Tuesday, 29 October 2013

And The Lame Shall Walk

Have you ever sprained an ankle or fractured a bone? Or maybe, cut your finger and had to bandage it? I recall those days of playing basketball when I sprained my ankles a few times and most recently, when I had to do a very minor surgery to remove the embedded splinters in my finger. Sounds like a pretty unpleasant topic to speak about. But it is interesting and maybe even necessary to recall the inconveniences we faced in those times of injuries. 

When I had my finger wrapped, bathing was difficult. I had to pay extra attention not to use that finger to wash my hair. It felt strange, like using a comb with missing teeth. The parts of my head that were 'taken care' of by that finger had to be 'babysitted' by the other fingers, which had to cover their usual parts plus the additional. Washing my hair took a longer time than usual. The injured finger quite naturally went back to the washing since that is one of its function but then awareness pulls it back again. 

When I sprained my ankle, walking was difficult. Feeling the pain and being aware that any aggravation would make the injury heal slower, I walked less and leaned more towards the side that is not injured. In the end, I found myself straining the healthy side too with the additional weight.

If you had similar experiences, can you recall what it felt like to have a part of your body not functioning as it should and normally would? 

I bring this up because most people are blessed with a healthy body and for this, I have never considered myself a cripple and could not relate very much at all with those cripples Jesus met in the Gospel stories. But we do not need to be physically crippled to experience what it is like to be crippled, to be inhibited and unable to enjoy the lightness and agility in our movements. In our emotional, psychological and spiritual aspects of life, do you remember ever feeling heavily weighed down, burdened, like a stone pressing down on your heart? 

There are many things that can cripple us. A promotion that went to someone else, a guilt of having said hurtful things, a project gone wrong, an addiction to pornography or gambling, disappointment with some religious or priests, a family member who has gone astray, arguments between parents, suicide of a loved one, less than desirable examination results… So many things can cripple us. 

Where there is a lacking, there we are crippled by our wanting. 
Where there is hurt, there we are crippled by our unforgiveness.
Where there is sin, there we are crippled by guilt.
Where there is disharmony, there we are crippled by fear.
Where there is expectation, we are crippled by disappointments.
Where there is rejection, self-doubts.
Where there is a threat, the need to defend and protect ourselves. 
Where there is insecurities, we are crippled by the need to prove our worth. 
Greed, pride… leads to so many wants. 

All these wants weigh us down. We are always searching, never satisfied. Always hungry and never filled. Always running after things we think we must have and never feeling happy. 

Society defines our lives, our satisfaction and happiness. Ladies must dress up. We must work overtime so that people will not speak ill of us. Grownups cannot play with soft toys, cannot be like a child once in a while because we will look childish and stupid. So many adults have forgotten what it is like to play, to let loose and just GO… without fear of falling down, without an image to uphold. Even some (not all) priests and religious seem to have an image to uphold. To be prim and proper, serious, composed. Cannot let others know about their weaknesses. True that people will stare and talk when they see a religious hopping around, dancing about, smiling from ear to ear. But that's their own pride, insecurities and prejudices to handle. 

How does one rejoice and truly be joyful then? Without being able to raise one's hands, to sing at the top of one's voice, to move one's feet in dancing without feeling the need to be inhibited… how does one truly express the joy of the Lord when inhibited? When concerned about how others will see us? 

We are crippled when we cannot be who we truly are, when we cannot live like a redeemed son and daughter of God… freely, without putting on another image or a mask. When we cannot love fully because of the fear of being hurt… when our actions do not match our feelings. When we dare not be unique but are governed by conformity… When we shun away from the intensity of our hurts and sufferings… 


And here in our handicap is Jesus saying to you, to me, "I order you: get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home." Lk 5:23 Stand up and walk!!

What joy it is when my ankle was well again and I could walk properly, when my finger recovered and I could freely play the piano and type on the computer again. What joy it is when we need not be burdened to meet expectations, earn love, win approval, hold back someone else's faults. What joy it is to believe and live fully in the love of God. 

When I sin, I return to Him and receive forgiveness.
When I am hurt, I stretch out my hands to receive His healing.
When I doubt myself, I return into my Father's arms and remember I am loved and always good enough for Him by His mercy.
When I am happy, I claim that happiness.
When I am sad, I let myself grieve.  
When I cannot, I rely on Him.
In Jesus, I can be who I am, imperfect, seeking perfection. 
In Jesus, I can be freed of all inordinate attachments. 

Truly, He has come to set prisoners free. The lame shall walk, the blind shall see, the deaf shall hear. 
Blessed be the name of the Lord. In Him alone is found true and lasting freedom. The freedom to drop all I do not need even if the world says I need them. The freedom of having no need, no lacking because I have everything in Him who created me, sustains me, and to Whom I will return.

How have you been a cripple too? And how is Jesus asking you to get up and walk? How is He breaking your chains and asking you to go free?

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Testimony #1 - A Mother's Embrace

This post is the first of its kind on my blog. 
And it is a part of my commitment to Evangelisation, testifying to God's work in my life, in the hope that more people will come to know Jesus who constantly awaits and seeks them too.


A little background...

It has been more than a decade since I last went for a healing service (charismatic style). Back then, I was involved in the youth ministry in my parish and went regularly to the Youth Praise Ministry (YPM). In the Youth in the Spirit Seminar and Life in the Spirit Seminar, I encountered God's love and healing but in those days of being so green in the healing process and barely knowing anything much at all about spirituality, I did not know very much about surrendering, letting God take control, resting in the Spirit, etc.

I became more familiar with faith, surrendering and openness over the last 3 years plus and it really proved helpful as I participated in the most recent Conversion Experience Retreat (CER). It was only at this retreat that I experienced resting in the Spirit. What is important is not the resting in the Spirit per say but the grace to think less, control less and to allow myself to be at God's disposal. In so doing, I am more able to acknowledge that I am not God and to allow God to be God. 

Last night's healing...

Last night, I was at the 4th Saturday Mass and healing service at the Catholic Spirituality Centre. A lady prayed over me and this time, I asked God to remove every obstacle in me that prevented me from loving my mother whole-heartedly. My desire for this was strong.

After some time of lying there on the floor, my attention was shifted to an incident that I have no memory of but I knew it happened because my mother mentioned it a few times before. I was very young and she was carrying me down the stairs when she either missed a step or slipped. She was so worried that I would fall from her arms and get badly injured. So she held me really tight as we fell. I do not know how bad was the fall, if she was injured as a result or what happened in the end other than the fact that I was not hurt. 

This incident came to my mind in an instance and although I have no memory of it, I felt my mother's tight embrace as I was on the floor last night. I began to tear as I felt the Spirit wrapping my mother's love around me so intensely. I felt that she loves me with her life. 

All my life, I know my mother loves me. I'm convinced of her love. She has dedicated her life to the family, always putting us before her own needs. Because of the many things she has done to show her love, I know she loves me. But this knowing has, most of the time, been a knowledge in my head. Somehow, this knowing has not travelled to my heart. I do not know what is the missing link. Could she be so caught up with the doing that she paid little attention to her being and so I could not experience her love? Could it be that she showed her love differently from how I would have liked her to? Could it be that I have shut my heart and so I could not experience her love? Maybe I took her love for granted. Maybe it has been a combination of all these.  

Whatever the case, I have finally felt the embrace of her love. This, I knew at that moment, was the key that opened my heart to love and accept her again for who she is and who she is not. After the service, I went up to my mom and hugged her. As usual, she gives me a brief hug but this time, I held her longer whether or not she was returning the same big beary hug. 

I'm sure there is more healing I need but I will be patient and take it one step at a time, with Jesus by my side... 

To God be all glory and praise.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

God in Our Hearts

LUKE 1: 5-25
The birth of John the Baptist Foretold

This account tells about angel Gabriel appearing to make known to Zachariah that his old and barren wife, Elizabeth, will conceive and bear a child whom they must name John. He will become John the Baptist, who is to bring many to repentance. We are told later that John was to prepare the way for the people to receive Jesus who is the Good News through repentance. 

What humiliation Elizabeth underwent because she was barren. When she was finally with child, she said, "The Lord has done this for me now that it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered among men."

In those times, people saw misfortunes as God's punishments for wrongdoings. If you were blind, it was because you were sinful and God was punishing you for your sins or those of your ancestors. Perhaps, it was their way of making sense of sufferings and the inequality among themselves. But perhaps too, it was because of the fact that they lived their lives following strictly to a very long list of rules of do's and don'ts. The way of holiness and the ticket to eternal life were found in the perfect abiding of these rules. 

Recall your days as a student. What were the school rules like for you? For me, there were rules I could understand and accept and there were those I could not. While I saw the logic of punctuality, I did not agree that wearing earrings was wrong. What harm did it cause? What I did not believe in, I went against on some occasions. To some who abided, they might have understood the school's efforts to instil the value of simplicity, which took me many more years to realise. To some, rules are simply meant to be kept. No questions asked. They abide because that is the way they have been conditioned to do. They may not see the reason to but they just do. And yet to others, they might have abided only to stay out of trouble. Of those who keep the rules, how many of them truly understand the deeper and most often hidden purposes of the rules?

When our way of life is governed by a set of rules, when our religious practices become a mere doing of what we should and refraining from what we should not, then life and God become confined within the mind, where we constantly, scrupulously measure, evaluate, rank, judge, justify and rationalise all our thoughts, words and deeds. This becomes our preoccupation rather than appreciating the deeper meaning of what we do and do not do. Everything is logically linked.

It is no wonder that the people could not accept the radical change that Jesus came to bring - to turn around a religion that existed in the mind to one that resides in the heart and soul. This was completely unfamiliar and difficult to relate to. For the Father to send His Son to show us His illogical infinite love on the cross, for the Son to forgive sins and heal people, taking away their "punishments". These defied all rules they had and challenged at its core their belief in an eternal life that needed to be earned by their good deeds. It injured their pride that the sinful ones who did not work as hard to keep the laws were being forgiven so easily and made equal with them again. It was unthinkable that they could never stand worthy before God who gives us a salvation we have not deserved.

When we do good, when we hold ourselves back from doing wrong, let it be because we love God, we respect and uphold the dignity of one another. Jesus has to be alive in our hearts. When we attend Sunday Mass as an obligation without making any effort to mean the prayers we utter, when we go for the sacrament of reconciliation without sincerely being sorry and determined to work at our weaknesses, when we serve in ministries because our parish priests urged us to or because we want to glorify ourselves, God is not alive in our hearts. And without this living and personal relationship with God, we can have no lasting fuel to sustain our good deeds. We will fall into pride and self-righteousness, which will then become the underlying driving forces of those external good deeds. 

Our pride will give us excessive guilt in our wrongdoings and excessive self-gratification in our successes. All because we start to buy to the idea that we have done right to deserve our good. God becomes a fictional character in the head and our religious practices become our brownie points that get us to heaven. We will not need God's mercy in that case. And God's mercy is the primary evidence of His love for us. So if we do not need His mercy and do not receive His mercy, we will not receive His love either. We will always remain in our brokenness because only God's love can heal our wounds and restore us to wholeness.  

This, I believe, is why Jesus warned the people, "I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you." Mt 21:31

Only those who seek cure can be cured. The tax collectors and prostitutes were public sinners. Their sins were known publicly. And perhaps because of this, there was no way for them to conceal their sins and were forced to acknowledge it. Since only those who realise, admit and surrender to their brokenness, inadequacies and sinfulness can be humble enough to go to the Doctor of Life, then only these will encounter the Living God fully present and alive and working in their hearts and lives. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Praise for the Rain

O God,
I praise You for the rain
That speaks of Your faithful love to me.
For it falls on good and bad alike,
Even on those who’s turned their backs on You.

The rain that waters the soil of the earth
And brings forth goodness to nourish our bodies.
The farmers rejoice in its abundance,
They dance with joy before the harvest.

I join with them to sing Your praise,
To tell of Your goodness through my life.
For each time I walk away from You –
And God, You know how easily I do –
Your faithful love never cease to fall on me,
To call me back into Your arms.
Your faithful love looks out into the distance.
It runs to meet me, to bring me home.

O Lord,
At times, Your rain brings a flood,
And peoples’ lives are lost in it.
Buildings destroyed and towns are ruined.
People would ask, “Lord, where are You?!”

And yet Your faithful love remains,
A constant call for me to trust
 Beyond my understanding and agreement
That Your faithful love does have a plan.
That You will allow these sufferings of mine
Only because You can turn them into good.

If I but trust in You, my God,
To go beyond my fears and doubts,
To let Your love embrace me full.
O God, I thank You for the rain.
Oh let my life be soaked with it.

~ 05 October 2013