God, where are you?

God, where are you? This pandemic is moving “like a bullet train” from one panic station to another. We struggle to de-focus from it, we cannot think about anything else. Every new day bring more grim news. We are entombed in uncertainty, fear rules in this darkness. We are able, in an uncanny way, to postpone all our worries from our derailed life. Mainly because this virus threatens our life here and now, dwarfing the future.

We need to bring God into focus. Reflecting on the day’s Gospel message without relating it to this virus situation render it so irrelevant. Today, more than any other day in living memory, we need the Gospel to come alive immediately. We need the presence of God to walk in our midst. We need to see and feel Him in this here and now. But we must first get off the bullet train of panic to be present.

God is not distant, somewhere in this vast universe, a universe just made a lot smaller by this virus. God is not peeping through the cloud waiting for more prayers to rise to him. He has come down to be in humanity. He dwells in each one of us. We must look inside to find him.

God is not punishing the world with a plague, but we live in consequent times. This virus, like many other crises, is a consequence of our lifestyle. Its rapid spread is a result of Man not coming and working together, a consequence of the different ideologies and lifestyles we have chosen for ourselves over a long period of time. Because at the very beginning, God made us for one another but gave us the freedom of choice with a promise that He will be with us till the end of time.

We can see him in the force that is ushering our world to be united, this cry that we can only win if we fight this together as one humanity. We see him in the people in the front line, visible like light in darkness in doctors and medical care personnel giving their life for the sake of the patient. We see him in the windows that open and hear him in the songs and claps from the balconies of people appreciating these others in medical care. Be assured that when someone dies alone, He is present.

This war as one humanity involves every single one of us. Everyone is a soldier, no exceptions. We have our role to play in physical distancing, failing to do so may be consequential in somebody dying. Every little act counts to the point of a cough. Today, “to each his own” will lead to ruin. It is time to use our freedom of choice for the other. It is the only lifestyle we must adopt, and God is showing us the way.

No lockdowns will work if we do not exercise our freedom of choice to be holy. Holiness is to concede self-importance to be humble and act for the greater good of the other, giving up every inch of our personal rights. Obedience is this fruit of humility which the world is looking for. It calls for us to practice “personal lockdowns” and take responsibility, going out only when necessary. Be mindful that our small acts are carried by this virus at bullet train speed. Small acts can grow into a catastrophe.

Today, the world has finally recognized ‘you’ as an individual. The world has put a value on your personal contribution. Regardless of your status, wealth or power, ‘you’ make an equal contribution. ‘You’ are no more a unit or a statistic. You are called by name.

I began Lent in the pursuit of holiness through simple acts of self-denial. I vowed to walk instead of getting into a taxi. Today taxi lines are long, drivers wait a long time for a fare, their livelihood severely affected. To be holy now for me is to take the taxi, to offer words of consolation and give the driver a little more in fare.

God dwells in you and me. Very often he wants to use you and me to answer the prayer of the other person. The most prominent way his presence becomes visible is through people. God is found in the acts for the other person. Holiness is to be for the other person. We are all transmitters of love and mercy in everyday acts.

This is a lifestyle that God want us to use our freedom of choice to adopt. He is not an authoritarian God who says, “My way, or else” but one who knows the way out of the tomb of darkness we have found ourselves in consequent of our unholy choices. We are called to light up this darkness with our small acts to help God show the way. Follow the light.

This is where God is found, in you and me.

“A man can walk in the daytime without stumbling because he has the light of this world to see by; but if he walks at night he stumbles, because there is no light to guide him”. (From the Gospel of this the 5th Sunday of Lent)

Follow the Light

“Follow the light” – Dedicated to Chia Kim Yong.

Unmasking who we truly are

As we enter our small room to self-isolate, we enter the big hall of silence. Silence speaks, but we must want to listen. Life as we have been used to, have come to a halt. Our schedules have decluttered. Workplace targets are suddenly no longer important. We have entered a waiting zone. We can bring the outside in and shatter the silence with fear, or we can bring our inside out to embrace this silence and find out who we truly are. Precious time is now in our hands. Contemplate life by listening to the sound of silence.

People of every difference have never been more united in focus and fight, this “enemy against humanity”. There are a few things this virus does not know. It does not know the differences that seem to separate people, our religion or beliefs, the color of our skin, nationalities or borders, our status, rich or poor, our gender or age. It does not know what discrimination is. What it seems wise to is that all humans are equal, and all humanity is one. This virus has so far treated us as such.

Fear. Underlying this fear is our fight to live. Behind the silence, this gift of life. We are cherishing life as never before. Fear is the barometric value we place on the pricelessness of life. Fear is the natural, human response when life is threatened. It is our first response. Fear expresses itself in extreme behavior. Behind the person who hoard, or stockpile is still a person much capable of compassion. Because it is for compassion and from compassion that you and I were created. Who am I? Who have I become? Who do I want to be? But who should I be when this life is returned to me?

Who have we become?

For a generation or more, we have unknowingly been in the process of self-isolation. Our view of this life, which today we are fighting for, our attitudes and behavior had gradually evolved into one of self-interest, self above others, as we took part in the march towards ‘personal rights’. We have widened the chasm in life, between rich and poor, the powerful and the weak, discriminating between cultures along racial lines. On the banks of this chasm, we rule that we must first take care of ‘self’.

Governments and cultures had different first responses to fight the virus. The East was largely branded as authoritarian states imposing draconian lockdown measures on an obedient population who did not feel individually infringed. People just went inside their homes; few were shouting for “personal rights”. In the silence, the “obedient” understood a little bit more about the order of life.

Humanity, regardless from East or West, is evolving along this chosen path of life. Government authority has shrunk into individual and personal authority as humanity embrace the right to “personal rights”. Where large borders were once drawn to take care of the country, borders are now re-drawn to take care of self. This new ‘personal authority’ blind-siding us to see things for the greater good of all. This quest for self-authority leads to the individual to being self-isolated from the community of life, asymptomatic of a virus that attacks our spiritual health.

We are trying desperately to catch up on lessons from life as this virus rapidly move to lockdown countries, shutting the world down. We learn that humanity is one and every human need one other. No man survives self-isolation for being self-centered. Yet self-centeredness is a spiritual virus that has been with humanity a long time. In this silence, we must come to this awareness.

The vaccine for this spiritual virus is humility and self-denial, to recognize that we must put the common good ahead of self. It is not so complex if we find a way to unconditionally love the other person. It starts from our inside, to bring to the outside who we truly are. Our created image was made in the likeness of good, as a vessel of love. We see that proven in the innocence of a child. But the paths we chose for ourselves in life had corrupted that innocence. In this silence, vice-gripped by the virus, we have no where to go but to go inside our self and contemplate on who we truly are.

To self-deny is to concede an opinion which is simple and tough at the same time. Wearing, or not wearing a mask can create an argument. The immediate suffering does not come from the virus but from not winning the argument. Self-denial is to wear a mask if not wearing one causes a scandal. To be obedient is also to self-deny.

Humility and self-denial close the wide chasm in humanity. It starts with every human regardless of power and status. People in high positions of leadership playing the blame game, calling names and politicizing the virus cause an embarrassment to our true inner self that make even quarrelling little children on a playground blush. But this is a human weakness, we all suffer this in varying degrees.

Humanity has come a long way, moving and progressing in many directions. We attempted to control nature, to control Creation. The virus is not nature hitting back, nor the Creator punishing. It has come about as a result of a series on consequences of the paths we have chosen in life. And it will get worse if we do not come together as one, urgently. When we were created, we were told that the only path we choose through life is the path that says, “Love God, love others”. Humility allows us to concede that yes, there is a God after all.

Self-denial is to give away all my anxieties and fear. It is to deny myself to worry and put trust in God for this outcome. It is time to make the journey deep into our hidden self to discover who we truly are. In that self-isolation we might just be unmasked of who we have become. And to know that we are not alone.

Who do I want to be when this virus returns my life back to me?

mask

A contemplative passage through a very difficult Lent.
Grateful thanks to Fr John Murray for pointing the way, “Contemplate!”

Religion fulfilled

Religion used to play a more prominent role in everyday life, for a person as an individual and for people as community. As we rode on the train of secularism, many new tracks appeared before us. Technological progress at high speed, coupled with adequate comfort from materialism, meant that many switched tracks leaving behind the heavier cargo of religion.

As religion chugged along the old track, to the eyes of some detractors it developed into religiosity, a compulsive and repetitive set of rituals. Most religions have ethics shaped from the wisdom of the religion to guide us to live daily life. Guides are found in laws and commandments, but we need wisdom to give flesh and spirit to these laws.

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfil them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved.” (Today’s Gospel)

The purpose is for each person to find the true meaning of life. Without this meaning, our life cannot be fulfilled. Every teaching of the Church leads us into this fulfilment. Every ritual and commandment we religiously follow must evolved into actions in daily life encapsulated in these four words, “Love God, love others”. Religion without action is philosophy without wisdom. Without the virtue of love, religion cannot be fulfilled.

“For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” People can be religious without fulfilling the religion.

I was at mass in Phnom Penh. I am familiar with rituals with candles. I am not so with the use of joss sticks. This is the inculturation of our Catholic faith. The ritual is visibly different, but it needs to be in order to speak the same language and drive the same wisdom for people who are different everywhere. The fulfilment of life for every person regardless of nationality or culture is the same, one constant: Love God, love others. Piety in worship must be transformed into holiness in life.

Religion can get back onto the train of modern lifestyles. But we must adapt as the world changes and we must hurry as the pace gathers. Gone are those days when religion is a knock on the door with the knocker asking, “Do you know Jesus?”. Today we won’t even open the door to strangers. Religion will only be fulfilled when it knocks on the door of the heart. A person can turn his back on religion, but no person can turn away from true love freely given.

We all have a purpose in life, but each discovering through a unique journey. At the junctions of choice, we remember today’s first reading, “If you wish, you can keep the commandments, to behave faithfully is within your power. He has set fire and water before you; put out your hand to whichever you prefer. Man has life and death before him; whichever a man likes better will be given him.”

And wisdom shares that true love is always forgiving, always waiting.

PhnomPenh

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Salted

I like my steaks grilled medium rare; each piece eaten with only a pinch of salt. I do not prefer sauces. There are now flavoured salts, some of which are very good. Just that pinch of salt for me add so much more to the taste. Salt. In Bangkok I enjoy the Thai trilogy of taste: sweet, sour and spicy. But without the little salt this trilogy cannot be what it is.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt becomes tasteless, what can make it salty again? It is good for nothing and can only be thrown out to be trampled underfoot by men.” (Today’s Gospel)

We are called to be the salt of the earth, invited to make a difference to life. Not only our own but to those around us. When we start to hoard essentials because of the virus we must realize that it is only due to our affluence that we can afford to. People who live from hand-to-mouth can ration to keep aside some but cannot hoard. An empty shelf will greet them when they can next afford. The ‘salt’ question will come when the doorbell rings and a neighbor ask if we can spare some essentials?

“Share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, clothe the man you see to be naked and do not turn from your own kin.” (First Reading)

To become salt of the earth is not confined only to providing material needs. Salt is an underlying essential. People’s lives are also sweet, sour and spicy; our life experiences sweetened with joy, soured by bitterness or spiced by excitement. The little bit of salt in these flavours of life ensures that we keep in touch with our spiritual self, this soul created in the likeness of our Creator, whose identity is one of true love.

To become salt of the earth, we must be mindful of our natural capacity to love. In the context of today’s world, salt comes in different flavours. They are meant to surface this love in our life, to take the lamp out from under the tub.

A pinch of self-denial can reawaken our conscience. Our conscience is a compass towards true love. This pinch of self-denial first reminds us of our neighbour. Then it flavours our words and actions to allow this light of Christ to shine through the life we live.

The life we live can sometimes be quite tough. The pain from the challenges can blind us to deny this love of our Creator. Gratitude is a flavored salt. Life has delivered me a few bitter experiences. Wallowing in self-pity I preferred to immerse myself in bitterness dreaming of revenge. I was then reminded of gratitude, of the many blessings despite my challenges. A dash of gratitude stirred into bitterness can lead to a remarkable recovery of our true spiritual self.

Forgiveness is another flavored salt. Forgiving goes against the grain of our instinctive nature. The salt of forgiveness begins to impact our life when we do the unexpected of praying for those who persecute us in our daily life. We pray to take away our hatred and through forgiveness become a brighter light to the world.

Salt make words of love come alive. Salt is the grace to do good, and to make a difference. Salt is abundant in us, worthless if not used. Salt is the fuel to power the Holy Spirit to transform our philosophy of religion into little acts of love for all of us to experience and be convinced and make tangible the love of our Creator in our life. And all of us need only a pinch of it.

St Paul, “Far from relying on any power of my own, I came among you in great ‘fear and trembling’ and in my speeches and the sermons that I gave, there were none of the arguments that belong to philosophy; only a demonstration of the power of the Spirit. And I did this so that your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.” (Second Reading)

steak

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Presentation of Self

Every Sunday we have a precious opportunity to present our ‘self’ before God at mass. Sunday Mass is not an obligation for the sake of it. It is an ‘obligation’ coming from the wisdom of Christ that we need to come for Mass because it does good for us and that, we need. Christ does not gleefully check our attendance, but he offers to check on how we have managed the rhythm of our life, the ups and downs of our week.

Today is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. At our baptism we too were presented and consecrated to God to live a holy life. Into us flowed the supernatural virtues of faith, hope and charity. These were infused into us because based on human strength alone we cannot live a holy life. Every opportunity we receive graces to complement our virtues, and we grow and mature in this wisdom of Christ.

Today is also known as Candlemas, also why candles are blessed on this feast day. This was inspired by the words of Simeon, “because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see, a light to enlighten the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel.” (Today’s Gospel). Every Sunday we return to focus on this light, our vision having been blurred by happenings of the past week.

Every mass celebrates the Paschal Mystery; the life of Jesus in his passion, death and resurrection. Often the rhythm of our daily life beat to this same tune, the highs we can handle but the lows we need help to crawl out of. Mass offers us this consolation, and this place to replenish and recharge. At mass we appreciate why Jesus came to share in our humanity. “It was essential that he should in this way become completely like his brothers so that he could be a compassionate and trustworthy high priest of God’s religion” (Second Reading).

Every week we are sent into the world. Often, we stumble and fall amidst our challenges, so we come back on Sunday to rise again. Worldly distractions take us away but on Sunday we have this opportunity to return. Challenges break us, leaving us broken, weak and hungry. On Sunday, Christ in broken for us in the bread that is his Body to bless, strengthen and fill us. For every time we come to present our ‘self’ on the altar of God, we are lost, but we will be found.

We come to make sense of this rhythm of life, each experience leads us to an encounter, each encounter refines our holiness. “For he is like the refiner’s fire and the fullers’ alkali. He will take his seat as refiner and purifier; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and then they will make the offering to the Lord as it should be made.” (First Reading). Every Sunday, as we present our ‘self’, we are purified.

We come as equals, the only scheduled meeting in the week where this is possible. On Sundays, we share the same status, we are of equal wealth and inheritance, regardless of who we are in the world. We come equal as children of God to be fed by the Father the Eucharistic meal. We are first forgiven, before we are asked to forgive, those who trespassed us during the week. Every mass we are at Calvary at the foot of the cross, his body broken, his blood flowed just for you and me.

Mass at HR

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The Presentation of the Lord

Fisher of Men

Last week we spoke of catechism for the need to expand from merely passing on “head knowledge” because that alone was not leading to evangelization. St. Paul said, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed.” In another version, “not by the means of the wisdom of language, wise words which would make the cross of Christ pointless.” (Second Reading)

Our Catholic faith is not static, contained in a book of knowledge. Rather our faith will be the wisdom that write our book of life. Faith stands firmly on strong belief and a complete trust in God’s providence. God generously respond to our faith by coming to be with us in everyday life. This presence is real, tangible and can be felt. Although unseen, we see the effect. Embracing this presence, empowered by the effect, we gradually grow in wisdom to live our life. So, follow.

“Follow me and I will make you Fishers of men”. This is the most basic of our vocation call for us to go and contribute to the lives of others. Almost everyone in this world now know Christ, and this is where now that “head knowledge” need to be coupled with encounters. To fish for men we need to facilitate such encounters. To facilitate we preach the Word of God in terms of the life we live. This life must not “make the cross of life pointless”, where selflessness gives us that capacity to put others first, to love as God does.

To become a Fisher of Men, apart from developing this knowledge of Christ, we must share and testify to bring to life this Word of God. We make unconditional love real through its many fruits: Mercy, forgiveness, selflessness, humility, kindness, generosity among others. We offer the gift of our time to listen, to console, to heal, to affirm, to empower, to be a companion for another in their journey in life. Through being a “Fisher of Men” we become the appointed person through whom God works to touch the lives of those in need. A Fisher of Men demystify this presence of God for others.

A skilled Fisher of Men is like who St. Paul describes, “throwing light on the inner workings of the mystery.” (Ephesians 3:9). A Fisher of Men illuminates life.

A Fisher of Men spends quality time in the personal waters of the spiritually needy. Often the Fisher is a companion during storms helping to pick up the pieces in the aftermath. Amidst the rubble the Fisher is the conduit of this presence of God. The Fisher of Men help the lost to touch and be touched by God. Touch is a tangible dimension of faith; it is healing and empowering, encounters we all need to couple with “head knowledge”. Evangelisation is more telling, more heart felt, in face to face encounters with a fellow person and with God.

“Repent.” This is a call for continued conversion, not a payment of guilt. For both those being fished and those fishing, both have the opportunity through such encounters to purify themselves as they continue to head home on this journey in life. Repenting is like a fisherman mending his net repairing his torn parts. “Come, follow me and I will make you Fishers of Men.”

A Fisher of Men illuminates the life of others:
The people that walked in darkness
has seen a great light;
on those who live in a land of deep shadow
a light has shone.
You have made their gladness greater,
you have made their joy increase;
they rejoice in your presence
(First reading)

Fisher of Men 2c

 

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Word of God Sunday

Encounters

I was interested in a recent front page article of the Singapore Catholic News, “Structure of catechesis needs to change”. Here in is the frustration that after chapter upon chapter of well delivered “religious instruction”, it has not made “our young people truly fervent Catholics”. The Archbishop said, “Our youth are being sacramentalised, not evangelised.”

Quoting the article, “Christianity is all about relationship, about belonging. ‘Unless you have a relationship with Him, there can be no catechesis … there will just be head knowledge.’”

Man and woman have continued progressing. In the times of the Old Testament, God spoke through floods and famine. Perhaps God still does. But man and woman have progressed through time and now communicate on a different wavelength. Head knowledge can reason flood and famine. People have changed, progressed intellectually and perhaps also spiritually. And so we must change our methods of teaching to communicate about God and our faith.

Yesterday’s tourist posing in front of a prominent landmark has become today’s traveller sipping the local flavour in some back alley café. Knowledge must today be enhanced by experiences, otherwise it remains just a picture. A friend recently debated about our education. We teach a lot of algebra and math but we do not teach the young how to manage money in life. We pass on head knowledge without passing on lifestyle skills. We call for change.

Christianity is also a lifestyle; every doctrine is to guide us to live this lifestyle of love for God and for others. If doctrine stands alone, it leads only to sacramentalisation. But love is not a chapter but an experience. And only when knowledge is coupled with encounters with God will it lead to evangelisation.

“Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will. You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings, but an open ear.” (Today’s Psalm).

This is a call not only to catechists. It is actually tough to expect them to make disciples. They have only one hour on a Sunday morning. This psalm is a call to every one of us to become a catechist of life. We all have our personal life experiences, good and bad, joyful and sad. In all of these experiences we must ask ourselves if we encountered God. If we did we need to share our experiences to make God real in the reality of people’s life. Sharing or testifying enhances knowledge. It gives life to doctrine. It evangelises.

Sharing of personal life experiences and encounters with God is the new curriculum for today. It is in the chapters of our life story where we find Jesus. In each episode of life we must be like John the Baptist to point out, “Look there is the Lamb of God”. In our gratitude for who we are today we must testify, “Yes I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God”. (Today’s Gospel). Without this we cannot evangelise.

The Catholic Church has actually been wise to this. RCIA was born out of Vatican II. RCIA was to replace the old catechism method of forming Christians; this old method of drumming knowledge alone. If we take a closer look at RCIA it is modelled as a community of learning, sharing and testifying. Somewhere along our timeline, in our pride of possessing knowledge, some of us missed it.

CN article

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Follow or believe

Every Christmas, after Christmas, we hear this story of the 3 wise men from the East following the star to Bethlehem to worship the Infant Christ.  This isn’t a tale because it is real. We learned this in our catechism class. The meaning behind this is that Christ came for all people in the world so that everyone shares the same inheritance. We are taught to believe and so we do.

Many people believe in Jesus Christ. Historians can tell us about the birth, life and death of Christ. Our calendar mark this significance; B.C. and A.D. Since the 3 wise men, many people all over the world have come to know and believe. Many who believe choose to remain unbaptised. And many who are baptised choose to remain only in believe.

We do not need to be baptised to believe.  Baptism is an intentional act. When we choose baptism we intentionally embrace the teachings of Christ and choose Christianity as a life style of choice. It means that we want not merely to believe but to intentionally follow Christ. We totally surrender our life and put complete trust in him. In whatever we do, in whichever circumstance we find ourselves in, we follow him with total faith and hope like a guiding star on this journey through life.

The 3 wise men set off intentionally on a long journey so that they can follow Christ. They too started with believe. Without intention we cannot follow. Without following there is no life in our believing. Every day life is filled with opportunities. A baptised person should wake up each day with the intention to be a Christian, to use all the opportunities to manifest the presence of Christ and bring him to others.

Like the wise men, we too have our own frankincense, gold and myrrh. We are all gifted and talented, each uniquely in our own way. But the greatest gift we have is life itself; this time on earth. When we follow,  we intentionally give our time, our life, using our unique gifts in the service of others. We believe Christ taught us to love God through loving others. To put this into practice, to be intentional of this in all we do, is to follow beyond just believing.

This path through life is not easy. Life is full of choices for us to believe in so many things. There are so many attractive paths that we have wandered down which eventually turned out to be dead ends. We are in a maze and the Infant Christ have come to lead us through. Follow or believe?

There are many Herods in our life, even more in this progressive time of affluence and technology. These Herods are lurking in our dark recesses to kill the Infant Christ in us. But Herod will never win. Herod is only a cloud of darkness. Behind this cloud is our Guiding Star faithfully watching and protecting us. This, we must believe and follow.

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The Epiphany of our Lord.

Today’s holy family

Families are today challenged to remain holy. To be holy from today’s second reading is to “put on love”. A holy family is centered on the belief in God and the belonging to the Church. But this believe and belonging cannot remain lifeless, it must take on life to put on love. Our faith must be lived, the family the starting place to experience the love for God and love for others.

Christianity is not a religion but a way of life. Families become less holy if belief is merely a religion. We may have mastered the art of preaching about love but we have not done enough to simply love. Society, and now through the power of social media, have promoted many alternative life styles that when put together have become very confusing choices especially for the young entering the adult world. A holy family must put in place a foundation by promoting Christianity as a life style, a life choice.

To simply love, to desire to do good for the other person is something that comes from deep within a person. This is man’s conscience. A Church document says, “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment…For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God”

This conscience need to be formed at an early age. This conscience can be trained to discern. And all these begin in early childhood in the nest of a family unit. A holy family provides its nutrients. Parents must inculcate values into their children to take with them on their journey through life. Because one day our young will fly the nest.

A holy family will also always be challenged. Being holy does not immune us from struggles and disappointments. Being holy equip us to face them. Life will always take us down some unexpected paths but being holy tells us that God will always accompany us down these.

One day when our young children fly the nest, they may also tell us that they are leaving the Church. This is something not uncommon today. A family holy will be a family pained. But let us take a page out of the parable of the prodigal son.

Our children will squander all their spiritual riches of a faith life bequeathed them (from being in a holy family) to live in the world without the guidance (or interference of the Church). Like the father in the parable, parents give their reluctant blessings and pray for the children’s spiritual safety. On the foundation from being a holy family, the children will go into the world with a good conscience. As for the parents, love will bear them an aching heart but faith will assure that Christ will not forget one of his own. This too is being a holy family.

I myself am a personal witness to this. I myself have strayed and returned. I am also privileged to work with many returning Catholics. They left, but when they returned they came home stronger and wiser, and in each of them they had a fire burning for a Christian life style.

In our time away we encountered the love God mostly through the love of others, a faith experience that left us transformed. What is common among all of us returned Catholics is that we all came from a holy family.

holy family 2

Feast of the Holy Family

Rediscover the present

Advent was all about anticipation, the waiting for an event. In this case the event is Christmas, always happy and merry. So the anticipation becomes exciting; the build-up and waiting laced with fun. This is one wait that is guaranteed to end with delight. Today, Christmas was yesterday. The hangover is heavy but we try to stretch the season for another week but an anti-climactic feel begin to creep in.

The proximity of the New Year to Christmas can have a dampening effect. It used to be a double-header. But the human mind is smarter now, it thinks ahead peeping into the New Year. Where there was once new hope, today there is new anxiety. We now live in a pressure cooker. The New Year re-starts the cycle of anxiety from the fear of losing out. Anticipation become expectations; we must do well in our jobs, our children must do well in school.

Let’s go back to Christmas. Hidden beneath all the revelry, all the wrong reasons for the season, is a gift for us. Let’s go even further to those who are now sensitive to the idea of religion where we cannot say “Merry Christmas” but instead “Happy Holidays”, this gift awaits them too. This gift is “Emmanuel, God is with us”. There is no condition tied to this gift, it is given freely to everyone, not only for believers but also for the ones who cannot bring themselves to mention the Infant Child.

“God is with us” is not for accepting or rejecting. It does not reduce or increase his dwelling among us, if you believe or not. He is present. He is with us. Period.

Life is never meant to be a merry carnival. It can be an emotionally treacherous journey through experiences. “God is with us” to accompany us through this journey; his unconditional love a balm always available to soothe our pains, his infinite wisdom a footprint to follow. God is not in advent, he isn’t anticipating our belief. God anticipates the storms ahead of us in life, he dwells with us to try to pull us into his shelter.

God does not wait for tomorrow to act for us. God is not finished with us because he acted for us yesterday. God acts in the now, in each moment He is present. “God with us” means that. All these moments link yesterday to today to tomorrow. God is also proactive as he anticipates and he moves ahead to show us the way. To make his dwelling among us visible we can retrace events that happened to us, people we have met, angels disguised as strangers, things we have done, things done to us, and link everything together.

These often occur in simple day to day situations. We may get a prompting to write and apply for another job. We do not feel a need for a new job but unexplainably we apply anyway. Then events unfold to put our present job in danger. We get a positive reply for a new job before the storm hit to cause us to lose our current job. That “prompting” is God with us.

Our daily life is filled with such little God moments. These “God moments” are when “God with us” becomes visible to us. It is provoked by a love action or a love thought, a feeling of care or being cared for. They are found even in the very simple insignificant event in daily life, like a smile from a stranger. These are fleeting moments but enough to connect our earth to our heaven.

Let’s reclaim the gift that is Christmas and rediscover the present; this moment by moment when God is with us. Emmanuel.

Child Jesus

Day after Christmas