Friday, 21 October 2011

What Kueh Lapis taught me about sin...

During the seminary community's recent Educational Outing to the Bengawan Solo factory, besides gaining a full dosage of the rich, fragrant smell of cakes and kuehs the minute we walked into the building, besides gaining an insight to the company's humble beginnings and impressive business model, and of course besides gaining a little weight from the generous samplings of their goodies, little did I expect myself to also gain some beautiful insights from our little trip upon further reflection... especially when it has to do with a rather serious and unpopular topic: SIN.

The Process
While being taken on a tour of the factory and getting a chance to witness some of their kueh-making processes in action, one particular process that intrigued me was the way they made their famous 'Kueh Lapis' (layer cake). Before my very eyes, the chef would pour a thin layer of that sweet 'kueh lapis' mixture, comprising of butter, eggs and sugar, into a tray, before placing the tray on a conveyor belt where the layer would be steamed for an entire round until it returned for the chef to pour another thin layer of that sweet mixture. This process would be repeated for a number of times until the layer reached a certain height.

Similarly, whenever we receive the outpouring of God's sweet mixture of His grace, mercy and forgiveness, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and after we pray the Act of Contrition, ending with the words "...I will not sin again", deep within our hearts, we know that we are really not quite there yet. In fact, very shortly after, we find ourselves having to go through another round of testing through 'fire' and steam, facing another round of temptations that often lead us back into committing the same sin yet again, and having to eventually return back to the Lord for another outpouring of His sweet forgiveness.

I often get very frustrated and upset with myself whenever I allow myself to get caught in this process of falling into the same sin over and over again. I used to even wonder if God would ever get tired of hearing my confessions, and if there was still any purpose in going in the first place, knowing how easily I might fall into the same sin again after that.

The Countdown
What I learnt from the chef, was that every 'kueh lapis' takes about 25 layers of that sweet mixture and 25 rounds of steaming before it becomes its finished product. That would mean that after 20 rounds of steaming, the chef would know that there would be 5 more rounds of steaming to go.

Supposing God, our all-knowing God, knows exactly how many times we would fall into the same sin, before we are to eventually break free from that sin. This would mean that for every sin we repeat, even after trying our very best to resist its temptation, it does not necessarily take us one step backwards in our journey towards God as many of us would think. It may in fact take us one step closer towards becoming the finished product that God intended for us to be, so long as we continue to return back to Him with contrite hearts for another sweet layer of His grace, mercy and forgiveness. Instead of feeling all guilty and upset for too long a time, I should take comfort that I am work-in-progress, and should not give up but continue to endure another round of testing and purification, and let God countdown towards our eventual completion.

The Necessary Step
In addition, I have also realised that the process of falling into sin in our lives, may not necessarily be an outright impediment or hindrance to our spiritual growth, as if it were a big fat juicy fly landing right into the 'kueh lapis' mixture. God can very purposely make use of our experience of sin, and let it form part of the process of our spiritual growth, or even a necessary step in order for us to learn and grow into the person He intends for us to be. From my own experience, I have witnessed for myself how my constant struggle with sin keeps me humble before God, reminds me of the need to constantly depend on Him for strength, serves as a reflection as to how near or far my relationship with Him is, and also helps me be more compassionate towards others who also fall into sin.

The Anticipation 
Lastly, just as a chef, while taking much conscientious care of every round of steaming and layering, would keep most of his attention (and excitement) to the final anticipation of eventually savouring his final product, or to let his customers finally have a taste of his remarkable pride and joy, so too will the God who made us, our Masterchef, while conscientiously watching over every round of steaming and layering in our lives with great care, would reserve His greatest excitement for the eventual day of anticipation, when after a much painstaking and ardous process, we would finally become the masterpiece that He intended for us to be, His pride and joy that He cannot wait to let the whole world have a taste of. And this is when we can meet the world's urgent appetite for God by becoming His powerful living testimonies of the Lord's goodness, love and mercy, where we may proclaim to the entire world, that whatever our God creates, His creation, especially those made in His image and likeness, it will always made of the finest stuff that cannot bluff!

P.S. Enjoy your process...

Saturday, 15 October 2011

'To Save A Thousand Souls' Vocation Retreat 2011 - Testimony #1

There was no outright calling from Him.
In fact, I was pretty distracted and found it hard to focus/open up.
The talks by Fr Brett Brannan were great.
I enjoyed the morning Lauds and evening Vespers, chanting with 50 other males. Heavenly praises filled the chapel.

During adoration in the afternoon on the 2nd day, we were given a chance to "touch the cloak of Jesus" (similar to the account in the Gospel of a lady suffering from hemorrhages). I really want to go up and touch the cloak and seek healing. But when the queue started to form and time was running out, I didn't feel like going anymore. And then a friend of mine told me he felt prompted to ask me to just go. And after much hesitation, I stood up and just went ahead. Touching the "cloak", I prayed for inner healing to heal my wounds and my sins. The healing didn't take place there and then (in God's time I believe). But after that, towards the end of the adoration, I suddenly felt this pair of big and warm hands stretching out over my head, and I could feel 3 words being whispered into my ears, "I love You." Thank you, Jesus.

And then the programme continued and we ended the night with us being assigned to specific stations of the cross to meditate at the stations. There was a lot of praying, meditation, and adoration. I think all these helped to build up towards something good that awaited, even though I didn't feel a deep connection during most of the "organized prayer sessions". So when I finished with the Stations, on the way back, I decided to drop by the Adoration Room. There was this nagging feeling that I still hadn't gotten enough of Him and I needed more.

After prostrating, I sat down in a nice corner. And just few minutes into the silence, tears starting welling up in my eyes and from then on, I couldn't really stop crying for the next 1 hour. It felt like Jesus was purging out all the bottled up pains, unhappiness, bitterness and fear in me. I cried out to Him, "Jesus, I'm sorry. Jesus, I'm scared. I'm in pain." And He simply replied me, "I love you. Do not be afraid. Love yourself." And for the first time, I was able to gaze straight into the Blessed Sacrament with my eyes wide open while tears kept flowing. Usually I'd shut my eyes in the adoration room for fear of losing concentration. But this time round, my eyes were so fixed on Him throughout most of this teary conversation, and I wasn’t really distracted by people going in and out of the adoration room. Then I thought to myself, isn't this the mountain top experience I was hoping for? He embraced me with His love, and asked me to love myself too.

My discernment journey has only just begun.
It is only when you learn to love yourself,
and love Jesus and LET JESUS LOVE YOU,
then you can truly begin to hear His voice.
And to sustain this love,
the only way is to PRAY.
It'll help to be given the strength to be
generous in love &
generous in praying for others.

Church of St Francis of Assisi