BY TESS HALILI
My Spiritual Journey
I had my personal encounter with Jesus when I turned 24. I already had my two daughters by then when my father asked me to attend a Bible Seminar held in our parish with my husband. This is when my spiritual journey started.
From then on I told myself that I would continue to serve Him. I attended a series of seminars given by Bro Joe in the Philippines, then became equipped to conduct seminars in our Parish. Our parish priest, Bishop Yniquez of Our Lady of Fatima in Valenzuela; had given me the position to head the Education Ministry. We were able to create 36 BEC groups within the parish and these communities were continuously learning, sharing and serving the faith communities in the parish. However, even though I was serving God through evangelisation I could still feel emptiness inside me.
In the year of 1988, we moved to Australia. I tried to look for a faith community to join and eventually we were able to start a small rosary/visitation group consisting of filipino families (Meneses, Puse, Nicolas, Lopez, Cleofe and Lapid Families), but even after all this my relationship with my Lord was still too shallow…
For me He is a God of conditions, I have to serve Him to get what I am praying for. If I make a mistake or fall into sin I felt that I had to be punished, that was my idea of God. Problems, persecutions and challenges were all punishments that came from God. In spite of that, graces continued flowing to unveil His goodness to me little by little, until family cenacle groups grew in numbers.
Slowly my idea of God changed a bit, he became my King and I His servant. That’s why I never ceased serving Him, because for me He deserved to be served. During this time Bro Joe became a frequent guest in our Family communities here in Sydney, Australia to conduct spiritual talks and retreats.
Over time the things that I had been doing made me more curious and confused, almost twenty years had passed yet I was still in doubt and fear over His goodness. I recognise now that nothing had changed about my attitude as I remained to be the same judgmental and proud person.
Around 2009, my two daughters left home – my youngest daughter got married and my eldest daughter moved out to live on her own. It was a big transition for my husband and I, my husband was not able to cope with the emptiness when his two daughters left home and he became prone to sickness, was diagnosed with diabetes and nearly became blind from retinal detachment. Because of the changes in our situation as parents he started to become depressed, out of all our trials this proved to be one of the most difficult times for me and it was during this time that my spiritual dryness started.
I could not, and did not pray anymore, I felt ashamed of myself and to God. In the presence of our religious communities I put on a mask, but deep within me I was struggling to pray. I went to confession and the priest advised me that the only solution for spiritual dryness is to pray, I was so confused.. how am I supposed to pray if I could not pray?
After a while, I would just open my mouth and say to God, “Lord, please help me to pray.”
In 2011 my mother passed away, this caused a lot of pain, grief and emptiness for my family. My father became so lost it caused a rift among my siblings, our family became disunited when my mother left us. After the “babang luksa” (end of mourning), I went back here in Australia with a heavy heart. I continued to do my usual way of serving God; holding seminars and retreats… yet deep inside me I was still suffering from spiritual dryness.
The next challenge then happened, my relationship with my faith community members became chaotic. Never-endless bickering, feelings of insecurity and negativity from one person to another ensued which resulted in me feeling that I had lost my credibility. But I did not give up, I continued doing my “thing” for the sake of doing it, and my pride.
The year of 2013 was the biggest blow in my journey, this time with my family relationships. My youngest daughter with her husband moved to Hong Kong and that left a great vacuum within me, my eldest daughter was facing a big dilemma and finally my relationship with my husband was in crisis. Finally I broke down and in front of Mother Mary I screamed and asked her, “Why are you doing this to my family? You promised me that you would protect the relationship of the families who honoured you?”. Tears of frustration rolled down my face and I knelt and kept silent… I heard her voice within me and she said, “It has to happen”. I was so confused after hearing those words, I remember kneeling again as I turned deeply in to prayer. Alas!!! I was now praying. Mother Mary helped me to embraced the pain and sufferings, just like what happened to her when she saw her Son Jesus when He fell on the ground with a heavy cross on His shoulder.
I pondered these words in my heart and kept repeating them within me. “It has to happen, it has to happen”…. Not really knowing what would happen next. But this was the start of me deeply PRAYING AGAIN.
I decided to leave my job in the beginning of 2014, I stayed home and all I did was focus on my role as a wife, enjoy solitude and pray while my husband was still at work. Until one day during May 2014 Bro Joe rang me and asked me to skype with him, he was encouraging me to continue my spiritual journey with the Divine Indwelling. Although I had heard of these teachings during his visit to Sydney in 2011, I did not take it seriously. However this time Bro Joe was patient and persistent, he would be on skype with me almost everyday for two hours to share his wisdom and knowledge. That was the start of my transformation and finally my idea of God had changed. For me he used to be a God of conditions, but through Divine Indwelling he unveiled His presence within me… his presence unveiled that He is Love, that His love is unconditional; he revealed to me that He is not only a King but He is also my father and daddy! That I was created in His own image and likeness, that He is unlimited, omnipresent and all powerful.
Through my sessions with Bro Joe I could finally see the overflowing graces happening within me and I was able to finally acknowledge that GOD IS DWELLING INSIDE ME, my shattered SOUL slowly and surely became whole. For God told me “I am His temple, His Divine Indwelling.”
I started sharing my experiences with my brothers and sisters in the community and how Divine Indwelling gave back my life. It became contagious for those who opened their hearts and minds including my husband, my two daughters and my son-in-law. MY WHOLE FAMILY IS NOW IN THIS MISSION!!!
Nowadays challenges, tests and trials still arise, but now I understand that these are just situations – that God is calling me back to Him… WITHIN ME.
“Help me to see you in the hearts of others and to see the reflections of you in all the things that you have made” – Divine Indwelling Prayer
Now I turn back to Mother Mary and thank her for her continuous guidance and intercession. Yes, she’s RIGHT, “it has to happen” because in the end, Her Immaculate Heart will Triumph….
In humility, brothers and sisters, I pray that may we all walk through hand in hand and tell others the Good News that JESUS IS IN US. Let us go and multiply.