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