The Cost Of Unpreparedness

 

Where do I go from here? I look out at the rain washed window, the streaks of rain pelting down and moving sideways as the car picks up speed. I was trying to find a sense of clarity and comfort in the cold and thinking about life in general. It is one month more to the end of the year and my heart is just filled with doubts. Perhaps, I need to pray for the wisdom to comprehend these doubts and make sense of them all.

The gospel begins by saying,“Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. 

Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.

Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:1-13).”

The frightening aspect would be when you have reached the end of the journey and Jesus says,“Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.” It is not a statement of abandonment or being forsaken, rather it is a sign that we do not have a relationship with him while we are on earth.

We need to pray for the wisdom to always be ready to meet Jesus when the time comes. It is important to keep vigil and not wait till the last minute to start scrambling and to realise that we do not have enough spiritual mileage accumulated to meet him.

Spiritual mileage means cultivating a prayer relationship with Jesus, carrying out his good work and nurturing a forgiving and compassionate heart. If we do not even want to cultivate a prayer-life relationship, the truth is that no one is going to do it for us.

In life, I have always been taught to be prepared and sometimes I prepare too far ahead. It is true that given the unpredictable situations in life, being prepared can be good so that we know how to handle the curveballs that life throws us. Through these situations, I have learnt to cope better and been trying to improve my prayer life which is a work in progress.

As I grapple with the notion of mortality and life, I realise that I am fighting an uphill battle because each moment passes by so fast and I am left in the dust. However, through the struggles, I look forward to being better prepared and to keep the encounter with Jesus close to my heart.

Meanwhile, we need to remind each other to have a strong hope and keep the faith even when we feel that we do not believe anymore. It is the great joy and happiness to be able to rest assured that nothing is holding us back to enjoy the wedding banquet that Jesus has prepared for us. Do not let our unpreparedness cloud the goal that our life is permanent in Jesus and everything we have now is in this moment and strictly, temporary.

“Stay awake and be ready!
For you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

God Bless and we pray for each other that we need to keep the faith and help one another towards this heavenly banquet.

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong

 

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Do keep writing

 

Do keep writing

This is easier said than done

Sometimes I get upset and wonder

If it is all worth while

To wait or to write

To sigh or to persevere

And then I say to myself

Hang on! All is fine!

And indeed things are fine and going well

After all it is not the people who keeps this blog going

But readers as well as myself who gets reminded to put in

A word or two and then all is well

Like now and this  moment in time

Thank God all is well!

 

Hidden Good Works

 

Restlessness. Even on weekends, my mind and body refuses to co-operate because it seems more active than usual. I say a silent prayer in the hope of getting rest but realized that it is fleeting and I wake with more thoughts than answers. My health has taken a few stumbles but is it really just a normal response? Perhaps, I need to keep reminding myself that things will turn out alright and that Jesus saves and provides.

The gospel opens by saying, “Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.  For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders,  but they will not lift a finger to move them. 

All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.  Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Jesus tells us to stay humble and reminds us to observe and learn, but to not follow in the world’s mindset that places so much heavy burdens and expectations on us. It can be hard when we are faced with so many advice from others on how we should lead our lives. We come under fire when we do not conform and it can be a difficult situation, but always know that Jesus is with us.

Rather, perform works that are unseen and with good intentions so that Jesus who knows all that is hidden will reward us beyond this life. To me, I have adopted a minimalism lifestyle where I strive to have only what is required and I am trying my best to stay happy with this arrangement. The lesser I have, the more contented that I am because I live within my means.

Even if I have all the wealth and social status, I would rather put it to good use to give to others who might not have even basic needs to live through one day. It is my deepest desire to help people and for society to be more compassionate and forgiving towards each other. We do not need more negativity than what the world is trying to give us.

Also, being able to experience lowliness and humbleness is important so that in paradise, we will be with Jesus in all the glory and honor. Material wealth and status cannot buy love, hope , health and joy, and it will probably never will.

But a good heart and to always reach out to others and understand them in maintaining friendships and relationships are far more important because everyone is somewhat struggling, and  others are struggling much more. Let us pray for those who have no one to pray for them and those who are feeling that they do not belong in society because of whatever reasons such as the ability to not fit in.

We should lift the burdens off the shoulders of others and know that our true master is Jesus because he created us in his likeness and image. Only sin makes us imperfect and being a servant is required of us so that we can continue to service others and with true humbleness comes true kingship.

This is the true meaning of a royal priesthood because holy men, women and religious and lay people all get a share of the kingship with Jesus but first of all, we must stoop low and cultivate the humility of service and compassion.

The responsorial psalm below summarizes the reminder for me to silently ponder in my heart that to find peace, a humble and giving heart is necessary and I need to keep pride at bay by praying because it is a constant struggle in the world.

In you, Lord, I have found my peace.
O LORD, my heart is not proud,
nor are my eyes haughty;
I busy not myself with great things,
nor with things too sublime for me.

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong

 

All Saints Day: The Church In Heaven

 

Hope. I have been praying and hoping this week to find time to rest and clear my mind. It’s been difficult but I have been relying on prayers to get through each day and I was just so thankful and loved when I heard the Alleluia part of the mass today,“Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, And I will give you rest, says the Lord.” I kept repeating this phrase silently in my heart and it gave me hope that I can find rest in Jesus when I go to him. I can lift up my thoughts to him and know that in the end, I can go to Jesus and he will give me the rest that I seek.

The gospel begins by saying, ” When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.  He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” (Matthew: 5:1-12A).”

The beatitudes have always been the key and the way that Jesus wants us to follow. The saints, both holy men and women, were ordinary people just like us when they heard God’s calling and followed him faithfully till the end of their lives.

Through their example of living out a life of faithfulness and perseverance admist doubts and uncertainties, they kept praying and continuing to spread the good news to many people in bringing people closer to Jesus and turning them into believers of the faith.

Like the saints, we are called to the path of sainthood by leading out our lives as an example of good christian faith as our choices impact the way we set apart from the secular world. Do our actions and words reflect that of the holy man and woman? When I was young, I always enjoyed reading about the saints because they are portrayed as heroes of the faith- almost like superheroes. But the truth is that they were real man and woman who lived among ordinary people.

We must take comfort in knowing and holding onto hope that no matter the struggles, the saints are interceding for us and when we call upon them in prayer, they are rooting and praying for us at any hour. The celebration of the saints is a reflection of the Church in Heaven that we know that we are going when our earthly lives have come to a close. There will be great rejoicing, peace and light where we can celebrate the triumph over death and we will have a place in paradise to bask in the eternal reward of God’s presence, because he loves each one of us as his own, his beloved children.

May we always ask for the saints to help and pray for us and we also celebrate our confirmation name, our own saint, that we have chosen in the hope that we hold steadfast of their example to the community and the good works that they had contributed during their earthly lives. Let us keep praying and hoping that we will rejoice with the Church in Heaven when our journey comes to a close so that we are prepared to meet God and see him in all the glory for the eternal celebration.

I heard this hymn called “Sacred Silence” during mass and I felt a deep connection to it that Jesus was cradling me close to his heart through the hymn in spite all that I have done. I kept telling Jesus in my heart, thank you for never giving up on me even though sometimes I might go far from you.

May we keep each other in prayer and continue to turn to the saints when we feel that our struggles seem to overwhelm us that they too have been in our place. Amen.

“Sacred silence, holy ocean
Gentle water, washing over me
Help me listen, Holy Spirit
Come and speak to me

Sacred silence, holy ocean
Gentle water, washing over me
Help me listen, Holy Spirit
Come and speak to me

God my father, Christ my brother
Holy Spirit, sanctifying me
But Lord, have mercy and please forgive me
Come and set me free

Sacred stillness, deep still waters
Calm the raging storms within my soul
And clear the waters of confusion
At pure and peaceful waters flow

Sacred silence, holy ocean
Gentle water, washing over me
Help me listen, Holy Spirit
Come and speak to me
Come and speak to me
Come and speak to me”

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong

 

All Souls Day: Remembering Our Faithful Departed

 

Pain and Anguish. I came for mass today and it is sad to see it more empty than it was on All Saints Day. I wanted to pray for those who had gone before us and to keep their memory alive in my heart. We need to continue to pray for our faithful departed as they need our prayers to release them from the bonds of purgatory for them to be made completely ready to enjoy heaven.

Purgatory is a place next to heaven as the priest explained during his homily that souls who are not yet ready and clean are being purified so that they can be made clean and restored to be free from sin and enter heaven because nothing unclean can enter heaven. One day on earth is like a thousand years in purgatory as time is not relative in there, that is why our loved ones need our intercessions so that our prayers will help them.

This week I shall take the second reading because it is so reflective of why we commemorate All Souls. “Brothers and sisters: Hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. How much more then, since we are now justified by his Blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath.

Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life. Not only that, but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Roman 5:5-11).”

We remember our faithful departed and how we are called to keep preparing ourselves for the natural end because no one can escape death and live forever. Therefore, we need to recognize the love and mercy that God has for all the faithful departed that he calls believers and non-believers of the faith and wants to save each one of them. We recognize that in death we will receive judgment and then the eternal reward but we need to make ready ourselves.

Death might be a taboo subject for some as it might be filled with uncertainties, but in the hope of Jesus who conquered the grave and the powers of death through the resurrection, we believe in the renewed hope and a sense of firm belief that we will rise again with Jesus in heaven and see our loved ones who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith and also have seen the light of the face of Jesus Christ.

All souls day is not so much a celebration of the dead, but in keeping their memory alive that we too have to pray for ourselves and them so that their time spent in purgatory will be shortened and to hasten their path to heaven. The mass intentions and visitation of graves reminds us of our own mortality and also that death is never an absolute ending but a beautiful journey to be with God in his house where there will be no more suffering but just peace, joy and happiness that flows from God which is eternal.

There is always light within the darkness and new life in death. May we continue to pray for our loved ones and those that have no one to pray for them so that all can be saved and enter into the eternal reward that they so desire and for us to keep our faith steadfast that we too will be with Jesus.

Holy Darkness has been one of my favorite hymns and I have always liked the verse “I have tried you in the fires of affliction I have taught your soul to grieve In the barren soil of your loneliness There I will plant my seed.” Jesus loves each and everyone!

“Holy darkness, blessed night,
heaven’s answer hidden from our sight.
As we await you, O God of silence,
we embrace your holy night.

I have taught your soul to grieve.
In the barren soil of your loneliness,
there I will plant my seed.

you have stood before the grave.
Though my love can seem
like a raging storm,
this is the love that saves.

when I raised up the mountains?
Can you guide the morning star?
Does the hawk take flight
when you give command?

I will give you wealth untold.
When the silence stills your spirit,
will my riches fill your soul.

and the bride awaits her groom,
so we wait to hear your footsteps
as we rest beneath your moon.”

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong

 

 

Looking For An Answer

 

Self-Care. A good friend whom I had not seen in a long time had brought up the topic of self-care very recently and I felt that it was a good reminder to make time for myself to rest and focus on getting energized. However, the concept of self-care though easy to picture in my mind is challenging to turn it into reality because with all the swirling thoughts, it can be hard to slow down and pause even if I wanted to. Perhaps, I will find the time to do so because caring for self is important so that I will not get lost admist the towering  and rising tide.

The gospel says,”When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments (Matthew 22: 34-40).”

The world needs more of love. It is the force to drive out hate and it is also the greatest commandment that Jesus is trying to impart to us. It is true that it takes time and effort, similar to that of a seed that takes time and tending to sprout, love must take root in our hearts so that the world will be a  lighter and more forgiving place.

Like many, it is even harder to love those that have hurt or with whom we are not on good terms – it is difficult to love them, more so than to accept them for who they are. This is why we need to constantly keep reminding ourselves through prayer to cultivate a tolerant heart and mind to just let go of our preconceived judgment and to just let bygones be bygones.

The love of God is sufficient for you. I remembered hearing this time and time again when I went for community retreats. God does not look at status or material wealth to justify his love for us because we are his children, his creation. I felt comforted when the world says otherwise and I feel devoid of love and alone.

It is up to people in their own capacity to practice love and say words that speak of love because a simple “How are you doing?” or “I am here for you” can open many doors to open conversations that make you feel that you are not alone in your own struggles and in looking for the answer to all our worries and problems. The answer lies in loving everyone that we meet and asking Jesus for the patience to see that love outshines and outlasts hate and negativity.

May we ask our Mother and the saints to intercede for us that we can find answers by loving one another and to love ourselves because we need to rely on each other to get through these tough times together.  My Lord is my strength and the rock where I can take refuge from life. God Bless as we pray to always love one another as Jesus has always loved us unconditionally.

“When life leaves us blind
Love keeps us kind
When life leaves us blind
Love keeps us kind”

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong

 

Shine Like Lights In The World As You Hold On To The Word Of Life

 

Holding On. I wanted to attend mass after a work event and was trying to figure out how to travel to the nearest church and not be late. I decided to go to Saints Peter and Paul which I have not stepped into since its renovation. I was glad that I could see the interior of such a beautiful church.

I was not too sure of the directions to the church and being almost late did not help. As I was trying to figure out the way, I heard the ringing of the church bells and I instinctively followed the sound- praying to God that I not be late for mass. Luckily , I had five minutes to go and I felt so comforted that Jesus had answered my prayers of being able to attend mass and not be late.

The church was crowded and I was finding a place to stand. Unknowingly, I stood beside a brass statue of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist made me realise that there is always renewal and peace in the waters- only if we keep on searching.

The gospel reading opens by saying,“The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying,”Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.

And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”They replied, “Caesar’s.”At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”(Matthew 22:15-21).”

How often do we try to prey on other people’s weakness and to turn our backs on them? Sometimes, we do it out of personal gain or entertainment. We try to trap others in our daily interaction with people to gain the upper-hand or to get our own way. Even in prayer time, I used to find myself asking for more and more things from God and to trap Jesus through prayer.

But God I realise is not a magician and now I trust in Him more and instead place my burdens in His surrender and grace. Most of the time, the flesh is weak and it can be difficult to rise above the traps in our lives and those we place on others. We belong to Jesus for He created us and we should not be putting Him to the test.

We need to pray for the light to shine and illuminate to shine the light of Christ in our hearts to always try and ask for little but pray for the grace that God will answer in His own way and time. We must learn to discern the way to Jesus is through Him alone and not the way that the world wants it to be.

It is important that we always be like lights in practicing fraternal correction, Christian charity and gentle acceptance in looking at the strengths, rather than weaknesses or flaws in others. It takes great effort and prayer to change that perception which I am also trying to achieve. When I fall, I ask for guidance and humility to fix the hurt or pain that I have caused.

May we pray that we can give back to Jesus what belongs to Him which is our commitment and sincerity to give time to deepen the relationship as Christians to journey towards the eternal reward of paradise where the good and bad will be separated- those that turn away from sin and accept the healing grace will be saved. We should keep others in prayer and ask others to also pray for us. Amen.

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong