Thursday, 28 May 2015

General Chapter 2015...on Minority

The theme of the OFM General Chapter 2015 starting from 10th May up to 8th June is MINORITY & THE LESSER ONES OF OUR TIME.
Yes, the areas of MINORITY and the concern for the LESSER ONES were the ideals of our Holy Seraphic Father, St Francis of Assisi. 

[Pope Francis meeting with those gathered for the chapter on Tues 26th May]
Ever wondered how will a Franciscan identify him or herself as a Minor - Minority?
Before I share on how am I a minor, bear in mind that it is very difficult to put a way of life in a word-for-word concept; not easy to explain in words. First, to be a minor, means to be little. Little in the sense that we are nothing but mere mortal creatures; we are nothing at all, and thus, we must desire nothing, have nothing, long for nothing but heaven.
I remembered when I studied the writing of St Francis and the history of the Franciscan Orders...Francis identified himself with the minors of his time; he striped off his luxurious clothing in exchange for the rugged clothing of a poor beggar. At one time when his father (a cloth merchant) demanded that Francis returned all the clothe materials that Francis gave away to the poor, what Francis did was shocking...Francis stripped himself NAKED in the public square and returned everything that was on his body to the father; that very day Francis denounced his earthly Father, and said that he only has one father - God the Father.
I identify myself as a minor as best as I can with the help of God; yes, I am not as bold as what St Francis did like to take on the beggar's clothes, denounce my earthly daddy and go naked in public. I desire to be a minor by striving for the below (I just share a few, omitting any mention of my mission works):
To be a minor, to be little, to be insignificant the first step is to ask this:
"What do those who are little in my society experience? What is it like to be a minor in the environment I am living in, in church, in the work place, in public...those who are homeless, voiceless, powerless?
  1. On the top of the list is PRAYER - my minority, my littleness, will be hypocritical if I am not little internally, if I am not small before God the Mighty One.
  2. on the list ONENESS with REALITY - to be one with all that is real around me, acknowledging that suffering is part and parcel of life. Realizing and being one with the happenings around my environment, my warming, excessive waste, suffering of the illegal immigrants, joy of family life, success experienced after a hard work. Just to embrace everything, good and bad, that comes before me. Why be willing to embrace everything around me? If I cannot accept everything, good and bad, I will be found always trying to change things. This is not good, because always trying to change things will lead to a troubled inner-self, we become worried. But, when we just learn to accept everything, to accept reality, we are at peace. The trick is always to remember that God is LOVE...God gives us only what that is LOVING - GOOD; this we must trust and believe! God will never give us anything that will harm us, because we are sons and daughters of God.
  3. Thirdly, I see myself as a minor by DENOUNCING myself - this is the reason I am always seen and judge that I am "close" to students; I play with them, pray with them, talk to them...I put myself last while I serve others, I always tell myself that if I do not lose my convenience, then that is not charity. If I do not feel pain, a sense of loss of personal comfort if I do not feel the pain of giving up time and effort for others, then to me that is definitely not Charity in the real sense. I also tend to denounce my rights, always eager to stand for the rights of others first; that is why I turned down many offers to be a Principle and the offers to be given money to start a school.
  4. The next way I see myself a minor is to be in SOLIDARITY with the poor - if those in society who are suffering do not possess certain items in life. Then as best as I can, I try to either not have that item or to possess only part of it; for example the mobile phone is a daily essential, but those who are not well off can only do with a basic phone, so I get myself a basic phone only, not a brand that is way too expensive.
  5. Lastly, is IDENTITY - I identify myself with those I serve - that is why many teachers comment that I am close to students; I play with them, eat with them, pray with them, talk with them. Many can see that I hardly have anytime to bond with teachers...I must feel and experience, what those I serve feel and experience. If I do not do this, then I am not serving the students and the poor.
...What about YOU? How do you identify yourself a minor? How are you in solidarity with the lesser ones in our time?

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Happy Birthday!

"...yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues
of the mighty acts of God.”
Acts 2: 11
Pentecost Sunday - The Birth of the Church
Teachers Day (in Malaysia, May 15th)
To speak about the great acts of God - what does this really mean? Recently the Pope spoke about how Jesus sees us? How does Jesus look at us? What does Jesus want for us, His Mission for us?
Merely speaking can be easy, and it makes no one tremble.
A true speaker of God is one who speaks in communion with the Spirit of God. This speaker speaks not of his or her own accord, but on what Jesus has commanded him or her to say. The speaker who speaks, and whose words cause others to tremble is a speaker who speaks words that come from the Spirit of God; his or her words are empowered, infused, with the sanctity of the Holy Spirit.
Are you a speaker of God or a mere speaker? Does your words and actions have their origin in God through prayer, or are your words and actions coming from a mind of their own?
Recently, a church member told me a person by the name of Hariet Thomas mentioned this to her on the very first time they officially met. Hariet Thomas said this:
"I am a Catholic, and will die a Catholic. But in school
I am an administrator."
This excuse of separating Faith from daily living aren't fresh news, because majority, not all, of people behave as such. They only allow qualities of Faith and goodness to influence them in areas of life that does not involve work and money; they desire independence. When I discussed this with another person of a different Faith, she shared that Hariet is trying to say that Faith does not influence her actions during work. What a joke we said to ourselves?!!!
In other words Hariet is dismissing herself from her Faith and is telling either that she isn't a "PRACTICING CATHOLIC" or she is NOT a Catholic at all.
Friends, the coming of the Holy Spirit is to empower us to speak for God- to speak about the great Acts of God. We need to be very careful by the words we utter out, because by making a statement as the one made by Hariet, we have sinned against the Spirit; to utter such sentence to separate Faith from daily living, is to deny Christ, is to deny our Faith.
Make that choice this Pentecost Sunday to either be on the side of Jesus Christ or to deny Jesus Christ. The choice is yours but do not do injustice to the Church, to God and to your very self by uttering such words thinking that there is such a thing as SEPARATION OF FAITH from state or from work.
If I do meet Hariet Thomas I will say what a "FOOL SHE IS"; its of great sadness for me to hear that uttered from the mouth of a Catholic for the first time in my life. Those who utter such statement like Hariet's are fools, please don't then claim to be "Catholic" because you are just being a False Witness of the Gospel.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The refugees deserve support and respect

(Published in the Star Paper [Malaysia] on 19 May, 2015)

THANK you, The Star, for keeping us updated on the recent developments surrounding the Rohingya and Bangladeshi immigrants. Your news has created in me a sense of gratitude for what I have and not be too eager to pursue the little that I do not have.

Recently, when I went to have my usual breakfast in a coffeeshop after Sunday mass, a foreign worker from Myanmar came to take my order. While he took it down, we started to talk. The conversation started because he realised that he shared the same faith as me, and we happily chatted for a few minutes.

I noticed that this simple conversation meant a great deal to this foreign worker who, I am sure, has to work long hours without much time for a break, earns a minimal daily wage (perhaps without EPF and Socso) and lives in a simple room without much comfort.

Many people dream of leaving their homelands in search of better opportunities in other countries.
I have heard of friends who left their hometowns to accept better job offers in big cities such as Shanghai, or in countries like Singapore and Australia.

I have friends who made the choice to live permanently in a foreign land in a culture of mutual respect and proper social etiquette.

Just like Malaysians who leave their homeland, the immigrants who enter Malaysia either legally or illegally, are leaving their countries to find better opportunities elsewhere. Many of those who chose to enter illegally are doing so out of desperation due either to war, persecution or poverty.

The recent cases of the abandonment of immigrants on boats by irresponsible people smugglers just add to their suffering. Knowing that a good number died while going to a foreign land shows the fragility of human life and the courage it took for these immigrants to make the treacherous journey by boat.

When we leave our homelands in search of greener pastures, we only have a basic expectation in the form of respect.

We desire to be treated with common respect in the foreign land. We hope only to be treated as any other human being and be given food, clothing, shelter, the opportunity to earn a basic living and human contact.

I am proud of Malaysia because, as I was made aware just a year ago, this country does welcome immigrants while their applications for refugee status are processed by UNHCR.

This is a very good sign and I strongly urge Malaysians from every level of society to do more in terms of respecting and supporting them.

If it is within our reach, let us apply political pressure on nations where people are facing intense daily hardships to the extent that leaving their homeland illegally through heartless people smugglers seems to be the only choice.


Saturday, 16 May 2015

Of Bowing and Of the Poor

'Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also must love one another.'

1 JOHN 4: 11
7th Sunday of Easter (Sunday after Ascension Thursday)

It takes a lot of courage to speak up - especially when it means to speak up for the sake of others, namely the poor; the poor here I mean those who are not necessarily without money or possession, but those who are less powerful, those neglected, those on the margins of society, those who are misunderstood, the sinner...Just recently I had to speak up for another educator who was unjustly judged by their employer. This is just not right! Employees (namely in the person of the Deputy Principle) are in that position of duty due to their experiences and knowledge of the subject, and to behave in such a dishonourable behaviour is unacceptable.

That educator was unfortunately dismissed, but she remains a popular figure among her students whom she serves with great respect, dedication and holiness.

Bowing to the poor is not a disrespectful behaviour, but it shows the deep respect the person has for the other person. Bowing is not necessarily only in terms of lowering your head, but it can also mean to speak gently of the other, the willingness to listen, the courage to be honest, the willingness to bring about unity in the midst of discord. To bow to the other, especially to the poor, requires a sacred humility, a humility that comes from a communion with God. This humility can shake the other person you bow to!
(Pope Francis lowers his head as he requested for Prayers after his election as the Supreme Pontiff)

Trust me! A sacred humility can bring a multitude of conversions and sanctification in other people. 

In my entire life I have tried my very best to remain faithful to my vocation by prayer and penance. The major result of my faithfulness is that my physical body does radiate a kind of brightness; many people will always double stare at me in public and in church. People can always see something radiating out of me, something special, sacred and out of this world.The result of this faithfulness is also an attentive sensitivity to the real needs of others, not the superficial needs (rubbing shoulders, pretentious behaviour...), and as a result I tend to use strong and direct words when addressing situations whereby I realise an injustice has been done.

I strongly think that we need strong people with courageous words to speak up for the poor, but by not despising the rich (those who are powerful, those who think themselves as right...)

Friends, remember that it is in humility, in bowing to the poor, that we are raised up to GREATER heights! Life is so much richer when we are able to find that sacred humility needed to bow to the other, to creation, to respect everything and every situation we face each day. Let us end by being mindful that we "do not belong to the world", but Jesus Christ has "consecrated us in the Truth" of God's Word (JOHN 17: 16-17).

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Mercy an Act of Defeat?

Peter, however, raised him up, saying,
“Get up. I myself am also a human being.”
ACTS 10: 26
Gospel for the 6th Sunday of Easter from JOHN 15: 9-17
Month of May is a month dedicated to special devotions to Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ Our Lord.
It must have taken Jesus a lot of courage to say to his disciples, "I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. (John 15: 15)" Let us remember that the disciples that followed Jesus Christ were strangers that Jesus picked as he proceed with His ministry; the disciples were strangers, unknown to Jesus. The Bible, too, never informed of an interview Jesus had before selecting the 12 strangers who ultimately became the 12 Apostles.
Yes, Judas, one of the twelve, ended up betraying Jesus.
Not easy to entirely trust others. I have close friends who at some stage in their lives decides to remain a 'low profile' by not revealing their personal activities (work, family, money, food...). I too at some stage in life decided to keep things 'private'- thinking it is better to keep things quiet as others may misinterpret my sayings. I have also heard of family members who distance themselves from each other due to family quarrels.
If it is so difficult to entirely trust our closest of friends and family...How hard more it will be for us to trust strangers?
YEAR OF Consecrated Life
It is now May, and I will like to draw my attention to the fact that this is the Year for Consecrated Life. I like to share my past and present experiences on this matter and the reason why Pope Francis so often criticises our church; Pope Francis reminds us of the importance to reform ourselves first hand, before we go out there reforming others.
This aren't new news, what I have to say is already what you know.
Many of the established Religious Orders (De La Salle, Franciscans, Jesuits, Infant Jesus Sisters, FMDM Sisters, Priesthood...) due to the nature of the establishment these institutions are controlled by people who are in fact protecting their own existence. These people unfortunately are religious men and women of God. You know what I mean? Much of our church hierarchy be it in Vatican, your local Church, Diocese, Religious Orders they are controlled by men and women who behaves like CEOs that we can get in any existing business organisation.
This was one major thing that made many people shunned entering religious life, but in reality many young men and women are not welcomed in. Many of the Major Superiors of Religious Orders and Rectors of Seminaries are controlled by people who run their organisations as it they are the owners of it. They are at the top positions of the hierarchy often not to serve the needs of God, but to serve the desires of the few 'close allies/friends' that they have. 
When it is run as such, how can we expect to recognise the face of Jesus Christ in the person who comes to us, seeking to follow Jesus in the path of Consecrated Life or Priesthood? Major Superiors and Rectors of Seminaries must acknowledge that as Church (not singling out consecrated life or priesthood) we are here to give ultimate support to each other to grow in full understanding of God's Will in the life of each individual that comes to us. No matter how weird, no matter how sinful, no matter how ugly the person who knocks on our doors seeking to journey towards a possible Consecrated Life or Priesthood, it is out duty to welcome them with open arms and allow God to do the rest.

That is why Pope Francis recently lamented that Priests must not be judgemental during Confession. We are not there to condemn, but to be merciful, to offer healing to those injured by the reality of human tribulations.
In the depth of my heart, I feel it so beautiful that as we observe Year of Consecrated Life, we will move straight into the Jubilee Year of The Mercy of God. So appropriate! We need MERCY! The Church needs it! Without mercy there will be no healing, strangers will be left at the margins, members of God's body (you and me) will be left forsaken by our priests/religious.

We pray that like Peter who said to Cornelius, "I MYSELF AM ALSO A HUMAN BEING", we pray for the same humility in us, in our priests, in our religious and in our church members.
Remember as much as we want our priests and religious to me merciful, are you willing to practice MERCY yourselves? Many fear to be merciful because to be merciful means to walk together with those who are in 'sin' (the sick, the troubled, the depressed, the sorrowful...)? Have you given a shoulder to a horrible stranger (perhaps someone you cannot get along with? someone who you judged as 'weird'?) to get some support? Yes, mercy means you and I have to go the extra large mile to bring the face of God's Mercy to those who are in such deep shit... 

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Name of Birth

I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,

and there will be one flock, one shepherd.

John 10: 14-16

Good Shepherd Sunday [World Day of Prayer for Vocations]

This weekend's sharing will be a quick and fast one, mainly because I want you to do your own sharing.

Celebrating world day of prayer for Vocations, we turn our attention to the great need for more fresh membership to the Priestly and Religious Vocations within the Roman Catholic Church.

In my early years of searching, I was always encouraged to pray more to hear what God was trying to say to me. In my meditation I was, at first, very surprised on the fact that God continues to make use of my name of birth. No matter how hard I tried to make my mind think that God is calling me by my baptismal name "KENNETH", it did not work.

When I placed myself in God's presence to hear what He has to say to me, and what He wants me to do - God will just allow me to sit still in His presence and he calls me by NAME (my birth name).

Friends, you are important to the Church and to every other people. God wants YOU to be what He alone has created you for birth on this earth; be assured that God was fashioning you even when you were yet in your mother's womb.

God knew you even before we know ourselves! Strive, no matter how painful it is, to be who God wants you to be; an offering to the life of the world.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

A Troubled Soul is not a Joyful One

Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?

Luke 24: 38

3rd Sunday of Easter

This Sunday's Gospel is again about our role as a Witness to the resurrected Christ coupled with the importance of repentance.

A troubled heart, a troubled mind, we have it all. Perhaps, this is the short coming of being human.
Negativity so often is our quick response when we encounter something new; the disciples, for example, still doubted that Jesus is truly risen. We allow our inner tranquillity to be shaken when we hear news of salary cuts, increase in taxation rates and decrease in job openings. Work places can often be challenging too, and married couples are drown with worries about their loved ones.

Not easy to maintain a quiet inner self. So often we fail to live as a joyful person, a person who lives in the Hope of the Risen Saviour.

When we get disturbed, when we allow ourselves to be troubled, we ultimately fail to see the good in the other person. So often when we are troubled, our relationships towards others become a bad one; we end up being judgemental, we start accusing others and we become proud in defending ourselves.

A quiet disposition, an inner soul that attaches itself to the promise of the Resurrection, is a person who strives no matter how painful, strives to see the good in the other person (even in an enemy) and in ugly situations.

Dear friends, rejoice! Alleluia! Jesus is Risen!

Let us be sorry for our troubled minds and hearts, let us be mindful of our doubts! If we have no sense of an awareness of our limitations then we can never live a joyful life!

Life is a miserable one for an unrepentant person.

A sad life is not the life of a Witness of Jesus.

Ultimately we find our Joy when our minds and hearts are untroubled, but one with the Lord.

As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep,
for you alone, O LORD,
bring security to my dwelling.
Lord, let your face shine on us.
Psalms 4

Saturday, 11 April 2015

I hate being broken!

JOHN 20: 29
2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy) Gospel from John 20: 19 to 31
I was brought out for tea and dinner today by a lady, with the accompaniment of a friend. Had no intention of going out as I was tired and preferred to stay in doors, but I guess it was good exploration for me to go out to new suburbs. Had a good cuppa and a simple street food dinner, nothing fancy. Then quickly pop right back home after dropping the lady off at the train station.
Experiencing Mercy is not easy, when so many of us live in a rather cruel environment; face paced, extra-protective of our needs (especially money and job), not willing to make space for others by going slow and gentle. For me as one who is personally, and also have been commended by those in authority over me, to be a straight, kind and good teacher...I too find it very hard to experience Mercy. My surroundings are filled with people who are either big mouths (talk but do not mean, or talk to trap you) or people who only have their own selfish intention in mind.
As a man of God, I strive constantly to remind myself to be HUMBLE.
Humility is a good virtue, because if we do not have humility nothing new can come about. If we do not from time to time break our ego, break out selves, then we can never see the perspectives of God and of others. Humility means in occasions where we find ourselves starting to boast or over protect ourselves, we keep ourselves a step behind - allow others to make that extra single step. In moments where we see rewards coming, and when we see ourselves starting to boast/gossip to make ourselves look good - we tell ourselves to be humble by keeping silent.
Humility isn't easy!
I totally agree with you that it is VERY PAINFUL to be broken...I have experience that! And, yes no one of us enjoy to be hurt/broken internally. Very painful when we see our ego going away! Very shameful when we see ourselves losing the chance to boast of our expertise/good job. 
It is at moments like this that we got to say an extra prayer to remind us of HUMILITY. To give us a little pinch and say to ourselves, "let me be humble. My enemy/friend can prosper now but with humility God will bring everything to good light".