Saturday, 27 September 2014

In Joy for Life

Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory;
rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,
each looking out not for his own interests,
but also for those of others.

Have in you the same attitude
that is also in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.

Philippians 2: 3-6
Gospel for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Matthew 21: 28-32
Each day I see the goodness of life, the joy of celebrating life, the fullness of life. Who teaches me that? I see it mainly in those I serve- my students. I look at my students, their relaxed and easy going attitude, their willingness to learn new things...You know. These students just amaze me! They are the reason I am who I am today. Without my students teaching me life values, I may not be as rich as I am today; rich with life, rich with happiness, rich with willingness to head on towards the future.
Many asked me, "Brother Kenneth, where do you get that strength to be so YOU? How do you do it, maintaining what you are everyday of the year; wearing the same clothes, working in the same creative style?"
I have no answer to that, because it will be a crazy answer. I gain that vigour for life by renouncing myself and striving to take on the "mind of Jesus Christ" (Phil 2: 5).
It comes naturally to me, to strive to conform my relationship with everything around me - with people and with the environment - according to my deep loving relationship with God in the person of Jesus Christ.
Dear friends, I still see posters around the shopping malls on talks being given to teach the public the Path to Happiness. Let me tell you, you and I will never be eternally or completely happy if we do not first RENOUNCE ourselves. If we constantly bind ourselves tightly to things, to money, to emotions, to gossips...We can never be free. So, free yourselves, renounce yourselves, say no to what you want and think more about other people and think LAST about our own needs. That is why I am different with other 'teachers' because I think about what my students need...not what I need. When I serve the poor, I think about what the poor people need and not what I can give to the poor.
When we think first about others, we can find solutions for them and, more importantly in doing so we are enriched; we learn something beautiful about life when we think about others first. In serving the students and the poor I have always end up only HAPPIER, LIFELIER, JOYFUL...Though I am materially poorer...

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Only One Rule

Pampering myself from time to time, may sound like vanity; it may sound like I am attracting others to me, or wanting to gain attention. Today, I spent time with some very fine group of people having a good laugh and talk over Japanese buffet. This was good as I got to know others better and had sometime to just be myself; away from the ordinary work I do and the usual thoughts I have.

I believe that life is about openness. By openness I mean, I am always ready to face whatever lies in front of me; work issues, social problems (Ebola, war...), insecurities that life may bring me. To have such a lively courage comes from the strength I gain from a life built on PRAYER. Prayer is a life stream, an ever flowing stream whose water reaches to the many areas of my life. Water is unstoppable and as water flows it shapes the area it flows through. The same with prayer, prayer when prayed with full of sincerity, honesty and a deep love has the capacity to touch my life, heal my wounds and to lift me up to great heights.

I think the discipline I find to pray and to have a deep trust in God comes from my past. My past was marked by an experience where God mysteriously led me to conversion; finding that my life has meaning in Jesus Christ through the Catholic way of life. At that age it was so easy, I did not question my desire to be a Catholic but at the same time I knew it was not the wrong decision in committing my life to God through the Roman Catholic Church.

That is why Jesus asked us to have a child-like Faith; a faith that, yes, does not blindly belief, but a faith that comes to life through a relationship with God the Father. You know, Faith keeps me so EXCITED. Faith is an excitement about LIFE! Faith is life after all, because God desires each of us to live life to the very very very full!

This way of life has allowed me to accept anything that life offers me; be it the possibility that my lessons may not be enjoyable, be it the possibility of me offending others unintentionally, be it the possibility that I may fall and hurt myself later. Life, to me, is not about fear. Fear cripples me, but Faith heals and raises me high up. To fear will stop me from having the ability to move forward one step; just like a frightened child, who will not dare move in the face of danger. I rather have Faith as it will bring me further forward in life.

That is why many people wonder of the reason for me being so positive, so simple in mind and so naïve to situations.

After all, my life has only one rule and that is LOVE. Love of God who has given me such a blessed life, and love of others around me whom I serve each day.

“You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
Love does no evil to the neighbour;
hence, love is the fulfilment of the law."
ROMANS 13: 9 - 10

Sunday, 24 August 2014


He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Matthew 16: 15 - 16

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

I was speaking to a lady over the weekend, and she claimed that it is easier to know me if I spoke and mixed around more. In fact more than one ladies made that comment. In my opinion, I informed that lady, "Isn't it easier to know me through my mystery, being a private person?" She responded, "No, it isn't easy to know a person through privacy."

I don't think we can ever know another person to the level we ourselves wished we had known them. Why? Can we ever truly know the emotions of another? Do words we speak fully describe the inner feelings and thought of others? Can we admit that we really know the journey others had to make to be where they are today?  Throughout my existence I have failed to achieve knowing my friends and others to the full. My friends and other people also failed to deeply know me.

Words we speak are only descriptive. Some wish to speak through metaphors, while others enjoy saying things they do not mean. Recently, many people were shocked by the death of Robin Williams, because they thought of him as a man full of life and a very healthy person. Many could not accept that this actor was in reality a sick man; a man battling with depression.

Today in the Gospel, Jesus asked the very same question we find ourselves asking others, "Who do you say I am?"

I think when I questioned others what they think of me, I like to discover if that other person - perhaps my friend - truly respects me for who I am and is sincere in the friendship. When I ask others what they think of me, maybe I want to be affirmed? Maybe I want to see if my 'friend' is really a friend after all, because it is very difficult to find a real friend. Maybe I am looking for a true and lasting friendship, hoping that we remain true friends until the day we depart from this temporal life.

Jesus asked the very similar question, because Jesus wants to see if his disciples who had been following Him really know who he is. In this case, Jesus wants affirmation on the part of the disciples that they know that He in fact comes from God and is the Son of God. Sadly, only one disciple recognized Jesus as the "CHRIST".

Thus, it is not easy to know another person unless our lives are marked by openness. We need to be open, and when we say be open means the peace to face all that lies before us. Once we resist what lies in front of us, we create anger and hatred within us that only prevents us from facing reality. To know another person, we need this willingness to be without prejudice and judgement. That is why many of us, with me included, fail to really know another person.

If we fail to recognize the WHO in another person, how much more will we fail to know WHO Jesus really is? To come to recognize Jesus as the Son of God, I share with you my own true personal journey of how God allowed me to recognize Him. If you want to know God and respond to God's Will you will need a spoonful of:
  1. Openness - If you go through each day judging things around you, you will not discover the beauty of things and events around you. God is there...
  2. Prayer - Find time to be quiet, to think deeply...God is a mystery...
  3. Forward - Go forth, face each day as a day made by God, a brand new day...After all it is God who comes to us. It is God who chooses to reveal Himself to you in His time, not our time.

Like what St Paul said to the Romans:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord
or who has been his counsellor?
Or who has given the Lord anything
that he may be repaid?
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be glory forever. Amen.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

If ONLY...

If ONLY doing what is good, right and holy had been that easy our world will be a peaceful place to be in.

But, yap, that isn't reality...
Thus says the Lord:
Observe what is right, do what is just,
for my salvation is about to come,
my justice, about to be revealed.
ISAIAH 56: 1

To do what is right is never easy, but we have many Saints in the Catholic Church and many contemporary people who had responded to that higher calling to be DIFFERENT from the majority. People such as Mahatma Ghandi, Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), Mother Teresa, Mother Olga, Pope Francis...The list can go on and on. Many and thousands of people striving hard every day to observe what is right and do what is just.

When I decided to embark on a life of obeying God's Will, by living a single life, observing prayers and observing God's Call for me...I made that decision with a deep Love, convinced that God who had inspired me to do good, will never ever abandon me. The decision to dedicate my life to God in the evangelical counsels was inspired at an early age of around 12; special mention of the late Bro Ulric Currie who prayed with me and thought me the Catholic Faith.

In all honesty, it is people who will abandon you in your decision to do what is right; people who through their gossips, judgemental attitude will have a lot of hurtful things to say. My decision to follow God more deeply was met with many hardships. God can understand me, but humans lack that ability to see the ultimate good; people are blinded by the sin of pride and self-centred attitudes. I faced criticisms from my family, from my friends, from ordinary teachers, from church members. People could never understand why was I different, why was I unique and why I was just myself? Honestly, I also cannot explain to others the reason I made that decision of following God, no human words can describe the depth and breath of God's Beauty.

Is it any easier today to do good? It is not easy, I get tired mentally, emotionally, spiritually and sometimes physically because in believing in the beauty and dignity of each student I have allowed myself to work extra hard. Maybe time to take things easy and allow myself to be significant? Lol...No way! Do I still get gossips, judgments thrown at me, lies created about me? Yes! But I am willing to suffer for the sake of the Gospel, for the Ultimate Truth.

The message to you, is to remember that to "observe what is right and to do what is just" will never be easy. To live a life that you believe in, the concept of life that you know should be, is never easy; you will be torn into bits and pieces by others, like what they did to Jesus. But you have to persevere in facing persecutions, have humility to be insignificant, the joy of Christ Jesus...Like Mahatma Ghandi, Buddha, Jesus they never give up on the ultimate truth. Keep believing in the life that you want. If you know life is a joyful one...then live joyfully. If you know life must be a simple one...then live a simple life even when others tell you to earn more money.

Mary, Mother of God, pray for me and for everyone who strive, by their daily living, to "observe what is right, and do what is just". AMEN.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

It is not all Gloomy, there are Lights Around

I refer to the many recent tragedies that made the headlines in the recent news. We witnessed in the newspapers, internet and television the events surrounding MH17, Ebola viral outbreak, fighting going on in Libya and Gaza. Adding to all these sad events we now hear news about the gas explosion in Taiwan, and body parts found along the North-South Expressway.
As a frequent visitor to Malaysia, I express my condolences to the victims of these events and my hope is that the souls of the lives lost will find their way to the shores of light and tranquillity. My hope also goes out to the loved ones that all these victims left behind the now single husbands and wives, children who lost their parent, sons and daughters lost. My hope that all of us affected in one way or in another, will find the strength needed to continue our walk towards the future and be that change we wished we saw in the lives lost.
For myself, I lost nobody I knew in any of these tragedies but I am saddened that much of what we saw happening were events linked to human attitudes.
With so much gloomy news around us, it can be a moment we lose focus on the reality that there are lights around us; there are still loving and caring people, happy news around.
I always ask myself, “What can I offer to others?” What can I do for the materially poor, those in depression, the unemployed, and the young who needs to be listened to? What can I do to be that ‘light’, to be that good news I want to see happening more often? For me these recent events have not only invited me to pray more for others, but it has also allowed me to look at the reality around me with a different perspective. It has made me aware of the fact that we in Malaysia are very blessed;we are not at war, we experience no major local disasters.
Admiration is what we express when we see something worthy of respect and contemplation. In all these recent events, I admire the many individuals who are out in the field doing what many of us do not. My admiration goes to the doctors and medical personals treating those infected and dying of the Ebola virus; it makes me sad that some of these people have themselves become victims, dying from the virus. Although not published, I am certain many ordinary people are also giving their time and talents to help prevent the further spread of this disease and in giving support to each other during this time of great suffering.
Tzu Chi Buddhist Organisation is another group of volunteers worthy of admiration. I have also admired their well-dressed uniform clad members and their orderly mannerism. Very often we have heard of them offering counselling and support to those in need in MH370, MH17 and other situations needing humanitarian assistance.
Therefore, though we now grief, though we are now challenged, let us be aware in all these gloomy situations light is ever present. The light of goodness in humanity is very much stronger than the darkness we see in fighting. The light of caring for others is nobler than self-centred acts of doing nothing at all. The light of respect for each other is of a higher value than the gloominess of judgemental attitude.
Yes, we have many sad news around, but I still know there are many of you out there doing good each day at work, in schools, in society and in the community you live in
Bro Kenneth Mary GAN

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Do you plant weed or wheat?

Gospel for the 26th July (Feast of Sts Anne and Jochaim): Matthew 13: 24 - 30

'The man's servants came to him and said, "'Sir, it was good seed you sowed in your field; where did the weeds come from?" Matthew 13: 27
For me, I find it my peace to support others in their ideas to do things in an improved manner. As a facilitator in a school, I am surrounded by different types of teachers; they each have a very unique personality, flaws as well as strengths. I feel blessed in these diversity of talents and personalities.
Let us face fact, that we are all sinners and there are those around us, maybe you yourself, is an enemy; the evil mind that 'plants seed of weeds' among the good others are plating. I feel when our hearts are not prone to goodness, love, faith and hope it is a sure sign of an illness. An illness that comes about from a lack of oneness with Jesus Christ. As a Catholic-Christian, I become ill when I fail, in my prayer and worship, to become more like Jesus Christ.
This 'íllness' can cripple me - an 'íllness' born out of the spirit is an illness that no one can cure. When we are away from God, when we choose a life of ignorance we become less sensitive to the needs of others. When we decide to live an ignorant existence, to have things our way and not God's way, then we are much prone to kill the good we see in others around us; we gossip, we make tales, we instruct others to do certain things to disrupt the plans of those we feel inferior to. We 'plant seeds of weeds' among the 'good wheat others plant' because when our lives are lived based only on our needs we become lifeless, when we disconnect ourselves from God the source of life, we eventually die a slow and miserable spiritual death. To fill this deadly emptiness, evil people start to prevent good from appearing; evil people do not want to see the blossoming of good fruits in the works of others. Evil people places their hopes in destruction of the good plans of others. We soon see people who live ignorant lives, those that maybe smiling and having a good time, we see that such people constantly plan evil unknowingly. They plan evil because they fear to see the good that may arise from good people.
Sadly, when our plot is against a man or woman of God, that plot fails big time. For a long time now, I have people working around me who have instructed others "not to address me as a Brother" and I have those (at least 1 I know of) who try to spread malicious false stories about me just to disturb me. Yet, I am glad I have persevered in these manmade hardships; it is not easy being challenged by others on a daily basis, but I rely on God. God's love is my greatest source of strength and comfort, even when there are times I feel God is so far away from me.

What is our response when we are under attack? My advice is never react in return, maintain your peace because the Gospel says, "Let the wheat and  the weeds both grow together until harvest. Then I will tell the harvest workers to pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them, and then to gather in the wheat and put it in my barn." Matthew 13: 30 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Taste and See That The Lord is Good!

One of the greatest reality that I, myself, have to face every mornings, afternoons and evenings is the reality of human sufferings. In the trips I make on the LRT and buses I see people of different races, religions, understandings, work and different problems. A person who relies on their own personal transport is never blessed with the opportunity to see the many facets of life.

Each day I see laughing faces, people that show that life is good. Doing well in ones life is very important as it ensures social wellness. It is good when I see people greeting one another and being polite; only at very few occasions have I came across people who actually uses words such as "excuse me" and "thank you". To see smiles on the faces of ordinary people reflects that goodness is still very much present. To make things better it brings comfort to know that there are still kind people in the world when I meet with sales attendants, bus drivers and taxi drivers that are humble.

To taste and see that the Lord is Good, let us never forget that God's Goodness is also very much at work in moments where the smile is missing.

Seeing so many different sufferings have made me come to a stage when I asked myself, "WHEN IS IT ENOUGH? I CANNOT SEE THESE SUFFERINGS ANYMORE!"

I have seen...
1) A handicapped with broken crutches; he do not even have a decent walking stick to use
2) A young man travelling on LRT with long metal bars attached to his broken leg, travelling alone
3) Ordinary labourers resting on public chairs; evidence that work is tiring
4) A homeless man at a government clinic to seek assistance with his wounds, he was clearly in some pain and discomfort as shown by his face
5) The most reason breaking news is MH17, the flight that was shot down

Seeing myself now recovering from dengue viral infection, reminds me how good God is. In many ways I am glad to be able to TASTE what it is like to have a common tropical Asian disease, Dengue. Alone I feel so much incapable, but my recovery is made possibly quicker with the help of family and friends. Now bed bound due to the drips I am placed under, my movements are very much limited; each time I return from the washroom I have to call for the nurse to get my drip machine running again. Adding to this I now understand why people always complain about hospital food being tasteless.

Never the less, despite my suffering and the amount of sufferings I see everyday, I rejoice that I am still able to constantly give thanks to God. I give thanks because I am still very able to TASTE and SEE that God is truly and magnificently good.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

By the Sea

'On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea.'
Matthew 13: 1

Gospel 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Parable of the Sower) : Matthew 13: 1- 9

I think the only time of the year that I make a point to sit by the sea, is during the end of the year holidays. Sometime during Advent and Christmas, is the time I look forward to sit by the sea; placing myself on the soft sand, taking a stroll by the sea shore, reading a book and having something to munch and absorbing the beach atmosphere. Penang has many beaches to offer, and tourist make their presence felt by the colour of their skin, language and way of dressing.

There are a myriad of activities going on by the sea.

I ask myself, "Why will Jesus want to sit by the sea?"

Today, I see Jesus doing the same- Jesus left the house and headed for the sea of Tiberius. He too is trying to 'escape' from the large crowd that never seems to leave him. I think Jesus must have bought some bread and fish, sweets too, as he walked to the sea. Jesus needed sometime for himself, away from the crowd.

Doing the work of God, personally to me, is not an easy task. I tend to take my tasks a little far too seriously, because if I am not serious I feel that I am cheating my dear students. Thus I believe in an honest work, even with answers to questions given to students will be done first by me; I do not believe in referring to the answers given on the back of the book.

That is why I sometimes need time to just "SIT BY THE SEA", like Jesus, to get away from my work. This is important for all of us, to that moment to be by the sea is important. If not we risk the chance of either going mad or not doing the work of God, but our own self-centred work.

Sunday, a Sabbath Day for Roman Catholics, is taken seriously by me. A day I commit to attending Church Mass and just 'sitting by the beach'; I 'sit by the beach' (metaphorical) by relaxing, playing my games, going to the gym, resting. This done, I am energized to start a new week whereby all Glory is Given to God Alone.