Burn Bright, Little Candles of Love

 

The winding road. My heart is filled with gratefulness as I caught up with my university friends over the weekend as we were interns in the same department together. The best thing was that everyone could make it. We shared the good times that we had as one department and I am glad that I am not alone as we faced similar struggles in adapting to the work-life daily grind. Perhaps, the best is to take one moment at a time to get through each day. I just need to keep repeating “I will be okay” over and over again.

The gospel begins by saying,“As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist.

He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed:”One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:1-8).” 

This advent season, we are called to straighten the roads in our lives which have grown wild and overgrown with emotional baggage and sin. It is a time of forgiveness and repentance. The thought of it might sound easy, but the action that comes after is actually harder to achieve. Feelings are hurt, grudges are taken into consideration and relationships are broken.

Rather, we are tasked to prepare for the coming of Jesus who will live among us by doing some spring cleaning of our hearts and lives. We need to acknowledge our sins through the sacrament of reconciliation and to go to the Lord in prayer as he knows the heavy baggages we carry within us.

To dispel the darkness in our hearts, it is important to continue lighting small candles of love and light because only love can combat anything. It is difficult to love sometimes, but if we light these small candles of love by taking the first step, it will make the world a little brighter, a little more understanding and compassionate.

Through our daily struggles and challenges, we need to rely on the Holy Spirit who gives us the courage and wisdom to choose love over hate and I have learnt to lean on God’s providence because sometimes I know I am weary and need the Spirit to guide me through the rest of it all.

As we reach the end of another year, let us continue to reflect on the love of God whose love is always patient, kind and he never gives up on us. He brings us to restful waters where he gives us rest and the strength to pass the light to others who might be still living in darkness. Together, we can be beacons of light to one another in the things we do.

May we continue to keep each other in prayer and pray that we can grow closer to God as we are accountable to him and to lead a more prayerful life, especially during times of challenges that we do not grow distant from him. Amen. God Bless!

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong

 

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Ignite The Candle Of Hope

 

My own prison. I feel that even though I want to slow down to take a breather, I find it so hard to do so because of the context of the situation. It feels like I am that of a caged animal with no where to go. I am trying my best to maintain the equilibrium amidst the uncertainty of each day. There are still glimmers of hope and I am trying to be these moments each day. Treasure these moments because you do not know if they might come again.

The gospel of the week says,” Jesus said to his disciples:”Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.

It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge,each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.

May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all:’Watch!'(Mark 13:33-37).” 

As the start of the advent season begins, we are called to turn our eyes and focus on the cross and also to ponder deeply on the end. It may seem like a morbid thought to think of demise and gloom to usher in the Christmas season, but in reality, we need to be ready for when the time eventually comes, we are called home to be with the Lord.

Though we cannot predict when God will call us back home, we are made to focus on the now which is to keep watch not only in our own spiritual lives but for others as well. As Christmas draws near, are we waiting in anticipation to welcome Jesus into our lives with renewed faith and conviction?

There is time to awake from our slumber and be active in our prayer and spiritual life if we have been asleep and stagnant in neglecting our spiritual needs. It is not about the quantity of prayers but the quality of a prayer that keeps the light on in our spiritual connection with Jesus. I do stumble in my prayer life, but I still keep trying and reflecting more to see where I can go from here. I need to learn to let go of the secular expectations and weights that the world puts on me through the strength and courage of God.

Thus,we should not wait for Jesus to check in with us, but to initiate and check in with him on a daily basis so that we will not be caught unawares in situations where we are filled with regret or sadness for taking the first step to accept and acknowledge him. Jesus is ever patiently waiting for us and we will be welcome into the light of peace and joy if we keep watch and are willing to take the first step and prayer to keep the spiritual fire to know about our faith and the goodness that Jesus brings.

May we continue to be the hope and bring this hope through our daily interaction to the best of our abilities. Though it might not be a perfect hope, through Jesus, he makes our hope perfect and whole again. Let us continue to keep watch, keep the faith and be beacons of hope of love, comfort and joy to the people that matters the most around us.

I would like to close this post with a song by Reyer titled, “Maranatha” which is to fix our eyes on Jesus because he is all we need and not what the secular world dictates of what we should or should not do. God Bless!

“Who are we without You?
Where else could we go?
There’s no other we could turn to
For all is found in You alone
No other name to call on
Than the name of Christ
There’s no other voice to follow
For only You speak words of life
With arms lifted, our eyes upon You
We cry out to heaven
With hearts burning for the one God we pursue
Let this be our anthem 

Maranatha, Lord let your glory fall
Maranatha, Your fire fill us all
Maranatha, Lord Jesus come
Maranatha, Our King is coming soon
Maranatha, And we will wait for you
Maranatha, Lord Jesus come
No other name to call on
Than the name of Christ
There’s no other voice to follow
For only You speak words of life
With arms lifted, our eyes upon You

We cry out to heaven
With hearts burning for the one God we pursue
Let this be our anthem
Maranatha, Lord let your glory fall
Maranatha, Your fire fill us all
Maranatha, Lord Jesus come
Maranatha, Our King is coming soon
Maranatha, And we will wait for you
Maranatha, Lord Jesus come
Lord Jesus come, Lord Jesus come, Lord Jesus come
Heaven is what we long for
Heaven is what we seek
Your presence in this place, let it come, let it come Lord
Heaven is what we long for
You are all we need
Your kingdom on this earth, let it come,let it come Lord”

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong

 

Christ The King: Recognising Christ in Our Lives

 

Finding Respite. It is the end of the liturgical year as we move towards the season of advent. Also with Christmas just around the corner, it seems that we are winding down as the year comes to a close and spending time to soak in the festivities. On the other hand, I have been trying to find respite amidst work, like taking shelter when a storm arrives and trying to find a safe harbour to continue going, to continue pushing on. We all need to keep everyone in prayers for they offer respite when the going gets tough and we can be there for those that need us the most-the people closest to us in our hearts.

The gospel opens by saying, “Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. 

And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me,in prison and you visited me. Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 

When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’

Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.’And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (Matthew 25:31-46).”

The gospel serves as a reminder for us to seek forgiveness and repentance as it offers a glimpse of what will happen when Jesus comes and separates the good from the bad. It is easy to pass through the daily routine of life that we can become numb to those around us. Are we able to recognise the presence of Jesus in our midst?

Most of the time, the choices that we make will influence the outcome of situations and we are called to look after those that have lesser than us- through that we are able to find Jesus because there are many people out there who are struggling in some way or another from poverty, unemployment, illness or who are just lost in life. We can choose to be with them and lend them a listening ear to do something to provide them some respite or at least point them in the right direction.

We are called to try and journey with those in society who have lesser than us and through that experience, there will be a stirring in our hearts that perhaps we can do more and there is always room to do more and that is how we can recognise the face of Jesus present in common men.

It brings back memories of mission trips and local community projects where though the logistics or commitment might be huge, but to see the smiles and the final outcome of how we can impact someone’s life for the better, the positivity that fills the room and the smile on the other person’s face- that is true happiness and joy present.

I kind of miss all that but I think there will be opportunities (who knows?) down the line for me to experience all that again. We can be contented with our lives, but then it will turn our hearts cold and indifferent and it will make us more disillusioned. This is because we are always chasing our own individual success and trying to write our own success story that we forget to find Jesus- only he can provide us true happiness, joy and peace. Are we looking for him in the right places?

Let us remember that Jesus gave his life so that we can find new life through his death and resurrection. He recognizes those that are suffering and are facing oppression from society. Rather than being powerful as king, he is willing to sacrifice everything to become a man.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me,in prison and you visited me.

Let us continue to try and reach out to our brothers and sisters in society who are finding difficulty in their situations and to give them hope that there are people out there who care, to do what we can in our capacity to provide them a listening ear and to have a conversation so that we can understand their needs better.

Because we all can be that one more light to the person or people beside us. God Bless!

Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong

 

Faithful In Small Deeds Equal Great Talents

 

Phases. Weekends seem to pass by more quickly as I try to manage the priorities that I have to do. It is almost at the end of the year and like the ever changing seasons, life changes with them too.  To find a breath of fresh air and newness can be tough because situations do not allow me to slow down and like they say to admire the flowers. Maybe someday, I will be on par with the phases of life.

The gospel begins by saying, “Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one– to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.

Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’

Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter?

Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth (Matthew 25:14-30).”

This gospel reading is one that I can relate with on a personal level because I believe that everyone has his or her own talent. For a brief moment back during university, I use to tutor children and that really made me see that despite their playfulness, they were gifted in many areas and many had their own talents. It was definitely a rewarding experience though it took alot of patience and I mean alot.

Jesus gives us each and everyone talents to call our own, and it might be small or large, but most importantly, it is what we decide to do with the talents that matter. Do we seek to share our talents through a faith based approach to others? and Are we looking to multiply our talents by using it for the greater good?

Being faithful in small deeds means walking with Jesus and taking the first step forward- He will give us strength and courage to take the next step. Small steps to always strive to do something good everyday will lead us to accumulate these small deeds. Talents are meant to be valued and utilized and not being buried or lost to sinful ways.

Let us learn to use our talents so as to prepare ourselves when Jesus asks us, “My beloved child, what have you done with the talents that I have given you?” We can confidently say that we have multiplied the talents and kept the faith. Then Jesus will say these words, “Well done good and faithful servant, come, share your master’s joy”. For this is the greatest testament of building the kingdom of God and may we be always reminded that great talents equal great acts of faith. Amen.

I would like to close this post with a hymn called, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” that we will always fix our eyes on Jesus and be children of the light always to ourselves and others.

 
 
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace
In the light of His glory and grace
Oh soul are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness to see
There’s a light for a look at the Savior
And life more abundant and free
 
His words shall not fail you, He promised
Believe Him and all will be well
Then go to a world that is dying
His perfect salvation to tell”
 
Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong

 

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

 

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