Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Initiative of Zacchaeus

In a typical classroom of elementary / primary students, a teacher ended her lesson and asked, "Can I have 2 volunteers to help me carry this pile of books down to the staffroom?" Immediately, and with great enthusiasm never granted to homework, 85% of the students raised their hands, some were even standing up and others were frantically waving their hands in the air, just hoping to be noticed and called upon. The teacher was at a loss and did not know who to pick. She scanned all their faces and picked 2 students whom she felt needed a little boost of confidence and the little nudge of acceptance and assurance. One boy ran up to the teacher without delay with such excitement in his eyes and the other, before doing the same, turned to his friends around him and gave a smug look. 

It is evident that "being called upon" by someone held in high accord has the effect of confirming one's value and self-worth for these children who are well aware that they belong to a "tail-end" class and are looked down upon by their peers who are seemingly more academically inclined. 

Today's Gospel about Zacchaeus is a timely reminder of the kind of faith in Jesus that we are invited to build. Zacchaeus "hurried down and welcomed him (Jesus) joyfully" when Jesus called upon him, asked him to come down from the sycamore tree, and expressed His choice of Zacchaues' house to live in that night. Like the 2 students in the class, Zacchaeus was filled with joy and excitement that Jesus, the man he had probably heard so much about, had noticed him and called upon him amidst all others in the crowd. Zacchaeus' eagerness to respond to Jesus's request was childlike and genuine. He must have been well aware of the sinfulness of his life being a public sinner as a tax collector but felt hopeful in Jesus. There must have been such a deep attraction to Jesus. Such is the childlike eagerness and excitement we are called to have towards having Jesus in our lives; that we sincerely and genuinely desire for this same Jesus, the source of all forgiveness and compassion, and we want Him to remain in our hearts for all eternity.

However, Zacchaeus was discouraged by the crowd who only knew to judge and condemn him for his sinfulness. Perhaps, if we have fallen behind in our spiritual life and decide to return to Christ, we may have experienced this little voice of guilt that reminds us very fervently of how sinful we have been and how unworthy we are to receive of God's forgiveness, mercy and love. In this, we can relate better to Zacchaeus, whom the crowd had reminded of how sinful he was. And the same invitation is extended to us as that to Zacchaeus - Are we going to be put down by these reminders of guilt or are we going to hold firm in our faith in the God of mercy and compassion? Zacchaeus chose to let nothing, not even sin, stand between him and Jesus. He was willing and ready to repent, make amends and pay his "debts" so as to be more worthy of Jesus staying at his house. What about us? What has been the factors that are standing in our way, preventing us from trusting God enough to come more fully into His presence, to be truly sorry for our sins, to ask for forgiveness and make amends for what we have done? What have we done to make ourselves more worthy to receive Christ into our hearts, though we can never be fully worthy of Him? Are we ready to give up our old and comfortable ways, and adopt the ways of Christ ever more decisively like the good example Zacchaeus has shown us? 

Zacchaeus was hopeful and he repented from his sinful ways, and he had done so fittingly as the 1st reading of today also highlights to us, "Yet you are merciful to all, because you can do all things and overlook men's sins so that they can repent." We have been told time and again that God is merciful. We know that He forgives us our sins and grants us peace in our days. It is because of this faith in God that we have a reason, a purpose for our repentance. We can be forgiven. Thus, all we need to do is to rely on "the Lord (who) supports all who fall and raises all who are bowed down", as in the responsorial psalm today assures. The question to ask ourselves first is, "Do we, like Zacchaeus, want to even find out more about this Jesus and how much do we want this?" Zacchaeus wanted so much to find out about Jesus that he climbed a tree, a symbol of his initiative and effort in seeking this Jesus. And Jesus saw him (and perhaps his efforts and inner desires too), called upon him and chose him.  How much initiative and effort do we want to put in into our search for Jesus? How much do we want Jesus in our lives, in our hearts? Till we get clear on these, there is no way our spiritual life and personal relationship with Jesus can ever deepen or grow. 

Let's spend some time to think through the questions posed and make a decisive stand about who we want God to be in our lives. I pray that God's word and inspiration will take root in our hearts and begin to grow in us. 

31 October 2010

Cents and Sensitivity

Cents & Sensitivity Part 1

Cents & Sensitivity Part 2

Thursday, 28 October 2010

I Decide Now

I decide now to trusteven though I have doubts.
I decide now to loveeven though I feel nothing. 
I decide now to accepteven though I do not comprehend.
I decide now to act in loveeven though I am tired. 
I decide now to prayeven though I do not know the best way to.
I decide now to follow Christeven though the world says otherwise.
I decide now to hopeeven though I am disappointed. 
I decide now to believeeven though I am uncertain.
I decide now to walkeven though I cannot see the road. 
I decide now to be faithfuleven though I struggle. 
I decide now to be supportiveeven though I am weak.
I decide now to listeneven though I am busy.
I decide now to be humbleeven though I have achieved. 
I decide now to persevereeven though I feel hopeless. 
I decide now to be God's discipleeven though I know my imperfections.

It matters not what I feel, what I think, what I experience, what the struggle;
What matters is what I decide NOW to do for the God whose love for me is unwaivering, patient and infinite. 

28 October 2010

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Touching God in Creation

I stood on the ground and looked up at the dark sky, lit by the moon that reflects the Sun's rays that pierced through the clouds. The stars shone brightly and persistently. I tried to imagine what lies beyond the distance my human eyes could take me, I tried to absorb the magnitude of the limitless sky, I tried to contain the magnificence of the infinitely Magnificent One who made them all, both seen and unseen. I could only try; I could not fully imagine, nor fully absorb, let alone contain all that has come to be in all of God's wonderful creation. And I stood there on the ground, struck in awe, overpowered in the splendor. At that moment, I "touched" God in His creation. Have you "touched" creation today? Have you connected with God?

27 October 2010

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


Blessed Teresa of Calcutta warned that the devil tempts us not so much as to harm us but to kill the God in us. One sure way to kill this God in us is to influence us to be complacent. At times, life is so smooth-sailing that what need for God do we have? At times, when we have deepened our relationship with God and received many blessings from Him, we feel "honoured" with the awareness that not everyone has been as blessed as us. And then, we grow in complacency and lose the vigour, zeal and sincerity in our search for God, thinking we've already "found" Him. With complacency and a decline in our intensity of prayer, we can be sure we are disallowing God to deepen our love and faith in Him and when we've "used up" the existing blessings and graces He has blessed us with, we will run dry like the sand in the desert. 

Faith and love for God can never be stagnant. We may feel as if it is stagnant but in actual fact, they either multiply or divide, the final result either gets larger or smaller. If we pray fervently and sincerely, our faith and love for God will grow stronger and deeper; if we do not pray fervently and sincerely, our faith and love for God will diminish. Is there another option in between praying and not praying fervently and sincerely that we can choose and that can lead us to have our faith and love at the same level, in undying constancy? The devil does not wait patiently for us to decide to pray or not pray. As soon as we waiver in our commitment to be firmly connected with God in our prayers, he is more than happy to jump in and influence our hearts even more.

Guard against complacency with humility and sheer honesty with ourselves of who we really are before God. When we examine our conscience daily and honestly, we will be well aware of how sinful we really are. Perhaps we only see the bad things we have done but remember also the good that we have failed to do. For God gives different talents to us so that as His body, we complement one another in doing whatever we can to serve Him in His people. For the fact that we don't fully utilise all our gifts to the fullest to serve God is already a deprivation of others of the good they could have received from us otherwise. When we have failed to use our lives to the fullest for God's Kingdom building, we join in the contingent of lukewarm disciples who speak of loving God but show not in the ways we live. In so doing, we make ourselves a hindrance to God's love to others as we reject being God's instrument and messenger of His love to the world. With this rejection, we are rejecting also God's Holy Will for us to be His disciples. 

Let us open our hearts today more fully to God, to be more aware of His holy presence in our hearts, our lives and all around us so that we may be more aware of His invitations in the silence of our hearts to pray more sincerely and zealously today and that in so doing, He can fill us with His Holy Spirit to move our hearts into a deeper love and a greater faith in Him.

19 October 2010, Tuesday

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Life Worth Living

I remember taking a bus to a particular destination one early morning during a school holiday. I sat by the window and did what I'd always love to do - observe people. I was feeling quite happy since I did not have to work but when I looked at the people at every bus stop and along the roads, I realised that everyone else, student or working adult, looked glum, down, sleepy and listless. Perhaps, that was also how I looked like when my holidays ended. Perhaps, this little observation of facial expressions can shed some light on the level of fulfilment we feel our lives to be.  

Look at the teens roaming the streets at wee hours in the morning, those dancing seductively and getting high on alcohol or drugs at the clubs, those sitting at the void decks or parks staring into space, and even those who blast heavy metal songs into their suffering ears. Beyond the fa├žade that they take much pride in putting up, is there peace, love, joy, security or fulfilment?

Many of us love travelling; who wouldn't welcome a holiday?! We spend hundreds and thousands on a tour, we are filled with excitement all through the holiday, we return back home at last, back to reality and then, what...? We go to work or school everyday, do what we have to do, get off school and work, then, what...?  We go to a party, drink, have loads of fun and laughters, return home at the end of it all, and then, what...? We can path our way from a lowly ranking employee to the General Manager and then, what...? Today, Fr. Stephen Yim reminds us during morning mass that without Jesus, without God, even if we have all that we want, so what

We gain nothing if we have not gained Jesus. 
We love nothing if we do not love Jesus. 
We lose everything if we lose Jesus.
We live for nothing if we do not live for Jesus. 

Excitement takes our attention away from the void in our hearts and souls that we would otherwise be so aware of. But when we connect with the deepest part of our hearts, we know that it remains unfulfilled and being unfulfilled, it is "restless until it rests in You (Jesus)" - St. Augustine. God is the only source of goodness; peace, joy, happiness, fulfilment, mercy, graciousness, etc. If we do not live in His ways, there is no way we can obtain these gifts. Without these gifts, there is no way we can be filled and our hearts will just be an empty vessel filled with air and dust. 

Life is only worth living when lived in God's ways. God's ways are that of peace, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, justice, responsibility, commitment, acceptance, love, selflessness, sacrifice, patience, understanding, etc. We know it, that these are the essential ingredients to build relationships. Every act of relating to a fellow human is an opportunity to find Christ; we find Christ in our decisions on how to relate to one another. We find Christ when we live in His ways by being an upholder of peace, justice, forgiveness, compassion, etc, to those we relate to daily. When we participate actively in God's ways and share Him with those we meet, and do it with love, out of love for God, this becomes the sole purpose of our lives, our source of fulfilment because it is God, Himself, we are filling our hearts, minds and souls with. Is there something or someone greater that could fill us more completely than Jesus?

14 October 2010

Monday, 11 October 2010

Remembering & Believing in God, Always

I believe in the sun, even when it's not shining.
I believe in love, even when I can't feel it.
I believe in God, even when He is silent.

After the war, soldiers explored a concentration camp. They entered a cell where men had been kept. In that cell, they found these words scratched into the wall.

What would it be like to live in darkness, perhaps with only a tiny window that gives us a glimpse of the sun? How would it be like to live through every night lying on the cold, hard floor with no pillow to sink our heads into or a blanket to shield us from the cold; looking up at the grey "sky" that perpetually confines us in a box and thinking of the family and love ones we miss so dearly?

Our lives are full of trials and sufferings that we need not be confined in a cell to feel caged, depressed and lost. We are disillusioned by the pain we feel that we cannot understand how God can actually be real. No matter how many times the priest may preach in his homilies about God being our only source of hope, there just seems to be no hope. 

Where is God? 
Why doesn't He answer my prayers?
How can God let this kind of thing happen?
What's the point of praying? 
What's the point of going to church?
I don't know what God is doing; I feel nothing when I pray;
I give up!! 

What are we looking for? What are we expecting out of this person named Jesus? As people would say, "Seeing is believing." Can we believe without seeing?

As a matter of fact, we know that the sun is always shining because we learn that in elementary Science. We don't see the sun shining at night because of the rotation of the earth on its axis but we know and thus, believe that the sun never stops shining. In the same way, Jesus's love for us is consistent and everlasting even when we do not feel it, and He is always with us even when we cannot hear Him speak. Science cannot vouch for this but God gave us the ultimate assurance in Jesus, who left us His Holy Spirit so that knowing of this great love that God has for us, we may "see" and believe in Him. 

Yet, we are always looking out for forms of His love, e.g. if our prayers have been answered, if we pray and feel Him very close to us, etc. If a husband is always buying flowers every month for his wife, washing the dishes after a meal, listening to her day and being there when she is down etc, it is obvious that he loves his wife. But what use is this love if she does not believe he loves her? Her knowledge of his love for her is based on the things he does for her. What happens if her husband's company starts to cut its employees' pay and he stops buying her flowers? Would she start to wonder, at least at some point in time, if it was really because of the pay-cut or could he have bought flowers for another woman instead? 

So it is with God. We can never fully understand God's ways, why He does not give us a particular thing we have been praying so hard for or why He allows my love one to suffer the pain of cancer, etc. When prayers are unanswered, and all is silent, can we still believe in the God who sent His only beloved Son to suffer and die for us? Can we still believe in God's love that does not manifest itself in ways we want? Is God some spirit that sits at the bottom of a wishing well to collect our coins or a genie in a lamp to be released by us whom he must then serve as his master? 

It is so easy to forget who God is. When emotions overwhelm, sorrow cuts deep in our hearts, excitement pushes our focus onto the exterior, etc, can we still remember who God is? The faithful One who never abandons us, always loving us unconditionally, sacrificially and mercifully? Can we hold on to this truth even when everything we are experiencing appear to contradict it? 

Let us pray that God will increase our faith and deepen the love we have for Him, so that coming to know Him intimately, we can always faithfully remember who this God is so that we may believe in His love, even when we cannot feel it, believe in Him, even when He is silent.

11 October 2010

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Falling in Faith

Rachel was standing on the sofa and mummy, who stood behind her, created an oval around Rachel with her arms. She asked little Rachel, almost four years of age, "Do you dare to fall forward? Do you trust that I will catch you?" Rachel was all excited, giggling and then off she went. She kept her feet together, leaned forward and fell into the hands of her mother. Repeating this several times, even with her eyes closed as her mother told her to do, I decided to test her courage. I stood a metre in front of her and had my arms wide open, holding a cushion under my chin to cushion her fall. Without thinking, she just fell on me, over and over. 

I was amazed at how Rachel could take that lean forward while feeling no fear or showing any hesitation. She is so trusting and she did not ask how she should fall or analyse how to fall; she just fell. She needed no additional assurances that we would definitely catch hold of her to fully believe we would. She just believed. She did not worry that if she had closed her eyes, she would not be able to see where she was falling. She just obeyed.

How often do we face similar situations as that of Rachel, being asked to fall? Do we allow ourselves to just fall or do we hold back, calculate our risks, contemplate, etc? How often has our Lord asked us to close our eyes, trust in His mighty and loving hands, and without hesitation or reservation, just simply fall right into His arms? Do we not know who this Jesus is? Are we not yet convinced of His faithfulness to us that we still lack the courage to let go of ourselves and let God "catch" us? How often do we find ourselves fighting for control over our lives and refusing God's entry to freely lead and guide us without our expectations and demands, and  allow Him to influence our daily choices? If it is all about us, then... what about God? 

We build up our lives and in adulthood especially, we enjoy more successes than suffer failures. In the midst of these, we also build up our walls of pride in a world named "me-only"; It is all about me. And then when we meet with life crises, and we turn to God in desperate prayer, God affirms us that He will stay with us and lead us; He will make a way when there seems to be no way. And then He asks us to trust in Him completely in our moments of tribulations, to just "fall" right into His arms. How can we possibly do that now when we have been so familiar with attributing everything to our own power and filling our minds and hearts with self-centred expectations and demands? No, until we can let go of ourselves, until we close our eyes, keep our feet together and just fall in complete trust, there is no way God can enter and fill our lives. There is no way that God can be God in our lives unless we denounce the false idol called "myself". This false idol gives nothing but insecurity and precisely so, do we who worship this idol feel insecure and unwilling to trust. 

Like Rachel, once we have shut out all "noises" and just choose to trust, we will keep falling and falling, being caught one time after another, and we will be laughing and giggling, all excited and secure that we are always in good hands.

06 October 2010

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

When the Lights Go Out

Oh my good Jesus, where art thou?
I call and there is no answer,
I seek and I cannot find,
I wait and grow impatient,
I search but find not the joy I once knew.
I ask but find not the love in the depths I once had.
My heart is restless, anxious and lost.
Stay with me, my good Jesus, so that I may stay with You.
Fill me again with your Spirit, so that my heart may more zealously and sincerely love You.
Watch over me, let me never wander far from Your love.
Guide my thoughts, words and deeds, so that I may think, speak and do only what is pleasing to You.
Transform this wicked heart of mine into a radiant sign of Your love for the world.
You know I love You.
Hold my hands tight as You try me and teach me humility and faithfulness.
That at the end of my pilgrimage of struggles, I may stand victorious in Your Glory, ever steadfast and true to Your call to love and serve You.

05 October 2010, Tuesday

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Loving the God in Others

When we meet someone who has hurt us, take a pause in the hassle and bustle of the day.
When we meet someone we cannot stand, take a pause in the hassle and bustle of the day.
When we meet someone we hate us, take a pause in the hassle and bustle of the day.
When we meet someone who is weird, temperamental, hostile, rude, nasty, unappreciative, demanding, selfish, inconsiderate, judgemental and humanly impossible to love, take a pause in the hassle and bustle of the day.

Take a pause in the hassle and bustle of the day and reconnect with the God in our hearts and in our lives. Recognise that these people who we find it so impossible to love are, like us, created by God, loved by God and are children of God. 

If we love God, and we see God in these people, then we must "learn to love God differently". We have to choose to love these people, though difficult to accept and live out this challenge, but is made possible because "God is always there to give us all the graces and strength we need to live in His ways." And to love others not because we feel all lovey dovey towards them but because we firmly know and accept that this is what God wants us to do for Him. And we do this in total surrendering of our limitations and sinfulness, in complete obedience to God's Holy Will. 

"An Appreciation of Ignatian Spirituality & A Glimpse of Jesuit Spirituality" by Fr. Philip Heng,S.J.

02 October 2010