Wednesday, 27 September 2017

2017 RETREAT REFLECTION: SURRENDER - LET ME GIVE IT ALL AWAY




Have your ever pondered about your life and the path that has led you to where you are today? This year I took a 3-month break during which I was on personal leave as well as on ministry initiatives out of India. At the start of this year, I really felt I needed some time away from the mission to introspect and discern - am I living my Call as God is asking of me in my heart after 13 years or am I now in a comfort zone whilst serving in this mission?

As I get older, I realize how fragile and precious life is -When I was in my 20s' and 30s', I probably thought I was invincible then - I never even thought of dying. I dreamt of what and how I would live my life. Well, the reality is God had a very different plan.  I am not afraid of death. What I do care deeply about is how to live my faith in action and not just by intention. 

I began writing about my annual retreat experience on this blog since 2012. My retreat this year was from 30 July to 04 August 2017 -  Divine's annual CALLED...GIFTED...SENT FORTH 2017  Retreat for Spiritual Leadership Formation of Priests, Religious & Lay Leaders in Ministry.

The first mass homily by Rev. Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C., Director of Divine Retreat Centre, Kerala, India hammered a key point into all the retreatants. I know because a number of them actually had the same soul searching question as me at the start of our retreat. Fr. Augustine emphasized the one quality of a leader is to be committed. We need to have a total (absolute) commitment to the Lord. In case, you are thinking , "Well, I am not a leader. I do not hold any position in any lay ministry", and it is not applicable to you, you would need to change your mindset! We are not talking about the secular world. In our life as a Christian, each of us is born with a mission for God. What is more, Jesus exemplified "servant leadership". We are called to give glory to God in every aspect of our daily living. It is not about a ministry, recognition, position or reward on earth.


This retreat, a fundamental change which began during my 3-months of personal prayer and discernment, took root in my heart. It was about Total Surrender. I do not know about others but for me, I have to be seeking inner peace in my heart and mind to trust Jesus totally. It is about praying constantly and waiting upon God. That requires patience.  I have found very helpful a Jesuit-inspired practice to examine my heart, "What would Jesus do if He was in my shoes?" I Iearnt this during a previous annual retreat by a Jesuit retreat director, Fr. Rex Pai SJ.  It has really helped me in my faith journey. Yes, I have locked myself in my office and asked myself this question at the trying moments I have had! 


I actually pondered deeply if I wanted to serve full-time in ministry - if I still had the zeal and fire in my heart to give my ALL for Jesus. I did a lot of soul-searching on how I have responded to the initial Call of God after my 1st Divine retreat in 1998 - six years before I was asked to serve full-time in India. The vision and words I saw and heard so clearly remains a vivid personal God-experience. I still have my prayer journal of that time of grace and the incredible inner joy as I felt my heart leap within me as I responded with a "YES" to serve here. It was totally out of the blue. However, as I went back on my prayer journal, it was very clear that Our Lord was preparing me. It was just that I was like young Samuel and I did not "recognize" the Voice of God. (cf. 1 Samuel 3:10)  Looking back, I know I was given the great grace to begin to surrender my life to Jesus - to give up my career and the life I was used to and take a leap of faith into the unknown. 

To live for Jesus is about a continuous surrender of our will so that ultimately it is all about doing God's Will. As St. Paul so wisely said. "He must increase; I must decrease." (John 3:30)  Such a short sentence but how deep the meaning of this Word of God is! Total surrender and obedience is the key to total commitment to God. It is not just a "eureka"  moment when suddenly we are breezing through life doing God's Will. 

It is only when I truly seek to surrender all aspects of my life for God's Will to be done that I can give my ALL to Jesus. It is being able to really trust to leave it all in the Hands of God even if I do not know what the future holds. To surrender means to let go of my desire to have control of important areas of my life, to not dwell on my worries and anxieties and to really put myself in Jesus' Hands. Mother Mary exemplified total surrender  - "Here I am. Lord, your handmaid. Let it be done to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38) It is a prayer I say before I receive Holy Communion ever since my 1st retreat in 1998. As the years go by, I gain a deeper insight into the richness and depth of this prayer of Mother Mary. She clearly teaches every Catholic how to live according to God's Will.  

After my annual retreat, I was inspired to do the 33 Days to Morning Glory - a Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Marian Consecration. I do not know why it took me so long to do this as I had this booklet for nearly 2 years. It opened my heart to how much Mother Mary exemplified a Christ-centred life. Mother Mary lived a hidden life. Yet at all the important moments, it was Mother Mary who showed great courage and faith in her steadfast trust in God. She was there for Jesus and she was with the Apostles in prayer during Pentecost.  Most importantly, Jesus has given His Mother to each of us. "Behold,  your mother." (John 19:27)

When I surrender my life to do His Will, I can count on Jesus to take care of me. It is an assurance to every Christian as we live God's Plan for each of us.


The quote above by Erma Bombeck always struck a deep chord within me. It is my hope I can say this at the gates of heaven one day! I pray for God's Grace to give all that is within me away for the Glory of His Name. 

The YouTube music video at the top of this post, "GIVE IT ALL WAY" by Sidewalk Prophets definitely reflects what I felt was the deep personal God-experience during this year's retreat for me. Some of my ministry initiatives may seem overwhelming currently. But I gained a clear revelation during this retreat. I still have a deep passion and conviction to give all that is in me away for Christ. 

"For nothing will be  impossible with God."
(Luke 1:37)



Saturday, 1 July 2017

"THEREFORE I TELL YOU, DO NOT WORRY ABOUT LIFE" (Matthew 6:25)




I am usually not a person who worries very much....until about 6 years ago when a seemingly unsolvable personal problem arose. My faith began to falter and the worries quickly found a way into my mind. That is when the logic in my mind and the promptings of my heart go into battle. Only when I turn to Jesus with a deeper focus in prayer and meditate on the Word of God, does my heart find comfort. I will be reminded life as a Christian is not about having no problems or suffering in life. 

It dawned on me a few years ago of how I pray daily to wholeheartedly do God's Will and then when trials come my way, I want Jesus to remove the crosses so I do not have to worry - to give me complete assurance of what lies ahead.


But what did Jesus say about true discipleship? 

"And he said to them all, “If you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, take up your cross every day, and follow me."
(Luke 9:23)

Each of us will have to undergo trials and tribulations in our life but that is when you and I need to cling on to our faith in Jesus. It is to persevere and trust in Jesus especially when we do not know what the future holds.  We need to believe in the Promise of God's Word:

"Don't worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, 
always asking him with a thankful heart."
(Philippians 4:6)


Below is the meaning of the word "worry" in the Cambridge English  Dictionary

WORRY:
"To think about problems or unpleasant things that might happen in a way that makes you feel unhappy and frightened."

The very definition of the word "worry" actually made me sheepishly smile for it contains the words "...things that might happen...". In order to do God's Will each day, we need to surrender completely to God. It means we must entrust our lives to Jesus COMPLETELY. It is about completely depending on God that He will do what is best for each of us.



I have been away from India on personal leave/mission efforts for over 2 months now. It has been a period of personal reflection and living once more in the "world"  I used to live prior to serving in the retreat centre for the past 13 years. To be honest, I needed this long break to feel renewed and inspired for what lies ahead. I still have 3 weeks of family time with my youngest sister and brother-in-law in Melbourne, Australia.

During this period, I have had the chance to be with my Mum and catching up personally with nearly all of my siblings  -a difficult task as each of us live in different countries! It was also a blessed and enriching time meeting priests and committed lay Catholics in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore who are so willing to be "partners of the Gospel" with the Divine-Potta ministry. It has truly given me a a renewed zeal that God's Plan is unfolding in His Time. It has seemed a long time and I began to have some doubts if I could help to coordinate the efforts and make it a reality.


On this break, I realized the ONLY Truth I should care about. The mission projects began after much prayers - it was a Divine Call from our Lord - all of us who have stepped forward in faith will always be led by Jesus. It is all about depending on God completely. There are still many great obstacles ahead but when I look back to just a year ago, there were only two of us with the blessing and support of Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C., Director - Divine Retreat Centre, Kerala, India. Now we have got commitment of a team (priests and lay people) across Asia-Pacific which has been a joyous blessing! There is much to do as it took 7 years of prayers before the team is starting to form. All that matters is each of us is ready to be part of an evangelization effort. Jesus is totally in control. It has been so affirming personally to witness the Power of the Holy Spirit guiding each and every one of us from different countries  - to experience that we are ONE family in Jesus! None of us know when we can really kickstart our efforts because there are definitely big crosses ahead for us but if Jesus has led us to this point, He will surely not leave us stranded halfway.

Does this mean I will not worry anymore? Frankly, the answer is NO but I believe I will be able to cope better and worry less. But I do know that I will not be overwhelmed of the deep worry I have about a personal problem that I have had for years. Jesus has revealed He has not abandoned or ignored my great worry. He is helping me to learn to surrender every area of my life into His Hands. Each of our lives is only a finite journey here on earth. We have different crosses in our lives although we do not share it with everyone. But we need very much to share and surrender our crosses and ask Jesus for the strength to do His Will not ours. It is not easy but that is when we can learn to live as a disciple of Jesus. With Our Lord's Grace, nothing is impossible for us to overcome.

The bible passage below is a Promise from Jesus to be carried in our hearts and minds at all times...

 "DEPENDENCE ON GOD' (Matthew 6:25-34)"

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?*

Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.

But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.

If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’

All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness,* and all these things will be given you besides.

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.


I hope that when our hearts become troubled, the Word of God above will calm and strengthen our faith in Jesus.

The YouTube music video at the top of this post "WHY WORRY?" by NewSong is a joyously uplifting song of God's Love and most of all worry is not in God's Plan for us!


Monday, 6 March 2017

REACHING OUT TO THE HUNGRY IN HONG KONG / MALAYSIA / SINGAPORE

 

Whenever Lenten Season  comes around, as Catholics, we focus on Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.  Often, it is a priority just for this sacred season and then we go back to our normal lives. Usually our almsgiving is just in the form of cash donations - often forgotten quickly as there is no personal God-experience involved.

The longer I have been in ministry, the more strongly I feel in my heart that charity is more than just supporting financially. Our heart must have a God-experience where we feel an inner transformation and renewal.   As a Christian, you and I must also give of our time and talent - to feel and understand how the poor and needy are just like you and me - human beings who are undergoing hardships and crying out to God or who are in utter hopelessness. We need to reach out in a personal and caring way to the marginalized in our society who are suffering and struggling to help them experience a life of dignity, hope and most of all, God's Love.



Just writing a cheque or donating cash can be quite painless and it may not really touch, awaken or transform our own hearts in a tangible way to reach out in love because we do not have a personal God-experience. I had been discussing this issue with some friends in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore  the past few years. We all expressed the desire to have that personal touch in our giving - like being part of a mission outreach or in helping the needy locally in our own community. I am a firm believer in this Promise of the Word of God - "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."  (Luke 6:38)  In my own personal experience, God is ever-generous to anyone who willingly and joyfully supports those in need irrespective if it is an initiative within a parish or not. We are called to care for the poor and needy regardless of their race, religion, gender or even which country they live in. God's Providence is limitless to  the giver too!

If you are like me (when I was pursuing my career), often we have good and noble intentions to volunteer our time and talent at least once a week. The problem is that often we do not know which organization we can approach to help the poor and the needy in our community. Then we are too busy and the good intention is forgotten until the next Christmas or Lenten season. Our intention to help those in need must become a tangible Faith in Action. Perhaps now is the time to begin.

Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me." (Matthew 25:45)

I hope the list below of various organizations having an outreach to the needy In terms of Food Bank, Soup Kitchens (Meals for the Poor) or Suspended Meal Programmes (Paying Forward for a Meal for the Needy) will be useful for you to volunteer or even as a weekly family mission initiative with your children of sharing God's Love.

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HONG KONG

FOOD BANK
 
FEEDING HONG KONG (HK Registered Charity IR No: 91/11636)
Unit 715-17, Block A2
Yau Tong Industrial City,
17-25 Ko Fai Road,
Yau Tong,
Kowloon
Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2205 6568
Website: http://feedinghk.org/about/our-mission/

Feeding Hong Kong is the first Hong Kong food bank dedicated to rescuing surplus nutritious food from retailers, distributors and manufacturers and redistributing it to people in need. Our task is to fight hunger in Hong Kong and at the same time reduce the amount of quality food that is being sent to our city’s landfills.

At the same time, we work tirelessly to raise awareness about poverty and food insecurity in Hong Kong and promote healthy eating and nutritional education to the most vulnerable groups in our community.


SUSPENDED MEALS - HONG KONG (Buy a meal in advance for a hungry person) 
KEEP & GIVE
McDonalds Hong Kong
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MALAYSIA 


SOUP KITCHENS

ASSUMPTION  SOUP KITCHEN
No. 70, Jalan Templer,
46050 Petaling Jaya
Selangor
Malaysia
Contact: Alice Massang, Tel: +6012 212 2397

The Assumption Church in PJ has their very own soup kitchen on Mondays and Wednesdays. They urgently require committed volunteers to prepare, serve, cook and clean up on soup kitchen days. The kitchen opens at 7.30 am and is ready to serve at 11am. The Assumption Soup Kitchen (ASK) distributes the meals to those in need at the Assumption Family House which is just behind the church.

PERTIWI SOUP KITCHEN
63 Jalan SS 3/53,
Taman Subang,
47300 Petaling Jaya
Selangor
Malaysia
Contact: Munirah Hamid, +6012 236 3639

The Pertiwi Soup Kitchen is responsible for feeding 550 – 700 people with the help of their committed volunteers. They distribute pre-packed healthy food and drinks four times a week (Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) in KL. They make 5 stops on their distribution route start which starts at 9 pm on Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman and ends at Masjid Negara at approximately 11.40 pm.

DAPUR JALANAN KUALA LUMPUR
52-C, Jalan Kemuja,
Off Jalan Bangsar,
59000 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia
Contact: Pakwan, +6019 267 1285

To volunteer with Dapur Jalanan, join them at 5.00pm every week  on Sunday at Jalan Panggung to serve food to the needy. They accept monetary donations as well as food if you would like to contribute further. Love to cook? You can come a little earlier on Sunday at around 2pm and help the team to prepare meals!

KECHARA SOUP KITCHEN
17, Jalan Barat,
Pudu,
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia 
Contact: Justin Cheah, +6010 333 3260

The Kechara Soup Kitchen (KSK) requires volunteers on weekdays to pack and distribute food to the needy in the morning and afternoon. On Saturdays, the team gather at the soup kitchen on Jalan Barat at 9.00 pm to pack and distribute before moving on to their Food Distribution rounds. First-timers who wish to participate in Saturday night rounds are required to attend a compulsory orientation briefing on Saturday at 8.30 pm.

KSK distributes meals every Saturday. Typically, KSK would send out at least 12 teams, each with 15 volunteers, to distribute food at several key locations across the capital including Chow Kit and its surrounding areas. The teams are mobile and are tasked with feeding the homeless at three or four locations before they pack up for home. In one night, KSK feeds at least 800 people.


SUSPENDED MEALS  - MALAYSIA (Buy a meal in advance for a hungry person)

SUSPENDED MEALS

The Facebook Page creates awareness and promotes a collection of Suspended Meal programmes across Malaysia. The mission is  to promote the idea of feeding strangers and sharing kindness with others.

PAY IT FORWARD KUALA LUMPUR
Tel: +60 13-666 6667

Promotes Pay It Forward initiatives by various individuals and groups too

CHARLIE'S CAFE & BAKERY
29, Jalan Bukit Desa 5,
Taman Bukit Desa
Kuala Lumpur 58100
Tel: +60 12-816 0003
FB: https://www.facebook.com/Mycharliescafe/

Charlie's CafĂ© owners (husband and wife) wanted to make a difference in peoples' lives and opened the cafe as a social enterprise with a  heart. "Good Food for a Good Cause", they approach their mission through social service-and-community-first standpoint.  The response to their "Pay It Forward" concept of paying  RM5 as a donation and sticking it to a wall has been overwhelming!

CHOPE FOOD FOR THE NEEDY – KL CHAPTER

This online charity movement collaborates with restaurants to provide food for the homeless and frequent community centres in the Klang Valley to distribute meals. They are always on the look out for volunteers who can contribute in any way; be it be it monetary donations or man power, all are welcome.


MEALS FOR ALL
Frontera Sol of Mexico,
18-G-2, Palm Square, Jaya One,
72A, Jalan Universiti,
46200 Petaling Jaya
Selangor
Malaysia
Tel: +60 12-292 8096
FB: https://www.facebook.com/MealsForAll

Meals For All was started by Ramesh Vadiveloo, the restauranteur behind Frontera, the Mexican food joint in Jaya One. They accept public donations via online pledges on their Facebook page for suspended meals at RM7 each. Meals For All distributes the food to various soup kitchens in the Klang Valley.

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SINGAPORE


SOUP KITCHEN

WILLING HEARTS
Website: http://www.willinghearts.org.sg/

A secular, non-affiliated charity, Willing Hearts is wholly run by volunteers, apart from a handful of staff. It operates a soup kitchen that prepares, cooks and distributes about 5,000 daily meals to over 40 locations island wide, 365 days a year. Beneficiaries include the elderly, the disabled, low income families, children from single parent families or otherwise poverty stricken families, and migrant workers in Singapore.

Willing Hearts is a registered as a society with the Ministry of Home Affairs since February 2005 and as a charity with the Ministry of Social and Family Development since December 2008.


THE SOUP KITCHEN PROJECT (SINGAPORE)
Blog: https://postmuseum.wordpress.com/the-soup-kitchen-project/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/thesoupkitchenprojectsg


The Soup Kitchen Project was started bya group of friends who have been providing free dinners to recipients living in mostly 1- and 2-room flats in the Jalan Besar/Lavender area every Monday. They currently serve approximately 270 recipients in 6 blocks of flats.

They hope to contribute to making life a little easier for the needy in Singapore.

If you want to be a volunteer with the Soup Kitchen Project team, please contact Tay Shi Ying, the volunteer co-ordinator, via SMS 98423287.

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The heart-touching YouTube music video at the top of the post, ONE WORLD ONE SONG, sung by Dionne Warwick and Joe McElderry which was the "Ending Hunger" anthem for World Hunger Day 2013 is like a clarion call from God to each of us. Please do take a few minutes to let the the beautiful lyrics touch your soul!


Sunday, 26 February 2017

LENT 2017 - JESUS BE THE CENTRE OF OUR LIVES!



The Holy Season of Lent begins this Wednesday (01 March 2017)   - the start of 40 days (excluding Sundays) season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares Catholics for Holy Easter Sunday - when Jesus' Resurrection gained redemption and Eternal Life for every one of us.

The Season of Lent only began to be a important part of my Catholic faith journey about 9 years ago. Before that since Lent 1998, I would abstain from meat and fish and not watch television and other personal activities/hobbies i enjoyed- that was the extent of what I did in terms of penance. I thought giving up things I enjoyed 40 days during the Lenten Season was sufficient. I could get back to my normal life. Yes, I was pretty good at compartmentalising my faith life into special seasons.

I would do works of mercy and support charitable missions. My time of personal prayer and reflection was an important priority. Until it dawned on me about 9 years ago, I think, that being a vegetarian was not a difficult choice for me for 46 day from Ash Wednesday until Holy Saturday! Neither was it difficult to give up watching television as I do not own a television in Divine Retreat Centre since 2004. By then, I had been serving full-time here for about four years. The Word of God I heard everyday had slowly penetrated to begin to grow root in my heart and mind. I cannot live as Jesus wants me to by just "being a Catholic who observes the requirements of being a disciple of Jesus for Lenten Season". 

Jesus is asking more of each of us. Jesus said, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19) Our Lord  did not ask you and me to only do so for a certain period of the year.  What is more, in my times of personal reflection, the Holy Spirit was shining a light on the Word of God which means so much to me now in how I try to live each day. it is Galatians 5:22-23 - "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."

Has focusing on this Word of God helped me at a personal level in my faith journey? To say that I have mastered the way to live according to this Word of God would be a lie. But as nine Seasons of Lent has gone by, with gratitude to God, I know that with His Grace, there have been some changes in my heart and life. Something I learnt during a retreat conducted by Rev. Fr. Rex. Pai SJ  for Divine Volunteers in 2013 has helped me tremendously. Fr. Rex said when we were in a difficult situation, we needed to take time to reflect and pray and to ask ourselves this important question, "What would Jesus do if He was in my shoes? 


This one question has helped me to make changes to my daily living significantly. Of course, i still had my personal faults and weaknesses but the way I handled my faults and weakness were being anointed by the Grace of God. For example, I would get angry but instead of losing my temper immediately, I would lock myself in my office for 3 days before saying or doing anything in a knee-jerk reaction even if I was right. These days, I do not feel the need to say anything because I would have cooled down and  started lifting my problem up to God! Often that time of solitude in reflecting on the Word of God from my Bible and writing down the bible verses in my prayer journal spoke to my heart. It helped to soothe my hurt and upset emotions. It had the same effect as contemplating the Face of Jesus as Divine Mercy. No other depiction of Jesus touches my heart as that of Jesus as Divine Mercy. The unconditional Love and Mercy and Gentleness of Jesus's Eyes penetrates my heart and soul in a very special way. If Jesus is merciful to me, why can I not try to be so to others?  It is never easy but the key is never to give up no matter how many times you or I will fail. Jesus is right next to each of us at all times, "Do not be afraid - I am with you!" (Isaiah 43:5)  

The past nine Seasons of Holy Lent based on Galatians 5:22-23 has helped me to realize it is not about what I can personally give up in the way I live that matters to Jesus. It is HOW I choose to live with the Power of His Grace to be His little instrument on earth. I cling to the Promise of God. “My grace is sufficient for you, for POWER is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthian 12:9) How I am to the people living around me: my family, loved ones, friends, colleagues, strangers and most importantly to people who test my patience, self-control or who for some reason or another makes me feel irritated. For those of us who wish to live as disciples of Jesus, partiality is not an option - "But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors." (James 2:9) It is why the most important commandment Jesus has given each of us is, This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you." (John 15:12)




The Holy Season of Lent is a beautiful sacred season for every Catholic to take a good deep look into how we live our faith in our daily life. It is crucial because we cannot live again a day that has gone by. It is gone forever! We also cannot plan to do something on a future date because we do not know if this very moment we are alive could be our last moment.  Let us live for Jesus in the PRESENT moment! Remember, "And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? (Matthew 6:27)  

My prayer is for every Catholic including myself to embrace the upcoming Season of Lent as a beautiful period of Grace from God for us to truly renew our hearts, our minds and our actions that we radiate the Light of Jesus to the world at all times. Is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit abundant in our lives? Let us desire with all our hearts to be "rooted in Christ" (cf. Ephesians 13:7)  so that we fulfill the mission God has given us on this earth. 

I hope the inspiring YouTube music video below, "JESUS AT THE CENTRE" by Isaac Houghton and New Breed, will uplift and empower each of us to be Christ-centred not just for the Season of Lent 2017 but for every day of our life!


Tuesday, 17 January 2017

STARTING RIGHT NOW I'LL BE STRONG!




There are some of us who constantly worry about the future - about being financially secure and healthy in our old age and in the other extreme is some who rarely think about what could happen when we reach the golden years of our life. Until two years ago, I was in the latter category. I was constantly asked throughout my fulltime ministry here by family and practically every friend of mine had asked me over the past 12 years similar questions - "What about your future  when you are old? What are you going to do, Susan? You need to start making plans."  To be honest, I was never afraid or had any worries about my future until I fell twice and had terrible thumps on the back of my skull exactly six months apart two years ago. 2015 is a year that made me begin to think of my mortality. The 16 months of recuperation - enforced bed rest, physiotherapy, accupuncture, the terrible pressure on my brain when I worked on the computer (and worse when on my laptop!) were things only I knew what I was going through. For everyone else around me, life was normal. The  miracle was that the Grace of God  helped me to do all my ministry projects. Praise God!



Yet there I was - in the midst of a very busy retreat centre - struggling and that is when fear crept into my heart about my future. I had gone through not remembering some of the volunteers names' who I had known for years! Many of the names came back to me after a few hours or a couple of days later but there was one volunteer who I had known since I first came to this centre, and yet my mind was a complete blank of her name for over 3 months! And I felt uncomfortable asking anyone what her name was. I also kept thinking the day's date was 2 days ahead - and many other little things that kept happening that began to worry me. Perhaps I should have shared these incidents with someone but I did not. Looking back, I think that is when fear of my future crept into my heart especially in the month of December as the New Year beckons.

What is fear? In the Cambridge English Dictionary Fear is defined as:
"an unpleasant emotion or thought that you have when you are frightened or worried by something dangerous, painful, or bad that is happening or might happen."

Fr. Jacob Arimpur V.C. Assistant Director - Divine Retreat Centre
Being a lay person in ministry has its own set of challenges - obviously we do not have the financial security we would have in the secular world - salaries, Provident Funds, company medical coverage, company personal and medical Insurance. In other words, it is difficult to ensure a comfortable "nest egg" for our old age. Of course, we all need to be prudent and have plans but I realized on 31 December this year something very vividly which I had overlooked. It was like as if God was speaking only to me during the Thanksgiving Adoration Service that was being conducted by Fr. Jacob Arimpur V.C.  It was like a thunderbolt  when Fr. Jacob shared so eloquently of God's Providence in each of our lives. Fr Jacob proclaimed - "Let God reveal His Providence - He is the God who is providing for us." Fr. Jacob spoke of all that God had provided for us in 2016 and throughout our lives. Like a bright light bulb switching on in my brain, a very clear thought came to my mind - which I had never thought of before - and brought great peace into my heart about my future. I quickly jotted it in my journal to check if it was accurate later. Thankfully, I quite often have a notebook during homilies which I use for personal reflection. Perhaps, I am a writer at heart. :)  When I put things down on paper, I tend to remember it. The Word of God just sprang forth within me  - "I raise my eyes to the mountains. From where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord the maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2) I thanked the Holy Spirit for reminding me of one of my most favourite psalms - Psalm 121 - THE LORD MY GUARDIAN (NAB)

I had spoken to a priest earlier in the day - because of some issues I was trying to really understand in the Light of God's Wisdom about my life. Was I discerning correctly? My love for the Divine-Potta ministry burns brighter than ever. There are current/new mission initiatives I still feel very passionately to try and do within the Divine-Potta ministry. Yet there was still a confusion if I should listen to my heart or to my head now? I have always usually followed my heart before.

The words of the hymn, "I Have Decided To Follow Jesus" has a very special meaning to me  as I consider it my Call song. It was a verse of this hymn that I had written to my siblings when I first told them that I had given up my career and was going to serve full-time in Divine Retreat Centre - "The world behind me, the Cross before me. No turning back, no turning back." During the New Year Vigil Mass, I remembered that day on 11 October 2004 when I decided in my heart that I would now only serve God from that day onwards  - no turning back to my previous lifestyle. At that time, I was serving here already for 3 months in what I had assumed would be a 6-month stint. Jesus prepared me during my daily prayers and bible reflection so that when I was asked to do so, I had absolutely no doubts even though I never once even thought of being in full-time ministry - not once until I was asked! In fact, I do not even recall asking any questions of what I would do at the retreat centre or of any other questions one would normally ask when moving to a different country!


Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C., Director - Divine Retreat Centre
Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.'s New Year Vigil homily confirmed what had stirred and given me new hope and understanding of God's Call to me. Fr. Augustine shared the following which affirmed and inspired me not just for the New Year 2017 but for my future to ponder on the following wisdom-filled message from God:

"Every blessing has been a gift of God."

""The hymn of Mother Mary (the Magnificat) is both a prophecy and a promise.  'The generations will call me blessed' is a prophecy to Mother Mary. It was a promise too. Mother Mary became blessed because she believed. To believe means to trust. To trust means to let go."

"Mary spent her life  as a handmaid of the Lord." 

"God will inspire us to the ways of the Lord."

"When we surrender the New Year, all the things we do and all the places to go, God will hold us close to Him - if we just want to be His servants and His stewards."

"Accept this gift of the New Year  from the Hands of God." 

After the New Year celebrations with our Divine community, I went back to my office filled with the Joy and Hope of the Lord. I committed my life to Jesus once again  - to let go of my fears and to trust Him with my life. I will do my outmost to spend my life as a handmaid of the Lord. After all, God is holding me close to His Heart - just as He is holding each one of us!

The song, "THE FIGHT SONG"  by Rachel Platten at the the top of this post best sums up what I am inspired  not just for 2017 but for the rest of my life - "Christ's Power is turned on in me!"


Chorus lyrics of the Fight Song:
This is my fight song.
Take back my life song.
Prove I'm alright song.
My power's turned on,
starting right now I'll be strong.
I'll play my fight song.
And I don't really care if no one else believes...
Because I've still got a lot of fight left in me