Friday, 22 April 2011

If only we understood...

Every Maundy Thursday, The Chruch of St Anthony of Padua (Woodlands) will always hold the Passover Sedar meal of the Lord. This year is no exception. And definately, I was there as well.

Being early, I 'floated' around looking for the best place to sit, view and enjoy the narration of the supper. Somehow, the Lord did not permit me to just sit anywhere but he had reserved a special place for me. I ended up at the place of honour at the table. The place to the left of Jesus......

It was a place, not only of honour, but held great meaning. Not only was I next to the master of the banquet, I was also in the place of Judas Iscariot, the one who was to betray him. I was having mixed emotions... I knew the Lord has a revealation for me... I just had to wait for it...

It was only when the supper was almost over that Jesus (Fr Terence), explained that Judas was forgiven the moment when he dipped into the same dish with Jesus, when Jesus handed him the bread. There was no doubt to him about it. Was this the reason that his guilt became too great for him to bear and that is why he hung himself?

I was reflecting on this event and how I ended up in the seat of honour. There are many times that I felt like Judas, because of my many shortcomings and struggle with sin. There are so many people out there who are more worthy than me yet I am being called to the Seminary.

What did Jesus see in me that deem me worthy to be where I am now? I thought and pondered and reflected... and I cannot come up with any decent convincing answer.... except one... If he loves me enough to die for me, isn't that enough?

... if only we understood ...

Monday, 4 April 2011

I want to be....

There once was a stone cutter, who complained to God daily about his pitiful state. God finally got tired of it. "Tell you what. I will give you a chance to become whatever you feel is better than your pitiful state." said God.

The stone cutter is envious of the Merchant who buys his stones at a low price and yet sell them off at such a handsome profit. The stone cutter is tired of being exploited.

"I want to be the Merchant!" POOF! The newly changed Merchant shout in glee! Unfortunately, his transformation falls on taxation day. He has to pay the King almost forty percent of his profit. The newly- changed merchant became indignant. He did not like feeling small.

"I want to be the King!" POOF! The newly changed King is so happy that he went in to his beautiful palace garden to relax. The sun rays keep shining down on him and prevented him from falling asleep. The newly changed King became irrationally angry at the sun who stood high in the sky looking down on him. He did not like being looked down on.

"I want to be the sun!" POOF! The newly changed sun shined with all his might and take great joy in looking down on all creation. Suddenly, great clouds came and blocked his sight of the earth. try as his might, he cannot shine thru the thick clouds. He was fiery pissed at the notion that he can be ignored. He did not like being ignored.

"I want to be the cloud!" POOF! The newly changed cloud blocked out the sun and covered the earth in shade the whole day. Just when the cloud thinks that he can covered everything, he noticed something pointy sticking out of him. It is the mountain. The cloud cannot covered the whole of the gigantic mountain. He did not like to be thwarted by the mountain.

"I want to be the mountain!" POOF! The newly changed mountain sits smugly on earth, knowing that nothing can move him...

"CHIP! CHIP! CHIP!" The mountain wondered at the noise, and to his horror, it is a stone cutter carving out huge slabs of stone from the mountain core. "I want to be the stone cutter!" POOF! The stone cutter returned to his original form and complained no more after that.

This story is heard from the Conversion Experience Retreat recently. We always go one big round, wishing that we are somebody else. We fell into the trap of envy. We lament about the little gift we have and at times we wish that we can be like someone else. It is only when we realise who we truly are, we see the worth of ourselves in God's eyes!

Here in Kampung Punggol, whever a brother has a special talent, we remind ourselves constantly that it is a gift from God. The special talent may lead the brother to teach the rest of the community to learn new things. We praise God for him. This is a constant reminder for ourselves as we need to be on guard towards these negative emotions. We must not be a slave to envy, for it will eat us from inside out. Let us examine our lives and see where we have allowed envy to seep in. Lift them up to the Lord, for He loves us and He will surely grant us the grace to overcome it.

The life of the body is a tranqil heart, but envy is a cancer in the bones. Proverbs 14:30

New Life - Easter comes early

Update from my previous blog entry about the birds building the nest on my balcony. The nest was built pretty fast in about 4 days, after which the birds seemed to disappear, until one day I saw a familiar beak sticking out of the nest.
Laying/Incubating the Eggs
I knew that the eggs had hatched when one morning, I didn't see the mother bird in the nest. So I took a closer look and saw the beak of the chick sticking out.
Closeup of the Nest
And sure enough, during the day I see the two parent birds flying to the nest, I hear the hungry chirps of the chicks as they bring them food.
P3290185_smP3290197_smFather Feeding Chicks 02
Father Feeding the Chicks
Mother Feeding Chicks
Mother Feeding the Chicks
Mother Feeding Chicks 02
Closeup of the Mother
Closeup of the Father
Off to find more food
The two parents fly back and forth the whole day to find and bring food back to feed their chicks.
This is where I have to stand to take the photos.
One thing this has taught me is patience. As the opening of the nest is facing out of my balcony, I have to take the photos from the window in the bathroom. And as the hungry chicks devour the food their parents bring them, each stopover lasts less than 10 seconds. So I have to stand on the chair in the bathroom, holding my hand up with the camera sticking out of the window, patiently waiting for the parent bird to fly in. As I can't look out the window, I have to rely on the chirping of the chicks to tell me when the parent bird is there. And if I'm too slow, it is another 5-10 minutes of waiting before the next feed. So I stand there praying that the birds will be able to find food quickly.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

We come from many places....

"We come from many places. All across the Land. Of many different Races. Together hand in hand. United we stand. Divided we fall. Ready to serve our nation's call...."

Suddenly the familiar army song came into mind on a saturday night. This is rather apt to describle the family here. Men from different backgrounds and races come together under a nation of God's people. These men come together to stay and live in a community. The big difference between the Kampung Punggol and the army is the freedom of choice. Once that choice is made, God provides the grace that it needed. What stays true for both Kampung Punggol and the Army is that unity is of paramount importance to both of them. This posting is to celebrate that grace given to us here at Kampung Punggol!

That sense of belonging is strengthened especially after we all attended the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) in the Catholic Spiritual Centre. We realise our own brokenness. We realise that despite of own brokenness, we are beloved children of a loving God, our heavenly Father. And that binds us. We are not perfect. None of us are. It is only because of that love from Him, that we can be able to love each another much much more. I am very thankful that the community have transformed over the years. The Community has reached to its current level of love and maturity due to the hardwork of those come before me. Praise God for them, the true lovers of God!!

We heard in the retreat, which most of us here at Kampung Punggol attended as shown in the topmost picture, that favortism can drive a wedge into a community or family. Favortism can cause envy, gossiping and especially resentment. That is why those anointed with authority or seniority within the community take great pains to ensure no favortism is practised. Brothers are very careful not to tease each other by referring as some other brother's favourite. Indeed, I tell you that if I have heard even a brother to say that I am a favourite of some other brother, it will have hurt me. There will be discord sown or even promote jealousy from such an insensitive teasing. Spiteful remarks like special treatment from a certain brother or even the blue-eye boy of the rector can possibly cause many to fall from grace. We are all unique and thus relate to each other differently. We know that we may feel closer to certain brothers, but we must love all.

It is for us who are strong to bear with the susceptibilities of the weaker ones, and not please ourselves. Each of us must consider his neighbour's good, so that we support one another.

Indeed, that is what Saint Paul said to the Romans in the first two verses of chapter 15. We must support each other and keep in mind of the inherent human weakness in each of us. We have to be careful not to cause each other to fall into the capital sin of envy and pride. We are proud to live under four impartial formator Fathers, who tried their best to keep favortism out of practice. Some of you may laugh at the notion of adults behaving like children fighting for attention. However, the green-eye monster has no preferences for any age group. We can often see that in church ministries, workplaces and especially in our own homes.

Let us each stop passing judgement, therefore, on one another and decide instead that none of us will place obstacles in any brother's way, or anything that can bring him down.

This verse 13 comes from the letter of St Paul to the Romans in chapter 14. I have learnt a lot from my older brothers. They have tried their best to place judgement aside and focused on love. Some of those anointed with responsibilites and authority more often or so encourage the rest of us with thanksgiving and affirmation. I am writing all these not to paint an absolute rosy picture of the community, but to share with you on the love I have experienced here. This community is growing in love and maturity each day. We have our moments of weakness, but we remind ourselves constantly of this:

Do not let resentment lead you into sin; the sunset must not find you still angry. Or else you will give the devil a foothold. Eph 4:26-27

We may get angry with each other due to misunderstandings, but we must not allow the devil to get a foothold to our soul because of that anger. Much humility is required to resolve such issues. Somone ask my older brother if we fight in the seminary. My brother and I have a good laugh. The answer is an obvious no, but we do have the silent treatment in place of that physical violence. It gives us time to think and reflect. Reconciliation will then takes its place in due time. Yes, community life is like that. The important thing I have learnt from my older brothers is never to give up on each other.

So then, let us be always seeking the ways which lead to peace and the ways in which we can support each other. Rom 14:19

Saturday, 2 April 2011

He doesn't have to try

By Brooks Peck from Yahoo! Sports- With 27 goals in 26 La Liga matches this season, it may seem like Lionel Messi has a supernatural ability to score. And that's because he does. Seriously, it's science. Here he is warming up before Argentina's friendly against the U.S. and displaying that the cosmic field of magnetic energy he creates not only drives the ball he kicks into the net, but any other balls that might be sitting stationary between him and the goal, as well. Was he trying to hit the ball that was sitting in front of the goalkeeper with the one he actually kicked? Pshhht. He doesn't have to try. After both balls hit the back of the net and even the goalkeeper applauds his little trick, Messi just walks away, because to him that's nothing.

Now I am not a typical soccer fanatic. If you ask me which club I support, I will probably tell you that I support Arsenal and Blackburn. Those are the two clubs in which my closest buddies support. For me, watching soccer is the company that counts the most. It is not about the score line. Then again, I won’t really complain if the team I support happen to win =)

At the end of the above article by Brooks Peck, there is a comment of hailing Messi as God of football. Wow, God of football! The video footage can incur two responses. Those, who love Messi, will see it as a great skill. Those, who don’t, will view it as a mere coincidence. Is that not the view of the world today? Through the eyes of faith, we can see every simple thing as a miracle by God. And we know that He is awesome, and if I may borrow words from Brooks Peck, our God is so awesome that He doesn’t have to try.

While Messi walks away, our God does not. God continues to be with us every step of the way. Why? Maybe to Messi (according to Brooks Peck), that display of skill is nothing. Our God stays with us. Why? It is simply because we are something to Him.

And when God does something miraculous, are we not like the goalkeeper that we have to applaud even though the awesome result is against our own judgement or prediction? Think of those, who thinks nothing of Messi. They will see this shot as a mere fluke and it is just part of the warming up. The goal does not even matter at all, since it is before the actual match.

I myself fall into this trap often and become very cynical at the end of the day. I do not see Him in the simple mundane routine of my life. When a brother comes to affirm me in kampong Punggol, do I accept it as a message of love from God or merely shrugged it off or the affirmation only to myself and not the talent God has given me? Well, unless of course it is a huge crisis in my life, I will belittle His grace in my life. His miracle does not matter at all.

Sigh, isn't it sad?

Truth be told. Messi, like the rest of us, is created in the image of God. Imagine what Messi can do on the pitch, God can do SO MUCH MORE in our lives! Think about the guy who caught the whole warming up on video, he must have been expecting something extraordinary. Imagine him sitting on the edge of his seat in the stadium and not willing to let go any of the precious moment to pass him by. Then he is rewarded with this great clip.

Can not our God do the same for us? We just have to be on edge of our seat daily and see what wonders He can bring. Best part is He doesn't have to try, but He did. He constantly try to reach out to us, and we just have to reach out. The problem is...we are not even trying.

Reach out to Him today!