I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you.

 

Acts 3:6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

It struck me that as a dying person, all he has left, is his prayers. And what he has left, is most precious to him.  When Richard says: “What’s your name? I will pray for you.” I knew then, it was his way of thanking me, and he has just offered me what’s most precious to him.

You see, Richard is dying. I signed up as a volunteer with HCA Hospice, and my first assignment, is to bring this couple who requested for someone to send them to Novena Church!

Little do I know, that by giving (and I never meant to let anyone know), our God our Lord is so gracious and merciful that He gave me these gifts:

  • the chance to visit Novena Church as I always wanted to go since it reopened, but never really brought myself to do so
  • receive the precious gift of prayer from a dying person
  • witness for the first time how the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is done, and
  • realized that this is actually a spiritual work of mercy before Easter!

I didn’t do much. I just helped to ferry them from their home to Novena Church, stayed for the Anointing of the Sick by a priest, and ferried them back home.

But I realized that I received so much more in return, and I want to mark this down to bring all Honour & Glory to God for what He has done for me.

Richard probably don’t have much and that is the reason why he asked for the ferry service. But what he has, his prayers, is so much more precious than any silver or gold.

I pray that Richard will see our Lord our God soon, and that his soul, will have eternal peace.

Amen.

 

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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.

 

Stay and Suffer

 

I am a recent convert, and after my baptism, decided to join a ministry. To my horror, there is much judgment and politics and my first reaction is to fight or flight. Fight is not really an option and flight is rather cowardice. Then a fellow brother-in-Christ came to me and suggested – there is a third option: why don’t you choose stay and suffer?

Stay and Suffer? You must be mad! Why would I submit myself to further harassment and humiliation? Why would anyone deliberately choose to suffer?  It is against human nature!!!

Or is it? As I cooled down and contemplated about it, there are indeed people who choose to stay and suffer.

Whether it is the mother who stay and suffer for her autistic son, or the wife who stay and suffer for her cancer stricken husband, or the son who gave up marriage to stay and suffer for his dementia mum, staying and staying so as to suffer, is an option. A choice made. A decision upheld.

Staying requires courage and perseverance.

Our Lord Jesus Christ knew what was coming, yet he didn’t choose to fight or flight. He chose to stay and suffer. He is our ultimate model that there is hope in suffering, there is beauty in suffering and there are rewards in suffering.

As I shared this in my ministry recently, most were repelled by the word “suffer” and some suggested that I replace it with “sacrifice”.

“Stay and Sacrifice” they say. As if there is more pride and glory in sacrifice than suffering.

But our Lord Jesus Christ did not call us to suffer in silence.

Suffer for the right reasons. Suffer for good, and don’t suffer for evil. Suffer for because if it is not me, then who?

As for me, staying and suffering means looking upon Jesus  Christ and trying to suffer like He did.  Knowing that there is a greater destiny, that suffering is self-purification and that others will see Christ in the suffering.

And as the scripture taught us, God will never give me a burden too heavy that I cannot bear, and there is always the Holy Spirit who was sent to help me.  Hence, I pray to our Lord our God, that as I choose to stay and suffer, no matter how difficult this journey may be, that God will lead me to where He wants me to, that I may do His Will, and that my reward is only “I fought the good fight, and I have finished the race”.

Amen.

 

On His terms

Luke 22:42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

I went to midnight Mass at Holy Cross for Christmas – a tradition that I hope to keep since being baptized in 2013. I realized that the reenactment of the nativity scene has been replayed so many times, that it is easy for us to forget or miss the significance of it.  This year, it hit me during the Homily when the priest mentioned “On His Terms”.

Yes, Jesus came on His terms. Like the people then during His time, we expect the King to come in grand fashion, we expect the Savior to be revered by all, and we expect our God to defeat everything else that goes against us.

But Jesus came on His terms. He came in a manger, not even a room. He came with no special privilege – He had to go through the growing up pains, just like every other human being. He came without crowds cheering or grand fireworks.

As I ponder how our Lord our God came on His own terms, I recall the above verse and realized that we so often want to dictate how we want God to “come on our terms”.  Isn’t it true that we often pray to God for healing, for wealth and for everything else that works in our favor?  We want God to take away that illness, we want God to give us that promotion, and we want God to help us find the “right” one. But what if God doesn’t want to grant healing but instead let the person die? What if God says you are to suffer financial setback? What if His reply, is that you are never meant to be with someone?

The question for me then is, can I accept God (answering my prayers) on His terms?

It is not easy. It is against our human nature.  I mean, how can I be praying to God to let me suffer? Don’t I want God’s blessings and mercy and grace bestowed on me?

Then Luke 22:42 struck me. Jesus’s human nature led him to pray “remove this cup from me” – hence, it is our human nature to want God to grant us blessings instead of sufferings.  But Jesus’s prayer must be read in context, for before he asked for removing the cup from Him, he said “Father, if you are wiling”.  And yes, not my will but yours be done! Father, if you are willing, if it is in your will, if it is in your grand plan for me to learn to grow holier, for me to be cleansed, for me to be purified, then yes, let me suffer.

It is Faith that can lead us to say “yours be done” instead of “grant me my wishes”. And to have that faith is to first have Trust in our Almighty Living God to, even in our darkest hour, be with us to give us strength to go through it.

It is Faith in God that He will never let us down, never leave us, that brings me to say, yes Lord, if it is in your Will that I suffer, then I accept it with full confidence that You will be with me all the way, that I can fall back on You and lean on You.

It is not easy. My intellect can lead me to reflect and contemplate, but I am sure when it happens, it will still be a struggle.

And it is the same with relationships.  I came to realize that when I pray to God to grant me blessings, very often, it stems from my own insecurities. I realize that I must learn not only to accept (God) on His terms, but to empathize and understand why (God) came in the way He did.  I have to first identify and isolate what my desires are, look at them squarely and then ask myself, can I deal with them in such a way that instead of asking the other person (or God) to address or take away these concerns, can I put myself in the other person’s shoes and say, hey, can I accept those terms? Can I look beyond and understand the reasons why? Can I die to myself, and learn to love the other person, on his/her terms?

Very often, relationships fail because of unmet expectations. And expectations come from our own insecurities and desires.  There is a fine line between being able to “die to myself” and being indifferent.  It is not about giving up my own needs or ignoring them.  It is, and so I have grown to realize, to say there are times when I have to set aside my needs first so as to accept the person on his/her terms.  I used to think that it is important to communicate my expectations and my needs, and very often demand a “closure”.  But there are times in life where there can be no closures. Or the “closure” is not important or trivial in comparison to other priorities in life.  It is, again, not about bending backwards and not having my own stand, but to be flexible enough to say, hey, I can see things from your perspective, and perhaps my own insecurities should be my own problem to solve, and not expect you to help me with it.

And so it is the same with our relationship with God, isn’t it?  If God answers the prayer for the cancer patient to be healed, we call it a miracle, but what if God allows the person to die immediately? Do we blame God? Do we say God has not answered our prayers?
Perhaps, in such instances we have to look at it on His terms. God let it happen the way it happened because He has His own reasons – maybe it is for the living to learn to grief and let go? Maybe it is to end the suffering of the patient? Whatever that reason may be, we can only pray to God for the wisdom to understand His Will, and the strength to accept it.

Almighty Living God, King of Kings, Prince of Peace, our Alpha and Omega, I pray to You to grant me not my wishes, but Your Will be done. I can only ask for Your Grace to let me know in no uncertain terms Your Will, so that it is loud and clear for me to follow. I pray to you to give me that strength to deal with whatever purification You put me through, the faith to accept the outcome on Your terms, and the wisdom to understand those terms.  In Jesus’s most holy name, Amen!

 

 

 

 

What are you after?

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NIV)

I met up with a dear friend recently and she got promoted recently and work has been hectic. She seems fulfilled, but I saw something deeper and I asked her – “What are you after?”

That is also a question for myself.

I recall another dear friend who cautioned me that I have perhaps at most another 1 or 2 decades of productive work before retirement, and I should be planning for my retirement by making sure I have enough. And then I realized, money is something that I have never been after. Not that I don’t like money, but I always remember the scripture teachings on “giving Caesar what is Caesar’s” and “you cannot serve two masters”. So I am happy with having enough, and in a way, complacent and thereby not accumulating more.

It’s been almost 3 years since I got baptized and it has been an amazing journey thus far. I struggled with trying to match Jesus’ standards of sins and find myself impossible to reach those standards (to lay eyes on a beautiful women is to have committed adultery?! Alas, I am committing adultery every second!).

Then I discovered God’s grace and mercy and understood God never intended me to be perfect overnight. And I move on to the next stage of trying to reconcile my sinful nature with striving to be holy.  I wonder how it is that I fell, I go for confession, and I fell again – so what’s the point having to go for confession?  And then I got reminded of God’s love, that Jesus loves the sinner, which is me.

And then now, this question struck me – “What am I after?”

Am I after money, status or recognition? Is my acting an inner need for fame? Am I so proud that I cannot recognize that I am in need, and that I am a sinner?

And then it struck me – I will fail, because I am a sinner. But God looks at my heart and asks – am I after His Kingdom? Am I a practicing pilgrim on earth, striving to be holier each day? Am I loving my neighbour, as He has loved me?

I now understand that the Saints became Saints by battling the devil each day – some days they might fail, and on mostly others, they win, with the grace and mercy of our Lord and God. And it is not 100% that we are striving; it’s about at the end of the day, we win most of the time.

Having understood this, I can only give thanks to God’s immense love for me.

There are still days that I cannot comprehend how I can be such a hypocrite; on the one hand, I say I love God and in the next moment I am sinning against Him. There are still days I beat myself up for not being able to reach Jesus’ standards. There are still days when I feel like giving up on myself for being such an underserving sinner.

But God quietly whispers into my heart – What are you after?

For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.

And I pray to our God and our Lord, that by His Grace and Mercy, my heart will always be facing towards His Kingdom. Amen!

Back to my friend who, besides work, is struggling to accept a relationship where the man is several years younger.  I thought I saw in her that her pride is her obstacle. But I reminded myself : who am I to judge? As a dear friend, I know I can share and reflect together with her, but only she herself can find the way. I pray to God that He too can ask my friend the question – What are you after?

And to all my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ reading this – What are you after?

 

 

 

Do I love you, Lord?

 

John 21: 1-19 (Gospel Reading on 10 April 2016)
“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?”

Lord, you asked the question not only to Simon son of John, but also to me. And it suddenly dawned upon me, that though I knew how much You love me, I wonder . . .  can I say the same for you?

Lord, your love is divine and unconditional, but the kind of love I experience here on earth falls short. In fact, yours is such a high standard that our lowly human love can’t even hold a candle near.

How do I love you Lord, after suffering so many setbacks? Betrayals, rejections and heartaches.  Love is supposed to bring out the best in our lives. Love is sacrifice, it is about laying down one’s life.  That’s the kind of love you purported, but hardly the kind I experienced.

Lord, why do you set so high a standard? Why do you let us know that there is such an idealistic state of love? If it is to inspire me, I feel more dejected that I can’t reach your standards. Yes, your standards are too high.

So high that I am disillusioned. I struggle. I wonder if I can ever love again.

But then again, Lord, you have shown us how to love.

The standards may be high but Lord, you never focus on the end result (it is guaranteed eternal life anyway) but on the process. The process of how we can be more and more Christ-like each day. Yes, Lord. You told me to love others as you love us. You show me unconditional love when I am undeserving. You sacrificed and laid down your life for me.

Lord, if loving someone means wanting to spend time with the person through good and bad times, I wonder aloud how many times I seek your comfort when I am down, and share with you my joy at my happy moments? Do I try to seek you out, know you more and understand you more? Do I seek to please you? Do things that will bring honour, instead of disgrace, to you? Do I seek private moments just to be in your presence?

Lord God, Heavenly King, three times you asked Simon “Do you love me?” and three times Simon answered confidently “Yes!”.  Can I do the same? Am I able to reply confidently and authentically that I love you, Lord?

But then, what’s the alternative? To deny you? To say that after all that you have done for me, I will reject you? NO! There can be only one answer – Yes I love you Lord!

I pray to you oh Lord oh God for the grace to love you, to be able to touch my heart and experience your love, so that I can truly reciprocate your love with my free will. And that is the most precious gift I can bring forth to offer you.

Lord, I seek your grace and mercy to allow me to spend time daily in your presence, to know you more, and to spread your love to others. Look outwards, instead of focusing on my own problems. Live honorably, so that others can see you in my actions. Love abundantly, as you have loved me.

I thank you Lord, for the grace to visit Basilica of Ars, and to come across this beautiful “Act of Love of the Holy Cure D’Ars”

I love you, O my God. My only desire is to love you, until the last breath of my life.
I love you, O infinitely lovable God, and I prefer to die loving you, rather than to live for an instant without you.

I love you, O my God, and I desire only to go to heaven, to have the happiness of loving you perfectly.
I love you, O my God, and my only fear is to go to heal, because one will never have the sweet solace of loving you there.

O my God, if my tongue cannot say at all times that I love you, at least I want my heart to repeat it to you as many times as I breathe.
Ah! Do me the grace: to suffer while loving you, to love you while suffering, and, that when I die; I not only will love you, but experience it in my heart.

I beg you that: the closer I come to my final end, you will increase and perfect my love for you….. Amen!”

Saint Jean Mary Vianney, pray for me.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christ Came into the World

Christ came into the world to ..

17 December marks the beginning of the octave before Christmas, and I was on lector duty for the evening Mass. What strikes me is that Christ came into the world to first and foremost, be in relationship with us. And the message from Archbishop’s reflection is about God asking us to be patient.

And then today, Facebook reminded me of a memory 3 years ago – it is a photo of me at Seven Fountains, Chiang Mai. That silent retreat is what sparked me on my journey to Catholicism, and it was a most amazing conversion experience.

The recent persecution and darkness that engulf me – tore me away from God’s light. And now I know, Christ came into the world, my world, to bring light so that darkness will retreat . . .I know that  this is the beginning, so I shall be patient, and trust in His mercy and His plans.

I am waiting for … …

Lord God, Heavenly Father, You promised me salvation and eternal life, You showed me that there is a new way of living, and You told me that you have my best interests & all I ever need to do is to trust in You.

And hence I am waiting for you to show me the life-line, to show me that there is indeed a better life, a life that is full of joy and peace and love, a life that is sinless. Father, you know that I dare not let go of my old ways, for I am fearful that there is nothing else for me to hold on to. It is like a float that is full of holes – I know it will not help me keep afloat for long, yet, in the absence of any other float in sight, I stubbornly hold on to this float, which I know will bring me down eventually.

Father, I know, at least intellectually, that it is when one door closes, that another door will open. I know that you have reached out to me, and I am the one who refuses to see. I am like the man who fell off the cliff and hanging on to a branch hear your voice gently say “let go”, yet the man refuses, for in the darkness of the night he does not realize that he is only an inch above the ground. Lord, I know these theories, yet to put them into practice, to really let go, seem just too hard.

And now, I am waiting for the purification to be over. I am waiting for you to open the other door for me. I am waiting for that life, no matter how difficult and high the standard seems to be, to become real in my life – that I can finally live as you want me to, love as you command me to, and laugh as you desire me to.

Developing the relationship with God, strengthening it, and putting in time and effort in building it.

Analogy of a diamond, which has to go through the pressure and time passage, to turn from carbon to diamond.

Unto us a savior has been born

And so what does that mean to the world? whose world? my world? the rest of the world?

How often do we think that Christ came for the whole world? The world that is foreign to us, a culture totally different, a place I have never been to? And when I think like this, I begin to realize God’s wonder – that His love is so universal, that it does not differentiate. I read today the National Geographic article on Mother Mary, and how the Mexicans revere Mother Mary as part of their identity. And how Mother Mary appeared to an unknown town in Africa and foretold the senseless killing in Rwanda.

Unto us a savior has been born, and “us” is part of the universal church, part of this world, everyone on this earth. “Us” is no longer just me and my loved ones, the country that I live in, the ministries where I serve. And suddenly, my problems and my misery and my sufferings became insignificant in the greater scheme of things. And in comparison, I should really count my blessings.

The man without an email address, one who couldn’t afford a computer, and lost the job application to be an office boy because the interviewer cannot inform him via an email, went on to use whatever gifts he was given and succeeded. I like the story, not only because of the twist, not just on the man’s tenacity, but because it challenges our thinking – We couldn’t imagine living the modern life without an email address, and yet those without, can make do, count their blessings, and truly live the life that epitomizes “unto us a savior has been born”.

Nativity scene – imagine I am the maid servant journeying with Mary and Joseph.

These too shall pass.

And the world says the baby is going to be a King, a Saviour, a Messiah.

There are  anticipations and expectations. The world will change, the oppressed will be saved, the tyrant will be overthrown. My life will become better, because He is going to be born.

But how can that be? When He is going to be born in a manger. How is He even going to grow up? Will He even have enough food for Himself? Who is going to clothe Him? How is He going to learn the scriptures? Who will teach Him?

I don’t know about the world and its expectations of Him. I only know the harshness of life before me. I worry for His upbringing – the real hardships facing us now. The promises, are well, just promises that may or may not come true in the future. But what is facing me now is real.

Yet, looking at Mary and Joseph and sensing their peace and joy, I know this Baby is not going to be just some ordinary baby. Their serenity inspires me to have faith and hope. Yes, I don’t know how this Baby is going to become a King, but somehow, I know deep inside me, that no matter what the hardships facing this Boy, these too shall pass, and in the end, He will triumph.