Monday, 27 May 2013

Prayer - God's Graces

"Loving Jesus, 

Thank you for the desire to pray better, to seek You, to find You, to grow deeper in union with You. 
This desire You've planted in me to cling onto You despite how life's many demands are pulling me 
away from You. 

I don't have the perfect words to say to You nor is my heart in the perfect state to come before You. 
My mind a whirl that cannot rest and I haven't the perfect plan to craft a perfect prayer fitting for You. 

But my Jesus, You know all that is in my heart. Shed Your light of truth upon me and bring to light 
all that lie hidden in every corner of my heart. 

Teach me, reveal to me, guide me, inspire me, strengthen me. Help me in my struggles. 

I surrender my trust to You, stretching out my hands for Yours as Peter did when he was sinking into 
the water.

I place my hopes in You, calling out for Your divine intervention as did Your apostles when 
the storm threatened to overturn their boat.  

Increase my trust and faith in You. Increase my desire for You. Remind me and convince me that with 
You in the boat of my life, no storm or sea can bring me down as long as I let go of the steering wheel 
and let You take control. 

Embrace me in Your arms, dear Jesus. There, like a child, loved and protected, embed me deeper
in union with You. 


Friday, 10 May 2013

My Room is Facelift-ed

Do you recall the last time you spring cleaned your room or your house? What was the experience like?  Tiring? Were there moments of confusion because you did not know how best to organise your space? How did you feel when the job was done at last?

I have just finished spring cleaning my room and I am now feeling extremely pleased with its "new" look. But it hadn't always felt this way throughout the 3 days of work. 

If you have spring cleaned before, you might have a different procedure from me. In fact, the way I spring clean has evolved over the years. 

Previously, what I did was to empty out everything in my cupboards. Everything was sprawled on the floor, table, bed and on every other available surface. Just imagine the mess! And then, I would clean the cupboard interior, air them dry and then begin fitting stuff in, reorganising the usage of each shelf and space. 

The biggest problem with this method was the sight of the heaps of things all over the place. Where does one begin? The sheer sight of the mess is a big put off. A stress-generator, which somehow manages to also jumble up the wires in my brain...! And I would be so pressurised to rush through and finish the packing in a day so that I don't have to sleep in the mess. Spring cleaning was always a stressful chore.

This time, what was different for me was that I cleared one or two compartments at a time. I decided to take it slow. The stuff sprawled across the surfaces did not appear so insurmountable. There were no avalanches and there were certainly spaces left on the floor to walk on. Occasionally, when I felt I needed a break, I went to my computer to chat or read or play a few rounds of Candy Crush. Interestingly, the process became less painful. It was alright to sleep with the mess around me for I knew I would get back to work on it the next morning. I took about 3 days to complete the cleaning.

I paused to look and re-look, plan and re-plan how I should arrange my things to fit my lifestyle and priorities. I recalled the most annoying clutters I had and realised how stifling they had caused me to feel in this small space of my room. I need space. I want space. 

Minimalist. That's the goal. And so... out went everything (well almost) that were not going to be used. I had to look at each item, consider its usage, consider my present needs, and decide to keep or throw. If it's to be kept, how important is it and how often will I be using it? That will determine which part of my room, which tier on the shelf this item shall be placed. 

I am actually extremely pleased with my room after its "facelift". 

All that clutters must be removed... and so now, space is reclaimed and air can flow more freely. There is a sense of refreshing that brings joy and ease. And what makes it even better is that the process was manageable. 

As I was clearing out the mess, I recalled Fr. Chris sharing about God reclaiming the space of our hearts for Himself... and that needs spring cleaning.

The most difficult thing about spring cleaning is the first initial step of opening up the cupboards, digging out the stuff there and taking a look at the messiness. It is far easier to remain oblivious to the surroundings and get by, even though we know it is high time to do something about it. 

Isn't this why many people, myself included, shun away from silence, from taking stock of what is actually there in the silence of our hearts? We are afraid to see what is there because to see the mess is to have to clear it. And the task of clearing isn't the most enjoyable activity we can engage in. And it takes time. A great deal of time and effort to work at it. Working at it means to forego time I can enjoy myself. Anyway, the mess has always been there. It doesn't kill. I've been living with it. I can continue to live with it. I function well in any case. 

The realisation I had this time was that I wasn't aware of how much I desired for empty spaces. It wasn't that my room was very messy (my mum would have made sure of it!) but to have things off the wall, off the tabletops, off the piano top. I never thought that it would have made so great a difference. But now that there are so few things, I realise how the little bits that form the greater clutter really was inhibiting and was consuming the comfort I felt in my room.

What is real for the physical space of my room is real too for the spiritual space of my heart. Could it be the same for you too?

It increases the conviction with which I shall say, "The state of my table tells the state of my mind," a statement I used to tell my ex-colleagues when I gazed helplessly upon the mess on my table on certain days at work.

Now that I have spring cleaned my room, it is time to look more closely within and spring clean the room in my heart. The room that needs to be constantly spring cleaned because it is here in this room I find and sit with God. If there is no space there, God will soon be squeezed out. If there is an avalanche, God will be hidden beneath the piles. And I will be screaming out for spaces to breathe. 

I do not have to be perfect overnight. A goal for an overnight perfection will only bring tension for it is not possible. To know that my conversion and perfection is a lifetime's work, and that each morning, I awake to continue working on the messiness of me, it is easier to sleep with ease amidst the messiness, and to be more prudent with managing my expectations. To recognise that everyone else is also work-in-progress, no matter what pace they're working at, helps to regulate my expectations of them too and lessen my frustrations towards their work-not-done.

I'd spring clean regularly in bite-sizes so that the mess each time isn't too overwhelming. I'd spring clean so that I can always feel the refreshing Breath of Life.

What in the clutter of your life might God be calling out for your attention? 

Thursday, 9 May 2013

I am God's Creation

I am who God created me to be - a child of my Heavenly Father, once an image, a whirl of loving thoughts, etched in the Almighty's mind, in which I am that one in that great number of others whom He saw and chose to henceforth love with an intimate dedication. 

I am so loved with an unfathomable and unexplainable faithfulness which calls me beyond my sinful ways and into the continued discovery of The Creator. 

In the Father, I am His beloved child who rests in the palm of His hands, relying always and only, humbly and simply, on His faithful Providence. 

In the Son, I am His faithful disciple who chooses daily to renounce myself so as to follow Him in every way and be a radiant sign of His love for the world. 

And in the Holy Spirit, I am an instrument, completely surrendered to His workings for the greater glory of God. 

In all situations and at all times, God desires for me to grow into an increasingly deeper union with Him, entrusting my life without reservations into His Hands and making my every thought, word and deed an offering of love to Him, as I submit humbly, obediently and lovingly to His most Holy Will. 

~ 16 August 2011

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Internal Structure of Faith

Every human person is called to be a Catholic. But the important question is… what IS this call? Is it just a name's sake? 

To be Catholic is to be a disciple of Christ. It is to accept and live out our identity as a son/daughter of God our Father. At the core of these is the personal call of the masses (the whole human race in fact); a call to be in relationship with our Creator. Contradicting as it may seem. Because to be in relationship requires us to be connected and we cannot be connected without being personal. Hence, the call to be a Catholic is a personal call. God calls us by our names; individually, directly, intimately.

And what follows a call is a response. What follows an invitation is a reply. 
Being Catholic is a response; it is not a decision based on empty thoughts and visions, a belief founded upon nothing. We cannot reply and respond from the level of our intellect. Faith is not a product of an intellectual discourse involving my thoughts, feelings and ideologies. 

Bl. Mother Teresa said, "Prayer leads to faith, faith leads to love, love leads to service, service leads to peace." Prayer is not bringing our wish list to God and asking Him to grant them. Prayer entails anything that builds our relationship with God. It does include praying for people and situations because our desires are a part of us too and we bring who we are into this relationship with God but we do not take Him as santa claus. 

In prayer, we encounter God in a personal, intimate way and from this encountering, we experience Him as real and we also come to know Him and the infinite love He has for us that really does not make sense at all in the light of our constant unfaithfulness in our sinfulness. It differs from reading and discussing and listening to stories and Theology, all of which helps only to the extent of knowing about Him. I call it couple time… just as in any human relationship. It must be built upon personal encounters and an increasing knowing (not the superficial intellectual kind but in the deeper sense) of the other. Our response to God's call into a loving relationship with Him goes as far as our personal encounters with Him and to the extent to which we treasure, reflect upon and allow our God-encounters to internalise and shape our understanding of God. Rationalising cannot get us anywhere because God is far beyond our human ways. Our mortal intellectual capacities, however extensive it is, cannot bring us across infinity to reach this infinite and divine God.

The reason why I find it difficult to sit through Mass at times and why I get disillusioned from time to time is because I have been relying on external structures as the foundation of my faith, i.e. how interesting the priest's homily is, how charismatic the priest is, how nice the choir sounds, how respectable the pope is, etc. If the church is noisy, I lose focus. If the priest is boring, I start drifting. It is like a student who studies only when the teacher is interesting and nice. Then what happens when the teacher is not? Will it mean that I should fail my exams? Or should I then rely on my inner motivation to find resources, study doubly hard so that my results is not limited by the teacher's competence? 

It is an internal structure that most Catholics are lacking in. We are not taking full responsibility for our faith and are using every possible external factor to justify why I am not a good Catholic. You see if I am unfaithful to my spouse. Sure I can say that it is because my spouse has become so naggy, someone else is younger and more attractive and who understands me better than my spouse, etc. But suppressed beneath the carpet, conveniently out of sight, is the truth that it is still my choice and like it or not, I have failed to live out my marital commitment. If I truly am serious about my marital vows, then nothing and no one can convince me otherwise. The foundation of my faith will be so strong that no earthquake or catastrophe can bring it down.

So I think as Catholics, the question for us is the same question Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do you say I am?" Not who Jesus is to him and her but who is He to me? Not why is he and her a Catholic but why am I a Catholic?   

I do not speak on behalf of the Church. This is just my sharing in reply to a friend's thought-provoking email.