Tuesday 30 August 2022

The Humble Circle

Trinity Icon by Andrei Rublev
Photo from Wikipedia

The Circle of the Trinity 

In this circle, no one steps forward; all take a step back so that none is in the center; each can see the other and thus, keeps the circle in shape. 

The humility of God leaves a space to invite a mortal person to complete the circle at any time. Yet, even without, the Three are complete in Themselves. 

Likewise, anyone who wishes to enter and remain in this circle of relationship, will have to step back in humble docility, in such a manner that the Three are within sight. This calls to end the futile pride in self-assertion and control, and the belief that I am what the situation depends upon. This end loosens the chains of an unfreedom of self-dependency that opens anew a freedom to trust the circle of Divinity and omniscient Love. Now, in the new spaciousness, when all is in right relationship with the other, the Divine can blow where It wills.

How much humiliation does one have to encounter before one's gripping pride can at last give up on itself? 
How much tears of shame need to flow out to soften one into such a malleable state?
How malleable does one have to be so that I can at last become WE?

What is it like being in this circle? 

Tuesday 12 July 2022

The Bell Tower

Photo taken at the Church of St. Francis Xavier
12 July 2022

As I walked into the church compounds, my attention was seized by this sight.

A desire welled up from within...

May I be like this bell tower?

That withstands the wind and rain, the scorching heat of the sun, to stand without falling, without bending, confident in its foundation... to sound the invitation of the Lord to come, receive, be loved and nourished. At its heights, visible from afar for all who are seeking a sign and direction. Visible, not for its own self, but for that which is infinitely greater - the God of all.

May the Lord grant my heart's desire.


Saturday 4 June 2022

What do You see?

What do You see in me, Lord, that I don't?
That You should pick my life up from the dumps, shake off its dust and place it against Your own heart? 

What do You see in me, Lord, that I don't?
That You should come to my side, bear the stench of my sins and still, look lovingly into my eyes? 

What do You see in me, Lord, that I don't?
That You should open Yourself and walk me into Your very life, and there, give me Home?

What do You see in me, Lord?
That Your eyes should rest upon the plain and ordinary me, that You place onto my shivering palm the key to the interior world - Your world of magnificent intricacies?

What do You see in me, Lord?
That You should even entrust to me Your own flock, give me the most undeserved privilege of labouring alongside You - YOU, GOD - to lead them home to You? 

What do You see in me, Lord, that I don't see? 
That You should allow Your people to hear me and rise up into the realms of Your divinity, there, to touch You?

The truth, Lord, is that I don't see what You see. And I might never.
Help me to trust You, even when I cannot see as You see. 
Help me to allow You, even when I cannot understand your choice.
Help me - in my helpless wonderments, my loss of words, as I reach the limit of my human intellect that cannot transcend into the infinity of Your power and wisdom - to be still.
To simply be still.
To be.
To surrender. 

Sunday 17 April 2022

God - the Word and Wordless

And so I asked Him, the risen One.
Who am I?
Who am I that You should call me in my nothingness?
Me, a sinner.
Who am I that You should grant me entrance into the inner world of Man's hearts?
Who am I that You should notice me in the corner of Your majestic banquet hall, full of others much larger than I; me - plain and unadorned, blending in with the walls to escape Man's judgements?
Who am I that you should call me from my mother's womb, out from the dungeons I chose, to set me on the path of life?
Not who am I
But who ARE YOU?
Who are YOU that you would see a person like me, love me, call me, set me apart and send me?
Who are YOU GOD?
I have no answer.
I stood beneath Your cross and now, before Your empty tomb.
There is no answer.
Perhaps, no answer is enough.
Perhaps, no answer is needed.

- Easter Sunday 2022

Saturday 12 March 2022



Is this beautiful? 

If it is, what makes it beautiful as the candle within shines out in the same way as other tealight candles do?  

It is both light and shadow, hollowness and opacity, a mixture of illumination and darkness - a contrast that creates a pattern that is cast out, cast upon. 


Is not the sunrise particularly captivating because there is the emerging light that meets the darkness of the passing night? Would sunrise be the sunrise people wake up early to watch if it was just one gigantic blob of blinding light? 

Are not mountains intensely stunning because they rise high above their valleys? Would nature's landscape have the same power to take our breath away if it was just one piece of flat land? 

It is easy to admire the beauty of shadows - of light blocked by a lack of clarity and transparency. Shadows mesmerise, like how my students enjoy playing with them, cast by the light from the classroom projector. It is easy to admire the mountains and valleys, the ups and downs. Because they exist outside of us.

It is not so easy to admire contrasts when they are the shadows of our hearts, when they map the ups and downs of our chaotic life. I don't like such shadows and how I wish they were all eliminated at once! How nice life would be if it was all flat ground, easy to trek across! How about you? 

Yet, the reality is that contrasts exist within me, within each of us. Light and darkness, good and bad, strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, joy and pain, laughters and tears, hope and despair, love and fear, dreams and reality... the healed and the still hurting, the already and the yet-to-be, the I am and the still becoming.

Can there possibly be beauty in the seemingly imperfect, in the contrasts of our human reality? 

Or should I ask... Why can't there be? 

Why can't we celebrate the process of becoming instead of being so insistent that things must already be? 

We fear the shadows, the pain, the yet-to-be, the reality, the imperfections. Because we know our vulnerability that is capable of receiving deep hurts. We also know our power to hurt another. We fear being overwhelmed, that the boat of our lives be overturned by powers we are helpless towards. We fear the ugly for we long to be loved in our beauty. This is our human nature that longs for love. Love alone fills us. 

Blessed is he who finds love that embraces his contrasts, his human reality. But independent of finding such love, dare we relook at our own perception of what beauty looks like, of what life-charming entails? Dare we love ourselves in the reality of who we are, with the myriad of contrasts that affirms we are only on-the-way and have yet to fully arrive at the perfection we hope for? And then, to extend this love to others? 

Isn't this the redeeming love of God for us that delights in us even as we are only still becoming? The love He nailed to the cross in an irreversible way is such an all-embracing love. Lent isn't, to me, so much a time of intentional fasting and almsgiving to give up something that causes me to feel a pinch. While it is necessary to determinedly turn away from sin and be more loving, the way to this isn't quite to set goals to work towards but rather, by displacement - that I intentionally spend time to look more closely at how God has loved me and treated me, to stay at the foot of the cross for long and allow Jesus hanging there to speak to my heart about what His death and rising are truly about. Filled with His love, redeemed and transformed by His love, only then do I have the reference and capacity to love myself and others in the way I've first been loved. 

I bought this lamp from IKEA a few months ago because I knew its shadows would be beautiful. I only just got struck by its beauty tonight. Isn't it beautiful?

Thursday 3 March 2022

Lent - The son returns (Luke 15:11-32)

Photo by YouTube

The parable of the Prodigal son (click for passage) is a familiar passage. Yet, the beauty of the Gospels never wanes and its messages are never exhausted.

If you take a closer look at the details of the story and/or enter into its scene using the Ignatian contemplation, the Holy Spirit might reveal to you certain details you never saw before. 

I'd like to share one insight today. 

In the story, the father did something most fathers would probably not do - give the son his share of the inheritance prematurely - which meant giving the son the means to live independently, and choose his own lifestyle as he pleased. 

Why did he do that? One might ask if he was in the right state of mind!  Surely, he was well aware that the whole inheritance - accumulated by his own hard work and sensible saving - would be wasted. How much good could that sum of money be used for instead! How could he allow his son to wander so far from home when the latter was going to live irresponsibly? Did he not care if his son met with some mishap far from home and it would be too late to send help? 

The next thing the father did, or rather, did not, was to remain behind instead of going after the son to bring him home. Does not sound like he missed his son very much at all. Or did he? 

"But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him." Lk 15:20 (NRSV)

It was no coincidence that the father saw the son in the far distance. He was still far off. At such a great distance, the son's return could only be noticed by one who was deliberately looking out, every waking moment, as long as the light touched the earth. Every day. So much so that he did not miss the moment when his son's return came within sight. Here is a father who waited, day in, day out, patiently, lovingly; who pined for his son. He would have left the house or stood at a spot where he had an unblocked view of the return path. Who knows how many days he repeated this routine of looking out, only to face the futility of his waiting each night. 

Could it be that this father did not go out to bring his son back not because he did not want to but because his son's return wasn't his choice to make? Perhaps, it was a choice his son had to make for himself. And until he's made that decision, it would have been pointless for the father to drag the empty shell of his son home. Because it wasn't his body - his mere presence in the house - that satisfied the father. But a heart that was at last ready to return home, a personal will that had, at last through the lashes of harsh consequences, has resolved to turn away from the empty pursuits of pleasure and indulgences. To force his son to stay by his side would be to save himself from emotional pain but deprive his son of the opportunity of a life-changing self-discovery. What a huge risk this father took! And what a celebration he had!

Where do we find ourselves in this story and insight?
There are many possibilities. 

Perhaps, we can relate with the son. God gave us free will. He takes huge risks by allowing us to use our limited and flawed capacities to make choices even if it means to see us err. But in the erring, there could be important lessons. In the hymn Ashes, commonly sung on Ash Wednesday, there is a line,

"Though spring has turned to winter, and sunshine turned to rain; the rain we'll use for growing and create ourselves anew..."

If we find ourselves on the path home, can we take heart in using the rain for growing? 

Perhaps, we can relate with the father, even though we may not be fathers ourselves. When others err, or when we see them heading down the wrong path, what do we do? How do we react? To be honest, if it is someone I love very deeply, I tend to panic, my fears stirred up, and I would start trying to do all I can to fix the situation and prevent things from falling apart. But not all life situations are humanly 'fixable'. In times like this, it takes a while but thank God for His graces, there comes a time when I  would become aware of my fears and get reminded of God's invitation to trust, to let go, to allow things and relationships to die in order for it to find new life because it does no one any good to try so hard holding in tact that which is already in pieces. 

Where do you find yourself in this story and insight? 
What situation in your life might God be speaking to as you read this sharing? 

Let's take some silence to listen.

Have a grace-filled Lent. 

Sunday 9 May 2021

Learning to Love Someone - Utter Dependence on God

I have not blogged in a very long while but there is something coming up for me since January 2021 that has set me on a very unusual, unpredictable, unexpected, unplanned and very challenging journey. It entails learning to love.

Fr Chris Soh, SJ said before, "Love is effortful." I cannot agree more.


Loving an intimate other is a whole different experience from loving a group of everyone else. Perhaps, this marks a huge difference between the married and lay single / religious vocation. Loving an intimate other naturally desires for the other to reciprocate the love and it is very specific. We hope and desire from this person what we do not in the same way hope and desire from any other person.

But as with all human relationships, we cannot control anyone other than ourselves. No matter how much we want the other to love us in return, there is absolutely so much we can do to try to win that love. And even if we have won that love, there is no certainty of securing that love for the rest of our lives. 

When something shakes the foundation of a relationship - an argument, a hurtful comment, a selfish decision - and working things out together between the couple is not a mutual decision of commitment, how? When two hearts are not beating as one, when they are not quite on the same page, and the future of the relationship so tremendously dear to you is bleak and at times even hopeless, how? 

Pain, heart-wrenching pain, insecurities, uncertainties, more pain, fear, anxiety... 

Whether or not we dare to admit, we are after all only humans - limited, finite. The more I fight this truth instead of accepting it with humility, the harder I try to "fix" things, the messier things get, the more exhausted I feel, the less "natural" things are, and ultimately, what do I get? The same dead-end; I face the same human limitation that renders me helpless in the face of an independent other I cannot control. 

The only one then who I can now depend on after acknowledging my helplessness is God. If there's anyone who can pave out a way I cannot pave out, it is God. If there's anyone who can, in short, help the situation, mend the brokenness, it is God. No one else. 

God alone knows best. He loves us more than anyone can possibly love us. If the relationship is His will, then all we need to do is to hand it over to Him, to entrust it to His love and provision, to beg Him to do for us what we in our limited powers cannot do. And discern where God is leading us, listen and follow His lead, trusting that whatever the outcome may be, it will be the best for each of us. It may be the best only upon hindsight 10 years later, who knows! But what I can say is that if it is a relationship God blesses, I know and have witnessed Him making a way where there really seemed to be no way. 

The question then is... 

How personal and deep is our relationship with God that allows us to surrender to His loving providence? And if we don't know God enough to trust Him this much, perhaps this is the starting point - deepening this relationship through prayer, contemplation, perhaps even with the help of a trained spiritual director. 

Utter dependence on God.
May God give us the grace to truly be poor in spirit so as to be rich in Christ. 

Sunday 21 June 2020

The Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Related image
Mary's response to God was wholehearted, single-minded. Her heart was one with her son, Jesus; deeply connected beyond our imaginings.

And today (20 June 2020 - I'm half an hour late), the Church honours her immaculate heart. May we discover our deepest thirst for God and allow Him to gradually merge our hearts with His.

This is a prayer of offering I have been praying when the priest consecrates the bread and wine during the offertory at Mass. It is adapted from Karl Rahner's captivating words in Encounters with Silence:

Lord, bring me to your altar.
There, let me die completely to myself
so as to be buried entirely in you.

Friday 19 June 2020

10th Anniversary of Conversion

Today marks the 10th anniversary of my conversion experience in Rome. It's been 10 years. Back then, when I embarked on this spiritual journey, I never saw how the journey would unfold, neither did I know what 10 years from then would be like, feel like, or look like. I was a very different person and could never have dreamt that life as it is now for me or the person I am now was ever possible. 

I began this day with spiritual direction via Zoom. It was so timely, so apt. And I shared this prayer experiences I had few days back with my spiritual director: 

Reading Healing Our Beginning made me aware of the need and possibility of healing wounds even as far back as conception. As I read the 1st two chapters of the book, I was noticing my inner stirrings. I began to understand the possible root causes of some of the struggles I have been helplessly facing that prevented me from a better discipleship that I desire very much. Awareness alone of my tendencies and emotions could not translate to choosing better actions because the emotions were too intense and beyond me. And I asked the Lord for help to overcome these. I felt as I read, God's invitation to bring my new realizations and insights to Him in prayer. And so I began.

It came to a point in the first prayer period when Mary (Jesus's mother) invited me into her own womb. Gradually, I took up her invitation as the Spirit led. (This is the contemplative prayer method) In her womb, I could see the house I came to know from my 30 day retreat. Mary and Joseph were working in different parts of the house but there was a deep love and connection between them. I felt safe. 

Then Mary invited Joseph into the house for lunch, when she revealed to him that she's expecting (me). He was overjoyed. Overjoyed. I could hear their laughters, their joy. Joseph was praising God and then, he turned to Mary and said so intently and consciously, "God has given us a gift." At these words, tears began to fall. It is one thing to know by faith that I'm a gift; it is quite another when God speaks it to my heart directly. I am God's gift. I have never experienced this reality so profoundly as I did in this prayer experience. 

Later, Joseph, after much more laughing out his joy and excitement, asked Mary, "Is it a girl or a boy?" And without waiting for a reply, he came close to me in Mary and spoke directly to me, "Whether you are a girl or a boy, you are equally precious." More tears fell. 

They were excited to meet me, to see me. Their joy was immeasurable. And I felt it anew that someone is actually so excited to see me. I felt so welcomed, so loved, cherished, special; a gift. Joseph then assured Mary that he will take very good care of her. And with him doing that to the lady carrying me, I, in her womb, felt cared for and absolutely secure. For the first time in my life, I was that excited about my life. 

I can say with confidence this whole experience was Spirit-led because only God knows what exactly I needed to hear and experience for the kind of wounds I had. And He gives it as He knows I need. 

In the second prayer experience the next day, I thought of doing a repetition of the experience but went along with the strong prompting to go back instead to the actual scene of my conception. 

This time, I saw the process of human fertilization. But it stalled at that moment just before fertilization took place. And this time, God was there. After some time, He waved His hand gently. It wasn't just a physical gesture. In that wave, I understood that He opened the egg. In that wave, I felt so unmistakably His deep, deep love for me, such a love that He desires at His core to bring me into being. At that moment, I understood that every new life is far more than the consequence of human actions. I understood that every new life happens as a rapture of God's infinite love for that being. 

Then God brought His hands to His heart. From there, He brought forth a baby soul. A fully formed being, a soul. He looked so intently, gently, tenderly at the soul. He was completely mesmerized. For the first time in my life, I felt God like a mother, feminine. Oh He was so tender and loving. I was taken aback looking at how He was gazing upon that soul (me). After some time, He looked at me and asked, "Isn't she beautiful? I love her so much because she comes straight from my heart." Straight from God's heart. He placed my soul into the fertilized egg. And I looked anew at my first cell. I loved it, picked it up gently in my hands and said, "You are so beautiful, Jacinta, Jacinta. I love you."

Straight from the heart of God. My spiritual director helped me this morning to stay with this experience for long before reminding me (I forgot!) that today is the feast of the Most Sacred Heart and how wonderful it is to touch this "coming from God's heart" experience on this feast. I cannot grasp how perfect God's timing is. 

Today, God sent and gifted me my spiritual director to share deeply in my experiences and in my journey, as if he's standing in on behalf of God, to gift me the grace of being accompanied. It is a great celebration for me, a day of consolation. The affirmation and "pat on the back" that God gifts from having fought the good fight, of having enjoyed the great heights of God's mountain-top-consolations, of enduring the deepest, darkest moments, of God's unearthing my insides to re-landscape it as He desires. All is grace. ALL IS GRACE. All is God's love. 

There is a joy within me. An excitement that looks forward to what God has in store for me in my life ahead. And I share this and my prayer experiences as a way of expressing that inner joy, that glow and gratitude to all God has done in me, for me, through me, with me. I share these to celebrate life - life in God, life only in God. All praise and glory is God's and God's alone! 

Sunday 14 June 2020

Inner Healing - Unnecessary, Yet Love Desires It For Us

I would like to take a different orientation in this second post on inner healing. In yesterday's post, I shared more about why I have welcomed the process of healing and the benefits I have experienced from it. Today, I would like to look at God.

To help us understand and relate a bit more easily, let's look at a very human experience - parents accompanying their sick child through a process of recovery.

For most parents with children, I'd think that one of the most worrying and stressful situations they can face is when their child falls sick or gets injured. Not only parents are worried but anyone in the family who loves this child will feel it too.

When I was in primary school, I sprained my ankle when I fell off the beam during gym practice. My parents brought me to the Chinese doctor to get it fixed. I'd say it never quite got fixed to what it was before the sprain. After some time, the pain subsided and my body learned to live with the injury.

Then in secondary school, I sprained both ankles a number of times each playing basketball. By then, I knew that even if I were to leave the injury alone, sooner or later, I will get used to the injury and adapt accordingly. Yet, my parents would always bring me to see the Chinese doctor and if one does not seem to be able to assure us he knows what he's doing or if I don't feel somewhat better, they would find out from relatives and friends of other doctors that have a good reputation, and will bring me there.

What was going on in my parents and in all those of us who have ever experienced worrying about someone we love who's unwell and wanting the best treatment available for that person?

A sprained ankle does not threaten my life but there are lasting consequences. My ankles became weak, I couldn't wear heels without feeling some sort of discomfort and at times, pain. And weak ankles means I am more prone to further sprains because they are less able to support my movements. As a child and teenager, I did not think that far so I was still walking around with my bandaged ankles, disobeying the restrictions to my movement that I was advised to follow.

But despite the injury being relatively quite minor as compared to a fatal illness, my parents wanted me healed. Perhaps, they saw what I couldn't see at my immature stage, and did not want me to live with those lasting consequences of my unhealed injuries. And I'd say that this comes from a space of love.

Love desires the healing of the beloved.
Love desires the beloved to be made whole again.
Love desires the beloved to live free of the effects of injuries.

And this love is a reflection of God's love.

When we are hurt by others, even to a small degree that does not lead us to thoughts of suicide or to depression, it may seem like healing isn't necessary. We can still adapt and find ways to go on with life and to function as effectively as we know how to. Healing isn't necessary for God to love us or call us to be disciples and to minster to others. But healing is a very natural desire of love. And it is a great gift of love.

When God grants people the grace of awareness of how they are hurt and how it is affecting their attitudes, their behaviour and relationship with others, what is His purpose? I cannot fathom a loving God who desires our wholeness only to a certain extent. I cannot fathom a loving God who gives people awareness of their hurts and how these are manifesting in daily life just so they could live with a greater awareness and be able to mentally choose a better way of responding when triggered. God's love is far greater than that.

My parents did not tell me, "Ok so you have a sprained ankle. Now this has lasting impact. So next time when you feel the pain when walking in heels, you've got to remember that the cause of it is actually the sprains you sustained in earlier days." It would really be quite strange if they told me that. What huge difference would it make for me to just know this? I would still experience the pain, I would still be unable to jump high or far because of the weakness.

So when we are hurt, yes we can still experience the love of God, we can still function in our daily tasks, we can still be called to serve others in ways we can and in this regard, it may seem from this perspective that healing isn't necessary; unnecessary for all these. But love desires more. Love that is endless and infinite desires complete wholeness. Though we won't be able to arrive at that complete wholeness in our lifetime, there is always the more that love desires for us.

If we are deeply connected with God's love for us, I believe we will know that His love desires for us to live free; free from the negative effects of our injuries. And we will be more open to receiving this great gift from His loving hands.

Saturday 13 June 2020

Inner Healing - Why? I've Been Living Without It

What's your idea of inner healing? 

How have you experienced inner healing of any sort before? 

Some people may think that there is too much emphasis these days, especially among the youths and young adults, on inner healing. Some may feel that we ought to focus our energies on the present instead of the past, on living instead of mourning, on moving on instead of dwelling on. 

Yet, the talks, retreats and Masses that seem to draw greater crowds, in my limited observations, are when these have a healing theme. Self-help books take up a good section in larger bookstores. The field of psychology is developing extensively, and counselling and psychotherapy seem to be becoming more popular. 

People, religious or not, spiritual or not, seem to be innately and perhaps even unknowingly seeking for a "more" in life, a "more" they can be, a better and happier life. The soul seems to be at least unconsciously aware and attuned to a gap it feels, a sort of restlessness that leads it on a search that may seem endless, directionless.

In my own experiences especially in the past 9 years of inner healing work, going through this process of inner healing in a healthy way does not mean that I stop living, that I put on hold every other aspect of my life. Each experience of healing opens up to me each time a new and better way of being a human person and thereby, of living. It is for living more fully, of being more alive, of recovering more of the person God created me to be that was distorted or destroyed by the effects of sin that I embark on a process of healing. It is claiming back what Satan has stolen away, breaking the chains it has thus used to bind me to itself so I may no longer be as free within to live in union with my Creator God. This, I have come to believe and be so convinced of, is what Jesus meant when He said He has come to set the captives free.

 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free..." Luke 4:18

That our sight may be decreasingly tainted and our vision less distorted. This is the good news for the poor - those who are poor in spirit and recognize our need for God - that in our helplessness towards life's challenges, we have help. Divine help. 

There is a vast difference between living and existing. I can maintain a status quo and go on my daily tasks, surround myself with things that take away my awareness of what might lie deeper within, device strategies and coping mechanisms and live quite effectively, even successfully, functionally. I can escape into my head-space, never having to see what is there in my heart-space. 

But what happens when life circumstances strip us bare of all these defensive layers? Take for example a patient fighting for life in an ICU ward or when cancer forces us into a downward mobility. What are we left with? What will we be left with? Can we still escape then to our head-space? 

Perhaps, we are quite happy with life; things have been going quite smoothly generally. To be honest, I sometimes envy such people because they did not have to go through the downs I've gone through, the pain I've had to experience. And I do become suspicious of where they've been to experience such a smooth-sailing life - maybe life for some has really been without troubles (and I am happy for them) but could it also be that some are living only on the peripheries of life and never quite immersed themselves in it? 

Whose joy is greater?
The rugby fan cheering on the spectator stand whose team just won the match or the rugby player who trained hard, sustained injuries, pressed on and fought to win the championship?

So, always, on second thoughts, I switch sides. If I haven't gone through all I have, experienced the depths of pain and heights of joy, I won't really be able to relate much to a God fully immersed in human life, who in the person of Jesus wept, laughed, celebrated, reacted out of zeal, was moved with compassion... I won't really be able to be in solidarity with most people, who do struggle with life at least at some point of their journeys, and neither will they find support and companionship in me. 

When I come back to who I am and who I have yet to become, to my deeper desire for the "more" I can be - for myself, those around me and for God's purposes - and discover that no matter how hard I may try in my efforts to be better, to respond better to God's love for me, there are still obstacles that somehow thwart my success and keep me from doing the things I desire to do and know I ought to do, I know I have to get to a deeper root cause. 


It is not just about trying hard, about pushing myself, about forcing things through; this will only get me to a certain distance. But it is more about clearing out a channel that has become increasingly clogged so that, more naturally, God's graces can flow into me, into my life and through me onto others.

Through counselling, one can learn healthier ways of managing one's anger for instance. That's functional. But with healing, one won't even have to experience that anger when those specific triggers of that anger are healed. I find this a much better option and way to live.

Most of all, it is when I allow God to walk with me through my deepest struggles, wounds and pain that I encounter Him most tangibly, most miraculously, most powerfully, most lovingly. And I become more and more convinced that, as Fr. Monty Williams, SJ said, "There is no death that God cannot resurrect."

The process of inner healing is painful and arduous but not once have I regretted each experience of it because the liberation it gives me is something I won't trade for an easier path.

Saturday 14 March 2020

Jesus said, "... Do this in remembrance of me."

This evening, thanks to a Jesuit I have never met in person, I have found the words to articulate where I am coming from when I say I support the Bishop's decision to continue the suspension of Mass.

In short, it is to protect lives.  

Let's go back to the Gospels.

Luke 22:18-20 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

"for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood."

For the first time in my Catholic life, I paused at the word "this" and suddenly, I asked, "What is He asking us to do in remembrance of Him?"

How does one remember another who is deceased? Over these years, I wondered a few times what losing a parent would be like. What would I do in my attempt to continue loving my parents but in a different way since they were no longer with me? My answer has not changed. I would let their legacy live on in my life, that my life bears the imprint of their lives. That when I am relating with others, I am always mindful of the love they have selflessly, unconditionally showered upon me - the ungrateful and undeserving one. And in this same way, I love others, as if in the name of my parents. 

To remember is more than a mere mental thought and process of calling something to mind again. It is to feel again, to experience again. To relive the encounter, allowing it to shape my person. 

So what was Jesus really saying as He instituted the Eucharist? What could He mean? I am no biblical scholar and I do not speak for the Church. But here's what I understand.

Yes. We participate in the Eucharist - the Holy Mass. Through the whole liturgy, as the hymn goes, "We remember how You loved us to Your death..." Jesus came to bring us the Good News, What is this Good News?

Luke 4:16-19 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

It is this Good News that Jesus is so convinced about (Read Jesus: An Historical Approximation by Jose Antonio Pagola) and wanted the people to experience, to encounter in Him, and then come to believe, to receive hope from, and to start living it out in their lives. Not even death was going to stop Him from proclaiming this radical love of the Father, which the Father had sent Him to proclaim. 

I would like to suggest then that we participate in the Eucharist not only because Jesus was instituting the Eucharist as He said to "do this in remembrance of me". Rather, we do so so that we can remember how we have received this Good News, how we have experienced God in our lives so that our lives thereafter will bear the imprint of God's life in us. Perhaps, "this" might then point towards what Jesus was foretelling in Luke 22:18-20 - that He Himself is the Lamb - blessed, broken, poured out for others. Bearing this imprint in our lives is to, ourselves, be blessed, broken and poured out for others. This is our participation in the continuation of the mission Christ began, that through us, His Body, He can bring all of God's labouring all through Salvation History to completion. 

All of which culminates in the one greatest commandment Jesus explicitly stated as a command:

John 13:34-35 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

We remember our Trinitarian God through Jesus by loving as He loves. And in a pandemic situation we are all in now, loving others is working hard to protect everyone - not just our loved ones. 

"For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" Matthew 5:46 (RSV)

We are not diminishing the essence or the centrality of Mass to the faith. And we are most certainly not renouncing our faith or turning our backs on God with the suspension of Mass. Instead, we are proclaiming our faith in concrete ways by depriving ourselves of such an important sign of grace (which is what Sacrament is) so that as many as possible may have life. 

James 2:14-20 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. 
But some one will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren?

Wednesday 22 January 2020

Holding Ourselves in Grief


When I was young, I was attracted to a friend and wanted very much to be with him. A very good-natured person I could feel safe with. But things happened quite differently from what I had hoped for and we never got together. I remember crying over it for about 3 days, after which, I decided to protect my heart from hurt and I mastered the art - the deadly art - of shutting out my emotions. I thought to myself that it was not worth crying over and I wanted to be strong, not weak. 

Today, decades later, by God's grace, I have come to recognise that grieving a loss is not an act of the weak. It takes great courage and strength to remain with, to grieve, to allow ourselves to feel the intensity and the reality of what the loss truly means to us, to recall all the memories of times spent together, to face the still emptiness left behind in our hearts and in the physical spaces around us. 

We can find comfort in the fact that a relationship cannot be completely discontinued. Even in death, as Christians, we believe that life has changed. It is not ended. And if life continues, though in a different form, so does the relationship - it is adjusted, takes on another more unfamiliar form, but it continues. And the ways love is given and received in this new form of relationship also go through a transformation. 

I believe that a loved one's passing is a point in the journey of the relationship that presents us with an invitation we do not usually have or pay attention to in the normal pulse of daily living. It is an invitation to look back at the relationship, to encounter the experiences again - this time from a distance that allows us a broader view - and to become aware of what these experiences mean to us in ways they never did. To allow this whole process to take us eventually to how we desire to continue living out this relationship in the days and years ahead of us. That this person we have temporarily parted with means so much to us, it speaks of the impact he or she has made in our lives, how our lives were made positively different as a result. All the more, the footprints this person has left in us need to continue finding its tangible expressions in our lives. 

All of these are found in the very painful, transitional period of waiting, in which we could choose, as I did, to erect a fortress around our hearts to block out our emotions. It is after all easier not to feel. Our days and nights can go on without too much unwanted disruptions. But can we really say we are alive without our true emotions? 

If we have really loved someone, we would know that the emptiness will never quite find a substitute, the tears will never quite fully be wiped away. At least not in our lifetimes. And if we have really loved someone, we would be driven by this power of love to pain, to cry, to weep, to sit in silence, to revisit, to miss, to yearn, to adore.

In grief, we feel in our bones an excruciating pain so hard to hold and yet, this holding is the one great act of love, an enduring act of honouring the preciousness of our loved one. Because of love, we hold our disoriented selves with patience, gentleness and docility in the great pain of loss. And we are only able to love this courageously by first being held ourselves in the infinite love of our God. 

Thursday 5 December 2019

Advent has INDEED begun for me

I've spent this 1st week of Advent pretty much in waiting. Earlier this week, I experienced what waiting for my Grab car can feel like in a city like Bangkok, quite renowned for its traffic jams. A wait of more than 10 minutes was quite the norm. Waiting in the jams, waiting for the plane that was delayed and waiting as the plane flew me back to Singapore. It wasn't a pleasant wait at all with a fever and the short flight from Bangkok felt unending. And then came the wait to disembark, the wait for the luggage.

I waited through the night with a high temperature, just to wait some more at my doctor's the next morning. (She was very kind to see me earlier than expected!) I waited for my temperature to drop, for the cough to stop, for the alternating shivers and perspiration to end. When it is a viral fever, I have learned that there is nothing anyone can do and I just got to wait. I waited in bed the past 3 days to feel more strength, waited for the time I could finally sit up to eat without seeing stars.

Time passed me by without waiting and still I have to wait.

To be honest, I got tired of waiting. It is more annoying to wait this time because I have another trip this Saturday to prepare for. And since it is a retreat, I feel all the more the need to prepare well. It explains the growing frustration that I seem to have wasted 3 days sleeping. And I don't even know if I'll be fit to fly by Saturday though the fever subsided yesterday. More than the physical readiness, I have not packed or run any of my errands. I just don't feel ready for the retreat at all levels.

It is no coincidence that we have just begun this season of Advent. A time of waiting. Mary and Joseph waited 9 months for the arrival of the Son of God. The Jews waited through generations for God to send the Messiah to deliver them from the hands of their enemies. There was a lot of waiting, of anticipation. Unlike my kind of waiting, where I know that if God wills, I will recover my health and I know how that roughly looks like and feels like, the kind of waiting Mary, Joseph and the Jewish people were involved in weren't so defined. In fact, baby Jesus had to wait in Mary's womb too!

But whatever the wait may be like, could it be that the one common purpose (though it may not be the sole purpose) of waiting is to learn to let go of being in control? Of learning that if I care to be honest, I cannot control time and viruses, cures and health. I cannot control when God comes and how He comes and in what form He comes. I may have my plans of what I feel I need to do before my retreat, in preparation for my retreat. But isn't it another timely reminder that I am not the God of my retreat? Can I stop being panicky about being out of control and let go of my fixed ideas of how things need to be and so be finally able to trustingly fall into the unknown of my mysterious God who never fail to surprise me?

Perhaps, there isn't a better way for me to begin Advent. And this is how I am beginning. By allowing myself to lose control more and more. In the waiting, to come to a more authentic self-knowledge and God-knowledge. To learn to be human. And then, perhaps, in my more authentic humanity, I can truly welcome into my emptied heart the King of kings, the humble Child, the Messiah.

I shall wait, in humility and poverty.

How will you wait?

Saturday 2 November 2019

From Fear to Love

Image result for fear

This morning, after reading this terrifying news report (click on link to CNA), I was clearly feeling fearful. Fearful of falling prey to these evil people who seem to have lost all sense of life's sanctity, the sanctity of others and of what it truly means to be a human person. Not even a servile fear of God (fear of God's punishment) seem to be informing the choices they make. Quite immediately, my reaction was to inform my family about this, post the report on Facebook so that others may be cautious, and then to continue my project of clearing out photos from my Facebook with greater urgency. I started reacting out of that fear. 

Beneath this more immediate reaction, hidden out of the radar of my consciousness, something else was happening at a deeper level. That fear was starting to form another story or perhaps, to reinforce previous stories out of which I live. The story that I am not safe, that this world is truly evil, people cannot be trusted. And how these stories then lead to the belief that I cannot afford to be vulnerable, this screwed up humanity is not worth my time and life. My self-protective wall is reinstated and I will be on self-defense mode, constantly on a lookout for what is bad and imperfect and potentially threatening to me. I know this thread. I will soon grow spikes all around me; spikes that can be shot at will in any direction before I am even able to catch myself or hold myself back. Or at the very least, I will be fully armored and all people will encounter is that cold, hard, metal suit. My attention would be shifted increasingly onto myself and my well-being. I will be moving towards narcissism and further away from transcendence and love. 

By God's tremendous grace, He reminded me in prayer that there is a different direction, a different way. A way that is not a foolish gullibility and naivety but a way to be human. It began first with the recognition and acknowledgment of that deadly emotion called fear. And then, He reminded me of what He showed me during my 30 day retreat last year, that in every person, though hidden, ignored, evaded, repressed, suppressed whatsoever, there is that presence of the Divine. That part in each person that still desires good and love, and seeks goodness and love. And God will not take away His Divine presence that has already been gifted to each person made in His image and likeness. 

In this reminder, I was being called to the Magis, the more beyond myself. To recognise these evildoers in ways in which I wasn't able to recognise them this morning, and perhaps, also in ways they themselves do not yet recognise themselves. I was being called to recognise them the way in which God has recognised me in my sinfulness, when I couldn't even recognise myself as being that beloved child of God the Father, created out of love and meant for love. 

It is amazing that the disgust, fear and paranoia I felt this morning are nowhere to be found now. And I am given the grace then to hold this sinfulness of humanity in a healthier, more loving and life-giving manner. The grace also to hold these people up to God for God to touch, forgive and heal. And I gradually entered a calm, a rootedness in God and the ability then to wait on this God who holds humanity in His loving embrace, yes, even in our wretchedness. A waiting that is charged with hope in a God who can transform any death into new life, a resurrection that I have witnessed in my life too. 

And at the end of the day, what lingers are gratitude and consolation. God keeps His candle lit in the dark even when there are treacherous gales trying to extinguish its tiny flame. God be praised and glorified. 

Are there any fears in you that need God's transforming grace too?