Monday, 29 August 2011

Fidelity & Sincerity towards God

Have you ever witnessed the tedious training of marine animals in preparation for a live show? Perhaps, it is not that tedious if you had with you a pouch of treats to reward the seal, for instance, when it does the correct stunt to satisfy your expectations and those of the prospective audiences. I cannot help but wonder if without those treats, would a trained seal still perform the stunts solely on the account of the trainer? If a seal only responds to the trainer because it is the treat that he is looking forward to, knowing that he will get what he wants by giving what is wanted of him, then the relationship between the trainer and the seal will always remain as plainly, the trainer and the trainee. It is only when the seal obeys the commands of the trainer even in the absence of treats, that clearly indicates that the trainee has progressed on to take a personal interest in the trainer. The trainer, instead of the treats, has then become the motivation and reason for the trainee's response.

We can use this analogy of the relationship between the trainer and the seal to understand better our relationship with God. How many people have since lost their faith in God because their prayers were not answered? How many faithful have experienced their faith being shaken because they could not feel God's presence in the form of spiritual consolations perhaps? How many have given up following in God's ways and doing God's Will because they stopped feeling the desire and longing that they once felt towards God? When we are tested in our faith, deprived of spiritual consolations, deprived of that deep longing for God that makes it so easy to love Him and do what He wants, when we are deprived of the "good feelings" and graces that make it so easy to carry our crosses, how do we react and what do we do? Do we stop doing good, following in His ways of love, compassion, kindness and the like? Do we give up searching for Him in prayer because the feelings are no longer there and there is no more "motivation"?

How often marriages stagnate and fail because the "lovey dovey feeling" has long faded away along with the honeymoon phase, and fidelity becomes a commitment so challenging to upkeep; the void of feelings that once made those vows seem so natural puts us in the true light of our sincerity and reveals how much value we attach to the words we say.

A personal relationship with God is quite like a marriage, which demands that we take God seriously in a genuine interest in seeking Him wholeheartedly, in sickness and in health, in good and bad, in riches and poverty. When He does not "feed" us with the "treats", can we still, like Bl. Mother Teresa did for 50 long years in her dark night of the soul, continue doing what we know will please Him? Can we continue to reflect, as best as we can, the goodness of God in the way we are and in the things we think, say and do? What are we really interested in? Is it the things that we want from God, the things that we know He can give or are we truly and genuinely interested in Him as a Person, Friend, Confidant, Saviour, Master? When we decide to do something good, what is our intention and drive? Is it because we want something in return or is it done freely and lovingly for the One who alone sees what is in our hearts?

May our loving Jesus purify our hearts day after day so that we may seek Him with greater sincerity and love Him with true fidelity. Amen.

29 August 2011, Monday

Friday, 26 August 2011

Serenity Prayer

My loving Jesus,

Grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change,          
courage to change the things I can 
and wisdom to know the difference. 
one day at a time, 
     one moment at a time,
hardships as the pathway to peace,
 as You did, this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it,
that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will,
that I may be reasonably 
in this life and supremely happy with You
in the next.


2nd Joyful Mystery - The Visitation


Soon after Mary conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation, during which the angel told her about her cousin Elizabeth's pregnancy, she left her home and travelled a long distance to be with Elizabeth. There, she remained for three months until the birth of John the Baptist, helping Elizabeth during her stay and being with Elizabeth in her every need.

Mary was, herself, pregnant with Jesus and had not yet resolved her own problem of her abrupt and "shameful" pregnancy. If we were to put ourselves for a moment in Mary's situation, would we have done what she had? When faced with seemingly unsolvable difficulties, how often do we find ourselves cutting off the whole world and shutting ourselves up in fear, trying hard to think of a solution or a lie to cover up for ourselves, and when all seem gloomy and hopeless, we remain in melancholy, sulking perhaps, or even becoming so easily irritated that we start to snap at people or "air out" our frustrations in one way or another? Thinking about others, being sensitive to their needs and more so, harbouring the desire to attend to these needs seem like an act of insanity. Have we insufficient worries on our plates already?!

Yet, as we meditate on this mystery in the Holy Rosary, we begin to realise that Mary, despite her troubled and uncertain situation, not only thought of her cousin Elizabeth but far more than that, she completely put aside her own needs and responded quickly and without hesitation to go to Elizabeth's side. Her love and focus were not on herself but on others and on the Will of God, serving the needs of God's people in whatever ways she could, be it here in the Visitation, at the wedding at Cana and elsewhere. Her priorities were clear; she definitely put herself below God and His people. Being called to be the Mother of God was not an occasion for boasting, used to put others down or raise herself upon a pedestal. Instead, Mary humbled herself further, knowing fully well that it was God who showed her infinite kindness and mercy. In one of the most beautiful prayers ever, the Magnificat, Mary exclaimed, "He looks on His servant in her lowliness; henceforth all ages shall call me blessed."

Today, as we dig a little deeper into our hearts, can we find the love and selflessness like that of Mary, to, despite our busyness, tiredness, personal difficulties, sufferings and our many other commitments, pay attention and be sensitive to the needs of others around us? Can we find the discipline within our hearts to stop seeking attention for ourselves and our needs so as to shift our thoughts and concerns unto others in need? Can we choose to serve and not be served? Can we choose to forget ourselves so as to remember others?

One of the toughest challenges we face in our times is the transfer of importance from the "I" to the "Others". Society has moulded our mindsets to adopt the "to each his own" mentality because "if we do not take care of ourselves, who would" and "if we don't fend for ourselves, we will be taken advantage of". Leave the secular world to form its own values; we must be discerning in living our lives and make choices for ourselves. May we find in our prayers our plea to God for His gift of wisdom to take Mary as our model for she is the model of all disciples. May we emulate her selfless love for God that so naturally puts her in the disposition of being ever ready to help anyone in need, regardless of what trials and tribulations, what pains and sufferings we might be experiencing ourselves. May we entrust our own lives and our needs  into the loving and provident hands of God and then put ourselves out to serve as Jesus and Mary have shown us the perfect example of.

As we pray the second decade of the rosary, keep our minds focused on the scene of the Visitation and the virtues of Mary clearly associated with this event. Open our hearts to desire more strongly to imitate Mary in our daily lives.

26 August 2011, Friday

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


For morning devotion @ flag raising...

Dear colleagues and students,

I don’t know about you but when I go on holidays, no words can describe the excitement and joy that fills my heart, especially when I board the airplane and wait in eager anticipation to the moment I land in another country. More so, if I have never been to that country before, I will be imagining in my mind what it would be like and might even look up google images for some ideas of what to expect from that country I’m going to.
I flew from Amsterdam to Rome last year and there was a moment when I looked down from the window and saw a humongous stretch of white mountains. They were mountains covered with snow – Switzerland. I was completely awestruck and there was no words that could describe how my heart was filled with joy and excitement as I beheld the beauty of nature before my eyes for that good 5 to 10 minutes.

Perhaps, for those of you who have not yet had such experiences, you might be more able to relate to a moment when your parents nodded their heads in agreement to buy you the toy or the iphone you were longing so much to have. After months of proving you had been a good boy, after months of doing everything to please your parents, they finally saw that you “deserved” to get a reward. How happy you must have been! You probably could not wait for them to finally buy you your reward and lay your hands on your dream reward.

I guess with these human experiences that we have once experienced of excitement, joy, eager anticipation, forming expectations because of uncertainties, of happiness and longing, we can catch a glimpse of what Heaven is like. Beyond what our minds can ever imagine, and far beyond any human experiences we have and will ever have on this earth, in this lifetime, lies the joy and peace that is eternal, that lasts forever without end. There will be no more disappointment of having to take an airplane back to Singapore after an exhilarating holiday, preparing for the new school term. But as I have said, the joy and peace and excitement of Heaven is so great that there is nothing else on earth and in this lifetime that we can ever find, which can ever match up to this Heaven. Because it is when we have finally arrived in Heaven that we are forever in union with God, our Father and our Creator, who made us so that at the end of our lives, we may return to Him.

Yet, we know in our hearts the way to be humans, good human people. We know because our conscience is always at work (if we listen to it that is). To arrive at the unexplainable, indescribable joy and peace of the eternal life that awaits us in Heaven, we have to listen more to our conscience and let it guide our every thought, word and deed, everyday, choosing at all times to do good and to resist all temptations to do bad. If we do not guard ourselves and our hearts, then bad influences will seep into our hearts to stain it more and more. May we have the wisdom to choose always what is good and stand firm against what is bad.

God bless us all. 

24 August 2011, Wednesday

Monday, 22 August 2011

1st Joyful Mystery - The Annunciation


The call of Mary to become a servant of God seemed to have begun "officially" at the Annunciation, when Angel Gabriel brought to her ears the message of God's favour and invitation to become the Mother of the Son of God. She must have been so stunned to hear such a message and more so, fearful of what these could all mean. Surely, she had no idea how all that the angel had said could be possible and how it will come about. But she sure knew what end awaited her if she had been found with child out of wedlock. What would her parents say? What would Joseph do since the child was not his? How was she going to face the community? How was she going to take on the heavy responsibility of being the MOTHER OF GOD, seemingly too harsh a burden for such a young, innocent, inexperienced and simple girl?

Yet, for such a simple and young girl, her obedience to God's Will, her complete trust in God's Providence and her love for God in refusing Him nothing that He asks for reveals the depth of the intimate relationship she shared with God, a relationship that not many have had in the past two millenniums.

Mary had not understood the fullness of God's plan for her and her Son, not even at the foot of the cross or as she beheld His cold and lifeless body. Till the very end, she never wavered in her faith in the God whom she believed would never fail her. And indeed, God never failed Mary. He took her, body and soul, into heaven, where she sits on her royal throne as Queen of Heaven. Today, we celebrate the Feast of Mary's Queenship.

What is God calling us to, each and every one of us? What are His dreams for us? How does He want us to live our lives, to relate to one another, to reflect the God whom He is in our lives, be it at home or at the work place? And how ready are we to say "yes" to Him, no matter what it is that He is asking of us? If someone was being selfish and caused us to be angry, and if we heard God's invitation to forgive and choose love instead of hatred, how willing are we to say, "Okay, Lord, for You, I will forgive"?

Should we respond in obedience, how pure is our "yes" to Him? Is it conditional, doing it to gain eternal life, to attract attention, or maybe to accumulate good deeds so that next time, God should also not refuse us our requests? The pureness of Mary's obedience to God founds itself in her love for God, which is in turn founded upon a personal relationship with God. Can we be obedient children of our Father, in spite of feeling unsure, unworthy, fearful, etc? Can we imitate Mary in her humble and trusting obedience to God's Will, to respond too, "Be it done unto me according to Thy Will"?

As we pray the first decade of the rosary, keep our thoughts on the first joyful mystery - the Annunciation, letting the scene of this divine call play in our minds with our hearts kept opened to allow the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of Mary, to pour out the graces we need to imitate Mary's obedience in our own response to God's divine call to living His Will in our everyday lives.

22 August 2011, Monday