Saturday, 30 April 2016

My First Love

" Jesus said to his disciples:
“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him."


JOHN 14: 23

6th Sunday of Easter


Loving others, is definitely isn't easy.
Is loving God any easier?

Living in a world of plenty, in a situation where Faith - the Catholic Christian Faith - is almost non-existent because many live in ignorance does not make a faithful life any easier. We have seen in the recent events in Germany and Paris, where refugees and displaced people were found to be contributing to public disturbances. We have witnessed on news, the violence of those claiming to be faithful to Islam, these people were found to be suicide bombers or terrorist, shooting down innocent people.

I am not here to discriminate or label refugees/displaced people, but I am trying to highlight that in our plenty, the plenty we have may overshadow our Faith, or overshadow something we hold in high regard.

To me loving God, isn't easy. I will rather face reality, and admit that it is not easy. It is a decision not to be taken lightly too, especially by the many who claim to be Christians but they do not "keep my (God's) word".

Loving God, is not perfection by itself; as human beings we cannot love God on our own. To love God is a step I take every moment, a conscious step towards God's Love. It is not I who love God, but it is God who Loved me first; I come to understand God's Love, what it is to be Loved, only by experience/knowing the immensity of God who Loved me first.

If I have not experienced God's Love, then I will never dare say that I know how to love God.

To me, I am one among many, who were privileged to have encountered a mysterious higher calling. It led me to have a very significantly profound, spiritual experience, that saw me ultimately getting baptized in 1997. This was my first love, but even first loves can be lost if we do not appreciate this first encounter with Love; I need to appreciate my first encounter with God's Love by praying daily, observing (penance) practices that will keep me away from things temporal, I need to be mindful that the Devil is present in my midst.

Let us, let me, together with Holy Mother Church cry out to the coming of the Holy Ghost - praying that the Spirit may help us to experience God's Love and grow in intimacy with God who is Love. We remember that God is always ready to Love us, God is full of Love - let us turn to God who is Love.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

I Hear a Voice

“It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first,..." Acts 13: 46

Jesus said:
“My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me."  JOHN 10:27 -30


4th Sunday of Easter - Good Shepherd Sunday (Vocation Sunday)

This morning in reflection, I was rather disturbed about why Jesus will compare me to an animal? Jesus compared his relationship with those who have been given eternal life (believers), as that of a shepherd with their sheep.

But, yes, it is because at the time of Jesus Christ shepherding was a very common activity; sheep and shepherds were common.

I am very much made fearful, or disappointed with my self when I see that I am very poor at understanding. I can hear so much sounds around me, and to some sounds I listen intensively. Yet, the amount of effort I take to decipher what I listen is tremendously minimal! When I reflected back today, on recent events, I see how often I have made undesirable response to situations.

So often I act upon what I feel rather than on what I have thought with feeling; I believe that it is important that our responses be thoughtfully processed through the mind as well as the heart. Perhaps, like many, I too complain about time being the factor. We want things fast, people expect us to do things fast....Fast, fast, fast...No time.

Perhaps, that is why many people shy away from discussing about wrong doings? Maybe this is the reason many simply reply with, "I AM ONLY HUMAN", thinking it is the best way to not give a reason when bad decisions are made? Yet, we must remember that some moments in life God does speak with a fearful, undesirable and unfriendly voice; look at the Old Testaments, where he send Prophets and Prophetess to testify to the people - that people change their ways.

Today, I am challenged to take on humility. Humility, so that like the sheep, I too can be shepherded to green pastures and flowing streams. Shepherded because I know my master, the shepherd, I hear his voice and I follow - I am willing to follow Jesus, the good shepherd. Why I follow Jesus, because Jesus is the only good and perfect shepherd who gave His life for me, rose from the dead and is now glorified in the Kingdom of God, His father.

I am aware that Jesus speaks to me in gentle and insignificant ways; in the events of life, through others around me, through the challenges I face. I pray that through humility, through my willingness to hear the voice of God around me, and then to take steps to walk towards the direction of the shepherd, I hope to perform better in life - to live a purposeful, God-centered life. In moments where I am stubborn and stuck, events where the shepherd's voice is not clear, maybe when I feel His voice is not even present, I know Jesus will come in search for me, carry me over His shoulders, mend my wounds and lead me forward.

I hope that through humility and patience I will be able to better conduct myself so as to be a good ambassador of Jesus Christ.

As a teacher-brother stationeries are one of the essentials. Recently, I took some minutes to give each pen a wipe down, aware that many microorganisms may be present on them. I take my vocation as a teacher seriously because,
"I know of one means only by which to attain to perfection: LOVE. Let us love, since our heart is made for nothing else."


Sunday, 3 April 2016

Temporary Tattoo and a Lit Face

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.


Gospel of John 20: 20

2nd Sunday of Easter (End of Easter Octave)

Dear friends,
What does it mean to belief?

I am fortunate to have a friend, who has a stall in the market of South Bank. This year, I have visited him once to just take things easy, chill under the autumn sun, to do some people watching at his stall. Next to his stall was a temporary tattoo vendor; a young men, armed with his air brushes of different colours and banners displaying his various tattoo designs.

A family, with 3 young children had just enjoyed their dip in the public pool, they were strolling. Saw the temporary tattoo stall and decided to allow their children to get a tattoo each. A boy and a girl were given that opportunity, but the other child was too young to appreciate a tattoo, the child was still an infant.

Between the girl and the boy, the boy was the youngest about 3-4 years of age. My friend and I were just so captivated to see his reaction during the entire process of getting a tattoo. The boy went up to the banner of available designs, pointed to one design and the vendor got out that design. The boy was then placed on a high stool, he got the areas of skin cleansed with alcohol, the stencil design placed over his skin and the air brush started working.

It took less than 1 minute, mind you.

Oh, we were so captivated when we saw the face of that boy! Once the vendor took away the stencil and the tattoo appeared on the boy's skin, the boy's face just lit up! The boy's reaction was one saying, "I CANNOT BELIEVE IT! IT'S AMAZING!

The next thing the boy did was to go up to his daddy, and showed it to his dad. Of cause the dad was not all that excited compared to his son's.

Don't we adults sometimes miss out on getting easily amazed by what we hear, see, and touch?

Thus, before we ask ourselves what believing means, perhaps we must see if we are willing to 'select out tattoo design...allow ourselves to be placed on a stool...wait patiently as our skin is cleansed with alcohol...the working of the air brush...the removal of the tattoo stencil...'. Will our face lit up when we see the design on our skin?

It's the same with daily living, do we allow ourselves to go through the process? We can never believe, be truly convinced Catholic Christians, if we do not allow ourselves to freely experience the process. If we want to belief that Jesus is risen, and not only risen, but glorified...Then we have to allow God to lead us in the process of our discovery, our faith discovery.

We need to freely avail ourselves, be child-like, be free...So that we can realise, we can 'truly understand the waters in which we were cleansed, the Spirit by which we were reborn, the blood by which we were redeemed'[ Concluding Prayer of 2nd Sunday of Easter].

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Spray n Wipe

"Little lights, coming together as ONE..."
- Was a message I once gave to the Salt+Light Student Prayer Group.

As I enter Holy Week - from 20th March as Palm/Passion Sunday and culminating in the greatest celebration of the Roman Church - EASTER TRIDUUM (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday)! I look forward to Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Last week, it was a very testing time as I intensified my abstinence and fasting. It was indeed a spiritual battle, questions and ideas flooded into my mind - "Is Jesus really the Son of God? Or, did he CLAIM to be one?" I will not claim that I was comforted that one of the Gospel of the week touched on Jesus speaking to the Jewish elders, Jesus told them that it is fine you don't want to believe in him, but Jesus told them to at least believe in the work he does; believe in God who does the good through Jesus Christ.

I dare share my doubts that Jesus is the Son of God, because Faith is a LIVING PROCESS. Faith is not dead! Faith is in the resurrection of Jesus - Son of the Living and True God. We live in a very noisy world, yes, our Faith can and is tested. Our persistence to be truly a disciple of Jesus not only by name, but through a way of living is not easy.

Holy Week is just like this - a very noisy event! We got Palm Sunday (Jesus enters Jerusalem, the place he will be put on the cross), Holy Thursday (having his last meal, washing of feet, commandment to serve), Good Friday (his persecution, torture and death), Holy Saturday (Jesus' body in the tomb) and Holy Easter Sunday (Jesus rises from the dead). We see different faces in these events, we see those who loved Jesus, we witness the cruelty of others, we see women and children, we look at Pilate, we see the soldiers who tortured Jesus, we see Mary Magdelene, we see Peter, we see John, we see the angels in the tomb, we see the linen used to wrap the corpse of Jesus.....

I enter Holy Week tracing the steps Jesus took on His final journey on earth with the insights I received out of today's Silent Retreat conducted by the Verbum Dei Missionary Sisters at Bardon.

Some words that God spoke to me through Scriptures were:
1) "But they persisted..." Luke 23: 5 - The Jewish elders and the crowds, they persisted that Jesus be condemned under Pilate. I asked myself, in my daily living, am I persistent for the correct issues and right reasons? Do I find myself insisting after events and situations that speaks for Truth, for the good of the poor, for families, for life, for the environment? Or do I persist only in issues and situations that feed my personal comfort? Where is my focus, where do I invest my strengths in?

2) "The disciples then went home again." John 20: 10 - Often, I am like Peter and John, who after having seen an empty tomb, I still forget that Jesus has told me that he will rise from the dead. We are slow to believe aren't we? I take time to believe, in challenging situations, in my down depressing times, I forget the message of Jesus. Our eyes are easily fixed on the miserable empty tomb, forgetting that Jesus has overcome his suffering and death, and He is now glorified! I must, by prayer and faith, constantly remember that Jesus is greater than my miseries. My miseries are meant to lift me, to form me for greater things.

3) "Do not cling to me,...." John 20:17 - Jesus mentioned this to Mary Magdalene, not to hold onto his earthly body that has risen from the tomb. Jesus told Mary to wait until he returns to the Father in Glory. Then at that time, when Jesus is in all His Glory - is his true self, revealed - then Mary, the disciples and all people can cling to Jesus hard. Jesus does not want us to be shallow and blind followers, Jesus challenges us to look not at his earth mortal being, but the message that is found in the fullness of His person in God the Father; in his glorified self, this is what we worship and believe, a Jesus glorified and seated at the right hand of God the Father.

I enjoy using this detergent for cleaning. Why, you asked? Because on the label it says, "SPRAY N WIPE"! Easy, less work for me, I use it for my floor, table, bath and toilet.

As I enter Holy Week, I remember that life's circumstances are not as easy as a spray n wipe. How nice if that is how daily living is; any struggle, any dirt, any pain, any arguments, any miscommunications, any thing we do not like about our bodies (oh, I know I don't like certain things about my body!), any failures (business, career, family)...How nice if it is as easy as spraying and wiping? We know life isn't that easy. But, as a Catholic-Christian I firmly believe that Jesus, Son of the Father, has risen. Baptized into the death of Jesus, I have been anointed to RISE WITH JESUS; no earthly pain, no evil here on earth can lock me down. I can rise and I shall rise!

I hope this is your realization, too, this coming Easter.


Sunday, 13 March 2016

Something New

'Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
see, I am doing something new!'

Prophet Isiah 43: 18, 19

5th Sunday of Lent

Yesterday, as I was having some my-time, going out to the market for brekkie and cappuccino, I was at the same time having a deep personnel reflection. As I approach the final few weeks of Lent, this image of allowing God to take the complete lead came to my heart.


As I reflected on my life, some people claim they admire me because I am fearless, I have the courage to leave things behind and step into the unknown. People admire my faith, my deep trust in God and the Roman Catholic Church, my commitment to the poor, dedicated in whatever I do.

In short, I think many think that I am a risk-taker?!

Yet, like myself, many of us fail to see what happens underneath of things. I do admit I fear, I have doubts and, very often, I need years to accumulate the reasons/courage to do life changing events. I think it is a usual worry - the worry about what people may think about us when we take certain decisions in life - it happens to me too. I worry what my relatives are going to say about me, what gossipers around me will say, what my friends will think of me - it happens to me too.

Yet, perhaps why people continue to admire my faith and action, I think it is the fact that I let things sit in God's Presence. I battle with my fears, doubts and worries about the judgement of others, and I let God have His ways.

I have to tell you, why I am still this joyful, faithful, convinced person that I still am is because, I tell you, because I learn to slowly let go and let God take me for a drive. I let God have His ways, yes I may have my doubts, fears, worries...But once I have decided to take the first tiny-fearful step, I tell myself by what ever means, I must reach the finishing line.

Like prophet Isiah, my faith in Jesus Christ means to lose everything so as to have God in my life, in my duties, in what ever I do as an ordinary person of God...Letting go, not doubting, not fearing, is never easy for any of us to do. But, faith in Christ tells us to be radical - to let go of our control, and let God bring us to "SOMETHING NEW".

Real Life Lesson : Last week, I had 2 lesson presentations to deliver and there is one major item that I fear - "I wonder if the audience will be affected by my slang?" I did not focus if my lesson will be understood, will I deliver within the time limit, will I make an impact - all these points where a teacher must focus on, just melt away due to my self doubt that my slang will make my English bad. You know, the wonderful thing is, as usual when I step in front of the class, I remind myself that I am unimportant - the focus must be on the audience, the students. Placing the entire lesson presentation in God's hands, I begin my lesson. The comments that follow struck me deeply, I was told that:
  • I have a nice SMILE...it makes students feel safe
  • I am so SOLID
  • I have CONFIDENCE, I know every detail of the topic I am presenting
  • I have very good VOICE PROJECTION
  • It is like I have taught for many YEARS
When I let go, unexpected new things follow.
So do not be afraid to take cautious risk, remember not to think of the past. Learn from the past, put the now in God's hands and God will bring us to something new!

May the final 2 weeks of Lent, be a time of letting go and allow God to work through us in our Prayer, Fasting and Alms Giving. Stop procrastinating and looking for reasons not to Pray, Fast and Give Alms, do these in small but sincere-powerful ways, and God who is beyond our understanding will bring us to something new. Trust me, God will!

I use this just for an example...Let go of our worries, fear, doubts...Let God brings us to SOMETHING NEW.
Newness cannot spring, if we only want to be in complete control.
Me too, I think in all things, I have at least, maybe, just a finger of few fingers, in control...I too wonder if it is wise to let my hands all go free, letting God take the complete control?

Don't let go of the steering wheel, but let go of our CONTROL so new things can, and will come.  

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Not Why

Greetings to all of you, this 4th Sunday of Lent, in the Extraordinary Year of Mercy.

I suggest that I start with the recent royal commission hearing with regards to Cardinal Pell and his role in regards to child abuses; I promised to speak on this last weekend, which I did not.
"The Church has made enormous mistakes..."
- Cardinal Pell
(quoted from news.com.au)

I don't think I will judge what I think about the royal commission because on a personal level I have not met Cardinal Pell nor have I delved deeply into the issues about abuses committed by priest and religious men. But, all I can say is that what I have heard from the published news, the news are not new to me.

I will make this blog sharing brief, using real experiences that I experienced about 7 years ago involving Mons. Anthony Randazzo and Fr. Paul Chandler, O.Carm:
  1. The Church lacks sensitivity (Pastoral Care): Very often, church hierarchy and those working with the church, lack the mercy of God the Father. There is no outreach to guide people, to guide sinners, with tenderness and love. Most often ordinary people, even when a mistake has been identified, they are left alone until they (priests, religious, church workers) find a good moment to shut the ordinary person up and kick them out of the system. Priests are there as shepherds of the flock of Christ, and religious men (also the sisters) share in this pastoral ministry. Without sensitivity, without willingness to go to the level of how others are feeling, or as what Pope Francis said, without the ability to CRY...Then where is that pastoral care? 
  2. The Church has a system that is exclusive: You see, when I decided to make known what I discovered after my dealings with Fr. Chandler and Mons. Randazzo, Fr. Chandler sent me a lawyer's letter asking me to apologize. Thank goodness, I found out that in the Brisbane Diocese there is an organisation called Professional Standards (Qld), I made use of it to report on Mons. Randazzo. But, I think what many, myself included, are upset about is the Professional Standards is an organisation that is mainly made up of lawyers. I was taken aback and asked myself, "where are the priests and religious?" Why aren't matters dealt professionally by a number of priests and religious? How can the church benefit when they are shielded from meeting with those who have encountered abuses either sexually, mentally, spiritually or emotionally? It's like the church (priests and religious) are saying that we don't want to be part of the sad issues of people we have abused?
[Strictly Without Prejudice]

From what I get out of the past week's royal commission hearing is that the victims of abuse is seeking for pastoral care, they want priest in power (Cardinal Pell for example) to do something when something has to be done. If I am right the entire saga about sex abuse scandals by priests of the past, it is not about money and I am sure it is not politically motivated. In my dealings with the Professional Standards (QLD) 'agaisnt' Mons. Randazzo, I was put off when it was a very detailed legal investigation against Mons. Randazzo, when all I simply wanted was Mercy; all I wanted was for Randazzo to know and acknowledge that he has made mistakes against me and other seminarians, and perhaps do things better in the future. If I am right, many like me desire the Church to be merciful; come to the aid of victims, show pastoral concern, visit them, give moral support. I don't think these are too much to ask, because after all Priests' role is in pastoral care and not management/administration as reminded by Pope Francis.

At the same time, I hope the public and the victims will also be merciful towards Cardinal Pell and those who have been charged for sexual misconducts. Just as the Father has been forgiving to us, let us forgive the perpetrators. I do hope that Cardinal Pell keeps his promise to do something for the victims of abuse in Australia.

4th Sunday of Lent
Luke 15: 1 says, " Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus..."

Here in Queensland, no news, or maybe it is not promoted, concerning the 24 hours adoration and reconciliation from 4th-5th March. But, its good I realised this and in my own spiritual way I long to be with God in the Blessed Sacrament at the Altar.

This week's Gospel brings back memories of a very fruitful and successful Prodigal Son Retreat that I had, a retreat directed by Bishop John Ha many years ago.

As I was reflecting on the Gospel...I think not to waste your time...Let me tell you. We humans are far away from God! We are not an inch like God, sadly. Let us look at what Jesus narrates God the Father to be. Jesus tells the story of the prodigal/lost son telling us that God the Father is:
  • GENEROUS - the son felt like leaving home, the father permitted. The father gave the son's share of his inheritance and allowed the son to go out into the world.
  • not concerned about the WHY - the son after experiencing hardships in the outside world, decided to go back to his father's house. Be mindful the son has spent all his inheritance and has committed big mistakes; the lost son was leading a life of dissipation. Yet, in the son's return the father immediately went out to meet his son, clothed him, fed him...The father never asked why. No reasons were needed, why? Because in just taking the road back to the father, that is important. Not the why. It is in the decision of the son to turn back and return to the father - this is enough to show a changed in life, and reasons becomes unimportant.
Sadly many of us are not like God, speaking about our priest especially. Have we seen many priests who will trouble themselves to give money or assistance to a person who wants to leave God's House and go out into the world? Have we seen priests who will take the trouble to stay up and watch during the night shift for the 24 hours adoration and reconciliation? Have we seen priests who will, without a question, embrace you and love you and forgive you just by your action of turning towards the Confessional. Any priest run towards you, kneel before you and hug you when they see you coming towards the Sacrament of Penance to confess your sins?

Something for many of us to think, but priests in particular because they are called specifically to be another Christ.

Remember, God is not interested in your WHYs...God does not need your reasons. All God wants to see is your determination to turn away from a life of dissipation and go towards God who is the fullness of life.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Pretty Scary

2nd Sunday of Lent

This week's Gospel we listen to the event surrounding the transfiguration of the Lord Jesus; in the presence of Peter, James and John, Jesus' body and clothes appeared dazzling white. And a voice, the voice of God sounded from the clouds saying, "This is my chosen Son, listen to him."


LISTEN - One of the Pope's invitation this Lent is for us to "LISTEN", to listen to the Word of God. I was reflecting this evening, wondering how often do I listen? How well do I listen? Honestly, outside of work in schools, my listening capacity relaxes. When I am in my role as an educator, my listening skills in tightened, to the extend that I expect my students to listen to me while I only try to listen to them.

Not, easy! Honestly not easy. Not easy to listen to others, to demand that my students and those I speak out against listen to me. Perhaps, that is why many of us do not listen to one another, because we know it is useless, we know listening is tedious and most often does not work.

While, listening in silence is also pretty scary! The art of listening, or what many of us call Christian Meditation, creates a suitable inner space where our inner senses become activated - activated to be more attentive to the voice of God, which inevitably makes us more aware of ourselves; our weaknesses as well as our strengths.

Sometimes, while meditating my weaknesses do become more prominently made aware. Very often I react in meditation by moving, opening my eyes or just allow my thoughts/inner senses to return back to earth. To come face to face with my own weaknesses is very ugly and uncomfortable.

Maybe this is why we do not invest a lot towards the art of listening? We rather be immersed in noise, or sitting down around familiar faces to drown our stress/sadness in familiar gossips. Some of us run away and hide when we are stressed or depressed.

Vision of Glory - So, why does God call us to listen? If we read the Old Testament we see countless of wise men and women, prophets and prophetess who had many mysterious encounters with the Voice of God. Their lives were transformed as a consequence of their action - they acted in accordance with the voice they heard in the wilderness, deep in the desert.

Serious listening to the Word of God, and even to one another, ultimately allows God's Goodness to shine. Universally we call this goodness as love, peace, joy, unity...We call it by many names.

St Benedict, said to be the founder of Western Monasticism, encourages his sons (his followers) to listen. Benedict of Norcia affirms his followers that listening brings joy! If God's Voice should be heard in you today, right now, harden not your hearts, quotes St Benedict....When you hear God's Voice harden not your hearts, but allow your lives, your ways, your thoughts to be transformed!

Let our prayer this 2nd Sunday of Lent be, "Lord Jesus, radiant in glory, teach me how to listen to you with generosity. Filled with your words, let my life be transformed allowing your glory to shine forth."


Sunday, 14 February 2016

Letting Go

For the Scripture says,
No one who believes in him will be put to shame.
 
Romans 10: 11
 
1st Sunday of Lent
 
 
Of late, just a few days ago, as I begun the next stage of my pilgrimage in life I found it difficult to let go. I was in a dilemma, torn between moving forward and staying right where I am comfortably am. My mind, my feelings, were in a state of chaos - like a tiny boat in rough seas.
 
This questioning if I should move forward in life took place at the most critical phase of my new step in life; the early phase of my journey. I wanted, so wanted, to say, "NO!!!!!!" I wanted to remain where I felt most comfortable, doing the usual things I am so used to after 4+ years teaching in Asia.
 
Going forward is not easy, because like so many, I too wish to be attached. To be attached to things, to people, to routines that we have found to be working for us. I remembered that Jesus once said that if we look back, if we think about burying our dead father, then we are not worthy of the Kingdom of God; we are not worthy of the glory that awaits us, who believe, in the future.
 
I admit, these very few days I have been looking back. Reluctant to move forward, reluctant to let everything rest in Jesus who, I am very sure, knows what is best for me. Jesus knows much better than myself. If only I have FAITH!
 
Lent is this - to have Faith in the salvation that awaits us at the end of a journey. To have Faith that the fruits which is now unseen, will be given to us who turn to Jesus. Turning to Jesus once we acknowledged the great love God has for us sinners. Turning to Jesus because we know that we have sinned, and sinned greatly! In turning to Jesus, Jesus embraces us with outstretched arms - God only gives us abundant goodness when we cry out to him, when we turn to him.
 
'He brought us out of Egypt
with his strong hand and outstretched arm,
with terrifying power, with signs and wonders;
and bringing us into this country,
he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.'
Deuteronomy 26: 8-9
 
Today at Mass, I ask for God's forgiveness for looking back - desiring to be attached to things of the past, while forgetting the glory that awaits me at the end of my next pilgrimage journey in life. I pray today, for the grace to surrender my journey to the God who will bring each of us, who are brave enough to move ahead, to a land flowing with milk and honey (richness).
 
Jesus, ever merciful let me savor the sweetness of your mercy and be transformed!