Friday, 30 December 2011

Your Gift

If my voice has the ability to reach into hearts 
and bring You into them,
then what a pity it is that I cannot sit with my hearers
and listen to this voice that You have given
so as to encounter You as they do.
Yet, how can I bring them the gift of You
if You had not first given Yourself to me;
to know, to love, to serve and to sing of?  

Your gifts, they humble my existence, 
and make real my nothingness and servitude.
Let their praises reach Your ears and 
render unto Your Holy Name all the glory 
that You alone deserve.

Friday 30 December 2011

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

My Blessings, My Results

Joan and Dave were two Catholics who met each other in college. In every activity that had any connection at all with their faith, they would be found there, participating and joyfully giving of their time and energy. They received joy and peace as a result of centring their lives on God, these amidst their own share of struggles and pain that most who are transiting into adulthood will experience. Joan and Dave fell in love with each other and some years after graduation, they decided to get married.

And so they did. So deep and intense was their love for each other. And so was their excitement at the new life they were going to create for themselves; a new chapter, a new beginning, a whole new world of experiences of being family, of being parent in due time, and of being the master and mistress of the household. It was a pure, white canvas of a future waiting for them to dash colours on, and they sure felt the huge responsibility of assuming the new roles they each had to play in their new family unit. In their hearts, they yearned and conditioned their mindsets to do all they could to make this blank canvas into a great masterpiece of art, without a single blemish. Joan and Dave ultimately took upon themselves the role of a "creator" - a creator of their future.

Being creators, each with their own unique artistic flares, Joan and Dave started to run into trouble with each other over how things were being run at home. Soon enough, a baby was added to the family and at that point of beholding their new creation, they beheld too a visible newness that they were going to shape from a "nothing" into a "someone". Their whole heart and mind took on a new focus, and henceforth, all they did and planned were for the sake of their child, in whatever capacity they had.

This sounds like a fairytale story of loving and responsible parents selflessly caring and providing for their child. The development of this story, the unfolding of Joan and Dave's lives are not known. But there seems to be a missing component in this whole fairytale equation, which leads us to wonder if there would really be a happily-ever-after. One question - Where is God? In Joan and Dave's lives, God was shifted to the background when they took on "creatorship".

God has allowed us to share with Him in His creation. But most often we forget that we are not the creator but co-creators. We get carried away easily by superficial emotions and if our relationship with God is shallow and ungrounded in substantial depth, we will fail to recognise that there can be no new beginnings, no future, no hope whatsoever if God does not bless our endeavours and allow us any of these. We will lose our humility and cloud our sense of truth about ourselves and what we can and cannot do. We will lose touch with who we truly are, trying so hard in futile attempts to be the "god" of our lives that we can never be. Can we decide when we are born and when we die? If we cannot, then our lives are surely not for us to control.

But if we remain connected with God with Him being always the centre of our lives, the reason and purpose for all our thoughts, words and deeds, then married or unmarried, young or old, healthy or ill, busy or idle, we will always be cooperators of His Will, advocates of His love, peace and forgiveness within the family. Living day to day becomes alive rather than a mechanical repetition of the daily routines and the running after secular dreams that promise a hidden emptiness. Then, everything we have and experience becomes blessings to appreciate and praise God for rather than an unrealistic boost of our own egos as "good creators", appeasing our own insecurities. As the proverb says "as proud as a peacock", yet, can the peacock be proud of anything if not for God who gave it its beautiful feathers?

With God, we can then be patient with things that do not go our way, trusting always in the love and providence of God, who becomes the Healer of the family in moments of hurt, the Peace in moments of turmoil, the Strength in moments of weakness, the Mediator in moments of arguments, the Guide and Mentor for the young. God is given His rightful position in the family - the Head, the Source, the Provider, the Anchor. Only then can we truly create in and for our families all things beautiful because it is God Himself who is creating all these through and in us.

How aware are you of the distinction between what is created by God and by you in your life?
What are the blessings received from God that you have considered as your result?

28 December 2011, Wednesday

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Prayer - Thy Graces for the Journey

Purify me, Lord
Cleanse me 
Sanctify me
Test me in Your fire
But leave me Your graces, my loving Jesus
To always remain humble, obedient and faithful
In complete surrendering 
As You make perfect Your Will in me


20 December 2011 Tuesday

Monday, 19 December 2011

Disposition in Vocation

"Yes, I have."
"Yes, I will."
With beaming smiles, the couple gives these replies to three questions asked by the priest during the declaration of consent at their wedding Mass. Thereafter, they make their vow to each other.

This "yes" that a couple professes to each other marks the beginning of their lifelong commitment of love and fidelity, of being true to each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, a complete dedication of oneself to one's spouse, to love and honour him/her all the days of one's life.

As soon as the priest pronounces the couple as man and wife, the period of courtship officially comes to an end. Here begins the lifelong test of just how serious and real the couple was when they made their vows to their lifelong vocation, which has packaged with it a lifelong implication that perhaps, they knew as factual knowledge at the back of their heads, but never could have understood what they truly and wholly entail until they have to choose at every moment, day after day, to fight against all sorts of temptations just so that they uphold those words in the vow they made within those few seconds.

Don't you wonder at times if the wedding couple, as they make their vows to each other, really know what they are in for? The truth is there is no way they could have previously known what making that vow would wholly demand of them because it is the first hands-on experience after all.

When we are unable to predict the future, when we are uncertain of the challenges the future may present to us, the only thing we can control is our disposition in the here and now. Am I self-centred or am I always thinking and acting in the best interest of my marriage? How many miles am I going to walk with him/her? What is my response to suffering - fight or flight? What outlets do I choose when I need to release stress built up because of my spouse and family? Have I decided to seek pleasure in my daily living or discipline, self-denial and wholesomeness?

For us Catholics, we have an excellent model to teach us about our dispositions. She is none other than Mary, the mother of Jesus. She too made a vow to a lifelong vocation when she said "yes" to God's Divine Will to bring Jesus into this world through her. God became her spouse, to whom she would be totally faithful and dedicated for the rest of her life.

At that point in time, she, like a couple making their vow, probably did not know the full extent to which her "yes" would demand of her. Sure she knew of the possibility of being stoned to death for being found pregnant out of wedlock. She knew she was in for turmoil having to break the news to Joseph and her own parents. Perhaps, too, she could foresee the embarrassment and rejection from her neighbours. But she sure did not know that a King would be born beside the cattle, that King Herod would come hunting for her son, that she would become a refugee in a foreign land, and surely, she did not ever think that her son would eventually suffer such cruelty and die a public criminal - all these when God promised that her son will be the Saviour of the world. How does this promise align, by any human logical explanation, with reality? How could Mary, with all these "unfortunate" events unfolding, still believe that the promise made to her would be fulfilled?

The faithfulness of Mary in her "yes" to God right to the very end falls back on her disposition. Her life is modelled in holiness, of a complete surrendering to God's Will, to anything and everything He will place before her. In her uncertainties of her future, she does not subscribe to an "ala carte" pick of what she will tolerate and what she will not. Rather, she opened her heart wholly to God, accepting everything that comes in obedience to her Father's Will, and trusting always, even in the most trying moments, in His love and providence. Living entirely on the graces of God, she journeyed, one step at a time, towards the perfection of God's Will in her life, and thereby, becoming the gateway to our salvation in her Son, Jesus.

As we celebrate Christmas this weekend, let us discharge our hearts of the encumbering fa├žade of the glamour of lights, the excitement of gifts, and not forgetting, the vast selection of food that covers our tabletops... so that we can have some silence to delight in Mary's steadfastness to God's Will in her vocation as spouse of God, mother of God, mother of our human race. That from her, we too may learn to dispose ourselves to accept and live out God's Will in our own vocation as Christ's disciples in our families, workplaces and even in public with strangers. With our focus readjusted, our purpose refined and our strength renewed, this Christmas will find us in deeper joy and peace, just as He meant it to be.

19 December 2011, Monday

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Prayer - It has always been You

It is You, Lord, 
as it has always been,
who fill me with every grace and blessing
to become, gradually but most certainly,
what You desire for me to become.
Help me to always keep my mind and heart opened to You
so as to cooperate with Your Spirit's working
in and through me.

Inspired on 13 December 2011, Tuesday

Malfunctioned Lift

Many years ago, I was living in a HDB flat. Among several similar incidences, there was one in particular. I remember waiting for the lift for a considerable time, only to hear the bell ringing continuously. Someone was trapped in the lift!

No matter how she tried to pull the door open from the inside of the lift, the door refused to budge. From the outside, there was also nothing anyone who came to assist could do to get the door to open. The poor victim was simply stuck, banging on the door, crying out for help. She was all alone; afraid and threatened. What if the lift started to drop, free-fall? Were the people outside really trying to get her out? Were they going to call for the servicemen for her? Or were they going to give up and walk away, leaving her behind, stuck?

A thick and stubborn door separated the victim from everyone and everything else on the outside. The air was suffocating without ventilation, and the level of carbon dioxide in the air was increasing, especially with her heavy breathing from her anxiety and fears. She knew that if help did not come soon, she was going to die of suffocation. There was only one thing she could do - cry for help by persistently pressing on the alarm button and then hope for someone to come to her rescue.

Have you ever been trapped in a malfunctioned lift before? Perhaps, like me, you are very thankful that you never had such a frightening experience. Yet, were there other incidents whereby you felt as if you were like this victim, trapped in a lift?

At times, our life experiences leave us with so much pain and trauma that we build a thick wall around our hearts and lives, like a lift door that shuts us out from everyone and everything else outside. When our wounds are left unhealed, when our injuries are brushed aside and left untreated, our brokenness left unloved. It is not uncommon to find within our lives, instances whereby we overreacted in a situation that does not really seem that severe after all. And if we were to dig deeper at why we had overreacted, we may come to discover an open wound and our unnecessarily drastic reaction was a result of a slamming of that lift door, a natural defence mechanism that kicked in to protect us from revisiting that same painful wound.

This lift door, slammed, keeps us disconnected, and like the victim, it prevents us from getting out to reach those on the outside and prevents others from ever getting in to the depths of our hearts. Until the repairman comes to the rescue and forces open the door.

Yet, not everyone trapped in the lift of our daily experiences really want to call for help and get out; they are comfortable in the lift, making it their new home. Without any furniture inside, they make up their own imaginary ones and convince themselves that this is home, that everything is alright, under control, normal. And they get along this way... everyday... in an illusion, falsehood.

Then, there are many who do not know how to get help; they do not realise there is an alarm button to press. They know they are trapped, stuck, helpless and afraid. They bang, they kick, they scream, they pray for help, they frantically fish out their mobiles, only to escalate their anxiety when they realised that there is no signal, no reception in the lift. With all their might, they try to force open the door until they grow exhausted and waves the white flag in a great despair. All these when the alarm button sits quietly upon the control board, waiting to be pressed.

Yet again, many more do not even arrive at the awareness that there is a need to press the alarm button. They do not even realise that they are in a lift, that the lift door has been shut, jammed and they have been trapped. In their daily experiences, they go on living life without using their eyes and ears. They do not recognise their brokenness, nor do they recognise their need for healing and reconciliation. Every day passes by so quickly, there's hardly any time or energy left to pause and consider the state of one's well being.

There is yet another category of people who will press the button and will continue to press it without pausing. They are in such deep desperation that a minute passed without help received is like another decade in living hell. They are so consumed by fear and insecurities that they forgot that it takes time for help to come. A repairman needs time to travel to the required location. They try an entire combination of methods, from knocking to kicking to sounding the bell to trying to force open the door themselves. They feel that they are alone, fear that no help will come. Calmness is not within their means.

Whichever the category we belong to, regardless of how we got ourselves trapped in the lift to begin with - some lifts get jammed because of people who refuse to wait for the next lift and insist on overcrowding the lift , some friends were stuck in a lift before because they decided to jump up and down inside it, some are stuck simply because the lift malfunctioned - we need the repairman to get us out.

Our negative life experiences, regardless of its blame resting upon others, our own selves or simply a consequent of a natural occurrence beyond our control, require God's healing grace. Without Him who dismantles the hardened walls of our hearts, there is no way we can get out to meet the world, no way anyone can come near us, and ultimately, no way that God can enter into our hearts and unlock the peace, hope and joy that He desires to give to us. We cannot heal ourselves, nor can we force down the wall by our own strength. We are finite creatures with limited capacities. But we sure can push the alarm button and call for Divine Intervention. And when we do, will our loving Father not extend to us His helping hand in His own time and ways?

But we must call upon the right "repairman". It will be most futile and quite ridiculously irrelevant to call upon a doctor or a car mechanic to repair a lift and get us out. Just as many people try to cure their brokenness by distracting their hearts and minds with superficial activities that give them an imitation kind of happiness and excitement, they will never get the "real thing", the real cure, the real and complete healing, that only God can give.

As we advance towards Christmas, we may like to ponder about the state of our hearts...
Are they trapped in a lift in any way?
What got it to be trapped?
Are we going to call for help? How? Who?
Will we dare to take that leap of faith to allow God to work in us so as to prepare our hearts more fully to receive Him anew this Christmas?

14 December 2011, Wednesday

Monday, 12 December 2011

Making His Path Straight


We have begun the third week of Advent - a time of preparation, leading up to the great festive celebration of Christ's birth.

Mark, in Chapter 1, verse 3, wrote, "A voice of one that cries in the desert: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight."

Why was John the Baptist proclaiming this message to the people? It sounds quite abstract at a glance. What does it mean to prepare a way for the Lord? Who is to prepare this way? What way? What paths? Straight?

2000 years after Jesus came to be born, so as to bring us home to our Father in the way of love and justice that He gave us an example of, we, now become the birth places of this same Jesus. Our hearts are His dwelling places. Only if we open the door to our hearts and allow Him to enter. And only if there is any space left in that cluttered hearts and lives of ours for His dwelling. And this is, precisely, what John was speaking about. It is our hearts, our lives... into these, God wills to enter and become significantly present. Into our hearts, Jesus wills to be born anew, so that with Him in our hearts, our lives may be transformed, our priorities may be reshuffled because Jesus's presence and influence purifies our hearts, our intentions, our wills and desires, and we may come to experience the joy and peace of our own transformation into better Christians, more fully alive and living in God's ways.

But just as we may be hopeful that God lets us taste the sweetness of His peace and joy, we have to first ask ourselves if there is any room for Baby Jesus. Is there room in our hearts for Him? Or are our hearts too clogged with bitterness, self-centeredness, unforgiveness? Have we, because of years of hurt and suffering, built a wall around our hearts, preventing anyone from coming close and at the same time, also preventing God to enter with His healing grace? And why would we save any space or make room for Him if He meant insignificantly to us to begin with?

Prepare a way for the Lord. Make straight His paths.
Prepare our hearts to receive Jesus.
Make the path for Him to enter into our hearts and lives straight; without bends or obstacles, humps or road-blocks.

What in our lives and hearts need to be scraped out so as to make a way for Jesus to enter into our hearts again this Christmas?

As the parishes begin their penitential services, we can better prepare for Christmas, to clear the clutter in our hearts, and thereby preparing a place in our hearts for Jesus's birth, by first examining our conscience and making a sincere and thorough confession. Have you blocked out a slot for one of the many penitential services held till next week?

12 December 2011, Monday

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Capturing His Consolation

Being away for a week or so, upon returning to Singapore, I realised that the one thing I miss the most is going to church daily. It sets the platform for a deeper realisation of what about church-going draws my heart to it and perhaps, Who, I find in church, at Mass, that lures my heart to Himself.

If you were going to be away from home, what will you miss the most?

I took thousands of photographs to capture moments, memories, sceneries...
Yet, I cannot capture in a photograph the moment of God's consolation, freely given by the Spirit who blows where It wills, when It wills, and rests upon who It wills. Its memory and experience lives in the heart of the blessed, in the storage space that never crashes and never is eroded - that silent interior space where one enters into a union with the Giver of the same consolation, to await the next moment of consolation as food for the journey towards the one final and everlasting consolation of unending union and dwelling with the Maker of our bodies and souls, and far beyond ourselves, the Maker of the entire universe, both discovered and yet to be discovered.

Into this silent space, let us go now... to meet the God who awaits us.
Into the Blessed Sacrament, let us go... to meet the hidden God who invites us to His love.
Into the confessional, let us go... to meet the God who welcomes us back into His embrace by the love and mercy that He has already fixed upon His cross with His body and blood.

10 December 2011, Saturday

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Alone in Thy Hands

Alone I came,
Alone I will go,
Alone I will dwell to experience life's flavours.

Only in Thy hands, Lord,
I am secured;
They hold me always in Your sight.

Written in the sky, above the clouds
28 November 2011, Monday