Come, And You Will See

 

Adversary. I have been engaging in a uphill battle to be on top of the challenges of everyday life. It has been tiring mentally as the demands of life begin to consume my being. I look at the cross for guidance and it is true that pain and suffering will always be with me, and just like how Jesus suffered on the cross, I too will need to shoulder the cross and hope for pockets of brief respite.

The gospel begins by saying, “John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?”

They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —, “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.

He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —. Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” — which is translated Peter (John 1:35-42).” 

I was having a conversation about Church and God and the question that came up was, “Does God reside in Church?” My response was “God lives in everyone’s hearts and the Church is where we experience him truly present.” God is never far.   He is, in fact, very near, like the simple cool breeze that moves around us.

Jesus says to us, “Come and See” because he invites us to his warm embrace in knowing we have shelter and can seek refuge in that moment when we are present with him. He is staying in the people around us, but it can be difficult to recognise him. There might be obstacles hindering us or that we choose to ignore him in our midst.

Do we invite others and ourselves to come and see our faith and to experience the hope and light that Jesus brings? It is that gentle invitation that will open hearts to have faith in a higher being because by our strength, and we are not strong enough to just rely on our own strength or courage.

He also extends his invitation to us who have come, but have not seen because of the things that we are holding onto in our hearts, and it is the heavy baggages that pull us down and prevent us from really seeing Jesus. May we know that Jesus wants to share in our burdens and that when we finally see him, he will give us rest and tell us to follow him all the days of our lives.

Learn to love without condition. Talk without bad intention. Give without any reason. And most of all, care for people without any expectation. God Bless and may we come to share in the love of those that really do care about us, in our highs and lows of everyday life. Hold them close and don’t let them go because like Jesus, they are here to stay for the long while. God Bless!

I would like to end off this post with a song”Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol because for me, it is a song about being free and being wanted by those that mean something to you. Treasure those moments because when they are gone, they are gone forever.

“We’ll do it all
Everything
On our own

We don’t need
Anything
Or anyone

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

I don’t quite know
How to say
How I feel

Those three words
Are said too much
They’re not enough

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

Forget what we’re told
Before we get too old
Show me a garden that’s bursting into life

Let’s waste time
Chasing cars
Around our heads

I need your grace
To remind me
To find my own

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

Forget what we’re told
Before we get too old
Show me a garden that’s bursting into life

All that I am
All that I ever was
Is here in your perfect eyes, they’re all I can see

I don’t know where
Confused about how as well
Just know that these things will never change for us at all

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?”

 

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Trust In God’s Wisdom

 

Yesterday Gone. Time flies and in a blink of a eye, it’s a brand new year in 2018. Holidays seemed so short and its back to the grind of working. I have been fumbling in the dark the past few months and I hope that for the new year, I can focus on self-care, spending time with loved ones and also find projects that will allow me to grow spiritually in finding God through these avenues.

The gospel begins by saying,“When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,  “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled,  and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,  He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,  for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”

After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way (Matthew 2:1-12).” 

I see the wisdom of God present in the magi who went to pay homage to Jesus because they recognized that he was King who had come to bring salvation to the world. They relied on God’s wisdom even though King Herod had other ulterior plans for them at hand. Everyday we are faced with choices that we can choose from and sometimes, we are pressed by the situation to make a quick decision. But before doing so, do we rely on God’s wisdom to know if we are making this decision in good faith? I think that is really important in making a mental note.

The next aspect would be through wisdom, we are able to find joy in knowing that God is present in our decisions. But we need to trust in him and to know that he is the one true source of joy. The gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh tells us that Jesus is King, God and also Man because he lived among us. However, it was also an indication of the suffering and pain that he had to go through.

Whenever there are difficult decisions to be made, do we end up trying to find another way when we feel pressured to make a decision that we are not comfortable in making morally? Sometimes, the ability to choose another way means making the decision that does not compromise our judgment or morals.

Therefore, at the bottom-line, many things in life call for our immediate decisions and sometimes, we just need to step back momentarily given the complexity of the situation to just ponder before we make the decision. May we always trust in God’s wisdom and know that he is always with us. Let us continue to pray that we have the courage and strength to stand tall admist life’s difficult decisions.

I was browsing Youtube and came across this clip starring Jim Carrey that showed me a silver lining despite life’s challenges which is in this case music. It is something that I had always relied on when the going gets tough and I will need more music in this coming year.

Happy New Year, dear readers! Stay safe and happy always! God Bless.

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong

 

Slave to Sin

 

Why would anyone choose to become a slave voluntarily?

However, before I got baptized, I was a slave to smoking, without even realizing it.

When I was smoking, I thought I had “freedom” – the ability to choose what I like to do. Little do I know, by choosing deliberately to smoke, I have became a slave to the addiction.

To be a “slave” is to become “the legal property of another, and forced to obey”.
In this case, smoking has became my “Master” :
–  I get anxious when I was running out of cigarettes; I always made sure that I bought enough to stock up so that I will never be in a situation when I have no more cigarettes to smoke.
– the first thing in the morning when I woke up is to look for cigarettes, and I have to give excuses to go out to look for places to smoke immediately after meals.
– when I travel long distances on the plane, I have to made sure that I have nicotine patches or gums so that I will not have withdrawal symptoms.

I have no freedom. My life is preoccupied of where to buy cigarettes and where I can smoke.  I tell lies and give excuses, just so I can feed my addiction.  I was a slave.

And that is what Sin does to us.

It makes us become slaves.

Whether it is the pursuits of power and pride, or addictions to drugs and lust, we become slaves and serve these Sins as our master instead of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Satan disguises sins so well that we are very often not aware, until we are deeply rooted in slavery:
– that new promotion and more responsibilities rob us of our time with God, and very soon we refuse to give up our job’s demands because it feeds us money and pride;
– that occasional peep at soft-porn is “no big deal” until it becomes a bigger addiction; &
– that self-serving anger is “justified” because “they are in the wrong”, until we hurt all those we want to love.

And it is really on hindsight, now that I have been baptized and understand God’s “Freedom”, that I realized that I have consciously chosen to be a slave previously!!

God’s “Freedom” is to set us free from slavery by obeying His commandments. When we choose to be in God’s light, the darkness can no longer keep us as slaves.

I used to think that how by following a set of rules can give us freedom, especially when Jesus’s standards are set so high (Matthew 5:28)!!

But now I understand:
To be truly “Free” is not to be able to choose what we like, but to be able to choose what is right.
True “Freedom” is to break those chains of bondage of sins, and live in the light.
When we serve the one true Master, we have nothing more to hide.

Galatians 5:13 “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

I am still a sinner. I have not lived in total lightness. In many ways, I am still a slave to sin.  But God has given me the assurance:

1 Corinthians 10:13b “God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

And I know that as a pilgrim on earth, it is my lifelong journey to learn to be more Holy, to be more Christ-like, and to be His disciple.

And I have faith, that with God’s grace & mercy, and with you, my fellow brothers & sisters in Christ, I will not be alone in this journey to escape slavery from sin.

Amen.

 

QTS Chiangmai 2017 (Part 3)

 

I had set up a routine after day one. My alarm was set at 5.30 am and by 6.00am I would usually reach the reservoir for my morning brief walking and exercises. At 7am I would be back in time for breakfast, followed by the session with the SD. The scripture prayers time would be from 9.30am for 2 hours in the chapel. After 2 hours break was for lunch, spider hunting, laundry or buying of grocery, then, in the afternoon, another 2 hours of praying, reflecting and journaling till 4 pm. My afternoon quiet corner was a balcony on the first floor overlooking the big garden. It has the size of a bed room, a new quiet corner with 4 settees and a coffee table, buffered by a kitchenette. Before bedtime at 10pm, I had the company of the 2 borrowed books which supplemented and catalysed my meditations of each day’s thoughts. It was easy to discipline myself when one is wholly alone without distractions in the veil of silence.

The flow was smooth, easing into the fourth day and I felt like coming out from a layer of darkness into another. The Protestants like to describe themselves as God-fearing people.  Catholics are more prone into calling themselves as sinners and fearful to go for confession.

God sowed the humble seed in my heart. When I was asleep the evil spirit came, sowed obstacles of pride and self-righteousness and made off. The evil spirits seemed to piggyback on the Good Spirits. Wherever the latter go the evil ones are present to cause havoc. This is the reality that the evil ones would lay obstacles to the freedom to respond to God’s love.

The love of God, the soul and sins can be an abstract if one does not believe in God, so it is possible for believers too, without experiencing God. Since my heart had opened up a little, I was keen to search for the Love of God in my heart. Maybe I would find my love for God. Somehow at that moment God’s love appeared so abstract to me. But there was a sense of frustration coupled with a feeling of guilt. I resorted to think that God gave me blessings every day and I was not grateful to visit him every day or thank him or love him by loving his people. Somehow, I was enlightened that love is a verb. As a noun love does not exist by itself, it is always represented by an act, a gift and a feeling. Love is a verb for it is giving voluntarily without any condition attached or expecting a returned favour.

God loves because God only gives. I use the word Charity to replace the word Love. The effect was because I saw that God has everything and is unlimited to give. He doesn’t need anything from us. Everything is created by Him and belongs to Him. The love of God is expressed in creation. We have nothing of our own to give to God except the choices we make. The expression of God’s love is to give and give without any condition. He gave His only Son, Jesus. Through Jesus, who continues to give. He gave us the way to become children of God, the powers to heal, to restore hearing and sight, to walk and to work miracles. Finally, Jesus gave his life to die on the Cross and his Body and Blood as our spiritual food. From the Charity of God, we have Goodness, Gifts, Blessings and Graces. These are free gifts given to us to use them to bear fruits. On our part God wishes that we use these gifts to offer back to Him through the free gifts of Faith, Hope and Charity.

The understanding of sins must orientate to God and the enemies, the evil ones. Sin too does not exist as a noun but represented by the acts of our intention and motive. Sins are offensive actions. God is our Creator, our Master, our Father. We are nothing without him. But we try to do things on our own. God gives and we receive without gratitude and use the gifts to build our own kingdom, to control our own lives. We listen to the evil ones and allow them to influence us. We are not protected without the prayers asking the Holy Spirit to help. What are the motivation behind the effort put in prayers and obedience to God? It is to save our souls from damnation. The evil one recognised Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus did the right thing and did it well to evade the 3 temptations in the desert. The evil one got to leave. As the thoughts flowed on, I saw the words ‘sin’ being replaced with ‘pride’, ‘self-centredness’, ‘selfishness’ and ‘self-righteousness’. I created a vision with my imagination. I saw my heart as the dark cave and I was moving around the edge of that dark hole. The vision continues to flow like a dream without logical details. A long ladder was lowered into the hole and I climbed down. When I reached the bottom I saw a few stacks of my summonses. There were pink ones among the piles. The pink ones are the reminders. The 4 big piles were summons for my offences of pride, self-centredness, selfishness and self-righteousness. At the corner of the bench was a written note, ‘All redeemed’, that Jesus wrote.

Although it was an imagination of illustration, it brought me to copious tears.

As I felt the acceptance of who I was and what were in my possession that I could not see them before, I thanked God with tears of remorse and also felt the joys of freedom with resoluteness  to see to what is important, central and concrete.

From the search of God’s love in my heart, I found myself to truly experience God’s love. In the veil of silence, I could hear God and listen to my heart. Right from beginning I was not looking for a ‘high’ from the retreat nor did I expect a solidly loaded one. I left the retreat with thankfulness and joy, a sense of wonder and in awe at the greatness of God.

 

Laurence

2-9/12/2017

 

 

QTS Chiangmai 2017 (Part 2)

 

I had the same Spiritual director from my last retreat. I did not raise any issue or desire, although there were a few insights and issues which surfaced before the retreat commenced. I believe that the SDs are chosen and I don’t select my SD although I am free to do so. From my experiences I am convinced that to bear good fruits from a directed retreat, obedience to my assigned SD is being obedient to the Holy Spirit. To listen to the Holy Spirit is to hear, to understand and to try to do as directed by the SD. I knew I had to tuck away the 2 books when the retreat proper began, because my past SDs always discouraged me to read my own books, as it might be a distraction, unless that book was strongly recommended by the SD. Besides, I anticipated that my SD, being a Jesuit, would follow closely the steps of St Ignatius’ spiritual exercises. On my first meeting with the SD, after his directives, he added, to my surprise, that I might also grab a book to read. I felt my retreat already started 2 days ago with the permission to use the 2 books I borrowed. Indeed, the contents from the books were like filling the valley and levelling the mountain.

As a result, I was more interested to follow the books than the materials given by the SD. I was carried away by the next chapter instead of reading and reflecting on the assigned bible texts. It touches on virtues towards others, ‘Justice and Fidelity’ Justice is about treating everyone equally. A virtue of fairness where there is no special treatment or preference. Fidelity is the opposite. The virtue teaches me to treat those to whom I am more closely related – spouse, children, parents, friends, relatives, neighbours, community members with impartial speciality. Justice has no preferences. Fidelity is about preferential treatment. I had embraced the fact that ‘discipline’ is the tool to solve life difficulties; that gave me a turning point in life. I found another tool ‘prudence’ that would help me to figure out the tension between Justice and Fidelity. I saw that prudence would help me to figure out my erroneous way of treating relationships with people who should be in my preferential treatment. Prudence helps to find the reason to act.

Prudence reminded me to do my homework from the SD. Every directed retreat begins with self-knowledge, that is looking back in one aspect of my life, my darkness, my faith, or my  relationship with God, my relationships with neighbours and  this time it appeared that I should be looking into the aspect of my self-esteem pertaining to how I should live with myself and what my internal dialogue was. I was asked to look into my way of life, my wisdom and appreciation of what I had: food, clothing, work, place of residence, companions, knowledge and skills, health and sickness, success and failure. The lists were so ordinary in my everyday living yet upon recollection, it reflected my attachments and detachments, my blessings and gifts, my needs and deprivations, my achievement and failures in life value. The revelation of the detrimental effects from my broken relationship has made me overwhelmingly disappointed with myself. I could feel a stir in my heart with resoluteness but also the equally strong feeling of resistant. But the longing for a soul companion, the needs and deprivation, and when orientated to the Charity of God, to justice, fidelity and self-esteem got the better of me to face the questions squarely. What is important? What is central? What is concrete? What are my sacrifices for greater good and value? What are the treasures of my heart?

I never felt so heavy of heart in such an early part of my 8-day journey with God before. Each day the scripture prayers were pointed directly deep into my heart, that part of my being, my very soul. I had been working around the heart and avoided touching my soul in the heart.  I realised that it was rather hard for me to read any biography of great Saint who strongly emphasised on sins that harm their souls. I could not recognise that my soul indeed is my treasure. For a start, I should look after my soul, who is also the treasure to God. Contemplating at the edges of my heart on my present stage of life, I saw money and businesses, the loving God, my family, brothers and sisters, those things I loved, people who helped me, the pleasure of joy and peace. With a little courage I ventured further into the heart, I saw those I wanted/ didn’t want and those I liked/didn’t like. I saw ugliness and the taints, the blessings and unfulfilled desires. I saw smiles from my blessings and a few drops of tears for my obstinacy and stubbornness too.

What is important, central and concrete is to normalise my marriage relationship once more. The sacrifices are the preservation of joy and peace as a pleasure, the worldly freedom, the satisfactions and the fulfilling enjoyment of personal independence.  Ideally, giving in to the greater good and value, beginning with a new set of teeth, companionship, a home to greater intimacy with family, friends and relatives. What are my treasures? My soul is my treasure. My work and my family are also my treasures. Undeniably, I am a treasure to the living God. When I am lost and found, God justified a celebration. What does my heart want? I want to love God. I want to share with others the love of God. I want to protect myself from the influences of evil spirits. I want spiritual growth. I want to try another business. I want to travel for mission works, to Holy Sites and for overseas retreats. What I previously wanted and received, precisely are gifts and blessings from God’s Charity. What I received by graces are not for me to hold on to but to return back through His way in serving and loving of His people, my neighbours and my communities

 

Reflection : Quieting the soul (Chiangmai 2017)

I was the first to arrive for an 8-day Quieting the Soul retreat 2017 at the Seven Fountain Catholic Spiritual Centre in Chiangmai, Thailand. There were to be 42 of us, and most were here for a 5-day retreat. I reckoned the cooler weather has been pushed forward to January. I have continued to get the warm weather in Chiangmai since 2013. Fortunately, at the retreat centre, the whole atmosphere is always cooler than outside the perimeter. I was hoping for rain and the temperature would drop a few degrees. The trees and the bamboos are growing taller and taller since I first saw them in 2006 when I came here with the Cenacle Sisters for a silent retreat. The greens have casted a shade over the centre, keeping the place cool.

After checking in, I was in time for lunch, my first meal at the centre. I had booked in 2 days before the retreat begun. I needed some time to quieten down.  Being early meant that I could be ready to experience the silence of heart and mind right from day 1 of the retreat proper. If I rush into the retreat unprepared, it might take a day or two to begin in silence.

I went up to the library in the centre to borrow books. The library has a good range of Catholic religious and faith books from a wide range of writers who are mostly the Jesuits. Every year, I came across new titles of new authors. I am fond of books about Saints and books on morality and spirituality. This year I was guided by the Spirit to spot 2 books, one on ‘Inward stillness’ and the other a new cover on ‘Virtues for ordinary Christian’. The latter was light in content, less than 150 pages and easy to read, ideal for me to read at a nearby shopping centre. With a cup of coffee, soon I was so absorbed into the book which presented from a religious angle in defining the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. I felt the Holy Spirit was preparing me in the wilderness a road for the Lord, to clear the way in the desert for our God, and to fill every valley, and to level every mountain. The hills would become a plain, and the rough country would be made smooth.

Faith is defined as going to God the way I ready am, without a made up face, a cover up, without a mask or think of what God wants from me. Faith isn’t an utterance, but rather a deep down belief in God. Faith is the act of seeking to meet God face to face in my freedom and vulnerability. Joy is when I actually have something. Hope is when I do not have something. Hope is the willingness not to give up on my faith, precisely, when I draw no consolation from it. If there is no doubt, no uncertainty or fear, no disturbance, then there is not much need for hope. Hope is a virtue of holding on. While tossed about, while adrift, while unsettled, I find hope the anchor that allows me to stay where I am in faith. Hope is not something I can acquire or develop. Hope like Faith and Charity are gifts from God. I think of Charity as an act of donating to appeal or as a virtue that urges me to help the marginalised. My new understanding is Charity is actually the virtue that unites me to God. Charity is not primarily for others. Charity affects my relationship with God at the core of my being. Charity is more concerned for the heart than with deeds. The reading also likened the lighting up of the 4 candles of Advent: Faith, hope, Joy and Charity as Love.

The silence in the retreat granted me the right to ignore others for a conversation and to have a space to be with myself. I was not obliged to say “Hello” to others, yet I could share common places and activities like Mass and adoration hour. In short, I could isolate myself to a space of my own and spend quiet time with the Lord. The book on ‘Inward stillness’ was a good reminder, calling me to go into the retreat with my heart and not just my mind. Indeed, for all the retreats in the pasts I was not able to get into the heart, the core of my being, the very soul of mine.

I had quit smoking 30 years ago. But there were times I dreamed that I was smoking and I was woken up by my conscience in the middle of the dream and felt very guilty. I had made a promise to Mother Mary that I would never smoke again.

Conscience is the voice of God living in us which urges us to love God, ourselves and our neighbour. After many years, it happened again in my dream and I was so guilt ridden. What disturbed me this time was I had another dream on my first night and I woke up by smoking in my dream, but there wasn’t a sense of guilt. I didn’t feel good about it, for through examining our conscience, we are called to judge our past behaviour as right or wrong. I asked why I didn’t feel the sense of wrong anymore.

On the second day, the day before my actual retreat began I continued reading about the other virtues. The opening statement from the author was that every human act is a moral act. We are moral creatures with a soul each. Moral life is concerned with ordinary life. Morality is not primarily the study of grave action; rather it is the study of human living. Being human is as complicated as finding the right moment to quit cigarettes. Ordinary life is complicated and frustrating because the variety of relationships, tasks and personalities that constitute humanity intersect. In order to handle these complexities, we develop ‘practices ‘. Practices form habits in us to act in a particular way. These regular practices make us who we are. Some practices became deeply ingrained in me on a particular dimension of my life that affects profoundly my relationship with people in my family and in communities. My thought also turned to my struggle to fight against procrastination and the ever failures to cultivate the habit of tidiness. In fact, the more I would tolerate my untidiness and procrastination to cultivate the habit of putting extra effort to tidy up. I enforced practising untidiness and procrastination instead.