Pendulum of faith

Sown into each of us is a seed of faith. Then we are scattered into the world into every level of status and wealth, and into all sorts of situations. This seed is in every facet of human life, no ground unseeded. This faith is to make a difference in a world slaved to decadence (Second Reading). We are planted into lives of others for the purpose of becoming sowers of the Good News.

We cannot escape this slavery to decadence. Our own lives are constantly caught between worldly and spiritual desires. Unfortunately, they pull us in opposite directions causing us to groan inwardly. This happens to us every day. Sometimes we have a choice but many times we do not. And situations take us into fields we did not choose to go. So even though we have this seed of faith is us, our faith is like a pendulum swinging between doubt and hope.

This seed of faith is faith given to us to help us make our way through life, to understand the sufferings that come our way. I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us (Second Reading). Being human, we are tested not by God but by events that happen to us. God in turn use these events to grow the seed in us as we oscillate between pain and joy in daily life.

It is within our human nature to always stumble. And it is within our spiritual nature to be always returning to our Creator. So, we cannot be disheartened when our faith swings like a pendulum. We will swing between being interested and disinterested in our faith life, as we are attracted or distracted. As we oscillate between revenge and forgiveness, we fall into sin and rise by the grace of God. We leave the Church, but we will return.

In these swings, our seed grow. Despairing times are fertile grounds for faith to grow. Often in despairing circumstance we feel alone, left behind by the world. In this extreme swing into doubt, we will desperately in our nature reach out for hope. It is in our empty tomb where we will encounter the Risen Christ. Only from experiences will we understand with our heart and be converted and healed (Today’s Gospel).

Our faith life is also this pendulum swing between seed and sower. As seed grow, we become more sower; sower to make a difference to the lives we are placed amidst. Our seed grows as we understand with our heart. Our roots reach deeper with each experience. As we grow in conviction, we will not be choked by worries of this world or lured by its riches. Our seed will grow till it yields a harvest and now produces a hundredfold.

We all have this seed in us. The purpose of our life is to sow this seed of faith into the lives of others, as we together make our way through the pains of our daily life. Our purpose is served when the word that goes forth from my mouth does not return to me empty (First Reading). As the pendulum swing, be heartened that challenging experiences in life is the most fertile soil for seed to grow.

Coming Back to the Father - God wants to restore us

Slide used for a retreat. Pendulum photo taken off the internet with thanks.

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My yoke is easy, my burden light

Somewhere in us there is a sweet spot of peace. This spot is like a shelter. It shields us from the pressure, stress and worries that comes from living our worldly life. Under it we are always calm. It is a spot to retreat into when we are burdened by our load of responsibilities and troubled by unfulfilled expectations. The peace and calm give us confidence, an assured knowing that the storms in life will blow over. Here we are blessed with a patient wait and healing rest.

“Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.” (Today’s Gospel)

This sweet spot beckons us. “Come to me”. We must have the intent to go to it. We can be saddled with many challenges in life. Unable to cope we become overburdened. We are saddled because we are not spiritually prepared and do not want these challenges. When we are overburdened, we are crushed by its weight. Our intent to reach the peace within us must begin with an intention to consciously take up our daily challenges.

Christ said, “Take up your cross and follow me”. “Take up” requires our personal intent. When we are prepared for something heavy, we carry it better. Sometimes we mistake taking up the cross as suffering. Suffering comes when our burdens crush us, but even when that happens, today tell us there is peace in suffering. Today, we are invited to come and take up the yoke of Christ. “Shoulder my yoke and learn from me”.  No one breezes through life. Daily life challenges are inevitable. Life must be ploughed through.

Today’s passage tells us of rest stops for our spirit as we make our way through our responsibilities and expectations. Intentionally shouldering the yoke of Christ is telling ourselves that the goal of our earthly life is to reach the riches of heaven. It rearranges our life priorities and readjust our focus. Then as we make our way through our day, we must seek the presence of the Risen Christ who is always present accompanying us on our journey through life. We must look for him in the moments of time so that we can learn from him. To find peace and rest, we must with intent shift our focus onto our spiritual life.

Your interests are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made his home in you.” (Second Reading).

There will always exist a tension between our spiritual and unspiritual world, our spiritual need, and our worldly needs. And life will get tougher before it gets any easier as we exit the lockdowns. In this tension we find ourselves searching and seeking for meaning in all this. We will hear our inner voice trying to pull us one way when we want to go the other way. Pay attention and listen. It is probably saying, “Come to me”.

Take up and shoulder that yoke with intent and the load we must carry through daily life will be lighter for my yoke is easy, my burden light.

race

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Somewhere over the rainbow

Events will keep happening to us in life. For most of these events, we have little control. These will sometimes take us to places we don’t want to go and into emotions we don’t want to feel. When they happen, our struggles make us wonder about the meaning of life. Tellingly it happens at the other end of the spectrum too. We think we find happiness through material success but instead find the pots of gold empty. Our heart is unsettled, troubled till we find peace.

In the film, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is told to find herself a place where there is no trouble, and so she muses with her dog, Toto, “Some place where there isn’t any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It is not a place you can get to by a boat, or a train. It’s far, far away. Behind the moon, beyond the rain… somewhere over the rainbow.”

We are created beings. We have a soul. In life we are making our way back to our Creator. But our worldly needs are pressing. We have material and emotional needs. Our soul has spiritual needs. The journey through life seem to bring all these into conflict. There is inner tension as we seek one over the other. In truth we need them all. But the imbalance unsettles our heart. Is there a trouble-free spot?

“Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it”. (Today’s Gospel)

Inner conflict arises from the priority-arrangement of our needs. Satisfying worldly needs bring about almost immediate self-gratification. This will always be a pull on us. Compared to a life carrying a cross, who would want that? We are created to be both body and soul, with our soul the dominant inner voice. The soul finds peace when dwelling in holiness, where life is fulfilling and meaningful. Unfortunate for the body, peace is not a purchase with material wealth. This is who we are and understanding this allows us to prioritise our needs.

Our life’s journey takes us through many personal events. We climb peaks of joy and wander in troughs of suffering. Events form the hills and the valleys mapping out our emotional terrain. Through these our soul search for the way home to our Creator. This seeking refines the way we journey through life. This finding for the way home is the meaning of this life. Being in a place of meaning brings us fulfilment and peace.

Fulfilment feeds the soul. It flattens the curve of our material and emotional needs. Our Creator shows us this path home. Take up the cross of our worldly challenges and follow Christ in his ways. Holiness as opposed to sin keep us on this path. Holiness is a life of service motivated by love of God and the other (“loses his life for my sake”). When we prioritise our self to preserve life, we lose life. Give life, win life, new life. This is the way for our soul.

Personal events that speak to us about our way home are often characterised by the storms they bring. In the eye of the storm there is a sweet spot of peace. Somewhere beyond the rain, over the rainbow, the symbol of his promise, God dwells in us and we can trust him.

St Augustine who had a colourful journey through worldly life is most qualified to say, “Our heart is restless until it rests in You”.

Rainbow 2

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Worrying up a sweat

I was born with an imperfection. I am allergic to chilli. Smelling chilli, especially when fried, will cause my scalp to itch. Eating it causes me to sweat profusely. In company, I was self-conscious and do not know how to say, “I can’t”, and so end up with a drenched shirt and being even more embarrassed. I began worrying when I had to meet people for a meal. Soon enough I developed a fear. Today I can sweat just by looking at spicy food on my laptop.

We live in a world that expects success. Success at all cost does not hesitate to leave a person behind. Fierce competition among businesses has filtered down to be among individuals. Curriculum in schools are getting more demanding to prepare our young to meet this expectation of success. Money is a common measure of success. But money is also a much-needed necessity for people who do not have enough. A lot of people are being thrown into a race we are ill-prepared for or have no capacity to run in.

Today, many of our lives are being consumed by worry. We start to sweat thinking about the future. Expectations these days bring fear instead of anticipation. Worry has become a modern-day suffering. And worry is about an imaginary future that may not even happen.

“Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.” (Today’s Gospel)

God cannot be present in imaginary futures. He is present in the reality of our life in the here and now. He acts in the now. When we worry, our thoughts go into a tailspin. It blows away all clarity. Worry loosens the grip on every of our logical thoughts. Everything is blown away from our ‘now’ into the chaotic, imaginary future. But worry tightens the grip on hope. When we worry, hope is the only thing left in the now. God is this hope, always present to us and he says, “Do not be afraid”.    

The world will continue to strive for its success. Humanity has this responsibility to keep developing and progressing. God is present in this and say to us to trust him to provide for the world. With this faith, we as parts of the one body of humanity are tasked to take care of one another so that no one will be left behind. “Sin” (Second Reading) enters this delicate equation through you and me when we put “self” before God and others. “Do not be afraid” can ring a new tone. Our actions can make others afraid of us. We can cause worry.

All of us are people of influence. What we do, or not do, directly affect others in our homes, social circles, and workplaces. The “sin” is hidden in the excuse of having to progress and succeed. There are many silent sufferers out there. We are called to use our influence in a different way to become the handle of hope for others to have a firmer grip on this presence of God in the now. In the weary ways of the world, we are called to stand up for God so that through us people will no longer be afraid and worry.

We must bathe fear and worry not with sweat but with compassion.

‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.’

spicy

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Be bread, be church

We have spent months living in unaccustomed ways. Social distancing and physical distancing are unnatural. Lockdowns have made us realized that as people, we are not meant to be alone. We need to be with other people. We need other people. Our lives are interlinked. Today is Corpus Christi. We celebrate humanity as one single body. In this one body we are in spiritual communion also with the Holy Trinity. And we learn that everyone has a space in this body.

“The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf.” (Second Reading)

We cannot wait to exit our lockdowns, to return to our offices and for shops to reopen, hoping that life outside will quickly return to what it was before. For many there will not be a job to return to. And many shops have sadly closed for good. This is the new reality; a harsh economic climate awaits. We are also waiting for church doors to open and for public masses to resume. And when they do, some may never return while others who had been away will come back. This is also a new reality; beneath what we see there can be spiritual turmoil.

Corpus Christi reminds us that we are the Eucharist. We must be bread and be church to one another. We are all interlinked in this one body. As lay people we are called to focus on our immediate world. For all of us, our immediate worlds have changed. There are people we know, if not ourselves, who are having a tough time financially, emotionally, and spiritually. To these people who we know, we are called to reach out; to be bread and be church to them.

To be bread and to be church now is to address immediate needs. We are called to be church outside the space of worship and the room of prayer. It is a time for change, a time for deeds. Instead of saying, “I will pray for you”, we are called to be answers to their prayers. For those in our immediate world who need money, it would be church if we can give some. If we have none to spare ourselves, we can always give time by spending time with them to bring emotional comfort. If we have been giving, we can give more than what we have given. And it is also not a shame to receive. After all, we share in the one loaf.

Being in lockdowns have made us realized that the church is not in physical buildings but in us. At our last mass, after receiving the Body of Christ we were sent out into the world. Little did we know that the doors were to close behind us. Mass – “Ite, missa est” – Go you are sent. We are sent to be bread and be church to our immediate worlds. Today, there is a different world out there so we cannot remain the same Church. Let this pandemic be the yeast that grow us as bread.

holy Redeemer

Corpus Christi

Misconception

Since Monday, the liturgical colour of the Church returned to green. It signifies we are back into Ordinary Time, but these are anything but ordinary as the world take its first steps exiting lockdowns. The virus is still somewhere out there but storm clouds have gathered over the economy. There is a pressing need to get out to repair lives despite the threat. The journey of life continues. We must get on with it.

Today is Holy Trinity Sunday, “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. The message we reflect on in today’s Gospel gives us the opportunity to be fully conscious of the one ordinary that has been constant, unchanged, faithful in our journey in life, through our daily “getting-on-with-it” and many extraordinary challenges in our personal life: God is unconditional love.

“God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.” (Today’s Gospel)

Whenever the journey of life leads us into tougher terrain, we wonder where God is. If God is love, why does he allow this virus to destroy my life? There are big questions about suffering, justice and so many others. This wondering and pondering is good. It reawakens us to become fully conscious of the presence or absence of God in our life. Many times, God is absent because of our expectations of who God is, or bluntly, who we want him to be for ‘me’.

There are many misconceptions of who God truly is. God does not love. God is almightily authoritarian; he judges and punishes. He is an angry God. He is the creator of the universe so don’t preach the concept of a personal God. We all have our personal discontentment with God. In the time of Jesus, the people expected the Messiah to be an all-conquering king instead of one who hung limply on the cross in the name of love. Love at that moment was redefined through the Most Holy Trinity.

“The Lord, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness.” (First Reading)

God reveals himself on our personal journey through life. It is not that he intentionally holds himself back but just that he is so infinite and unconditional in his love for each one of us. Through our intellectual minds, we first learn about God as our Creator, the still distant God. God the Father desires a personal relationship with us, so as the Son was sent into the world, Jesus comes to be with us in our struggles. We must make the personal journey from head to heart to encounter Jesus. In the absence of any physical manifestations, the Holy Spirit allow us to feel, sense and know this truth about God.

The unconditional love of God includes his unmovable respect for our personal freedom of choice. That will never be taken away but with that respect his unconditional love promises to pick us up from the consequences of our choices, if they go bad, and often they do. God only judges at the end of time. Between now and then, our journey of life through this challenging terrain allows God, through the Most Holy Trinity, to reveal his love to us to keep us on the path to eternal life promised.

This virus has shown the interconnectedness among every person and our planet. Every action has a consequence. Planet Earth demonstrated this in its recovery as Man was locked away. We reap what we sow. And as we make for the exits of the lockdown, we must be aware that we are not alone. We are not alone as there are others with us and inevitably that we suffer some consequences of their action. But inevitably too, the unconditional love of God remains a constant with us as we journey through life. We are not alone. The Most Holy Trinity is with us.

God is nearer than we think. Our expectation leads to misconception. We regret the past and worry about the future, wishing and looking for God in them. In so doing, we miss his presence. God is present in the moment. If we still ourselves and come into the here and now, we will be fully conscious that nothing is harming us in each present moment. As we breathe, we feel our life and the unconditional love of God.

“Brothers, we wish you happiness; try to grow perfect; help one another. Be united; live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (Second Reading)

storm cloud

The Most Holy Trinity Sunday

Time for the great Pentecost

Our Sunday obligation was taken away. The doors of the church closed. The rituals of Sunday mass reminding us of our Christian identity is no longer physically available. The absence of receiving the Eucharist is deeply felt by the laity. In this absence, clarity emerged that you and I are also the Eucharist to each other, and especially to others in need. The Church is not behind those closed doors, but in us.

Outside with us stands grief and hardship from this pandemic. For many around us, life has become a lot tougher. Three months into the lockdown, there is a spiritual metamorphosis happening. The Church as an institution has incubated the laity for decades, drip-feeding the power of the Gospel. Soon we will emerge from this lockdown, but we must emerge a transformed Church. This can be the great Pentecost* if we the laity emerge to be church and gospel to the people present in our daily lives.

The tide is turning. There is a marked shift towards social and economic concerns. The world needs to emerge from the lockdown despite the virus still present. As little individuals we have little sway in the decision. This is just the tick-tock of time, of developments and consequences. People are simply carried by it. The immediate post-lockdown period will not be easy as the respirator of government aids are withdrawn, and businesses will try to stand on their own again. Some will fail and people will continue to struggle getting income. Certain to emerge will be individuals who are emotionally troubled.

This is where we as laity are called to fit into the next norm. There is a purpose why we exist in our circle of family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and even the occasional strangers who wander into our daily routines. Our identity as a Christian is today more pronounced than ever before; we are to be in the center of that circle, to be church and gospel to people in our lives, to be the light of hope and the salt of mercy. We are, by duty as laity, to communicate into their lives the language of God: Love.

When Pentecost day came the disciples were all in one room, when suddenly they heard a powerful wind and noise; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech. When the disciples emerged from their locked room, they preached and those assembled were each bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language. They were amazed and astonished. “How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language? We hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.” (from the First Reading)

We live in social circles. There are people present in our personal circles who are deeply troubled, bearing the painful consequences of this pandemic. We know them quite well. We know their catalysts of joy and their triggers of depression. We are privileged to know the personal details of their life. The Church as an institution cannot reach these personal depths. But the Church in us as individual laity can and must. The language of God’s love is more than just verbal. In the way we are intimate to each other in talking, listening, doing, and sharing, we are effectively communicating in a native language that only our circle can clearly understand.

Being the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, is expressed through daily, simple acts not beyond you and me. As laity, we are affirmed that a tongue of fire sits on our head. “The Holy Spirit will teach you everything and remind you of all I told you.” Accept this affirmation and go and be church, pro-active to engage. We must give, often not only in terms of material but also more preciously in time and presence to listen and comfort, and to recognise and affirm. This native language is often expressed in the simple alphabets of a kind word, listening ear, smile or hug. Instead of just saying, “I pray for you”, realise that we are probably God’s intended angels as answers to their prayers.

This spiritual metamorphosis will release us into the next norm. The sheep has been scattered wider and farther. The Church need us the lay faithful to reach into the realities of the secular world. God will be needed in the realities of people’s struggles. And we are needed because we know the native language. We the laity make God ‘real’, more so than bible scholars and clergy. St Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times, use words only when necessary”. This Pentecost the lay faithful is summoned to light up small tongues of fire in their social circles.

The world today is like a tree without leaves but with abundant fruit. Fallen leaves indicate impending changes and fruits indicate a ready harvest. We the lay faithful are sent into these fields of mission. Today together as one body, we can make this the great Pentecost. But we must hurry before the fruits fall into waste.

persimmon 3

“There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose. Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ.” (Second Reading)

*Pentecost celebrates the 50th day of Easter, commemorating the descend of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other disciples, and marks the beginning of the Church’s mission to the world.

Pentecost Sunday

Shades of the Spirit

One of the readings this past week was about St Paul in Athens regarding an altar on which was inscribed, “To an Unknown God”. I was raised steep in Catholic traditions. I know well the God of my doctrines. I regard myself a good person. I have been good by simply avoiding doing bad things. The God I know is the One I worship at Sunday Mass, a weekly obligation I have faithfully fulfilled. Can you describe me to be worshipping “an Unknown God”?

Probably not. I know of creation, I know about the death and resurrection of Christ, and I firmly believe in eternal life. But in this contentment with my faith life, I have limited myself and missed to know so much more about God. Just worshipping at Sunday mass had not been enough. For starters, I asked myself, “Who is the Advocate?” As a cradle Catholic, I don’t know about you, I struggled to describe the Holy Spirit. Not knowing the Advocate, not welcoming the Holy Spirit into my daily life, put me back in front of the altar on which was inscribed, “To an Unknown God”.

God really want us to know much more about Him, especially about his unconditional love and mercy. Love is not a dead theory but a living experience. God will remain unknown if we cannot feel and experience His love in the here and now of our daily life. When Christ ascended, the Advocate became the next norm of our faith life. God desires us to have this living experience of Him. For us to feel loved, God needs a personal relationship with you and me. And the Advocate was sent to be this connectivity.

When faith is handed down through family tradition, we are at Sunday Mass because of our parents. The Holy Spirit work hard to open our eyes of faith and soften the hardness of our heart. God is very active in the many events of our personal life. He will never stop. But until we are convinced, we will never be able to claim a personal ownership of our faith and establish this personal relationship with Him. We must look for evidence of the Advocate in our life.

The Holy Spirit is always present in the shadows of events happening to us. He shows himself in different shades, just so to be relevant and personal. In desperate situations, he is the unexplained hope we cling to. In a turbulence, he is the quiet inner peace we tiredly withdraw into. In the search for assurance, he is the touch of affirmation sometimes so powerful that leave us in uncontrolled tears.

He is also our inner voice of conscience and our compass in our search for meaning to life. He is the path that sometimes take us back into our past only because he knows we need to be healed. He is the fixer of life, putting events together, then disguising them as coincidences. He is the link that joined event milestones, drawing us a map of how God had intervened in our life story. He is the spirit of truth, and so much more.

Pope Francis recently repeated that Christianity is above all about relationships; our relationship with God and one another. The greatest commandment, “Love God, Love Others” can only be accomplished through honest relationships. All of humanity is interconnected and we are interdependent on one another. The Holy Spirit help us to apply this teaching into our daily life and allows us to be empowered by it.

This week is also the 5th anniversary of “Laudato Si”, our Pope’s encyclical “On the Care for our Common Home”. In this is highlighted the “’intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet’. Protecting the planet requires an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature. Global inequality is a central theme: the poorest are the most affected by climate change and ecological chaos, yet they have done the least to cause it.” * The poorest has been most affected by Covid-19.

In this pandemic we have seen how fragile this equation has been. This responsibility is now in each of our hands. If you hear this it is the voice of the Advocate calling us into this interconnectedness and interdependence with one another and be united as one.

Significantly for me, the Church in Thailand today open its doors for public mass, letting us into the next norm. Today’s Gospel passage (7th Sunday of Easter) is the prayer of Jesus before he died that God may be glorified through his deeds. Let us be ready now to enter this new norm with the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, fully conscious that every little deed of ours is significant to make an unknown God known to the world. Let us resolve to be collaborators with the Advocate in this next norm.

“Be present to those in need in these trying times, especially the poorest and those most at risk of being left behind.”

*https://www.caritas.org.au/act/our-common-home/about-the-encyclical

Shades of the Spirit

7th Sunday of Easter

Into the new norm

We are waiting, somewhat impatiently, to bolt from this lockdown. The currency of worldly life is money. It is a practical truth that if economies are not revived there will be more forms of suffering. The currency of our spiritual life is love. It is the ideal truth. Throughout time, humanity struggled to strike a balance between two truths. There is always the need to address immediate concerns, both for progress and to alleviate suffering. So, often because of this immediacy the currency of money comes out the stronger.

We are promised a new norm when the lockdown is lifted. It will be very pronounced because many changes are physical and immediate. Social distancing, mask-wearing and temperature checks will remind us daily that our norms changed. Yet, as a person this will not be the first time we step into a new norm, but maybe not as consciously as this. As an individual person, we ‘progressed’ as the world progresses. As a person we have always entered new norms afforded by both money and love, changes pronounced by our changed lifestyles and values.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus spoke to his disciples about his leaving them but promised that the Father “will give you another Advocate to be with you forever, that Spirit of truth”. We will have the Holy Spirit as a constant presence. When Christ ascended, Christ unseen became the new norm for the disciples.

The only thing constant down the centuries in an ever-changing world is the love of God. Money has changed its value throughout time, but this love has never. The Love of God remains a constant norm.

So, as we enter this new norm post-lockdown, today’s message reassures us that the Advocate enters it with us. This is not about resisting change but to realize that in every change something does not change; in every new norm there exist a constant old norm. The faithful are called to be disciples. Disciples are gathered to offer this vital balance to humanity. With all the necessary appeal of money, disciples are still to barter with love.

These are extraordinary times with the winds of change howling. Our priest also says, “these are graced times”. Graced because we can see the Advocate actively working amidst the chaos. This is an opportune time to offer compassion, hope, faith and peace to the new world out there. A time to bring the constant old norm to fore.

Evangelization must go out of the classroom. Witnessing must get out of the church (building). Prayer expressed in rituals must also now expressed itself in acts. Never more urgent than now, but our faith life must be relevant to daily life. Otherwise it is meaningless. We have all been educated in the academic of our Christian religion. In this new norm, teaching and passing on our faith can effectively happen only through tangible experiences. The Advocate await us to become channels of these experiences. It is time for disciples to be more pastoral.

This is not to say the academic aspect of our faith is not important. It will always be an important foundation. But in a world that now allow us virtual realities, the Church is challenged to build upon this foundation to provide a real-time experience of the Advocate. It is a time of grace, to constantly make the unseen seen and to actively witness by actively acting.

And this is how we gently remain the constant norm in every new norm. “Reverence the Lord Christ in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have. But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience, so that those who slander you when you are living a good life in Christ may be proved wrong in the accusations that they bring.” (Second Reading)

The difference between the two currencies is that money does not take everyone along. But love pick up those who are left behind. This ideal truth must exist in the practical truth. The Advocate is this constant old norm silently anchoring the world as it keeps moving into new norms.

social distance

Food shop outside of home in Bangkok

6th Sunday of Easter

Relationships: Oxygen of Life

Staying home and watching nature documentaries on Netflix. This week a situation a shrimp found itself in opened for me a window for contemplation. When the tide pulls out, it leaves behind rockpools where creatures are trapped unable to return to the ocean. In one was the unfortunate shrimp. As night progressed, oxygen began to run low. The desperate shrimp climbs out of its natural habitat onto the rock to breathe. It risked drying up and dying but the tide returned in time.

We are all trapped in little rockpools today. Covid-19 have deposited us into one. Like the unfortunate shrimp, we too find ourselves trapped in a very unnatural habitat. Some are running low on the oxygen for our livelihood: income, money. Others are choked by the carbon dioxide of worries. But nations have begun easing lockdown measures. The tide is coming back in, soon, to take us back out into the ocean of life. What learning will we take with us from this rockpool?

When the pandemic first came, it arrived like a tidal wave. Fear overcame us. We faced our mortality. The invisible virus showed us that every piece of possession and every strand of power was powerless against it. On a global scale, the tiny unseen threatened superpower nations. This enemy could not be nuked. Instead it needed small, individual but collective acts. Suddenly, we all became equally important as individual persons, made equal by the human life in us. The virus flattened the curve of power and possession. If anything, it restored my dignity as a person to know that what I do, or not do, counts in the equation of life.

When the tide come back in to take me out, I want to take with me this lesson of relationships. Every person shares a common relationship living in this world. We live in a spiritual ecosystem. We recognized that the best way to fight the virus is for humanity to be one and act in the interest of each other. Underlying this is the creed of our spiritual ecosystem, “Love one another”. It is a curious fact that governments and organizations shun away from this word “love”.

Without love, there can be no true relationships. Without love, relationships exist to be plundered, where we only take and not give. Without love, the spiritual ecosystem suffers. This pandemic has shown that humanity need this relationship for the order of life not to break down. We saw and heard of many heroic examples of people giving generously, some to the point of losing their life for the sake of the other. When we turn a blind eye to love, the common relationship among us breaks, gradually snuffing out the oxygen of life.

“The Lord is the living stone, rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him; set yourselves close to him so that you too, the holy priesthood that offers the spiritual sacrifices which Jesus Christ has made acceptable to God, may be living stones making a spiritual house.” (Second Reading)

When lockdowns are lifted, we will not immediately return to the same habitat as we knew it to be. Social cost will be high as we see that social distancing has perhaps been more lethal than the virus for some, especially the poorest and the marginalized.* There are many people out there, unemployed now, paying the high social bill of this fight. The faithful are the elected people full of the Holy Spirit appointed to give out food (First Reading). The faithful are called to be the living stones in the common relationship among people in this new equation of reality.

What we do as individuals may be small, but it counts. It is time to become the oxygen of life.

“I tell you most solemnly, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works, because I am going to the Father.” (Gospel)

*The unequal cost of social distancing.
https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/from-our-experts/the-unequal-cost-of-social-distancing

shrimp

From the Netflix documentary “Night on Earth” taken off my TV. 

5th Sunday of Easter