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?

Give and take with an open palm

What am I doing with what God has given me?

MATTHEW 25:14-30 

It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. 

After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ [Then] the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ 

Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’

One of the things mentioned at the retreat was about giving and receiving.

We have the Holy Spirit with us. We have received graces and gifts from God. And yet we ask for more and more.

I am guilty of this but I am learning to praise more than my petitions, and to worship more than my wants.

What am I doing with what God has given me? 

A good way to tell whether what you are doing is aligned to what God wills: See what kind of fruits your efforts will grow / are growing. By the fruits, you’ll know.

For example, if you were to use your gift of speech to gossip or argue with people = bad fruits of jealousy, judgemental attitude, anger = not aligned. If you were to use your gift of speech to evangelise or give good encouragement to others = good fruits of compassion and love for others, a passion for God = aligned!

I do not want to be the one who buried the talent God gave. What will you do in your life here, that will give glory to God?

Hugh Whelchel’s sharing on the Parable of the Talents lists 5 important lessons:

  1. Success is a product of work done.
  2. God always gives us everything we need to do what he has called us to do.
  3. Success is measured by degrees of effort.
  4. Honour God, not our own selfish purposes.
  5. We will be held accountable.

So like seed that fell on good soil, we need to grow, endure and bear fruit.

EPHESIANS 2:10

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 

Holy Spirit, enlighten our hearts and minds so that guided by you, we will be empowered to serve and give glory to God by using the talents God has given us. Amen.

We can’t stay here forever

Take the Word with you as you go

I’m back from a retreat for ministry leaders and assistant leaders. I thought that it would be about leadership, planning, building the community, serving… but I was gladly surprised to find that the retreat taught me so much about life.

I know, that sounds super vague. Hmm… The most important thing I learned was about discernment: seeking God’s plan and trusting 100% rather than asking God for direction just to get confirmation on what I want (and am already set on) or for a decision I’m still struggling to make because I’m still fixated on what I want instead of being open to whatever God’s answer may be.

The retreat allowed for a lot of quiet time with the Lord – in adoration, in reflection, in meditation, in prayer.

In another post, I will share more about what I learned.

But for now (since it’s already 11:04pm), I will talk about this….

The Action after The Retreat 

In order for the retreat to effectively transform my life, I found that it is good to go through the retreat notes (either on the last day of the retreat or the day after), and write down:

  1. What struck you?
    It could be bible verse or passage / a point that was mentioned / part of your reflections / song or hymn lyrics / Word received / something you want to work on. If you need more time to reflect deeper about it, remember to set an exact date and time, as close to the end of the retreat so that it is still fresh in your mind. Do not take longer than a day! 
  2. What is God calling you to do? 
  3. How will you implement it in your life?
    Write the big goal then break it in gradual steps (it will be less daunting!)
    For example: 
    Goal – To evangelise by sharing my testimony to non-Catholic colleagues
    Steps – 1. Speak more often to non-Catholic colleagues every week 
                 2. Invite them out for lunch or tea-break 
                 3. Share what happened over the weekend (including church) 
                 4. Share about situations where God has helped me
    OR 

    Goal – To read more of the bible, and more often
    Steps – 1. Read the daily readings for 15 mins every morning. 

                 2. Read the lauds for 15 mins every morning and evening. 
                 3. Read and pray a psalm every day after lunch. 
                 4. Read and reflect on 1 gospel passage for 30 mins every day.
  4. When will you check on your progress?
    Set a weekly deadline. Make sure that the steps you’ve decided on are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Specific), and that you have the steps in a place where you will see it every day – like your fridge, wardrobe doors, phone reminders, sticky notes – this will remind you to check your progress. The best is to have a friend be your progress-checker. Share with a friend what your goals are and what you’ll be doing to reach that goal. Tell them your deadline. Having someone to journey with you beats the inanimate sticky note on your desk. 

 

I’ve found that by doing this, I truly benefited from retreats / workshops / programmes because I’m turning the information received into action.

[MATT 17:4]   As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.

Being at a retreat feels nice; there’s plenty of time to dwell in God’s presence. Peter, John and James went up the mountain with Jesus, who went there to pray. Likewise, we journey to a quiet place with Jesus to pray. But do not stay remain permanently at the retreat… We can’t stay here forever. 

Instead, we should take the Word with us as we go out to share and proclaim. We are not to make permanent homes where everything is perfect, but to bring hope and joy to others through the Word we’ve received.

 

 

How Great Your Love is

Then sings my soul

A reminder of God’s love 

I went to the dentist today. A very rare occasion. I actually don’t mind going to the dentist, (I don’t have a phobia) but what I don’t like is the shame of letting the dentist see my imperfect teeth.

My gums were swollen the past few days. It was so bad on the 1st day that I couldn’t even speak clearly. I switched food for fruit juices. I took extra care to brush and gargle. I even read up home remedies and used salt.

Sin is like plaque. You don’t think it’s serious at first. But it builds up quietly and things grow out of proportion. There are always cautionary signs but often you’ll try to solve it yourself because you are too afraid, full of pride or shame, to reconcile with God.

On the rare occasion, you find the time to go to reconciliation. It is with a slight reluctance, but you go anyway because you know how bad things really are. You wait for your turn. Sitting and waiting feels like forever.

Unlike the drill-like sounds from a dental clinic, the only sounds you’ll hear from a confessional is peace or tears of release. Shackles unchained, burdens lifted, guilt erased and hearts expelled of sorrows.

How deep the Father’s love for us, that He waits patiently, extending His mercy.

 


The wounds of Christ 

The dentist leaned over. She said, “It’ll take 20-30 mins. I don’t know how your threshold for pain is, but it will be painful. Any time you want me to stop, just raise your hand ok?”

I nodded, already dreading what was to come. I berated myself for coming here in the first place. I could have postponed it, maybe done half today and another half next week…

But it was time. I hid my hands in the pockets of my cardigan and clenched my fists. Although she said I could stop if it was too painful, I was determined to make it through without stopping.

She started. The drilling noise struck the first tooth and it hurt so bad. I flinched and clenched my fists tighter. I had to focus on something else – and so I did the only thing I could do in that moment – I prayed.

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is heaven.
Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
Do not bring us to the test but deliver us from evil. Amen.

O Jesus, I know the pain I felt today is not even a smidge of what you bore for us. Thank you Lord, thank you. Today I kiss your wounds, and I lift your hands in praise and thanksgiving. How great your love is, that you endured for us, to save us, that we may know and be reconciled with the Father – I cannot thank you enough.

Thy will be done… May I be determined as you were, that no matter how difficult it may be, to place God’s will above all else.

Any time you want me to stop, raise your hand… Jesus, the King of Kings, he could have stopped at any time, but he kept his focus on fulfilling God’s plan. Teach me Jesus, to keep my eyes on God.

 


Jesus falls


I endured as much as I could. Half done, half left. Then metal met bone and the pain was too much – I must have yelped or shut my eyes tighter because the dentist stopped and asked me if I was ok. I couldn’t speak. She asked me again, is it too painful? I was so determined to carry on that I considered motioning that she could continue. Then I opened my eyes to tell her so, and that was when I found that my eyes were flooded with tears. I nodded the truth. It was painful.

Could I carry on? I was almost done. Just a bit more… But the pain became more intense. So I asked desperately if there was a cold spray to numb the area. She said the only option was an injection. I said no. She encouraged me to carry on. Just a bit more, she said.

And so I dug my hands back into my cardigan pockets and nodded.

O Jesus, carrying the wood of the cross while walking to Calvary… still you were determined to fulfil the task set before you.  Whenever I am at the crossroads, in decisions big or small, may I always choose to praise God and give glory to God in everything that I do.

Jesus falls the first time
Jesus falls the second time
Jesus falls the third time

Lord Jesus, the humanity you show us, allows us to identify with you every single day. How Great Your Love is. You fell but you got up every single time. You were tired, but steadfast. You were exhausted, yet faithful. Grow in us, a perseverance for the kingdom of God, so that we will stand stronger in faith with every step.

Also, show me Lord, how to be Simon to others. The Romans may have picked him out of the crowd, but by God’s grace, he was chosen to be there and help you. Open my eyes and my heart so that I will always be ready to help those around me.

 


Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

The dentist carried on, and the pain grew. There was a spot that was beyond all that I endured so far, that I felt tears running down my face. I couldn’t help it. My first thought was, oh no how embarrassing, I’m tearing in front of 2 strangers.

But then…
the nurse began wiping my tears with a cloth.

I couldn’t see it – my eyes were shut – but I felt the coarse cloth gently wiping my cheek. What a great kindness! She didn’t need to help me, but she did.

Sweet Veronica, how great your love is, that you helped Jesus by wiping his face. With great courage you stepped out from the sidelines and reached out to Jesus with what you had – your veil. Pray for me, that I may be emboldened by the Holy Spirit to step out of my comfort zone and help others with all God has given me.

O Jesus, with great love Veronica wiped your face, bleeding and marred by dirt and sweat. With great love you also imprinted your Holy face onto her veil, be in my heart Lord, so that I can carry your love to all I meet.

 


Mary’s Sorrows 

I kept praying.

Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you. 
Blessed are you amongst women, 
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. 
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, 
and at the hour of death. Amen. 

Blessed Mother Mary, how hard it must have been to follow Jesus as He walked to Calvary; to stand at the foot of the cross; to hold His breathless body in your arms. How great your love is for God, that you continued trusting in God’s plan despite seeing everything go to shambles. How you must have longed to run to your son’s defense, to shield him from the torments, but you stayed patient and faithful. Pray for me, that I may not react without first seeking God’s will, and that I will remain patient and faithful to God even when things before me seem impossible.

Amen.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is Good

His mercy has no end


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This year, Easter to me is… a rebirth, renewing my relationship with God. Lent taught me:

  1. Self-control (do I really need this or am I getting this just because I want to / I can?)
  2. To have spontaneous prayer and conversation with God throughout the day
  3. To also have quiet time dedicated to listening and just being in God’s presence
  4. That I have too many things I probably don’t need
  5. To live a life of praise and worship
  6. To embrace stillness and silence
  7. That the human will is as strong as his / her dedication to a purpose / cause

What can I do Lord, to serve you? – I’ve been mulling over this for so long.

The answer came during the washing of feet on Maundy Thursday. As I sat on a bench with 11 others, facing the congregation, I looked up.

Then I saw it…. I saw all the faces of parishioners, some seated too far away to recognise, but it was then when I saw how many people there were. This – this is how I can serve the Lord – by serving these people, sharing my God-encounters, and helping wherever I am placed. And how many more people we could gather around the table of the Lord!

Now that we’re in Easter, out of the tomb, may we live in the light as children of the light [1 Thessalonians 5:5] – no longer hidden or afraid, no longer dwelling in darkness and shame, no longer imprisoned. Arise, Shine, for the Lord has come!

No longer shall the sun be your light by day, 
Nor the brightness of the moon give you light by night;
Rather, the Lord will be your light forever, 
your God will be your glory.    [ISAIAH 60:19]