Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Trusting in God

Trust has no logic;
It follows no principle or formula,
It knows no direction,
It holds no map or compass.

It uses not the mind but only with the spirit,
To cut across the cloud of confusion,
To deny the thirst for understanding,
To release the struggle for control.

Trust lets go of the steering
So the sail depends upon the wind.
Trust rebels our humanity
So our lives enter into God's Divinity.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Happy & Blessed Easter

Since Easter Vigil last night, everyone's greeting to one another has been, "Happy Easter!!" Indeed, Easter calls for the ultimate celebration in the whole liturgical year. It is the peak of our Christian life - the source of our hope and joy, the purpose of our lives - in the resurrection of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. What meaning is there to our living on this earth if once buried or cremated, our lives reach the final dead end? What meaning is there to our labour and sufferings on earth if not because there is something that lies beyond death - that of eternal life promised to us in Christ Jesus?

Yes, we believe that in the Risen Jesus, we have eternal life; Jesus, by rising from the dead, broke the chains of the underworld and its power over us. He opened the gates of heaven, welcoming us to the eternal life He wants to give us and has won for us by His own suffering and death. By our sins, we are condemned and deserve to suffer in eternal fires but because Jesus has absorbed all our sins and made Himself an offering, a sacrifice to the Father, we have now the gates of heaven opened to us.

Easter will not mean anything beyond the bunnies and eggs. Neither will it go anywhere deeper than just putting "Happy Easter" as a greeting on our lips. In sincere goodwill, we genuinely will of others to experience the joy of Easter and so, we greet them as such. However, more than this, we need to understand where this happiness comes from and we need to be clear about what it means to us personally. How often during Chinese New Year, we enter into a relative's house filled with people and repeat "Happy New Year" to everyone we meet, more often than not, barely meaning it to be a real wishing that the new year be one that is full of happiness and prosperity to the person we are greeting? Perhaps, there is just too many to wish and the good wish becomes diluted to a mere act of respect and courtesy. So it is with "Happy Easter".

At the supermarkets, the Easter eggs were mostly snapped up. Shelves once lined with boxes of Easter eggs laid bare. Everyone, believer or not, seemed to be caught in the whole Easter egg madness probably without even thinking twice about the real significance of "eggs"; that is, the symbol of the new life that Christ bought for us with His life. I had to buy Easter eggs from the Pharmacy, the last place I would think of that sells Easter eggs! I never knew that Easter eggs were a sell-out! But this is another one of the business strategies in the commercialised world we live in, just like at Christmas. Somehow, businesses can turn a holy and sacred religious season into a money-making opportunity.

But the world will do what it likes... what about us? What is Easter to us? If our lives comes to a final end at our death and nothing lies beyond, how would this affect our lives now? What difference does it make to our lives because we now know that our Lord has risen and shows us the opened gates of Paradise that await us? What hope He brings to our lives now that we know all the efforts we put in to live good lives will not lead us to the same end as those who deliberately harm! What hope He brings to us in the knowing that His justice will prevail in the end, that the poor, discriminated, the oppressed, rejected, abandoned, the suffering will be raised and given their due dignity and justice! They will rest in the assurance that they need not suffer any more for all eternity! The evil-doers will get their just punishment. Those who stand in the light will one day be reunited with God our Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Mary and all the angels and saints! We will hear the angels singing and we can praise God along with them. The Paradise that Jesus assured the repentant thief is the Paradise He offers to us. He did not offer it to the unrepentant thief. Likewise, if we want to walk through these gates of heaven in full glory and triumph, we have to learn from the repentant thief - acknowledge Jesus as Lord, acknowledge our sinfulness with humility and remorse, beg God for pardon, make reparation for our sins and sin no more. May our lives mimic that of Christ - one marked by His bringing of the Good News of Salvation to all, suffering and dying to uphold the Truth He came to tell us, and after living out to perfection His Father's Will on earth, rise to eternal life and glory with God the Father. May we one day share with Christ in His eternal happiness and triumph.

Happy and Blessed Easter to all. May God shed the light of His Truth upon the meaning of Easter in our hearts and minds. Amen.

24 April 2011, Sunday

Monday, 18 April 2011

Prayer - This is for You, Jesus

Jesus was in the garden of olives. He was praying and was in intense agony. He was afraid, so very afraid as He saw before Him what He was about to face - loneliness, excruciating pain, inhumane torture, abandonment, betrayal, rejection, hatred, accusations, embarrassment, humiliation, insult, being subjected to man's spiting, slapping, hitting, kicking, pushing and shoving, ridicule, mockery, disbelief... all the consequences of choosing to take up our heavy crosses. He who is pure and spotless, He who is God. He who chose freely and was not forced to take this road. This road of suffering which we carve out by our own sinfulness for Jesus to walk for us. And we force Him to walk on daily on this path of pain by our daily sinning and lack of whole-hearted remorse and repentance. At times, we even wonder why this whole emphasis on our sinfulness and the need to keep reminding ourselves of our sins. Most of the time, we don't even want to look at our sins that much other than at penitential service. We cause Him pain and yet, we don't give it due severity, in the most indifferent and unconcerned manner.

Yet, in His agony, in His fears, as He struggles to denial Himself, to fight against the discouragement of the evil one to obey His Father's Will, He suddenly turns to us, still full of anguish, looks compassionately into our eyes and says...

This is for you. 
I choose this cup... with you in My mind and heart.
And seeing your sinfulness, seeing also the goodness in your heart, 
I know it is all worthwhile.

He stands up and surrenders Himself to His murderers, to His Father's Plan of Salvation for us. 

Can you feel His anguish? Can you feel His fears and anxieties? Can you understand what a heavy burden this is for one man to bear? Can you feel His love and compassion? Can you feel His selflessness? Can you feel His mercy? The Lord of our lives... 

Now, as He is bound and led away from the garden, He turns back and looks intently at you and I, no longer in battle with His fears but on His face, a sense of peace emerges because He has found the reason to face the cross of ours He has made His own - love for His Father and for you and I. But His eyes plead earnestly with us to, from this moment on, choose every thought, word and deed ... with Him etched in our minds and hearts, knowing that for Him, it is worthwhile. When faced with our daily decisions, when faced with our daily crosses, let the prayer of our hearts be, "My Jesus, I choose ... (decision)... keeping You in my mind and heart, knowing that for You, it is worthwhile. Amen."

18 April 2011, Monday

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Losing Jesus - Terrifying?

Living here below is wearisome to me, my dear Father (Agostino). It is such a bitter torment to me to live in exile that I can hardly go on any longer. 
The thought that at any moment I could lose Jesus terrifies me in a way I cannot explain. (Letters I)

The above was written by St. Pio of Pietrelcina to Padre Agostino. When I read this in the book "Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry" by Diane Allen, I was taken aback for a moment. "The thought that at any moment I could lose Jesus terrifies me in a way I cannot explain." For the first time, I was faced with this question "Do I feel terrified with the thought of losing Jesus?" This question played in my mind repeatedly. For some time, I was disappointed that I did not get a sense that I would be terrified like St. Pio was. Reflecting a little deeper, I came to realise that perhaps, it is not that I would not be terrified but rather, I have never reflected deep enough on what would happen to me if I really lost Jesus, and needless to say, I have never appreciated Jesus deeply enough to treasure Him with such intensity and tenderness. I do not know what Jesus really mean to me at a personal and intimate level. What about you? Does the thought of losing Jesus terrify you too?

In all my retreats so far, I have been guided to discover who I am to Jesus, so much so that I'm convinced of how precious I am to Jesus, of how my entire life is in His hands, of how He will always provide for my every need because He loves me so infinitely. I have no doubts that Jesus loves me, despite whatever my life holds. But now, who is Jesus to me? Now, it is my turn to get clear on how much I love Him, how much I need and want Him in my life, what my continuous commitment is to Him, not at a superficial level but at the depths of my being. For all those times I said I loved Jesus, how much of it did I really mean? For all those times I said I will take up my cross and walk on with Him as His disciple, how have I truly lived in this manner? I am going to take Holy Week to reflect more deeply on what Jesus truly mean to me.

I pray that those who read this entry will join me in this reflection, especially in this Holy Week; there cannot be a more appropriate time than this. As we approach Good Friday, when we remember Jesus suffering and dying for us, let us look deep inside ourselves at who is Jesus to us, how important is He in our lives, what would we do without Him, how much do we love Him, what distance are we willing to go for Him, will we be terrified at the thought of losing Him? Is the thought of losing our dear ones or our jobs more terrifying? I strongly believe that if we never get clear on our stand about Jesus, we will always have ambiguity and inconsistency in our daily thoughts, words and deeds. Once we are clear, we will be at a better disposition to make the right choices each day as we determinedly seek to walk more closely in God's ways. Please join me in this reflection.

17 April 2011, Sunday

Friday, 15 April 2011

Music - God's Gift

A friend sent an email about Lady Gaga's satanic background and her songs, etc. Being a person who loves music, music holds a very special place in my heart. It is to be respected and used in the right spirit. 

Personally, music is a beautiful gift - a gift from God for us to use to worship Him. Anything that defers from this purpose does not have the right to be classified as music. Thus, I call them noise. 

Noise has one effect - they create chaos. Just imagine sitting in a primary school canteen (in an all boys school) during recess and you'll understand what this means. If you remain in such a canteen for too long, you'll find it irritatingly deafening. You'll experience nothing peaceful. Such is the effect of all these "music" in the secularised world. They create chaos in our minds simply because it does not leave us going away being more at peace with ourselves, our lives or with God. It excites our senses. If we look deep into most sins, they all give pleasure to our senses, e.g. sexual sins, gluttony, greed, pride, sleeping in and missing morning Mass, etc. When we pay attention to the senses, which is our exterior and superficial self, we will slowly but surely lose touch with our deeper spiritual self and thereby, our connection with God, who is NOT found in any of these "music". 

The reason why I say that music can excite our senses is because this is precisely the unique thing about music. We can listen to a piece of music sung in a completely foreign language and be able to guess the mood of the song in which it was originally written. This is why we have Music Therapy as a way of easing the pain of cancer patients and those ill and dying. This is why Praise and Worship always begins with upbeat songs, then mellows down to the slower and more reflective and then to those that elicit the deep emotions, and then goes back up on the beat again. 

Music has the ability to manipulate us, even without our knowing. I used to listen to certain pop songs in my younger days when I'm feeling down and I love to set the mode to "repeat all". After some time, I found that I was sinking deeper into depression and the emotions were just spiralling down and down. It started off with the most innocent and simple reason that the songs suited my mood at that time and so I listened to it, thinking it will make me feel better. And for a moment, it did. But not for long. That's how satan works. He is the "father of lies". He lies to us that listening to these "music" is alright, harmless, makes us feel better, comforts us, makes us feel happy, and the list goes on. Then, when we put our guards down, that's when he will do what he had already set out to do with us from the beginning. And we will be caught - unaware, defenceless and helpless, like a turtle overturned on its shell.

Why listen to something when it is not life-giving and does not bring any good to anyone for that matter? If our hearts truly seek goodness, then we will know what to fill our lives with. We will not waste our time or allow ourselves the avenues that do not lead to goodness. Whatever music we will never play to a newborn baby, why should we play to our own ears? If a music is wholesome enough for a baby, it will be wholesome for us adults. If it is not, then why should it be okay for us adults to listen to it? But we do... because our hearts are no longer as pure as that of a baby. Pride tells us we are "old enough to handle", etc. And who is the father of pride? Who's deceiving us here? There's no "neutral" force in this world - it's either good or bad, God or evil. What does not lead to goodness, leads to evil. In the bible, Jesus Himself made this fact known when He said, "For he that is not against us is for us." Mk 9:40 There's no sitting on the fence. If there were a 3rd option, Jesus would have cautioned His disciples and would not have said what He had said in Mark 9:40.

Like Joe's email warned, if we are not aware of the doors to which satan uses to subtly enter our lives, we can be sure we will fall prey and we will be easy prey. satan does not come, says "hi" and enters our lives with a loud bang. He comes silently and without us knowing - after all, I'm sure he does not want to be found out lest we get rid of him! The first question is - Are we even willing to search and identify with eyes and hearts wide opened the doors satan uses to get into our lives? If we call God our God and say we love Him, then we have to be willing to be dead honest with ourselves, and love Jesus enough to stand with Him on guard against His enemy. God, who sees our hearts, knows how much we love or do not love Him. If we sincerely seek Him, then we must seek everything of Him - His values, His ways, His teachings, His commandments, etc. Love all He loves and detest all He detests. Isn't that what people do when they first fall in love? Someone who hates eating vegetables might just start eating it and finding it not so disgusting after all! Let's ask Jesus to help us to love Him more and more each day. Here's a song to share...

Friday 15 April 2011

Monday, 11 April 2011

The Lord is my Shepherd

(Lyrics in the Youtube video is slightly wrong)

The Lord is my Shepherd,
And I want to follow,
Wherever He leads me, 
Wherever He goes.
Over the mountains,
The waters and by-ways,
Valleys and highways,
He's waiting for me.

I want to go to meet Him there,
To lay myself down in His love.
The Lord is my Shepherd,
And I want to follow, 
Wherever He leads me,
Wherever He goes.

And while on the journey
To where we are going,
He promised to be there
To help us along.
And over the mountains
We'll walk on together, 
To know all the wonders
He's given to me.

It takes faith and trust in God for us to accept Him as our Shepherd and for us to want to follow Him wherever He goes. This is often against our own wishes and desires that direct us to where we want to go instead. We also need humility, through which we admit our limitations and learn to depend on our God for everything we need, recognising that He knows better than us. Faith & humility are not possible without prayer, which is the foundation of our relationship with God. It is only when we come to discover more and more who God is that we are able to be assured that only in His hands can we really be safe and protected. Let us make time daily for prayer, for God. Let us take our God more seriously. He's been waiting so patiently and we must not keep Him waiting any longer. May we have a grace-filled 5th week of Lent as we reflect more deeply on where we have placed God in our lives thus far and henceforth, how committed we are in including Him more significantly into our daily living.

Monday 11 April 2011

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Burglar - Nabbed in the act...!!

Today, I write a little differently; I write about my own personal experience.
It is quite common though unjust that the consequences of a person's faults are more often than not borne by someone else.

A father comes home after a hard day's work with his baggage of stress, frustrations and battles in politics, and is too tired to really give his wife and children loving attention, passing on the stress and frustrations to the wife and children.

A teacher goes home after being a teacher, disciplinarian, parent, babysitter, clerk, secretary, money-lender, money-collector, admin manager etc etc etc and is simply too frustrated and drained out to coach his/her own children in their studies and life. The frustration is passed on to the children while the stress and tiredness are passed on to their children's teachers.

A regular Singaporean gets off from the mad rush to enter another mad rush on the road back home and impatiently honks at the driver in front for "taking off" a second slower, passing on the anger and frustration onto the other driver.

This evening, I saw very clearly in my life today how I have also contributed to this "passing on" of negativities. I encountered a very unreasonable, irresponsible and calculative woman, the mother of two children. The saddest part is that the child shares the same character traits as her, thus, continuing the vicious cycle of being a nuisance to peoples' lives. While I'm one of the last to get irritated by her, the truth and shame is that I did. Not only did it irritate me so badly, I transferred the resentment onto the 39 innocent kids as I pulled a super long face into class and needless to say, there was no goodness I taught, only a raging fire burning within. And the most significant victim of these is none other than my Jesus.

By the time I stepped into church to pray, I could not pray or connect with Jesus as I would normally. In my heart laid a stubborn mountain of anger and resentment, frustration and exasperation. Have you ever experienced similar feelings and situations before? I knew I needed God's grace to deliver me from my inability to let go and forgive. I asked for help and help was what I was blessed with.

"Why are you letting her affect your relationship with Jesus? Which is more important? Jesus is far more important than her, isn't it? Your relationship with Jesus is far greater than your anger for her. If He is truly so important, then let no one affect this relationship. If He is truly the only One who matters, then hold on to Him, don't lose Him."

The words "don't lose Him" hit me with great impact. Deep within, I really am unwilling to lose Him. Therefore, I had to lose everything and everyone else that came between Him and I. Emptying myself of all the bad made space for peace once again.

In my own weakness, I allowed the devil into my heart and life when I allowed anger and resentment to seep in continuously and fester in my heart. And I lived for many hours of the day as if God is totally non-existent in my life, as if I had never known or experienced Him. This is so familiar; this is the way the devil plots our separation from God, through every door of weakness gone unattended without a watchman to guard it safe. And he comes like a thief, silently creeping, tiptoeing and without anyone's notice. We need to nab him quick and early but this is so difficult. If we are like security guards who are always sleeping in front of the CCTV screens, occasionally waking to monitor that few minutes before heading back to snooze-land, we will miss the moment the burglar enters. We will be robbed of everything valuable and left a pauper, a spiritual pauper, a body without a soul. 

So watch out, be on alert at all times, know which doors are frequented by the sneaky beasts and guard them with the Spirit of God, prompting us softly and gently, alerting us especially when the door first squeaks open, nudging us to shut it back tightly. Call the Locksmith, each time, asking Him to build another lock to each of these doors. Otherwise, like in Monster Inc. the movie, take door by door and shred them, the door of weakness, and never again allowing the monster through the closet. Rebuild the door that is life-giving, even if it means to suffer the blisters like Mike in the movie did. 

When were the times you participated too in this transference of nastiness? Who had to suffer as a result? Who was the ultimate victim? Who is the most important? What are our priorities? What truly matters in this life and after? I am fully certain that when I one day reach heaven, I will be so overwhelmed in the ecstasy of being in God's infinitely loving presence that even if I were to see that woman there, I would not even remember today's incident!! How insignificant actually is what we think is significant...!!

God bless you all, now and always.

Wednesday 6 April 

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Having the Wisdom to Seek Wisdom

Wrote this for a colleague who will be doing Morning Devotion with the children tomorrow morning...

Have you ever wondered why we are here on Earth for? We are born into the world and we know for sure we will one day die. Where, then, is the meaning in all that we do in our lives if everything comes to an end when we die?

Looking at how the children of this generation study hard to get a good job in the future and earn for their living, taking up piano lessons, fencing, enrichment classes to expand their knowledge and build their skills. They dream of living in big houses and driving an awesome-looking car. We all want to become somebody, not a nobody. Our parents want us to become the best we can be too. But what is really this “best” that we can be? We spend so much time, effort and money to bring out the intelligence in each child but we have failed to realize that far beyond our little planet of intelligence is an unlimited universe of wisdom. Wisdom cannot be taught or learned through books; it can only be self-discovered and realized when we constantly reflect on LIFE, when we look beyond what is superficial to what is deeper.

Intelligence cannot help us to understand why a mother or teacher scolds and punishes a child. But wisdom opens our minds to recognize the love they have for us in their scolding and punishment.

Intelligence tells us to keep our money for our own needs and ignore the poor beggar along the street. But wisdom opens our hearts to recognize that it is when we give to those in need that we find peace and real happiness.

Intelligence scores us straight As in examinations, making our report books seem perfect. But wisdom scores us perfection in our characters, making our lives be filled with goodness and smiles, and everyday becomes a day to truly make a positive difference in this world.

God puts us in this world for a reason. There is something out there in this world we were meant to do. We believe that after this life, we will join God in heaven forever. There, we will not have to work or study, fight or argue. There will be peace and happiness forever, without end. In the midst of our struggles on earth, in the midst of all the examinations and studying, have we forgotten that all these will one day pass away with us when we die? The only Truth that will remain, the Truth that only wisdom will allow us to see, is that in this life, God is more important than anything and everything because when we die, He is the only One who remains.

Mark 13:31
Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away.

Are we wise enough to value wisdom above intelligence? Do we put on our spectacles to see what our short-sightedness fails to see?

05 April 2011 Tuesday