Custom Search

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Be Still, Be Quiet, Simply Come Home...

People who know nothing of God and whose lives are centered on themselves, imagine that they can only find themselves by asserting their own desires and ambitions and appetites in a struggle with the rest of the world.

They try to become real by imposing themselves on other people, by appropriating for themselves some share of the limited supply of created goods and thus emphasizing the difference between themselves and the other men who have less than they, or nothing at all.

They can only conceive one way of becoming real: cutting themselves off from other people and building a barrier of contrast and distinction between themselves and other men. They do not know that reality is to be sought not in division but in unity, for we are 'members one of another.'” - Thomas Merton

“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be ONE FLOCK, ONE SHEPHERD. ” (John 10:16, New American Bible)

"And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18, Douay-Rheims Bible)

The Faith of Our Fathers
James Cardinal Gibbons, a Catholic Archbishop said, "Jesus our Lord, founded but one Church, which He was pleased to build on Peter.

Therefore, any church that does not recognize Peter as its foundation stone is not the Church of Christ, and therefore cannot stand, for it is not the work of God." (The Faith of Our Fathers, pg 82).

The apostle Paul said, "For other foundation no one can lay, but that which has been laid, which is Christ Jesus" (1 Cor. 3:11).

Chronological list of Popes at the Vatican

Statue of St Peter, Vatican City

Only the Catholic Church traces its history, its roots back to Jesus Christ and the Apostles. 

Therefore, amidst the noise, amidst the restlessness within your heart...Rome is truly sweet still, be quiet, simply listen to the whisper deep within your heart this new year...and begin your journey home.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Athos of the East...Sungai Lembing...

Sungai Lembing, a timeless, sleepy, yet simply serene town, testimony of the quiet settlement of a bygone area. The name of the town, located amidst the green hills in Pahang, Malaysia, translates, to “sungai” meaning river and “lembing” meaning spear. An ancient legend has it that the village chief envisioned images of spears in the river and decided simply to name the river as Sungai Lembing.  To me, this humble hideaway, reminds me of God's "spear" of endless love and abundant "river" of hope...

In the good ol' forgotten days, this was THE place in the East where material wealth was created and riches made – underground mining of tin ores via many layers of tunnels – the largest, longest and deepest subterranean underground tin mine in the world; so much so, some claimed it to be the El-Dorado of the East. Yet, in the mid-1980s, the world tin prices collapsed and the mines were shut down due to high costs and low returns, people were reminded in a most harsh way, of the fragility and simplicity of life, as it first begun. Truly, God's plan is not our plan.  What remains is now merely a museum building as a lingering memory of all mining history, struggles and artifacts.  Everything else has been stripped away...lives were brought down to earth.

What used to be the richest town in the land, straddling the once famous river, connected by a wobbly suspension bridge, dwarf by the majestic views from the Hill of Panorama, to many, ....has now been reduced, by the sands of time, into a quiet, laid back, forgotten piece of history…where only misty memories linger on…reminded annually, like the days of Noah, by the great floods waters from the eastern monsoon winds.

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end." (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV Bible)

To the more conscious, the simple folks, this place is perceived to be the closest one can get to heaven…a place on earth where all desires, worldly distractions are surrendered and solitude found – where mankind nourishes the precious awareness that they belong to God, where they can find God and carry into the world, a rainbow of hope…no distractions…simply Sungai Lembing – the holy Mount Athos of the East…where deep and genuine spirituality is allowed to flourish and bear fruit...also the humble origin of my being…my quiet paradise...and hopefully, a reminder to all pilgrims that...our journey back home can be a simple and beautiful one...if only we surrender all to God.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Our Loneliness...only Jesus Can Satisfy...

"History is full of men who have claimed that they came from God, or that they were gods, or that they bore messages from God - Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, Christ, Lao-tze, and thousands of others, right down to the person who founded a new religion this very day.  Each of them has a right to be heard and considered.  But as a yardstick external to and outside of whatever is to be measured is needed, so there must be some permanent tests available to all men, all civilizations, and all ages, by which they can decide whether any one of these claimants, or all of them, are justified in their claims.  These tests are of two kinds: reason and history.  Reason, because everyone has it, even those without faith; history, because everyone lives in it and should know something about it.

Reason dictates that if any one of these men actually came from God, the least thing that God could do to support His claim would be to pre-announce His coming.

Reason further assures us that if God did not do this, then there would be nothing to prevent any impostor from appearing in history and saying, "I come from God," or "An angel appeared to me in the desert and gave me this message."

(History have shown) whom but Christ have these Prophecies found their fulfillment?"

 - Fulton Sheen

 One of the least talked about sources of human suffering in the world today is loneliness.  In the chaotic and busy society of today, we find ourselves acutely aware of our own human loneliness.  In the hussle and buzzle of the new year, we quietly become aware of our loneliness within.  Why is it that many Christmas gatherings and New Year parties, even social get-togethers often leave us feeling empty and restless inside?

We are amidst people yet, we feel alone inside.  We talk to people yet, we are not trusting enough to open ourselves or let others into our lives.  We choose to keep a safe distance.  We work with people yet, there is always a sense of competition to outwit the other, claim victory.  We take home big paychecks, yet money cannot seem to buy us anything worthy enough to satisfy the restlessness within.  We make new year resolutions yet, the years come and go and we continue to ask ourselves, "How far advanced am I?  Who am I?"  We socialize at gatherings, make friends, but how many of these are sincere and faithful during the times when we are in need, when we are broke, when we need a shoulder to cry on, when life threatens to end abruptly.

 "When we have no project to finish, no friend to visit, no book to read, no television to watch, or no record to play, and when we are left all alone by ourselves we are brought so close to the revelation of our basic human aloneness and are so afraid of experiencing an all-pervasive sense of loneliness that we will do anything to get busy again and continue the game which makes us believe that everything is fine after all."
- Henri Nouwen

 I, too, often pose myself this question, why do I choose to blog?  More than anything, I like to read and drown myself in spiritual books.  I find that despite all the so-called progress in the world today, we have still not progress much in terms of enlightenment and spiritual wisdom.  Brilliant minds of the past, the early fathers, saints and mystics have shed much wisdom through their reflections and literary works.  These thoughts, perceived as "old fashion" have long been "opportunity costed" out in the name of the extent that the new generations forget to stop and ponder deeply..."Who am I?".

Naturally, the journey I have begun, continues regardless.  In the words of an early desert father, John of the Ladder back in the 7th century, after living for 40 years in solitary at Mount Sinai...

"If some are still dominated by their former bad habits and yet can teach (blog) by mere words, let them teach (blog)...  For perhaps, being put to shame by their own words, they will eventually begin to practice what they teach (blog)."

I know that I will journey to become a more "spiritually conscious" person if I continue to persevere, reflect, share and express my thoughts via this blog, simply giving a small voice to the quiet imperfect whispers of my heart and hopefully, this little "light" will reach out and touch a restless soul somewhere to offer a bit more strength for them to continue this journey a little while longer, the burden a little lighter, the path a little brighter.  More importantly, it also serves as a journal for myself as I walk this lonely path through life towards the heavenly home.

Loneliness and the awareness of the fragility of life is not something to be feared.  The secular world does not like to confront these thoughts, as evident by the constant stream of "activities", "tasks"and "technology devices".  Blogs and Facebooks only reveal our outer more popular physical selves most of the time...attracting more "friends", "followers" and "noisy internet traffic".

Our human condition constantly seek solace, solitude, affection, a sense of belonging, even escapade from the challenges of life...desperately piggy-bagging our lives on the influence of new-age gurus, motivational authors, self proclaimed pastors and speakers.  False expectations, temporal attraction, mental anguish, struggle for power syndrome in these flavours-of-the-month often frustrate us, confuse us.  Each time we seek something new, we hope it will be different.  We keep on experimenting on this journey through life.  Is there not something more genuine that can satisfy this hunger, give everlasting peace, solitude, compassion and hope to this life?

Saint Augustine reminds us, "Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee."

As the new year commences, we are reminded to empty our lives from the distractions of worldly material pursuits and fake focus instead on seeking Him who gives healing, rest, peace and hope; turning loneliness into solitude of heart, even amidst the crowded city, busyness at work, self inflicted deadlines and active life.  Simply cultivating this quiet solitude of heart enables us to understand the world from the quiet center of our being, living attentively in communion with our God, the Creator.

"And you shall be my people: and I will be your God." (Jeremiah 30:22 - Douay-Rheims Bible)

This year, let us call out the Holy Name of Jesus Christ and invite Him into our lives to quieten our restlessness, bring hopeful meaning to our lives and truly satisfy our deep spiritual hunger. May He make us all a channel of His this we journey home to eternal life...

Bishop Fulton Sheen goes on to say, "There is no such thing as living without a cross.  We are free only to choose between crosses.  Will it be the Cross of (Jesus) Christ which redeems us from our sins, or will it be the double cross..." (of the secular world we live in?)

Respond...this new year...make the beautiful words in the Nicene Creed come alive...

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth
of all that is seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
not made,
one in Being with the Father.

Through Him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
He came down from heaven;
by the power of the Holy Spirit
He was born of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.

For our sake
He was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
He suffered died, and was buried.
On the third day
He rose in fulfillment of the Scriptures;
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son
He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism
for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Epiphany...The Magi...God's Salvation for All...

“The first was called Melchior. He was an old man, with white hair and a long beard; he offered gold to the Lord as to his King. The second, Gaspar by name, young, beardless, of ruddy hue, offered to Jesus his gift of incense, the homage due to Divinity. The third, of black complexion, with heavy beard, was middle-aged and called Balthasar. The myrrh he held in his hand prefigured the death of the son of Man.”

- St. Bede the Venerable

Today many Christians the world over celebrate the feast of Epiphany, including Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists.

Epiphany essentially means "to show" or "to make known" or even "to reveal." It remembers the coming of the Magi or Wise Men bringing gifts to visit the Christ child; who by so doing "reveal" Jesus to the world as Lord and King

"We have come to do him homage" (Matthew 2:2)

These Wise Men make only one single appearance in Holy Scriptures in St. Matthew's Gospel.  The wealthy, learned, alien Magi of St. Matthew's Gospel complement the poor, ignorant, local shepherds of St Luke's Gospel, as we recalled at the Christmas celebration. This foreshadows the universality of the Church, these Gentiles and Jews worship God Incarnate to show that salvation is offered to all men.

God fulfills his promises and sends his son, a little child, born by a Jewish woman, part of the Jewish people, descendent of the great king David. God’s love for Israel is great, but not restricted to them. Shepherds and foreigners come and worship Jesus first.

Today, the Epiphany, the climax of the Advent/Christmas season, commemorates the day when the Magi, followed the Star, travelled from the far East to pay homage to the newly born infant Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem.

The Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to honor the newborn baby, whom they considered as the King of Kings.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons was the first Church Father to equate the Wise Men's gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh with Christ's roles as King, God, and Sacrifice.

O God
Who by a star
guided the wise men to the worship of your Son
we pray you to lead to yourself
the wise and great of every land
that unto you every knee may bow,
and every thought be brought into captivity
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Epiphany lifts our eyes from purely the family celebrations during Christmas and demands that we should include in our vision, sharing our light with "all the ends of the earth."  God’s plan of salvation is revealed to all, without any discrimination. God’s love is directed at all of humanity.

Today, we are invited, once again, to lay down our intellect, in the midst of such a mystery. Like the magi, we are called to give ourselves, our joys, our brokenness, our sufferings, our loneliness… as gifts to the Lord and give up all our fears. Let us therefore open our hearts and make this transformative journey like the magi… it is through the Magi that we set out towards the starlight of hope, of joy and of peace to come.

As we reflect on the Wise Men who saw the Star and responded to the call, let us ask ourselves how have we radiated to the rest of creation the light that Jesus has embedded in our souls since the day we were conceived in our mother's womb? How has our life been moments of epiphany to others?

The one bright star was shining in the sky, yet many others did not show up to pay homage to “the true Light of the world” in Bethlehem…ponder on that...

 “The more a man is at peace within himself and interiorly simple, the more and deeper things does he understand without labor; for he receives the light of understanding from on high.”

 - The Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis