I am trying to clear all my work before I go to the combined university retreat tomorrow and since I will not be writing this coming week as I will be at the retreat, I thought that I would share my thoughts on this week’s gospel reading. I also got news that mass is celebrated daily at the retreat and it will be a time of spiritual contemplation and prayer.
This week marks another candle that would be lighted up which symbolizes love. The gospel reading focuses heavily on the concept of love as it shows Mary accepting God’s favor in conceiving Jesus to save fallen humanity. Many a time, we are afraid to love one another due to the nature of the situation or we choose not to. It can be tough to love everyone as it also means loving your enemies who are so hard to love. We are called to be like Mary that even due to her doubts and being scared of the prophecy that the angel Gabriel told her, she still trusted in God and her response of “Yes” shows her steadfastness in her faith.
To me, love means accepting people for who they are, despite their faults; for who are we to judge? We are not perfect in anyway, but in Jesus’s eyes, we are all his beloved children. It is to show people that they are significant and never alone. We can only offer a listening ear or advice but we are called to spread the message of unconditional love that Jesus has given us by dying on the cross for our sins. Also, I am still finding the spirit of Christmas as I do not have the feeling of Christmas yet such as the festive mood which is absent.
This week, I attended the last Catholic Society session for the year which is also very different from the other sessions because it involves an amazing race kind of set-up which involves four teams using designated bible verses to find clues to the location of game stations around school. There were a total of four stations which symbolizes the four candles in the advent wreath which is, joy, hope, love and peace. It was an interesting communal game which tested our interpretation of the bible verses and to get us to complete tasks at the various stations through teamwork. It was a good way to end the session for the year 2014 as we go about on our Christmas ADVENTure (hence the title) to discover the true meaning of Christmas!
This week, I did some writing which was for a nice change not related to school. I also spruced up the garden so that it will be neater and presentable for Christmas. Moreover, I attended a friend’s wedding which is also another symbol of God’s love in the union of a man and a woman as a husband and a wife. However, in all honesty, I am a little apprehensive about tomorrow’s retreat as I have not gone for such a huge retreat since confirmation camp and that it is quite a big group means I have to shift out of my comfort zone, every now and then.
Another interesting topic that shows God’s love was an article that I read on the debate of Pope Francis’ comments (Did Pope Francis say animals go to heaven?) on whether animals go to heaven when they have passed on. Personally, I feel that animals have souls as they are able to relate to humans and to understand our commands and they even have feelings. Furthermore, they are God’s creation as seen in the book of Genesis. I feel that God’s love is meant for all things that he created and that his creation is of great significance so that animals could have a place in paradise.
I remembered that I went to my uncle’s sanctuary before the start of the mid-term examinations in school which meant that I had a lot of worries on my mind. Spending time with the animals took my mind off school for awhile. Now, I went to the cattery where there are a few dogs who reside with the cats as they can get along with them. I played with the cats and was about to leave when this dog, Jill was in front of me and I patted her. The next thing I knew was that she had put her paw unto my open hand on the table. This simple action was to me a sign of God’s reassurance and love that no matter what happens, he will always love me. I was extremely moved by this experience which is why I feel that animals can connect with humans so well as they can feel what we are feeling.
Therefore, through these small gestures, I am able to experience God’s love and mercy to be patient with me as I try to repent from my sins and doubts. Through this camp retreat, I hope that I am able to understand Jesus as a person better and also the gifts of the Holy Spirit (I am still unsure). Like Mother Mary, may we have the affirmation to answer God’s calling and promptings in our hearts all the days of our life and like Mary, who said, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”(Luke 1:26-38).
God Bless! and continue to keep in mind the significance of advent in our minds and hearts as we approach the joyous occasion of Christmas!
Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong