Sunday, 30 December 2012

The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor

How do you feel when you switch on the news channel or flip the papers and read about that 23 year old girl who did not survive the inhumane torture on that fateful night in New Delhi, one of the largest economies in the world? Anger? Helplessness? Disgust? How do you really feel towards the victim, her male friend, the gang? How do you feel towards the Indian government? The Indian culture? Indian men? And perhaps, as a result, towards God?

While some have appealed for peace and calm, is it truly possible to feel peace and calm within, in the face of such injustice? Can anything really appease the fire burning within, the soul's outcry for justice? Perhaps the death sentence of those 6 men? And for that matter, of all those who have ever committed such a demeaning act? Can any amount of torture, caning, fine, jail term, death sentence diminish or alter the cruelty that have already stained the innocent lives? The shame and scars permanently left? 

Does not the anger within start the mind on the generation of even more cruel ways of getting back at those men? Skin them alive? Immerse them into boiling water? Perhaps even castrate them? Sure it can quell the anger in our own hearts. But to what extent can these bring about the healing that the victims and their families really need? 

Where is God in all these?
Where is God when He is most needed?
What kind of God do we have who seems to sit back and do nothing in the face of suffering?

In our limited capacity to love, we are indescribably disgruntled. How much more it must have pierced the heart of Jesus. When our unknowing and incomplete understanding of God's Will put our faith to the test, shaking it right at its foundations, and we begin to question if there really is a God somewhere up there, can we hold fast to our believe in this God who always keeps His promise, who loves us far more than His own life? Can we trust still in the hope that God hears the cry of the poor and will raise them up from their nothingness, that He has always been and is still continuing to be at work in the world to bring about our salvation? 

Is He not found in those who have taken to the streets to put pressure on those who have been less than responsible in maximising their authority and resources for the voiceless, and who perceive their mediocre efforts as "best"? There are thousands who have felt and have owned up to their feelings towards all these injustices and are now standing up for justice, to be the voice for the voiceless. Is He not found in the specialists who worked tirelessly, trying their best to preserve the life that was discarded by others? Is He not found in our own hearts, in the hearts of those who have stormed heaven with sincere prayers? Is He not found even in the death of the victim, whose every wound, every scar, regardless of its depth, is now fully healed and made whole and perfect again with the fullness of God's love that He must have received and embraced her with? What would life be for her should she have survived and lived on?

Peace and calm can only return when we decide to let go of our mixed feelings and our need for everything to be under control and in order, and then humbly seek God's healing (because we are wounded ourselves by such savagery) with the childlike trust in the hope that in His hands and with His love, all will be ironed out. To allow Him to help us forgive even when those involved really do not seem to deserve any forgiveness, keeping in mind that even in our "lesser sinfulness", we too do not deserve the death of an innocent Man who died for all sinners, "big" and "small".

The 3rd and 4th verses of this song (found in Breaking Bread hymnal):

Every spirit crushed, God will save; 
Will be ransom for their lives;
Will be safe shelter for their fears, 
And will hear the cry of the poor.

We proclaim your greatness, O God,
Your praise ever in our mouth;
Every face brightened in your light,
For you hear the cry of the poor.

Where in our lives have we in large and small ways been robbed of our human dignity?
Where in our lives have we in large and small ways robbed others too of their human dignity?

Monday, 24 December 2012

Praying with Silence

Not too long back, I was engaged with a friend in a conversation. And there came a moment of silence. I cannot recall for how long it really lasted but it was one of those silences that I would not mind it continuing for long. A very rare occurrence. There was no eye contact but in that silence, I felt the whole space around us being filled with the fullness of emotions. A connectedness and togetherness that need no words for an ongoing communication of ourselves to each other - of what resided in the depths of our hearts about this shared relationship.

Even as time passes me by, I still at times think back and reminisce that silence, which brought me to realise how quality time spent with another can actually just be a conversation with this type of silence. I need not find the right words to convey less perfectly my true intentions and desires. Neither do I have to worry that the other misunderstands me because this silence speaks of a mutual understanding that words can only distort and under-represent. 

Have you ever tried this silence with someone close to your heart?

This encounter with silence led me to accept, in my own friendship with Jesus, that at times, the best prayer is spoken in this same silence. Sitting down beside Him, not knowing what to say because so much have happened, so many emotions that all seemed mixed up and too varied to really begin to name them one by one. 

In that silence with Jesus, like the silence shared with my friend, there is the continuous communication of what resides in our hearts. After having walked closely together through the cycles of rainbows and storms in our lives, roughing it out together and coming to know each other more, do we really need words to communicate that one thing that still holds our friendship in an ever stronger bond - mutual love? Can any words complete this task? Perhaps, in that silence is the moment of savouring the sweetness of the friendship, the company of each other, the enduring commitment to continue walking with each other. In that moment, I am connected with His love, and I respond to His love with my love too. 

I am grateful for this dear friend of mine, who, in our friendship, allows me to catch a glimpse of what my friendship with Jesus can be like. 

Have you ever sat with Jesus and prayed with silence?

How may Jesus be inviting us, as Christmas arrives, to sit with Him, and far more than just sitting with Him, to make room in our hearts to welcome Him in?

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Prayer - Make Me Whole

You know every wound that needs Your healing,
every weakness that needs Your overturning,
every sin that needs Your forgiveness,
every fear that needs Your calming,
every anxiety that needs Your peace,
every doubt that needs Your assurance,
every pride that needs Your humbling,
every unknowing that needs Your light. 
I ask, with faith and confidence in Your infinite love for me, that by Your body and blood I receive now in the Eucharist, You come more fully into my body and soul, mind and heart, and restore me to wholeness again.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Prayer - Not I but You

I am not the one who has seen with clarity all that I have ever seen with clarity, 
nor have I realised and found the way out of any difficulty I have ever emerged from.
I am not the one who has ever known any way and paved any path that I have ever walked.
I am not the one who has understood anything that I have ever understood, nor have I written anything spiritual that I have ever penned. 
I am not the one who has sung anything that moved any heart that I have ever moved, nor have I spoken of anything spiritual that have ever exited from between my lips.
I am not the one who has forgiven the many deep pains I have ever let go of, nor have I been the one offering any words of comfort that I have ever uttered. 

It is God.

It has always been God...

who shows me,
who strengthens me,
who assures me to forgive,
who encourages me to forgive,
who knows the way and prompts me in the way,
who pulls me out of the pit, 
who reveals to me,
who gives me His insights,
who opens my mind to understand, 
who opens my heart and fills it with love and compassion,
who speaks through me,
telling me what to say,
who inspires me with the words to write,
who moves my heart so I can sing with self-giving and conviction,
who directs my heart to know the heart of others in their pain and struggles.

It has always been God.
And will always be. 

May You, my Jesus, humble me more and more, so that I may surrender myself without anymore reservations to be that pencil in Your hand, writing Your letter of infinite love to Your beloved people. Amen.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Feeding a World Hungering for Intimacy

By Br. Jude David
Taken from Journey 2012 - a publication of the St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary 

Feeding a World Hungering for Intimacy 

I was recently sitting in a secondary catechism class at the parish that I am attached to this year and the topic for that day was on prayer. The topic was being presented from the perspective of the Lord's Prayer and how we should know the prayer and pray the prayer as Catholics. Whilst listening to the students, I felt a stirring in my heart to ask the students an important question that turned out to become central theme for my own reflection this year. I asked the teenagers present who Jesus was and many could give the right answer that he is God or the "Son of God". I went on to ask them, "If Jesus was God, why did he need to pray?"

Many remained silent at this question. Some whispered that he needed to ask the Father for what he wanted. Those who are more familiar with scripture would know that Jesus has also said that the Father has handed over all authority to him (cf. Jn 3:35). Why then did Jesus have to pray? The most important, yet so often overlooked reason why Jesus prayed was because it was his means of intimacy with his Father.

Most of us have been brought up thinking that prayer is a duty or obligation and whilst we started off with this notion of prayer as kids, we have sadly never really outgrown it. Prayer that is reduced to merely Christian obligation or a means of asking for favours takes away the essential dimension of love that is at the heart of Christian prayer. God reveals himself in Jesus Christ to invite mankind into a profound intimacy with him. God, who is love, invites us to love by entering into this communion of love with him.

There is an insatiable hunger for intimacy in the hearts of men and women which has become more glaring and alarming today with it being expressed in various forms, such as sexual promiscuity, pornography and even an obsession with technology that camouflages the deep inner longing to love and be loved. This deep longing of the human heart points to the fundamental intimacy we are each created for - intimacy with our Creator through Jesus Christ which flows into a self-giving intimacy with others. 

We as a Church must pay heed to this crisis of intimacy that many amongst us are facing and we need to be signposts to lead people back into this most fundamental intimacy with God through prayer. For such intimacy would certainly rejuvenate the faith of many which has waned and must be part of the programme of the New Evangelization we are called to embark on in this "Year of Faith". May many come to say with St. Augustine, "My heart has been restless, O God, until it rests in you!" 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

You're Always On My Mind

What's on your mind?
What fills your mind everyday?
Which, of all the thoughts that run through your mind in every conscious and subconscious moment, take up the greatest percentage?

Could it be that the answers to these questions suggest what we value, what our distractions are, what our priorities are? After all, the thoughts that linger for the most time in my mind are about the very things that I give the most attention to. And isn't it true that what we give the most attention to suggests what we value as most important to us? Therefore, also suggesting what our inner desires are?

This oldie "Always on My Mind" is one of the songs I grew up with. It sings of a man who is reflecting on a failed relationship, who has his ex-lover always on his mind. And having realised his falling short of loving his partner who has left him, he is pining for one more chance, desiring for her to return to him. His mind is filled with nothing but thoughts of his remorse and his hopes. He has lost someone important, though that importance was not realised any earlier.  

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Advent, the first day of the new liturgical year. Learning more about Advent, I have come to know that this joyful festive season means far more than just a time of preparation for the celebration of Christ's birth at Christmas, a preparation in which I most often find myself clueless in my poor attempts of finding ways precisely to go about this preparation. It extends beyond making room for this baby Jesus through the sacrament of reconciliation. It calls for us to spread our focus to the 2nd and 3rd comings of Jesus too. The first being Christ's birth in Bethlehem, the second being at the end time.

More permanent, concrete and significant is the third coming of Jesus which lies in between the first and second. It is the coming of Jesus into our lives, here and now, everyday and in every moment. And I'd like to think that it is right here in our hearts that He wishes for us to prepare a crib for Him, a home, a dwelling place for permanent residency. 

But to think that I not only have to welcome God into my life and make room for Him in my heart over a span of 4 Advent weeks leading up to Christmas but that this is ongoing, daily, for the rest of my life... Wow. Big commitment, big task, overwhelming, intimidating. Maybe not. I don't think this is for me. The thought of "maybe not", perhaps translatable as "I am not entirely willing to make all the necessary sacrifices". It points towards my inner desires (or lacking / weak desires)? I want to be a disciple... but... a part-time one. There are too many things I cannot let go of. 

If I exit the arrival hall of the airport and see my most beloved spouse whom I have not seen in a month, I, carrying in both hands the several DFS bags and briefcase and laptop bag..., run over to him. He hugs me tenderly and in my hands, I am still holding on to all the bags of various types. I cannot possibly embrace him and return his hug. I'm carrying too many heavy bags; my hands aren't free to embrace. Not until I drop everything that is keeping my hands occupied, not until I connect with and admit that embracing my spouse is my strongest desire at that moment.

So what have your thoughts been about today?
Our minds cannot think of more than one thing at the exact same time. To think of something requires us to let go and stop thinking of another. To pay more attention to God requires us to pay less attention to other matters that do not matter as much. 

How much do you desire for God to enter into your heart and life today?

01 Dec 2012, Saturday

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Prayer - The World as God Wants

The World as God wants
Spirit of God, where you want mountains, you pile up rocks with your mighty hand;
And where you want plains, you crush rocks with your mighty feet.
Where you want lakes, you dig a vast hole and fill it with water;
And where you want deserts, you send heat to dry up every drop.
Where you want trees, you draw them out of the earth;
And where you want fields, you sweep the earth clean.
The world is just as you want it to be.
May we behave just as you want us to behave.
~ the prayer of Shona people

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Finding God in the Waiting (*taps fingers*)

Looking at the jelly hearts cheesecake in the refrigerator, I cannot help but feel like a little kid who cannot wait to cut it up and chomp it down. Staring at it with eyes glowing with great delight. The anticipation is almost killing me. The wait seems too long and painful. I wish I could eat it right now! Still, I have to wait because the cheesecake needed to set before the jelly is poured over, and then to wait some more because now, the jelly needs time to set. I don't want to eat liquid jelly hearts cheesecake...! 

Quite coincidentally (or not), today's Gospel reflection pointed me towards this whole idea of 'waiting'. A waiting that is not a period of sitting by and letting time pass aimlessly and meaninglessly. Rather, it is a waiting that encompasses an evolution of some sort. A wait that hangs a "Work in Progress" sign on its door. 

Luke 2:41-52
Jesus was 'lost' and then 'found' in the temple when he was twelve. (v.51-52) He went down with them (His parents) and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother stored up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and with people.

In the next chapter of Luke's Gospel, we see John baptising in the river Jordan, preparing the way for the Messiah's coming. And then Jesus reappears again, at about thirty years of age, for baptism and the beginning of His ministerial work. What was going on in between, for almost 18 years? A tremendous wait. What was Jesus doing in those years? What could be happening within Him for Him to have increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and with people?

There seems to be many accounts of  'waiting' throughout the Bible. Zechariah's speech was taken away for months until the birth of his son, John the Baptist, when he regained his speech, was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to prophesy (Luke 1:67-79). A striking shift from his lack of faith in the message of the angel foretelling of his wife's pregnancy. What happened in those months that could have possibly brought about this shift?

Then, there is the beautiful waiting between Jesus's death and resurrection. The plunging of the spirits and moods, hopes and faith of the apostles as they waited without the knowledge of the impending resurrection. The plunge that was a necessary emptying out so as to make room to welcome the ecstatic joy and consolation of the Master's resurrection. The most dreadful wait, the feeling of losing one's bearings, being in a complete loss. Yet, masked within the desolation was the presence of an ongoing evolution.

On top of the many 'waits' my life consists of, isn't my life itself a whole lifetime of waiting? A waiting for the final arrival of my reunion with my Father? A wait that does not see me sitting on a bench and awaiting that final moment but on the contrary, a wait which encompasses an evolution of ME, a metamorphosis into the image and likeness of my Creator? Eager I may be, to allow God the time and freedom to shape me?

What then, do I do in this wait? Perhaps, I need to pay attention, to listen attentively, and to respond actively. And blanketing these with a patience that allows the moment of readiness, the end of my wait to arrive in its due course. Could this be what Jesus and Zechariah did in their waiting? To pay attention to the Spirit's promptings, to listen attentively to the soft voice of God's teaching and direction, and to respond actively in doing all they could to cooperate with God's working in them? There seems to be far more within a draggy wait that I have previously been aware of. 

What is waiting like for you?

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Humanising the Divine Love

We often find that the human love of the lover runs in proportion with the goodness of the one being loved. For instance, I may start out loving someone so intensely and wholeheartedly. So it seems. But being human, I am surely to be hurt at some time and to some extent by this someone and with each time I am hurt, I pull back my love little by little. I ration my love increasingly. I rationalise how much of me I can entrust to this person according to his capabilities of taking care of my vulnerability. It might even reach a point where that love diminishes completely and turns into hate. 

Our perception of love is very much, more often than not, influenced by such encounters with a love that consistently undergoes renegotiations. A love that requires us to keep investing our time and caution to upkeep. A love that needs to be earned by an exchange of my good deeds and my own initiatives which prove me to be worthy of this love. A love that seems to be inconsistent and thus, provides me with more insecurity than security. A love that can be lost at any time when I am proven unworthy. 

And with this knowledge of what love is, isn't it true that we often find it beyond us to understand the love of God for us? Definitely, we can never fully comprehend God's infinite love for us. But to trust in God's love for us, to accept this love, to know this love, to live in this love, to rest in this love, to rely on this love... all seem too far-fetched for anyone who has no experiences with and who has little concept of a love that is given freely without conditions, a love that remains consistent across time, space and circumstances. 

Is the love that God has for us proportionate to our sinfulness? In theory, by faith, we know the obvious answer to this question but in the reality of our lives, in the way we actually live out our faith, can we find traces of an underlying distortion of the love we think God must have for us? When we realise how we have sinned, how tough it is to even want to ask God for forgiveness because to us, at least to me, I find myself so undeserving, so unfit even to be in the sacred presence of God. 

If God's love is proportionate to the sinfulness of mankind, then history would be markedly different from what it is today. Jesus would not have emptied Himself of His glory and power to take on human flesh. The Father would not have parted with His Son and witness Him hang lifeless on the cross. Is there anyone on earth who deserves His love? Is there anyone of us whose life can justify His coming? Is there anyone who is so pure and spotless as to be fitting to come in direct contact with the body and blood of the pure and spotless Christ on our tongues at Communion? No, there isn't. 

Yet, God came to us on His own accord, by His own initiative, before the majority of mankind was even born. The love that He has already fixed, nailed onto the cross. This love needs no renegotiation, needs no renewal. It does not require us to do anything to earn it and neither is it something that can be earned. It is not a commodity put on sale on the shelves, tagged with a price. This love remains a constant while the state of our lives go on fluctuating. From the beginning all through eternity, it will not move one inch. Regardless of my unworthiness, regardless of my distance from Him, whenever I turn to this love, I will always find it there in its totality, in its fullness, not an ounce short. This love that never changes, that has already been given freely without any of my doing... this is the love that I can, at every moment, rest secure in. This love that surrounds and protects me, that provides for me everything that is good, that promises good and hope amidst pain and sufferings. This love that calms the storminess of my heart when trouble stirs with the assurance that all is well and under control in the loving hands of my God. 

What is your image of God's love?
In what ways have you humanised God's divine love? 

Monday, 15 October 2012

Touching God's Divinity

I touch the divine love of God as I reminisce the journey of my life.
I touch the divine compassion of God as I recount His kindness towards the undeserving me.
I touch the divine mercy of God as I recall the moments He crossed the distance of infinity to reach me in my humanity to bring me home.

I touch the divinity of God. as I behold before my very eyes the unfathomable mystery of my life.
Before the God whose hands crafted the miracle of my life,
I am left dumbfounded, awestruck, helplessly humbled;
Before this God I am just beginning to know. 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

I Love ... (?) ... You

Can you imagine what our world will be like if everyone did anything and everything he/she pleases? Perhaps, to some extent, this is already a widespread way of living in our world today. And what do we have? Pain, more pain, increasing pain... So much brokenness. Rampant brokenness. Brokenness played down by a so-called 'resilience' which, unmasked, reveals fear and helplessness. A mess that we can only stare at helplessly. Speechless.

People do anything and everything they please because they have no regard for anyone else and it isn't hard to understand why. Why should I care for anyone when I myself am suffering, when I am being ill-treated, when I am not cared for? Why should I bother how people feel? Why should I help another at my own expense, and inconvenience myself? To each his own...! I fend for myself. If I don't, who will? 

But who is bullying us, who is removing the care for one another, who is causing our sufferings? Isn't the biggest culprit the absence of true love? True love, distorted, repackaged and sold cheaply in the marketplace to reach the masses? 

How often do we mean 'I love me first, then you' when we say 'I love ... ... you'? Perhaps, we aren't even aware of the strength of the 'I' in ourselves. Perhaps, we know... but not the full extent of it. Perhaps, we  really do know and are already working to minimise this 'I'. And why do I keep going on about this 'I'? Because true love has no 'I'... only 'other'. 

Those who have stuck on in their marriage, in their priestly and religious vocations... not just for the sake of keeping everything status quo, in name, but truly to live out these vocations... these are the ones who are daily fighting against all odds to deny this 'I', renouncing self, taking up the cross and following the One who emptied Himself completely for others, for us. And what happened to this Person? He died on the cross. True love comes with a price... the purer and deeper the love, the bigger the price... but it doesn't end here in such a morbid state. The bigger the price paid, the more glorious the resurrection. True love nourishes our souls, giving us a happiness that is real and lasting. And are we not, in all our searching and seeking, in all our trials and errors of what to do with our lives, looking for happiness of some sort? True love isn't without pain... but it is a different kind of pain; a pain that builds us up rather than destroy, a pain that affirms us that we have fought the good fight and have returned victorious. 

But if we are so unloved and going through so much sufferings because of all the hurts people inflict on us, how can we love anyone? We're so broken ourselves. To be loved, to be embraced, to be healed, assured and affirmed, to be restored to wholeness... We need to go to the Fountain of everlasting love, the Source of love - God. To be filled with the most secure love, to be renewed, refreshed, to be brought to restful waters and have our drooping spirits uplifted and revived. 

To know in theory makes no difference to anyone's life until we actively seek this Living Water... 

What kind of love do you want to settle for? 


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Finding God in the Marketplace of My School

I thank God for those sweet and thoughtful students I have;
They convince me of the glimmer of hope amidst disappointments, love amidst indifference.
They are the hands through which God embraces me in His love.

I thank God for those less wonderful, hardworking and brilliant students I have;
They highlight my limitations, and teach me patience, perseverance and compassion. 
They are the moulds in which God shapes my love for Him.

Today, I thank God for all of them, forgive those who have made life difficult, and pray for God's abundant blessings and guidance upon them.

Where is God in your life today?


Sunday, 16 September 2012

Under a Big Tree


Have you ever had a person(s) in your life who was, to you, like a big tree? 

A person who gave shelter from the scorching Sun, one whose big broad branches gave good comforting shade, one who stays put where he is, well-grounded, like a tree rooted firmly to the ground and whenever you returned to that spot, you'd find him there, always there? One whose presence is non-threatening, easing and assuring, never putting pressure upon you, never expecting you to be any different from who you are at that moment? Always allowing you to come as you are, staying by you with unfailing support?

Have you ever shared a relationship with such a person who is likened to this big tree? 
What a blessing it is to have shared in such a God-given relationship.

Who, then, in our lives, can we now be that big tree to?


Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Petrol Kiosk

Jesus has this thing about asking of people what is humanly impossible. 
He asks of us to renounce ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. Just as He emptied Himself of everything, we are called to empty ourselves too. To be detached from every attachment so as to attach ourselves completely to Him.
He says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light but more often than not, why do I find that it is heavier and far more difficult than what I can bear? At least... when I am running on self-fuel mode

Have you also encountered similar struggles? Stuck between having to let go and wanting to hold on? Stuck between wanting your way and knowing that you will have to eventually give in somehow? A tug-of-war between resisting and surrendering.

If surrender wins and we are off our "self-fuel" mode and onto "God-fuel" mode, then be sure that all graces necessary will be granted to aid us in whatever situation we are in. What was humanly impossible is made divinely possible. 

The question now is embedded in our choice - will I trust enough to surrender? To renounce, to follow, to bear the pain...? Will I really be alright not having my way?

Monday, 20 August 2012

On the Busy Streets of Ho Chi Minh - Part I

Have you ever been a passenger on a motorcycle? If you ever had such an experience, what were your feelings, and if you never had, how do you think you would you possibly feel as a pillion passenger? I was not exactly pleasantly surprised when Sr. Anna, Superior of a Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM) community in Ho Chi Minh, came to pick me from the airport on her bike. I have never rode on one and never had the intention of doing so. How was I to place my luggage? How would I balance while holding onto it? There was no time to think. It's just hopping on and let's go... I felt awkward, scared and was praying hard not to fall off. But the bike ride was more insightful than I could ever have imagined. 

I began to look more closely at my fears. I was no longer in control of my life, that is if my life was ever in my control to begin with. Where the rider turned, how she turned, at what angle, how fast she rode, when she break and accelerated, how near she went to the other vehicles on the road and how fast she could react to avoid being knocked by any of the many other bikes on the road... all were beyond my control. My life became dependent on the skill of the rider. And it was so striking because I could see the parallel with my spiritual journey and with life. 

How often does the control over our lives get shifted into the hands of another. Our performance bonus may not depend on the amount of work we have done as it is on the favour we have won from the boss. Diseases seem to have an upper hand in deciding the amount of time we have left on earth. A patient in the operating theatre has his life in the hands of his surgeons. In all these situations, the constant is uncertainties, fear and anxieties, because we can no longer influence or map out the outcome. Clearly, in our lives, as much as we think we are, we are really not the riders as much as we are the pillion passengers. 

And as passengers, how safely we arrive at our destinations depends on who we are riding behind.
Is this rider a safe and law-abiding road user? How many years of experience has he? And if we were to conduct an interview to hire a resident rider to drive us around everyday, these are the questions we will probably ask on top of his accident records. We want to minimise our risk of accidents by narrowing down our candidates to the one we deem as most reliable and trustworthy in his riding skills and in character. The one who best fits the job. 

And which leads me to the question "Who am I riding behind on the road of my life?" Who may you be a passenger to on the road of your life? 
Into whose hands have we entrusted our lives to?
Have we held onto life in our own hands, have we placed ourselves into the hands of money, status, a certain person like our spouse or children? 
Who drives the vehicle of your life? Who holds the steering wheel of your life?

On the last day of my stay, on the way to the airport, I was riding behind the same Sr. Anna on the same bike. And what a stark contrast it was in my experience as a passenger. I was no longer afraid, worried or tensed up. I still prayed but with confidence that I am in the safe hands of God and Sr. Anna. I began to look around at the scenery instead of trying to jut my head out to look ahead. I closed my eyes at one point and felt the breeze upon my face. I was at ease.  

What caused this change?
In those few days of living with the rider, I came to know who she is as a person. My personal encounters with her convinced me that she treasures life and knows what is important in any situation. I could trust her that in a crisis, she will not abandon me for the safety of herself. 

On the busy streets of our lives, who are we riding behind? 
Is it God? 
He who has an accident-free record, who is so completely reliable because His love for us holds us safe. He who places us above Himself when He decided to forego His glory for our eternal life. The Father who forgets His dignity as a Father, as God, and runs out to welcome us home. The One who parted with His Beloved Son to bring us back to His side. Can there possibly be another rider who can give us more security? The more we come to know this Rider, the more we can sit securely behind Him.

Who are the riders you are seated behind?
Where are you headed towards? 
Have your rider(s) gotten you lost on the busy streets of your life?

20 August 2012

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Fixated Eyes

We have a practice in school whereby to get the pupils' attention, the teacher would say, "Eyes on me." And the pupils are supposed to reply, "All eyes on you." After which, they are supposed to look at the teacher and focus. No distractions, no more talking. Listen to the teacher. 

Today's Gospel is the familiar scene of Jesus and Peter walking on water. Jesus told Peter, "Come." And Peter did. He walked on the water towards Jesus. He, as human as you and I are, defied all known Scientific principles, went against what was natural - to fall straight down into the water. This is a marvellous gift of affirmation for us because it shows us what faith in God can do. 

But when the wind blew, Peter felt it and started to fear. He began to sink. Isn't this so familiar to us? We are told to have faith in Jesus but when a fight occurs at home, when a relationship is broken, when the doctor brings us unpleasant news of our health, when a job is lost or when an examination is failed, we see the realness of the situation and we can no longer identify with this faith in Jesus. We lose hope, feel helpless and anxious, and we see nothing but dead ends. We, like Peter, begin to fear as soon as we are hit with the reality of our frightful situations. 

But yet again, isn't it so wonderful and comforting to know that even though we fall short of Jesus's call to faith, even though we doubt in Him, Jesus knows we need help and like He did to Peter when the latter called out to Him, He stretched out His hand and grabbed hold of Peter, prevented him from sinking and drowning in the stormy sea. We need not be perfect to win God's love and help. 

In all situations, if our sight is fixed upon Jesus, upon His glorious resurrection, His infinite compassion for us, need we fear anything? But fear comes in when our focus waivers and shifts away from Him, so much so that our eyes see the threats and can no longer see the God we know. Our minds and hearts take after what lies in our eyes. 

Today, our Gospel calls us to fix our eyes upon Jesus, our minds and our hearts.
Which brings to mind a song. 

Instrumental version 
With lyrics [Alan Jackson]

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Patience made Easier

Patience. A rather difficult feat, and still growing in its level of difficulty as each day passes. Impatience within the family, at school, at work, at the marketplace, at the malls, on the roads especially. We may try very hard to be patient but before long, we break and we snap, we horn, we curse, we scold. An argument results, disharmony in the family, hurtful words hurled with no turning back. Regret and remorse are left when the spurt of frustration dissipates. Discouraged, we try to find some strength to convince ourselves to do better next time. But why this lack of patience? This lack of love? 

Impatience, like sadness and anger, is a telling sign that something does not sit quite right within us. It could be work stress that is telling us that our bodies and minds have been ill-treated. It could be a person who have hurt us in the past and without knowing it, some resentment is still lurking around in some corner of our hearts. Whatever the cause, impatience seems to point towards a disharmony, a lack of peace in our relationship - with ourselves, with God, with fellow men. 

And when faced with such a disharmony, it is futile to just suppress our frustrations and simply tell ourselves to try again the next time. This method, though quick and easy, does not arrest the problem at its deeper, underlying cause. We are just pretending to be alright.

At this point, it might be helpful to recall one or more incidents in which you lost your patience. 

One of the possible ways to curb impatience might be forgiveness rather than suppression. And it might well be a very important prayer component throughout each day. 

Besides doing an examination of conscience and seeking God's forgiveness for the wrong done and the good undone for the day, perhaps, this whole issue of forgiveness needs to take both directions - of looking at the areas I need forgiveness and of looking at the areas I need to grant forgiveness. After all, we cannot pray the Our Father with "...forgive us our trespasses and lead us not into temptations..." Jesus taught us in the prayer, "... forgive us our trespasses as WE FORGIVE those who trespassed against us..." Both are taken as one entity. We are asking that God forgives us in the same way as we forgive others. 

When we have forgiven and let go of the hurt, the resentment, and pushing the 'reset' button in our relationships, only then can we be patient with one another because there is no more accumulated animosity. Each encounter becomes a fresh encounter. Isn't it true that most of our arguments are powered out of proportion by built-up frustrations, be it with the person we are arguing or with others in unrelated incidents, or perhaps, even with ourselves? And at times, the person we need most to forgive is ourselves. Times when we wanted to do better but did not, when we fall short. If we are not even secure and at peace with ourselves, holding onto so much tension, how can we be at peace in any other relationship? How can there be understanding and kindness?

Often, we do not really bring to awareness our unpleasant feelings, let alone the ones who may have caused them. Without this awareness, we cannot possibly make that deliberate act to forgive the person. Thus, in prayer, and in fact, throughout the day, we must at least have brief moments of bringing our attention to the inner most part of our beings, get in touch with the feelings that lie so unnoticed, and see if there is anyone we need to forgive. Praying for God's grace to forgive, we let go of the hurts and restore the peace in our hearts. 

We are not born into this world as impatient beings. Perhaps, if we find it in our hearts the courage and love to forgive truly those who have hurt us, we might find that patience isn't all too impossible after all.  

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The Culture of Our Family

Today's readings (Jeremiah 26:11-16,24) and Gospel (Matthew 14:1-12) tell about two people who spoke the truth - John the Baptist and Jeremiah. 

John spoke up against the sin of Herod taking his brother's wife. Surely, it is not pleasing to the deliberate sinner to hear of his own sin. While Herod was afraid to put John to death, Herodias was not. She hated John for laying out so openly the sin she refused to turn away from. She could not stand the light that John shone on her darkness. Wanting to remain in her darkness, she had the head of the Baptist on a platter. She snuffed out the light that made her bare. 

Jeremiah was close to being put to death by the priests and prophets for pointing out the truth of their sinfulness and the anger of God. Pride masks darkness and lies to avoid the light. Not wanting to hear that they are wrong. Not wanting to change for the better. Not wanting to admit their inadequacies. Can such hearts come before God in sincerity? These so called ministers of the law and truth.

Light or darkness?
Truth or lie?
Do we not have to choose one over the other everyday of our lives? 
And which have we been choosing?
Have our choices been conditional on the price attached? 
If it is not too easy to choose the truth, then maybe I will speak the opposite this time. God will understand my reasons.
If the truth is going to land me in trouble because of a mistake I made, then... better not. It will be disastrous if the truth is out. 
If the truth is going to be difficult for the other person to accept, then I had better find a way to make it diluted so it does not come across too harsh. What if the person cannot take it? 

Rejection, persecution, insult, etc and in the cases of our readings today, death. These are the consequences of upholding the truth. To what extent are we prepared to accept them in our daily Christian living? 

Beyond the choice between telling a truth or a lie is the choice between living the Truth or the lie. And the only mode to living the Truth is that of our deeds. Upholding the Truth, that is Jesus Himself. Being a witness of His love and mercy, compassion and faithfulness by being these to others, bringing these values to the world. Being a witness that He is our God, the one true God, who came to invite us into the Family of the Trinity. And being family, to reflect what this Family stands for, to stand for what Jesus has shown us to stand for. Or have we been afraid of the consequences this may bring? The sacrifices and sufferings it may cost us?

Those who have gone before us and who have stood firm on the path of righteousness have now been united into the Family of God. John the Baptist, Jeremiah, and others...

Now is our time, our turn.
How may you more deeply embed yourself into your true Family today and every day?

04 August 2012, Saturday

Monday, 16 July 2012

Authority - Not Easy & Casual at all

One of the reasons that accounts for the sufferings in the world, and I believe it is a major reason, is the misuse and under-use of authority. And this is also the reason why the death sentence of Jesus could pass through Pilate. The people knew well how to manipulate Pilate, just like how satan always attacks at our points of weakness. 

Fear of losing a position of authority
Thus, to safeguard this position, compromises are being made. Giving in to the masses. Gaining approval rather than standing by righteousness. Afraid of making a stand, afraid to offend, fearing rejection, insecurities. 

Lack of sound and solid values needed to make difficult decisions as one in authority 
The greater the authority, the greater the responsibility. How often do we find unwise leaders. Leaders who are precisely fearful of losing their positions because their values are not sound to begin with. They are self-centred and thus, making their decisions wise to themselves but unwise to everyone else. 

Being in authority and really thinking one is lord over all
Authority blown out of proportion. Unleashing the hidden evilness of a person, the insecurity now swings to the other extreme. 

Look at our society today. Suffering is rampant - in the poor as well as in the rich, and in the average folks. Suffering known AND suffering UNknown.

The poor suffer from starvation, oppression. Made to feel lesser than a human being because of the more powerful. Governments are corrupted, reserving the best and the majority for themselves, leaving their people in a sorrowful plight. Authority given to them is misused for their own betterment rather than for the common good. Authority, like that of Pilate, given to them from above.

The poor are forced into cheap labour for their survival. By who? By the rich who refuse to share their wealth. Those in authority in huge multinational companies. Authority given to them is misused. They are the ones who can affect the poor most effectively but then, profit is key. They think they are the privileged ones, the blessed because they have more. But they do not see the curse because they have failed to be brother and sister to our Lord. They have no idea what awaits them. 

The average folks I see around me like parents have gotten their sense of authority all upside down. Authority is given to parents to bring up their children, educate them in the way of truth and goodness. But instead, many parents now live under the authority of their children. One parent emailed me, "I wanted to speak to him (her son) about your feedback this morning but he wasn't in a good mood to talk to me." A child needs to be in a good mood before he speaks with his own mother? Authority given to parents is distorted because parents cannot afford the time and energy, parents are more insecure these days, and they need to constantly "win" the approval of their children. They fear most the truth that they are not doing enough and not doing what is right for their children. Parent-child relationships have become friendships as a result, and herein lies the complete distortion of rightful authority.

Without knowing, many are suffering. The educated, the rich, the middle class, ... we too are suffering, even though the type of suffering is not as explicit as those of the poor and sick. Lest we think we are the superior lot. 

We suffer because with all these distortions of the truth, of what being in authority truly means, and underlying this, of what true love really is, we are deviating further and further away from the image and likeness of God. There canNOT be peace in our hearts, nor joy or fulfilment. Our souls are crying out for its Maker but it is too weak a cry amidst the many loud noises that surround us. We find it harder and harder to understand and believe in the love of God because we have redefined love to make God's love stupid, illogical and not applicable in today's world. 

Greed, pride, individualism. 
Being in authority spells better life for myself and family. 
But intelligent as we are, we market ourselves to be in authority by using the big magnanimous name of the common good. We actually DO know what is needed to be done for the common good. But we have chosen not to carry out these promises when we have taken our seat as chairman, as president, etc. 

In everyday lives, we too, no matter how small, are given authority. Our conscience, intellect and will have been given authority over our feelings too. Do we choose to act on impulse instead? 

We have been given authority over our wealth. What do we do with this authority? Do we share or hog? Do we need a beggar to ring our door bells, ask for bread before we take it out to share or can we already hear the cry of the poor from afar in our borderless world? What do we spend on? Necessity or vanity?

We have been given authority over our lips. What do we say? Are we life-giving? Do we give Jesus to one another in what we say? Do we speak His language of love? 

Authority over our eyes and ears. What do we choose to set our eyes on? What do we choose to listen to? Our hands and feet. Our feet can walk to church, to the casino, to the pubs. Our time. What do we do with our time? Own pleasures or to enrich ourselves and the lives of others? 

There are people who are not given such authorities. Those who are blind, those lame and deaf to name a few. We who have must learn to exercise our authority responsibly as God has taught us to.

How are you exercising your authority given to you from above?
What are you doing with your authority?

16 July 2012, Monday