Thursday, 25 November 2010

Christian Meaning of Endurance




Like everyone else in the world since the beginning of creation, we all have to face trials and persecutions in our lives.  Persecutions can come from without and from within.  From without, we have people who are against us for one reason or another.  Some do not like us simply because we are Christians or because we are too smart, handsome, poor, or unsuccessful.  Others perceive us as their oppressors or mistake us for their enemies who make life difficult for them.  From within, quite often our enemies come from our own parents, brothers, relations and friends.  It is not uncommon to have our loved ones and friends betray us.  Then again, because of differences in views and in work, we can become great enemies with our fellow community members. From professional differences with our fellow colleagues, quite often it leads to personal differences as well. 

But greater still is the challenge that comes from within us, our own selves.  As it is often said, we are our greatest enemies.  We find ourselves incapable of overcoming personal defects in our character.  We have to contend with our weaknesses, be they spiritual, moral or otherwise.  Perhaps, some of us find it so difficult to overcome our fears, insecurity, anxiety, suspicions, jealousy and guilt.  All these will eventually paralyze and destroy us.   And what is worse, we do not understand why all these things are happening in our lives.

How then do we deal with our persecutions and trials?  For some of us, we can be so overwhelmed by them that we give up even trying.  We find ourselves succumbing to our weaknesses or our persecutors.  Prayer seems to be of not much help as well, as God seems to be so far away.  The apparent absence of God, cumbered with the lack of understanding from our friends, aggravate the situation further.  Others withdraw from loving and from being good because they become so vulnerable to the manipulation of others.  Others still develop low self-worth and increase in suicidal tendency, as life seems to be so meaningless. But that would only be escapism. This would be tragic. 

Not only will we lose life in this world but more frightening still is eternal life in the next.  Whilst we can escape from the sufferings of this world, we cannot escape the eternal sufferings that would be ours if we end our lives in shambles, anger and incompleteness.  Hence, we are exhorted to endure to the end so that we will win life for ourselves.  It is within this context that the first reading makes sense.  The early Christians who suffered martyrdom knew that there was more to life than on this earth.  The ultimate life is a life lived in and with God.  This life on earth is but a journey to that eternal home with God in heaven.  Hence, it is important to remember the final goal of this life.  We must not think that this life is everything.  It is even more important to recognize that all that we are and do now will have eternal significance for us in the future.  Thus, we must endure right until the end in order to win life for ourselves.

But what is the meaning of endurance?  Does it mean that we take a stoic stance towards suffering, bearing them without flinching even a little?  Or do we take the way of the ascetic towards suffering by being passionless?  If that is the meaning of endurance, it means therefore that we must have a stony heart and be unfeeling.  But this cannot be the real meaning of endurance.  If that were so, then we become less than human.  We would only end up more hardened, bitter, angry and resentful and isolated from everyone else. This kind of life can hardly be said to be the life of God.  It would be hell and misery.  So Jesus is not asking us to be totally indifferent to life or even to suffering and pain.

Or perhaps, we should take the road of enlightenment taught to us by Buddha, which is to transcend pains through meditation by raising our minds above our bodies. By cultivating a pure mind, uncontaminated; and by thinking and acting positive; one transcends one’s physical, mental and emotional sufferings. Such transcendent outlook entails an attitude of detachment leading to a state of equanimity.  By being enlightened and mindful of the transitory values of life, one is liberated from attachment, which is the cause of our sufferings.  Detached from one’s ego and self, one can go beyond the self to others, to the whole universe and to God himself.  This is the ultimate goal of meditation, to be one with the whole creation by losing oneself in it.

Christian endurance is quite similar to this attitude of detachment and selflessness.  However, it is not simply being detached but being attached to Christ, being identified with His vision and His love that is the unique quality of Christian endurance.  The truth is that Christian endurance is borne not from a stoic reaction to sufferings but from one’s interior strength that comes from our identification with Jesus.  This is what Jesus meant when He tells us that we are not to prepare our defense because He will give us an eloquence and a wisdom that none of our opponents can resist or contradict.  In other words, such a strength comes from our inner being, our inner conviction and realization of who we are and our union with God in Christ and the transitory values of the world.  It is our identification with Jesus that will see us through in life.  Indeed, this was the case of the early Christians under persecution.

Such kind of endurance is neither detached to the extent of being indifferent, nor attached to the extent of being a puny hapless person at the mercy of others.  Nay, such endurance possesses the quality of the patience and love of God.  It is a sharing in the compassion of Christ.  It does not go against our human nature as it adopts a holy indifference to the things of this world and yet able to feel with the world and with others especially in their sufferings without being overwhelmed by them. Hence, there is a certain quality of tranquility, inner strength, joy and patience.  Only this kind of endurance can bring us life and win us life because it makes us better, stronger, more loving and more virtuous. 

How can we have such kind of patience?  Such union presupposes first and foremost, detachment from self.  This was what the early Christians under persecution did. It should be noted that the martyrs who went through the persecutions sang the song of victory to God not thinking of what they were going through.  They attributed everything to the work of God.  Their response was that God was great and wonderful in His works.  Nothing is mentioned about what they have gone through.  They were not inward looking in their sufferings.  Rather, their hearts were focused on God and His greatness and love.  We too must look outwards to others even in our sufferings so that we can forget our own.  In this way, we forget ourselves and our own pain like the Christians in sufferings.  Without the self, there is no self to engage in self-pity.

Secondly, we must see sufferings as ways in which our faith and virtues are tested.  They are occasions for us to help us grow in holiness; opportunities to bear witness to Christ.  Jesus certainly did not see them as obstacles for growth but opportunities for life and for love.  Hence, sufferings are instruments for our personal sanctification and the sanctification of others.  Through our persevering love and patience, we will be able to show the love of God to others.  And through our long-suffering love, we too will lead others to sanctification as well. 

Finally, we can bear such sufferings only when we know that we suffer with Jesus.  Jesus assures us that not a hair on our head would be lost.   He also promised us that He would act and speak through us.  After all, as the first reading tells us, our victory is the work of God.  Having this confidence in God’s providential care for us especially during our hardships will see us through until we reach the end. What is important for us is to remain united with Jesus so that His Spirit can live, work and speak through us.  In other words, our being must be identified with Christ in His mind and heart so that sharing in His sufferings; we might also one day share in His triumph and victory over sin and death.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Lamb - Meek and Dumb

How tough it is to walk in God's ways. His is the way of love, peace and forgiveness. With the fast paced, short-fused and self-centred society that surrounds us, is it still possible to walk in God's ways? Perhaps, some of us may even question if it is practical. 

Without a doubt, the way of God is beyond difficult. The most challenging of all is that He calls us to love, forgive and be at peace with everyone even towards our enemies, in the face of injustice and injury. Towards our executioner, He calls us to forgive and to beg God to forgive him who does us wrong. Towards our persecutor, He calls us to excuse and to continue to love. In the face of injustice and ill treatment, He calls us to react in and with love, and He assures us that we do not need to do bad to others just because they do it to us. 

Love is always illogical. It propels a person towards doing things that seem unprofitable emotionally, financially, mentally and physically. But in it, we accumulate great spiritual wealth and reserves for us a ticket we will need to hand over to St. Peter at the gate. 

God invites us to emulate Him, the Lamb of God. The Lamb who is meek and dumb, not because he is weak and limited but on the contrary, His love, mercy and forgiveness are infinite. He is infinite. And so, He need not react in finite ways like we do as humans; demanding our rights, insisting on our ways, complaining about unfair treatment or double standards, criticising an incompetent boss, etc. Though we are finite, as we rightly are, God shows us the way towards His infiniteness. He teaches us to swallow our pride and continue to choose Him, just as He allowed Himself, Son of the Living God, to be humiliated and tortured by sinful man, even till today, by us. When we walk in God's ways persistently, lovingly and humbly, our faith will be strengthened, our love for God will be deepened, God becomes more real in our lives and He becomes more personal if we allow Him to walk closely with us every step of the way. And when we grow tired, disillusioned and burnt out, He opens His arms and embraces us; He fills us with His love and gives us rest. He holds us tight and comforts us tenderly.

Matthew 11:28-30
The gentle mastery of Christ
"Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light."

God knows our every need before our lips can utter it. He knows our every pain and struggle even before our tear expresses it. 
He knows our every cheer before we can burst out a hearty laugh.
He knows when we have reached our breaking point even before we fall before Him in a desperate cry. 

He feels our every pain, cries with us, laughs with us, encourages us, loves us. He is with us, He lives in us, in our hearts. He is our God, a personal and intimate one, the only true and faithful Lover of us all. 

Let us turn to Him in our daily struggles and pray for the graces to choose and walk in His ways always. 

20 November 2010, Saturday

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Pebble Beach

Source: unknown

"He hath made me a polished shaft"
(Isa. 49:2 ).

There is a very famous "Pebble Beach" at Pescadero, on the California coast.
The long line of white surf comes up with its everlasting roar, and rattles and thunders among the stones on the shore.
They are caught in the arms of the pitiless waves, and tossed and rolled, and rubbed together, and ground against the sharp-grained cliffs.
Day and night forever the ceaseless attrition goes on---never any rest.
And the result?

Tourists from all the world flock thither to gather the round and beautiful stones.
They are laid up in cabinets; they ornament the parlor mantels.
But go yonder, around the point of the cliff that breaks off the force of the sea; and up in that quiet cove, sheltered from the storms, and lying ever in the sun, you shall find abundance of pebbles that have never been chosen by the traveler.

Why are these left all the years through unsought?
For the simple reason that they have escaped all the turmoil and attrition of the waves, and the quiet and peace have left them as they found them, rough and angular and devoid of beauty.
Polish comes through trouble.

Since God knows what niche we are to fill, let us trust Him to shape us to it.
Since He knows what work we are to do, let us trust Him to drill us to the proper preparation.

"O blows that smite! O hurts that pierce
This shrinking heart of mine!
What are ye but the Master's tools
Forming a work Divine?"

"Nearly all God's jewels are crystallized tears."


Psalm 42:
As a deer longs for the water-brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God.

When Admiral Peary was a boy of ten, he set his heart on discovering the North Pole. All through life he nursed this great desire, no matter how people made fun of him.
His response was to dedicate his life toward his goal, and he became the explorer he wanted to be.

When I hear someone say, for instance, "I always wanted to be a teacher," only politeness keeps me from answering, "No, you didn't, or you'd be a teacher.
There was no ‘always' and you didn't really ‘want' it.
You just had a little wishfulness now and then."

Let us be honest with ourselves.
What do we really want out of life, and want all the time?
If we truly long for it, we will work for it, and work for it tirelessly.
We will not forget it when something else comes along, and more than likely, it will come to us.

If we want God, if we can say, "As a deer longs for the water-brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God," we will find God (or God will find us).
God may not come to us immediately, but God will come.
To want is the first and last essential.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Taijiquan of Self Denial

I am lured to a life in a luxurious and spacious penthouse with a spectacular view of the sea, somewhat like what this picture suggests. On holidays and weekends, just take to the outdoors for a nice bath in the Sun's rays. After a day's work, open the doors to the sound of the waves crashing in. How lovely, how relaxing, how mesmerizing. 
The truth is...
I can live like that for some time. But I know that should a Tsunami hit or a bomb were to fall in a war, my dream house would be reduced to ruins; formless, scattered, brought down from its pedestal. 

I dream of driving this car. It is stylish, fast and powerful, and sleek. It gives me a good feel of control over it on the roads as I sink into its comfortable seat and inhale the therapeutic smell of the leather. The engine is silent, yet its sheer power and high acceleration speed surpasses that silent meekness. 
The truth is...
I can drive this Audi for 1 year, 3 years, 6, 8 years. But I know that one day, it will be old, the engine will start rumbling, scratches and dents will tell its age and fateful trials. It will not be long before it makes its final drive to the junk yard. There, it will be left in a heap of other unwanted and discarded metal, alone, out of sight, glum, brought down from its former glory.

My eyes light up when I see nice clothes especially trench coats like this. I get excited with the mere thought of holidaying, especially to my dream spot in Alaska to see the Northern Lights. 
The truth is...
After 2 years of wearing the same coat, my eyes will light up at the sight of another while this will lose its colour. It is a matter of time its threads will come apart, the material becomes thinner and holes will soon appear. I can be in ecstasy in the presence of the Northern Lights and take a million pictures to remind me of it when I'm back. But I know that over time, with decreasing marginal returns, the fervour once felt towards the enchanting lights will gradually lose its zeal. 

I love cakes. Chocolate and raspberry make a perfect union. Birthday parties are always happy occasions also because there are always cakes and good food. It is more common to find a Singaporean who loves food than one who does not. 
The truth is...
I can eat all the delectable food on this planet daily. But I know that there will come a point when I cannot eat them any more with an ill-stricken body. And even if I can still go on eating, how long can the delicious taste of the food linger on my tongue before it vanishes? 30 minutes? 3 hours? How long more can I sit there at the dining table to savour all the food in the world? 

These are the things in life I dream of, I like and would love to have daily. Yet, while looking at all these lures and temptations to a good and comfortable life, I begin to think deeper and wonder if any of these above will really bring happiness, satisfaction, fulfilment and create for me a life worth living. In fact, we will come to realise that none of these is eternal when we look at the real truths hidden behind the exterior and surface pleasures they give us temporarily. They paint a plastic beauty of life, which blinds us to the reality of today's world, marked by increasing sufferings and oppressions. They mask God's will for us and we forget He's even present until we get a once-a-week reminder at Sunday mass. 

Perhaps, there might be something we have tried to bury in our hearts for the longest time, about something God seems to be nudging us to do, be it to join a Church ministry, do mission work for a week overseas, to go for daily mass or even become a priest or religious. But yet, we are unable to give up the things in life we love and dream of to answer that nudging invitation to participate more fully in Christ's mission. Instead of "fighting" the temptations and lures of the secular world, which are very real and pertinent in our modern society, we might find it more effective to use the method of "Taijiquan". To go with the "flow", that is to accept the challenges we face because we just cannot pretend that the lures and temptations are not there or try to force it away. They ARE there, very real, accept them. But, take it one step further, turn them around and use it to our benefit. Stare at our dreams, our likes, our comfort in life, and make a loving decision to give them up for God, keeping in our minds and hearts the harsh but true reality that nothing of this earth can be ours eternally; only God is eternal. And when we come to know Him and discover how wonderful, loving, magnificent and mesmerizing He and His ways are, we will realise that nothing on this earth can stand in comparison to Him. And we will be able to put down the riches and beauty of this temporary life with a smile. 

What are the things you dream of and yearn to have in your life? How attached are you to them? How much do you value them? Do they really last? Do they really give joy and fulfilment? If God were to ask you to lay them down for Him, would you, in the same way He laid down His life for us? John the Baptist, after baptising Jesus in the Jordan, said, "From now on, He must increase, I must decrease." Can we die to ourselves so that we can live in Him? 

We pray that God will bless us with wisdom to see and perceive clearly His ways. 

17 November 2010, Wednesday

Saturday, 13 November 2010

The Defenceless Child

A child was screaming in absolute agony; he was in fear, in shock, in pain. And then, there was another child. He was crying, pleading, "Please, mummy, daddy, please protect me!" And another, "Give me a chance; don't do this!" Yet, no one heard any of these cries; no one would care to attend to them either. The child continues wailing and he wails even louder as the security in his placenta was so cruelly robbed from him, his dignity, removed. Part by part, piece by piece, he was ripped apart; arms, legs, pulled into bits; rejected and unloved, thrown away by the very people who he once thought will protect him, and by the people who God has gifted with a special mission to save and protect lives, ironically. Yes, I am talking about abortion. 

It takes great love, wisdom and courage to watch this video as it allows us to know the cruelty of man and come face to face with the sad reality of this world, thus allowing us to understand better the pain and suffering of our Lord and be better able to identify with Him. 

Perhaps, we might ask ourselves, "Why does God allow this to happen?" or "Does God know that this mother will murder her own child? If He does, why did He still give life in her womb?" To understand this, we must first comprehend the gift of "free will" that God has given to us. Every man and woman knows that sexual intercourse will lead to conception. It is the process of human reproduction that even the 11 year old children have learned in their Science syllabus. Hence, out of free will (though not all the time), a woman allows herself to conceive. And God blesses her with a child. Then, she has to exercise her free will and choose if she is going to keep and protect the child or kill it. There is no option 3. When God gives life, He gives it out of pure love. He forms the new being in his mother's womb and sees that the child becomes the best (not by our standards) gift for the couple. 

Imagine for a moment that you are a little girl or boy again, 4 years old. Christmas is approaching but you have no money to buy wonderful gifts for your parents. You take some drawing paper, doodle some colours on it, fold it barely into a heart shape, and add the words "Merry Christmas, Mum and Dad. I love you." Looking at the finished art of innocent love, you feel so happy, accomplished and enthusiastic to present it to Mum and Dad on Christmas morning. The day finally arrived; you get up in complete excitement and take out the heart shape Christmas gift from that secret place you had hid the gift for so many agonising days. You run to Mum and Dad, and yell, "Merry Christmas!!" and hand them the gift. Mum took the gift, her smile dropped, she had a frown on her face. She stared down at you and said, "What's this?! It looks horrible!" and walks to the corner of the room and throws it into the dustbin. Can you imagine what pain will pierce through your heart? Did you know beforehand that Mum will treat your sincere gift in this manner? Can you imagine what greater pain has pierced through the Compassion Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary every time another child is brutally murdered? 

Take a look at these instruments. As you scroll down, look at how hard, cold and harsh these metal pieces are. Think again of who these are used on; poor, defenceless, innocent, tender, mild, soft, small. They are just babies!! How can anyone with a heart and soul use such weapons against these who are completely defenceless?!!

Consider that every life, no matter classified by the doctor as normal or deformed, is precious. Consider that every life, no matter how small, deserves to be given a chance to grow and live, and fulfil God's purpose for him in his life. 
Every mother, no matter how challenged, must be responsible in her duty to love and protect the life growing within her. 
Every doctor, regardless of his personal beliefs, must fulfil his duty to save and protect lives. 
Every human person, male or female, young or old, Catholic or not, must choose his or her actions responsibly and be courageous enough to bare its consequences. 
Every Catholic must realise what pain this world is causing to our Lord by just this single sin of abortion and plead earnestly for God's mercy and forgiveness. 

Let us pray that God will move our hearts and stir within us, a greater compassion for these helpless little lives that have no one to love, protect and care for them. 

13 November 2010

Thursday, 11 November 2010

God's Will

Every new life sparks off a new hope; a parent's pride and joy. No matter what happened before the birth of the child or after, in that moment a mother first holds her child and feels his warmth, she is lost in the beautiful innocence of this new life, now in her arms after 9 long months. Her heart is filled with unspeakable joy and eager anticipation of how this child's life will unfold. 

We all came into this strange and unfamiliar world. We know not what our future will be, how long we will live or what our purpose in life is. We did not make the choice to be born but are brought into the world. Our journey, thus, began. 

Once upon a time, many many years ago, a child was born in a stable; smelly, dirty and so humble. He was just like us in everything but sin; He knew not what His life would unfold into. His parents gazed upon Him in wonder, with the same unspeakable joy and eager anticipation. 

This Baby grew up and His Heavenly Father filled Him with wisdom, and revealed the Will that He was to fulfill. It was nothing pleasant nor was it a Will that was easy to accept. Certainly, no mother on earth will be able to accept such a will too for her son. But Jesus accepted it because He loves His Father and will do anything His Father asks of Him. Such is the filial obedience and inseparable love of Jesus with His Father. And as Jesus matured, He knew that this was what awaited Him... (watch the video in the link provided before continuing and let it speak to your heart)

Jesus was focused, all through His life, that His Father's will was what His life was about, that it was to be fulfilled in Him. What is God's will for us? Do we know? Have we sought? Do we want to find out? We might not know how to discern His will for us but we can certainly seek help and guidance from priests and religious who are trained in discernment. At certain junctures in our lives, we may have questioned the purpose of our lives; Just what are we here for? 

In whichever life vocation we are called into, which we must also discern, God's will for us is for us to love and serve Him; to take up our daily crosses and follow Him in His ways instead of the ways of the world. His way for us is that of holiness. And no matter how humanly impossible, challenging and just pure "madness" that may seem, we have to take Jesus as our role model; He took the cross of the world upon His own shoulders!

How do we go about loving and serving God? Before any of these can come about, we must want to and be disciplined to pray. Start off the day in prayer, live through the day in prayer, end the day in prayer. To be connected with the God hiding in our hearts, so that we can build a personal relationship with Him. Doesn't a husband call his wife at mid day to connect with her, find out how she is doing and assures her that he is thinking of her? Without connection, without communication, how can love deepen? People say "Absence makes the heart grow fonder". But they forgot to mention that in the first place, there must be love and a relationship to start off with. Otherwise, absence will only lead to forgetfulness

Building a relationship on solid foundation with a spouse entails the same ingredients as building a personal relationship with God. We attend workshops and talks about effective communication, marriage preparation, good parenting skills, etc. What is the purpose of all these? To equip ourselves better to develop good and healthy relationships in our workplace and with people who we hold dear to our hearts. Is it really true, then, that we are totally clueless on how to build a personal relationship with God? It IS difficult relating to a God who may seem so abstract, distant and impersonal. This is because we have yet to know and experience Him. Despite how tough it truly is, we have to take that first step to search for Him. We have to keep searching and seeking till we find Him. And God will allow us to find Him. Jeremiah 29:11-14 affirms us, "I know the plans I have in mind for you - it is Yahweh who speaks - plans for peace, not disaster, reserving a future full of hope for you. Then when you call to me, and come to plead with me, I will listen to you. When you seek me you shall find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will let you find me..." 

It is in building a personal relationship with God that we can grow to love Him more and more. 
It is in loving Him increasingly that we will realise the only way to contain His love for us and grow our love for Him, is to share this love with others. We cannot try to keep all the love for ourselves in our hearts because that is not believing in the abundance and the infinite love of God. 
It is in this realisation of our need to share His love that we will naturally want to serve Him in others in love, with love. 

As we journey closer to Advent, in our reflection of the true meaning of Christ's birth into this world, that is to fulfill the Will of His Father, let us also begin to consider what God's will for us is, let us begin to take a greater interest in how we can use our lives to love and serve God. Where is God in our lives? How connected are we with Him? How can we deepen our relationship with the Lord? There is much to be done; Let us not waste precious time on things that matter to this world for they are the very things that don't matter in God's Kingdom, where we hope to spend eternity in as compared to the limited years on this earth. Before Jesus died, He said, "It is accomplished." Let us, at the end of our lives, also be able to say, "God's will in my life is accomplished." Let us pray for wisdom and courage. 

11 November 2010, Thursday
Updated 4.34pm

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Forgetting the Birthday Boy

As the night darkens even deeper and we retire to the comfort of our homes, to our families and eventually, to our well deserved rest, groups of workers take to the streets and malls of Orchard Road. Some of them were painting the car park ceiling in Takashimaya, some were polishing the floor of the malls and others were changing the large poster advertisements in front of the specialty shops. There was yet another group of workers along the streets; they were washing the pathways with jets of water, laying out the many rows of Christmas lights and thereafter, hanging these lights up on the lamp posts, etc. A supervisor was speaking with one of his workers, discussing the overall looks of the decorations and how the arrangement of the lights was so fitting; They were pleased with the work done. 

Looking at the mesmerizing blue lights and the stars hanging from the trees, the bright yellow lights on the malls and the reflection of lights off the wet floor, it is difficult to walk pass without feeling that little spark in our hearts that all the lights and decorations were intended to create - the Christmas mood.

Soon enough, the malls will have all their decorations up and shining, gift wrapping services available, gift packs up on offer and the all familiar Christmas carols to inject that Christmas mood in every heart. Crowds of people will invade the malls to clear their shopping lists, all in the spirit of preparing for one of the best days of the year. 

How is Christmas different for Christians? After all, it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, whom we believe is our Lord and God. How do we prepare for this celebration then? Do we, like everyone, flock to the malls to do our Christmas shopping? If this is how we prepare for Christmas, how are we any different from the non-believers? Have we really paused to consider what this birth of Jesus mean, to appreciate and feel the deep gratitude of the many sacrifices and hardships that were borne to bring Him into this world by His parents, and it's direct impact on our own salvation? Have we stared too much at the glimmer of the lights that blot out our vision of what Christmas really is about?  

We are called to prepare for Christmas in a different way from that of the secular world. We are invited to an Advent season of preparing our hearts for our Lord's birth, that we will open the door to our hearts for Him to be born in it, and to deepen our love and longing for Him so that this period will be one of eager anticipation to receive Him more fully into our hearts and into our lives. We can prepare our hearts more fully by purifying it; to be more aware of our sins and weaknesses and making the deliberate effort to choose God and against sin. This is the best gift for the Birthday Boy, who is, most ironically, the most forgotten on His own birthday.   

If these blue lights up at Orchard Road can bring a spark of cheer and warmth in our hearts and get us all excited over the festive season, can you imagine just how much more joy, peace, excitement and love the light of Christ will ignite in our hearts if we allow Him to be born in our hearts anew this Christmas? 

The secular world knows how to put up decorations before kicking off the Christmas season, so that when the season finally begins, everything is in place for everyone to partake in the festive spirit. Being two weeks before the start of Advent, it is fitting for us to begin our spiritual preparation for this season too. We can do so by  spending some time to consider how we want to prepare, during this Advent, for the birth of Christ in our hearts this year. So that when Advent begins on 28 November, we are well aware and ready to journey in those four Advent weeks leading up to Christ's birthday. Prepare for Advent, so that we can better prepare for Christmas. Let this Christmas be focused on Jesus, the real birthday Boy. 

09 November 2010, Tuesday

Monday, 8 November 2010

Come, Walk Across the Water

Jesus stands in front of us, not too far away, with His arms opened wide to receive us. And He says, "Come, walk across the water; Come, in faith, into my loving and mighty arms." We look at the water beyond the edge of the boat, we notice its darkness in its depths, we are unsure what is in those waters or just how deep beneath the surface the seabed lies. We look at Jesus in disbelief and ask, "How can it be possible? How can I walk on the water? I'm not You." And Jesus, His eyes so full of compassion and assurance, opens His arms even wider, nods at us and again, He calls out to us, "Come."

What shall we do at this invitation? 

We can stay in the boat in fear, watch on as Jesus stands in that distance, His eyes pleading with us to "Come". The wind blows stronger, the current beneath our boat pulls the boat further and further away. Jesus grows smaller and smaller in that increasing distance but His eyes look into ours with an even greater intensity, as if He cannot bear to see us go. In the boat, we will never risk sinking into the deep ocean water. But we will also never find ourselves in the comforting embrace of Jesus. That call, those intense eyes of His, captured in our eyes and minds, will never leave our hearts. And we will know it is always there. 

We can hide under the blanket in the cabin of the boat, blast the music to deafen His call and pretend we had never seen Him. Perhaps, we can live for awhile like this but... for how long more? Occasionally, while we are going through our daily chores as if He is not there, we look out at sea, and He's still standing there. 

We can take a bold step out of the boat, onto the water and walk towards Him. And when we feel the crashing waves upon our knees, we look down and as soon as we do that, we lose sight of Jesus, we become aware of the water at our feet, the law of nature, the darkness below, and we find ourselves sinking. Fear overwhelms and we no longer remember that Jesus is watching as all these are happening. We forget that all we need to do is to call out for His saving hand like Peter did.

We have another choice available to us. We can fix our eyes on Jesus, let our eyes and His meet in an unwaivering persistence, and without breaking that eye contact, take a bold step out of the boat, onto the water and walk towards Him. Be it the waves crashing at our ankles, knees, waists, chests or even at our faces, the sharks  circling around us or the dark clouds gathering above us, threatening a thunder storm, an earthquake initiating a Tsunami, we keep putting one foot in front of the other, never taking our eyes off Jesus in that distance that closes up with each new step. What will be the outcome of this persistence and trust? There is only one - safe at last, eternally, in the loving, comforting and mighty arms of our loving Jesus, joined with His angels and saints in the chorus of His glorious victory. 

The journey across the water is our earthly life; Jesus in that distance is our final and only destination. The further we are from our "boat", the closer we walk on towards Jesus, the stronger and larger the waves, the more threatening the dangers lurking around us, the greater the tendency to shift our focus away from Him and onto our surroundings and our human nature. But despite our human limitations; our doubts, fears and weariness, Jesus affirms us that He is here. If we keep looking at Him, we will always know that He is always looking at us because we can see His eyes staring back at us, those same intense, compassionate, tender and gentle eyes. He is always watching out for us, ensuring that even through the ups and downs of life, we are never put in such grave danger beyond what we can handle. He knows when we fear, He knows when we need a hand. Take our eyes away from His for just a second and we will forget instantly that we are safe in His watchful care. Such is the unfailing, faithful and committed love that Jesus is inviting us to trust in completely.

What is Jesus inviting us to do in our lives, with our lives? 
Which response are we going to decide on? 

08 November 2010, Monday