Lord, Save Me! Save Us!

 

Pushing Through. I am back from my recent university trip to  Bangkok, Thailand, as part of the 8th United Nations Student Leaders’ Symposium. It is also my last major school related activity that I will be participating in as I need to detach myself from my university commitments. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the trip as it was my first trip travelling without my parents and having to be independent.

It was an enriching experience to look at another’s country culture, sights and infrastructure. Despite the huge rich and poor divide in the country which could be seen in the streets as I moved around the city, I could see the determined spirit of the people to make a living- pushing pushcarts around with food and some selling handicrafts in night markets.

Most of all this new found travel experience gave me new friends that I could count on and we bonded nicely during the trip. I did not want the trip to end as I felt relaxed and free. Now, I am back to the daily grind, trying to push through each day to meet society’s expectations. We definitely need to be the change that we want to see in the world.

The gospel reading opens by saying,“After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.

During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply,”Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. 

But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,”Truly, you are the Son of God (Matthew 14:22-33).”

Life has many storms, some mild, while others are huge which could catch us off guard. I can vouch for the storms that stirs the moment I start a brand new day and it can be tiring to go up against them head-on. I am reminded that even if I lose everything, I still have Jesus to count on. He says to each one of us,“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Relying on our own strength is futile because we falter and stumble, and we need Jesus to overcome our struggles and life’s challenges. Like Peter, Jesus provides a teachable moment when he outstretched his arm to save Peter from drowning in the deep waters of the lake. Jesus is with us and only when our faith is ultimately tested that we learn to trust and strengthen our faith, knowing that Jesus is there because he saves.

Walking along the streets of Thailand, I could see that many needed saving, from poverty, hopelessness and a lack of choice. They struggle to get by, but at least they try and that showed me the resilience present in the human spirit. They still try to make the best of their less than ideal situation to get by.

I have much to be thankful and grateful for, but I still hope for a society that has more heart and is willing to give freely and more lovingly to the people around them. A word of affirmation and encouragement could do wonders in lifting the mood of those around us.

This week, I had the privilege to meet a dear old friend and he loaned me a book titled, “The Way of St Francis” by Murray Bodo on The Challenge of Franciscan Spirituality for Everyone. I will be reading through this as I have always felt a strong connection with the Franciscan path of being grateful to nature and God’s creation.

Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon of St. Francis of Assisi

“Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours, all glory, all honour and all blessings.

To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.

Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You my Lord through our Sister,
Mother Earth who sustains and governs us, producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.

Blessed are those who endure in peace, By You Most High, they will be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.

No second death can do them harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.”

Let us continue to pray for one another and be reassured that Jesus is with us through life’s many storms, and all we have to do is call out to him! God Bless!

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong

 

Talk about being vigilant

 

Talk about being vigilant,

I am rather disappointed in some ways.

Why do you say this?

I have been coming to the website hoping to find

a post or two, perhaps an article or more

But it is not to be . . .

We have so many writers

but not everyone writes

and that includes

yours truly

I too am guilty.

This post simply talks about the feelings I have this morning and nothing more

And feelings, people say, are not totally reliable. . .

Still it is good to express myself and thus it gives me a chance to write.

 

Placing Flowers at the Feet of St Anne

 

Spoken & Unspoken Difficulties. It is going to be a long week ahead as I have an important work meeting tomorrow and after that I am heading over to Thailand for a week-long United Nations symposium conference. It is part of my efforts in closing my time as a student and moving out of the school zone. It has proven to be difficult as making use of opportunities does require alot of time management and logistics.

My family and I attended the St Anne’s feast day Novena celebrations as usual every year in praying for our own family intentions and participating in the fares that the feast day offered. It was Spirit-filled as you could see people putting their petitions in the representation of flowers at the feet of St Anne in the main church.

The novena follows 3 nights of prayers and devotion to St Anne in the theme of mercy in loving, caring and forgiveness. Forgiveness is the greatest act of mercy but the most difficult- it means letting go of what the person has done and moving on without bearing any form of vengeance or hatred.

The gospel reading says,”Jesus said to his disciples:”The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it (Matthew 13:44-46).”

The kingdom of heaven cannot be compared to that of the riches of the world. It does not even come close. It boils down to choice; do we choose the material heaven of this world or the eternal heaven that Jesus offers us?

Jesus calls us to forgive, love and care to attain the Kingdom of Heaven as we are created in his likeness. Therefore, we are called to let go and not retaliate, but just carry on with our lives. What matters the most is the treasure that we seek which cannot be bought by money nor material goods; it can only be bought by our sincerity and heart to attain it.

As we pray with St Anne to intercede with us in our petitions, may we also be joined in solidarity in lighting a candle with others in praying for a more peaceful and forgiving world – where restoration and reconciliation are possible, and to reach that heavenly goal together too. God Bless!

I close this post with a prayer to St Anne that despite all our sinful ways-like the prodigal son or the woman who committed adultery, that we may show compassion and love to ourselves and others caught in the stronghold of sin.

“Good St. Anne, you were especially favored by God to be the mother of the most holy Virgin Mary, the Mother of our Savior. By your power with your most pure daughter and with her divine Son, kindly obtain for us the grace and the favor we now seek. Please secure for us also forgiveness of our past sins, the strength to perform faithfully our daily duties and the help we need to persevere in the love of Jesus and Mary. Amen.”

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong

 

Flight

 

I remember two white-bellied sea eagles

Leap singing from the forest deep

Into the spangled sea and sky

And I longed to capture this in words

which slipped unheeding through my fingers

like sand, and I heard them say,

Your fate has changed – no longer

are you to stand aside and observe,

but leap singing from the dark

into the glittering gold forever blue

 

The Weeds Among The Seeds

Wrapping Up. At the graduation, it was a surreal experience being conferred all the rights of being a graduate. However, it opens new and uncertain paths which is to not remain unemployed for too long. I am grateful for the opportunities and people that have been with me on this journey, and especially God for without Him, I would not have made it this far.

Physically, I felt relieved but in my mind, my thoughts were clouded because I have not gotten down to take a breather and get back on track. I am trying to clear as much current work as possible before making any further plans.

The gospel opens by saying,Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said,’Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?

He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.  Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,”First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn (Matthew 13:24-30).”

The kingdom of heaven is a promise given to us by Jesus that if we start planning to receive the kingdom now- we will surely receive it. This is provided that we start sowing good seed in our lives. Sowing also means having the patience to cultivate it, just like how the sower stops the slaves from pulling out the weeds that have grown with the seeds.

Sin is the representation of the weeds, just like an overgrown garden, it is unsightly, and it stops the good plants from growing. We too, need to weed out sin just as every good gardener would do; it is an everyday process of pulling the weeds out in ensuring healthy growth of the plants.

A well-kept heart and mind, just like a well-maintained garden, shows our sincerity and determination in ensuring that we stay close to Jesus. Another reality that the gospel speaks of would be that good (harvest) and evil (weeds) could co-exist together. This means it might be harder for us to differentiate between the good and bad, and the line can sometimes be blurred.

In light of all the chaos in the world, the unspoken words and thoughts in our minds and the worries that keep us awake at night, we have to try and always get back up when the going gets tough as we try to stay afloat in the vast ocean of life; and we are to help others even while we help ourselves.

We pray for the strength to continue braving through the storms, to spend more time focusing our own well-being and being there for others in their greatest need. And of course,  to rely on Jesus to keep maintaining the garden in our hearts and minds, so that the harvest will be rich and plentiful when we meet Him. God Bless!

I would like to close this post with a song “Leave Out All The Rest” as a tribute to the late Chester Bennington of rock band, Linkin Park whose songs I listened to as a teenager growing up. It is dedicated to those that have lost a loved one and for those to stand in solidarity to raise awareness on mental health awareness and care for those struggling silently, that there is hope and many are still rooting for them.

“I dreamed I was missing
You were so scared
But no one would listen
‘Cause no one else cared

After my dreaming
I woke with this fear
What am I leaving
When I’m done here?

So if you’re asking me
I want you to know

When my time comes
Forget the wrong that I’ve done
Help me leave behind some
Reasons to be missed
And don’t resent me
And when you’re feeling empty
Keep me in your memory
Leave out all the rest
Leave out all the rest

Don’t be afraid
I’ve taken my beating
I’ve shared what I’ve made
I’m strong on the surface
Not all the way through
I’ve never been perfect
But neither have you

So if you’re asking me
I want you to know

When my time comes
Forget the wrong that I’ve done
Help me leave behind some
Reasons to be missed
Don’t resent me
And when you’re feeling empty
Keep me in your memory
Leave out all the rest
Leave out all the rest

Forgetting all the hurt inside
You’ve learned to hide so well
Pretending someone else can come
And save me from myself
I can’t be who you are

When my time comes
Forget the wrong that I’ve done
Help me leave behind some
Reasons to be missed
Don’t resent me
And when you’re feeling empty
Keep me in your memory
Leave out all the rest
Leave out all the rest

Forgetting all the hurt inside
You’ve learned to hide so well
Pretending someone else can come
And save me from myself
I can’t be who you are
I can’t be who you are” 

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong

 

Rich Soil Yields a Plentiful Harvest

 

Price to Pay. I feel that I am left in a stupor after working so hard that my mind just keeps going like clockwork. Sometimes, it can be challenging to put in the same amount of effort everyday as it is like a jukebox theory where people select the song and shuffles through the playlist in finding that perfect rhythm or song that will suit their taste. It is the price to pay if you want to earn a living, I guess, and more so in this challenging era. The only thing that I have left is endurance and to hold on even if it is the hardest thing to do.

The gospel opens by saying,“On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched,and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear (Matthew 13:1-9).”

This is one of my favorite gospel passages as I just like how the sower is depicted as God and his gift of free will. He does not keep the good news to Himself but chooses to scatter them freely and abundantly. It is up to us to cultivate the seed by using good and fertile soil which would yield good crops or beautiful plants.

My earliest cultivation of the word of God would be through catechism class and also how I would flip through the catechism book beforehand to look at stories that showed the word of God in action. It intrigued me to look at how God was sowing the seeds and how people were responding to it by nurturing the seed.

It is our inner desire that best represents the type of soil or spiritual state that we are in. I have been in the category of the bad soil recently as my worries and demands of the world crept into me that God has forsaken me. I know this is not true but it is a great struggle that many are facing daily, including myself.

Like a plant, hard soil does not yield growth nor does poor soil, therefore we need to take efforts to cultivate and nurture the soil by changing and loosening them. This can be achieved through quiet reflection and reconciliation on the word of God who is the sower. Are we taking the initiative to make the word of God alive and present in our lives today?

Patience and perseverance are key components in not giving up which is something that I have been repeating to myself in my subconscious to keep myself going. I pray that despite all the fears and obstacles, Jesus can lead me away from these inner pain at least temporarily so I can come back stronger and more refreshed. I hope to find some peace and not be crippled by fear that weighs me down.

Writing has been therapeutic for me as I can put my thoughts into words and though it can be challenging to find the right words – seeking the kingdom of God, there I will find whatever I am looking for which is peace,freedom and joy. One day,I know that I will meet the sower and be held in His embrace, to know that I am loved by Him. We keep each other in prayers and for those who are suffering to find comfort and consolation in God’s word and the presence of their loved ones.

For the seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.God Bless!

Music speaks to people and through this song “Fear” by Blue October, it chronicles the struggle of the songwriter and how he gets back up despite life’s challenges.

“All my life
Been running from a pain in me
A feeling I don’t understand
Holding me down

Rain on me
Underwater
All I am, getting harder
A heavy weight
I carry around.

Today
I don’t have to fall apart
I don’t have to be afraid
I don’t have to let the damage
consume me,
My shadow see through me

Fear in itself
Will reel you in and spit you out
Over and over again
Believe in yourself
And you will walk
Fear in itself
Will use you up and break you down
like you were never enough
I used to fall, now I get back up.

I’m up here
I’m looking at the way down there
I’m staring through the I don’t care
It’s staring back at me

The beauty is
I’m learning how to face my beast
Starting now to find some peace
Set myself free

Today,
I don’t have to fall apart
I don’t have to be afraid
I don’t have to let the damage
consume me,
My shadow see through me

Fear in itself
Will reel you in
And spit you out over and over again
Believe in yourself
and you will walk
Fear in itself
Will use you up and break you down
like you were never enough
I used to fall but now I get back up

I’m moving on
Oh god just move on
Today,
I don’t have to fall apart
I don’t have to be afraid….
Get back up
Get up

Fear in itself will use you up
And break you down just like you’re
never enough
I used to fall

Breathe,
Ask for more
if you’re bitter still
Ask him to help you carry on.”

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong

 

Bible Sunday: Light & Easy

 

Overburdened. Things are ramping up in the workplace as more work starts coming in and sometimes, it leaves everyone, including myself scrambling to complete and meet all the stipulated deadlines. Tensions are running high as it is a rush to ensure that everything is running smoothly. In all of our burdens, we must not forget that Jesus is at the centre of it and He is always there for us, so that we do not get to carry all of the burdens on our own.

The gospel begins by saying, “At that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father,and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

“Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light”(Matthew 11:25-30).”

This is one of my favourite gospel’s passages as it highlights the struggles of humanity, where we are called to carry our crosses but are swarmed with all sorts of burdens and trials. Many by far have tried to comprehend the existence of God intellectually and scientifically. They have consulted numerous books, tried to challenge the bible and conducted research on religious artefacts pertaining to the Catholic Church.

However, their findings have proven inconclusive because just like the Trinity, some things are left a mystery which the human mind is unable to comprehend or understand. Just like children, when we surrender ourselves to faith, we will find the answers that we are looking for through the revelation in the image and presence of Jesus.

Jesus then invites us to come to Him if we are burdened, as it is with Him that we will find rest. Rest is really so precious to me and as much as I try to rest more on weekends. Sometimes, there is just too much work to do that I need to find the motivation in me to get going, before I can contemplate resting.

The promise of Jesus is that His yoke is easy and He will make our burdens light as I learn to lean on the cross for some semblance of support and comfort when the going gets tough. At times, I say a little prayer before I start a task because I cannot do it myself and I need Jesus to guide me as all glory and success comes from Him.

For me, He is the provider and He sends people to help me when my to-do-list gets challenging as many hands make light work. Time to time, I flip through the bible as I find the book of Psalms inspiring and yet comforting at the same time. The words are light and easy- a source of strength and anchor for me. The bible allows me to know God as a person, and it provides clarity when we see the connection to our lives by identifying with the characters and words in the passages which is our source of spiritual nourishment.

The only time I have experienced this surreal feeling of light and easy mood would be going on a holiday and it was after polytechnic graduation when I went on a trip to Perth, Western Australia. I was just grateful to experience pure rest when time slowed down slightly. There were no assignments nor work and I could just soak in the sights and sounds of my surroundings. I felt in control and was more focussed because it was just pure relaxation and you learn to appreciate nature up close and in different ways that you never thought possible.

I hope to be able to pause and relax someday again, even though it is hard to come by, I can picture it in my mind and it is where I can go to whenever I feel myself losing momentum. Also, learning to laugh a little, smile a little and talk to people in knowing that you are not alone in your struggles also uplifts the mood on this journey towards finding rest for ourselves.

May we make a mental note to read scripture because it speaks so much truth and the passages are highly relatable, and it may make our toughest moments a little lighter, a little more peaceful.

I close this post with a song titled,”Perth” by Bon Iver because it is reminiscent of times spent on vacation overseas and loving nature when I am most at peace. God Bless as we keep one another in prayers.

“I’m tearing up, across your face
Move dust through the light
To find your name
It’s something faint
This is not a place
Not yet awake, I’m raised to make

Still alive who you, love
Still alive who you, love
Still alive who you, love

In a matter of an month
From forests for the soft
Gotta know been lead aloft
So I’m ridding all your stories
What I know, what it is, is boring, wire it up!
You’re breaking your ground”

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong