Mission involves moving out

Christian mission is to spread God’s love and compassion, reconciliation and peace. It is about making tangible our faith to everyone around us that God is with us, in our midst of everyday life. Mission calls us to be expressions of God – this love, compassion and reconciliation through our actions. Mission is different from evangelisation. It is more than human eloquence. Love calls us to become more than who we already are, to continue to keep moving out of self.

Are we all called to this mission or is this call meant only for a select few? “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. Are we named “fishers of men” just because we are baptised and follow Christ? Or must we work to become, to be made into, this fisher of men? ‘Follow’ here is not about the static following of a teaching but it very much involves moving with the Holy Spirit that our baptism conferred upon us.

Last Sunday’s Gospel reminded us of our baptism, not just of water but also of the Holy Spirit. We are not baptised as a fisher of men but are baptised to become a fisher of men. To become is still very much our choice. It is our choice to allow the Holy Spirit to engage us. Once engaged we do not remain still because the Spirit is always on the move. Being with Christ as his disciples is participating in this Spirit, always on mission, looking and searching for, tending and giving to, people who need to experience God in their midst.

Only in moving are we are being with Jesus. Remember the apostles huddled together in fear, hiding in the Upper Room. Pentecost came and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and suddenly mission began for them. Their immediate response was to move out of the safety of the upper room. Beneath that physical manifestation of moving out, there was the internal movement of moving out of their old selves to become new, overcoming fear and even speaking in their native tongues proclaiming their experience of Jesus.

We can all become like that too. The Spirit wants to move us as well. Humanly, when we have a good (and even bad) experience in life, it is impossible to keep it within. We want to tell the world. When we have genuine encounters and experiences of Jesus in our personal life through the blessings of his love, compassion, reconciliation and peace, we simply cannot keep those within too. In this way, being with Jesus, will always move us out to mission, to become fishers of men.

There are many opportunities in daily life to become a fisher of men. A fisher of men draws others towards God, to become constantly aware of God’s presence and to keep moving, always returning into a closer closeness to God. This involves engaging people, being involved and interacting in a good way to allow them to experience God in our midst. It involves moving out, not just physically, to where they are in their emotions, ideas and ways of life, to touch them with the Gospel message.

When we keep doing this we continuously evolve, ‘always returning’, changing our self to become always an even better expression of God’s love. We will grow in our discipleship that will bring us more and more into a sphere of fulfilment and purpose that will only get deeper and better as long as we keep moving.

Being with Jesus is constantly about moving out, being with his work, his mission. It is about becoming a fisher of men.

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2023

With thanks to Fr Hermes Sabud

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Re- manifestation

The Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord. We are reminded of the event in Bethlehem where the revelation of the Infant Child to the wise men symbolises the manifestation of Christ to the Gentile world. Epiphany is the calling of not merely a chosen few but all people towards God. Today, the Vatican is this star, its glow cast across the world, the Church of Christ known to all peoples. Yet. How is this manifestation significant to our faith practices and relevant to our life today?

Today there are many people, who Christ has already been manifested to, but who find themselves in a state of disconnect. These are people we know, family, friends, colleagues and very possibly even ourselves. We have all accepted Christ and were baptised but find ourselves struggling for relevance of our Christian faith in our life today. We struggle to connect with the beliefs and teachings of Christ. Many have stopped practicing, without a prayer life, and are no longer worshipping in Church. And even for some who remain in the pews, there is this struggle to connect.

This has resulted in a church present in every facet of life as we know today. If we dwell on this, the church through the baptised is present in every thought and way of life. To put a positive spin, Christians are present everywhere, regardless practising, or non-practising, even in the darker areas of life. They lie dormant, maybe waiting for some form of re-manifestation.

I am a strong proponent of the concept of the New Evangelisation. Saint John-Paul II, then Pope in the 1980s brought on this need to re-evangelise ‘internally’, to those who already have been baptised. The concept calls for us “to re-propose the Gospel” to those who already believe but are perhaps disconnected due to our culture of change. It calls for a new ardour, new methods, and new expressions to re-evangelise. This is perhaps a more urgent need for us today: the need to re-manifest Christ to ourselves.

The wise men in today’s Gospel went back via a different route after encountering the light of Christ. We are the laity, lay people present in every facet, in thoughts and deeds, of the world today. Epiphany encourages us to radiate the light of Christ in the darkness of our own world, to be stars, in new, maybe unexpected ways. We are responsible to simplify the many complexities of faith by breaking down the teachings and the ‘cheem’ homilies into practical examples and experiences in everyday life. Re- manifestation for us as lay people is to become practical examples of the Gospel by making things simple and keeping them simple so that more people can connect.

“This mystery that has now been revealed through the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Jesus Christ, through the gospel.” (Second Reading)

Every baptised person is still part of the same body. Regardless of the state of connect, every person is still part of the same church sharing the same promise and inheritance. Those away from worship are the ‘Gentiles’ of today. They are out there, undoubtedly as a mystery yet to be revealed. Time will come when they are re-manifested. As lay people, we hold that light for them. Epiphany is a call to this mission.

Above you the Lord now rises and above you his glory appears. The nations come to your light and kings to your dawning brightness. All nations shall fall prostrate before you.

Solemnity of The Epiphany of Our Lord

Resolution to return to faith life

Happy New Year! Do we still make new year’s resolutions, or is that now passe? Beneath the joy of celebration, the turn of the year can be marked by being thankful for the last and anxiety for the next. In the here and now, there is an emotional time window that we will do well to dwell in. For some, we will ponder on our spiritual life. If we are baptized, “am I being prompted to pay attention to my faith life and become more active” or for those who have altogether stop practicing, “am I being prompted to return to Church?”

Active or inactive, lukewarm and lapsed, are terms we use to describe our Catholic life. The common marker always seems to be attendance at Sunday mass. If we are being prompted in our inner self today to ponder our faith life, coming for Sunday mass is just a visible sign of our true identity.  When we were baptized, we were baptized into an equality, all of us as children of God, all one in faith, all sharing the same journey, both earthly and spiritual, towards God. Individually, being outside or inside, practicing or not, we are just at a different stage of the journey, a different stage of our faith life. There should not be any judgement, only acknowledgement.

‘Being prompted’ can be described as a faint voice or a smallish tug in our inner self, persistent and wanting our attention. My own personal experience of this came at a time I was at the peak of a career. An unsettling, disturbing question, “what is the meaning of my life” just would not go away. It was to amplify an emptiness I felt about my life. Amidst many things I tried, the soft inner voice gradually grew louder prompting me to look at my faith life. If you are at this stage in your faith life, this ‘call’ is worth exploring.

This ‘call’ is often heard at critical junctions on our journey through life, many times through an event that happened. These events may cause us hurt, grief, anger, confusion, leaving us in a sense of hopelessness. In a personal crisis, God is trying to reach us, to draw us closer to dwell in his peace. At this stage of faith, in relative disbelief and disconnect, we cannot yet identify this ‘call’ as the voice of the Holy Spirit. We might even respond incredulously that “faith life is not what I seek”. If you do follow your call through, you will realize that God draws us up through the stages of faith to come closer and closer to Him. Sunday mass attendance is a nourishing point we will pass through in the stages of faith.

If we are pondering our faith life, we must expand on the simple equation where Sunday mass = Active faith life. We must go beyond the notion that infusing ourselves with intellectual knowledge is sufficient. Because this next stage of faith that we are being prompted, beckoned into, is no longer just a matter of the mind, but the heart. It is the stage of faith where we wise up to the purpose of life, a stage that will lead us to find meaning and fulfilment. This prompting is a call to transform into a new way to live life, and this way includes the other people we encounter in daily life. Life is not about “self”. God in our midst is the sight and experience of people in our lives, all on the same journey, albeit different stages.

Returning is a process, a time-period to explore changes in us and to find answers to questions in our hearts. We have grown sophisticated over time, able to question obedience to obligations and rituals. Walking back into the pews for Sunday mass, or even going for the sacrament of reconciliation as the immediate first steps and think they will work like some sort of magic in returning, may not necessarily be the most helpful first steps. Our first need will not be found in re-catechizing ourselves but to address our emotional needs. Returning is not a course of intellectual knowledge but a process of first being accepted and affirmed for who we are to open our hearts to experiencing and finding God in our life.

There are many courses out there that we are being funnelled into when we contemplate returning. There are no bad courses, but they were all designed for people at different stages of their faith life. Some are for evangelising, others to prepare for baptism. For a person contemplating to return, you will be looking for something pastoral, accompanying you through this important stage in your faith life, inactive, disconnected, weak, confused, or dormant as faith is for you in the here and now.

As you stand figuratively, pondering the prompting, hesitant on the outside, gazing at what church should mean for you, wondering if you should return to a faith life, you might realise that you will need a hand of encouragement to venture and explore. Let us be that hand for you.

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. 1st January 2023

Christmas: Bringing the Gift of Change

It’s the morning after. Maybe it is a better day to reflect what Christmas really means to our life. In my own unpacking, I asked, “Did love exists before Jesus came into our world?” Afterall, the tone in the Old Testament is quite different from that in the New Testament.

“At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son, the Son that he has appointed to inherit everything and through whom he made everything there is.” (Second Reading, Christmas Mass during the day)

In the beginning was the Word. Yes, love existed since time began. We were all made in the likeness of the Creator, and God is Love. The tide of time always brings about changes but throughout the centuries of time God is “I am”, unchanged. Love is the only constant in our constantly changing world. If love has not changed, then what follows is that our expressions of love are what changed.

Time never stops, as we seen from the Old to the New Testaments, she keeps introducing changes to our thinking, interpretations, and concepts of life. Together with development and progress, our lifestyles constantly evolve, our practices changed. And so, against this backdrop, our expressions of God’s Love must also change to remain relevant, bearing in mind that God has never changed. I reflect on this today from the viewpoint of the ministry I am involved in as a lay person, a mission reaching out to Catholics away from Church, the baptised who cannot find relevance.

Yesterday at our Christmas mass, the cathedral was more than full. I have never seen so many people wanting to be at mass. I am sure that at every parish around the world there was this increase in numbers. Christmas Day is the occasion many people away from Church would choose to come for mass, if they only come once a year. The Spirit must have moved them, even if they did not realise. Would they ask, if prompted, “Where is this God who has come to dwell amidst us? Where is He in my personal life?”

Who are we called to evangelise to, today? Only those who do not know Christ, or also the increasing number of baptised who have slipped away but would return to a more active faith life if they find relevance? Advent had prepared us to celebrate Christmas every day in life. As the laity, we are the prophets of today, sharers of the Christmas message that God remains relevant and He is with us, in our midst. We are called to bring this gift of change to the baptised who cannot find relevance. How do we breach this disconnect for them? It all begins with awareness and simple tweaks in expressions.

These are my ideas, and you will have yours. We begin reaching out to someone away from Church by understanding and accepting the situation they find themselves in. They are not desperate to return. This is no longer the old days. Sometimes the little things we do in expressing our faith can annoy some of them and drive them even farther away. For example, today quoting Scriptures as the first thing we do to someone away from Church is not the wisest way of approach. For some, being quoted scripture is a big put-off. It is certainly not the way to make the path straight for them. What ways and expressions are we used to that are more obstructive than helpful in today’s times?

This week, as we approach another new year, is a good time to dwell in these thoughts. We are all bearers of this Gift of Change, what must we change to help change the lives of others? To the numbers who came en masse yesterday, the baptised who come once a year, would it have been different for them if the Church had tweaked her liturgy to include a message of welcome, and an acknowledgment of their presence?

Day after Christmas, 2022

Advent: Peace, a tell-tale sign

Peace is precious. Peace is not something we immediately sought for but at some points, peace is something we certainly need on our journey of life. At its end, most of us would want to die peacefully. What truly is peace?

“Peace* I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)

This is the 4th and last Sunday of Advent. As we light the fourth candle in our Advent wreath, we prepare ourselves to welcome Emmanuel by dwelling on the gift of Peace. Peace is one of the greater manifestations of Emmanuel “God-is-with-us”. Peace is a tell-tale sign of God’s presence with us on our journey of life.

We remind ourselves that Advent does not only ready us for Christmas but prepares us to welcome Christ to accompany us on our journey through life. Our life journey is seldom smooth. When our life takes the occasional hiccup and veers into turmoil, we find ourselves troubled or afraid. We begin to look for signs, like in our first reading today, of God’s presence.

Life can indeed be quite harsh, with her fair share of challenges and difficulties. Relationships can bite, financial situations weigh us down, illnesses cripple, and grief can linger.  In the storms of life, where solutions are not forthcoming, we seek, above everything else, peace. Peace, like Hope, Faith, and Joy before, is God’s presence reaching out to connect with us.

Peace tells us, especially amidst turmoil, that God is with us. This is the Peace the world cannot give. Christmas tells us that Peace is already there dwelling in our inner self. Advent is preparations to activate our connection with Peace.

Our journey through life will continue to reveal God’s intimate presence in our life. But we need to be spiritually prepared to see the signs. We first need to believe and then actively seek to experience God’s presence. We need always to be praying, not merely muttering set prayers but to converse and dialogue. We pray to be aware and able to listen to God’s presence.

Signs of God’s presence often appear in the little details of day-to-day life. Signs can appear in seemingly inconsequential unexpected events. They also come along in the words and actions of loved ones, friends and even strangers. To listen is more than just hearing; it comes from encountering and experiencing this presence dwelling in us. Our Faith is a living experience, and Peace speaks through it.

When we begin to seek Peace, we begin a transformation in our inner self. Desiring peace conversely imply we seek less of what the world has to offer. We will realise that when we seek the signs of God’s presence, we begin to live a more God-centred life, increasingly dependent on his faithful promise that He will always be with us.

Advent also helps us to embrace that promise where at the Second Coming our tears will be wiped away and there will be suffering no more. The journey of life is taking us there.

At the end of this journey, we have only one desire which will be for peace. We want to rest in his presence as a faithful departed. After all life is a journey back to our Creator.  Emmanuel, he has come to accompany us on this journey.

Peace is who we seek, peace is what God gives us.

4th Sunday of Advent

Advent: Hidden, elusive Joy

When there is so much suffering and grief, where is Joy? When the journey of life leads us to its inevitable ending of death, where is Joy? The tougher terrains on the journey of life reveals Hope at an early stage that gradually metamorphose into Faith, but Joy is so much more elusive, hidden, taking its time to manifest. “Be patient, brothers, until the Lord’s coming” (Second Reading).

Advent is the period of preparation for the “Lord’s coming”. Christmas introduces this “coming” into our life. Christmas is easy to prepare for. But Advent is more than just Christmas preparations. It is about preparing ourselves towards the inevitable coming of the time when we must meet our Creator. Death is an inevitable crossing we must all make. Advent is preparation with this crossing in mind.

We light the third candle of our Advent wreath, a Christian tradition, symbolising the gift of Joy. The Lord’s coming at Christmas is to accompany us on our journey of life, preparing us for this important crossing ahead. Joy will manifest only when faith matures.

The gift of the Infant Jesus at Christmas is also the gift of the Risen Christ at Easter. Christmas without Easter is hollow. Our journey through life without the presence of God is directionless, joyless. This joy of the Christmas birth leads to a humble death, the crossing that led us into the joy of the Resurrection. Human sadness from suffering and grief will dissipate but Christian joy lingers. Joy is present in our life. We must find ways to uncover this gift.

Death is not the end but a change. Death transits us into eternal life. Life is a journey of personal encounters and revelation of God’s presence in the chapters of our life. Events in our life is constantly speaking to us, inviting us to share in the Resurrection and claim the promise of eternal life. Advent prepares for our mind and heart to open so as to mature our faith and find Joy. Joy is the foretaste of this heaven.

The Christmas crib tells of a humble birth. The teachings of Jesus in centred on humbly serving the other. His crucifixion is a humble death. Humility is key in finding Joy. It begins at Christmas with our humble acceptance of God, to accept Christ as Saviour and Redeemer.

Our God is a humble God. Christmas is one of the most celebrated events in our world, celebrated not only by believers but non-believers too. Today’s sensitive world has even gone on to change and hide the reason for the season. Amongst some people it is not even correct to say, “Merry Christmas” but to use “Happy holidays season”, sensitive to any link to our belief. This is innocent joy, but they are also seeds of faith being scattered.

Out of hollow death, comes our rising. Joy is found in the knowing of, and faith in, the Resurrection and the many encounters of the Risen Christ on our journey of life.

‘Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’

Carollers bringing Christmas joy in a hospital ward

3rd Sunday of Advent 2022

Advent:  Faith – Prepare a way for the Lord

From last Sunday, for many of us on the journey of life, we first encounter God through Hope. And Hope transmitting into Faith comes from the continuing, gentle revelation of our God on our personal journey of life, where different little details are unique to each person. Advent is for this preparation: for us to more and more live and experience encounters with God as we journey unceasingly towards the end of life.

We light the second candle in the Advent wreath, a Christian tradition, symbolizing the gift of Faith. This gift is for us to nurture, with happenings in our life germinating it. As we go along the path of life, enough will happen for us to eventually gain the conviction to have faith.

Faith begins with intellectual knowledge. For most, that is not enough to mature faith to find conviction. Christmas is the Word made flesh; our belief through intellectual knowledge must metamorphose into a living experience.

Faith begins with a declaration of belief. But this belief must metamorphose, it must come alive! Faith comes alive when we encounter this “Emmanuel – God with us” in the happenings of our personal life. Only then can we acquire wisdom that our God is a ‘personal God’ and there exists a personal relationship between God and each person.

Faith, like Hope, desires to accompany us on our journey in life. Hope and Faith is our God reaching out to us on the path of life. Often, we cannot see him, not even realizing his presence. Hence this Sunday’s call “to prepare a way for our Lord, make the paths straight for him”. It is a call to nurture our faith, to grow it into the spiritual dimension where we readily encounter our Lord in daily activities, so that our belief will become for us a living experience. And our eyes are opened to see our God literally in our midst.

Advent is the preparation to welcome Jesus into the world. Advent is the awareness that Christmas will lead us to the gift of the Risen Christ who walks with us faithfully through every episode of our earthly journey. Every one of us would have had encounters with the Lord especially in significant life events, more often than we think.  It is just that many times, we never realized that it was the Lord who passed by. But it is not too late.

Advent is this welcoming of Faith into our hearts. Our journey of life is often pockmarked and marked by milestones where events in life significantly changed our paths. We can turn our backs and label them as “blessings in disguise” or we can go back to these milestones and retrace our personal history.   What happened? How? Who did we meet along the way that has brought us to our present, our here and now? Did we not meet Hope?

We can see events that conspired as coincidences, strangers who entered our life for a specific purpose then disappeared, family and friends who lifted us in times of trouble, unfortunate events that in time along the path of life brought us to a better place. We can uncover so much if we spend time retracing our personal life story. In so doing, we can uncover the presence of God in our midst, the reason for Christmas in our personal life.

Only then can faith become a living experience. And only with Faith will our journey of life become easier. Make our paths straight.

2nd Sunday of Advent 2022

Advent: Hope – Christ in disguised

We begin the season of Advent. Advent is preparation for the coming of Christ. Christmas is coming, for many, believers and non-believers alike, our favourite time of the year. I have gone through too many Advents completely missing the point in the preparations because I was only focused on Christmas.

Advent has a twofold character: as a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ’s first coming to us is remembered; as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. Advent is thus a period for devout and joyful expectation (Norms 39).

Christmas celebrates Emmanuel, meaning ‘God with us’. Jesus born into the world in the first coming, crucified and died, risen as Christ to accompany us through the journey of life to await the Second Coming. In personal terms, to accompany us through our ups and downs in life, to be there for us when we need him, our star when our skies darkened, to lead us to our salvation.

We light the first candle in the Advent wreath, a Christian tradition, symbolising the gift of Hope.

Hope is the last thing that dies in us. The challenges of life may cause us to lose belief in our Christian faith but never before we lose hope in life. Hope will always remain with us even long after we have abandoned our Christian faith. Challenges in life can sometimes get so heavy, driving us into desperate despair leaving us alone and lonely in a dark space with seemingly nothing left. In that darkness, the small candlelight of hope flickers.

People who have come forward to church seeking baptism often point to an event in life that sparked their conversion. They never knew Christ, but they know Hope. People who have abandoned their faith return to church often out of a crisis in their personal lives. They had lost belief in Christ but Hope never left them. Just listen to the testimonies of returning Catholics. It is always Hope that appears first to lead us to a better place.

For the downtrodden, for the poor, for the marginalised, for these who may not even profess the Christian faith, though they have very little, they will always have hope. For the sick in hospital clinging on to life is clinging on to the hand that Hope stretches out to them. Hope accompanies us throughout the journey of life. It is the last light that goes out.

Hope is the Risen Christ in disguised, our humble God dwelling amongst his people.

And so the world is in joyful anticipation to celebrate Christmas even if only in secular ways. Even non-believers celebrate, their numbers increasing as well due to commercialisation. But Jesus the reason for the season is happy to remain hidden in the celebrations. For Christ faithfully waits to be revealed in their personal lives, often appearing first as the gift of hope.

Christmas brings us this gift of Hope, Christ who dwells in us to accompany us through our journey in life, towards our salvation, our second coming.

(First Sunday of Advent, 2022)

Returning through our stories

Part of the future of our church may be out there, outside the traditional boundaries and definitions of who church is. For certain, they do not come regularly for Sunday mass, if they do come at all. Their numbers are large and growing. For some of them, church in its present form has lost its relevance to their lives. They are now scattered into every facet of society, found in all lifestyles, values and liberal opinions. Today, our mission to reach out to these Catholics away from church is urgent and critical.

Pentecost renews our definitions and boundaries. The Holy Spirit always renew our views of mission and our ways of being church. Our mission has never altered. Evangelization has always been about making known the one constant through time: the love of God present with humanity. What has changed is the stage on which we mission. Evolving worldly ways and values challenge the church into the new evangelization of finding new methods, expressions, and ardour to speak the language of today.

This mission to reach out to our Catholics outside must speak a language they understand. In an over-informed age, for some, doctrines and teachings are no longer catalytic for re-conversion. Intellectual arguments are easier settled when we have a living experience of this love. When the disciples emerged from the Upper Room, they spoke in different languages, each listener heard them in their own native language.

Today, personal life stories are our most native tongue, each story speaking to each different person about the mighty acts of God in their individual, unique life. Our life events are like a personal language God uses to speak one to one with each of us. The message is clear: God is active in each of our life.

Landings, the ministry welcoming returning Catholics, uses the language of personal life stories to good effect. Everyone has a life story and the events that happened in our personal life are more linked than we imagined. Often the hidden presence of God in our chapters lead to what we nonchalantly regard as ‘blessings in disguise’. Precisely. The methods of Landings remove this ‘disguise’ for us to see the intervening presence of God in episodes we thought He was never there. Encountering God this way ignites faith.  

Relevance can only be found in our own personal life. Many people can be quite disconnected in their faith life. Relevance will reconnect us. Relevance is when we see God’s hand guiding us through the harsher episodes of our past; we look back to realize how we got to the present. It is only when we see God real in our realities that we can claim ownership of our faith; it is no longer faith from our parents. Faith no longer remains a teaching or a doctrine or a Sunday ritual. Faith evolves to become a dynamic, powerful living experience.

In our experience with Landings, we can testify to this power. Returning Catholics encounter God in this very personal way. They may have abandoned God but realized through the story of their life that God never abandoned them. God’s love had accompanied them through the passage of their personal history, leading, affirming, encouraging, empowering, and healing through the course of time. It is no longer a theory but an experience of love. Life story becomes faith story. Conviction is power coming from the native tongue of our life story. Every one of us has this potential in our inner self: A faith life ready to move onto a new stage, ready to be set on fire.

‘Returning’ is not just about Catholics who have left the Church. It is for everyone including those who sit regularly in the pews on Sundays. ‘Returning’ is about being drawn infinitely closer to God. In this sense, we are all always ‘returning’. Coming closer ignites us, fires our faith life whichever stage it is at, in whichever facet we find ourselves in society. We are the Body of Christ with many parts scattered into our world, perhaps for a purpose yet to be revealed.

Pentecost renews our sense of purpose and the way of being church to one another. Our mission includes re-evangelizing our own, baptized Catholics struggling to connect. This could possibly be our own self. We have a new way for doing this as laity by participating in a synodal church, journeying together, and listening intently to the stories of each other. Everyone has a story. Allow the Holy Spirit to set it afire.

Pentecost 2022

You MUST rejoice

Part of my penance I received at confession last week was, “You MUST rejoice this Easter”. Rejoice is a feeling of great joy. But the emphasis was on “must”. Often because of our familiarity with Easter, her riches may remain uncultivated if we allow Easter to be a passing theme. “Must” emphasizes the need to dwell into Easter to especially unpack the reasons for this great rejoice in our life.

We know Easter well in our belief for without occurring there would not be Christianity. We know it as a cornerstone of faith, of death being conquered, of suffering eventually giving way to eternal joy. We know Easter as a produce and consequence of the Love of God. We are familiar with the scripture passages of today. But what does Easter mean to ‘me’ in my personal life? What impact does Easter have over ‘my personal space’? You MUST rejoice – to uncover.

We are NOT mere units making up humanity. Each of us, individually, a created being, unique in identity, with a name and a distinctive personality, passing through different circumstances, never the same with any other person. They had been billions and will be billions more. Yet, Christ is focus only on ‘me alone’, his full attention on one, ‘me’. Not possible from us, only possible with Christ. You MUST rejoice – to encounter the Risen Christ.

To ‘encounter’ is to have this lived experience with the Risen Christ. We can only truly rejoice when we uncover Easter in our personal life. “That he must rise from the dead” (Today’s Gospel) cannot only be a teaching but a living experience. “You MUST rejoice” emphasizes the need to journey deep into our inner self and remove the stone covering our personal tomb.

It is in our tomb where we store our personal history, a library of past events, perhaps catalogued by emotions of happiness, anger, gratification, hurt, sweetness, and bitterness. It is here where our personal life rhythms the Paschal Mystery of life, death, and the resurrection. It is here too where we find the footprints of the Risen Christ accompanying us. For us to see, we first fill ourselves with gratitude (Rejoice!) then retrace the path of our history that brought us here. Look for the unexpected twists and turns, in the smaller details, to unhide the Risen Christ walking with us.

This is a good discipline for Easter, not just today but for the entire Easter season. Our personal history wants to reveal so much more. We can think of a past event each day in this season. Where did that lead me to? We will be quite surprised when we join the dots. It is entirely possible to encounter the Risen Christ in a past event in the here and now of today. Journeying deeper, we can also find healing for past hurts and pain – events left alone in the darkness of our tomb. Practice this discipline, rejoice, and the Risen Christ will become a living experience personal and unique to ‘me’.

Christ is focused only on ‘me’. How wonderful! This Easter season is the time to fan the new fire in us. Rejoice, be engulfed for new life awaits. Happy Easter!

Easter Sunday 2022