#2: Holy Spirit, who teaches us

Part of the ‘Getting to know you, Holy Spirit’ series

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Reflection:
The Holy Spirit is the best teacher – patient, watchful and generous with knowledge, equipping and encouraging us. No lesson with the Holy Spirit is boring or dull!

In the Cathecism of the Catholic Church, we learn that the Holy Spirit reveals the Word to us [CCC 687]. Have you ever read a bible passage or heard the Gospel at mass and thought – ‘Whoa, this applies to me!’ or a certain phrase or word stands out to you? This is the Holy Spirit, revealing the Word to you.

One of the first changes in my life after the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit was that I began reading the bible more. Before reading, I would pray:

Holy Spirit, please open my heart and mind to receive the Word. Lead me as I read, grant me wisdom to understand your message for me, and courage to do as I am called. Amen.

I read, not aiming to read as much as I could, but to take time to dwell in the Word. When you dwell in the Word, the Holy Spirit will reveal and illuminate the Word to you. You’ll be amazed by the richness and depth of the Word! After all, remember that the Word was written, inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is that very same Holy Spirit whom we can turn to, to teach us and guide us as we read the Word.

In Pope Francis’ message on Pentecost last year, he explained that the Holy Spirit’s role of teaching:

“…The Holy Spirit doesn’t bring a different teaching, but makes that of Jesus alive and active, so that the passage of time does not erase it or make it fade… He grafts this teaching into our hearts, helps us to interiorize it, making it become part of us, flesh of our flesh,” the Pope continued, adding that at the same time, the Spirit “prepares the heart so that it is able to truly receive the words and example of the Lord.”  [read full article here]

Action:
Ask the Holy Spirit who brings Jesus’ timeless teachings to life, to help you to understand and live it in your life.

Getting to know The Holy Spirit

[An intro to the series]

Pentecost-by-Lawrence-OP-flickr

Peace be with you all.

The ministry I serve runs the Life in the Spirit Seminar (LISS) at our parish and we’re currently at a turning point: the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In the upcoming weeks, the participants will be learning more about the Holy Spirit, leading up to the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the Commissioning Mass.

Before attending LISS a few years ago, the Holy Trinity and Holy Spirit were mysterious subjects to me. I couldn’t explain either well, and never consciously turned to the Holy Spirit for help. Why? Because I knew very little about the Holy Spirit.

So how can you learn more about the Holy Spirit? You can read bible verses and books about the Holy Spirit but ‘head-knowledge’ can only explain so much. To know the Holy Spirit is to build a relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Imagine you’re on a blind date. Or that you’ve just met a new colleague / classmate. What are the first few questions in that conversation?

I’m excited to share this series of reflections with you, based on bible verses and writings of the Saints. It will be a 32-day series, with a different characteristic of the Holy Spirit as the topic for each day.

As you begin conversing and getting know the Holy Spirit, I pray that you too, will discover these amazing traits of the Holy Spirit and recognise the movement of the Holy Spirit in your life.

Amen.

 

Photo: Stained glass in Aloysius’ Church in Somers Town, London (taken by: Lawerence OP)

Detours and roadblocks

Let God lead the way

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It’s been more than a month since I last wrote here. Work has escalated and the evenings that I used to keep free (for a balanced life), have been consumed by work. It is no excuse though, for neglecting time with God. Without keeping God as centre of my life, I have let myself fall and I’ve been drowning in unhappiness eversince.

I was even driven to a point where I seriously considered going to live in Australia for a year. I did all the research, calculating how much I would need, where would I go and what would I do. Through the planning, I realised how little I could bring with me. I made a list of 30 things I would bring. If I could only bring one book, what would it be? The answer was clear – the bible. If I could explore towns without a limit to how long I could stay there, what would I do? I would visit churches, like a walking pilgrimage, and sit in each church for as long as I wanted. I would volunteer in churches and communities that needed help. I would choose a scenic spot every morning to start the day with prayer, praise and worship, reading and silent reflection. Answers were starting to be clearer than ever. Would I be able to survive on a week’s worth of clothing? Sure, I could. Nowadays I wear mostly the same clothes anyway. I thought about recording acoustic praise and worship with a reading every day in different locations and upload them online so people can join in wherever they are. I thought about approaching people (laity and religious) to write their stories of courage.

It was as if I finally gave my soul a chance to speak!

From the beginning of the year, my plan (keyword: my) was to explore Europe for 3 months from October to December. Then I realised – I needed more time to save up so that my expenditure will not touch the savings I have now, what kind of sister isn’t around on her brothers’ 21st birthday, and that I’d be away during LISS months. Still, I was adamant to make the Europe trip happen.

Should I go?

I received an answer at a retreat in April.

Stay. I will show you where you are to go. 

I wasn’t prepared for that answer. Stay, and wait? I was impatient and restless, already making plans on which cities I would visit. But this prompting was too strong to ignore so I let go of that plan.

In June, an Australian work and holiday visa was announced for Singaporeans aged 18-30. I turn 30 next year so it is the last opportunity to qualify for this visa. So that sparked off the research into how feasible it was to live and work there, and what documents were required.

On 1 September, I was ready to apply. I went online in the morning to register for an appointment. The earliest available slot was 12 September. I tried clicking on it but it didn’t select the date. So I closed the window and tried again later that afternoon. This time, there was a notice saying that there are no slots available. I emailed the visa office immediately, asking when the next batch of slots will be open. They replied, October.

And so here I am, waiting.

It is hard to walk without seeing where I am headed. As a planner, I like to know the goal and work out how to get there. But I am being taught to be patient, to trust in God’s plan for me (not my plan for myself) and about faithfulness in tough times.

I am reminded of Acts 16:6 where Paul and his companions were kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the Word in Asia. Now is not the right time yet. Eventually, they do go to Asia Minor as mentioned in Acts 19:10. But before going there, they have to go to Troas and to Philippi on the way to Macaedonia. They didn’t intend to go to Philippi, but it was there that Lydia and her household converted after listening to Paul, it was there that Paul, through the power of God, commanded a spirit out of a slave girl, it was there that Paul and his companions were beaten, thrown into prison where Paul and Silas sang praise and worship to God while the prisoners listened, where the jailer and his household was converted, where they were released from prison – an encouragement to fellow believers.

No task is a detour, when given from God.

I am asked to reflect if I am willing to let God lead the way instead of trying to carve my own way. I am asked to reflect on the authenticity of the reason/s why I want to go abroad. I am asked to be patient until the right time happens in God’s time (not mine).

 

 

Live in truth

Be transformed and renewed

Psalm 15: 2-5

He who walks blamelessly, and does what is right, and speaks truth from his heart;  who does not slander with his tongue, and does no evil to his friend, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbour; in whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put out his money at interest, and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.


 

The top priority for anyone serving in a music ministry is to pray the lyrics and mean it. Yes, musicality and proficiency are important, but first, we have to live a life of praise and worship. It has to be a 24-hr lifestyle.

When I first began serving, I struggled with some songs because I didn’t live it. For example, how could I sing “Lord, I give you my heart, I give you my soul. I live for you alone…” if I didn’t give Jesus my all, and other things in life held priority over living for Jesus?

In my struggle to live a life aligned in truth, the Holy Spirit urged me to examine my thoughts, words, motivations, actions and intentions. Then I began to see the errors in my ways. Conviction is a bitter pill but I had to change, and I had to let God change me. With God’s grace, I was moulded by His Word. As I kept striving to live in truth, God was my coach, Jesus was my captain and the Holy Spirit was my motivator.

Is it possible to walk blamelessly as Psalm 15 says?

Though difficult, it is possible. Today’s Gospel (Matthew 7: 13-14) asks us to enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” 

Enter by the narrow gate, by living a renewed life in Christ, leaving sin and old ways behind. 

Let us turn to Mary and all the Saints, as examples for us to follow. They’ve found and entered by the narrow gate! A theological reflection by Harry Dudley on USSCB.org describes our journey of faith, and that our choices have consequences.

Will your choices today be made in truth, aligned to God’s commandments? 

Dudley reflects on the ‘Narrow Gate’ passage which ends the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:13-28):

“Jesus presents us with a series of contrasts, comparing two kinds of life within the community of his disciples: those who obey the words of Jesus and thus please God the Father and those who do not.

Disciples who obey the words of Jesus allow his life to shape the whole of their existence according to their faith in Jesus Christ. As the United States National Directory for Catechesis (2005, no. 42) says, “Christian moral formation . . . involves confession of faith in him, adherence to his person and his teaching, following in his footsteps, taking on his attitudes, and surrendering the old self in order to take up the new self in Christ.” Why we may ask? Because “Christ is the norm of morality. ‘Christian morality consists . . . in following Jesus Christ, in abandoning oneself to him, in letting oneself be transformed by his grace and renewed by his mercy, gifts which come to us in the living communion of his Church”. 

Disciples who do not follow the words of Jesus, by not relating them to their everyday life and decisions, are like the poor sheep who are led astray by other voices besides Jesus’.”

In an address to the crowd in 2013, the Holy Father, Pope Francis said:

“Don’t be afraid: He’s waiting for you. Be lively, have the courage to enter through His gate. All are invited to pass through this gate, to pass through the gate of faith, to enter into His life, and to allow Him to enter into our life, because He transforms it, renews it, the gifts of full and lasting joy.”    [Read the full transcript here]

Reflections:

  • Do my decisions / actions / thoughts reflect Christ?

  • Activity: Divide a sheet of paper into 2 columns. On the left, list words that describe your actions, words and thoughts. On the right, list words that describe a life of holiness. Draw a line to match a word on the left column to a similar or opposite word on the right column. Choose one that you want to work on, and pray for God’s guidance and grace to live a life that is true and holy.

  • Am I a key to the gate (that is Christ) by being a living witness? Or do I keep Christ to myself by not sharing with those who seek Him? 

Save us from the fires of hell

Lead all souls to Heaven

When we reached Fatima, the first thing we did was to head towards the little shed that housed candles of all sizes. We gave love offerings for the candles we took and went to the area designated for lighting candles.

I don’t recall it being so hot. When we went in the winter of 2014, we could stand comfortably near the candles and take our time to light them.

But this time, I could feel the searing heat from about 5 to 10 steps away from where the candles were burning. Thankfully, my brother braved the heat to help me light my candles.

As I was standing there, I thought in horror – God, is this what the fires of hell feel like? Save me! Save all of us! Do not allow us to be in such suffering and away from your presence! 

fatima

Amen.

SaveSave

Be faithful in small things

Now I know that God is building me up to that point

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What a week it has been. I think it’s the only week of my life that I’ve spent 5 days in a week at church having praise & worship.

But I failed God today.

Today was supposed to be a rest day after such a long week, and we planned for a dinner to celebrate Father’s Day early since next week is Feast Day and we will be in Portugal the following week.

This morning was stressful. I tried to find someone to cover for me at church today, but no one could: 1 was at a church event, 1 couldn’t, 1 was overseas and 1 didn’t reply yet. And so I forced to choose: church or family?

I prayed – God, please don’t make me choose between church or family. Please make a way for me. I also asked St Anthony for help.

But there wasn’t a reply from the last person who could cover for me so I went to church.  I am now ashamed to say that I went rather reluctantly. I was grumpy while speaking to my mum and brothers as I told them they had to carry own without me.
Forgive me Lord. 

I should have trusted in God to deliver me, to make a way for me. Because He did… Not 1 but 2 people offered to help and it turned out that the Father’s Day dinner has been postponed to another day.

I was remorseful while reflecting on this.

Why did I deny God 1 more day of service?
Is this what Matthew 10:37-39 is referring to?
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Perhaps this is the reason why I haven’t received an answer about what my vocation is. Because I am not ready to serve 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. And I now know that God is building me up to that point by equipping me, stretching me, challenging me and teaching me. However, until I reach there – the big answer will not be revealed to me because I am not ready to receive it and attain it.

I am thankful to God that He doesn’t throw us into the deep end and let us figure things out ourselves. Truly, God’s love is patient and kind. Just look at the 28+ years of my life that He’s waited for me. What is one more day of service compared to that? Though…I can never repay God for His mercy.

Sometimes I wish that as a kid, I was told that our goal in life is to be with God the Father in heaven. And that my career goal should be to serve God, to love God and to know God. How different life would be? How is it that something so definite has been lost amidst what the world tells us: that our goal in life is to the best at something, the first in something, to have the nicest things, to afford going to nice places, to have everything you want…and that in school you had to study what would get you to your dream career or be stuck with whatever career you could get.

What are we working towards?