Wednesday, March 23, 2011

2012 - End Of The World

On the Sunday after the earthquake in Japan, I was at a bible sharing session, when this question was put to me.

"In light of the recent earthquakes & natural disasters around the world, is this the sign of the end of the world?"

I put the question to the other members of the group, and found more fuel added to the discussion on the end of the world.

Usually I would give the answer from scripture, that only the Father knows the time and the day (Mk 13:32). But this time I asked them what if it were true, what if the end of the world was really around the corner? How would this "news" affect or change your life? Would you enjoy yourself and do all the things you want to do before the world ends? Would you repent of your sins before facing judgement day?

The surprising thing is they did not think so far. It is easy to get caught up in the sensationalism of the whole end of the world thing. Is it true? Are the prophecies in the book of Revelations happening now?

But this is what the world without Christ is concerned about. The focus is on the End of the World, because it is the end of life for them. But for us Christians, we believe it is not the end of our life. We are focused on the eternal life that has been won for us by Christ, and awaits us as a gift, all we need to accept that gift in our lives. So all these events remind us that we are all mortal, our lives are all in God's plan.

So how do we react to these things are happening.
  • if you think the end of the world is coming, so it is a time for enjoying life to the fullest, then what a pity, there is no life for you after 2012.

  • if you think the end of the world is coming, and it is time to repent, good for you, but don't get disappointed if life continues. At least you turned back to God, though not for the right reason.

  • if you think these events are a call for you to be thankful for your blessings, and that it is a call for you to share these blessings with those affected by these natural disasters, then happy are you, for the message of God has touched and changed your life, and you are living the Kingdom of God here and now.
At the Conversion Retreat, Fr Goh told us of a pastor who told his flock that all we need to do to get to heaven, is to repent 1 day before we die. The problem is we will never know when we are going die. Thus the call as emphasized during lent, is to repent, and turn back to God, who loves us so much, and is just waiting for us to return so that he can shower us with his abundant blessings.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Garden vs Desert - 1st Sunday of Lent

We have often heard it said, that for those who handle large amounts of money or hold important positions, we need to pay them well to prevent the temptation of corruption. Or others who say, "Let me earn enough... before I can ...".

An interesting thought came to me as I was at Mass today, and reflecting on the readings. When we compare the environment in the First Reading (Gn 3:1-7) and the Gospel (Mt 4:1-11), we see two drastic contrasting situations. In the Garden of Eden, also known as Paradise, it was a land of abundance, where Adam & Eve had all they needed to meet their needs. On the opposite end, we have the Wilderness or Desert, where Jesus was, with no food or water, a sparse cruel land.

If we use the thinking mentioned above, one would think that Adam & Eve would be more than satisfied with all that they had, wanting nothing more. And Jesus having fasted for forty days and "was hungry". would have been craving for his first bite to break his fast.

And yet we see the irony, the one who had everything fell for the temptation of the devil to eat the forbidden fruit. And the one who was hungry was able to resist the temptation to change stones into bread. Sounds like some topsy-turvy fantasy world. It just doesn't make sense.

But it does when we reflect further, and it is linked to the recommended practice of Fasting, especially during this time of lent. It is not so much about the giving up of something that we like, but it is the reminding ourselves that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. Fasting helps us to realise that the only necessary thing we need in our lives is God. It helps us to realise that we can live 40 days without chocolate, cigarettes, facebook, or whatever may seem to have taken precedence over God in our lives.

The readings remind us that it is foolish to think that if we acquire what we need and what we want, we will be satisfied. Because there will always be more money to be earned, more possessions to have, more new things to do than we will ever have the time to try them all. It is when we fast, that we enter the desert like Jesus, and realise the superfluousness (cheem word I learnt recently - means unnecessary) of so many material things in our lives.

So let us enter the desert, where in the silence and emptiness, we will hear God's voice, enter into His embrace and experience His love that satisfies all hearts.

Friday, March 11, 2011


In the last week, the theme of being life-giving has been coming up over and over again.

First it was an article in the newspaper where a MP conducted a straw poll, finding that there is a tipping point, a monetary value of benefits that the government can offer to women to encourage them to have children. It was suggested that an amount of $500,000, half a million dollars would change the minds of some childless women. I wonder if that is the real reason why couples (not only the woman) are not having children? Is it that it is too expensive to raise a child in this day and age? Or is it a matter of values and attitudes towards child-bearing and being life-giving. Could it be the notion that having a child is too troublesome, restricts the freedom, limits career prospect, which is delaying or stopping couples from having children.

This was contrasted when we were doing the story of Jephthah's daughter in Jdg 11, who went to bemoan her virginity because she was going to die before fulfilling the mission of her womanhood - that of bearing a child. There are so many stories of women in the bible (Sarah,...etc), where being barren is seen as a curse, and when they are gifted with a child, there is much thanks to God for the gift and blessing that the child is.

Bird Building NestFurthermore, I have the two birds flying to and fro, building their nest on my balcony, one strand at a time. These birds with their "small little bird brains" compared to our human intelligence, yet are able to know their purpose and to bring forth new life. Seeing them fly tireless to-and-fro weaving the nest strand by strand, surely limits their "freedom", taking up 4 whole days, reminds and challenges me that I have to be life-giving and tireless in living out this Mission and Vocation that God has called and entrusted to me.

P3040070_smBird looking out of nest-01

Talking about being life-giving, Wednesday during our afternoon-off, I joined 2 other brother seminarians as they went to donate blood. This was my first time donating blood, and on our journey to the blood bank, I asked both to share why they regularly donate blood. One brother shared that when his father was in hospital and needed blood, it was readily provided, and as such he feels that he wants to donate, so that others too may have blood when they need it. The other brother who is from Malaysia, shared the situation back home, where if a person requires blood for an operation, they will be required to find donors to replace the number of packets used.

Listening to their sharings, and after going through the relatively simple, painless and fast process of donating blood, I started to reflect on this whole experience. Firstly, why have I not donated blood before? It was not that troublesome or time-consuming. In fact there was a guy who was there next to me, who came on his birthday. He had taken a half-day off for his birthday, and there he was donating blood. I guess for myself it was the lack of awareness, or urgency. Most of the time it would need a dramatic situation to jerk me out of my comfort zone. But thankfully I have these 2 brothers who encouraged and motivated me with their own inspiring examples.

Secondly, what is my motivation for donating blood? In the army, those who donate blood get to skip strenuous exercise for the day. For me, it would be the free chocolate brownie and Milo at the cafe after donating blood. Jokes aside, as it is understood in the Old Testament by the Jews, that blood is life, then donating blood would be one of the ways that I can be life-giving. I am just satisfied that my blood can be a gift of someone in need. In fact I would recommend everyone who is physically able, to donate regularly. There is always someone in need of it, don't wait till you need it then realise the importance of it.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Rosy Cheeks or Blind & Bogay

A young boy once asked me this riddle:

"How do you tell the difference between a person in heaven and a person in hell?"
"One has a halo and wings, the other has horns?"
"No. The one in heaven has rosy cheeks and is fit and muscular, the one in hell is blind and bogay (no teeth)".
"How is that so?"
"Because the one in hell takes a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye. The one in heaven has rosy cheeks because he offers the other cheek when he is slapped, and fit because he walks two miles when others walk one."
While this riddle takes what Jesus said in the Gospel (Mt 5:38-48) literally, it does help us visualize the difference between the life of love and the life of hatred. The life of hatred allows hatred and vengeance to perpetuate which will result in a world full of blind and toothless people. But in a world of love and forgiveness, the one who receives injury or insult, puts a stop to it by not taking revenge. He in fact tries to further eradicate hatred by "going that extra mile", by loving the enemy. In loving the enemy, it is not so much doing something good to gain our own salvation, but by loving the enemy, we are trying to help change the person to be better person.

In the battle between good and evil, love and hate, I use scenes from two movies to remind of what Christ was trying to teach us.

First in the movie "Fearless" starring Jet Li, we see the cycle of hatred going on, when first Jet Li's disciple is beaten up by, he goes to take revenge and ends up killing his rival. His rival's godson then takes revenge by killing his wife and child. Jet Li then goes to his rival's house, but before he can get his revenge, the rival's godson commits suicide, denied of his revenge, he turns to his rival's wife and child. In the principle of an eye for an eye, he could have had his revenge for what he himself lost. But he comes to his senses, and walks away. Thus we see how hatred can only stop when one party decides not to revenge a hurt.

The second movie, illustrates Christ call to love. In the movie, "Pay It Forward", a boy Trevor starts a class assignment on a plan to make the world a better place. He decides to do 3 good deeds and he tells the recipients of the good deeds not to repay him, but to do 3 good deeds to someone else. In one chain we see Trevor helping his mum, who in turn forgives her mother, who helps a gang member, who in turn saves a girl's life, and then the Father of the girl gives away his car to a journalist whose car was smashed. At the end of the movie, we see how one boy's initiative touches the lives of so many people.

This is the question that we are faced with - Do we want to be part of the chain that passes on hatred, or the chain that spreads love?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

New Neighbours

This weekend, I was blessed with an encounter with 2 soon-to-be parents. On Saturday afternoon, these 2 yellow birds started flying to my balcony, and entertaining me with their chirping and gymnastics on my laundry line.


I was wondering why they came repeatedly to my balcony, when I saw one of the birds bringing some sort of fibre or grass and trying to attach it to the line. Then I knew that they were trying to build a nest. But try as they might, they were not successful, the strips kept falling to the floor. Evening came, and the birds did not return.

To my joy, the birds were back on Sunday morning, when I came back to my room at 8am after breakfast. They were chirping away and still trying to build the nest. I wished I could stay in my room to enjoy their company, but we were having the Seminary Open House, so I had to go and meet the visitors and introduce the seminary to them.

Imagine my surprise when I came back to my room at lunchtime, to see that they had ingeniously used a clothes-peg on the line as an anchor, and started to build their nest around it. Looks like I will be having constant visitors and entertainment in the coming days. Praise the Lord for this wonderful blessing and encounter with His creation.


But like the story about good luck, bad luck that I wrote about once before, this weekend I suffered a small loss. I dropped my camera, during the open house. And though it didn't seem like that hard a knock, it is not able to take any more photos. Luckily, I was able to take out the last few photos I took of the birds and the nest. Now I just have to take photos with the camera on my phone, or borrow a camera from one of the brothers.

But then again, maybe not bad luck, but good luck. Maybe its a sign to get a new camera, or to detach, since lent is coming. Hmm...

One of my brother seminarians mentioned that now I can't use my laundry line to hang my clothes to dry. But I guess its a small price to pay. What's a little inconvenience compared to this gift of encountering God's creation at work. I wonder how many eggs and baby birds God will bless me with.

Praise the Lord for this wonderful blessing.