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


Saturday, 17 December 2016

KEEPING CHRISTMAS ALIVE WITHIN US EACH DAY!



Christmas is just 7 days away. I find it a little hard to believe that 2016 is coming to an end in a fortnight's time. How have I lived my life in 2016? What should Christmas signify to me in my life? Christmas has always been special for me since childhood. It always seemed a season of joy and goodwill amongst all people - not just Christians. It seems every Christmas season, people are more caring and giving towards those in need. So Christmas is often seen as a season of giving.

Yet - what is Christmas to a Christian? It is about Christ coming to earth to save us so that we may have Eternal Life in Heaven - God's greatest gift of His Only Son to mankind. It is "Emmanuel - God is with Us" (Matthew 1:23) who we also proclaim as Christ our Light coming into our hearts. So I got to thinking about it this past week: Why do many of us often seem to allow the Light of Christ in us to shine forth brightly to others only during the Season of Christmas? If we are truly living as a real Christian should, then every day is Christmas to us because Christmas is essentially celebrating the day baby Jesus comes into our hearts.

Finally Christmas 2015 together - the Alexanders!


My Mum, Isabelle, and her youngest namesake granddaughter, Isabella from USA

I love Christmas - I know I have always felt differently in my heart this joyful season. There is an extra special dose of love, joy, goodwill, peace and definitely experiencing the Grace  of God in my life through all my loved ones. Last year, after the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass and celebrations here in India, I flew to Penang, Malaysia to also be with my mother and siblings for Christmas dinner. Well, the second part of my flight got delayed but I arrived just in time for dinner and what I had insisted they keep for me from the Christmas lunch too!   The deep feelings I felt being with my Mum, brothers, sisters, sister-in-law, nephew and niece was so profoundly special that I will never forget the incredible joy I still hold deeply in my heart. I cannot remember when so many of us were able to be together for Christmas. The last Christmas I can remember when my entire family was together was when I was 10 years old. Christmas is always about FAMILY - after all, on Christmas night, Mother Mary, St. Joseph and Baby Jesus exemplified how every Christian family should be - holy, joyous and full of love for family and all mankind. 

Christmas is first and foremost about LOVE. It is a time when each of us have to reflect how are we towards our loved ones as a father, a mother, a husband, a wife, a brother, a sister and so forth. Are we so caught up in our careers, in our social activities, our ministries. or in social media that we do not really give of ourselves in terms of sharing and caring for our family or loved ones on a daily basis? Love is about committing our time and truly being present in our relationships with our loved ones. It is not easy these days because if I look at my own family, none of us live in the same city or same country! Yet, in the past few years, my siblings and I have grown closer than we had been since our student days.  We keep in touch daily through a family chat group and so I for one feel the love we have for each other in a more tangible way. We do our best to have an annual family get-together with my Mum. It is also easier to keep in touch with friends too through Facebook, whatsapp and other social media platforms. More importantly, now at any time, as friends and family of Christ, we can pray and intercede for each other's petitions and prayer requests essentially uniting our prayers in an international prayer network . But even to keep in contact, we must be consciously aware that nothing takes the place of personal touch or personal time. A phone call or a visit can truly uplift your loved ones especially your grandparents, elderly parents and family members. 


Except for last Christmas, I had spent the 12 previous Christmas here in Divine Retreat Centre. It was the time I missed my family and friends the most - for I always loved Christmas before because of the the joy of being firstly with my parents and loved ones. The world is moving at such a fast pace.  It is easy to forget or tell ourselves we will spend time the following week but we do not get around to visiting our loved ones or people we know who are elderly, housebound, a strugglig widow/widower, a single parent, children from broken families, the poor, or the sick. If we truly took a good look around us, God has placed so many people around us to whom we could and should share Christ's Love with. This Christmas, I pray that the Love of Christ in me will sensitize me to be more conscious of every person in need who I meet. Even a rich person with no faith in God and hence no hope or meaning in life can be "poorer" and in greater need to know Jesus than a person who is poor materially but filled with love and trust in Him. Yes, it will take time and effort and it can seem thankless because our efforts could be rejected. Yet, Jesus teaches us one thing through His Life until His Resurrection. Jesus never gave up on any of us. That is true example of "Agape" Love - selfless, sacrificial and unconditional love. 

How joyous my life would be if Christ's Love radiates in a tangible manner every day of the year to all my loved ones, my Divine Family members, my ministry friends in different countries as we serve God together and to all those in need esp our Divine family members in our Divine Charitable Homes. It is through them I am always reminded how blessed my life is. I do not ever want to have an indifferent or forgetful heart for sisters and brothers of mine who are marginalized in the world and have found love, peace and dignity in their lives through the love and care by the Vincentian Fathers of Divine Retreat Centre.   If I can take action or say some words that will bring joy and comfort to them, I pray for the courage and commitment to do so.  I pray for the Grace of God to be His Hands and His Feet. Most of all, to be able to say a little prayer for those Jesus brings into my life each day. This is my Christmas gift to Jesus this year - to consciously say a little prayer each day for every person I come in contact with. It could be just one line. "Fill ______'s heart with your Holy Spirit, Lord."




Christmas is about Hope - without Jesus in our lives,  we will easily fall into despair. How can we always have the Hope of Christ in us? I believe it is when we give God the central place in our life. There can be no higher form of worship than to receive the Holy Eucharist every day. To do so, we have to also partake in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (preferably at least once a month and not just once a year. I for one, cannot remember my sins committed over a year!). Thus, our lives will be grace-filled. Hence, together with our daily personal prayer time, even in our most difficult days, we will find our Strength and Hope in Jesus.

Joy to the World the Lord has Come! Jesus our Saviour is our True Joy - the blessed  Gift of Christmas! Do you every wonder how after New Year, our lives go back to the normal grind of our daily living? Of course, it is not possible, to be full of joy, love and goodwill like we usually experience during the Christmas season. However, do you know of persons who personifies Christ' Joy to you? I know of a few priests who radiate Christ' Joy all the time. People feel touched and blessed even having just a few minutes with them. Seeing the joy in their faces and the profound impact the joy they felt in the presence of the priest makes a huge difference for they often share they truly experienced the Love of Christ.  After serving in ministry over 12 years here, I realize that the Inner Joy of Christ can only radiate from us when our faith is  built on firm foundation - that our lives are firmly rooted on the Word of God. True Joy cannot be alive in our hearts any other way. This Christmas I also pray for all my loved ones, friends and for myself that we will seek for this Joy not just in the season of Christmas but for all our lives.   If people can see the Joy of Christ in us, they will want to know our God who can give us this amazing grace! 


The Angel's message on the first Christmas night when Baby Jesus was born was to the shepherds - "Do not  be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all people.For today in the city of David a saviour has been born for you who is the Messiah and Lord." (Luke 2:10-11) This is the everlasting Christmas message every human being should strive for. Jesus did not come to earth to save just the Christians - He came to save every single human being.  What can each of us do to spread the Peace of Jesus' to everyone around us? Well, first, I have to find the Peace of Christ within me - for with Christ's Peace, I can do all things in His Name! I will have no fear. The Word of God gives each of us this beautiful Promise - "Perfect love has no fear." (1 John 3:18) Jesus is the Perfect Love.When we have the ultimate Grace of Christmas - Jesus in our hearts every moment of of our lives - the world will finally attain the Peace that Jesus our Saviour came to give us on earth. 

I hope the touching Christmas YouTube music video below - "LET THIS CHRISTMAS BE (CHRIST IN ME) by Toby Baxley warms your heart as  it did mine.



Wishing my family and loved ones, my Divine family, Friends of Divine, 
ex-colleagues, childhood pals, and all who have touched and enriched my life ...
A JOYOUS, GRACE-FILLED CHRISTMAS FILLED WITH LOVE, HOPE & PEACE!

May our world be filled with peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind!


Saturday, 22 October 2016

GOD IS PRESENT EVEN IN HIS SILENCE




We often ponder more deeply about the lyrics of the hymns that are sung during retreats more than when we attend Holy Mass in our church in our own parishes. At least, I have often heard these comments from retreatants and even felt so myself before!

 Well, that is not surprising. After all, we are allowing the Word of God to take root in our hearts when we deeply immerse our hearts and mind into the retreat during Praise & Worship sessions, talks, Holy Mass and Adoration services on God's Word - our uninterrupted special time of being consciously aware of God's True Presence in our lives.

Until I experienced my first retreat, my relationship with God was actually rather stunted. It was more knowing of Jesus but not experiencing the intimacy of a real relationship with Him. I was really into being in control of my life and the future I had planned for myself. Yes, I admit, I am someone who used to have 1-year, 3-years and 5-years goals in life since my college days and I was very serious about achieving these goals.  All these goals for my finite life here on earth. I had not realized that I am only a pilgrim on earth for my eternal home is Heaven! Last night, I was reading an online article about Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft. It seems every minute of his day is meticulously planned - even to the time it would take for a photo-shoot of shaking hands with a head of state. He did not like to waste a minute of his time. Of course most of us are not to that extreme but are we all not guilty of wanting to be in control in every aspect of our finite life if that is possible? Yet how little time and effort we "invest" to ensure our Eternal Life in Heaven. 

I am now in my 12th year of saying "YES" to fulltime ministry - a really important milestone for someone who never even dreamt of being involved in a weekly church ministry. My 12th Anniversary was on 11th October 2016.

Ministry life is not all joy and plain sailing. I have had people tell me many time how "lucky" I am that I am not working in the secular world. Well, all I can say is that perhaps you need to experience one whole year in my ministry life first! Every vocation in life, be it as a priest, husband, wife, businessperson, teacher, father or mother has its own challenges - the same goes for those in mission fields. As human beings, we have relationships with families and loved ones, illnesses and difficult problems in life that seem unresolved for years. At times, the more we pray, the more silent God seems. Have you wondered where is God in the painful and difficult moments of your lives? I certainly have.



In the past  6 years or so, I have really felt the Silence of God in a certain aspect of my life - to the point that that I was unable to do something I had always loved in my ministry - writing. In fact, it seemed like there was a huge mental block in my mind and emotional block in my heart that nearly completely stifled my creative desire these past 2 years to write and work on other creative inspirations to proclaim God's Message of Hope and Love. I had to really struggle to do so.  In my personal life, it seems like a long period of the "dark night of the soul" that St. John the Cross spoke  about. Why is God silent? How much more can my loved ones and I take of the situation? What if the worst fears became a reality? In times of great trials, we are tested the most in our faith. 

Did I want to give up on my fulltime ministry life?  I give thanks to Jesus that it was not something I thought about. The Call of God is hard to explain for it feels that your heart is no longer your own - it is for Jesus! Yet I had questions about my faith - the doubts and fears I was having because it involved someone I loved so much and if any of my decisions were a factor. The despair I would feel. the worries and emotional toll on my loved ones and on myself. Why is God allowing this situation to get worse?



Recently I spoke to a priest. I had not planned on it but it just came out of me and I actually wept as I spoke. The priest did not say much but I truly felt then the overpowering Comfort and Love of Jesus enveloping me - like I was in Jesus' Embrace. The priest told me to continue to pray for Jesus will answer our prayers. At that point, I realized one important point. I was being defeated because I already assumed the worst would happen. I had forgotten that my God, Jesus, is the Lord of Miracles and Hope! In his wisdom-filled words, the priest brought great solace to my heart.

Was the so-called Silence of God these past 6 years a waste? As I spent more personal time in prayer and meditation, the Holy Spirit revealed something to me. God in His Silence was actually drawing me closer to Him and He was also drawing my loved ones and me closer to Him and to each other. Jesus was helping me to surrender completely - to make Him the Centre of my life. It was in these times of silence, I turned to God's Word to find strength. It was in finding great peace when the priest told me yesterday not to look at my doubts and fears in these difficult years as my mistakes but rather as a weakness - a very understandable one as it involves a much loved person. God understands that even in ministry, our loved ones are very important to us.  .

The reason I spoke to the priest briefly yesterday was to share that when I went back to my office after the first meeting, I was prompted to reflect on the Book of Job - to read one chapter a day and to read about Elijah. More importantly on that day, in His Silence, Jesus revealed Himself to me through the following during my prayers and reflection:


"My son, hold fast to your duty, busy yourself with it, grow old while doing your task. Admire not how sinners live, but trust in the LORD and wait for his light; 
For it is easy with the LORD suddenly in an instant, to make a poor man rich. 
God’s blessing is the lot of the just  man and in due time his hopes bear fruit."
(Sirach 11:20-22)


"It is the LORD who marches before you; he will be with you and will never fail you 
or forsake you. So do not fear or be dismayed."
(Deuteronomy 31:8)


"He who submits himself to God in all things is certain that whatever men say 
or do against him will always turn to his advantage."
Saint Vincent de Paul
 Saint of the Day   (Laudate App)

I had asked the priest, "Why is God so silent?" In less than an hour, after experiencing Jesus' Loving Embrace, our Lord in His Silence drew me close to Him and spoke to me His Word. that showed me beyond a doubt that I am never alone. Jesus is always in my heart and with me - that His Grace is all I would ever need in my life and He will make all things good. For my journey to my Eternal Home in Heaven, I needed to also experience "the dark night of the soul." it is not about me being able to control what happens in my life on earth but for me to learn to trust that Jesus  is the One who was, is and will always be in control of my life - through His tangible actions and even in His Holy Silence! 

Well, the blessed outcome is not that my difficult family problem has been resolved but that my heart and mind feels peace and that very night, I created my first Christian reflection music video after two years. As you would have all noticed, I have written a post today too! 


The beautiful music video above - "GOD OF SILENCE" composed by a Jesuit priest Fr. Manoling Francisco SJ of Bukas Palad Ministry, Philippines is truly touching! I heard it the first time after I spoke to  the priest. For me, it was a sign from Jesus that He is always close to me. Praise God! Please do take a few minutes to experience Jesus' Presence in the stillness of your heart.


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*****Details about Bukas Palad Ministry, Philippines*****
The Bukas Palad Music Ministry (Filipino for "generous"; literally, "open palm") is a Roman Catholic contemporary worship musical group in the Philippines that composes, records, and performs original religious music. Since 1986, Bukas Palad has recorded over a dozen albums with the Jesuit Music Ministry of Jesuit Communications Foundation, a ministry of the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus, based in Ateneo de Manila University. The group has performed in over a hundred solo concerts across the country and overseas in Japan, Hong Kong, the United States, and Canada.



Tuesday, 16 August 2016

MY LIFE IS MY MESSAGE - Mahatma Gandhi

Life is a mystery...we never know what is ahead of us - even in the next moment. The longer I live, the more I realize that every moment of my life is a precious gift from God. Yet, have I been truly appreciative of every moment of my life? Have I felt that God has a purpose for every moment of my life? How do I treasure the reason I have been put on this earth? I am sure many of us have pondered at various points in our lives - "What is the purpose of my life on earth?"

We can live making excuses that we are too busy now. We can justify the way we live now by saying that one day we will really start to live for Jesus. But does anyone really know how long God has granted us life on earth?


My beloved late sister - Bridget!
The question that shook the very foundation of my life was when my second eldest sister, Bridget,  passed away suddenly 19 years ago on 28 July 1997. The years have passed by and it may seem like such a long time ago...yet I can still vividly recall the emotions and feelings I felt as as the final prayers were being conducted at our family home by the priest before we proceeded to the church for the funeral mass. I looked at the anguish and grief of my parents that day.  I had never ever seen them so broken-hearted before and I looked at my sisters and brothers and I knew I would never ever take my life so lightly again. It is only at her death that we learnt of the many charitable acts my sister had been doing - the great love the elderly and the poor had for her. None of us even knew one of her deeds to others! We did know she had a huge generous heart for the family. (After all these years, even now when I go to pray at her grave, I will find candles that had been lit for her soul.)  I remember in the final moments at the cemetery, one question seemed to be piercing my heart: ""What am I doing with my life? I was making lots of money for the company but if I died, they would just replace me with someone else.  To be honest, I had no answer then to this question that shook me to the core of my being.  I wanted to know the real purpose for why I was on this earth. It was a search that had already been in my heart for a few years. It had to be more than the money I was earning and the position and success I had in my career.  What is there to live for? Was my job and my career success the only identity that I had? Was that enough? At her death, my sister's life message humbled and inspired me.

Perhaps it take a huge crisis in our lives before we even realize that we are mere beings here for a finite time on earth and the existence of God is REAL. I knew in the months that went by, it was my parents' faith in God that took them through the most painful period of our family's lives. Most of my siblings lived overseas.  It was not easy for any one of us as we were all away from family support that we needed most. It was a time I realized how much my parents needed my support and love too. Usually it was the other way. I was the one who needed to have my parents' love and support for all I wanted to achieve in my life. 

Somehow, in our mutual grief,  Jesus started drawing me closer to Him but I still did not know Him yet. I was astounded to learn after the funeral that my parents had prayed together and agreed to surrender my sister to God according to His Will. They only asked Jesus not to let my sister suffer but to welcome her into Heaven if that was His Will. Where and how did they get such faith? I could not comprehend how in their grief, in her final hours, they could surrender a child they loved so much to Jesus. All of us knew of our parents' deep faith but it moved us deeply to see their faith in the most difficult moments of their lives. Out of the darkest moments, the Light of Jesus shone through.  My parents showed us that Jesus was the centre of their lives even in tragic circumstances. It spoke volumes to us of the Power of God in our family life. In that period of grief and anguish, I learnt all about love and how fragile, precious and important it is to treasure the life of every person I love. From that day, I am very conscious not to take my loved ones for granted.

As I look back to my life pre-Divine and post-Divine life after the first retreat, it is like I spent a life having an abstract kind of love for Jesus knowing that He is God and that He answers my prayers when I need Him. Yet, I never had the abiding faith and love that my parents seemed to have. And there is post-Divine first retreat, where I had a tangible personal God-experience. The bone-sapping mental, physical and spiritual fatigue I had been feeling was lifted from me. I did not know how much burden I was carrying on my own because I did not know I could surrender everything to Jesus. In fact, the prominently displayed bible verse that struck me upon arriving into Divine Retreat Centre was - "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)  Indeed, this Word of God came alive. 



I have always been touched by this quote of John F. Kennedy ' "If not us, who? If not now, when?" It was a challenge that touched my heart deeply when I was studying in Canada and first read it. Since then, I always felt a desire to do at least one-year fulltime volunteer work - reaching out to those in  need instead of just making donations. Each of us must give of our self to make our world a better place. It is no point only aiming to have big savings, own expensive material possessions, countless vacations and other perks seen as important in the eyes of the world. Will any of that help us to attain eternal life? Is proclaiming Jesus the focus of our life mission? How am I living for Christ? It is crucial to be aware that Jesus' Love should radiate through us. Watchman Nee explained clearly what our life message should be all about...

“Do we impress people with ourselves, or with the Lord? 
Do we draw people to our teaching, or to the Lord? This is genuinely vital. 
It determines the value of all our work and labor.”
― Watchman NeeThe Release of the Spirit

Our life has to be the message of our Master - Jesus. If we are servants of Christ, then we have no identity except His. We will only focus to do His Will and not our will despite the cost. That is what a good and faithful servant does. It is to answer the call to universal holiness in the Catholic Church.



Being a disciple of Jesus is not about following rituals / rules / personal preferences to show how "holy" one is. Pope Francis explained what "holiness" should mean to every baptized Catholic -"Holiness does not mean doing extraordinary things. but doing ordinary things with love and faith."  

Essentially, it is what Mahatma Gandhi said, "My life is my message." That is the priceless question every one of us must ponder upon- "What is the message of my life?'" 

What one learns in the mission field is that it does not matter WHAT you are doing for God, it is the motive and intention in your heart. It is what is often proclaimed here during the weekly retreats. "Love is not an emotion. It is a commitment." For that we need ENDURANCE. Do not think living for Christ is one easy joyous undertaking. Remember what Jesus has challenged  each one of us: "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:27)



It is why I personally believe that there is nothing I cannot do for God if that is what He is asking of me. In God's eyes, I am doing great things for Him because He promises each of us  - "You are precious to me." (Isaiah 43:4)  I am never deterred by others telling me a ministry goal I have felt in my heart is not possible and proceed to tell me how difficult it is. In fact, if I thought like that, I think my ministry here would have ended a long time ago. The reason is, as even the Vincentian Fathers of Divine Retreat Centre will attest to, there is never any available resources  - often in terms of finances, skills or knowledge - for what God asks of us to do through the Divine-Potta ministry. The Directors of the Divine-Potta ministry are best examples for me personally to learn how I, a lay person,  can live the mission that God has for me.

The greatest lesson I have learnt in Divine is to have these Christian attributes:
  1. To have FAITH
  2. To have SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE 
  3. To BELIEVE nothing is impossible
  4. To have a SERVANT heart
  5. To have a daily personal PRAYER life.
  6. To TRUST in God's Providence
  7. To NEVER GIVE UP
  8. To THANK God for everything.
My prayer is for every one of  you who reads this post to SAY YES to Jesus' Call to you.

Do take a few minutes to let your heart and mind be touched by the uplifting YouTube music video - "I'LL SAY YES" by DON MOEN 

If we live, it is for the Lord that we live, and if we die, it is for the Lord that we die. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
Romans 14:8 



Friday, 24 June 2016

"BE FEARLESS ON WHAT SETS YOUR SOUL ON FIRE' - Unknown




Last Saturday was my 12th full year of serving in Divine. It really surprised me that I have been here so long for it does not seem so. Well, I have definitely now lived in India longer than in any of the countries I have lived in since i was a teenager in Malaysia! 

Last year was a very testing period for me as I had two falls in which I hurt the back of my skull and my neck and lower back and had a severe bout of viral fever. It was a year where there was lots of enforced bedrest, physiotherapy and acupuncture. Yet as I look back, although it seems incredible now, I still carried out most of my ministry projects despite the throbbing pain of my skull which only stopped hurting this February. It still hurts when I get too tired. I can only give Glory and Praise to God! However, I learnt something priceless in the time of enforced rest. It was hard to concentrate or think too much when one's brain is given a very hard thump twice  exactly six months apart and a few discs on the spine are hitting the nerves. That is when I truly learnt that working on a PC actually places a lot of stress on one's brain as the neurologist pointed out.  :) So what could I do? Well, it was a time of grace for I could only pray for our Divine mission initiatives I held close to my heart and to catch up on spiritual reading. Reading was not easy either as my eyesight was affected too! It was a year when I semed to be praying and meditating more than anyhing else. And I learnt something to treasure always. In having to be still in heart and in my actions, I gained an inner peace and tranquility in my heart and in what I felt called to do. Nowadays, I am more centred in Christ, knowing Jesus will take me through it all. Now I know what it means to "surrender to God" - to let Jesus have "quality time" to teach me stillness of mind, heart and body. It is then I can truly listen and experience His Powerful Presence in my life.




But something wonderful happened last year - despite it all, I was able to complete nearly all the mission projects I had undertaken for 2015. Praise God! 


This year, it has been just the opposite - the fruit of the prayers were answered in remarkable ways. I have been on a Divine Lenten mission to Malaysia & Singapore in March and on a Divine mission initiative in Hong Kong this month. It has been a deeply enriching experience meeting Catholics who thirst to know Jesus more and those who have a deep desire to serve God in a tangible way. If I had any mistaken notion that last year was not productive, this year, it has proven to me the incredible Anointing and Grace that God pours down upon us when we surrender all our plans into His Hands and trust in His Providence.

Being on both these mission initiatives were the fruit of many years of prayers and being patient for God to reveal His Plan. One blessed lesson I have learnt in my ministry here - never to give up even if I do not know how to move forward in the mission initiative our Lord has placed in my heart. I need to wait and pray for Jesus to do it in His Time. This is a point I often hear our Director proclaiming to retreatants every week. More importantly, I witness it so clearly in the major mission works carriend out by the Vincentian Fathers in the Divine-Potta Ministry.  There is always an Attitude of Hope - that "Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:21) And God's Glory is always manifested in incredible splendour. So how can I not believe in miracles? 



Practically every person I meet will remark how they are touched by the gentleness, peace and joy that they see exemplified in the Directors of our Divine-Potta ministry when they speak to them personally. Even all of us who serve here experience it despite living in their midst for so many years. The answer is simple. Everything that is carried out in this mission is only done after much prayers by the Fathers and in the Light of the Holy Spirit. Hence, there is always the Peace that it is God who is in charge and we have nothing to fear. As I look back at the years I have spent here, I thank Jesus for giving me the great grace to live and learn in a very personal and tangible way His Promise of Hope:

“For I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.”
(Jeremiah 29:11)

One question I keep getting asked especially when friends know it is now twelve years that I have lived and served in India - the same question i am asked every year. "So when are you planning to return home?" This is a question I just cannot answer. I did not plan to come and serve in Divine. I never even once thought of it until I was asked! And likewise, I cannot plan as to when I will leave the mission. It all depends on God. Two little  prayers I say before I receive Holy Communion sums up how I try to live my life. The prayers are, "Here I am Lord, Your handmaid, I am here to do Your Will." The second prayer is, "Guardian Angel, help me to discern and to do our Lord's Will at all times." This means that I make no plans of my ministry's length of service. I have chosen to entrust my life in God's Hands. Of course, I do have my human worries but it has been the greatest joy in knowing how Jesus shows His Love for me - "You are precious to Me" (Isaiah 43:4) in special, unexpected ways so I know He is always watching over me. 




Is serving God much easier than working in the secular world? The answer is a definite 'NO". For even more so, there is one command of Jesus we must follow - "If anyone wants wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me."  (Luke 9:23) And how should I follow Jesus? There is only ONE way. " Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end."  (Hebrews 12:2)  It is not a simple thing to do as usually we tend to look at one another instead of the Face of God. Yet, I have found that as we pray and meditate on the Word of God and contemplate on the Goodness of God, His Bountiful Grace will fill our hearts and mind. That is how our passion to live for Jesus fills our soul and we are not tired, burnt out and anxious about our ministry or the seeming impossibility of what God is asking of us.   I find that right now, the Fire of God's Spirit burns brighter and deeper in my heart and mind than it did 12 years ago. Much has happened in my life in these years: joy, pain, doubts, frustrations; and every possible emotion one can think of. Is there any security or guarantee for a lay person serving in a ministry? The answer is "NO". So why would I take the so-called risk to serve in a ministry fulltime?  The answer is Jesus! For the love, joy and inner peace in my heart now is something I never experienced even at the height of my career when I had much recognition and was financially secure. There are still some painful issues in my life but I know Jesus will always keep His Promise - "Do not be afraid - I am with you! (Isaiah 43:5) Therein lies THE reason why there is a quiet courage in my heart to answer God's Call with the passion that burns ever-bright in my heart, mind and soul - "I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)

In a week, I will be celebrating my birthday. It brings to my mind vividly an experience that I have not forgotten. Thirteen years ago (in 2003), I had come for my 3rd personal retreat in Divine on my own. I had decided to spend my birthday in the Presence of Jesus. I do not remember anything else of this retreat except TWO lines I heard in the booming voice of Fr. Augustine Vallooran's homily on my birthday. "Remember every day you are one step closer to your tomb! Who and what are you living for?" I was thinking, "Oh God! Is that Your birthday message to me?" I guess it was as I still vividly remember this question on my birthday every single year since then!  I was literally shocked hearing it then. Now it seems amusing how Jesus challenged me to take a good hard look at my life. It was only before I flew back that I shared with Fr. Augustine of my birthday falling during the retreat and of his homily really giving me a jolt.

The YouTube music video above - "SOUL ON FIRE" by THIRD DAY, truly uplifts me when I listen to this song. I thank Jesus for this year He has revealed many Catholics whose souls are on fire to help our Divine-Potta mission proclaim God's Word to the ends of the earth.  


Each of us - you and I - should remember Pope Francis' words below...and be fearless!



Sunday, 17 April 2016

DO WE CARE OF THE PAIN OF OUR WORLD'S REFUGEE CRISIS?: "TO THINK...TO FEEL..TO DO" - POPE FRANCIS


A very touching and humbling video of Syrian children refugees

This post is probably going to be contentious to some but I am not writing to point fingers at anyone for it is a struggle I have been experiencing personally in my own heart.  It has been growing stronger as the days go by. Am I one of the millions in the world just reading articles and viewing videos of the struggle to live and the dehumanizing treatment of the refugee crisis in Europe and Africa - yet I then just get on with my life wihout further thought?

It is of the effects of war and violence in the Middle East and Africa - the innocent people desperate to escape the unimaginable cruelty and killings - inhumane conditions that no human being should endure. Tonight (Saturday 16 April) I am viewing online  a news article with many photos of Pope Francis' 5-hour visit to the Lesbos migrant camp in Greece. I had tears in my eyes seeing the photos of the visibly emotional, desperate refugees reaching out to Pope Francis seeking the Holy Father's help -  the heart-piercing photo of a man weeping at his feet; I read of a young girl  doing likewise; of a young boy kissing the Holy Father's hand and youths reaching out to touch Pope Francis. Every touch and every look on the faces of each refugee pierced my heart - how can we get on with our lives thinking each of us cannot do something to help? This could have happened to me, to each of us! How would we feel at the indifference of the world? How would I feel if my family is dying and we just want a chance to rebuild our lives to live as a human being with freedom, dignity and hope?


I ask myself - what have I done? The Syrians, the Yazidis, the Libyans in Middle East and the Afghans all leaving their countries and risking their lives on overcrowded flimsy boats to reach a safe country in Europe - the continent closest for them to escape to. 

In Africa, we see the same plight of refugees in the Central African Republic, Somalia and South Sudan which stands close to 14.9 million refugees (UNHCR 2015 report)! Yet, they seem forgotten because the world media is focussing on the European refugee crisis. The African crisis has not been reported extensively because it is confined in Africa. The sufferings of the African refugees has not pierced the hearts of people globally as the world media is always Western-focussed. That is the REAL tragedy in Africa - the continued indifference of the rest of the world.    

It was so shocking to read two days ago that fishermen in Turkey had found the body of a young girl child (believed to be 3-years old)  in their fishing net. The recent news makes me wonder how inhuman can we humans be to one another - in the name of "religion", an entire generation is being wiped out around the world.


What are those of us living in safe countries and comfortable lives doing? Here I have been complaining of the weather being so humid and stifling instead of thanking God that I do not have to worry every single moment that my loved ones and I can be killed at any moment, to lose everything I have in life, to be exploited, to be so desperate  and hopeless that I will do anything to be able to live without fear. Looking at the Facebook postings, I often see postings of videos of dogs being abused having a loving home finally and I know how happy I am seeing these videos because I am a dog-lover. Yet i have not seen videos of the lives of the suffering refugees - to raise us to action in bringing joy in giving a life of hope, love and joy to our fellow human beings.

Perhaps the thought in your minds (just like the inertia I have been in thus far) is what can I, one ordinary person, do? I do not know how to help and this is too huge a crisis. That is what I had been thinking.  While my heart has been troubled, I have prayed for God to help the world's refugees. But I will be the first to admit, even my prayers seem lukewarm because I am focussed on petitions that have a closer, personal connection to my loved ones. friends' and our mission needs. There is nothing wrong with that but I know I can pray with a greater intensity with a more open heart and do something. It does not mean we do not support the needs of our own community. It is about having a true Christian heart  - to love until it hurts. Jesus will always be with each of us every step of the way. 

 "Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, 
to be generous and ready to share,"
(1 Timothy 6:18)


Each of us, as Catholics, can definitely do something more.  On Sept 6, 2015, Pope Francis' made a call to European Catholics after his Sunday address, "I appeal to the parishes, the religious communities, the monasteries and sanctuaries of all Europe...to take one family of refugees." Pope Francis has taken 3 refugee families back with him today to start a new life supported by the Vatican. Why can we not make the commitment to raise funds in each of our parishes in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, USA, and Canada to raise funds every month for the critical refugee crisis in Africa and MIddle East? We need to look beyond our individual parish needs.  We are Christ's disciples - the world is our family from God. We need to care and to act. If all working Catholics can set aside a little something financially ($5 or $20 or $50) each month as a parish community, we can help our suffering brothers and sisters. We should encourage children and teenagers to contribute something (even if it is only 50 cents or $1). What we can do is speak to our Bishops and parish priests - to connect with Catholic religious communities who are working closely with the refugees around the world. Let us not give up at the first sign of objection that we cannot raise funds. If so, let us do it amongst our circle of friends - this is a humanitarian cause that will touch the hearts of people of all faiths, agnostics and even atheists. It just takes time and effort to find out how we can channel the funds for a set period of time e.g. 3 years. For Catholics, we need to offer all our efforts covered by our daily prayers. God can do the impossible with our efforts no matter how small or insignificant it may be.  It might take just $1 to save the life of a starving person in a critical moment. We will never know what difference each of us makes but maybe when we are in our Heavenly Home (someday!), we will learn of the Christian difference we did make.



I have no idea what we can do. But today, I knew in my heart that even though I am a fulltime volunteer in a Catholic mission, I need to share what I have. Jesus has blessed me in so many ways and I cannot keep it for myself only. I will not be facing a situation of life and death sharing something of what I have to someone who REALLY needs it now to live another day. If any of my friends would like to join in the effort, just let me know. The least I can do is find out how we can send the donations to a Catholic religious community who can make best use of our support to help our fellow brothers and sisters. To God, we are all His children. He is not going to check out what their religions are and only help Christians! 

You can donate online to the Jesuit Refugees Services (JRS) who are on the frontline of the refugee crisis around the world  via the link below:

JESUIT REFUGEES SERVICES ONLINE DONATION PAGE

This is just one option. Please support the religious communities you know who are seving courageously to help the refugees worldwide. All of them need urgent financial support.

My hope and prayer is that each of us will pray for the Grace of God  "To Think...To Feel...To Act" as per the call of Pope Francis. Our Holy Father cannot do it on his own. Every one of us who are Christians need to live according to Jesus' commandment to us - "Love one another, just as I love you."  (John 15:12) It means getting out of our personal comfort zone, of our "myopic view" of only looking at our own parish, own community or own family needs and to reach out with a generosity of heart expecting nothing in return...except for love, peace and a life of dignity to every human being in our world. Instead of beautifying the structures of our church buildings, let us look at savng lives beginning In this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. For it is what Jesus is calling out to  the world - "Be Merciful Like My Father"

All you and I need is TO BELIEVE in the Promise of Jesus to each of us:

"Nothing will be impossible for you."
(Matthew 17:21)


I hope the beautiful YOUTUBE video below, TO BELIEVE by Jackie Evancho  will inspire your heart to do the very best you can - as it did mine!