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