Saturday, 31 March 2012

Remain - The Eighth Station

The Eighth Station
Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

Lk 23:27-31
Large numbers of people followed him, and of women too, who mourned and lamented for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep rather for yourselves and for your child. For the days will surely come when people will say, "Happy are those who are barren, the wombs that have never borne, the breasts that have never suckled!" Then they will begin to say to the mountains, "Fall on us!"; to the hills, "Cover us!" For if men use the green wood like this, what will happen when it is dry?' 

Our minds perceive only to the extent of the depth of our faith. The women of Jerusalem saw the sad state of Jesus but failed to understand what He was warning them about - that He is not the pitiful one for His glory awaits Him, but that the people of Jerusalem will be the ones to suffer. The sin of war and the evil in man's hearts will bring about so much suffering, torture and death. Mothers will be broken to lose their husbands and sons in war

We often recognise the poverty of others. We know when someone is poor financially and we are moved with pity for them. But we forget that poverty does not only entail the financial or physical dimensions of a person. We forget to search into our hearts to look for our own poverty. Our lack of love, wounds yet to be healed, anger that robs our peace, our attachments to meaningless things and activities, our insecurities and arrogance. 

How are you poverty-stricken? 

Reflecting more deeply on this eighth station in the Way of the Cross, and 
Knowing that to examine and recognize your own poverty will not bring forth pleasant feelings, will you still remain with Him in sincerity and honesty, and to bring your poverty before God, asking Him to fill your every need? 

Friday, 30 March 2012

Remain - The Seventh Station

The Seventh Station
Jesus Falls the Second Time


Mankind's salvation history might have been grossly altered if Jesus had these motivations in His mind. "I must get to the end... Endure, endure...," or "I must prove to them that I have come from my Father," or even "This is God's Will; I must fulfil it." We know how far such short-lived motivations can take us. How often we feel motivated at one time but lose that drive in another. When God's Will is not entwined with ours, fulfilling it becomes a burden and we cannot go too far in this groundless endeavour.  

Sheer strong will, determination to prove a truth and even the plain obedience to do what God wants cannot possibly drive someone across the long distance; only love can. Jesus's love for His Father and for all of us is infinitely greater than the pain and suffering He was enduring. I'd like to believe that whenever He fell, whenever He felt that He could not go on any more, it was His unwavering love that moved His heart to strengthen His will to carry on. Somehow, every connection with love injects another ounce of strength to do what is most loving. Jesus knows most intimately the love of His Father and with this, He then gives this same love to humanity.

In what, from whom do you obtain the strength you need to do what is most loving in life's situations? 
Were there times you found it impossible to love without heeding the wounds, without counting the cost, without feeling sore about being short-changed? 
How is Jesus inviting you deeper into His love, your one and only living Source of all graces?

Reflecting more deeply on this seventh station in the Way of the Cross, and
Recognizing that to rely more firmly on the one true Source for all that you need everyday requires you to give up many comfortable and familiar ways to enter more deeply into the loving relationship between God and you, will you still remain with Him as He turns your life around?

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Remain - The Sixth Station

The Sixth Station
Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus


Who was this lady, Veronica? Who was she that stood up against the crowd and opposed it not by violent means but by a pure and simple gesture that conveyed so movingly her deep compassion and love for Jesus? Where everyone and every chaos could not distract her from her unwavering gaze on that precious face of her dear Jesus? 

Surely, there was something about Jesus that spoke to Veronica's heart. Why wasn't she part of the crowd who mocked at Jesus instead? What drew her to break through the crowd, put herself before Jesus, risking her own life and reputation of being on Jesus's side, just to wipe the sweat and blood off Jesus's face? It does not look like any superficial love at all. Rather, it looks like one that is immovable, deeply embedded; one that could only have come about because of an intimate, life-transforming encounter with this Person. It was a love that could never be undone; a love that puts the lover always before self and all else; a love more precious than life itself, more powerful than fear can ever be. 

Do you remember your most intense personal encounter with God? When and what was it?
Have you allowed this encounter and others to remain in your heart and to follow its drawing of you into a deeper love and union with God? 

Reflecting more deeply on this sixth station of the Way of the Cross, and 
Knowing well that love entails our vulnerability and that loving God requires the denial of ourselves, our possessions, comfort, securities, certainties, control over our lives, will you still remain with Him in His desire to take you deeper into His friendship, into His love?

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Remain - The Fifth Station

The Fifth Station 
Simon Helps Jesus Carry the Cross


Simon, a complete stranger, was asked to help Jesus carry the cross. If you were Simon, what would your reaction be? What business has it to do with you that you have to bear the weight of another's cross? 

Looking around us, do we not bear the weight and consequences of others' lives everyday? A family member is treated unjustly in the office and we end up having to console him. A friend just got betrayed by his/her spouse and we spend sleepless nights staying by the broken hearted, tending to his/her emotional needs. A teacher has to undo a child's wrong values inculcated by his parents, and at times, playing the role of a guardian because his parents simply do not care. A clinical social worker has to trace an elderly's family members who have abandoned him in the hospital, and look for lodging and financial aid when the family remains uncontactable. 

Many times, we find ourselves clearing up a mess left behind by others, mending a wound inflicted by another. We have been innocent but implicated, like Simon. Simon probably had the least idea about what was going on, being a passer-by himself, and probably had never knew Jesus. He could have well formed his judgements that this man must have been a really terrible criminal to be treated this way. Maybe, he even thought that this terrible criminal should carry the cross himself and not implicate others. Whatever his thoughts and feelings, Simon took on the cross and helped this poor desolated man. 

Who are the people you have embraced, imperfect they may be, and extended God's love to?
Who are the people you judge and form opinions of? 
How have you refused to be Simon to these people? 
We often have true and valid reasons why these people do not deserve our help. After all, they have been unkind themselves, they never helped us when we were in need... So why should we help them? They need to be taught a lesson. 
How is Jesus asking you to love Him and to help carry His cross in helping these people?  

Reflecting more deeply in this fifth station in the Way of the Cross, and 
Knowing that to help another requires you to discard your prejudices, step out of your comfort zone, give up your time, energy and other more enjoyable activities, that you will pay a price in your helping of another, will you still remain with Him under the weight of His cross?

We are the Reason

Friday, 23 March 2012

Remain - The Fourth Station

The Fourth Station
Jesus Meets His Mother


Jesus's meeting with His mother on the way to Calvary was not a coincidental occurrence. She was with Him all along the way, remaining with Him in spirit, holding Him in her heart in a bond that no physical distance could ever separate. She remained with Jesus in His pain and humiliation, His struggles and falls. Like Simeon foretold, "a sword will pierce your own heart". 

Have you ever empathized with Jesus and Mary in their meeting and felt a fraction of the pain they must have felt? Of a mother beholding her Son in such a desolated state? Of a Son beholding His mother who He knows is completely devastated because of Him? In those few seconds, to seek whatever comfort they can in each other, to communicate their love and affirmation of each other's companionship to the end. And perhaps, no words were even needed for these; would they not know what laid in each other's hearts? 

To Mary, she probably would have her doubts, lack of understanding, fears and most certainly the great inconsolable pain. But she did not blame God or anyone for the devastation brought upon her beloved Son and upon herself. She just remained faithfully in the situation she was in, allowing her Son to do what He needed to do, and bearing the mess of emotions churning within.

When have you abandoned Jesus and ran away from the way of the cross? Moments of lying or hiding the truth to keep yourself out of trouble? Moments of looking at injustice and keeping quiet about it to safeguard your own interests? Moments of feeling the pain of life but not facing up to them because pain is unpleasant? 
How much do you love Jesus? 
Do you want to love Him more? 
Have you made the decision to love Him more, to seek Him more steadfastly?

Reflecting more deeply on this fourth station in the Way of the Cross, and 
Being aware that remaining with Jesus will certainly entail pain and suffering like that of Mary, will you still remain with Him, faithfully seeking God's Will in the true spirit of discipleship, resting our hopes in the great joy of the resurrection?

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Remain - The Third Station

The Third Station
Jesus Falls the First Time


Jesus bore the weight of the heavy wood, made heavier by the deep sadness in His Sacred Heart because of all the people who reject Him, take Him for granted, and who place Him at the bottom of their priority list throughout the entire history of mankind. Have you ever looked into our hearts and at the world we live in and wonder what kind of love is so foolish as to endure so much suffering for people who cannot quite bother about it anyway?

Jesus fell; His weakening body was crushed under this heavy load. And yet, instead of throwing the cross to one side and surrendering to the Jews' accusations that He is not the Son of God, instead of running away from the pain and suffering, instead of saying, "This is all not worth it", Jesus kept only one Person in His mind and heart - His Father. And the Will of His Father for the salvation of all. The whole burden of Man's salvation rested upon His shoulders. He either made it to the end or it is over for us. Instead of cheering Him on, how often do we add on to the weight of His cross. 

But with His heart completely focused, He picked Himself up, however tired, exhausted, excruciatingly in pain He was, and walked on... to the end. 

What are the stresses and burdens you have in life?
Have these made you feel tired, tired of life, fed up with the world, leaving you in great pain?
Have you ever want to just give up when life is too difficult to continue walking on?
What do you do when you meet with such moments in life? Do you turn to God as your saving help or do you take to other meaningless activities that you think can ease your tiredness and pain? Do you run away, escape and be indifferent towards the pain within? When children are naughty and disobey, when relationships break down, when career is threatened, financial strains threaten, when we lose a loved one?
Do you give up and walk off? Or do you pick yourself up when you fall and walk on?
But how would you walk on if you had no end in mind, no Source of strength to keep you going?

Reflecting more deeply on this third station in the Way of the Cross, and 
Appreciating the perseverance of Jesus in walking to the very end for our salvation, will you still remain with Him in persevering in your life's struggles and pain?

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Garden of Spiritual Direction

What can we find in a huge public garden that has been landscaped?

Signposts pointing towards food and beverage, toilets, car parks, etc. Signposts are for first timers to the garden because they do not know where to find the places that meet their current needs and how to get there. We do not look at the signpost before the need to find a location arises; we look at it at the moment of a crossroad, at the moment of needing to make a decision, at the moment of need. Signposts are also for those who have not visited for a long time and have forgotten the locations and directions. They are also for those who have been coming but have new needs and new locations they want to visit and explore. We need not follow the signs to get around when we are familiar with the place. We can take short cuts.

But what connects signpost to signpost? Paths. We dont just look at the signpost and stand there. We walk down the path in the direction we are told will get us to our destination. The paths aren't just a pavement for us to take us to our destination. They are curved and not straight because they do not just serve one purpose of getting us to point B. They weave between other landscapes so that as we are walking, we can also admire the natural beauty around us and feel connected with God's creation in nature. However, it is rather easy for the visitor to focus only on his destination and forget the experience of the journey. Paths are not all sunny and unshaded. The plantation on its sides give shade once in a while for people who have not reached the gazebo to take a hide from the unsparing Sun. Dead leaves fall from the trees and litter the path and each day, the cleaners have to sweep them up before the whole path is covered and becomes hidden from sight. The paths must remain cleared.

There are ponds to sit by and relax; memories and beauty that people want to capture on camera, in drawings and paintings. 

Life flourishes in the garden. There are squirrels and birds and creepy crawlies making the plants and the soil their homes to rest, nest, grow and live out their vocation. The ponds are also home to others living things. Different parts of a garden as different homes for different ways of living but all share the one common function of supporting life.

There are the gazebos - resting points. People sit there to rest after a tiring walk before making off to return home or to continue the walk. People who know one another gather there to interact, deepen their relationships and to find solace in good company. Gazebos are not only situated at intervals spread out across a route. They are also specifically placed where there usually is beautiful scenery to admire, allowing visitors to soak in the beauty of his surroundings while resting or chatting. They are thus a structure that facilitates rest, comfort and the building of relationships. Not forgetting it becomes a shelter in rain and thunder storms. 

One recurring feature in a garden is a location map, which with big, red fonts, point out "You Are Here". A map tells visitors where they are, in relation to the entire garden, and what the other parts and attractions in the garden are. It is point of reference, of checking where one has covered, where one has left out, where else one might want to go. It is a point of decision. And a visitor asks, "Do I want to continue walking?" "Do I want to go to the places I've yet to cover?" "Do I want to revisit any place?" "Where do I wanna go next?" The answers to these questions are needed for people to know what to look out for on the signposts. 

But a location map is also a point where people stop at when they are lost. In a garden, there are all sorts of people with different purposes and destinations, people of different age and backgrounds, nationalities and languages, and abilities to read maps. What is most daunting about map-reading is that looking at a map, we may know where we are and where is the location of our destination but if we are in the middle of the garden, without knowing our north and south, we will not know to go left or right. Which end (they are at opposite sides) is our destination at? We then have to look around and identify what is familiar that we can also find on the map and then make a cross reference to figure out what is in which direction. In a garden, signposts and maps provide direction but it is the visitor that has to also make the ultimate effort to walk, explore, find. A lost visitor may benefit from another who is familiar with the way and can even tag along if they are both going in the same direction.

There are waterfalls in a garden too! One of the most beautiful sights. Cool refreshing water to uplift the spirit. Water is always gushing and never stagnant. There is always movement, wind generated as a result to cool on a scorching hot day.

Bridges provide a secure stepping stone to cross the body of water that is otherwise difficult and at times impossible to cross. 

A beautiful garden is one that is not cluttered. There are empty grass patches for people to picnic on. Benches as stop-points to sit on to rest and to appreciate the beautiful surroundings and for people to chat. 

Lamps light up the paths at night and there are those aimed at trees along the way too. Night or day, visitors may still enjoy a relaxing walk while still being able to view the surroundings.

All these are man-made landscaping but nonetheless, they all rely on God - His gift of life, His providence and sustenance of life, His law of gravity in the falling water, His principle of light travelling in straight lines that casts shadows.

The thing about gardens that open to the public is that users may not be always responsible although there are dustbins to encourage against littering, notices planted to remind against feeding pond animals with improper food, etc. People will continue to smoke even though signs are put up to inform of this prohibition. It is a collective effort of everyone who must exercise consideration for other visitors. Yet, a garden will always be subjected to irresponsible users. Thus, the need for constant maintenance. Parts of the garden may be closed too from time to time for upgrading works to improve, to tear down and rebuild. It is not that there was originally anything gravely wrong with the nice landscaping but we need to keep up anyhow.

And what is the point of opening a garden to the public when the garden is tucked in an inaccessible location beyond the reach of public transportation? When only selected few who are rich and have cars can access?

A well landscaped garden needs to have its own devices to withstand the forces of nature. Drainage systems have to be put in place to allow access water to flow out and prevent flooding and killing of trees and safety homes during heavy downpours, especially the unexpected ones. The garden can continue functioning as it was meant to.

There will be people coming into this garden who are likeable and otherwise. Yet, being opened to the public means that all are welcomed. 

If I am this garden with all its landscapes...

17 March 2012, Saturday

Monday, 12 March 2012

Have You Seen the Rain?

Have you ever been tucked securely in a building and it was only when you stepped out that you realised it has been raining? 

How do we know when it is raining? We hear the water pouring down and hitting everything that stands in its way, we hear the vehicles drive pass making that swooshing sound. We stick our hands out of the window and feel the water falling upon our palms. We look at the street lamps that emits the light to reveal the droplets of rain in downward motion. We see the puddles of water growing, ripples formed and the road reflecting light off it. We see too people opening their umbrellas and those in flats rushing to bring in their laundry. At times, we are one of the last ones to realise it actually is raining, especially when we are soundly in dreamland, oblivious to our surroundings. 

There are so many ways to know it is raining and yet, I have had instances especially in shopping malls when I am completely unaware of the rain outside, even though it may be a severe thunder storm. 

How often is this familiar experience of the rain occurring also in our spiritual life. 
God pours down His graces and blessings 
God lends a hand to aid in troubled times
God puts a cheer to perk 
God brings out the sunshine 
God toughens with a fall
God teaches with a lesson
God heals the brokenness
God protects the loved ones
God made a wish come true

God's involvement in my life; the work of His hands pours out into the lives of mine and yours. And don't these rains water, nourish and give life to the soil of our lives?
Have you gotten out of the building of oblivion to realise more thoroughly?  

12 March 2012, Monday 

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Remain - The Second Station

The Second Station
Jesus carries His cross


If we were given a catalogue of different crosses of life to pick from, which would you pick? I would certainly pick none if "none" was an option but if I really would have to choose, I would choose the smallest and the lightest of them all. I dislike the burden of having to drag something heavy around with me; I like being free.

My daily crosses are placed on my shoulders by inconsiderate and irresponsible people, by these same people who are themselves victims of life's painful crosses. And I have been bearing these crosses with utmost resentment that leave me bitter and angry with the world. In turn, I become an unbearable cross to others I meet.

How ashamed I am to come before Jesus, who I claim to be a disciple of. For He not only chose the heaviest cross, He chose it even though He did not have to. And even so, Jesus not only carried a cross that was not His own, He bore it not as a burden, not with resentment or bitterness but with infinite love, as the greatest sign of God's unexplainable love for us. While suffering because of us, He was, at the same time, loving us. 

Do you pick and choose your crosses?
What and who are your crosses?
How do you carry your crosses? Are they burdens? How have they left you feeling?
Have you been complaining about them and seeking comfort by telling them to others? 
What do you think about Jesus's invitation for you to love the same person(s) who put crosses upon your shoulders? 

Reflecting more deeply on this second station in the Way of the Cross, and
Recognizing how Jesus loves us who cause His sufferings even till now, will you still remain with Him in loving those who cause your sufferings? 

Thursday, 8 March 2012

He who is Unalterable

I may not understand His love... 
...but the nature of His love changes not.

I may not feel the totality of His love... 
...but the reality of His love alters not.

I may not reciprocate His love...
...but the fullness of His love diminishes not.

Whatever I cannot do...
Whatever I choose not to do...
All my human narrowness and incapacity
can never make God's love for me any lesser than what He has fixed it to be from the very beginning, before the foundation of the world. 

8 March 2012, Thursday

Remain - The First Station

The First Station
Jesus is condemned to death


The One who spoke the truth, upheld the truth, lived the truth and pointed the way of truth was condemned  to death, silenced because evil cannot tolerate the truth and will have it exterminated so as to preserve its sinful way of life. 

Truths reveal the darkness that lies hidden - a darkness that fear dislikes to confront. Truths revealed call people into change - a change that lifestyle hates to give way to. Truths threaten - a threat that insecurity detests. The thorn in the flesh must be removed; Jesus must be silenced.

What is your stand on upholding truths? 
When were the decisive moments in your life in which you were caught among truth and untruth? Which did you choose?
Do indifference and silence really acquit you from not standing up for what is right?
Have you ever felt the pain of upholding what is right? What costs did it cost you?

Reflecting more deeply on this first station in the Way of the Cross, and
Knowing that Jesus ultimately died for the truth, will you still remain with Him in upholding all that is true and right? 

Friday, 2 March 2012

Day 28 - Room in Your Heart

3 March 2012, Saturday

Gospel: Mt 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes the sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’


It is easy to perceive Jesus’ expectations of us as burdensome. But far from this, Jesus’ instruction in this Gospel is in fact a natural progression of a deepening of our relationship with Him. Jesus becomes our Source. As we experience His goodness more and more, we are more able to give this goodness to others too. This is why having Jesus in our lives should naturally show up in our doing the humanly insane and impossible, which the tax collectors and pagans who do not have Jesus in their lives cannot do.

How is God inviting you to make room in your life daily to deepen your relationship with Him?

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Day 27 - Fear or Love

2 March 2012, Friday

Gospel: Mt 5:20-26

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.

‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill, and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin, and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.’


Jesus does not mean to threaten us with the fear of hell fire. Quite the reverse, He is pointing out the way to eternal life, reiterating that our relationship with Him must ultimately show up in our relationship with others. Jesus does not want our empty worship but that we be as Saint Francis of Assisi prayed – ‘Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon’. It is a meekness the world considers as stupidity but with which Jesus embraced the Cross which reconciled Man to God. He will grant us the graces we need for this difficult mission.

Are there relationships in your life that require you to let go of your emotions and initiate reconciliation?