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(Part 12)


Our theme for this year, “My God is now my strength!”, is taken from Isaiah 49:5. As is usually the case, God has a special message and many lessons to teach us through our theme for the year. In looking to what God is saying, we usually would look at a larger context in which our theme verse is situated. This time this larger context is Isaiah 49:1-6.

This is the second of four “Servant of the Lord” oracles. Many identifications have been proposed as to who is this Servant of the Lord. Some say it is historical Israel, or ideal Israel, or an Old Testament historical character, or perhaps the prophet Isaiah himself. New Testament and Christian tradition in turn have seen a fulfillment of these prophecies in Jesus.

For the purposes of God’s speaking to us, we can also see in these verses a remarkable description of the life and mission of CFC--what has happened before, what is happening now, and what will continue to happen.

Intrigued? Indeed. Let us see, verse by verse, what God has to say to us.

Verse 1a: “Hear me, O coastlands, listen, O distant peoples.”

This is addressed to the worldwide CFC family. The Lord is about to speak, and it is important for all our brethren to hear and listen.[1]

Verse 1b: “The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb”

God has His plan for CFC from the very beginning. In fact, God’s plans are from all eternity. His plan comes to pass in His time and in His way. For us, God established CFC in June of 1981.

Verse 1c: “from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.”

In the Old Testament, the name given to someone was a description of what he was destined to become or what his calling was. In the case of our Lord, “Jesus” means “Yahweh saves.” Now God gave us the name “Couples for Christ.” We are first of all “for Christ.” We are to live our lives for him, to proclaim him as his instruments, to bring glory to his name throughout the world. This is our work of evangelization. If you want to describe the work of CFC in one word, it is “evangelization.” From the very start, and even up to now, that had always been our work.

Then we are “Couples.” The couple (husband and wife) is the core of the family, and the family, being the basic unit of society, is crucial to God’s plan for the life of the world. Even as we included the other members of the family in 1993, a major focus is still on the couple. They are the ones who stand in God’s place in caring for the children and building the home as Kingdom ground. What happens in the family determines how family members function in the world. The family is the church of the home, the training ground for God’s people, and the mission base for work outside.

Thus, being “Couples for Christ,” our work is evangelization within the context of family renewal. While evangelization is basic, it is not just proclaiming Christ and bringing people to him. It is also building up the family which is crucial to God’s plan for evangelization.[2]

Verse 2: “He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me.”

Through the years, God has used CFC in the power of His Spirit. As God’s instruments, we have been His sword and arrow, piercing the very hearts of so many people. God has also protected us, allowing our families and our work to flourish.

Verse 3a: “You are my servant, he said to me”

From the very start, we have been a servant people. We serve our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are His instruments. We are His witnesses to the ends of the earth. We are called to a life of service--to God, to our spouse, to our children and family, to our community, to the larger Church, to the world. We exist not for ourselves, but only for Him who called and raised us.

Verse 3b: “Israel, through whom I show my glory.”

As we have served God, especially in our first 25 years, we have evangelized millions of people, saved countless marriages, and strengthened many families. Knowing we are but mere instruments, nothing on our own, the glory has always been to God. Because of this work, many Christians/Catholics who were nominal or lapsed have returned to Christ and now worship him. The light that shines out of many CFC homes proclaims the very glory of God.

So God blessed us and our work tremendously in the first 25 years. We were established in all provinces in the Philippines, and in 153 countries by our 25th anniversary in June 2006 (growing to 160 by early the next year). We were officially recognized by the highest authority in the Catholic Church, the Holy See (Vatican).

Verse 4a: “Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength”

Through the years, we had encountered the opposition of Satan. Naturally, the world belonged to him and we threatened his dominion. This became more intense through the years, as the enemy not only opposed us from without but infiltrated us and weakened us from within. There were infidelities among our brethren, Christ was marginalized by those who led the social dimension of our work, and there were conflicts among leaders in different parts of the world. The evangelization faltered. From 2001 to 2006, our total membership started to decline steadily from year to year.

God warned us strongly towards the end of 2006, by giving us our theme for 2007 coming from the book of Lamentations. Though it was a theme of hope, there was a dire warning. Lamentations was about the profound lament due to the destruction and loss of Jerusalem and the temple. It was due to Israel’s persistent infidelity. God was saying to us that the same fate could befall us. We were given the opportunity to repent and be restored, but many leaders were not listening. The lessons of Lamentations were not being learned. The crisis deepened, and eventually resulted in a split in CFC. That was now the lowest point in the life and mission of CFC. The enemy had succeeded in severely weakening the body, even almost completely destroying it.

With the split, many left the community. Many laid low, deeply disillusioned by what had happened. People began to question whether all the work of the past 25 years had been in vain, whether all the resources we had poured into the work had been uselessly spent.

Verse 4b: “Yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God.”

What happened was of course not desired by anyone except the enemy. But in every cloud there is a silver lining. So God taught us a lot of lessons through the crisis and split. It humbled us, and that is important for a people who have soared to great heights in serving the Lord. It emptied us, making us put our focus on God alone. God was emphasizing to us that we are mere servants, and that our focus should just be on serving Him, looking only to Him for any reward. In fact, He Himself is the reward. If we have God, even when we are at our lowest moments, we are still blessed.

Now, whatever happens, we only seek to serve God. We do what we can, but it is up to God to provide the fruit.

Verse 5a: “For now the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb”

God reiterates and assures us of our call. We are His servants, instruments that He wants to use for His own purposes. He has an eternal plan for us. As we have gone through a period of intense purification, we should now be better formed. God is ready to use us once again.

Verse 5b: “That Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him”

Our prayer in 2007 through the crisis was for God not to discard us but to bring us back to Himself, to restore CFC to its authentic charism, life and mission, after our having veered away. We prayed: “Lead us back to you, O Lord, that we may be restored: give us anew such days as we had of old.” (Lam 5:21). God heard our prayers, and raised a remnant, faithful to CFC’s authentic charism. This was CFC-FFL.

Verse 5c: “And I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord”

Now, with restoration, with lessons learned from 2006 to 2011 (currently still learning), with the virtues of joy (theme 2008), trust (theme 2009) and awe of God (theme 2010) firmly in place, we are once again ready for God’s work, to once again shine through God’s favor. We have been purified, we have experienced suffering that is redemptive, we have been humbled, we are stronger in our servanthood, we are very aware of intense spiritual warfare, we are chipping away on our infidelities, our hearts resound with the call to holiness and perfection. We are now ready.

Verse 5d: “and my God is now my strength!”

God had always been our strength. This is manifested by the great strides in our work through the years. But our infidelities deprived us of the fullness of God’s strength. According to God’s eternal plan for us, He expects much, simply because we are entrusted with His very own divine work. If now we are better formed, properly chastised, deeply purified, then we can look to God being fully our strength. This after all is God’s intent.

Verse 6a: “It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant”

So if God is now our strength, then it is too little just to be His servants. There are many who are called and who serve Him. But it is not just serving Him, but seeing the greatness of our particular call.[3] We are called to stand in the very sandals of Jesus, as we proclaim his salvation throughout the world. We are called to be God’s instruments to win as many souls as possible for Him. We are called to be “like” God,[4] growing in holiness unto the Lord and in the perfection of the Father.

God intends to do His great work in and through us. Expand your vision. Trust in God’s provision. Dare to go where others fear to tread. Look to signs and wonders. Give all of yourself.

Verse 6b: “to raise up the tribes of Jacob”

God raised CFC in 1981. That is too little if we do not attain to being made glorious in the sight of the Lord, as He works in and through us. The devil, if he cannot totally destroy CFC, seeks to just let CFC be another religious group that does not do much damage to his dominion. Such is not God’s intent for us.

Verse 6c: “and restore the survivors of Israel”

God restored CFC in 2007 by raising a remnant, now CFC-FFL. Wonderful as that is, that is too little as we look to what God can now accomplish through a purified and better formed instrument acting in the very strength of God.

Verse 6d: “I will make you a light to the nations”

With God as our strength, God Himself will make us shine in our worldwide work. God reiterates the original call to rapid, massive and worldwide evangelization. We are called to evangelize many peoples, to renew marriages, to strengthen families, to witness to the whole world of God’s love.

Verse 6e: “that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

For what is God’s purpose in all this? Evangelization. So that many souls may be saved. This is the very reason why God sent His very own Son Jesus into the world. This is the very reason why God raised and restored CFC.

* * *

[1] With the Internet, it is now easy for every CFC-FFL member to read this message. So go and spread it around to all our brethren.
[2] Many religious groups in the Church evangelize, but do not work to renew and strengthen the Christian family itself. However, without this, evangelization would have limited benefit for the life of the world, since the family is crucial to God’s plan of salvation.
[3] This is not being messianic, but precisely seeing what God wants to do, and in the mystery of God’s choice, we have been called. We are nothing, but this is not about us, it is about God.
[4] Not like the lie of the serpent in paradise, where he told Eve that they would be like gods (Gen 3:5). That temptation was to have no more need of God, while our call to be like God is to reflect His image and likeness in holiness and to live His virtues.

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