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

 

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The Universal Wedding Invitation

 

Somewhere I Belong. These past few weeks have been rough and it has left me praying every single moment silently that things do not get bad. It can be difficult to be a Christian in the workplace when tensions run high and people’s actions can change at any moment, and it’s like you are walking on glass every time. Everything is taking a plunge, especially creativity, motivation and determination- it just leaves me exhausted and scrambling to make sense of it all. I am still finding a place to belong and the search continues despite the preoccupation of job stability and leaving an impact behind.

The gospel begins by saying, “Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come.

A second time he sent other servants, saying,’Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”‘Some ignored the invitation and went away,one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants,mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. 

Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’But he was reduced to silence.

Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen ( Matthew 22: 1-14).”

From the parable which draws similarities from last week’s gospel reading we are shown that God is generous and that he sends his servants out to invite the good, bad, poor and rich to the wedding feast. The wedding feast is a joyous occasion and the kingdom of heaven is being depicted as a joyous occasion where they will be rejoicing and everyone will be invited.

However, since we were given the gift of free will, we have the choice to either attend or otherwise. Even when God has extended the invitation, some chose to ignore the invitation and not attend. Are we ignoring the invitation to enter paradise? Jesus does not give up on us and continues to invite us any other day to prepare and be in our wedding best to meet him when the time comes.

I am still getting my wedding garment together as with sin and unworthiness creeping in, it is more of a hindrance. With prayer and repentance, I hope that the wedding garment by the grace of God will be ready when the time comes.

I believe that the kingdom of heaven is the narrow door where many are called but few are chosen but we must not give up. The key is to keep dying to ourselves and do away with things that make our spiritual life complicated which is sin.

In the secular world, there is always a certain level of power struggle and no one wants to exercise humility. It is disappointing and it is challenging to find your own calling because the weaker ones get squeezed to the corner of a caged society. I always pray for those in higher power to have the wisdom to understand that their traditionalist mindset is causing more hurt and division than good or purpose. There needs to be integration and consideration for society to move forward together.

May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
so that we may know what is the hope that belongs to our call. Amen.

I pray  for workplaces to be a more forgiving and understanding environment in ensuring that relationships and peoples’ efforts are taken into consideration and not brushed aside. So that, everyone’s’ contributions can be valued and things get done more effectively in achieving the desired purpose for the benefit of society.

To close, here is a hymn titled, “The Summons” to keep reaching out for Jesus and listen to his call both day and night, that he calls us each by name and that we continue to respond to his invitation to partake in the heavenly banquet when our journey comes to a close.

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

Will you love the “you” you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In Your company I’ll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong

 

Accountable To God

 

Castle of Glass. I have been trying to be strong and just do my best. I know that things can still crumble and I have been trying to prevent that. Amidst all the worries, I feel that through prayer, things will turn out well and pray that things do not fall apart like glass when you have already built a castle with a view.

The gospel begins by saying,“Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:”Hear another parable.There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,another they killed, and a third they stoned. 

Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,’This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” answered him,”He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” 

Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” 

Jesus has given us everything that we have and he knows what we need. He is the landowner and has given us the resources needed to lead a good Christian life. However, the tenants in the vineyard had soon started to gain the upper hand of running the vineyard based on their own understanding and authority.

They started to change in their behaviour and attitude by practicing violence and aggression in living out their own lives in the way that they wanted to, in total ignorance of what the master had left them. . . The reason being that they do not see themselves as accountable to anyone.

Accountability is something we should always keep in view because we are accountable to God in the end. Therefore, we should not allow thoughts of selfishness and wicked intentions creep into our lives, like the tenants who destroyed the vineyard that God had graciously left in their care.

Are we living out a life that we can be accountable for? If we are not, then there is still time to move away from sin and try to be the good tenants that God wants us to be. Small steps make great results as God will want to lease the vineyard to those who can produce good work and outcomes.

I am sure that if we rent an apartment to someone, we would like that person/s to maintain communication with us (landlord), to take care of the place and most importantly to pay rent on time. This is the similar arrangement and expectations that Jesus asks us for which is to care and nurture his vineyard and having a humble heart while doing so. At the end of the day, we are accountable to the landlord which is Jesus.

May we always have the courage and strength to remain accountable to walk the path of righteousness and to make amendments when we feel we are going the other way. Lord, sometimes I know I stumble and get into a mess in not caring for your vineyard fully, help me and teach me to always go back at it in doing your work with the right heart and mentality. God Bless as we continue to pray for one another and say the rosary to keep everyone in our daily intercessions.

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong

 

A River

A River
Flows through every terrain
Carries life

Delivers nourishment

Through the centuries:

as geological plates shift

as seasons change

A river’s path follows suit

Aquatic lifeform flourishes silently within its flow

The toughest and sharpest of rocks get smoothed

by the river’s consistent gushing

Gushing.

Yet not rushing

Contributing to nature’s humble beauty

at every bend of its meandering journey

Committed to one destination – the ocean

And so it is

That I aspire to be – A River.

 

Sincerity Amidst Hypocrisy

 

Opinions. There are many opinions out there and it’s good that people are speaking up for something that they firmly believe in. Having a voice is crucial to push for change and there is good in being part of the makers for change. However, there are some opinions which are negative given the situation which is understandable.

The gospel opens by saying,” Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:”What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’

He said in reply, ‘I will not,’but afterwards changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir, ‘but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.”Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.

When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him”(Matthew 21:28-32).” 

Jesus continues to tell us the parable of the vineyard which is essentially the kingdom of heaven. Many a times, Jesus calls us to carry out our duty as Christians, but how many times have we heard but not responded?

The work is often challenging and at times, might not even be our cup of tea. If we look beyond the present into the future, we might find something that is actually alright, but we need to keep looking, like a treasure hunt.

Often, we might think that we are unqualified for many things because we feel inadequate or the world squashes our own self-confidence and beliefs. However, we still need to push on because there is a certainty and quiet confidence to prove them wrong, that we can do small and great things by the grace of God.

We may be cradle Catholics but how many of us are true to the faith? Yes, we are not perfect but that does not mean we stop trying. Hypocrisy has crept in to corrupt the hearts of men and have twisted human actions.

With the recent opening of the newly revamped Church of the Novena, I heard that the opening day was marred with less than ideal coordination with the crowd and many people were unhappy with the way the situation was handled. Sometimes, I wonder if being a “Christian” is just a name-sake, after seeing at how Catholics behave. Perhaps, there should be better coordination and crowd control measures, and we need opinions to iron out these corners so that we can be better Christians, even if it takes one step at a time.

We are challenged to be sincere, to be true to the people we meet and not wear masks that we are good Christians in Church but outside of Church, we do not exhibit good Christian behaviour of patience, compassion and humility. Jesus wants to see and know the true person, not the one wearing a different mask each time.

He wants to see our scars, our brokenness, our weaknesses and our sins. He wants to embrace and heal us, just like how he welcomed those deemed outcasts of society such as the tax collectors and prostitutes into the vineyard. Sometimes, unknowingly, people are forced into a situation where they cannot leave. This is the reason why we need to speak up and fight for those that cannot. “Everyone you meet has a battle inside that you know nothing about.” Be kind to others and love them for who they are, just like how Jesus would.

May we keep our Holy Father, Pope Francis’s prayer intentions for the Month of October in our prayers,“For workers and the unemployed-That our parishes, animated by a missionary spirit, may be places where faith is communicated and charity is seen.”

It is a sincere heart that Jesus wants us to have so that we do not need to hide or be someone else that we are not. He asks us to keep trying and praying so that we will be sincere to ourselves and to others. God Bless!

I would like to end this post on a rainy day with a song titled “The Promise” by the late Chris Cornell that we will persevere and thrive to be sincere in our interactions with others.

“If I had nothing to my name
But photographs of you
Rescued from the flames
That is all I would ever need
As long as I can read
What’s written on your face
The strength that shines
Behind your eyes
The hope and light
That will never die

And one promise you made
One promise that always remains
No matter the price
A promise to survive
Persevere and thrive
As we’ve always done

And you said
“The poison in a kiss
Is the lie upon the lips”
Truer words were never shared
When I feel
Like lies are all I hear
I pull my memories near
The one thing they can’t take

And one promise you made
One promise that always remains
No matter the price
A promise to survive
Persevere and thrive
As we’ve always done

The books still open on the table
The bells still ringing in the air
The dreams still clinging to the pillow
The songs still singing in a prayer

Now my soul
Is stretching through the roots
To memories of you
Back through time and space
To carry home
The faces and the names
And these photographs of you
Rescued from the flames

And one promise you made
One promise that always remains
No matter the price
A promise to survive
Persevere and thrive
And dare to rise once more
A promise to survive
Persevere and thrive
And fill the world with life
As we’ve always done”

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong

 

Fair Wages At The Vineyard

 

From the inside. My mind refuses to slow down and I find it hard to rest completely. I am left in a dazed and without the creative spark to continue churning out work. However, I am trying my best to continue doing what I have to do and relying on prayers to move forward despite everything that I am feeling, even if it weighs me down. Whatever rest time that I have, I turn to music to restart those creative pistons and numb myself from the pain to keep going, just like how musicians and artists do so when they are finding some sort of inspiration for their next material.

The gospel says, “Jesus told his disciples this parable:”The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 

Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them,’Why do you stand here idle all day?’

They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,’Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. 

And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,’These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last”(Matthew 20:1-16A).”

Jesus is telling us from his point of view that he is generous and his generosity surpasses our understanding. However, in the parable, we see that the workers in the vineyard are envious and jealous over their pay, as it is not equal to the amount of hard work that they put in. But they fail to see that they all had agreed on the wage beforehand which is a fixed amount.

For the love and compassion of God cannot be just simply measured in good works alone. He loves us no matter if we go to him first or last because we are his children and we do not need to earn his acceptance or love because he readily gives it to us.

In the end, we should be contented that God has called us to work in his vineyard to continue his work and we should not be discontented. Being grateful for the simplest of things will help us not to compare with others, because if not, we will be disappointed and disillusioned to keep measuring up to others.

The fair wage is God has called each and everyone of us to do his work and we shall be rewarded with the kingdom of heaven in the end. It is the same reward that is given after our journey is complete. There is no favoritism or competition which is why it is different from our human understanding where our work is measured by our social status or skills.

Jesus sees all his children as equals in his eyes and it is through his grace that we are able to do small and great works. Truly, the reward that Jesus gives us is fair and just so that everyone is welcome in his vineyard to continue spreading the good news of the gospel to others.

In closing, Jesus loves us equally and gives us what he sees as fair. This hymn called, “What A Friend We have in Jesus” by Alan Jackson describes the need to turn to God when the going gets tough and everything is achieved through sheer grace.

May we pray for one another and be fair in this sometimes unfair and unjust world as we pray for our fellow brothers and sisters that are being prosecuted by violence and oppression in Rakine state, Myanmar that they will receive assistance and help from other countries.

“What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.”

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong

 

For-Giving=Forgiveness

 

Burning at both ends. My mind has been a mess as I struggle to make sense of my thoughts over the weekend. Weekends are meant for rest but I can’t seem to slow down as it has been difficult for me to do so. I just lay down and look at all these blank thoughts, and  this has affected me to keep writing too. My body aches with pain and I feel like giving up but I remember the cross because I need to carry on like how Jesus walked on despite all the hardships- it keeps me going.

The gospel says,“Peter approached Jesus and asked him,”Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. 

When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. 
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,’Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. 

When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount.  He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,’Pay back what you owe.’Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,’Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debt. 

Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart (Matthew 18:21-35).”

Forgiveness is easy to say and hard to do – many a times, we say we forgive others, but our hearts and actions say otherwise. The road to forgiveness starts with understanding the other party first and having the humility to put aside our pain and grievances temporarily.

We need to give ourselves time and patience to forgive ourselves, before we can forgive others and it means to die to ourselves. This will allow us to give the same compassion and strength to forgive others. It is the generosity that Jesus tells us to give to others, to be generous in compassion so that we can find reconciliation with ourselves and find peace within us.

Not forgiving often leads to more resentment and can make life very miserable. Is it not better to forgive and move on? Life is already so short and even in death or rather when the person dies, not everyone can forgive, even when the person has passed on. Therefore, forgiving means giving time for us to heal and then giving that same healing effect to others.

May we have the courage and heart to keep forgiving because no one is perfect and we do make mistakes, and from here on after, we need the grace to reconcile and seek reconciliation. We need to head towards the kingdom of heaven and not  move further away from it.

I went to pray before our Lady of Fatima at Catholic Spirituality Centre to ask for her intercession to give me the strength to push on because both my spirit and body are exhausted and I feel broken. But, I saw many others rushing forward to take photos instead and those that could not follow instructions which disturbed the sacred peace of prayer. How sad! We come to pray and that should be the most important duty.

I would like to end this post with a beautiful song titled Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley that in all our difficulties, may we know that forgiveness does lie within our grasp. God Bless!

“Well, I heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
Well it goes like this:
The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah…

Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
She tied you to her kitchen chair
She broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah…

Well, baby, I’ve been here before
I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor (you know)
I used to live alone before I knew ya
And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah…

Well, there was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show that to me, do ya?
But remember when I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah…

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
And it’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah…
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah…
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah”

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong