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!


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Reluctance - a step too short

7th January - 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

It is a wonderful sight for me to see grandparents, parents and children all in 1 table, having breakfast. I saw this grandmother, who went over to the western bakery and got each of her three grandchildren a bun each, even when they have not finished their bowl of noodles! A marvellous sight, to see the grandmother enjoying herself in seeing that her grand-children were enjoying themselves and the delight in receiving those bun!
 
Looking at the gesture of the grandmother, I am sure, perhaps, she only meets her grandchildren at every festive occasion. Or, maybe, those three were her only grandchildren from her only son or only daughter.
 
Malaysians, keep up this tradition of FAMILY CLOSENESS...The reason why the Church is worried about family life, because in the west the family structure can often be under threat due to work culture and economy attractiveness. So, don't think everything that originates from the west is necessarily good!

 
I wish everyone of you a Happy Lunar New Year! Gong Xi Fa Cai!
 

"...the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets....“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”..."
LUKE 5: 2 and 4
 
5th Sunday of the Year - Washing their nets, I am sure Simon Peter and his mates were ready to call it a day; store their nets back, have a meal and get ready for the next catch. But, Jesus after preaching, told them to put into the deep, let their nets down and get ready for a catch!
 
Looking at my own life, I am also conveniently comfortable with the things I feel secure with; usual thoughts, the usual manner of thinking, the usual mannerism, the same usual friends/gang I meet with...I feel secure because these daily routines and usual faces work for me and are found to be my perfect security. I find it hard, or it takes time, to not do something that I so commonly do.
 
In the Gospel of St. Luke, we see Jesus telling Simon Peter and the other fishermen to let down their clean nets. The fishermen who were disembarking from their boats, are now told to put into the deep! Nets to any particular fishermen is very important, it is like their finest and only tool needed to fish; they can have perfect knowledge on fishing, but without at least one net it is impossible for a fisherman to fish. Without at least one net...a fisherman is not a fisherman!
 
Jesus here tells the group of fishermen, to risk their clean nets and go fishing at a time Jesus, who isn't a fisherman, deems the right time to fish. Jesus can be seen here to be acting smart, thinking he is a fisherman, or a better fisherman than them.
 
I think, if I was one of the fishermen on that boat. I will not have listened to Jesus, because Jesus is a carpenter by trade, not a fisherman. Jesus does not know anything concerning fishing! I may have taken in all that Jesus preached about in the boat, but when it comes to telling me how and when to fish, I will not listen to Jesus. Even in schools and at social activities (such as my routine in the gym and dragon boat), when a person who is not in a position to instruct us does instruct us we will just listen and do nothing about the instruction. Don't we!?
 
But, Simon Peter after having a word with Jesus - did exactly what Jesus, who is by no means any closer to being a fisherman, asked them to do. Simon and the rest, let down their nets as instructed by Jesus.
 
This Gospel, the message is one about bravery, about trust. Courage! Courage to trust in Jesus, because Jesus is God. God is all knowing, and God wants the best for us. It comes to me that, even when I may have doubt in me, when Jesus invites I must respond. Even when I fear while responding, I must trust that the path taken by me, in accordance with the invitation of Jesus, will lead towards a fruitful ending.
 
Yes, Simon Peter and the fishermen did in fact had a fruitful ending from the catch. Simon Peter and the fishermen that day, had tons and tons, loads and loads, of fish. The gospel recorded that they filled two boats with fish! Perhaps, the fish were sufficient that they decided to leave everything and follow Jesus; they might have followed Jesus, after becoming very rich men having sold all that many fish from the catch.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Acceptance

And he said, “Amen, I say to you,
no prophet is accepted in his own native place..."


Luke 4: 24

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - LUKE 4: 21-30

Extraordinary Year of Mercy - This morning before Holy Mass, in my reflection, I remember that God comes to embrace me. God comes with both his arms, opened and placing His arms over me he pulls me comfortably into his chest - God draws me into Him.
 
Today, we hear how Jesus was rejected from his own hometown. How, due to the straight words of Jesus, his own people in his town desired to "hurl" him down the hill (Luke 4: 29). I was thinking to myself, reflecting over this Sunday's Gospel both last night and this morning, wondering about the word "ACCEPTANCE". I don't think we think of it a lot, neither do you my readers, but if we see our distress, our anger...we see the cries of refugees in Europe, we see the rising so called 'Islamic State (IS or ISIL). Much of our discomforts come as a result because of REJECTION; we are rejected by others, other people do not want to listen to us.
 
As I was growing up, I too find it hard to accept the unjust and cruel nature of society; employees/world power/ adults are in general unreasonable. Many were ever ready to manipulate my call in life, many laughed at me when I said I want to be holy, I want to serve others....They laughed at me because they know that is not how the majority of the world behaves. These days, after years of struggle, I now know that I do not have to give in to what others say about me; very often their saying are based on their own experiences decades ago, not relevant for today and many things others say are never for the good of the entire community.
 
Today, Jesus is rejected for speaking the Truth - the truth about God, which is for the good of the entire people; regardless if they were Jews or Gentiles.
 
What is acceptance? What is rejection? When, on what conditions, is acceptance or rejection necessary? These are some questions we ought to think about. YES! There are times we need to reject. No doubt of that! But, as a Catholic Christian we must remember that even in rejection we must be merciful; we need to hope for the better of the people rejected by offering solid help so that the rejected individual can see God's Love and be converted. For a Catholic Christian, when there is a need for rejection, it must always be done out of merciful love for the other.
 
I turn my attention now to the Year of Consecrated Life - which closes on 2nd February 2016. I do invite all of you to please pray for me, for all consecrated lay persons and for all those in Religious Orders.
 
In light of this Sunday Gospel, all persons in consecrated life (privately or publicly) need to ask ourselves, be honest with our answers, on the manner we "ACCEPT OTHERS" into our respective way of life. How do we respond when others come knocking on our doors saying to us that, "THEY WANT TO FOLLOW JESUS BY CONSECRATING THEMSELVES TO JESUS".
 
I am sure for many of us, especially those in consecrated life and those who work close with the Church, we know that very often we are good in giving words but the real support is not there. Real support, Christian support, for the person who comes knocking on our doors requesting to enter a life that strives to live the life of Jesus - that support is missing. Even today, that additional care and accompaniment is missing.
 
This is why the Pope is asking us to think and pray about MERCY.
 
{After Vatican 2 many in the church tried to 'get rid' of old customs, religious people started to have the 'freedom' to choose (such as to wear the traditional habit or normal everyday clothes)...]
 
The great decline to the number of consecrated Brothers and Sisters...Many put the blame on secularism and on God. Many blame that there are too much distractions in the world today and that God is not calling anyone at the moment. There are also those who blame the Brothers and Sisters for being too secular - no more community prayers, no more devotions, no more wearing of the uniform, living as a community is no longer encouraged.
 
There is no doubt at all that before Vatican 2, if was a strongly held opinion that if you want to go to Heaven straight after you die - you must either be a Priest or Consecrated Person (Religious Life) . Now, there is no such opinion. One reason why there were so many Brothers and Sisters 50 years ago, was said to be partly caused by this opinion of getting straight to Heaven after death. Thus, if we think that Vatican 2 allowed the church to be more relaxed we are wrong! Vatican 2 demands that every one of us, Catholics, to be responsible for the church and in our service to society. Vatican 2, in terms of Priesthood and Consecrated Life, sadly means priests, brothers and sisters must work extra hard to attract others to this way of life, because it is no longer a straight ticket to Heaven.
 
I think it is both factors - 1) Yes, the world has become advance - too much distraction, and 2) Religious Brothers and Sisters can be too 'relax' because they work too hard to be relevant to todays society.
 
In light with the Gospel for the 4th Sunday, I like us to think about the way we "ACCEPT OTHERS". 'Others' I mean here, are those who express their attraction to follow Jesus closely by embracing the life as a consecrated man or woman. When people come to us, saying they want to join us, saying they find our way of life parallel to their Call in Life, what do we do? How do we respond? When others come to us saying God is Calling them, do we rejoice or do we cry? Honestly, very often many Church hierarchy cry, rather than rejoice, when a person comes saying God is Calling them. Very often such person as viewed suspiciously.
 
I firmly believe part of the reason why the number of good and holy consecrated people are not on an increase is because of our approach. Our approach very often is cold and insincere, the approach we use towards men and women expressing genuine desire to lead a consecrated life is not healthy. We should not place the bulk of the blame on the Church being too institutional or the Church is out of touch with today's society. I can still see a good number of men and women, though a few handful only. who are interested to be actively involved in making Jesus present in society. 
 
To us who are consecrated persons, how do we react? How do we accept others who want to join us in serving God?
 
I summarize a few points for us to think in our approach of acceptance or rejection of men and women who express interest in the Consecrated Life:
  • Jesus is the face of God's Mercy - TRUST : Do we trust that if a genuine men and women, who takes the trouble to speak to us saying they feel a sense of a Vocation to Consecrated Life. DO we trust that the gift comes from GOD? Are we humble to acknowledge that the Vocation of the other is a gift that we should receive with joy, and yes also cautiously to discern that gift in the light of the Gospel? Do we respond with solid actions of support for the enquirer; getting them involved with ministries, helping them seek contacts where they can work (with salary) while they discern, do we accompany them on their search?
  • It is God who calls and does the work - WELCOME- Do we realize that as consecrated men and women we are only ordinary? Do we know, that even if we have professed perpetual vows and are now 'securely' enrolled within a particular institute of consecrated life, we are mere instruments?  I think one problem, like what even Pope Francis mentioned to the Cardinals in his Christmas message, is that often, so very often, we think we are irreplaceable. This mentality, thinking we are irreplaceable causes us to be like a fortress; we prevent others to join us, especially others who are passionate and dedicated to their calling. We need to welcome others who express their desire to be consecrate persons or who express desire to continue the work of God in one of the many ministries whereby the presence of consecrated persons have diminished...gone.
  • Jesus calls tax collectors - SINNERS - This we all are - mere sinners. Every person, even the Pope (he said this himself), are sinners. In my reflection last night, a thought came to me that we are all currently Saints (those who decided firmly to follow Jesus entirely) trying to be perfect as God. We can never be perfect, this is impossible. The most we can be is excellently good! Even out excellence is not excellent enough to others...so, where is perfection, ya? Even the good we do, is seen as bad by others. The question here is what we seek for in a possible candidate to consecrate life must change to be in line with todays scenario, in the light of the Gospel. I am shocked that when in some parts of the world, men and women religious are non-existent, and sadly one of the requirements for candidates to consecrated life is "are you involved in church ministries" and "do you know any consecrated person/priest currently"? Many Orders and Institutes of Secular Life expect candidates to have degrees, to have stability of some sort, to be emotionally healthy, to be physically fit...Let us remember the call of Pope Francis to bring down unnecessary barriers in our consecrated life groups.
Many religious orders, such as with the De La Salle Brothers (Malaysia), are sadly, even after so many years are still trying to "FIND" their direction and identity as a community of consecrated people. Yet, this must never be the reason for orders of consecrated life to stop welcoming others along the journey. Some orders, groups of consecrated life, will die out and close down completely. But, current consecrated brothers and sisters must not give up hope, in that we prevent others from taking this road; perhaps, new groups will start up, replacing the old groups. This is good! This is a good thing when new orders, new groups come up, such as happening in parts of the Western world (America, Australia...)  Such attitude of closing up and giving up hope, only prevents the abundance of God's grace from coming in and to give life to the ground/area of society we live in. Ultimately when we have closed our orders up, the order does not only die out, but also the church dies out and consequently the people (Catholics and non-Catholics, those we serve and those we do not serve) suffer because there are no consecrated persons around to lay down their lives and minister to them.
 
Malaysia has seen this - with the closing down of Mission Schools, Hospitals, parish outreach projects. If we do not wake up, then I am not sure what the future may look like; I will not want to imagine how it will turn out in the future...decades, centuries later?
 
In short, for us who have consecrated ourselves to God, let us remember - God calls, we rejoice, we welcome. Together we make the Kingdom of God reign here on earth. Never forget that when we honestly live out consecrated life, others will be attracted to our life and let us welcome others to come take up your cross and come after Jesus...Jesus, God welcomes and embrace all who comes to Him genuinely. Let us do like wise.

May we who are consecrated to God, remember the words of the Psalm from today:
My mouth shall declare your justice,
day by day your salvation.
O God, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.
 
May all of us, consecrated men and women, constantly sing about the goodness of God.
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Joy, Where are You?

"Do something wonderful...people may imitate it. "
Albert Schweitzer
 
[ Holy Oil blessed by, the now, Bishop Sebastian Francis many years ago.]
 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
- LUKE 4: 18

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

  • "Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!” Nehemiah 8: 10.
Joy...I think of this word JOY. I wonder where has it gone to? Where has joy went to? What has joy turned into? Daily, I have my own struggles; struggling to come to terms with issues, with the luke-warmness I see in people, especially people who are so called 'committed' in church ministries. I experience the persecution from those who are busy body for the wrong reasons. I struggle to understand the criticisms others throw upon me, without first approaching me to listen and learn from me. I struggle to come to terms that our efforts are only temporal - needing to acknowledgements or honour. There is struggle too in friendships and family life; my lifestyle as a religious is so different to those that are too ordinary.
 
Joy where have you gone to?

  • "Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary,
    and those parts of the body that we consider less honourable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety,
    whereas our more presentable parts do not need this." 1 Corinthians 12: 22-24
Joy...She is possible and she is real! No doubt of it, I want to be joyful! All of us can share in this joy, not whatever kind of joy but a joy that comes as STRENGTH out of our WORSHIP OF GOD. This holy joy, this joy that has its origin in God is possible if we only are able to see eye-to-eye those who society, who our Catholic Churches, see as weak, less honourable and less presentable. If we can only differentiate between "like" and "love" then our world can be a bit more better, a bit more joyful. We need not like, to agree with, the weak, less honourable and less presentable. But, if you are a Christian we have a duty to LOVE; LOVE is ever accepting, it is not selfish, love is not self seeking.

Joy - holy joy - you can be a reality if I only know how to love and not like.

  • "Your words, Lord, are spirit and they are life!" Psalm 19
Our joy in the Lord, is our strength says the Prophet Nehemiah. What does he mean? It means our strength coming from the honour we give to God, is the 'weapon' of strength against a changing society. Our honour, our worship of God, must see in us the spirit of joy; to constantly have an internal joy due to the realization that our very being gives praise to God. If we have no joy, then there is something very wrong with our worship and honour (devotion)  that we give to God. To cultivate this holy joy, I suggest we first remember that we have been anointed! If you are a baptized Roman Catholic you will have been anointed with Sacred Holy Oil at least twice (2) in your lifetime; once at baptism and, the other, at your confirmation. To be anointed means we have become consecrated for the Lord's use; we become sacred, we belong to God, we have been set apart from the rest of humanity.

The question is, "ARE WE THEN LIVING AS A PERSON THAT BELONGS TO GOD?"

Having this knowledge that we belong to God, will then make us convinced that the words of Scriptures at Mass or during our reflection, has the power to make in us a difference. The words of the Bible are not mere words, they are God's words and therefore, the words of the Bible are alive!

When you are joyful...you make other joyful!
You help others to imitate the Catholic-Christian way of life when you spread holy joy!

The words of God can help us draw strength, and this strength of the Lord is OUR JOY!
 
 
This weekend, I was blessed to have spent time with my family over our visit to a Chinese temple in conjunction with the coming Lunar Chinese New Year. Not easy to be close with one another, when there are difference in understand Faith and differences in opinions. Yet, without the support of my family I will not be able to live the life that God calls me to.
 
Pray for me, pray for my family and pray for your family.
 

 



Sunday, 10 January 2016

On Firm Foundation

When the kindness and generous love
of God our savior appeared,
not because of any righteous deeds we had done
but because of his mercy,
He saved us through the bath of rebirth
and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
whom he richly poured out on us
through Jesus Christ our savior,
so that we might be justified by his grace
and become heirs in hope of eternal life.


Titus 3: 4 - 7
Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, 10th January 2015
 
If you are a Catholic-Christian then you either been baptized as an infant or later in life (adolescence or adult)? For me I was baptized during my pre-adolescence, when I was in primary schooling; after having a mysterious spiritual encounter.
 
My spiritual encounter, those of you whom I have shared with, can be unbelievable! It sounds so imaginative, mysterious and like a story. So to cut the long story, short...It was God who came in search for me, God who brought me to His church on earth. I think if God never took that first initiative to approach me, then I will most probably not be a Catholic Christian today. I would have perhaps, remained a Buddhist or a Protestant Christian.
 
On this Feast of the Baptism of Jesus - I want each of you to know that GOD REALLY LOVES YOU. Even if you are not yet a Catholic, God has both His eyes on YOU. God waits for you and me, to come into full communion with Him through Baptism. It is only through a Catholic Christian baptism that you and I are saved, and salvation assured to us if we remain faithful up to the end.  
 
[Left: Pope Emeritus Benedict who resigned in 2013; Right: Pope Francis the current Vicar of Jesus Christ]
 
I have been wanting to share a little of my views on both Pope Emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis, after the few incidents of leaked documents from Pope Francis' office, and news of internal dissatisfaction/ideas to murder Pope Francis; these news made some headlines in 2015.
Honestly, myself having experienced Seminary and Religious living, I can say for sure that these news of attempts to murder Pope Francis, internal dirty politics (disliking the Pope), news that Pope Benedict was forced to resign in 2013...These news, though not proven true, are not new news nor are they surprising. Such internal rivalry, careerism mentality, politics...They do happen, unfortunately, among people who in fact are considered, or are expected, to be 'holy' people.
 
Both Popes Benedict and Francis look like individuals on the furthest end of the scale, but on opposite ends; one is very left-wing, and the other is very right-wing. When I first saw Pope Benedict I knew he may be looking for 'trouble' - modernist/progressive members of the clergy will not like him; during his installation he wore a large long traditional pallium, his vestments were always very ornate, his throne showed who was in authority. But, yes those of you who aren't aware many things that Pope Benedict used in liturgy or in public were all previously worn by his predecessors, the Popes of past. With Pope Francis, we can immediately see he is a man who dislikes rituals, it was rumoured that he wanted to abolish the Swiss guards, his vestment were too simple to the extend it does not teach believers (vestments are worn also to teach the mystery of the faith to believers) and his thoughts/ideas are too progressive.
 
No doubt with both popes, and in fact all popes, they are not really free to do what they want to. Every pope, just like all of us, popes have expectations to meet; the office of the Pope is governed by Sacred Tradition, now with Pope Francis he has a team of cardinals to advice him.
 
With Pope Francis he has assured us that during his reign he will not re-write, change, any Church Teachings.
 
Thus with the recent video, for the Pope prayer intentions for the Month of January. The Catholic Church is not asking Catholics or anyone on earth, to have the concept that all religions are equal and the same; only a fool, a great fool, will have the inclination to think that all religions are equal and same. We will also be great fools to think that all religions are so different, that we should separate one religion from other religions.
 
If we think that all the diverse religions are so diverse to the extend that there is no commonality - this idea is also wrong, not in accordance with Church teachings. Though each religion is unique and have their own Truths, ultimately there are many sentiments, values and spiritual concepts that is shared in common between all religions; such as Love, God, Purity, Charity (good works), Diligence, Life....
 
I think the challenge with the recent aired video, showing symbols of diverse religions and mentioning names of other gods (without capital 'G')...The challenge for every Catholic and non-Catholic believer is to question our foundation; do I know my foundation as a Catholic. do I know my foundation as a Muslim, do I know my foundation as a Buddhist, do I know my foundation as a Jew?
 
As a baptized Roman Catholic I find both my feet grounded as firm as I can to the Teachings of Jesus, true God and true Man. My foundation is in acknowledging that God became Man in Jesus Christ, only the Roman Catholic Church is the True Church and True Religion.
 
My concept may sound very traditional and 'dangerous' but these are only personally and theologically held Truths that I hold as a Roman Catholic. These theological ideas DO NOT and WILL NOT prevent me from mixing with people of other faiths, nor will I have any intention of converting others.
 
Ultimately as I mentioned above, it is God who seeks us - God who comes in search of us. Let God do the converting, and if you are so angry with other Faiths, let God do the hating (if we think that God hates?). As mere mortals, let us Love one another and live good and religious lives. 

Monday, 4 January 2016

Being Present

"Today more than ever, the world needs consecrated persons who, from the heart of secular realities and of human life itself, bear witness to knowing and loving the God of life."
[Identity and Mission of Lay Brothers]

[Left: Scars form the bites of bed bugs; Right: the beg bug...That is how they look like!]

Dear Consecrated Brothers & Sisters, and all who dedicate themselves to the Work of God,

In Australia last December 2015, I had my first experience of having bitten by bed bugs. Very tiny, minute, living creatures whose bite causes an explosion of bodily reactions; the bites developed into red lesions that were itchy and now seems to leave scars on my body. My friend even asked me about the scars!

Many ask me, "HOW do I do it?" How do I cause an EXPLOSION of questions, admiration and...I just make people THINK?!

To me, I have always believed and practiced poverty; I never like positions of office (recognition), I never enjoy taking the place of honour, I never enjoy brushing shoulders with the rich and famous. I always believed in being there for others, both the rich and the poor.

I enjoy being unseen, yet seen...Heard, yet unheard....You, know. Just to be present, to be there for ordinary needy people.

How my ordinary presence, without title and position, creates an explosion of mystery, awe, How my mere presence makes people ask, "WHO is he?" The secret lies in my life of communion with the person of God; to live out my communion with God. I believe in being the embodiment of the life of Jesus Christ, to allow Jesus to do the work and I only a mere instrument. Being an instrument of God means to be nothing, to be ordinary - to have no position, no titles, no center stage.

Brothers & Sisters I can only urge you, I can only encourage you, to be faithful to your Vocation. I was stunned and humbled that a man of Hindu faith came up to me at St Xavier's Institution school, telling me of his wish for Brothers to be PRESENT in the school; there are no longer active Brothers at St Xavier's Institution since Bro. Paul Ho's retired. This Hindu man, who was in school to settle his Form 4 son's first day in school tasks, told me that the presence of Brothers makes all the difference. He then brought his youngest son to be introduced to me.

Dear Sisters & Brothers the world needs you! The world needs your generosity, they need your witness to Truth, they need your great care for the poor, they need your ORDINARINESS that speaks of endless miracles!

Do more, go, like what Pope Francis says...GO OUT and make sure you smell like the sheep under our care.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Putting on the Right Footwear for SXI

[Runners or sandals??]
 
One of my favourite past time activity is to head to the gymnasium in the late afternoon of each evening. For my safety and to gain the most out of my gym routine, I put on a reasonable foot wear; I put on a pair of running shoes. One of the rules of any gym, is proper footwear must be worn at all time; basically the feet of any gym-goer must be covered.
 
Yes, I sometimes complain to myself the trouble it takes me to pack a pair of runners!!!! They can take up a huge space in my bag or luggage. Many times I have often been tempted to just put on sandals and head to the gym. Yes, when I do wear my sandals instead of my running shoes, I will need to put in extra concentration in the gym to ensure no heavy weight falls onto my uncovered feet and I will do less gym exercises. Basically, putting on sandals to the gym is not a good idea on the basis of personal safety and gaining the most out of the gym routine.

The correct footwear benefits us most!
 
What about for Saint Xavier's Institution (SXI)
& education in general?
Which type of shoe is good for SXI?

 [Just returned from SXI after a morning meeting with Adrian Lee]
 
The question of what is best for SXI, and education in particular, is a very tricky and complicated question. Why? Because like what Adrian shared with me, many have "other commitments" and "health issues". The number of De La Salle Brothers is on a steep decline and will remain so for the future.
 
In short, if we who are concerned about SXI and the future of education, but are too busy making a luxurious life, then the simplest solution is please do not have any expectations for an affordable, wholesome, balanced and good-if not excellent, education. Have no such dream if you, and would-be parents, are not intending to play an active role in the lives of your children and students education.
 
We cannot have good and noble dreams, I make it clear here that many of us DREAM, to continue on the legacy of the Brothers. But if we are not willing to be made poor; to give up time, money and family and invest them in the La Sallian mission, then it is to our good and the good of the church, not to continue dreaming. The job of ex-xaverians donating DATO-ship titles to brothers, are even laughed at by the security guards at SXI. Don't do such things, these actions serve no purpose. Trust me.  
 
Dreams, good and noble ideas, are only ideas and without action - any projects carried out - that dream and idea will not bear fruit. No matter how noble our ideas are, no matter how much money we 'donate' to any projects started in the name of the La Salle Brothers will yield no good fruits.
 
I like to share the outcome of my meeting at SXI with you:
 
1) The new classrooms, music room and cultural centre at SXI (donations are being collected now) - Yes once the buildings are completed, the "International School" will be run by a private company and not SXI. I have asked SXI representative, "WHY can't the private company bear the cost of the building projects at SXI?" To this question, time was taken to address it, but he eventually mentioned that in a way, by bearing the cost of the building project, the buildings will remain in the hands of the Brothers and, this is good, so the Brothers will have a say in the running of the International School.
 
2) More can be done for SXI now - I questioned the fact that nothing is being done, not even a tiny bit, to assist students at SXI. Why aren't the committee members, or at least retired board members, doing a little bit to come into SXI to journey with students, and to give weak students academic help. To my questions, the response was that retired board members have "other commitments" and "health issues".
 
3) My donation of RM350 - Adrian Lee assured me that the money the school is collecting, is not entirely channelled to the new building projects, but will be used for maintenance purposes at SXI, SXI Branch School and La Salle (Air Itam).

4) Air conditioning the school hall - sadly, to this question, it is true that only the alumni of SXI uses them and not the students. What a waste of resources!!!! How often will ex-students use the school hall in a year? A shameful act to those that donated to the air-conditioners.
 
Note on monetary donations I received recently:
1) RM100 - gift vouchers for one Stella Maris teacher
2) RM175 - in support of the artistic passion of a youth in Penang
3) RM350 - SXI Re-development Fund
 
So, is it a noble and holy idea to donate to SXI new building projects? This I cannot answer for sure, but do your donations cautiously. Remember if you wish to donate, you have the basic right to ask for a show of their account statements and you have the basic right to ask any question pertaining to any projects carried out with your donations.

If you choose to donate blindly, then don't end up complaining at the end of the day; such as with the RM2.6 Billion in Najib's hands.
 
Personally, with my experiences on Brothers going into partnership with private companies, the outcome will not be in good favour with the true mission of the De La Salle family (the Brothers will continue to be very small in numbers). Look at the reality, when even now, with SXI itself without the new projects, no ex-xaverians, not even retired ex-students or board members are coming into SXI to volunteer. What does this say? Do you think any good will come out just by starting a new project and handing them over to a private company who will have no deep vocation to the La Salle way of life?
 
Thus, to me, in all honesty - I do not have much hope for a better education, for a better SXI even when the new International School starts off at SXI's compound. The new project once completed will be just like, if not same, any other private international schools available around Malaysia. I do not see a better SXI that respects the poor, that gives focus to academically challenged students and provides a holistic (Spiritual too!!!!) study environment to all students.
 
I just hope time will prove me wrong.

Mary, Mother of Mercy, Pray for us!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Christmas is never Christmas until....

I take part during this festive and holy season to wish one and all
 
A Very Faith-Filled
- Faith-filled because God became man, just like each of us ... Mystery of relationships; God & man, man & man (family, friendships...)...Humanity never remains abandoned; God came to seek us
 
&
 
Happy
- Happy because the festivities is about food, sweets, music, drinks, presents,decorations...
 
C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S
!!!!
May you and I, discover the God-child Jesus Christ who comes to us as MERCY!
[I recently paid a visit to a fine man, Fr. Darrell, at Chinchilla, & witnessed the firework display along Southbank]
 
On the 4th Sunday of Advent, I walked through the Holy Door at St Stephen's Cathedral. The holy door here in Brisbane was very simple, nothing fancy, decorated with native vines and barks representing the local Australia. You know, as I got myself ready with the decision to obtain the Plenary Indulgence I thought to myself that going through the door is over within seconds!
 
[The Holy Door of Mercy in Brisbane]
 
Never the less, hard as it is, I told myself that this simple act of going through the Holy Door is made holy, is made significant, because of the decision that I make in Faith. A faith built on Jesus Christ, upon a church built on Peter the Apostle and in whose tradition I become a complete being. Any act I do each day, it is nothing, until and unless I do each act with Faith in mind; to be mindful in picking up a pen, to be reflective when I listen to another...These are a few simple daily acts, that when done in Faith can yield a harvest of goodness.

**This was what I did walking through the Door of Mercy - Arriving in church, I stood before the door, stopping for a moment of prayer. I prayed that God makes me empty, empty so that I can be filled up with his Mercy. Finishing praying, in my heart, I come to an awareness that this door is not simple a door. This door, though man made, is a symbol of something holy, something greater, something of God. As I took the first step to go through the door, I paused to kiss the door; kissing the door is a simple sign of reverence. There I was passing through the door! Aware I am called to become new -aware that in the days, up to 20th Nov, 2016, Mercy must be part of my lifestyle.
 
As I join the Roman Catholic Church in living Mercy during this Extraordinary Year of Mercy, I know it will not be easy. Like all of you, I am a sinner who is always seeking the chance to escape! Escape from what? Perhaps, I look always for chances to escape from reality; from the fact that it is only through daily struggling that I become great. Perhaps, I will look for chances to run away from God; to do things my way. Perhaps, I will escape and take the easy path to just sail through this year without the need to read, practice and live mercy.
 
Yet, the fact that I have made a firm decision to walk through the Door of Mercy means that Mercy is my greatest resource for the coming days, until 20th November 2016, when the Holy Year of Mercy ends. Going through the door of Mercy will mean, to me, that as sinful I can be I will strive as best as I can, to return constantly to God's Mercy.
 
Why I want to observe this Year of Mercy?
By the way it is not compulsory to observe the Year of Mercy, it does not become Mortal Sin if you do not observe the Holy Year.
 
I observe this Year of Mercy because, in humility, I know I am a sinner in great need of Mercy from God and with the hope to have the same mercy shown to me by others, especially from the church. I observe the Year of Mercy because I know how it feels when I am judged by others, criticized by others and have the door closed for me by others (no more opportunities).
 
I believe that the world that I live in can perform better when I am Mercy, when the church is Mercy, when others are Mercy...