Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Cry of the Voiceless

See the fear in their eyes. Their apprehensions. Their body languages. What if we were in their shoes? Alone in a foreign land, unfamiliar with the procedures, uncertain of the outcomes. Vulnerable.

The poor... the foreigners in our country... are all born with the same dignity as we are. As children of God. How can it be that they are treated as a lesser human person? How can it be that pets are treated better than some human persons, even though they may be working as our domestic helpers, supposedly under our charge since we are the ones paying them? The roles we play do not and should not influence our human dignity. 

And yet, most often, as I witnessed this morning, it is easy to throw our own lives' garbage onto the poor and voiceless and disrespect them because they have no means to pour a larger amount of crap back at us. If some of those people I met this morning were to treat the President in the same manner, surely, they will lose their jobs this same day!

It is discriminating that employers can interview and choose their domestic helpers but not vice versa. We are only concerned about not getting the 'wrong' maid, without considering that perhaps, those foreigners are also concerned about not getting the 'wrong' employer. But society works like this. The voiceless are at the mercy of others who have power given us by knowledge, information, wealth, status.

And yet, Christ hangs on the cross without making a distinction between who He was dying for and who He wasn't. He died for ALL. The bad and the bad-er. Without exception. Those who have a voice and a heart need to be the voice for the voiceless - the poor and the outcast. And not only that. If we are truly to be disciples of Jesus, then we are to embrace all of His people, including the big bullies. We are called to awaken the awareness and compassion in those whose hearts have been dormant or indifferent. And we are invited to do so with love for these our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to be the voice of their voiceless souls they have so successfully silenced that they no longer hear the cry of their own hearts, longing to be acquainted and set on fire once again by love to love.

We need not look too far at first. But perhaps to begin with ourselves. Do we treat others with respect, upholding their dignity? Then, within our families, extended families, circles of friends, do we notice anyone treating another poorly? Especially our domestic helpers? And if we do find such treatments, do we take the risk to voice out what is unjust? Or do we keep silent? 

How might God be inviting you in the real context of your life to be His voice for the voiceless?

Friday, 5 December 2014

Reality of Impermanency - 3rd December 2014

For the Thanksgiving Mass on 3rd December 2014... 

We are made to return to God, that no matter what we are going through in our lifetimes, we will not remain here forever. What we possess on earth, we will not keep forever.

This may sound very depressing for some of us, if you are like me with many attachments to earthly things. But I think it doesn’t have to be depressing if we allow this truth of life to teach us how to live, how to make choices.

So who then are we to one another? Wives to husbands, sister to brother, friend to friend, lay people to the religious? Who really are we? And why bother so much since even our relationships are not permanent?

I think we are given by God to one another to be companions through this pilgrimage of our lives. And you know for any pilgrimage, there is a starting point and a destination. We are companions to one another on this pilgrimage from where we are to God. Not just a physical journey but a journey of our souls. A spiritual journey.

In the silence of my walk after the Ignatian conference in HK that I just returned from last night, I asked what was the whole experience about? 4 days of listening to people from different parts of the world speaking about spirituality? To sum it all up, it was an experience of being inspired, of allowing myself to be inspired by others who have begun their journeys before me, but who once in a while look back at those behind, like me, and point out the way like sign posts on a highway. An experience of being renewed in my own faith and of growing towards God.

And so we have gathered this evening not because of me, not for me. But that no matter if we are strangers, partners, a torn in the flesh to another, that we take this time to remember the God who made us, the God who has in this time in history brought our lives together to be an inspiration to another, to spread His love even in the most difficult situations.

Each and every one of you seated here has been an inspiration, a companion, a teacher, a guide, a contributor of love into this world I live in. (And please don’t start analysing how you have done this.
But just let go and trust that you have.) I thank you for you and I thank God for you.

On the plane yesterday, I was watching Les Miserables and one of the lines towards the end of the movie that really caught me was when Jean Valjean said, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” And I think that being loved by someone is to touch the heart of God in the depths of our hearts.

And so now, may I invite all of you to close your eyes and recall one experience where you felt the most loved. 

Who is this person who loved you?
Imagine this person standing in front of you now… looking at you, and loving you.
Open you heart to let this love flow into the depths of your heart.
Yes, you are loveable enough.
Yes, you are worthy enough.
Yes, you are good enough. Trust that you are.

I invite you to continue keeping your eyes closed.
We are going to celebrate the Eucharist in a short while and we do this to remember God’s love for us. Despite knowing we will be sinners, He still somehow love us so much even when He was hanging on the cross. God’s love for us is at least greater than the person who loves us the most in our lives.

We gather our hearts, our lives, and come now before God. Let us open our hearts and allow God’s infinite love to flow into the depths of our hearts. 

May you love and be loved this evening. Amen.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

From Existing to Living - Part I

It was the school holidays. Joash sent an SMS to his classmate, Jean, who he was attracted to, asking her if she would be interested in going out for dinner that weekend. In fact, Jean was fond of Joash too but her shyness would always ensure that her feelings for him were well hidden. However, when Jean received Joash's SMS, her grandma had just passed away. Jean was in a state of devastation because she was very close to her grandma who took care of her when she was a young child, and Jean did not reply Joash's SMS.

Joash waited in eager anticipation for Jean's reply as if his whole life's happiness hung upon her yes or no. But as time went by, her silence began to convince him that it was a no, and that Jean did not feel the same way for him as he did for her. Joash felt disappointed, depressed and rejected. He felt unloved, unaccepted... and began to form judgements of himself in his mind to explain this rejection. He thought "It must be that I'm not good enough... Not good-looking enough perhaps..." As he formed more of such deductions, he became convinced that he must be unloveable. 

Jean took the holidays to grieve over her loss and thought of meeting Joash in school to share with him what had happened over the holidays. But when the new school term started, Joash did not want to appear dejected in front of Jean. He wanted to look as if he was unaffected by her rejection. And so he put on a smile in school and started acting particularly friendly and excited with another female classmate. Jean saw this and thought that Joash was fond of the other girl and so she distanced herself from him. 


What happened to Joash in this story is something that runs common in everyone's lives in different contexts. Here is the flow... 


We experience something happening to us and it creates feelings in us about what has happened. These feelings may be positive or negative but they are neither right or wrong. Feelings are just the reality of how our experiences make us feel. And these enter into our hearts. 

However, these feelings actually do not cause us hurt. They cause us pain. The difference between pain and hurt that we often overlook is that pain is a feeling while hurt is the reduction of one's dignity / worthiness as a person. Our hearts can handle pain, which will dissipate and disappear after some time. But our hearts cannot handle hurt because hurt is caused by and lives in our minds and will only 'go away' when our minds change its way of perceiving ourselves. 

Joash in this story felt rejected, unloved, etc. These are feelings. But what did he allow those feelings to create in his mind? He began making conclusions about who he is as a person. He began to think that he is unloveable, ugly, unattractive, etc. These were the judgements he started to make about himself that we know are not true but Joash did not know how Jean felt. And when he made those judgements, he was hurting himself because he was reducing the amount of worth he saw in himself. He began to see himself as lesser. 

And then what did Joash do next? 
He put up a front and pretended to like someone else. He tried to cover up the rejection. He started to cover up his unworthiness, his feelings, so that the one he loved would not see that he is weak and imperfect, and think of him even lesser than he thought she did. His actions became the reactions from his judgements about himself. 

And these reactions blocked life. It blocked life because... 
1. It prevented Joash from touching the reality of his feelings and making choices to address those feelings, which then led him to form untrue negative conclusions about himself.
2. It prevented Joash from being open to a good conversation with Jean that could lead into a good and happy relationship. 
3. It would have sent the wrong signal to the other classmate Joash was pretending to take an interest in, and land him up in future complications with that girl. She might eventually get hurt too.

And the more we judge ourselves and react out of those judgements, the more we will stumble in our subsequent life experiences and deepen those judgements, bringing us further and further away from the one judgement that God has made of us - That we are His image and likeness (which I hope to write more about later). 

But first... 
How has this process of EXPERIENCE ----> FEELINGS ----> JUDGEMENTS been real in our lives too? 
Recall a significant experience that happened to you and notice what feelings it created in you. And as a result of those feelings, how do you see yourself? Just a word... "I see myself as ____."

Just become aware. The first step.

Adapted from the Workshop: Living from the inner springs of life - The interplay of the Two Standards in our Life by Fr. Cecil Azzopardi, SJ @ the Ignatian Conference, Hong Kong 2014

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Empathy vs Sympathy

Empathy is a choice and it's a vulnerable choice because in order to connect with you, I have to connect with something inside me that knows that feeling. 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Spring Cleaning Reflection #1

Phase 1 of spring cleaning - COMPLETED. 

Each time I spring clean, more shelves get emptied out. Makes me wonder again how much of the clutter is actually totally unnecessary. How much things do I really need for my daily living? What will be left after I minus out everything that is a genuine want rather than a pseudo need?

Yet, there are still a lot of unnecessary things stored up until the next time I spring clean those shelves and perhaps, by then, I'll be more ready to part with more stuff. 

For now, the biggest fruit of the past days of labour is my reclaimed table space. Now my head feels uncluttered too. And I can begin to think again and plan stuff. It's interesting how the state of my room reflects the state of my mind. 

As I take a break tomorrow and embark on phase 2 after, it is also a good time as Advent approaches to begin spring cleaning my inner shelves too... those of my life. How much clutter have I accumulated? What are these that have cluttered up my inner self so much so that God is lesser and lesser visible? 

Advent, to me, is a time of preparation - of preparing my heart to receive Jesus anew. It's a time of making way, making space. So that Jesus need not end up in a stable but is able to find a room in my heart for His dwelling. To allow someone to occupy a space in your heart is to acknowledge that he is special, important and loved (to say the least). A very tall order, as insurmountable it feels as when I stared helplessly at the war zone of my room the past few days, not knowing how to pack, what to keep, what to throw, how to reorganise, rearrange, etc... 

Bit by bit, item by item, I had to 
ANALYSE and WEIGH its usefulness (practical) and sentimental value, 
DECIDE to keep or not and where to put it if I'm keeping it, 
ACT according to my decision, 
PRAY for the grace (in this case, the grace of clarity)
PERSEVERE in the tedious process until it is completed,
CELEBRATE (I invited my sister to come see my room) and REST before the next phase of cleaning.

All of which teaches me how to spring clean my life too. To 
SEE what I fill my life with, how I spend my time, what are my priorities, 
ANALYSE and WEIGH which is life giving and which is life draining (honestly),
DECIDE what to keep and what to throw out, what priorities to reorder, what mindsets to readjust, 
ACT according to my decision, 
PRAY for the needed graces,
PERSEVERE with determination until the deliberate action is internalised, 
CELEBRATE and REST before repeating the process again. 

I sure am enjoying my reclaimed space, the renewed cosiness of my room... What a reward... which will be too when I spring clean the shelves of my life. 

Are you spring cleaning too? 

Saturday, 15 November 2014


Am I just a passerby to you?
Are you just passing by my life?

It seems like funeral wakes are usually very emotional experiences. Having gone for 2 today. 

For me, it is more emotional because memories, however few they may be, begin to return to my consciousness. I begin to think back on the past, of times with the deceased. I begin to notice the loss, which also means that I begin to notice the presence of that person now gone. 

Strange isn't it? And today, I asked myself why is it that I only pause to think of people's significance in my life when they are gone, that I only begin to be aware of their presence when the presence is no more. Why not earlier? How different will I be if I had truly lived as the most cliche line goes - as if it was the last. To be with each person as if it was the last time we would get to spend time together. Sounds a little morbid. But... The dislikes I have towards their character traits will no longer be such a huge eye sore anymore if I knew that those moments would be the last. I would treasure a lot more those moments. I would see them in a totally different light. My heart would be disposed very differently. No time for anger or grudges. No time for petty arguments or finger-pointing. There's only time for love.

All too often, we take for granted that the people in our lives will be with us forever. Until reality hits hard. 

Have you experienced a family member having to move to somewhere else permanently? Knowing that the time you have left with this person is running out, what adjustments in your life would you make? For instance, returning home for dinner with her more often, asking her out for a meal and a good chat? 

Let's not wait for someone to move away, to pass away, before we begin to treasure the time we have with them. Let's not wait for absence to teach us to notice their presence. It can take us less than 5 minutes to pause at every mid day or some time everyday to just become aware of the people in our lives, the relationships God strung together... and to give thanks to God for these people, say a short prayer for them and bless them. I am certain that if we live this way, our relationships will transform and blossom. 

Whose presence in your life have you not been aware of for the longest time? 
How is God inviting you to pause and consider what these people truly mean to you?  

Do not just let them pass you by...
See... and look deeper. 
We are deeply connected.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Synod of Bishops on the Family - October 2014

In response to an article I chanced upon online...

I like what's being said here. 
I like the idea of letting the Spirit move us... Most of the time, it might be humans and our own narrow beliefs and stubborn righteousness that stand in the way of the Spirit. 
I like the idea of Jesus being firm on his stand about divorce yet spending so much time eating and drinking and reaching out to the outcast of society - the prostitutes, the tax collectors - the sinners. He meets us where we are, always patiently calling and moulding, slowly and gently. He does not shove doctrines down our throats and tell us to follow or burn in hell. He accepts what little of our lives we can give and multiplies it in ways He knows we can manage. 

If He were to mark our guilt, who would survive?!
See the faithful and loving God from the beginning of time through the old testament and onto the new... and even onto our current age. 
Here is the great need for the grace of indifference. If God were to point us in a whole new direction, are our hearts open enough, surrendered enough to listen and obey?
When Christ comes to make all things new, can we dare to let go of the old?

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Life - A Journey Home

He sat on the side of my hospital bed and asked gently, "Are you ready to come home with me?"

I asked, "Go where?"

"Home... with me."

"No, I'm not ready yet... I haven't accomplished anything much at all. I haven't brought any souls to you."

He showed me a few faces to debunk my claim. But still, I said no, not yet. 

(It was definitely not a near death experience but an encounter to take into reflection.) 

And immediately, the realisation sank in. Is my life about accomplishing? Is there a quota of souls I must bring to God before I am satisfied with life? Who sets this quota? Is it me? Even if my life shall be used to direct souls back to God, is it a number game I'm playing? Is my life about accomplishing? 

It was certainly a very good realisation that will further prepare me for what is to come. Because in that realisation, I realised that no matter what I am called to do, the work is not mine but God's. Like Bl. Mother Teresa said, "I am a pencil in God's hands." 

My life shall not be about accomplishments. It shall be about being what God wants me to be; nothing more, nothing less. It is about following Him in all He wills of me, striving towards this faithfully even though there will be many times I will fall so short of a loving response to His invitations. What and how much I do and accomplish are His to decide. 

My life is a journey home to God. 
And all that matters in this journey is that I grow in greater intimacy with the One to whom I am returning.

Can you hold on to anything in this life forever?
What is your life about?

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Who is Jesus for Me?


Jesus is love and He has been to me everything that love needs and desires to be for the beloved. He is my God who desires so much for me that He wants me with Him for all eternity, who asks only that I come to know Him and to receive His love not because I deserve His love but that He is love itself and His abundance desires to share Himself with me; to share all He has and all He is with me.

In this pouring out of His infinite, unconditional, selfless and sacrificial love for me, I am drawn increasingly deeper into a relationship with Him, called increasingly to respond to His love with my love for Him. He is God who forgets His own dignity as God and comes running after me to pursue me.

In times of my unfaithfulness, Jesus’ faithful love in His graces to me softens my heart and steers me back to Him. He knows I can only be truly happy when I walk with Him. He left us with the story of the prodigal son so that in moments when my sense of unworthiness keeps Him far at a distance, I can return to the assurance that He stands waiting, looking out into the distance for me, and He cannot wait to wrap the cloak of my identity around me and restore me again as daughter of our Father. He knows I can only be my most authentic self when I live with inner freedom as the person God has made me to be.

In my anger and disappointments with others and at times, even with myself, Jesus comes as a Mediator to persuade me to relent, to understand and to forgive. He knows I will become bitter by accumulating such negativities. In my woundedness, He comes to fill me with His love and life, to comfort and heal my brokenness. His love for me desires to see me whole again and to live a life that is free from the bondage of sin, committed by others and myself.

Jesus sends people into my life to celebrate life’s joys and laughters with me. In times of trouble, He sends help through generous people, even strangers. Through the sacrament of human love that I have come to receive from family and friends, He facilitates my understanding and acceptance of His love for me. When the storms of life threaten me, He invites me to stop running away from the storms but to remain, to learn to stand strong in them with Him as my Anchor, and then to be the beacon of light that shines the way out of the storm for others. Although I am weak and paralysed by fears, Jesus strengthens me and leads me to a more mature faith in Him. His love will endure the pain of watching me struggle through the storms because He knows it is the only way for me to grow.

Though I always fall so short of loving Him, He is the Gardener who toils tirelessly in the garden of my life; overturning plot by plot, patiently planting and pruning, clearing and landscaping. This garden becomes more beautiful each time and may even be the space for others to rest in and receive goodness that will nourish their own lives. Jesus knows that my life is only worth living when it is spent for others.

Jesus is my companion through life. There is no sorrow too deep that His heart has not yet been pierced by, no joy too intense that has never caused His heart to skip a beat, no temptation too strong that He has not yet fought and overcome. He knows everything I experience and if I turn to Him, I will never be found lacking a compassionate listener who fully empathizes with what I am going through. His is the peace through the Eucharist that calms my inner turmoil, the tranquility through nature’s beauty that stills my anxious self, the joy through music that transports me closer to heaven. His is the love, which becomes my energy to love others.

Yet, even with all these and more that Jesus is to me, my response of love can only be an imperfect and incomplete one. And even knowing that this is all I can give to Him, He still continues to be everything that love would be for the beloved because being love itself, Jesus does not know how to be anything else but love.

Who is Jesus for you?

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Smiling at the Storm

I asked Jesus to hold my heart in His hands, to wrap His hands around it. 
To protect, to shield, to preserve,... through the stormy sea... 
He not only held my heart there in His hands. He went further, as He always does, to let His love, peace and even joy flow out of His hands into my heart. 
Smiling at the storm is truly possible but only with Jesus. 
Praise Him now and forever!!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

IDENTITY - by Kalhil KJ Adames

A very real and interesting short film.

Notice how she first put on her mask. Why did she put on that mask? Maybe because everyone else had already done so. Peer pressure perhaps? But she was definitely one of the last to put it on.

She tried to wear a mask but how different hers looked. No one else had the same mask as her. She tried to fit in by wearing a mask like everyone else but yet, somewhere within her, there seemed to be a uniqueness she wanted to portray. And because of this uniqueness, she was alone, unblended... She did not belong to any cliques. 

Notice too how each clique had its own mask design. What was most striking was how another lady portrayed removed her top mask to reveal another mask when she moved to another clique. And if these masks represent our identities, how she had to change her identity to fit into a different group.

And all through this period with her mask on, her small, inhibited gestures signalled insecurities, uncertainties, reservations. She appeared so closed in on herself, intimidated by what she saw around her. Perhaps, worried about how others saw and thought of her, concerned if she was doing the "right" thing according to the norms.

Everyone in the classroom had a mask. Everyone except the teacher. 
She was flipping her sketchbook, which showed a little girl standing with her mother while the father was leaving. And the teacher's voice went, "All their lives, from their childhood, they've been chained up in a way that they cannot move their bodies. And all they can see in front of them is a dark wall. Because they have never been outside of this cave, all they know about life is this dark wall." Among all the students in class, she was the only one who appeared to be listening to the teacher, taking in what was being said, maybe even moved inside by what she heard. 

How apt that he was teaching about Plato's allegory of the cave, of how people only know what they have been exposed to... until they step out of the cave and see what else is out there, until they see how else life can be. 

On the wall along a school corridor hung a banner that ran, "This is what beautiful looks like", accompanied by a model wearing a yellow mask. Right in front of this banner, a group of girls had gathered, each with a similar yellow mask, flipping their hair, looking up at the model as if to check that they have followed the advertisement's description of beautiful.

In another classroom lesson, the teacher was teaching about the game of chess, of how people in power use those powerless "pawns" to their advantage. 

Later, she found herself running to the washroom, had a fall, and broke her mask. After a brief moment of panic, she composed herself and took the step to remove her mask. A smile appeared on her face as she looked into the mirror. As she looked and recognised who she really was. And she said, "Today, the truth found me." In contrast with what she said on the day she put on her mask, "Today, I found the truth." She threw down the mask and walked out, and along the way, everyone paused and stared at her. Some gestured their anger and disbelief at how she could be out without her mask. However, she walked and she walked with confidence and certainty, no longer afraid of the stares, the opinions, the rejections. She was who she was and she was confident of that. 

How liberating it is to remove that mask!!

I find this film very thought-provoking. There are so many questions to reflect on.

Do you wear a mask? Maybe even masks?

What masks do we wear?

Why do we wear masks? 
What are we trying to mask? 
What was in that childhood that chained us in the cave, preventing our bodies from moving to seek? To dare to move, to seek, to find? 
What are our emotional baggages that hold us rooted in our caves?

How differently do we behave when we are with different people? 
Perhaps, we may even find ourselves speaking with a different accent when conversing with different people? 
Perhaps, we are extra polite when speaking with some kind of people?

What image are we trying to portray? 
Whose image are we trying to live out? 
Who defines our schemas? 
Who defines what is beautiful for instance?
Who are those "kings" and "queens" controlling us as pawns? 
Perhaps, for their own profit-making and ego-inflation? 

Have we really found the truth in life? 
Have we allowed the truth to find us, to convince us, that we have been living in our caves and not seeing what lies beyond, how else life can be, that we need not follow all these norms and trends?

Fundamentally, who are you? Have you found yourself?

Saturday, 6 September 2014

I Am Who I Am

A child grabbed her test paper and ran excitedly to her dad who had just returned home that evening. Without even checking the look on her dad's face, she happily exclaimed, "See, dad, I scored full marks for my Math test!!" And waited eagerly for a praise, an affirmation. But all her father did was to take the paper, place it on one side of the dining table and said, "Sharon, I'm very tired from work. Don't bother me now, please. I'll sign the paper later. We have given you so much tuition. Of course you would have gotten full marks. I'll be really mad if you did not!" Needless to say, the girl went away with tears in her eyes, disappointed. Her spirit was crushed. 

It is easy to empathise with this little girl who had truly put in effort to perfect her Math but perhaps, because of her dad's mood at that time, because he had a bad day, her excellent performance was so conveniently watered-down. 

In my most recent retreat, I came to notice how I praise God according to my moods too. When I feel good and encouraged, I have not much problems thanking God for the wonders He has done for me. But in down moments, at least when I don't "feel like it", I cannot seem to praise and thank God in the same manner. And I found this upsetting. After all, like how this father's mood has no relation to the reality of his child's good performance, God's goodness and greatness is not dependent on my mood. 

He is God whether or not we doubt that. He is good and great without conditions. And I believe it is important and necessary to separate our emotions from realities. Realities are realities, no matter how we feel about it. They are objective. This girl in the story has done well, whether or not she received any acknowledgment for her achievements, whether or not she was helped tremendously by her tutor, regardless of any and every other factor. 

And so it is too when we approach God. Can we see Him for who He is and not through the tainted lenses of our life circumstances? Or do we take ourselves so seriously that we see only ourselves and no one else? Like this father who could only see his own tiredness. Sure, he is truly tired, he had a bad day at work. But is that all there is in the whole world at that time that there is nothing else he can see? How about the excitement in his daughter's eyes, the hunger for his affirmation and approval? If he could be more aware of what is happening beyond himself.

And so I began with this awareness and made a choice in each song of praise that God IS good and great despite how I am feeling and what I am experiencing in that moment. I shifted my focus away from myself and unto the reality of God's goodness and greatness. Because I was by the sea in many occasions during that retreat, I seemingly "gathered" the goodness and majesty in the mesmerising nature before my eyes and lifted up everything, including myself, to God in a song of praise, acknowledging that He is good, whether or not we are. It was truly a moment of grace to come to this realisation and change.

Do you thank and praise God according to your moods and life experiences?

How is God good even amidst the down moments of your life? And how can you forget yourself more to praise God for who He is?

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Persecution of Christians

There seems to be an increasing persecution of Christians around the world. I just learnt that it is also taking place in Hong Kong. 

Reminds me of this pretty old song by Mariah Carey. These words strike me particularly... 

"There's a light in me that shines brightly... There's an inner peace I own; something in my soul that they cannot possess... They can't take this precious love I'll always have inside me. Certainly, the Lord will guide me where I need to go."

This "light", "inner peace", this "precious love"... it is Jesus Himself. 
They can take away our symbols, our lives... but they cannot take away the truth of God and the values that the world's balance hangs upon. Certainly, they cannot take away our God in us. 

They can separate our heads from our bodies and drain out our blood that soaks the earth... but "Can anything cut us off from the love of Christ -- can hardships or distress, or persecution, or lack of food and clothing, or threats or violence; as scripture says: For your sake we are being massacred all day long, treated as sheep to be slaughtered? No; we come through all these things triumphantly victorious, by the power of him who loved us. For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:35-39

Here's an excerpt from an article in this week's Catholic News: 

Catholics urged to 'hold firm' as religious symbols removed - 
"... the government has cracked down on Christianity in this city of more than 3 million people although the reason remains unknown... On Aug 3, Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reported local pastors saying that in the last seven months, at least three churches have been demolished and more than 160 crosses, including some at Catholic churches, were taken down because they exceeded the size allowed by the local government." 
~ Catholic News Singapore Vol 64 No. 17

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Grant Us Your Peace - Prayer - Iraq's Christian Genocide

Dear Jesus, 

I come with nothing much at all. No political power or army, no wealth or influence. Nothing but my pleas, my imperfect love and my helplessness. And that's nothing much at all. But do hear me as I pray. 

See, Your people suffering, dying for Your sake. Your heart is pierced through as You watch Your people massacred, beheaded. 

See, this brutality. These, who no longer feel their conscience. They are Your children too, no? Are you not angry with these murderers? Do you not want to send down fire to burn them all into ashes? Or order a plague upon them like You did to the Egyptians? 

Yet, have I come to know You enough to glimpse a little into Your Sacred Heart? Watching them in their evil deeds and still, You love them with everything You are and desire for their souls to be saved. Your heart is pierced through even more as You watch them disfigure themselves, disfigured increasingly from Your image and likeness. Tears, streaming from Your eyes without stop. The wrenching pain in Your heart does not cease.

See, too, my heavy heart, my sadness. My helplessness. My self-doubts that I can ever witness to You in such a martyrdom. My hidden hope that You will never put me through such a test because I know I might fail You. See my distracted heart that will soon forget the plight of my faraway brothers and sisters until the next article I read or the next invitation to another prayer session. My hypocrisy that pleads for Your help for my dying fellow Christians but puts aside the long overdue reconciliations with those whose lives I have taken by my unChristlike thoughts, words and deeds. 

See, Jesus Dear, those in power who are too calculative to lend a hand. Too afraid to speak up, to get implicated. See, too, those others who go on living in their indifferences. 

But should we go to war? To fight a war with war? Should we start dropping bombs to wipe out Your people? Surely, there must be a more loving solution. Surely, You can do something. Maybe, in my mind is the thought of what You did to Saul on the road to Damascus. Maybe, I wish for a quick-fix, a dramatic and radical conversion of the whole world. But maybe, this isn't what You would do this time. Maybe, You want something more subtle, more thorough. 

And so, Lord, teach us Your ways and move our hearts. Move the hearts of those to whom You have allotted power and authority to intervene and save. 

Give us courage not to run from our sadness. Give us a compassionate concern to be in solidarity with those suffering through our prayers for them.  

Open the eyes of conscience of those who have gone astray, knock on the door of their hearts and plant in them the realisation of what they are truly doing. 

For those who have turned their backs on You like Peter did in the face of threat, grant them the grace to forgive themselves. Let not their destiny be like Judas' on the tree, not even as they live on in this life. Strengthen their faith in the silence of their hearts like You did to Nicodemus who came to You in the night. And fill them with Your Pentecostal Spirit. 

For those who have been killed, do not let their souls wander restlessly and bitterly but bring every one of them into Your comforting embrace, there to share in Your eternal glory. 

And for those who are going to die this moment on, ever-loving Jesus, stay close to them, hold them with Your graces. That they will make perfect Your image and likeness in them by repeating after You, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing. Into Your hands, I commend my spirit." By this, to bear the greatest witness that You are the One True God, the God of infinite love and mercy, and render unto You the glory of Your name.

Finally, after speaking so much and laying out a to-do-list for You, let me at last be silent. Let me sit here with You for a while, my dear Jesus. With Your aching and bleeding heart. To be with You and feel with You, to tear with You and to love with You. 

Grant us all Your peace. 

Monday, 21 July 2014

Hanging or Hanged

What do you think of sufferings? 
How do you normally react towards emotional pain?

Consider these... 

Can you sit side by side with sufferings and look at it in the eye, no matter how long that may last?

Or would your immediate reaction be to reject it and run far away from it? 

Maybe you would panic, lose control of your emotions which then grow into a tornado within your mind, tossing around everything it finds in its way? 

Or perhaps, you would refuse to let it take up your time and energy, and so you gather yourself together and get on with life? 

What do you do with the pain you feel? That yucky, awful, uncomfortable prick that sometimes grow beyond into a thorough pierce through your heart. A bleeding that sees no blood, an ache that painkillers cannot reach.


No one likes to suffer and we would avoid it as best as we can. To do so, we device many defence mechanisms to keep pain out, or at least to temporarily not feel it. Be it to get high on drinks, blast the music, become very task-oriented... anything that would distract us from noticing the pain. 

Anything but sitting with the pain and allowing ourselves to feel its total intensity. We break records in our marathon run from our pains but... what are we really running from? If the pain is within us and we are running away from this pain, then isn't it true that we are also running away from our own selves? And if we run away from pain and ourselves, can we possibly grow in our union with Christ, who is most familiar with pain, most acquainted with sufferings? And so too, we are running away from God, and this cannot be life-giving. 


Today in one of my lessons, a student stood in front of me for her music test. She comes in leggings everyday because her eczema condition is severe. Looking at the rash covering her arms, her face, surrounding her eyes, my heart melted and ached. It pricked and it pricked, over and over. 

Beyond the physical itch and annoyance, I cannot imagine what emotional pain she must be going through each time she looks at herself in the mirror, each time she scratches and tears her skin. Each time she tries a medication with a hope for a cure, only to be left disappointed once again, helpless. I got connected with her sufferings and the growing sparkle in my eyes almost gave me away. 

In that moment... I touched the sacred heart of Jesus. My heart merged with His for a while in that divine encounter. Sensus Christi, the sensing of Christ that St Paul speaks: that I may feel with your feelings, with the sentiments of your heart, which basically are love for your Father and love for humanity. 

If looking at her sufferings with my imperfect love could move my heart so much, how much more does Jesus' heart bleed when He watches us suffer?

For the first time, I could sense at least a small percentage of what God feels towards His people. I could feel how it pierces His heart just as it did to mine today.

It was an encounter with Jesus whose heart continues to be pierced through by our sins, our sufferings and pains. It was an encounter made possible only because I know suffering. And only by God's abundant graces, have sat side by side in many occasions with my pains, to look at them face to face, and invited the healing presence of God into the very midst of them. That somehow, God continues to invite and encourage me to throw open the gates of my heart to choose love, to choose vulnerability, because invulnerability leads to death. 


Sufferings have the ability to form us interiorly in a very special and significant way. It grows us into compassionate beings, increasingly into the image and likeness of our Creator. It grows our hearts into the heart of Christ. We begin to feel with Him, to feel like Him, to love like Him. 

Jesus, in His last hours, faced immense sufferings. He could have done many things to escape the sufferings. But He chose none of it, only to hang. To hang there with hands outstretched. This hanging, this total submission to feel the extent of His pain and suffering, physical and most of all, emotional. This hanging which moves His heart to know the hidden pain of Man, and which then allowed Him to go even a step further to forgive and intercede for His own executioners and accusers. 

This same hanging we are invited to do in our own pain, our own down moments. Not to run, not to busy ourselves or complain, but to hang. To allow our hearts to be formed in compassion and love, patience and wisdom, discipline and courage. To allow our hearts to grow into the heart of Christ. 

Thus, do not fear pain which can only paralyse but cannot kill. We ought to be more fearful of what we do or don't do with our pains because these decisions can either lead to life in Christ or make us emotionally and spiritually hanged.


Will you sit side by side with sufferings and look at it in the eye, no matter how long that may last?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Faulty Trains, Love Derailed


It was one of those news that would set the citizens talking, criticising and complaining again. And indeed, it caused much inconveniences to many. Yesterday evening, a train with a brake fault resulted in trains travelling at a speed slower than usual. The eventual delay added 20 minutes to travelling time. 

While the fault was primarily within the faulty train, the deeper cause of this incident and the recurring interruptions to the public transport system may be rooted elsewhere. And its ripple effects are surely felt by many more. If a passenger has a tight schedule to keep to, an urgent matter to see to, the consequences may be direr and more difficult to manage than the good an apology can bring about.

In fact, apart from a faulty train, there are many other instances in which we have encountered the malfunctioning of something and the consequences it brings. A mobile phone dropped onto the road resulted in a cracked screen, a toothbrush’s bristles pointing in every direction but upright, a pillow that has flattened to half its height. There are many. And we know that once something loses its ability to function as it was made to, it will no longer be as useful as it could be. Something is just not right about it; it is no longer whole.

This which we notice about things. Can we recognise a similar pattern in people too? In the relationships we share? How we manifest a certain kind of behaviour we can never understand why? Until we dig a lot deeper within ourselves and find the deeper cause rooted in some other issues that never got resolved. And what ripple effects it must also cause others, damaging precious relationships.

Take for instance a person with commitment issues. The behaviour manifested – inability to commit in big and small matters. Unwillingness to marry someone one has been dating for more than a decade, just to name one example. The deeper question to ask is, “Why?” And in this case, what do I resist about entering into marriage with this person who is a good match for me? What is holding me back? What is the real cause?

One of the causes of commitment issues, if it is not the only, is invulnerability. To be unwilling and not daring to let ourselves be in a vulnerable position where we can be hurt. Certainly, no one chooses to be hurt and it is unwise to go around looking for hurts too. But to guard ourselves so that we will not get hurt, that no one will cause us to feel down, is a fatal defence mechanism that many people have come to learn and practice subconsciously.

It is fatal because we can only be hurt when we love, when the gates of our hearts are opened. To guard ourselves from hurt is a choice against love, to close tight our hearts so that other people will no longer influence and affect how we feel. So even if we cannot keep them far from us geographically, especially if they live under the same roof as us, then at least we keep at a distance from our hearts. 

And to choose not to love is to choose to die, to be zombified. We are made out of love, for love. Love is the energy that fuels our minds, bodies, hearts and souls; our lives! As the late Pedro Arrupe, SJ wrote:

Nothing is more practical than finding God, 
than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. 
What you are in love with, 
what seizes your imagination, 
will affect everything. 
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, 
what you do with your evenings, 
how you spend your weekends, 
what you read, 
whom you know, 
what breaks your heart, 
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. 
Fall in Love, 
stay in love, 
and it will decide everything.

People are afraid to love because of the fear of getting hurt. And this is because they have tasted hurt and know how awful it feels. The paranoia of having to experience such pain again can make us shut ourselves in and others out. So in our example, a person facing commitment issues may well be guarding himself against this vulnerability. If I believe that marriage is lifelong, then marriage means lifelong vulnerability. Because although I love this person now, what if it does not work out well? I cannot run, cannot escape. I am stuck and susceptible to more and deeper hurts. Scary and too huge a risk to take. 

Hurts left unhealed, unprocessed bring no growth in a person. On the contrary, they stifle, inhibit and cage us within those very wounds. We suppress and lose the ability to name those hurts, to know what is not right inside us. Something is just not right within; not whole anymore. That brake fault in the train, my anger that cannot find peace, insecurities that cannot find assurance, impulsiveness that cannot find control. 

Perhaps many Singaporeans will be pointing their fingers at the staff of SMRT for the lack of maintenance, for not responsibly ensuring the smooth running of the trains. Maybe the management will be looking downwards at the mechanics. Somewhere, somehow, whoever it may be, there is a missing link, a weakest link. Something else is not right that has caused the train to be recurringly faulty. Somewhere deeper within us, there might be something not right, not whole, causing the various manifestations in our unloving behaviours, words and thoughts. Until we decide to find and resolve those issues that lie deeper in us, these manifestations will keep recurring. Trains will keep breaking down. Relationships continue to be damaged because of our unloving. We cannot function as we are made to - to love. 

What is there in your deeper self that makes you less than whole? 
How can you seek good guidance to journey towards wholeness?