Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Pentecostal song

We have finally arrived at Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. The daily readings during these last weeks of the Easter season tell us how we can live as the apostles did, full of zeal once they caught the fire of the Resurrected Christ.

It was a time of impressive miracles for it was time where the disciples grew up and walked closely in the Master's footsteps. They were able to love as passionately and generously as Jesus did. Their joy was contagious, their faith prodigious, and Christianity spread despite efforts to suppress and eradicate it. All thanks to the Advocate, the Holy Spirit.

It is not any different today, we still face the same persecutions as Christians of old did, even though the persecutions take on sometimes novel and more cunningly disguised faces.

Alongside the bombing of Churches (praying for the Christians of Surabaya) and killing of people due to racial or religious differences, we see the changing of laws that threaten the lives of unborn children (praying for Ireland this coming week as they vote that abortion will not be legalized) and the inviolable nature of marriage. Advances in technology and medicine have unfortunately spawned new evils that cheapen the value of human life and expose especially women and children to more forms of subtle abuse and subjugation.

What do we do? We need an Easter spirituality, a Pentecostal grounding in order to live in our world as successfully as they did. It's not about a self-righteous, strident or martial reaction, much as it seems justified to pay back in the same coin. It's about going forth with forgiving compassion, courage and constancy. We must be unflagging in passion, full of hope and love. We cannot bow to evil and we must right the wrongs we see with wisdom, bringing light and life into darkness. The impetus for such enthusiastic fortitude can only come from a faith that relies wholly on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

During my recent ICPE Companions cell meeting we discussed two points of the ICPE Mission's Norms and Orientations: appropriating the gift of salvation in order to live in the freedom of being children of God as well as how we can live out our evangelistic or missionary vocation daily.

Paragraph 8.1.13 states that a certain spirituality is needed in living out our vocation:

It requires that the community as well as its members are being led by the Holy Spirit (R.M. 87). This vocation also demands an intimate communion with Christ, a self emptying (Ph 2:7) together with an attitude of thanksgiving (Ph 4: 4-9).  It also demands loving the Church and humanity as Jesus Christ did, having a ‘zeal for souls’ implied by Christ’s own charity, which takes the form of concern, tenderness, compassion, openness, availability, and interest in peoples lives (Jn 2:25). The community emphasises that only profound love for the Church can sustain the missionary zeal of the members (R.M. 89).  Above all, this missionary vocation requires a life committed to the way of holiness (R.M. 90).  

This is the Way of the Cross, of living in the Spirit. Be holy, as our Father in heaven is, as our Lord Jesus was and is holy, as Mother Mary was holy, as the saints before us were holy.

The invitation is 
to be 
to be 
fully me
consciously
mindfully
in touch with Christ 
the Holy Spirit 
attuned 
to His heart's desire
for me 
for my neighbours 
especially those 
I find hard to love
(including myself)
every moment 
of every day
breathing in 
His goodness
exhaling 
alluring peace
Zeal for God 
this love for Christ
comes when 
we steep ourselves 
in prayer
entering the heart 
of the Father
resting
basking
playing at
the Shepherd's feet
growing 
fruitful branches 
of the Vine
making 
narrow gate choices
scorned by the world 
but so pleasing 
to the Creator
Opt for 
the better part 
always
Seek the good 
of the other
Find a way 
of life sublime
intense in purity
umami rich  
With eye on 
eternal life
I submit
Come Holy Spirit
Creator blest
Renew
the face 
of the earth
Veni 
Creator
Spiritus

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Grandparents' prayer

Easter baby, you are a springtime special,
Bringing new life to our home.
We smile when we gaze at your tiny face,
Our hearts fill with gladness
As we inhale your delicious scent.
We stand in awe at the miracle of you
The perfection of your tiny being
You are precious, so wonderfully made.
God's favour is truly upon you!
What will you be when you grow up?
We can, but pray, and bless you daily
Angels and saints protect you and keep you safe
Guard your heart from all things bad
May you grow up strong and healthy
Humble of heart, a righteous man
Full of joy and hope; light and salt to all you meet
The world is a better place, we are better people
Just because you inhabit our world today.



Thursday, April 12, 2018

Attesting to Divine Mercy

On the day when P and I first met, which happened to be the Feast of the Divine Mercy, I remember going to the Adoration Room that morning after mass to offer up my first blind date in decades. Although I no longer thought marriage was even a remote possibility, I went on the date with a curious and open heart. I actually received a sign in prayer which, at the time, I was not quite sure what it meant. Now I see the sign was the promise of Divine Mercy, that if we both place Jesus in the heart of our relationship, we can do no wrong. We may fumble badly from time to time, but we will always bounce back, stronger than ever.

Today I am still grateful for this sign, a reminder to make time for the Lord in order to receive life-giving affirmation and vital grounding for my pre-eminent mission of marriage. Thus, I need to praise and worship the Lord, whether in stillness or in movement (what joy it is to worship Him through my body - thanks A, for the opportunity). He is faithful forever, perfect in love* so I, in turn, must be as faithful and perfect as I can be, for Him first, then for P. Thanking and loving Him for His Divine Mercy, commemorating a feast we celebrated just last Sunday.

By Divine Mercy we met
And decided that marriage was
The way forward for us
To test the truths we advocate
Treading waters of nuptial abundance
Percolating quiet, humble obedience.

Through Divine Mercy we love
Bringing fulfilment to each other
Fired in the healing heart of Jesus
We anneal our halves into a whole
His graces are richly sufficient
We bow to the One omniscient.

In Divine Mercy we live
Surrendering intellects and egos
Serving the good of the other
Faithful in the little things
We are bread broken, giving sustenance
Yet astounded always by His providence.

* We worshipped in dance to Aaron Keyes's Sovereign Over Us last night which was uplifting, liberating and soul-satisfying.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Say yes to Easter

If we cannot experience the Resurrection, then we cannot truly experience Easter, said Father Greg last Friday evening during his homily. He was talking in reference to a few of the disciples who, at a loss despite having encountered the Risen Lord, had gone back to what they knew best, being simple fishermen.

What he said resonated with me for I was not feeling particularly Easter-ish even during the Easter Octave. So that was what it was, I was not able to internalize the Resurrection for I was still struggling within myself to take up the invitation of Easter, which is to live by and in the power of the Resurrected Christ. I was unable to fully process this new reality post-Good Friday and its implications for my own life. I remained uncertain, frightened and bewildered, digging in my heels at the new trajectory before me.

I think I got stuck in the tragedy of the Crucifixion, and I forgot to see it as the gift that it really is, an unspeakably beautiful gift of love that morphs into something even more awesome: Resurrection, a resurrection that heralds not just hope of immense proportions, but also an alternative way of living - living a life fully redeemed and destined for eternal life.

Having nailed my sins and my personal crosses to the Cross, I was unable to rise above the events that had recently challenged my identity to the core. I was still weeping and struggling in my human weakness and condition, refusing to let the Resurrected Lord transform my way of thinking. My world got too big for me and I could not see that Jesus was bigger than all the problems of my world and the world at large combined.

It is, therefore, no coincidence that the Feast of the Annunciation follows so soon after the Easter Octave. The invitation is to to be bold, to dig deeper into unplumbed reserves of faith, to suspend personal beliefs, surrender one's own store of past, known experiences, and allow Jesus to lead the untrodden way forward, terrifying and wonderful in equal parts.

The message of Easter is to believe in a new way, even if it seems odds-defying and impossible at the outset. Believing means saying yes unconditionally, and then choosing to set down the path that lays before me, knowing full well that I will encounter difficulties and challenges that may be insurmountable save for one fact: the Resurrected Lord walks with me.

With Him by my side, I am safe. I am more than good. I can experience inner peace and joy, even when beset with problems. My heart can burn with hope and zeal, for Jesus will open my mind to good solutions and perfect answers. I may never be perfect, but His ways, His plan for me is perfect. I just need to do what my SD likes to tell me at the end of our time together, (you) go ahead.

As Mary did, scared as she was, yet dead sure that our Heavenly Father's way is the right one for her, I say yes again today, yes to where I am situated, yes to being His beloved disciple and a favoured daughter who knows her Father's heart. And I choose to believe that Jesus is always on my side so I do not need to operate from a place of fear and insecurity, born out of uncertainty. I am free to relax, be and become the me He created me to be, and evnjoy the ride.

My Easter gift this week comes from 1 John 2:5: But if anyone keeps His word, the love of God has been truly perfected in him. By this we know we are in Him.

If I wish to shoot for perfection, all I have to do is love Him and I will get there. Good news for the perfectionist in me. Easter has finally arrived!

Monday, April 02, 2018

Journeying slowly into Easter

I wondered yesterday if resurrection was painful. Three days in hell before rising must have been at least a tad uncomfortable, if not painful. Even if it was not, it took those who loved Jesus more than three days to process through the grief before accepting the good news of His resurrection.

The reason for my reflection was because I could not experience the joy I usually felt on Easter Sundays for I had a mini crisis of faith on Good Friday. I lost faith in my own goodness, my self-worth and my abilities to the point I was ready to abandon everything I believed in, just like that, despite being able to acknowledge everything that was good in my life, some of which I have assiduously built. It was an extremely painful and terrifying experience. I can only think I was somehow privileged to glimpse a shadow of the internal struggle and emotional pain Jesus must have felt in Gethsemane.

Although my world righted itself by that evening, and I realized I really needed to die to my old self in order to resurrect as Jesus did, the angst had not dissipated completely by Sunday. So it was nice to meet up and celebrate Easter with my ICPE community and receive a few Easter insights.

I was first reminded by S that the Church in her wisdom had divined Easter to be a 50-day period which, as M pointed out, was an even more significant time for a Christian than Lent. It is during this time that the resurrected Lord still walks among us, teaching us, encouraging us. As P shared his memory of a homily last Tuesday when we broke the word on the walk to Emmaus, Jesus comes first to befriend us and walk with us, then He teaches us and shepherds us, before He becomes bread broken for us, feeding us and fortifying us.

This is the Easter journey. And we have days to explore and discover the Risen Lord; experience the hope and joy of His resurrection and what it portends in our own lives. So I still have time to laboriously chip away at the top of the tough eggshell encasing my new self before I can emerge from it, sufficiently strengthened to wobble out on my own two feet.

When K asked us what it was that we would like to offer Jesus this Easter, whether we were still in the darkness of Good Friday or in the resurrection of Easter Sunday, these words that echo Romans 5:5 came to me: The love of Christ has been poured into our hearts.

I saw my vocation, my marriage, as a vessel, the melding of two broken, imperfect heart halves bonded together miraculously and irrevocably by the liquid gold of Christ's redeeming and divine love to form one beautiful and whole heart. Then I saw the gushing waters of God's tender, eternal, unending and faithful love poured into this vessel of us.

If our marriage, our married hearts are filled with God's Holy Spirit, and consequently the love of God, then, no matter what happens, no matter what travails we face, the cross victorious will always reign; originating from the sacrificial love of the crucified Christ, the suffering servant, and transforming into the hope of the resurrected Christ.

This is how P and I can be sustained through the days of our married lives, and this is how we can make our marriage a sign of hope and a source of light in this world. Our marriage will water those who thirst and help the seeds of faith the Sower sows to sprout and grow abundantly around us. We can bring the laughter and joy of Cana to life. Every single day, we can sing the songs of Easter.

My offering to God this Easter is a spanking new self and empty heart, waiting expectantly to be filled with His abundant love.

  _and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.    Romans 5:5

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Owning the Last Supper

These last weeks my sense of justice has been hugely challenged. I have felt misunderstood, wrongly accused, and even slandered. I have also felt used and abused, the way the older son who lived with his father felt when on returning home after a hard day's work was confronted with a celebratory feast given for his ne'er-do-well younger brother who had frittered away his portion of the inheritance and has now come home with his tail between his legs.

Where is the justice in all this? All I do is strive for the good of the other. I seek to be kind and generous. I live by truth and love as best I can. How did I become this vile enemy? So how do I respond with grace when faced with my own bewildered anger and frustration, my bitterness? How do I continue to love and forgive those who hurt, anger and sadden me?

Reading the Archie's homily for today, Maundy Thursday, entitled The Capacity to Love*, pulled together all the lessons I have been trying to absorb this Lenten season. He first asks us to focus on the right thing: the emphasis is on Christ loving us first, so that in turn we can love one another. If our service is not rooted in His love for us, we end up doing what the Lord has done for us, but using our own strength. This is where we either become self-righteous, arrogant and proud, or we become discouraged,  lacking confidence and disgusted with our own selfishness.

Yes, yes, yes! Root, root, root! I have spent time on my knees, weeping at the feet of Jesus, attempting to root my identity in Him. Only His perfect love for me has saved me and allowed me to see through His eyes so that I can get a better handle on all the situations at hand and strive to act as He would have. By my own strength it is impossible to be magnanimous and gracious. In God alone I find my strength. He is my fortress, my stronghold, my shield and my song. This has been my constant cry through this season.

Tonight's mass celebrating the Last Supper of Jesus Christ speaks of Christ's self-emptying humility, the depths of His love for us as the servant king who forgives us our sins and takes on our sins by giving up His own life. He is love and mercy personified. Monsignor William Goh further reminds me that as a lover and follower of Jesus, I, too, am called to act as He did, emptying myself for others, and to "make the sacrifice of Christ at the mass" my "own sacrifice". The ways I can live out this mass is:

Firstly, we must offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us as Jesus offered His forgiveness to His apostles who would betray Him later... If we desire to receive God’s forgiveness, then we must be ready to forgive completely those who have offended us. Otherwise, the forgiveness of God would be thwarted as it is only one-sided, that is, on the side of God.  

Secondly, we must offer our lives in service from the love that the Lord has given to us. We serve not with our own strength and merits but by the grace of His love. We are called to empty ourselves in humble service to our fellowmen. It is not enough to serve our fellowmen, but we must serve with humility, compassion and unconditionally. Only humble service can touch the hearts of our fellowmen. Unless we empty ourselves of our pride, we cannot be true servants of the Lord.

Finally, we must be ready to suffer for others, especially innocent suffering... When we suffer innocently for others, because we have been wrongly judged, slandered, misunderstood and ridiculed, then we could truly say that we have made the sacrificial death of Jesus our own. When we suffer for others, helping them and alleviating their sufferings, then we too proclaim His death and most of all, by our sufferings for them, we bring about healing and reconciliation.

When we get down to brass tacks, the answer is to simply be loved and to love, love through the hurt, the sorrow, the anger, the pain, the injustice, the hatred, the bitterness, and the loss, and only then can it be said:

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35   

Thank you, Your Grace, for giving me fresh hope, and zeal for Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.

* To read the entire awesome homily, please go to https://www.catholic.sg/29-march-2018-maundy-thursday/

Sunday, March 25, 2018

New and unending mercies

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon last and we were there to say goodbye to my aunt, my mother's youngest sister. Thanking God for allowing us that last Divine-appointed meeting, a final afternoon to laugh and cry, and say a proper goodbye. She waited for us, kept us entertained, her delight infectious and palpable. Apple juice, green jelly and afternoon tea - what a celebration! My heart aches, and yet, it was the best possible outcome given the circumstances. She had run a crazy good race and was ready to go home to Jesus. Thank you for living life on your own terms, with honesty, and with no excuses. What grace to die on Wednesday at 3:00pm, the hour of Divine Mercy, to the strains of prayer muttered by loved ones and friends the world over.

As I process my grief the chorus from the hymn As We Gather that originates from Lamentations 3:22-23 comes to my mind, a suitable refrain:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;*
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning, new every morning,
Great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord,
Great is Thy faithfulness.

Rest in peace dear Aunty R. Thank you for everything!


War baby, wild child
You always looked at life 
Just a little differently
From the rest of us
The grass was greener 
In the far yonder
Where sunshine beckoned
Promising new life
One filled with song
Ancient hymns delighted 
Soothing your soul 
Inspired, you ran free.
God's special child
Funny with an acerbic wit
Generous and concerned
Loving those who needed kindness
You made a difference 
Where it counted, saved lives.
And now we weep
For missed opportunities
Another chance to see you smile
But glad that Divine Mercy
Brought you home in peace.
Rest well, among the favoured
In our Father's arms.