Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Moment Called "NOW"

Sometimes, we go out looking for lives to touch, people to help, and we find ourselves in Homes, volunteering and helping the marginalised and the least in our society, etc. This is a very good act of love if and only if we have done well our other duties that God has entrusted to us in our families, circles of friends, parish and jobs, in order of priority. It serves only our egotism if we look for other avenues to "serve" while we have not fully served in the opportunities God has given to us. We will only be tailor-making our challenges and sacrifices rather than accepting the Will of God for us. 

Is it easier to go to an old folks home to clean the ceiling fans and wheel the elderly from their rooms to the dining hall or to initiate a reconciliation with someone whom we have fallen out with? Yet, which is the act that requires far greater love than the other? Which is more immediate to our personal life? Which is God calling us to do first?

The moment called "Now" is the only moment in which we can prove our love for God. It is in this moment that we experience first-hand the hurts, disappointments and difficulties of life & it is also only in this moment that we can choose how we want to respond to these. Once this moment passes, there will be nothing we can do about an opportunity lost in offering an encouragement, a complaint uttered, a judgement passed, a swear word cursed, an unkind word sprouted, etc. All these that pass can only be left to the Divine Mercy of God. 

It is in this moment called "Now" when we most feel like pressing and holding on to the car horn that we can choose to love God and accept an inconsiderate driver patiently, when we most feel like telling a friend about how angry we are because someone did us wrong that we can choose to love God and accept the wrong done to us lovingly and mercifully. It is in these "Now" moments that we can recognise God in all these situations, trusting in His Divine Plan for us and accepting them as His Will for us, moments for us to learn to love Him in our obedience to His Holy Will. Did He not allow all these events to occur in our lives? Fulton Sheen, in "From the Angel's Blackboard", wisely points out "Because God's ways are not our ways ... because divine wisdom can draw good out of evil - the human mind must develop acceptance of the Now, no matter how hard it may be for us to understand its freight of pain." 

If we trust completely in God's Providence and that He knows best and gives us what is good for us, then let our faith in Him draw us deeper into an acceptance and submission to His Holy Will, using every "now" moments, no matter how painful and seemingly beyond us they are, to renew repeatedly our love for God and our desire to love Him even more deeply with each passing moment. We pray that God will bless us with the strength we each need to submit to His will with humility, devotion and faith. 

28 December 2010, Tuesday

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas Day

Looking at this tree from under it, against the sky, was initially captivating. However, did you notice that the tree's branches has hardly any leaves. It looked dry, barren and almost at the end of its lifespan. While it forms attractive lines that may make up abstract art, does this close to lifeless tree convey happiness or true beauty? Is it life-giving? Would anyone sit under it if he was looking for a shady spot to shelter himself from the blazing Sun?

I walked on and saw another tree; its branches are teeming with life. Although initially, this load of leaves look like just another clump of greens, gazing upon it longer, I realised that this tree is life-giving. It conveys LIFE, it is "full" so to speak and it provides good shelter for those who sit under it to keep cool from the sweltering heat of the afternoon. 

Comparing these 2 trees, just within 50m apart from each other at MacRitchie reservoir, we can reflect and examine the state of our lives. The first picture, though it may look like some artsy abstract art piece, likens to a life that is superficial and focused on the exterior - we may feel good, pleasured in our senses, pampered by the luxuries and comforts of the world but is our life truly filled? Or is it as barren, empty and lifeless as this tree? The second picture likens to a life that is seemingly unattractive but full - full of God, full of life. A life that is God-centred gives "shelter" to those who are lost, in pain and suffering. 

Today being Christmas, it is the birthday of Jesus. Are our lives filled with the presence of Jesus or is it empty? Have we focused so much on the commercialised value of Christmas that our Christmas is represented by the first picture? Or have we prepared our hearts more fully during Advent to receive Jesus more fully into our more purified hearts? Are we more willing to seek His will, obey His will, love the way He loves, etc? Christ can be born a million times in Bethlehem and it will still be futile unless He is born in our hearts today. Let us come to realise the importance and the joy of living a Christ-centred life, and open our hearts to Jesus, asking Him to enter and make a home in us. 

25 December 2010, Saturday

Friday, 17 December 2010

Back from Slumberland

This entry is in thanksgiving for God's gift of my life

For 27.5 years of my life, I was sleeping in a cave in the most remote abyss of this planet. A lukewarm, half-hearted and uncommitted believer. It was as if I had never seen the Sun nor the green grass or the river cascading down the valley. I was blind. I looked but never saw anything. Life passed me by superficially. It was as if I was alive, yet never really fully living, never fully alive. 

I had not done anything right nor deserving. On the contrary, I was sinking deeper in sin. It was solely because of God's undiscriminating and boundless mercy and love that He took the initiative to send His Spirit to penetrate through the deepest layers of my distortions, distractions and self-protection, that I am now awaken from my slumber and growing continuously in wakefulness and responsiveness. 

It all started here at the basement of St. Peter's Basilica. Fr Valerian was celebrating mass for the choir in one of the many private chapels, and for some unknown reason, I just kept tearing from the start to the end of the Mass, especially during the Eucharistic part onwards. There was nothing I was feeling in particular that contributed to the tears besides a growing awareness of God in the highly sacred space I was in. In that experience, one of the first of several deep spiritual consolations to come, God was melting down the heart of mine so hardened with resentment, frustration, refusal to love, rejection, insecurities, selfishness, hurt. And it is to remain fluid and thriving with His love from then on for all eternity. 

As the choir sang, as our voices blended in resonance within the small space of the chapel, so did God's Spirit enter and resonate between the walls of my heart. It freed up a lot of room to receive Jesus anew into my mind, heart and life. I began to fall in love. I am caught in the net of His love, like a dolphin's flippers are trapped in the fisherman's net; there's no way of escaping and the more I struggle, the more entangled I become in that love net. 

I've never fallen in love before until I've fallen in love with Him. Because of Him, I do things that are out of this world; yes, out of this secular world. Because of Him, I give up all that I have in my life to follow Him into His world of the unknown; a world in which He is my only Light, His hand my only guide, His presence my only protection, His love my only source of energy, His assurance my only warmth, His faithfulness my only security, His mercy my only hope, His embrace my only destination. He alone is sufficient for me; He alone is everything. And only these I ask of Him, these which are my only desires - to know Him more intimately, love Him more deeply and to follow Him more closely in one heart and mind with Him. 

I praise and thank my gracious and generous God for all He's done with me and for me. Today, or rather yesterday, is a celebration of life, that which is given and blessed and taken care of by Him who loves me so infinitely. In my family, my friends, my life, my faith, God has spoken His message of "Love" to me.

"For You created me and shaped me; 
gave me life within my mother's womb.
For the wonder of who I am, I praise You;
Safe in Your hands all creation is made new."

17 December 2010, Friday

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

My Last Christmas?

I have had the privilege of getting to know an orphan, Mary (not her real name). Being without parents since young, she had to grow up alone. Previously, Mary worked at a coffee shop, selling beer. People would often associate her with sexual promiscuity because of the social stigma and misconception that girls who sell beer are loose and would sleep with men. Mary, on the other hand, is a very simple and down-to-earth person. She found a couple who willingly took her in and cared for her. In 2007, Mary was diagnosed with colon cancer. Then, all alone, she had no clue at all about what she should do. She looked up in the sky and asked, "God, if You are the God, if You are really there, show me what I should do." 

Soon, Mary met a group of people from a Divine Mercy group. They were strangers but they came to know of Mary's situation and brought her to see the doctor, arranged for her operation, etc. To a depressed and lost person that Mary was at that time, this group of people was the angels God sent to her; her pillar of strength and guiding light. The cancer spread to her lungs and she did a second operation. When all seemed well, few months back, Mary was told that her cancer has relapsed. She feels excruciating pain in her upper body and her cancer might have spread to her bones. Speech is now a challenge for her as it leaves her out of breath and wheezing. 

Hearing the sad story of Mary, we might comment, "She's really quite a sad case." More than this, our hearts need to be moved with greater compassion. Mary knows it inside her that this Christmas will be her last. How many of us, healthy and able as we are, can truly understand what it really feels like to know that this Christmas will be our last? If we know it were to be our last, how much more precious would it be? How much deeper into the meaning of Advent and Christmas will we take the time and effort to understand, appreciate and treasure? How much more willing and open will we be to the Christ-child's coming into our hearts and lives? Can I safely and surely say that this Christmas will NOT be my last? Would I know? 

When life puts us down with its fair or unfair share of trials and tribulations, what is our attitudes towards it? If we but focus solely on our negative experiences, it takes a life experience like that of Mary to shake and wake us up a little, that hey, there are others out there who have been going through sufferings, one after another, right from birth and still keep their faith in God. And their sufferings are far more trying than our petty little issues of everyday living. The only thing that is keeping Mary going now is that she has decided to take Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as her own role model; that like Mary, she, too, surrenders her life into the hands of God. 

As my birthday approaches, I begin to think again about its real meaning. As a kid, birthdays are occasions for fun, presents and being the princess for the day. But as I age, I begin to realise that I will not be in this world if not for God who created me and my parents who were His instruments of bringing me into the world on this very day. Birthdays, thus, is a time to give thanks to God for His gift of life, to my parents for their sacrifice of love to provide, care and teach me. It is a time to take a real and honest look at the sufferings around and learn gratitude for the multiple blessings I have received from God. The most meaningful birthdays of all is spent none other with those who are poor, downtrodden, rejected, hopeless and the dying. I pray that God will hold firm those in great pain, physical or emotional, and give them the strength, courage and faith to continue in their journey towards Him. 

15 December 2010, Wednesday

Monday, 13 December 2010

Did He Tell You?

Did God speak to me today? 

This morning, the sun shone strongly upon the earth. I felt the heat upon my skin and it kept me warm. The water in my bottle did not freeze and I could drink it to hydrate my body. The plants took in sunlight to photosynthesize and I know I will continue to have greens for fibre. God knew these needs of mine and He was in the sunshine.

I met friends in the canteen and over a cup of orange juice, we interacted and communicated our mutual acceptance and affirmed our friendship. I felt accepted and loved. God knew these needs of mine and He was also in that interaction. 

This afternoon, the blue sky was dotted with clouds and the trees swayed in one direction in the wind. I opened the windows and felt the breeze upon my face; it cooled me down and brought me to the "top of the mountain". I gazed in wonder of the white fluffy puffs moving from left to right, like a film strip projected onto the sky. I experienced the beauty of Creation. God knew these needs of mine and He was in that nature.

I was tired and I lied down on my bed to sleep. I rested my worn out body. God knew these needs of mine and He was in the comfort of my bed and in my sleep. 

This evening, the whole family was over and we had dinner together. I felt the warmth of family; one complete and to call my own. Mom cooked my favourite dishes and I pampered my taste buds, warmed and filled my tummy, and felt the love of a mother. God knew these needs of mine and He was in my family and in the food that prevents starvation. 

I needed to stay up to rush out some work tonight. In the silence, soothing music enhances the peace of the night, offers company and provides a conducive environment for efficient work. God knew these needs of mine and He was in that instrumental music. 

In all these that God was "in", He spoke one message and that message is "LOVE"; His great Providential love for me. He told me how much He loves me in the most sweet, subtle, and gentle of ways. 

Did He speak to you today too? Has He told you how much He loves you? 

Did you hear Him? 

13 December 2010, Monday

Monday, 6 December 2010

Going Away into Silent Prayer

"In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there." Mk 1:35

Since Jesus started His ministry, going around to different towns, teaching, healing, casting out devils, every day was given up for the people, serving them with love. People would swamp to Him, crowd after crowd. I am sure He must have felt very tired from time to time, having insufficient sleep at times, walking long distances, etc. Yet, He continued His mission of bringing the good news to the people, tirelessly and selflessly. 

Being always in the public, with so much noise, so many things occurring, Jesus had no private space or personal time to pray and be with His Father. Even Jesus, who recognizes this, had to leave the house before dawn, before people started to swamp Him again, to go to a lonely place to pray, where He is freed from distractions and can be in connection with His Father, to draw strength from His Father and to sense His Father's will.

By this, Jesus Himself shows us an example that we, too, busy as we all are, can still find time and space to pray and be in connection with Him. And He's also shown us that if He, the Son of God, needs also to be in quiet to pray amidst the demands of the day, then all the more we who are so weak, need to set aside time daily to be in quiet to pray. 

Let us, after a long and hard day of work and play, "go away" with our Lord, into silence, to be with Him, to listen to Him, to love Him and deepen our relationship with Him.

06 December 2010, Monday