer- the sacraments, reconciliation, Eucharist. To be honest it wasn’t until our third child, Catherine in 2014 that I began to grasp, I am a father and unwrap what that sincerely meant. The reality was that it was this precise gift of Jesus that changed my world, our whole world.
I have been, hands down, able to appreciate these eight gifts so much more by accepting the gift of Christ and his perfect love.
God Knew My Heaet Needed You
What life has been like because of it
My life has never been what I imagined it to be because I chose to open a gift that is life changing- the gift of Jesus and his perfect love.
Life has been all about seeking, above all things, to do God’s Will above our own. Though this is a cross that I carry, you have your crosses too. God has been working in my life just as he has been working in yours- in big and small ways. Anyone of you in the pews could be standing up here sharing your story too. Some may be called to speak to large crowds while others may be called to share your faith with whomever you encounter – perhaps in your own family, school, community, or sports team. I shared this witness with you tonight as testimony that this Church is true. That it is through Him, with Him, and in Him, we are made whole. There is hope and goodness in our life.
Pause for a moment and just reflect. Our heavenly mother, most pure, Virgin Mary was given the gift that would be a light to the world. That would be the source and summit of our faith. Every year- we are given this moment. This chance. Every Advent Season to prepare our homes, our hearts, our minds, our lives in order to receive Him.
We are a gift. Our life is a gift to another. The life of your friend who shares laughs and tears with you. The life of an author who has written your favorite book or manga and shares in your imagination. The life of that student that could use a smile from you to share in a moment that “hey I acknowledge your existence, what’s up.” The life of a parent who wants the best for you and shares in your growth to “adulting”- embarrassing times and all. The life of a savior, who – in all infinity – knew of our sinful natures, came down to be with us 2000 years ago to share in our journey to salvation. A savior, who in all knowledge and wisdom, makes himself present every single day, every moment…
Tonight we have a moment to share in that gift, for Jesus will be here. In the Advent Spirit, resolve right now in your hearts- make the preparations to encounter Christ in a whole new way. Open your hearts to him because
God Knows Our Hearts Need Him