Sunday, December 26, 2010

Fall on your knees

Merry Christmas to one and all!
I just want to share a wonderful encounter I had with the Lord this Christmas.

I was at Mass on Christmas Day, it was just after Communion, and I was praying when the choir started to sing O Holy Night for the Thanksgiving Hymn. As I reflected on having just received Christ, the words of the song started to strike me. How we in the world wearied by sin is pining for the Lord, and His coming frees us and fills us with joy and light. And of course when the choir sang the chorus, I trembled with the awe of just being on my knees before our Lord, imagining what the shepherds might have felt kneeling before the baby Jesus in the simple manger.

I hope that this Christmas was as good for you as it was for me. God Bless.

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Becky Kelley - Where's the Line to See Jesus

Just saw this music video on Youtube.
Found in quite appropriate for reflection on the spirit of Christmas

So where is Jesus in your Christmas this year?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Novena - Bringing Christ to Others

As we enter into the 3rd Week of Advent, I would like to share with you an encounter which gave me a new way of looking at the season of Advent.

Two years ago, a family invited me over to their home for dinner. As I was making my way to their place, I was making some plans in my mind. Here I am, a seminarian being invited for dinner, I was asking God what could I do for them. And so I decided that, after dinner, just before I left the house, I would suggest if I could lead them into a short time of prayer together as a family.

So after dinner, I was chatting with the parents, and just as I was about to make my big suggestion, they asked me, “brother, would you like to join us in our night prayer?”. I was a bit taken aback by the change in my plans, but still it gave me an opportunity to pray with them, and so I agreed. To my surprise the five children went to their rooms and brought out their bibles. I, myself didn’t bring my bible, but luckily I had an electronic version in my phone, so I said I would use that. It amazed me to see this family coming together every night to pray, reading the bible, especially since the youngest one was only 5 years old.

To top it off, at the end of the sharing, the mother asked them what would be their advent project for the year. They finally agreed on donating food items to the Boys’ Brigade Share-A-Gift project, which gives food to the needy. They made plans the next day to go down to NTUC to buy the items, and the youngest even volunteered the $20 ang pow her grandma had given to her.

I went home that night, truly humbled, by what the Lord had given me the opportunity to experience. Here I was thinking that I would be leading this family in prayer, and there the Lord threw aside all my plans in showing my the deep faith of the family. As amazing as that is, that is not the only thing that I took back that night. This family challenged me in terms, what was I doing during this Advent period. How was I preparing myself for the arrival of the Lord.

I thought that I was doing a lot in my prayer, reflecting on the mystery of Christ’s birth. Not being caught up with the materialistic, consumerism of Christmas shopping. And here this family was not looking at themselves, but thinking of others and how they can share their blessings with those who were in need.

What this family did, was what our dear Blessed Mother herself did. After the angel Gabriel told her that she was going to be the Mother of Jesus, she could have spent that time praying, reflecting on her own blessings. But instead she set off to her cousin Elizabeth’s place, because she was in her old age, and 6 months pregnant, needing all the help she can get.

What our Blessed Mother brought to Elizabeth was more than just physical aid, but she brought the child Jesus that she was carrying in her. When we look at ourselves today, can we also imitate Mother Mary. Are we carrying Christ within us, in all the blessings, the love that God has showered on us? Or is Christ outside of us, that we are still waiting for him to be born in our lives? If He is in our lives, are we able to bring that love of God to those around us, especially those in need?

As we come in prayer to Our Lady, and adore the Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, let us pray that in the remaining 2 weeks of Advent, we may recognize that Christ is dwelling in each of us, and we may take the time to make His love present to others too. Amen.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Reflections on the Solemnity of Christ the King

As we come to the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, it is always the celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King. And I would like to share with you an interesting clip I saw that highlights the Kingship of Christ. It is from the movie 300, which is about Leonidas, king of Sparta, who led 300 men to defend his land from an invasion by the Persian army led by their "god-king" Xerxes. In this clip, we see a negotiation between Leonidas and Xerxes.

The video clip can't be embedded, because it is copyrighted. So click on this link to view it.

There are a few points in the dialogue between the two which struck me, highlighting the contrasting ideas of what kingship was. And I found that I could relate Leonidas' kingship with Christ's kingship of love, self-sacrifice and freedom. In contrast Xerxes kingship can be equated to the devil's kingship of false promises, fear, oppression and pain.

Xerxes / DevilLeonidas / Christ
- would gladly kill any of his
own men for victory
- would die for any one of his men
- has slaves- has warriors who were free men

What Xerxes does, is like what the devil did to tempt Jesus after his forty days in the desert: a promise of power and fame, if Jesus would only bow before him. And just as Leonidas stood up to Xerxes, Jesus stood up to the devil, because he knew who was the true source of power and good.

This is what we need to reflect on today - Is Jesus really our king? We know that he was willing to die for any one of his men, to free them from the hands of the evil one. Have we then experienced his kingship in our lives? Are we marching in his army, under his banner, following his lead? Are we as Leonidas says, free men who stood against a tryant, the evil one?

Let us then today truly acknowledge Christ as our king, bending our knee before him, pledging our allegiance, following his commands, and be his army in establishing God's kingdom here on earth.

Monday, August 09, 2010

How one generation loves – the next generation learns

After finishing my 30-day silent retreat in June, it took some time to get updated on what had been happening in Singapore, and also clearing all the emails that had piled up. One email I received was on the new video that the National Family Council has produced and currently showing on TV. For those of you who haven’t seen the ad, watch the video below before reading on.

This ad struck me because of the tagline at end – “How one generation loves – the next generation learns”. During my retreat, we were given many passages of the life of Jesus to pray and reflect on. And on one of the days, I was given the passage from Luke 2:39-40 to reflect on.
“When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”
This passage comes after the child Jesus is presented in the Temple. After that we see Jesus as an adult at his Baptism and starting his ministry. So my Retreat Master, told me to reflect on the life of Jesus growing up. The life of Jesus from the time that he was 12 up to 30 is not talked about in the bible. So I had to imagine what Jesus did during that time.

As I was praying, an image came to me of Mother Mary teaching Jesus, his Hebrew ABCs, maybe some mathematics, and St Joseph teaching him how to use the carpentry tools. Then I imagined Mary & Joseph teaching Jesus to pray to God. This was a bit surprising and funny, because I started to wonder, would Jesus need to be taught how to pray? After all he is the Son of God. But then I thought why not? Jesus would not only have learnt how to pray from His parents, but also their example of their love of God in their lives would also have been something that He learnt as he was growing up.

This led me to reflect on my own life. And it made me think of what I have learnt from my parents. Sure they taught me how to speak, how to write, how to ride a bicycle. But more than, that I was grateful for the lessons which I learnt from the example of their lives. I learnt about the faith and how to pray. I still remember once when I asked my mum about being a godmother, and she told me how she prays for all her god-children every night. It made me wonder, if she prays for her god-children every night, how much more must she be praying for me. From them I learnt how to be generous with my time, energy and possessions. And I came out of that prayer session feeling really blessed by God for the wonderful gift of my parents.

So today I would like each one of us here to reflect on two things. Firstly, what have we learnt from our parents? What kind of values and what kind of faith have we learnt from them?

And secondly, for those of you who are parents, what are you teaching your children? Not just by what you say, but by how you live your lives. I know of parents who will tell their children to pray and to obey God. But when it comes to their children’s studies, that will come before God. The children can have many enrichment classes, but Catechism class will be the first to be sacrificed if there is a clash.

So often we hear of parents telling their children to stop watching tv or playing the computer and to do their homework. How many parents tell their children to stop doing their homework because its time to read the bible or to pray? And this is not just for parents of young children. Even if your child is an adult, parents do play a role in the salvation of their children. St Monica prayed continuously for her adult son to change his ways, and God answered his prayers, he not only converted, he became a bishop and now we know him as St Augustine.

Let us give thanks for our parents and all that they have taught and inspired us. And let us ask our blessed Mother, to help us be good Christian examples for our children, the way she was for Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Reflections on the Easter Season

Each year, Lent and Easter occur around the time the Spring season begins. Significant because Spring is the time of new life, when trees start to bud and flowers start to bloom. And so we too celebrate the new life that Christ has gained for us in His death and resurrection.

Spring is also the time when farmers start their sowing and planting to grow their crops to be harvested in Autumn. In preparation for the planting, the land first has to be cleared of rocks, weeds and even the crops from the previous harvest. Then the land has to be ploughed to loosen the soil hardened over the winter as well as to aerate it.

When we look at our spiritual life, this clearing and ploughing is what we do during the season of Lent, when we observe the spiritual exercises of Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving. These help us to rid our lives of the harmful attachments in our lives as well as to open our lives to a closer relationship with God.

After the land is cleared, the farmer has to decide what crops and fruits he would like to harvest. This of course would determine what seeds he would plant in the field. But as nature has planned it, the plants that grow the quickest after the land is cleared are usually the weeds. These sprout and cover the land rapidly, blocking out sunlight and depriving the planted seeds of nutrients from the ground. Any good farmer would know that ploughing and planting is only half the job. He would have to remove the weeds, water and fertilize the plants that he has planted.

Similarly for us, in our spiritual life, our Lenten exercises are only half the job done. We too have to “plant” certain practices that will bear the fruits that we want to see in our spiritual life. Easter is that season where we start to live out that new life. Not only just planting, but we too have to be aware of the “weeds”, that were cleared during Lent, which have a quick tendency of returning into the “fields” of our lives if we are not careful.

So let this Easter be a time of planting and growing in our spiritual lives, that we may enjoy the fruits and graces that God wants to shower on us.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Lent Seasoning

When we use the word "season" for Lent, we are usually referring to the period of fourty days of preparation before Easter. But the word "season" also bears another meaning, which the dictionary defines as "to improve and enhance the flavour of food"

I remember when I was young, there was this Maggi Seasoning in its uniquely shaped bottle, that I would add to my half boiled eggs to enhance the taste and flavour. This same seasoning was used by my mum to marinate everthing from chicken and pork to stir-fried vegetables.

It is this image of seasoning and marinating that I find relevant to the season of Lent. When we season a piece of meat before cooking, we usually cover the meat with the seasoning, making sure that it is completely covered, sometimes even rubbing or massaging so that the seasoning will go into the meat. Often we would leave the meat to soak in the seasoning to allow the flavour to soak all the way through.

Similarly when we look at our "Lenten Seasoning", we are given forty days to be "marinated" by the various Lenten Practices that we are undertaking. First what are we seasoning ourselves with? There are the 3 practices of Fasting, Almsgiving and Prayer that the Church recommends as the best seasoning. Because they help us look at 3 areas in our lives. Fasting looks at our lives and what are the things that we have allowed to take control of our lives, not just food, but other distractions or addictions. Almsgiving makes us look at others, not just about giving money, but giving our time, energy and love. And prayer of course makes us turn back to God.

Meat that is seasoned properly makes it tender, enhances the taste, and it is not just on the surface that it can be washed away. So too our Lenten Seasoning, has to be something that transforms us internally. The effects of our fasting cannot be that we lose weight, but are we tempering our desires and feelings. Our almsgiving cannot result just in a lighter wallet, but are we more aware of the needs of others and growing in our relationships. And our prayer has to result in an increase in our relationship and love of God. Though we will stop our lenten practices at Easter, the effects of a properly "seasoned" person will continue in the lives we lead.

So let us pray that our Lenten Seasoning this year may not just be "garnishing" that is put on externally and just looks nice, but that it will truly transform us within to be tastier, tender and holier when we celebrate the gift of New Life at Easter.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Are our Radios Tuned?

In the recent Superbowl, Budweiser came up with and advertisement about a group of plane crash survivors stranded on a deserted island. One of them managed to salvage the plane's radio, and there seems to be a glimmer of hope that they can make send out a distress signal and be rescued from the island.


But another guy finds the plane's beverage cart, and it is filled with Budweiser beer. And we see the group lose interest in the radio, and start to drink, party and have fun. Budweiser probably intended the ad to emphasise on how beer brings fun and enjoyment in the now moment. But I don't think they realise that it also sends a message that beer drinking distracts people from the important things in life - Here being to be rescued off the island.

The ad reflects the current day mindset and culture that is being promoted, spend the money that you have earned or even before you earn it. Enjoy the pleasures of life. Live in the Now, let tomorrow worry about itself. Just like how just as the woman got the radio working, the guy tunes it to play music to liven up the party. The ad might seem funny and exaggerated, yet its scary how real it can reflect the lifestyle we are living, where we let ourselves be "controlled" by our need for "pleasure".

In life we can sometimes get distracted by the needs and pleasure of the present moment, and forget about the important thing in life - God and his promise of salvation. That there is a "tomorrow" that we are looking ahead, and not just about enjoying the "Today". It is thus that our Lenten practices help us to realise how we are controlled by our needs and pleasure. Fasting helps us to transcend our fleshly desires, Almsgiving helps us to not be ego-centric and to think of others in need, and Prayer helps us to remember God our salvation and our final destination.

Now that we are 10 days into Lent, lets look at what Lenten practices we have undertaken, and whether they are helping us to be in control of our earthly desires, and tune our "radios" to the salvation that God has graced us with.

Repent and Blog

This Non Sequitur comic in the papers last week prompted me to blog again. I'm not really sure why the comic linked "repent" to blogging, but it did remind me that it is maybe it is time for me to blog again this Lent. Starting with some sharings that I did for Lauds and Vespers in the seminary, and also hopefully finish up the reflections on the "Last Seven Words of Christ" that I posted up for last year's Holy Week.