Sunday, 29 April 2012

Prayer - God of Justice

My God, the God of justice,
How do I encounter You amidst the injustices that I face so very often? 

How do I recognize You in the very situations and people that seem to shout out to me Your absence?

Dear God, 
Open my heart and uncover my eyes.
In this, Your absence, I find my heart longing all the more for You, for Your consoling assurance that You have not given up on us but will continue to labour in all these apparently hopeless situations. 

I alone cannot fight the might of injustice; I alone cannot undo any damage already done. 
But with You all things are possible. Help me with Your unfailing graces to bear with courage the injustices I see, to remain faithfully with You in this bearing and to sense the soft promptings of Your Spirit to do what You will of me in carrying out Your justice. So that with this poor labour I may offer in Your Name, I may pray with a stronger conviction, "Thy Kingdom come". 


29 April 2012, Sunday
12.18pm @ The Botanics

"Rojak" feelings at a Priestly Ordination

When a parishioner or a relative sits there in the pews to witness an priestly ordination, what do they really see and how do they feel? 

Perhaps, they see a person who is different, someone unlike the majority, someone who is special because he has been called to a different state of life than most others. Perhaps, it evokes contrasting emotions of connectedness and disconnectedness. A connectedness because he is a familiar member of the family, because he is part of the community; he is one of us - a fellow Catholic. Yet, a disconnectedness because many will not be able to identify with the experience of a Love which first called and which then moved one into a loving response. A feeling of joy that is genuine and yet distant. And to some others, perhaps they were just caught unaware, not knowing that there was going to be an ordination at that Mass and the solemn celebration meant no more than an irrelevant ritual. 

However, to one who is walking or has walked the same path, one who has experienced the struggles of the journey in perseverance and faithfulness, one who shares a similar love for the One to whom our responses are directed, witnessing an ordination reaches far beyond the indifference of a bystander, beyond the conflicting connectedness and disconnectedness of a fellow Catholic. 

There exists a deep awareness in the depths of one's heart of the bruises and consolations that must have preceded this celebration, the falling and rising along the way, the purification and moulding, the failures and successes that teach humility. The laughters and tears that the journey presents. An intimate knowing that here, before the altar of sacrifice, God once again assures His people of His faithfulness towards them in giving them of Himself not only in the Eucharist but in a person He has Himself raised to administer to their needs and well being, another life now broken and poured out in Christ for all. An immeasurable gratitude, an enormous inspiration, a burning desire to arrive at the same destination as the ordained. 

Which experience might yours be should you be present at an ordination, like I had the privilege to this evening at the priestly ordination of Fr. Agustinus Tanudjaja, S.J.?

29 April 2012, Sunday

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Remain - Eastertide

It's Easter... at last! Weeks before, supermarkets started to load onto their shelves all types and brands of Easter eggs, chocolates, and plastic egg shells for Easter egg hunts. Surprisingly, unlike last year, the shelves are still loaded with chocolates today. Many people, believers and non-believers alike, spend Good Friday and Easter Sunday differently. What is Easter to you personally?

As we continue to remain with Jesus in His joyous resurrection, celebrating His victory over death, we are reminded that this is not the type of 'remaining' that finds its source only in the jubilation of this season. It is a continuation from Lent, and in fact, from the beginning of all creation. God had a plan and we are all a part of His plan - God's perfect plan of love. A love that encompasses mercy, forgiveness, justice, peace, joy, an everlasting sonship. A love that is always reaching out to call us home.

God revealed Himself to us in this plan in the coming of Jesus on Christmas morn, His ministry on earth to lay the foundation of His church, His passion, death and resurrection. Easter did not just happen. It is a continuum. A long history preceded. We now celebrate Easter as a participant in this same history and plan. We continue the Easter story in a relay first started by the apostles.

Easter is not just the long awaited liberation from our fasting, abstinence and almsgiving; the time we break free from our self-discipline to indulge, even though we are most tempted to run from suffering to pleasure. We are reminded today of the price that Christ first paid before His resurrection and to remain with Him in the Easter joy, we must first carry our daily crosses, dying to ourselves, our selfishness, pride and sin, choosing always the ways of God, abiding by His teachings, sharing with Him an intimate relationship, and so in the end, we may rise with Christ to the ranks of the Saints. Remaining with Jesus in the resurrection requires us to first remain with Him in His crucifixion. 

Amidst the joy of this season's celebrations, let us always remain grounded with God to savour all that He has in His great mercy and love done for us from the beginning of time. Have a blessed, grace-filled and joyous Easter. 


Ephesians 1:4-12

Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ for his own kind purposes, to make us praise the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved, in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins. 

Such is the richness of the grace which he has showered on us in all wisdom and insight. He has let us know the mystery of his purpose, the hidden plan he so kindly made in Christ from the beginning to act upon when the times had run their course to the end: that he would bring everything together under Christ, as head, everything in the heavens and everything on earth. 

And it is in him that we were claimed as God's own, chosen from the beginning, under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things as he decides as his own will; chosen to be, for his greater glory, the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Remain - The Fourteenth Station

The Fourteenth Station
Jesus is Laid in the Tomb


Along with Jesus's death was the death of the hopes and joy of His disciples. Having returned to His side at the tomb, what was left for them? The Person they had been following was no longer with them. Who shall they turn to now? Would life ever be the same as it was before? Could they have gone back to their old trades and continue living from where they had left off before they came to know this Man, Jesus? They could have... if they had never loved Jesus. And that was the problem. They loved Jesus and consequently, their lives sank into an empty pit of despair and confusion, hopelessness and dejection. 

Was there a silence in the air? A cold, still silence? An uncomfortable silence that reminded of the loss, highlighted the awkwardness of the same familiar places that were void of the most significant Presence? What would they do now? They had no clue. They were lost. Nothing interest them any more; nothing except the participation in the memorable events that Jesus once shared with them. These events that evoked the same nostalgic emotions to bridge the impossible distance between the present and the absent. Just like how we visit places we had previously been to with departed loved ones to reminisce the times shared. It is the closest we can get to the time spent together. 

But having been told what happened in Christ's resurrection and ascension, and the host of other dramatic events from the Pentecost onwards, we are now no longer haunted by that frightening silence. Because in that silence, there lies an eager anticipation, a silence so full of hope burning bright, a knowing that the separation is only temporary, a wait for that day of reunion, the day we can, at long last, meet God face to face. A silent longing, a deep yearning... understood only by those whose heart seeks and loves Him who also awaits our return.

In your heart, does the death of Jesus leave any silence? How much does His death matter to you personally to impact your life? Pause to listen to the silence. 

Reflecting more deeply on this last station in the Way of the Cross, and 
Knowing that Lent is ending and we can continue our lives in the jubilation of Easter without the Lenten observances to remind us of our Lord's Passion, will you determinedly choose to continue to remain with Jesus in a lifelong relationship that far extends beyond Lent?

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Remain - The Thirteen Station

The Thirteen Station
Jesus is taken down from the Cross


Mary watched on as her Son was tortured and crucified. She stood by Him all along the way and now, having Him taken down from the Cross, she can finally hold Him in her arms. A mother, holding her child, cold, bloody, bruised, dead. Her heart is pierced through, inflicted by a deep inconsolable sorrow. 

Why is there no anger in her? No hatred or resentment? Why is she not pointing her fingers and grinding her teeth at us? We who continue to scourge and nail Jesus to the cross by our sinful living? 

John 19:26-27
Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, 'Woman, this is your son'. Then to the disciple he said, 'This is your mother'. And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home. 

Mary was obedient to God in her Son Jesus, to the point of accepting the motherhood of all of her own Son's murderers. She became the mother of all Man, loving and praying for us in all our troubles, and protecting us even when we do not realise that she is. Who among us can replace Mary in her great compassion and obedience? God has indeed chosen her to be our dear mother. 

Can you feel the pain and sorrow of Mary as she beheld her Son?
How can you live life differently so as to console the pierced heart of Mary who continues to suffer with her suffering Son?

Reflecting more deeply on this thirteen station in the Way of the Cross, and
Realising more deeply how you have continued to crucify Jesus and break the heart of Mary, will you choose to remain with Jesus as a consolation to Him?

Remain - The Twelfth Station

The Twelfth Station
Jesus Dies on the Cross

John 19:32-34
Consequently the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with him and then of the other. When they came to Jesus, they found he was already dead, and so instead of breaking his legs one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water.

At last, it is over. The Father's Will is obeyed, fulfilled. God has been revealed to all in the Person of Christ who has demonstrated the extent of God's love for us and yet, there does not seem to be a real extent to love; it is rather a love that is complete, perfect and whole. Jesus has revealed to us how God reaches out to His people in the attempt to pull us out of the pit of eternal darkness, to save us, to show us who our true God is. 

By the water that flows from the side of Jesus, we are born to new life in Baptism. The gates of heaven are reopened to us because of this water that cleanses and redeems us. We have been bought at the price Christ paid on the cross. We are restored and made whole as God's children because Jesus emptied Himself to a nothingness. Jesus used His life to exchange for ours. 

How precious is your life to you? 
Do you make choices and live your life with the awareness that someone died to save your life?
How grateful are you for all that God has done for you, even till this very day? How does this gratitude show up in your relationship with God?

Reflecting more deeply on this twelfth station in the Way of the Cross, and
Relishing in God's infinite love for you, will you continue to remain with Him in every moment of your life, to continue to seek Him in good times and not just in the bad?

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Remain - The Eleventh Station

The Eleventh Station
Jesus is Nailed to the Cross


What do we do when we want to hang something up on the wall at home? Option 1 - Use a 3M hook (the kind you stick on and remove as you wish) if you do not intend for it to be permanent. Option 2 - Hammer a nail into the wall but this means you make a permanent hole there so you will not choose this option unless you are dead sure you are not going to change your mind later. 

When Jesus was nailed to the cross, it wasn't just His body being fixed on but along with it is God's pledge of love for all of mankind, past, present and future. God's infinite love poured out upon us through Jesus Christ, the promised mercy and eternal salvation, can never be altered any more. The gift of friendship, the bridge across to God's infinity have been extended once and for all. All these, nailed to the cross in Jesus, have become God's everlasting covenant with Man. 

Jeremiah 31:31-32
See, the days are coming - it is Yahweh who speaks - when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel, but not a covenant like the one I made with their ancestors... They broke that covenant of mine, so I had to show them who was master. 

No one, absolutely no one, can ever break this new covenant that God has made with Man. Not by sin or death, by betrayal or even our denial of Jesus.

By our sins, we nailed Jesus to the cross. Yet, by His accepting to be hung up for all to see, He became the everlasting promise and evidence of God's love for us. That in times of fear and uncertainty, we may look up at Him and be assured of His love and saving help. What more can we ask for?

How much do you fall back upon this unalterable love God has for us in times of need?
When moved towards a deep awareness of how we have let God down through our sinfulness, do you remain in despair or trust in the infinite love God has fixed upon the cross for you?

Reflecting more deeply on this eleventh station in the Way of the Cross, and 
Knowing how God has made an everlasting covenant with us for our own sake, will you remain with Him at the place of crucifixion with gratitude and unwavering trust? 

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Remain - The Tenth Station

The Tenth Station
Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

"To what extent should we give and love?" one might ask. Society values an educated person who loves within the boundaries of self-interests. We analyse and calculate the amount we give and when the price of loving eats into our well being, we pull back to safeguard ourselves first. If we talk about love as a 'should be', then it ceases to be love that we are really speaking about. Love is not forced actions. It springs up from a pure heart by its own free will.

Here towards the end of the passion, Jesus was stripped of his garments. He stood before the crowd, naked, despised. His dignity was robbed along with his garments. 

When Jesus gave, He gave everything He had, holding back nothing at all. When He loved, He loved with His entire Self. There was completely nothing that Jesus had left which He could have given. He gave all. Emptied out entirely.

Philippians 2:6-8
His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.

Jesus has no boundaries, no limits, no instruments of measurement, no calculations of costs incurred. He only knows infinity. He emptied Himself out, and only because He did so do we have today on our altars, more than 2000 years later, the same body and blood of Christ that continues to nourish us and draw us into the promised eternity. 

Do you analyse and measure the amount you give? 
Do you hold back your love because it seems unprofitable as everyone else is putting in their minimal effort and love? 
Where have you set your boundaries for love? 
How is Jesus inviting you in every situation everyday to remove your boundaries and enter into His freedom of infinity?

Reflecting more deeply on this tenth station in the Way of the Cross, and 
Knowing that Jesus has first shown us the way to love, to empty oneself, will you remain with Him in unconditional, selfless, sacrificial and unmeasured love?

Monday, 2 April 2012

On Holy Ground

Exodus 3:5
God said to Moses in his encounter with the burning bush.
'Come no nearer' he said. Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.
Entering into the space of the church, setting our feet upon holy ground, entering into the sacred presence of our God, let us not wander our minds, let loose our lips in useless clatter. Let us be drawn into the silence of our hearts to grow in awareness of the sacredness of this holy place. Let us take off our pride and masks. Before God, our hearts' thoughts are laid bare. And with humility, reverence and devotion, bow down to seek the Lord, receiving Him more fully into our hearts and lives. That with each time, we give a little more of ourselves to Him, allowing Him to transform us, to cleanse us, shape us, make whole our brokenness. Sincerely, we enter into the holy ground of our heart, there, where God is ever present, we love and adore Him.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Remain - The Ninth Station

The Ninth Station
Jesus Falls the Third Time

Isaiah 53:2-5
Like a sapling he grew up in front of us, like a root in arid ground. 
Without beauty, without majesty we saw him, no looks to attract our eyes; 
a thing despised and rejected by men, 
a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering,
a man to make people screen their faces;
he was despised and we took no account of him. 
And yet ours were the sufferings he bore, ours the sorrows he carried.
But we, we thought of him as someone punished, struck by God, and brought low. 
Yet, he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins.
On him lies a punishment that brings us peace,
and through his wounds we are healed.

Quite commonly, we do not like to owe people favours. We are willing to help others but feel 'bad' when we need help ourselves. We do not like to feel indebted; we do not like to be of trouble. The feeling of indebtedness leads one with a conscience to the feeling of obligation - the next time this benefactor asks for help, I cannot say 'no'. I am obliged to help, obliged to return the favour. I am burdened and cannot be free to do as I wish. 

Jesus was crushed for our sins, punished to exchange for us a peace the world cannot give, wounded so that we may be healed. We are, whether we have chosen it or not, indebted to God. But is our relationship with God solely an obligation? Is our union with God only about repaying His love? 

More than just a dreadful chore, an obligation and a repayment of our debts, we are called to allow the love of God to melt our hearts, tear down our pride, move our intentions, so that His love does not burden us with an obligation to be fulfilled but that it becomes a transforming grace that turns our lives around. That through this transformation brought about by our deep appreciation of what God has done for us, we may no longer feel obliged to give and love but feel the great joy and desire to do so most willingly. 

If we do not realise what God has done for us, we cannot be appreciative. If we do not realise what eternity will be like if God had not done what He has, it is impossible for us to value the sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God.

If you know that your family treats you well not because they are sincere about loving you but instead, they are merely fulfilling an obligation, how would you feel?
Do you feel even the slightest burden that you have to be a certain way because of God and your religion? E.g. You have to go for Mass every weekend, fast on days of obligation.
What have you been taking Jesus for? 
Do you desire to love Him, though imperfect our love is, genuinely, tenderly? 

Reflecting more deeply on this ninth station in the Way of the Cross, and
Knowing that Jesus chose to be crushed for your sins, will you remain with Him in genuine love? 

Life in the Garden

The hymn is a magnificent proclamation of what Paul will put more enigmatically in 2 Corinthians 5:21: ‘For our sake, God made the sinless one into sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’.

The question here is what Paul means by ‘righteousness’.

To be made righteous is to be restored to that right relationship which is the essence of the life of Eden.

Life outside the Garden is a life of wrong relationship – between God and the human being, between human beings, between human beings and the creation.

Life in the Garden is the life of right relationship, with the human being finding his or her right place within the scheme of things in a way that Adam and Eve did not.

- Mark Coleridge, “The Truth Will Set You Free”, The Way, July 1995