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Friday, August 10, 2012

We are Soldiers of Christ...

There is a common tendency today, as it was for me, over the last couple of months, to become distracted and drowned by the noise around us; not noise, in the physical sense, but rather a kind of “noise” that stirs up the peace, harmony and equilibrium of the Spirit...a type of noise that many in the world have too often failed to feel or even recognize; almost accepting this as a secular way of life.

It is a “noise” that is always there waiting to seduce us, to tempt us and to possess disturb us...until we lose focus of the peace and calm which Jesus taught us.  Pope Benedict XVI reminds us, “Anyone who breaks off friendship with Jesus, casting off his “easy yoke”, does not attain liberty, does not become free, but succumbs to other powers.”

The noise of our secular jobs, careers, financial pursuits, desires, wants...the list goes on and on.  As mere human beings, created by a God who loves us, each day becomes a battle against these worldly temptations.  Prophet Isaiah goes further to remind us today...
“Yahweh called me before I was born, from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.  ...Whoever walks in darkness, and has no light shining for him, let him trust in the name of Yahweh, let him lean on his God.” (Isaiah 49:1, 50:10, Jerusalem Bible)
I have been “SimplyQuiet” for quite a while and although, I myself continue to often read and reflect on this journal, reminding myself of my own thoughts and epiphanies past.  Yet, I have not found the spiritual discipline to reflect, share and put down into words much of my thoughts; mainly because, I have not made time to pause and to deeply reflect on them.

Breezing through life this way, without taking time to pause and reflect on the journey, I am reminded, has left a kind of empty void deep inside; it is a kind of emptiness and loneliness that is not easy to express in words.  Often, many people will simply brush it off...whilst others will realise that this emptiness results from our original belongingness to our loving Creator, who keeps calling us back.

This, as I have come to realise, is because, we are first loved by Him and to Him we all belong, we are the Lord’s and St Augustine could not have put it better when he shared that, “our hearts are restless, till they rest in God.”  Our hearts continue to have a deep burning love and desire for God, for oneness with Him, no matter how distant we have strayed matter how distracted we have become.
Nevertheless, it is heartening to see that, despite my having remained quiet; this simple blog-journal continues to draw pilgrims, by the grace of God, from all over the world.  It is a humbling experience to know that, even though I have not been blogging so frequently, at least my previously shared reflections continues to reach and touch others in ways which only God can do.  I guess this is what people call passive evangelization; no matter how “inactive” I have become.  Truly God is great to use a sinner like use a blog like this...I am truly humbled.
For me, I continue to remain a mere instrument simply at the Lord’s disposal, quietly reflecting on my journey and simply sharing it on the blogosphere whenever He moves me to, whenever He wills me to.

Earlier this month, I stumbled across an old second-hand book by a legendary author, born in 1380 at Kempen, near Dusseldorf; Thomas a Kempis...yes, “The Imitation of Christ”, this version being a translation by Leo Sherley-Price; an influential writing for over 500 years.
Believe it or not, this is one book which I have screened through time and again since my yesterdays of youth but somehow, never ever managed to complete it cover to cover.  Truly written with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the pages or even sentences always overwhelms my being...stirs my soul; reminding me of my mortality, my unworthiness and what a great sinner I have become...allowing myself to be polluted by the noises of the world.

Each page of this simple book glows with the reflected Light from the Holy Scriptures...the Word made flesh.  Writing, journaling or even blogging is so important in order for us to leave a legacy for others.  If not for Thomas obediently writing these down, we would never have been able to savour the beauty and wisdom of ‘The Imitation’.

In fact, Thomas also spent much of his time in the copying of the Scriptures; silence became his good friend, work his companion and prayer his aid.  Of Thomas’ outwardly life, little remains to be told......why today, he would probably have been labelled as an “anti-social”.

Yes, many saints have fallen in love with this book and even more have experienced a sense of nearness to God upon reflection of the spirit-inspired pages within this book; second only to the Bible, as many publishers would testify.

I am hoping that this book will also rejuvenate me spiritually, in ways that will help me better deal and cope with the “noise” of the secular world; to become more aware of my own dependence on God’s love and the empty futility of my journey without the companionship of this one loving God.  In short, to realize, live, love and work as if God is still fact, God must be seen to be genuinely relevant in our lives lived...otherwise, dare we call ourselves Christians?
In the days of old, where there did not exist as many technological gadgets like the photocopier machine, electronics like the laptop computer, communication tools like the new Apple iPhone, iPad, Android Tablets, what-have-you kind of instruments...people’s lives were much simpler then.  In the days of past, people read more, became interested in philosophy; essentially the simple love of wisdom (Philo = love, Sophia = wisdom).  Through this simple habit of reading, spirituality blossom, faith deepens, wisdom nurtured, not to mention, more acute awareness and reliance or dependence on God.
I cannot help but be convinced, through many experiences that there is a higher divine reason for each spiritual book that I stumble across and with each book-encounter, is revealed a hidden message that God would like to reveal to me at certain points of my pilgrimage through life; also for me to share with others.

These days, many people have fallen astray, drowned in their busy careers and personal worldly pursuit of so-called success, self-glorification and accumulation of material wealth.
Someone I know, who has been experiencing a steep rise in career, was recently diagnosed with Stage 3, colon cancer.  Time and again, we receive ‘reminders’ like these to steer us back onto the right path, the narrow path...where many will not or dare not, take.  Often, under such circumstances, our inner worldly voice would echo, “Where is God when you need him most?” or the cries of, “Life just isn’t fair!” resounds.
On the flipside, should not we ask and remind ourselves more often, “where is our gratitude to the God, who made us, blessed us, provided for us and continually love us?”
Although Thomas a Kempis returned to the Father a long time ago, back in 1471, the offspring of his thoughts, through the fruit of this book lives on...guiding us...providing us with the road map to being one with the Father.
It has almost been a year since I returned back to corporate employment.  To be precise, August 15 will be my first anniversary.  Throughout this duration, I have endeavoured to put into practice good Christian values and most important of all, surrendering to God all what I cannot handle as a mere human weakling.  So far, God has not let me down and my journey has found more meaning and richness, providing much opportunity for spiritual reflection, by God’s grace and naturally, choosing to reach out and touch lives in the course of my simple journey through life.

Experiencing the Stations of the Cross, the Way of the Cross, the Via Dolorosa, we are reminded each Lent, coupled with the strength that we can draw from the Passion of Christ is what makes being a Catholic, extremely privilege, special and exclusive.
Catholicism depicts such sacredness, holiness and richness in its Liturgy, the Mass and the Holy Sacraments; a well of strength we can draw upon each time we feel alone, fallen, isolated, unwanted or distracted by noises.  Whenever we seek quietness, simple guidance for a decision, God is there, God will be there.  Across the ages, Catholicism boasts of great authors, writings from the saints and mystics.

The book, “The Imitation of Christ” appropriately reminds us in these excerpts:
“If you knew the whole Bible by heart, and all the teachings of the philosophers, how would this help you without the grace and love of God?”
“It is vanity to give thought of this present life, and to care nothing for the life to come.  It is vanity to love things that so swiftly pass away, and not to hasten onwards to that place where everlasting joy abides.”
“Strive to withdraw your heart from the love of visible things, and direct your affections to things invisible.”
With such spirit-inspired gems on every other sentence, how can one ever finish a book like this?  But then, our God may not wish for us to just complete this book in one sitting, but rather, to slowly chew on the pages, digesting these whilst we reflectively journey through life; and like a mirror, reflecting his light to many others who are sent towards our path.
Until my next posting, God’s blessings to one and all...hope and pray that this simple blog has and will continue to attract more pilgrims of life and reach out and touch your hearts in any small little way, by the grace of God.  We must always remember that we have all been chosen as Soldiers of Christ...the earth, being our battlefield, where victory is dependent on the simple choices we make each day.

Therefore, just be “SimplyQuiet” amidst the more dominant seductive and corrupted noise and subtle temptations of the world.  St Augustine once shared:
“The devil does not sleep, but works hard to make you lose your soul.  Will you then continue to rest when your eternal salvation is at stake?”
Even Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta added:
“The devil tempts us.  His aim is death, not so much you or I: we are nothing.  It is about God, a hatred of God.”

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