Tuesday, 31 August 2010

5 Loaves and 2 Fishes

Five Loaves And Two Fishes Lyrics

A little boy of thirteen was on his way to school
He heard a crowd of people laughing and he went to take a look
Thousands were listening to the stories of one man
He spoke with such wisdom, even the kids could understand

The hours passed so quickly, the day turned to night
Everyone was hungry but there was no food in sight
The boy looked in his lunchbox at the little that he had
He wasn't sure what good it'd do, there were thousands to be fed

But he saw the twinkling eyes of Jesus
The kindness in His smile
And the boy cried out
With the trust of a child
he said:

"Take my five loaves and two fishes
Do with it as you will
I surrender
Take my fears and my inhibitions
All my burdens, my ambitions
You can use it all to feed them all"

I often think about that boy when I'm feeling small
And I worry that the work I do means nothing at all

But every single tear I cry is a diamond in His hands
And every door that slams in my face, I will offer up in prayer

So I'll give you every breath that I have
Oh Lord, you can work miracles
All that you need is my "Amen"

So take my five loaves and two fishes
Do with it as you will
I surrender
Take my fears and my inhibitions
All my burdens, my ambitions
You can use it all
I hope it's not too small

I trust in you
I trust in you

So take my five loaves and two fishes
Do with it as you will
I surrender
Take my fears and my inhibitions
All my burdens, my ambitions
You can use it all
No gift is too small

This is the song sung by Corrinne May. 

Listening to the song over and over, one would begin to go deeper into the words of the song to unfold God's message through the song to each and every one of us to share. Be generous with what we have. And even if it is just 5 loaves and 2 fishes, even if it is not enough to feed the thousands, God is still calling us to give it all. He is calling us to trust in Him, that He will use our gifts, multiply them manifolds to lift them up to be sufficient to make a huge difference in the lives of others. 

In giving all that we have, our gifts and talents, our time, energy, finances, etc for the greater good of God's will, we are also surrendering ourselves to Him, to be that pencil in His hand that will use this pencil to write love letters to His people. We use our love, our eyes, hands, legs, tongues, etc to serve the Lord.

Many people are hungry not for food but for purpose in life, for hope, for direction, acceptance, love, forgiveness, dignity and respect. Many people are ending their lives prematurely when they see no sign of hope left and feeling at the end of a pitched black tunnel that leads to no opening, they take to suicide to attempt to open another door of hope of relief. Another sacred life, another person God loved so deeply with His sufferings and ultimate cross... lost forever. 

God does not call us to be successful. He calls us to be faithful. And in our faithfulness, we make ourselves ever ready to give up our comfort, our conveniences, fears of limitations, laziness and excuses to actively bring Him to the suffering. He does not wish for us who are given different gifts to hide these gifts under the bed or in a cabinet. On the contrary, He invites us to unveil the gifts, work on them so that our gifts may grow and so ultimately, we will use these gifts the way they were meant to be used, for the purposes they were meant for when God chose to give these gifts to us. Above all, that God's love, redemption, joy and peace will be brought to even the poorest of the poor (poor financially, emotionally and spiritually).

31 August 2010

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Importance of Prayer

Today was marked with a mini spring cleaning in the office and the putting up of my new shoe rack turned shelf. I took down a fair bit of decorative items from another shelf to make way for a 2-tier tray unit. In the midst of all these, much dust was cleaned off after 1.5 years of leaving things physically status quo. With all the unwanted things spilling out of the bin, there was a lot more space on the table for me to do my work more efficiently and with less frustration. I got excited over the new look of my desk and how much more comfortable it made me feel. Reflecting on this, I identified how my spring cleaning exercise and the faith experience are similar. 

My little shelf of decorative items displayed gifts from people and the most important of all was the bear in the flower box sent by my sister to my office. When I shifted to this new office, I deliberately took great pride to arrange them all nicely in the hope that they will brighten up my days. However, as time went by, I paid lesser and lesser attention to them till a point when the only things I focused on when I headed back to my workstation was what were on the table itself. I stopped looking up at the things that I once was excited over and its significance in my life diminished. 

Our daily prayer, like my spring cleaning, is an essential part of our everyday living. During the day, we meet with countless experiences and encounters, some of which we succeed in making the right choices and others, we fall short. If we were to keep prayer to a once-a-week event at weekend masses, we would have accumulated one whole week of "dust". The thicker the "dust", the more difficult to clean out and it will demand much more from us than if we were to "spring clean" daily. Imagine a drop of coffee on our desk. We immediately pull out a piece of tissue, wipe it off and voila! The coffee comes off right away. Leave the coffee drop there for just 48hours. We will have a dried up stain that will not be wiped off by just a piece of tissue. We would need to use a wet tissue to moisten the stain before it can come off. What more our faith. Left to chance or to the responsibility of the priest every weekend, we would have collected a whole week of impurities, which are impossible to get rid of in that short 1 hour. 

Apart from the built-up of dust, without daily prayer, it is a sure thing that with time, we would lose sight of what is right before us, what once brought us much joy and these will cease to take a significant priority in our lives. We will lose sight of peace, of the balance of life, of joy, of harmony, forgiveness and all the goodness that once brought innocent joy to our hearts when we were still a child in body, mind and heart. We replace these with impatience, selfishness, jealousy, hypocrisy, so on and so forth. When one day, we decide to "spring clean" our souls and hearts, we look upon the innocence of the goodness we had long forgotten and we reminisce the good times we had and pity the lives that had become of us. But it does not have to be this way. God shows us a different way, that is to keep Him in our hearts and minds at all times and in all things. Relating an event of the day to God like that of the spring cleaning today is one such example. Like the "Ignatian Spirituality" that seeks God in all things and all things in God. 

Day after day of keeping to our busy schedules, it is so easy to neglect and grow "blind" towards the beautiful things in life. Pause every now and then. Look around at the things we would have otherwise been indifferent to. Savour God's marvellous creation and thank the good Lord for yet another opportunity to witness His infinite greatness. When what's on the table piles up and moves beyond our control, anxiety and frustration build up. Just like in life's ups and downs, anxiety and frustration start to fill our hearts. Pause and look up to Jesus and regain the consciousness of His love, and in Jesus we find the strength to look back down at our work, our life trials, pains and sufferings, and face them head on and with greater faith and trust that Jesus is with us always as we walk this journey.

Mother Teresa puts the effects of prayer very concisely. She explained:
Prayer leads to faith;
Faith leads to love;
Love leads to service;
Service leads to peace.

In prayer, we pray for God to grant us a new heart; one that is purer and purer in love each day. We grow in faith in the God who never forsakes us. And when we believe more deeply in this God, and as we come to know Him more fully, we will grow to love Him more each day. The growing love within us will have us burning with the strong desire to serve God with all that we have. As we serve God in His people, the poor, rejected and marginalised, the rich but lonely, we are spreading God's love to others and in this realisation of God's love for them, these others will feel God's peace in their hearts too. They will pull down their defences when they know we are there to love and accept and not discriminate, judge or condemn. With the defences out of the way, the path for God to enter into these hearts is created. Peace is the ultimate fruit of prayer and this peace extends not just to us but to all those we reach out to. 

We pray for persistence in dedicating time each day to spring clean our souls before God, that in pray, God will make us true servants to be His instruments of peace and love. 

25 August 2010

Sunday, 22 August 2010

The Arduous Journey

Loving God is a very difficult thing to do. Sometimes, we face the question, "How to love God?" And we struggle to search for Him and when we've found Him, it's yet another continuous struggle to keep Him in our lives. When we try to love others out of our love for God, we will definitely falter time and again. Our love is so impure and imperfect, and at times, this can really make us feel so small in despair. But it is in our meekness that God can touch our hearts and give us the hope we so need to continue in our pursuit for Him. The journey towards our final and only destiny is very long and arduous. It is humanly impossible to walk. It is only with God's grace that we may attempt to do so and we have to pray for this grace always and pray for God to let this grace granted unto us to grow larger and larger each day. That though we face all these struggles, God will bless us with the courage and strength to pick ourselves up each time we falter and go on walking with unassuming and unwavering focus on Him. 

22 August 2010

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Food for the Soul?

Walking around in the departmental store, one would see shelf after shelf of shoes, bags, make-up of all brands, etc. Walking out of the store is yet another store that sells watches and another that sells awesome-smelling body products. While all these add to the comfort and luxury of life, the question that came up was "Do they improve the quality of LIFE?" Perhaps, having some of these really does no harm. However, self-indulgence in them will definitely prove disadvantageous for us.

When we dress up, make up, put on all the decorations on our bodies, we look into the mirror, check our faces, our appearances, etc. All energy, attention and emphasis are placed on our flesh. Gradually, we forget that we are human beings, made up of flesh, blood and soul. When all is focused on the flesh, what, then, happens to the soul? What do we have in our lives that nourishes our souls? We prepare our bodies so well to meet clients, bosses, potential employers when we go for interviews, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends and spouses. What do we adorn our souls with to meet our God? We put on our best dress for a wedding dinner, go to the salon for a nice hair-do. What dress do we put on for our long-awaited reunion with Christ? 

Mother (now Blessed) Teresa said, "The devil tempts us not so much to harm us but to kill the God in us." One very effective way the devil has tempted us is the use of "modernity" to shift our attention onto the outer appearance, and away from the awareness of our souls. The media and commercial businesses are promoting the pampering of our senses and we take to body massages, spa, excellent cuisine and so on and so forth to pleasure the senses. The pornography industry booms. The drug-making businesses have made their upper management richer. Is there any room for God any more? We are ensured we will have a busy day at work and even after working hours, there is still work yet to be completed so as to give another assurance of a busy tomorrow. We are exhausted from work. Parents no longer have time for their children. Children have no source of guidance and proper love. We are so deprived of personal time and we feel a lack of love - self love. We don't even have time for quality communication with one another. Parents resort to giving materialistic love to their children, children take to loud music to drown out the loneliness or turn to their mobiles for games and entertainment to fill the time their parents cannot fill. And we start to pamper ourselves more and more - after all, we have been slogging hard at work and deserve a good break! Pause for a moment. Where's the time for God? Where's the nourishment and food for the soul? When? 

The quality of life is declining ever more rapidly. The level of self-centredness in us is escalating so much more enthusiastically than we can manage a balanced life. 

The old 5Cs - cash, condo, cards, cars, club membership
The new 5Cs recast by SM Goh - career, comfort, children, considerate and charitable
Fr. Peter Wee @ the novena today gives us a challenge, that while all these are good, we need to put the ultimate C above all these. And this C represents none other than Christ. And together with this C (Christ), Courage to follow in His footsteps. 

How important is our reunion with God? The level of importance, which we must set instead of leaving it to the convenience of chance, will determine the percentage of time and focus we allocate to preparing our souls for this meeting. How important is this God and how much does His love mean to us? Our priorities in life will depend completely on our answer to these questions. Our priorities will then determine the acts and activities we engage ourselves in everyday. These activities will directly influence the real quality of our lives not by earthly standards but by the one true standard God sets in our hearts and souls when he first created us wholesome and sincere. If we do not commit to an answer to these questions for our own selves, and let "nature" take its course, we can be sure the world will not wait for us; We will be consumed into the commercialised, superficial and make-believe world and lose sight completely on what lies beyond this earthly life. 

21 August 2010

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Mercy, Providence and Love

Leave our past to God's mercy, our future to His Providence and our present to His love. 

Humans are creatures of habits. And one of the most common habits we have is that of worrying. We worry about everything, big and small, about what had happened, what is happening and what is going to happen. But God calls us to leave them all with Him and to Him for with these burdens, we can never set our sights on His Kingdom. 

We cannot change the things that have past nor can we accurately predict what is going to happen in the future no matter how near the future it is. Being sinful people, at times, we carry with us the burden of our guilt or the consequences of our sins. Sometimes, we remember how we hurt someone badly or how we had committed a sin that we ourselves have yet to reconcile for. Sometimes, we get reminders of nasty things we have said that had caused someone's emotional pain. But these are all things that have shifted beyond our control as soon as its moments had passed us by. Worrying about them, holding onto our guilt and refusing to let God heal these brokenness are all futile and life-killing. Instead, God can take care of these worries of past events with His mercy as we let them go with the reconciliation with ourselves, with God and with others involved. In God's mercy, we find strength and hope to move ahead with our lives and continue in our strife for goodness. Like St. Peter who felt guilty for denying Jesus three times, he trusted in His Master's mercy and forgiveness, picked himself up with his firm hope in the Lord and moved ahead in his life, and God worked miracles through St. Peter. He does not keep harping on the fact that he was unfaithful to God. He accepted it, allowed God to heal and forgive him and then off he went to do God's work. So we too must set our sights on God's Kingdom building. There is no time and energy for us to feel sorry for ourselves. We stumble and fall, we learn, we climb back up onto our feet and we continue on our journey. 

What does the future hold for us? While our teachers and parents have taught us that what we are in the future is determined by the choices we make today. Yet, who is to say exactly what is to be and will be? Only God knows. We do our best in all that we engage in at every moment and leave the result and our futures to God's Providence. A child can say, "I want to be a lawyer when I grow up!" However, perhaps God says this child is better off as a doctor. Are we going to trust our limited knowledge of what is good for us or are we going to trust God's unlimited wisdom and providence, and put our hopes in Him that He will give unto us a future that is best for us? Do we take control of our own lives or do we humble ourselves to allow God to take us by the hand? Is it us with Divine Providence or is it God? What is Divine Providence to us? Do we trust in it or does it mean more of a fictional or abstract terminology? Do we truly believe in God's Divine Providence? If we do, then there will cease to be worries about our future. 

God loves us and takes prefect care of us in the here and now. Whatever we need now, He knows them all and He chooses what is good on the list and gives it to us unconditionally. When we are lost, God's love brings a friend close to be our lighthouse. When we are sad, God's love cheers us up. When we are in despair, God's love brings hope. When living the "now" moments, all we need to do is to be fully dependent on the love of God for out of this love will God provide all that we need and that is good for us. It is out of this love that God generously extends to us that we are able to stand in His holy presence and call Him our Lord and Master.

When our eyes are fixed upon the Lord, all distractions such as fear and worries will fade into the background and eventually, dissipate entirely for nothing can stand in comparison to Him. How are we going to respond to God's call to set our eyes on Him? How do we alter our daily lives so that God is the centre of it all instead of putting Him on the sideline? How are we going to take care of God's Kingdom the way we ask Him to take care of our lives? 

18 August 2010

Attached Price Tag

A 13 year old boy woke up early one morning. He got himself to the kitchen and prepared his parents' favourite breakfast cereal. Sending the surprise on a tray to his parents' room, he put on a big smile. His parents were still fast asleep when he woke them up and said, "Mummy, Daddy, I got you your breakfast!" Mom and Dad got up half reluctantly, half puzzled at the surprise breakfast in bed. They smelt a rat but dismissed it anyhow. They enjoyed the breakfast cereal their son  had prepared for them, feeling the warmness of his love in their hearts. The boy sat down on the bed, watching his parents finish up the cereal. He saw that they were in the best of moods and then he popped the question he had held back for so long, "Er... Yesterday, I found out that my best friend bought the new Play Station. I want it too. Mum, Dad, can you give me $680 to buy the Play Station too? I need to buy new games too." Immediately, the breakfast cereal wasn't so tasty anymore and the smiles on the parents' faces drew back. Mum said, "Is that the reason you made breakfast for us? So that we would give you the money to buy your Play Station?" Dad continued, "I can give you the money but I won't. You already have a Play Station and a stack of games to play. Why do you need a new one just cos your friend has it? You don't need it. Money is hard to earn." The boy knew there was no room for negotiation. He got up from his parents' bed, walked out. 

This may be a fictional story but it gives us an idea of what conditional love looks like. How often do we find ourselves being like this 13 year old boy towards our heavenly Father. We pray because we want to ask Him for favours. We do good so that God will not condemn us to eternal sufferings. With such impure intentions, we are better off not having even acted out of "love" at all because it makes us hypocrites; insincere and dishonest. 

God is not a wishing tree and definitely not someone we make transactions with. How would the Mum and Dad in the story feel? They were absorbed by the love they seemed to have received from their son with high hopes and enthusiasm, just to find out later that there was a price attached to the act of goodness. In the same way, God must feel terribly disappointed with us when we do things so as to receive something in return. How can we say that we love God if we attach a condition to this love? 

But instead, when we choose not to spark off an argument, do it out of love for God and seek nothing in return. When we choose to be patient in a heated confrontation, do it out of love for the Lord and seek no rewards for being a peace maker. When we choose to be nice and helpful towards others, do it out of love for God and seek not any kind of gratification. Let all the good that we do be done out of our simple and humble love for God and in Him, His people sent to us in our daily lives. Let us not do things to show off or boast but really, out of the most basic and simple love for God., we do His work for His greater glory. Let our intentions be pure and sincere. Let our sole motivation and drive to every day living be our love for God. Let us pray that God plants in us a deep love that grows daily for Him and that with our deep love for God, we will extend this love unto those He send into our lives daily. So that more will come to know Christ and accept Him and His Truth. 

18 August 2010

Monday, 16 August 2010

Onions and Us

Every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. We are created out of love by our Creator to love our Creator in His Creation. That is our core, our nature. However, we are lured away from our nature, influenced and tempted by the devil. We allow negativities into our lives, drifting further and further away from God. We venture, layer by layer, from our core, outwards and we become shallow in thoughts and short-sighted in wisdom. We are out of touch with reality, our nature and purpose. If we find that we are not burning with love and desire for this God who we were intended to love, it probably signals our lack of touch with ourselves, our deepest selves for there lies, beyond the layers, our connection with the Father who first fashioned us in our mothers' wombs. 

Taking an onion in hand, we would see its outer shell, a very thin and fragile layer easily torn away by our fingers. If we run water over it, we would be able to rub away this outer layer too in just a few seconds. So is the façade and image we put up every day as different situations we face demand different sides of us. This outer shell we keep as a layer of protection hides what lies within us; it is thin and fragile and does not stand firm. It does not show who we really are and when we continue to deceive not just the world but also ourselves, we will lose sight of who we really are, what we are here for and certainly, who we really belong to. 

Layer after layer of flesh covers the bud of the onion that lies in the deepest centre of the onion. The older the layer, the thicker it is. Time after time, when we lie, cheat, gossip, back stab and do all sorts of things that are out of sync with our nature of goodness, we build up yet another layer around our innocence and childlikeness and venture further and further away from our core. As time goes by and more layers accumulate, and the older layers thicken, the more difficult it is to peel off the thick layers to find back our true self. 

Anyone who has tried chopping up an onion would testify that it is nothing fun and pleasant to do so as we will soon feel the burning sensation in our eyes. It is like the onion's way of getting back at us when we "attack" it. How often are we like these onions too! When we feel threatened be it our egos, safety or job security, or we are injured or hurt, we fight back. We insult, curse, tell tales on others, spread rumours, complain and the list goes on. We make sure that others' lives are miserable, inconvenienced, jeopardised, etc. An eye for an eye!!

However, when we peel off all the layers of the onion, we come to the core - the bud of the onion, from which the new shoot and the new root will sprout. It is in this bud that possesses new life. It needs the nourishment and food supply of the layers around it to grow. This is only possible as in the flesh of the onion stores goodness for the new plant. So too for our lives. Our core, our source of purpose and love lies in the deepest centre of our beings. God is in this centre of our being and in Him there is new life. If we surround our lives with layers of goodness, these goodness will nourish us daily and provide the supplements we need to generate life, to be life-giving in our relationships with others. God can create in us a new life; a life that emulates His goodness and a life that is rich in love and fulfilment. Then only will we be able to spread on God's goodness unto others for the greater good just like how an onion gives much flavour and benefit to those who use it in their dishes. On the contrary, if we surround our lives with meaningless, fruitless and superficial things, none of these can possibly sustain us let alone nourish us. We would be like a rotten onion that cannot develop into a new plant and worse, cause food poisoning to those who eat it. 

With these, let us humbly ask the Lord for wisdom to discern what is good and what is bad for us, to choose the things and activities that nourish us and say "no" to those that kills the life within us. Let us put our trust in God so that we can peel off the layers around us and feel comfortable and secure with the real person God has made us to be - full of goodness and love. That no matter how vulnerable we may be without our "protective layers", we will surrender our lives into the mighty and faithful hands of God, choosing every moment to keep our faith in Him who loves, guides and protects us.

16 August 2010

Saturday, 14 August 2010


Following Christ is never an easy journey. Christ's journey here on earth was one met with rejection, hatred, jealously and much sufferings. If we were to follow Him in the path He took, it will also be met with such challenges. If Jesus Himself was afraid of the cup He was to drink, what more us who are weak and inadequate. The journey with Christ is the greatest privilege. Nothing surpasses being able to, by God's mercy and compassion, stand by God and walk with Him. But it is certainly a privilege few can sacrifice for. 

To be with Christ and walk His way requires a complete surrendering of ourselves; every single bit of ourselves - our feelings, our flaws, our strengths, our thoughts, habits, cultures, likes and dislikes, beliefs, disbeliefs. A recognition, acceptance and adoption of a new way of living whereby all about us and of us belong to Him, our ultimate master yet brother. Only with our surrendering can the Lord enter into our hearts now emptied of our doubts and fears and fill us with His graces. We are nothing but yet, we are capable of great things for God can work through us when we have emptied ourselves to Him.

When we are afraid, go to Jesus who knows our fears. Surrender the fear to Him and allow Him to fill our hearts with courage and faith. 

When we are doubtful, go to Jesus who knows our every disbelief. Surrender the doubts to Him and allow Him to fill our hearts with wisdom and faith. 

When we are worried, go to Jesus who knows our concerns. Surrender our worries to Him and allow Him to fill our hearts with ease and peace. 

When we are uncertain of where to go, go to Jesus who knows our confusions. Surrender our uncertainty to Him and allow Him to fill us with His Holy Spirit who will guide, inspire and prompt us to reveal what God's will is. 

It is when we are weak that God is strong. God is always waiting at the door of our hearts to enter and recreate in us and for us a new heart; a heart that is pure and a heart that loves Him. He is always there wanting to prompt us and reveal His will for us so that He has another helper in His ministry. Cast all fears and doubts aside and allow this God to open our eyes and hearts to His truth, to His way. 

Deny Him not what He has called to be His own. Give to God what is God's - our lives. In the many ways we can serve God, render our lives unto Him for it was Him who had first given us life. We are meant to serve Him; we are meant to be in His army; we are meant to be His workers, His harvesters, His hands, legs, eyes, bodies, lips, etc. We are born for this and are meant for this - our purpose of being here; to be His instruments; fishers of men.

Seek the Lord with all our hearts and we shall find Him very close to us.
Ask the Lord with all our hearts, with persistence and faith and we shall find Him speaking to us with gentleness and love. 

Above all, pray. 
Pray for courage, obedience, faith, faithfulness, humility, strength, patience and the wisdom to understand the importance of these gifts. Pray for the Spirit to be sent upon us to inspire and prompt us to do what God wills of us; that our lives will not be led in vain; that it will count for a higher purpose - God's purpose. And pray for the courage to take a leap into God's circle of life. 

14 August 2010

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Dying to Ourselves

There was a crowd of people in a familiar setting, a girl was looking around to see if there were faces she knew. She looked at everyone and suddenly, the person who seemed to have stood next to her for the longest time tapped her shoulder, waved and said, "Hello!" She turned and saw it was a friend. She had looked everywhere else but forgot about the one standing right beside her. How could she have missed out on what was so near? How easy it is to forget to look at what is closest to her. How often do we find ourselves in such a situation where we look everywhere else besides around us?

With our most commonly used excuse "I'm busy", we let the fast momentum of every day sweep us through 24hours after 24hours. We forget to look at our spouse, our family members, our friends and even ourselves. We look more at our work, our colleagues, our clients and bosses as compared to the people who actually really matter to us. Our family - they are the ones who are closest to us; always there to love and understand and therefore, it is easy and convenient to take that love and understanding for granted and allocate less time and attention to them. After all, they are family; they will understand. But precisely that they are precious to us and we are precious to them - shouldn't this precious relationship deserve far more time and attention? 

So often do we hear parents saying, "My daughter doesn't understand me. I don't know why she refuses to listen to me." And more often we hear teens saying, "I cannot talk to my parents. They won't understand what I'm going through. If I tell them my problems, they'll just scold me." The breakdown of relationships arises from the lack of quality time spent together as a result of not realising the significance of such quality time and thus, not drawing the line between work and family, etc. Also, doing things together e.g. going swimming or having a meal does not equate quality time. Couples can plan for a wedding together but it does not mean they are learning anything about each other or loving each other more deeply and completely with each task completed. Ultimately, what distinguishes between time spent and quality time spent is the depth of communication that takes place in the relationship during the activities, which only serves as the platform to serve the purpose of deepening the relationship. A lack of open and honest communication leads to an inability to understand, which then leads one to feel misunderstood, uncared for and resentful towards  the other. The most destructive part of these feelings is that when left alone, they accumulate and it soon builds up a thick layer like the silt that builds up at the bottom of a river. The river will one day overflow when there is a sudden heavy downpour. Similarly, the relationship will take a very bad turn if such negativities are not cleared out. 

So when was the last time we took a good look at the people who really matter to us? During the Shalom part of last Sunday's mass, a family of a mother and 3 grown-up children took turns to walk over to the grand-dad seated in a wheelchair to give him a hug. The old man, though immobile, could not hide his smile after all his grandchildren had hugged him. It was a simple act but to someone, it meant the world. And it is not surprising if at the end of this man's life, he forgets all the money he had once earned and all the achievements he had once attained and with him, he would bring with him the love that his family had extended to him. How often do we refuse someone an act of love because we were shy, we chose not to care or we simply did not have time for it? 

As disciples of Christ, we are called to give attention to details; details into how we treat our brothers and sisters in the Lord. We are called to give attention to those God sends to us every day and be fully present in their presence. It is easy to brush aside someone who needs help when we are engaged in work. It is difficult to remember to pause and attend to this person in need. It is easy to mind our own business and the whole world can revolve out of its course of orbit. It is tough to put the world down for someone whom we are the world to. When we are so frustrated at work, it is easy to lash out at others and be edgy. It is so challenging to get a grip of our emotions and be an instrument of peace amidst the turmoil. This is why Jesus offers us the option of going to Him when we are weary, when the yolk is heavy, so that He can give us rest. Rest not because we go on fussing over our daily chores but rather because we have done His work and have given till we are drained out, then He brings us into His arms again, fills us with His love and goodness so that we are once again recharged to continue carrying our daily crosses. 

It is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a man to enter the kingdom of God. We need to practice and perfect our self-denial to be able to carry our crosses. To deny our selfish needs and wants to put others before us. Jesus taught us the greatest love of all is for a man to lay down his life for another. It does not need to take on a literal meaning. Laying down our lives is also self denial. When we're tired, our natural instincts will tell us we do not want to be disturbed and thus, when someone approaches us, we become hostile towards him. Dying to ourselves would require us to put aside our tiredness and shift our focus away from the feeling of tiredness onto the person we are interacting with. When we had a bad day at work, being human, we will be frustrated and when we are driving home in the evening, we take out that frustration onto other road users by honking, scolding, etc. Laying down our lives would require us to let go of the frustration rather than stubbornly holding onto it, and to focus on God once again, to let His peace and calmness fill our hearts and ease our minds so that with what we are given, we can then extend it and give unto others this peace and calmness too. 

Being a disciple entails far more than reading the bible, attending mass and group meetings. It really is about how we live our every day. It is really about how we are spreading the good news of God's love, mercy, forgiveness and redemption to others not by lip services but by living out Christ's example. It is about being what God needs us to be as His instruments so that His work on earth can continue once through the saints and now, through us. Are we going to be part time instruments of God or full time? Are we going to be a disciple only when life is rosy and we are feeling good or are we going to be a friend to Christ even when the going gets tough and when the last thing we ever want to think of at the moment is "others"? How do we respond to God's call to die to ourselves? 

11 August 2010

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Different Lenses

Jack (not his real name) is an 11 year old boy who attends school like all other children of his age. He is average-sized with a fist that has a good range of experiences in punching others in the face and other parts of the body. Jack hates to do homework and glares at his teacher when she scolds him. Everyday, the focus and goal Jack brings to school seems not to be on his academics and character development but rather, he is far more concerned about who offends him, getting back at those who offend him, monitoring his temper gauge so that he can retaliate as soon as he finds someone has angered him. Such is a boy, young but yet, a blood-sucker to his teachers, parents and classmates alike. He looks unkempt with his overgrown hair and is an eye sore to any normal human person. His teachers cannot stand him; they have given up on him since he does not even bother about his own life. They're all better off with him being transferred to another class so that they won't have to put up with his bad behaviour any more. He is written-off in their hearts and if only they could write him off in their minds too. He will grow up to be a useless person who will only waste our earthly resources, take up space, create more social problems, cause misery to his parents and future family; better off if he was never born. You might never know he might appear on the Straits Times headlines for drug trafficking or rape or murder one day and people who knew him would say to themselves, "I knew this would be his end. I just knew it!" Death sentence - passed at 11 years of age; struck out. What else would you expect from someone who lives his life like that? 

This is... Human.

Jack (not his real name) is an 11 year old boy who attends school like all other children of his age. His unkempt hair and untidy uniform tells that he does not have someone who really cares about grooming him or guiding him or teaching him to love himself. His temperaments tells that his life is not fulfilling or satisfying and he probably harbours a lot of resentments and frustrations so much so that he is always on the verge of lashing out at others. His life knows no peace. Behind the thick and necessary façade Jack puts up of his bad temper and foul attitude, there lies a fragile and deprived heart longing to be loved completely and to receive goodness. There lies a poor soul that is not shown his purpose and direction in life; a child of God, made in the image and likeness of God Himself. This life, God has breathed into him, creates a direct personal relationship with Him. He was born for great things like everyone else yet not given the environment that is nurturing, patient and loving to bring out the greatness within. His face is harsh and rebellious, behind which hides a tender spirit crying out in emptiness. This child is to be respected and believed in for there lies goodness within him since God, who's created him, is the source of goodness and what is created in love is love itself. Like everyone else, Jack is capable of loving, of acting in peace and relating in harmony. He is capable of good academic results and deserves friends who are of good influence. When God created Jack, God created him to do good and to take his place in God's own plan of kingdom building here on earth. This boy can grow up to be a good son, husband and father. He can be an upright employee and a trustworthy colleague. He is destined for goodness and can attain goodness. 

This is... Humanly Impossible to think of but made possible through the 
Inspiration and Prompting of the Holy Spirit

We meet people everyday; those we like and don't like, based on our perceptions of them. How do we see them? If we put on our normal human lenses that are tinted, we will see everything and everyone tinted. If we put on the lenses of judgement, arrogance and indifference, our vision will be blurred by our judgements, arrogance and indifference. We will never be able to see and more importantly, recognise the God in each person. How, then, would we be able to act in love towards our neighbours as God teaches us to? Our neighbours are those we meet in our everyday lives, be it family, friends, colleagues or mere acquaintances. How we look into the eyes of a person we're walking past at a traffic junction can convey rejection or love, harshness or compassion. How our faces look even without the eye contact does affect the onlooker's moods and lives. How do we like going to work in the wee hours of the morning with faces we see going past us with no smiles, no compassion, no warmth, no care? Will not these attitudes infect us too? 

If we say Jesus is Lord and that we love Him, we must love ALL about Him and not just the aspects of Him we can put up with humanly. Jesus, for one, does not choose who He died for or who He loves more. Since He loves all, and in this case, even Jack, we must love all that He loves too. A groom cannot say to his bride, "I love you but not your family. I will have no connection or take any concern for your family." For the fact that God has created all things, all things are in relationship with God, therefore, we must want to love all of God's creation. This is not humanly possible as we are flawed and lacking in love. But with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can consciously choose to put on different lenses; we can put on the lens of obedience to the Father's will, the lenses of love, compassion, patience, understanding, forgiveness, empathy and humility. When we substitute our tinted lenses with the pureness of our new lenses, our words, thoughts and deeds will communicate GOD's love, compassion, patience, understanding, forgiveness, empathy and humility to the marginalised, deprived and those who are so lacking in goodness. This is what God calls us to be and do as His disciples - to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Him. This is a very difficult cross to carry and along the way, we are bound to fall. Jesus calls us to, like Him, get back up onto our feet when we fall and continue on our journey towards Calvary. 

A perfect role model to learn from is Jesus Himself. If Jesus were to look at us the way we look at others, we will never have the graces we have been bestowed nor will we ever partake in God's salvation. He who is perfect and infinite - how can He love a human who is imperfect and finite? The lenses He uses to look upon us are perfectly pure in love, mercy, forgiveness and compassion. Let us imitate Jesus by using such lenses (though they can never be as pure) to look upon our fellow man so that we can identify the God living in each person and fine tune our own attitudes and biases towards them; so that we can be God's instrument of love, peace and joy; the love, peace and joy that only God can give and He gives them through us. Isn't that the best privilege? To be found useful and obedient to be God's own instrument. 

08 August 2010

Wednesday, 4 August 2010


Daily Word Of God
Tuesday, 3rd August 2010
18th Week in Ordinary Time
Matthew 14:22-23a, 25-31
Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he sent the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray.
In the fourth watch of the night he came towards them, walking on the sea, and when the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It's me! Don't be afraid.’

It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ Jesus said, ‘Come.’ Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but then noticing the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord,’ he cried, ‘save me!’ Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘You have so little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ 

Peter - the man who was lowly educated, earning a low income from fishing, a simple and ordinary fisherman. He was probably not a very refined, cultured and learned man like those who belonged to the upper class. Nothing big a deal about him but Jesus chose him over all to be the rock upon which He builds His church. 

Peter - the man who walked and lived with Jesus for 3 years, pledged his loyalty and faithfulness to Him and who also betrayed Jesus by denying Him 3 times out of fear of the Jews. Yet, he realised his mistake, turned back to Christ and Christ healed him. After the death of Jesus, Peter and the other disciples were afraid and they went into hiding. But they held secret meetings. They held on to the Truth - i.e. Jesus is the messiah. This Jesus was crucified and they were without a leader. Then when they learned that Jesus had risen from the dead, they became hopeful again; they were suddenly alive with the hope that their Lord is with them once again. And when they were lost, while they still held on to their faith in God, God sent the Holy Spirit to empower them. Peter, once timid and so lacking in courage and faith, by the power of God through the Holy Spirit, transformed into a man of great faith and courage that today, we have the Catholic church still standing from the very first foundations of Peter. 

Like Peter, we are weak. We are born weak and rightly so since we are imperfect and finite creatures. But God chooses the weak for it is when we are weak that He can be strong. When we, like Peter, humble ourselves to acknowledge our weaknesses and turn to God and ask for forgiveness, guidance and strength, God will send His Holy Spirit to fill us, to empower us, to give us the graces we need to overcome our weaknesses. There is a spiritual giant in all of us that can be awakened to do great things by the power of God. When we say "yes" to the Father's will and give Him the authority over our lives, when we fully let go of ourselves, then God can enter into our hearts to mould and shape us to be more Christ-like in our actions, words and thoughts. At times, we may not understand what God is doing or what He wants us to do. But we can choose to be patient with Him and trust in the goodness of our Lord. When we doubt or falter, Jesus will stand before us with open arms and say to us what He said to Peter, "Come." He opens His arms to us in an invitation for us to trust in Him and with this trust and concrete faith in Him, walk towards Him, step by step and slowly but surely, right into His arms. 

The journey of conversion from people of great sin to people of faith and goodness is a very long journey and especially so for us living in a very secular world that promotes against true goodness. Disappointment, discouragement, moments of disillusions, etc are what we may feel when we strive to be pleasing to God but yet falter. This is a heavy cross we must bear if we are determined to walk in the direction of Christ. This cross weighs heavy upon our hearts and souls and only God can lift it for us. God will be there to share in our crosses and implant in us the seed of faith; He will lift us up to comfort and encourage us to get back on our feet and continue this journey of conversion. So few are the people who set their hearts and minds firmly upon their decision to walk the path of Christ. Are we one of them? Do we set our intentions to be one of them? Do we just pay Him a lip service? The more God reveals Himself and His Truth to us, the heavier our responsibility in our response to Him. We can no longer give the excuse that we did not know about this and that. Since wisdom and knowledge have been graced upon us, we cannot act in ignorance as if God has no idea what is really in our hearts and minds. How are we going to respond to His call to walk His path with our daily crosses on our backs? 

04 August 2010

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Opened Arms

When I was a child, right up till now, the number of times I made my own parents upset are countless. Each time I blurted out something that was rude, disrespectful or insulting, I would know it when my parents flare up at me, become upset themselves or when my conscience rise up against me right in my face and I'd know I had done wrong. It upsets me to know I've caused sadness to my beloved parents. And I would try to seek forgiveness by bringing up a different topic or try to be more light-hearted, hoping so much they would quickly forgive me. And they always did. No matter how hurting my words were, no matter how unappreciative I was, they were always willing to extend their arms to forgive me and have me back in their loving arms. It is not that they have no choice since they are my parents but because they have a choice and they would always choose to act in love towards me that make them the most precious people I have and will always have in my entire lifetime. That is what makes their love for me so pure since they ask nothing in return though I know for a fact that they would only want me to love them and to love myself by giving myself what's best and by treating myself well. Such is the great unconditional and limitless love of my parents. 

From the love of my parents, I come to discover gradually what God's love for me is like. And I am struck with the unfathomable mystery of God's ultimate love. Since my parents are humans with flaws and limitations, and yet they are able to extend what a selfless love towards me, I cannot, with my limited human understanding, fathom what God's love really is in its totality. What I know is that each time I sin, each time I choose to neglect God for the many other excuses I cook up each day, each time my conscience prick and I start to turn back to God, He is always welcoming me back with opened and compassionate arms. Such is the mercy and graciousness of God. Such is His infinite love and forgiveness. He looks upon us with pity. 

We are His creatures and yet, the Creator has to suffer rejection even now, by the way we choose to lead out lives. And God asks, "But you, who do you say I am?" Is God someone we can make use of and take for granted just because He is all loving, forgiving, merciful and compassionate? No. That will be the greatest insult - to use God's goodness against Him. We cannot go on leading sinful lives with the idea that eventually, when we turn back to God, He will forgive us anyway. When we choose against God's way of life, we are at the losing end. We end up as the biggest losers for we will lose not only God but also, ourselves and our true identity that cannot be separated from our Creator, our God. We cannot deny our connection to God and lead our lives as if God didn't matter. We will be going against our very nature and purpose since God made us to love Him and our pilgrimage here on earth is meant to be a journey to discover God and to walk towards Him from our conception to our death. It's like trying to force the like poles of 2 magnets to attract when nature's way is for them to repel. It's like trying to walk up a wall when nature's way is for gravity to pull us back to the ground. What is against our nature is unnatural. What is unnatural is not life-giving for it is when all is in perfect harmony according to how God wills it that there is life which flows, inspired by the Holy Spirit. 

What are the sins we are still holding on to? Sins of others and of ourselves that we are still unwilling to let go of? What are the sins we have not forgiven? It is when we let go of our stubbornness and choose to forgive others that God's grace can flow once again into our hearts for us to be able to experience God's forgiveness of our own sinfulness. We must want to forgive and we must want forgiveness. We must want to strive towards that perfect harmony between self and the environment for that is what God wills. God is always waiting with opened arms for us to return back to Him and remain with Him. Do we search for this patient God or are we still keeping Him waiting? And when we search for Him, why do we do so? Are we genuine in our love for Him or is there something from Him we want in return? Do we search for God because we love Him, because we long for Him, because we want to respond to His call for us?

The path across the field has been less travelled. It is now grown with weeds and grass. It is not visible to our eyes anymore and we've long forgotten the position or direction of the path. Slowly, weed by weed, grass by grass, we need to clear them out and re-establish a clear path. This clear path is our relationship and connection with and to God. When left stale for a long time, we have long forgotten how to connect again to God. Step by step, clearing out the weeds, we will find back the path to God and we can be sure He is already waiting at the end of the path for us, with arms wide opened. 

3 August 2010