Thursday, July 21, 2011
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
“You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother's womb.
I praise you, so wonderfully you made me;
wonderful are your works!
My very self you knew;
my bones were not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
fashioned as in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes foresaw my actions;
in your book all are written down;
my days were shaped,
before one came to be.”
Over the last couple of days, I was simply reflecting on a little book by a Dutch-born Catholic priest, Henri Jozef Machiel Nouwen...an extremely very gifted writer – “Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World.”
This is just a simple sharing of my quiet reflection...
Amidst all the rushing, working and doing, we tend to not have much time for our dear selves. Just remember who you are...a very special person...deeply loved by God and all the people who are here on this journey with you...and the ones you meet along the way.
Not to be able to feel loved by those who gave us life will result in us dwelling in low self esteem that can easily lead to anger, impatience, hopelessness, depression and despair.
When the journey is rough and life is burdensome, always remember that you are loved with an everlasting love. We belong to a loving God who will never leave us alone...but will remind us constantly that we are guided by His loving hands on every step of our journey through life.
At times when we are thrown about, up and down by the tiny waves on the surface of our existence, we become easy victims of our manipulative and seductive world. For those who are trapped in the values and priorities of the world, we hear so much blaming and complaining in a spirit of passive resignation...feeling like victims of the world we cannot change...an inner restlessness that continually stirs up feelings and emotions of us being not-good-enough, evil, bad, worthless, rotten, doomed to illness and death, useless...the list goes on and on.
These negative voices are sometimes so loud and persistent that it is often easy to believe them...naturally, beneath all our human arrogance and ego!
St Augustine reminds us in our journey that, “my soul is restless until it rests in you, O God.” When God no longer have (or never had) any influence over us and our lives...on our journey...on the waves of our lives...then all our vitality will eventually evaporate...we will become listless, frustrated, dull and bored even when we are busy with all our “doings”.
Our own human arrogance and ego often destroys us. It prevents us from seeing, hearing, feeling and sensing...becoming “conscious” of how blessed we actually are. Amidst all the “noise”, compulsiveness and “busi-ness” (read ‘busy’), we cannot hear the whisper...that soft gentle inner Voice that blesses our lives so that we can journey through life with a stable sense of well-being and true belonging.
This Voice comes to us in countless of ways...the very voice that is sounded by your parents, friends, colleagues, teachers, students, priest, spouse, children, blogs, books and the many strangers who cross your path...including the Sacred Scriptures...the Word of God.
This Voice can simply be heard in the quiet...by the ear of faith...the ear of the inner heart...an inner active attentiveness and consciousness of the Beloved God...the Spirit within us.
The world has changed, many people say...but the problem of modern living in this day and age is that we are simply too busy...perhaps looking for affirmation of “who we are” in the wrong places?
There is simply so much that still has to be done, so many tasks to finish, assignments to complete, deadlines to meet and jobs to work on that being simply present and quiet seem (or is perceived to be) useless and even a total waste of our time.
How then can be hear and listen to God if we do not “waste our time”?
First and foremost, we ourselves must acknowledge that we are indeed children of God...we are God’s chosen ones...we are loved and belong exclusively to God...we existed in God’s loving heart long before we were conceived and came to birth...long before our parents held us...our friends know us...we have been individually chosen from the very beginning of time! Each and every one of us have been chosen by God.
“...a great spiritual mystery: To be chosen does not mean that others are rejected. It is very hard to conceive of this in a competitive world such as ours.” – Henri J M Nouwen
In knowing that we are indeed chosen and loved by God, Henri Nouwen further enlightens us that, “what seemed intolerable becomes a challenge. What seemed a reason for depression becomes a source of purification. What seemed punishment becomes a gentle pruning. What seemed rejection becomes a way to a deeper communion” which each of us yearns so much, deep within our being.
By the grace of God, only with this gift of awareness and consciousness...we stop clinging to life for our own selfish reasons and desires...we stop reacting aimlessly to the world around us.
We become attentive to the loving God who has chosen us and “planted” us on this journey...to make this world a little better. Throughout this short journey back home, every time we reach out...every time we respond to the Voice...we know that our every little action of love and peace will ripple out into wider circles – just like a tiny pebble thrown into a calm still pond.
Only then, will our brief and simple journey through this world touch the lives of others with love...give life to people...our “death” will then have given others hope and new life...our “death” will ultimately set us free to arrive home to meet God.
“...O LORD, you have probed me,
you know me: you know when I sit and stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My travels and my rest you mark;
with all my ways you are familiar.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
Lord, you know it all.
Behind and before you encircle me
and rest your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is beyond me,
far too lofty for me to reach.
Where can I hide from your spirit?
From your presence, where can I flee?”
(Psalm 139:1-7, NAB)
Monday, July 18, 2011
“Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum.
With love for mankind and hatred of sins.”
- St Augustine of Hippo, Opera Omnia, Vol. II, Letter 211
Today, July 18, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI took some time off to meet the controversial Malaysia Prime Minister Najib at the Castel Gandolfo, following the latter’s eventful London meeting with Queen Elizabeth, who just happened to wear an immaculate “yellow” dress...in a room at Buckingham Palace which also happened to be decorated with “yellow” flowers (coincidently, the signature color of BERSIH)! Peaceful protestors in London, parts of the world and especially Malaysia continue to voice their demand for a free and clean electoral system – symbolized by the “yellow” BERSIH T-shirts!
Against the backdrop of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, across cosmopolitan Malaysia, pushing for this “leader” to take ownership and resign following the government’s disgraceful handling of the multi racial 709 BERSIH Rally, desperate efforts are being made by the ruling Malaysian government to establish diplomatic ties with the Vatican (coincidently, the flag is also significantly yellow); possibly, a last ditch effort to win back the almost 3 million Christian votes in the country (almost 30% Catholics), whose population approximates 30 million; comprising mainly peace-loving moderate Muslims.
This is just my simple reflection, to be in solidarity with Catholics and Christians in Malaysia, against the surrounding political events that is becoming more intense and dirty...and of course, this audience with the Holy Father.
For pilgrims in Malaysia, it is often difficult to stand up for one’s faith, especially when so many factors are in disagreement and the rest of the world is watching closely. Even some “leaders” of the Church are experiencing this difficulty as well, given rising religious tension...perceived to be politically motivated. Nevertheless, it is always necessary to put God and Faith first and perhaps, to pray, reflect and emulate what Jesus would have done under such circumstances.
Whilst the Malaysian government has publicized this visit to the Vatican as being historic, there was almost no mention of this ‘anti-climax’ trip to Rome during last weekend’s Eucharistic celebrations...not shocking at all, given that the Catholic Church has been present in Malaysia for a very, very long time and absolutely no serious efforts have been taken by this Government to establish any formal ties with the Holy See in the past.
Despite this recent visit having borne good fruit in the agreement to establish formal diplomatic ties between Malaysia with the Vatican, the pilgrims in Malaysia and the world over, are not convinced by the sincerity and integrity of this Malaysian Government. As such, pilgrims in Malaysia continue to cry out to God for freedom, justice and mercy! Certainly, our God continues to work in mysterious ways...which are way beyond our finite understanding. We are called to trust in Him.
St Augustine has constantly reminded us to “love the sinner, hate the sin”. In this case, it would perhaps be challenging for the pilgrims in Malaysia to make much sense out of this phrase, especially after what transpired on Day 709, whereby the people’s peaceful walk to push for a freer and cleaner electoral system was confronted with massive police high handedness and brutality, controlled media reporting, “yellow” crackdown, city lockdown and the Government’s twisting and turning of events ...even to the extent of media “doctoring” of photographs to seemingly portray “violence” by the peaceful citizens. This is absolutely childish, shameful and disgraceful! Why should this government be so afraid of a free and clean electoral process??? Obviously, it does not take brilliant intelligence to figure this one out...
How can pilgrims in Malaysia then “love” such a “leader” while simultaneously hating his long list of sins against the land and its people? It certainly is a massive dilemma for Christians, when the Church teachings have always been centered along the lines of loving your neighbors...your enemies - love always trumping hate.
We know that Jesus is all about LOVE...yet sometimes, there is a feeling of “hate” within us...seeing and experiencing the reality that surrounds us. As pilgrims, why do we sometimes so easily succumb to the feeling of wanting to “hate”? Where did this emotion of “hate” come from? Well, we know that Jesus certainly did not teach us how to “hate”.
Similarly, the quiet and peaceful Mohandas Gandhi, who reads and appreciates Christian literature, shared with his followers, not so long ago, to “love the sinner and not the sin” with regards to their oppressors; the ultimate objective was to starve off more violence. Pilgrims simply cannot fight violence with hatred...
Similarly, even in the corporate offices, within our own working environment, when we observe our bosses or superiors behaving in an extremely harsh and oppressive manner, we have the tendency to simply begin “hating”...not recognizing that this emotion will cause us to, similarly, lose our compassion, clarity of thought and stop appreciating the basic human dignity in the other person...no matter who they are.
This day forth, let us make it a point to go beyond ourselves and stop “hating” so easily...stop casting stones too freely. When such feelings attempt to rise from within us, let us simply remember what our Lord Jesus has taught us in the Gospels and be sensitive to what the Holy Spirit is quietly prompting us...deep within our being. We are the Light of Christ that shines...penetrates and heals...not burn...
We know that Jesus came to rescue the single lost sheep, to welcome home the prodigal sinner. Jesus sat, ate, drank, and even mixed with tax collectors, the lepers and prostitutes! Jesus came for the least, the last and the lost! As pilgrims, we too endeavor to pursue that same mission in our journey.
Nevertheless, despite all that is said, there is still a fundamental prerequisite to hold “leaders” accountable for their actions or missteps in managing or governing the country, in the name of the people...the very people who voted them into office. Where there is blatant abuse of power and funds, held in trust, for the people...justice must prevail. In this instance, justice can only be voiced and heard at free and clean elections.
Would it be highly controversial to offer forgiveness to “leaders” whose governments are perceived by their own citizens as practicing and condoning violence, blatant corruption, religious discrimination, injustice, cronyism, nepotism, media control, criminal offences, widespread abuse of power etc? Let the Almighty God alone be the Judge of that...this, we must believe and simply trust!
No, being a Christian pilgrim is never easy...what more in countries like Malaysia. Loving your neighbors and enemies is never easy....standing up for justice, speaking up for the truth, finding courage to exercise voting rights, being prayerful, being in solidarity with people of different faiths...trusting that God will hear the cry of His people...trusting that the Church and the Holy Father will be obedient to the will of the Holy Spirit...that’s what Jesus has personally called each one of us to do. Love the sinner, period.
Leave the rest to God. He will make all things beautiful in His time. Judge not, that you not be judge. As pilgrims, this is the paradox...this is the Cross we all have to carry if we are to obediently follow Jesus Christ...the Way, the Truth and the Light. In dificult times like these, we simply must trust Him even more...