Sunday, 29 March 2015

Galilee, The Place it all Began

As I begin another Holy Week in my life's cycle, I wonder what this week will bring me. I wonder how in my humanness, my nothingness, my insignificance...I wonder in what way possible, I will be made sensitive to the reality of the sufferings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

To me, as I stepped into Holy Week I say to myself I want this annual week to be a holy one. Holy in a way that will mean to spent more time in prayer, have less fun, eat no meat...But, does the greatness of this week just end there? Does it all just mean prayer, no fun, no meat. NO!

This week I look into my own brokenness; so often I have hurt other by my words, my actions. So often I too have been hurt by others. How do I handle those blows given onto me by others? Sadly, so often, like so many, I give them back- I retaliate, I make sure my offenders know that they have hurt me. Bad experiences do leave in each of our memories a deep brokenness that so often are not forgotten.

Like St Peter, I am also very eager to whole heartedly follow Jesus. Sadly, how so very often I have only encountered the fact that I have betrayed Jesus; my actions, my failure to bear witness to the hope I have, my words thrown at others, my arrogance in dealing with issues in school/in church. How often have I, like St Peter, 'denounced' Jesus.

As I look at the reality of my failures, and the hurts it cause to others, I can only say I am truly disgusted.


Friends, never fail to look at your failure and have the courage to be disgusted by your actions. So many of us are comfortable in saying, "WE ARE ONLY HUMAN." Cease to deny our mistakes, let us stop sweeping things under the carpet. Let us dare to face our failures! Let us be disgusted by our failures!

Remember, we shall meet the risen Jesus Christ at Galilee- at Galilee the place where it all began. To arrive at our own 'Galilee', the origin of our call, our vocation in life, to be at the point where we find our wholeness in God, we need to first go through pain, dying to self and having the courage to rise.

In daring to rise, we shall meet our true self found in God.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Judge by what's in it, not on it.

"However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from." JOHN 7: 27

Friday of Lent, Week 4

It is very hard, not an easy thing to do when we always tell ourselves and tell others, "Do not judge the book by the cover." Let us be frank here, how many of us have done that? How many of you have judge the book by the cover?

I look at my schools, and I see teachers and administrators doing the below:
  1. Paying attention to GOSSIPS, taking those gossips to judge an innocent work colleague  (this is a very common event!!!!).
  2. Quick judgement before we analyse and think over situations; this is called over-reacting.
  3. Back stabbing, we complain about the mistakes of another colleague, often not first considering why the mistake first happen. Then, when I am the one complaining about them, they do not like it; they go into denial mode.
In society:
  1. In adopting a child. Do we only look for good skin tone, no birth defects....
  2. Looking at a shopping mall cleaner, do we say in our hearts and mind, "Look such a stupid man/woman ending up a mall cleaner. Why don't that person work harder and have a bigger ambition"?"
Why I am slower in judging a person by their mere appearance is because, I myself have felt the effects of comments and gossips thrown at me many years ago. I know how it feels when I judge others without prior investigating my facts. Secondly, I prefer never to gossip and to judge others because I know that God in Jesus Christ loves everyone of us; no one is greater, no one is smaller. Finally, if God freely choices to love me, should not I too love others selflessly?

To be judged unjustly is just disgusting and should not be given attention to. Here I urge those who feel belittled by the false judgement of others to pray about it, do your research and stand up for your basic human rights; no one has the right to make you feel tiny, make you feel guilty and to rob you of your human dignity. To those who judge others, thinking you are higher than God, I pray for people like you that someday, maybe in a very hard way, you learn your lesson and feel what it is like to be judged.


Like donuts, donuts can appear good but the taste can either be better or worst than what the eyes say.

Let us learn to first take time to bite (study) into situations, taste (analyse, research) our situations and let our minds and hearts make a firm decision (outcome). Never allow ourselves to jump into conclusions because it can be very hurtful to others.

This lent let us take time to experience the Mercy and Goodness of Jesus Christ. Let us not only know the human Jesus of Nazareth, but take time to look intently on the Man and see where this Man comes from.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

3rd Sunday of Lent

Jesus answered and said to them,
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
The Jews said,
“This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,
and you will raise it up in three days?”
But he was speaking about the temple of his body.


John 2: 19-21

Destruction! I guest it brings much fear to many of us, as destruction most often narrates something bad, negative and not worth entertaining.

The Gospel narrates a rather angry Jesus today, one who made a whip out of cords, and chased all the animals and shop keepers that were turning His Father's house (the Temple of Jerusalem) into a market place.  This characteristic of Christ reminds us that Jesus is both a meek lamb as well as a ferocious lion.

Let me share a personal story, please keep this to yourself.

Destruction is never always bad. Why? Because if we are not destroyed, how can our newness shine? If a grain of seed does not fall to the ground, how will the seed germinate into a new individual plant?

Ms Wong, a teacher that I am comfortable talking too (not that we are close, ok?) is a strict but kind teacher. On a number of occasions she came up to me asking me to 'protect' myself, to say something to Dato Peter the Principal, because teachers were giving false accusations/accounts of me at Committee Meetings. One morning Ms Wong also quickly rushed to me, to inform me that Mr Eugene has printed my Facebook post and accused me of speaking about him on Facebook. Very often I have been falsely accused by teachers, who would even comment that my brand of pants is "JohnMaster"; till today they never know that I still only survive on 2 pairs of pants. It's sad to know how shallow teachers comments were, because Mr Mazahar (I was told by the Principle) challenged the school on the need to address me as "Brother" while some teachers accused me that I am trying to "convert" students.

I never took Ms Wong's suggestion to "protect" myself - yes, she was asking me to protect my image from the false accusations said about me. Furthermore I trusted that everything is in God's Hand, and with providence Dato Peter is a wise Principle; very often Dato Peter had to protect my work in the school by insisting that the school is a "MISSION SCHOOL".

My Lenten resolution is to experience the Mercy and Love of Jesus. Today, out of all days I allowed my foolishness to influence my actions. I wore a casual t-shirt, a student's uniform shirt, to my school's meeting. Sure enough the Deputy Principal came up to me and asked me, "Why are you in a school uniform?" Again, I kept quiet and walk away to change into my formal uniform.

I always belief that the Truth I am trying to witness will ultimately shine, and this Truth can only shine if my own self image is tarnished, broken and destroyed.

Friends, if in Lent we do not allow our self image to break, tarnish or destroy, how can you experience newness at the Resurrection? Remember, there is nothing wrong to be wrong, to fall or to make a mistake. Only a fool will strive so futilely hard to stop him/herself from falling, from making a mistake.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

2nd Sunday of Lent: Faithfulness

 
"...I know now how devoted you are to God,... "
GENESIS 22: 12
 
When its time for autumn I notice some species of trees will start to shed their leaves. Even in tropical countries when the weather is extremely hot and dry, certain trees will shed their leaves to minimise water lost. We call this response by plants as ADAPTATION.
 
For us human beings, sadly so often we do not trouble ourselves to adapt. When we do not like somebody we rather just ignore that person and keep our distance. In some Parish Church with cold priests, parishioners will rather drive all the way to another parish for Mass. When our economy is not doing well, we put the blame on governments and companies (banks). If we make mistakes at work, at work or in society, we quickly either put the blame on others or we quickly use 'decorative' words to make the situation look 'beautiful'. When we feel hot, so easy, we take the controller and switch on the air-conditioner.

Aren't we homo sapiens so pampered, taking things for granted? Maybe that is why so often we choice to ignore the plight of those who are poor, the lonely, the sick, those under mental/emotional stress?
 
Recently, end of 2014, in Pope Francis' Christmas greetings to Cardinals he was rather harsh and cold with his direct comments to the Cardinals on the sins/mistakes of the Cardinals. Yet, I felt his directives was good and needed; sorry as I do share the Pope's sentiments because I have seen terrible attitudes of Priests, Religious, and even Lay leaders (readers, pastoral workers, parish office staff...).
 
Lent is a great time, an optimum season of the year to have that guts needed to change - we need to learn to ADAPT. If we don't want to adapt than don't hope for a better, sincere, positive and humanistic society. We need to rise to the occasion, do the good we expect of others and in our own little ways allow the light of God's Love shine.
 
Remember, Jesus has done much for us and He continues to do a lot for us every moment of our life. Let us take time to acknowledge the work Jesus do for each of us. 

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Allah Case Closed and Forced Conversion to Islam

The human heart is one that is full of restlessness - we are greedy, we want fame, we want dignity, we want all things good. Perhaps we forget that in all our fights with the issues around us, we forget what the Book of Job says, "Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again."

Perhaps, it is good to ask "WHY as human beings, with conscience, do we go about arguing, fighting, pushing others to the edge?"

'Although I am free in regard to all,
I have made myself a slave to all
so as to win over as many as possible.
To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak.
I have become all things to all, to save at least some.
All this I do for the sake of the gospel,
so that I too may have a share in it.'

1 Corinthians 9: 19-23

I am glad that the 'Allah' court case carried out by the Herald publication of the Roman Catholic Church has now come to an end; I am glad there can be peace for now and a re-focus on issues that really need the Church's attention. From the beginning I knew this fight over the use of the word "Allah" for the Herald news paper publication was an unnecessary one; in all honesty I belief it made the Malaysian Catholic Church look and sound STUPID! It made Malaysia to be judged as STUPID by other nations!

In Christmas 2014 I sent out formal signed letters to Bishops, the Archbishop, Priests and a number of Politicians in Malaysia. Calling them to STOP fuelling this "Allah" issue and imploring them to stop all these nonsense that brings no good to the Church and the people of Malaysia. I am glad that - looking at the recent case outcomes, the Church's acceptance that they have "used all available" resources and it is time to move on, and the silence in the news from those Politicians that received my letter- my letter was fruitful, it worked for the betterment of others!

There are so many failed Church projects around Malaysia that need more attention compared to fighting over the use of the word "Allah". Many of our schools and hospitals are all now commercialised and run, at times, by non-Catholics. The fear now is the mission areas of the Church is shrinking because we allow private companies to run our schools and hospitals, without taking much care to protect the right for Catholics to witness to God's Goodness in these schools and hospitals.

These are something we urgently need to look at - our mission schools and hospitals.

Of late, I observed news in the media of forced conversion to Islam. This was done by adults towards under aged students, mainly in the rural areas of Malaysia. I was also told, some years back, that poor villagers in Malaysia were also given cash money as incentive if they should embrace Islam.

I hope those adults who are involved with this scheme of forcing or luring others to embrace Islam will know that in God's eyes, this are selfish act not blessed by God Himself. In saying that God is a God of Mercy, to force others to embrace Islam is not the desire of a Merciful and Good God.

For us as Catholic Christians, there is no point at all in complaining only. The very important question is to ask each of us, in all sincerity, "WHAT AM I DOING? HOW AM I RESPONDING?"

Lent is soon approaching, and instead of complaining against forced conversion to Islam, the question we each need to urgently ask is, "are we doing out part?" Where are we? Are we out there with the ignorant villagers who are easily tempted by cash money, even to the extend of embracing Islam to get that money?! Are we out there in the rural schools and in the hostels run for rural children? Are we out there to preach the Good News and to care for the ignorant villagers, the poor villagers and the youth in rural areas?

If your individual answer is a "NO!" Then no point for you to complain.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Freedom

Brothers and sisters:
I should like you to be free of anxieties.


1 Corinthians 7: 32

I guess when it comes to freedom, I will imagine myself having a constant feeling of ease, comfort, contentment and a healthy well-being. I imagine myself with a constant smile on my face, as to be free means to be happy- it means the absence of sorrow. Freedom means to be young and easy every moment of my life.

In reality, I do not experience what I imagine with the free wandering of my endless mind; a mind free to imagine and to dream. There are moment when we worry about the future and about the issues at hand. We face moments when our body is not in a healthy state and decided not to secrete hormones that gives us the feelings of freedom. All of us, workers and students, are bound by our work place; we have expectations to meet, roles to play and pressure to conform even when it goes against our conscience.

The pressures of a fast paced life, adds onto us the reality that life is after all not all the FREE.

Yet, as a Catholic it is very important that I remember that Jesus Christ has set me totally free through the waters of baptism. Each moment on entering the church, we sign our selves with holy water reminding me that I have been set free from sin, and am a child of God. Yet, how do we sustain this freedom? How do we live out this freedom that we have found in Christ Jesus?

First and foremost, to be free we need to LISTEN to God's voice and not be stubborn. "Oh that today you LISTEN to His Voice and harden not your heart" is what we sing today in the Responsorial Psalm taken from Psalm 95. Becoming immune and unresponsive to God's soft voice can mean the lost of our freedom as children of God. When we decide to shut ourselves from God's voice and venture on a journey of our own selfish making will only lead to further misery and ultimately we die; we cease to become our true selves.

Secondly, let us live in accordance with our role in life. The 2nd reading from Corinthians gave two groups of people - unmarried people and married people. St Paul to the Corinthians suggested that if we are single, then we should be concern only 'about the things of the Lord' and 'how to please the Lord'. On the other hand married people are to be concerned with 'the things of the world' and 'how to please the wife/husband'.

At the end of the day, easier said than done, we do find that many times we fail to remain totally free. We become slaves when we decide to move from respecting our roles in life and decide to listen to our own voices. We hear so much voices around us - gossips, jealous comments by others, false judgements by others.

Let us return to our centre - let us return to Christ in our very life.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Here I am

Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
1 Samuel 3: 10
 
Gospel of 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: John 1: 35-42

 
 
My journey in responding to the call I know I have in life is one like many of you, and today I realised it is like Samuel's call too! God called Samuel 3 times, " Samuel, Samuel!" And 2 out of 3 times, Samuel ran over to Eli and said, "Here I am. You called me." Samuel was not yet familiar with God's call as he was still young, a youth.
 
I think many Catholics are like Samuel too, most often we are in the first '2 times category'; we run to Eli and not to God. A very good number of Catholics till today belief that to respond to God's call we must tire ourselves to search for religious order or parish groups, we go through all the procedures for the priests/order/president of the group to scrutinize/interview us and once it finishes most of the time the enthusiastic candidate is rejected. We as Catholics, and even as ordinary people, we believe that to live this life fully we must be 'OUTSTANDING'. No, that is wrong when the fact that we each were born naked and naked we shall return to the Lord; we are in fact very ordinary beings.
 
Since this is the year of consecrated life let me open myself to you and share a private experience with you. Many religious orders, sadly but honestly, behave very much like the world; they play around with potential candidates. Some years now, priests have apologized to me in person for past events. I write this not to criticise them, because like us, religious and priests are also trying their best; adding to that the culprits have apologized to me in person. This was how many enquires of new candidates are played around (it also does happen with Parish Groups!) when they approach to express with call:
  1. Silence - one religious that I was brought to, made me talk for almost an hour and he gave no reply at the end of it. After a few years I got to know that this man is not very much a man of the Church; I got to know he is a little radical, believed in living outside his community of Brothers and does not agree in wearing the habit, he prefers normal clothes even at official functions while majority of Bothers dresses in the cassock.
  2. "Go and work first, go complete your Master degree, get a girlfriend" - As a young boy, 18/19 years of age, I was honestly surprised to hear this. My parents told me and ordinary people told me the same thing, but I never expected it to come from a religious/priest with whom I was so passionate in sharing God's Call with. I felt betrayed and lost.
  3. Passion and enthusiasm is not allowed - At every meeting that I had with religious to share my call with, my passion and enthusiasm was look on as not required for a candidate to religious life. Enthusiasm was even looked at as an obstacle to religious life, thus causing the possible candidate to be rejected. This I was surprised because, did not the Bible ask us to be full of life for Jesus Christ? I was surprised because Pope John Paul 2 too was so full of energy in his proclamation of the Gospel. Again when religious said I was wrong because I was too full of energy for God, it added towards my sense of lost.
 
Today's reading at Mass is a reminder that when God calls us, God does not expect us to be abused or to be the abuser. I think where many of us go wrong is we expect candidates who approach us to be lousy; we want candidates who are totally empty, no idea of his/her own Faith, no connection with God (do not pray, do not read the Bible). I have come across events where a candidate to religious life with a doctorate degree being rejected, because he was smarter than the Rector (Principle) of the seminary.
 
No, this is not the way, and Pope Francis even has said so. The Bible even have said so, that yes test the candidate at all cost, but do the testing mercifully.
 
Today, I encourage all of you Catholics who totally commit yourselves to God to not be afraid. Like Samuel, all we need to say to God is a simple sincere response, "HERE I AM. YOU CALLED ME!" Take the word "HERE" to heart, because God calls you to live life fully, that is to obey His will, in:
  • the HERE and NOW; where you are right now, if you hear God's voice, respond with action. Do not go hunting for organisations to join, parish groups, orders. If priests and religious and lay leaders are smart enough (sadly often not) they will invite you to join.
  • the ordinary; if where you are right now is a place of sorrow, a place of hardships, maybe you telling yourselves "I am not good enough". God has something great for you in every situation, we just have to say to God, "Here I am Lord, You have called me".

Saturday, 10 January 2015

He is well Pleased with You

And a voice came from the heavens,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Mark 1: 11
 
Baptism of the Lord, 11th January
Gospel from Mark 1: 7-11
 

Celebrating the baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ, I recall my own baptism to the Roman Latin Rite Catholic Faith; mine was a baptism in my early high school age after having experience a Divine intervention.
 
One thing I remind myself as I worship God this weekend is the very reality that I am a "beloved Son" of God. When I was baptised I am baptised into Christ, I become part of the covenant (promise) of God and I become a child of God; this is a reality of every baptized person. Thus, I share in God's favour - we are all a "beloved" son, a "beloved" daughter of God.
 
This fact, I pray I never forget! How sweet it is to have God's favour be upon us? No words can ever describe the experience I have in knowing each day that God's favour is upon me.
 
What is God's favour? To me, when I say to someone, most often it is my students, that "I love you". It means that the person or the group of people is one that I look up to, one that I am willing to be selfless, one that I will do as asked and that they are important to me. It is the same with God, when God's favour rest upon us God is saying to us, in a personal as well as a communal way, that you are important to Him, you have direct right/access to Him.
 
As the students of Stella Maris begin another year in school, I remind the students who I have taught that each of you are in my prayers and memories. Be mindful that God's favour rest on each of you, you are important to God and also to me. Do your best always, strive hard no matter how hard and dull the journey maybe, always remembering that being in God's Presence everything will turn out just fine! Each of you, students of Stella Maris past and present, I am very well pleased with you.