Category Archives: Journey of Faith
Many times in life we get so confident. We start to depend on our own strength. But as we walk, we realize that the path we choose won’t give us anything. And we realize we can’t do without God. Then at one point, we can’t walk anymore and we ask ourselves. Am I still worthy? Is God mat at me? If I go back, will He accept me? If this is you, then turn around. And you will see God is waiting for you with open arms. He has been and always will be with you whether you realize or not. No matter how far you leave Him, He never leaves you. No matter who you are. No matter what you have done. He loves each and every one of you.
Imagine John and Martha as a married couple approaching their seventy fifth birthdays. They enjoy good physical health, have a solid marriage, are very involved in their church and their community, are proud of their grown children- all of whom seem to be doing well- and take particular delight in their grandchildren. They are also financially secure enough to enjoy a comfortable retirement. One day they approach their parish priest and ask for his guidance, and this is the story they share: ‘Father, we have been long-standing and faithful parishioners here, and you know us well. We’re retired; we’re really enjoying our grandchildren. In fact, John has just built a huge deck off of our living room so that we have more space for our family when they drop round. There are so many options still open to us, so many things we would still like to do in our lives. But…but… we have been praying together, and praying a lot over the story of Abraham and Sarah and how when they were old, done with their childbearing years, God called them to set out for an unknown place and how it took them ten years to get there and then, when they arrived there, with them now well over eighty years old, Sarah got pregnant in some new way, and how that, this gray-haired and impossible pregnancy, became their real gift to the world…Well, we have been praying over this for a long time and we feel called in this way, like Abraham and Sarah. We feel that God is calling us into the big, big unknown as he did them. We have mulled over this for a long time and this is our plan: What we want to do is to sell our house and, after buying two one-way airline tickets, give the rest of money to the food bank (because Jesus said to sell everything and give the money to the poor). The one-way tickets we would buy would be for Pakistan. We feel that God is calling us to spend the rest of our lives as missionaries to Islam in Pakistan. We picked Pakistan because there is so much tension today between Christians and Muslims, and there is a need for more understanding between us. Our plan is to go there with no money and to live simply with the poor there, and to die there. We presented this plan to our children, and they were beyond belief, stunned and horrified. They think we are insane and demanded that, among other things, we talk to you. So what do you think of this idea?’
The priest, unless he was John of the Cross, would most certainly side with the view of their children: ‘You’re crazy! This is dangerous fundamentalism! This is the ultimate in naivete!’ But being a trained pastoral minister, he would attempt to dissuade them and bring them and bring them to their senses through logic. His first objection would be this: ‘You shouldn’t do this. You are needed here! Your children, your grandchildren, the church, the community, we need you! There is still so much that you can do. You’re still young, still healthy. You may not do this!’ But John and Martha are ready for this objection, having already thought this through: ‘We appreciate your saying that, and it’s nice to be wanted. But radically, we are not needed. What we have to give we have already given through the last fifty years. We did the work, we provided for our kids, and we love them deeply. But in going to Pakistan and ending our lives in this way, we want to give our kids and grandkids something else, something deeper, something that can be given only in spirit. We have already given them what we can give them humanly. We are doing this for them! They will miss us and we will miss them terribly, but that’s the price for this. Besides, yes, we are healthy, but we are no longer young. Either or both of us could be struck down by cancer or a stroke or something else, and we would be gone in any case. In twenty years, we’ll both most likely be gone, so we may as well do this of our own volition, when we can make it mean something deep.’ Dissatisfied but undaunted, the priest would move on to his second argument: ‘And how do you intend to live in Pakistan, once you have given all your money away? How will you eat? Where will you live? What will you do if you get sick and need a hospital?’ But again, John and Martha are ready for those questions: ‘That’s the real point of this. If we took along credit cards and had return tickets tucked away in case of an emergency that would defeat the real purpose of this. We need to do this on blind trust. We won’t starve, we’ll live somehow, we’ll beg, we’ll live off peoples’ kindness. We know this sounds utterly naïve, but God will provide for us somehow! Don’t think that we haven’t thought of this, and don’t think that we aren’t scared. We’re very scared; we don’t even know what we are going to do immediately after we get off the plane. But that is the point of this!’
With that response staring at him, the priest plays his last card: ‘Besides, the whole thing is wrong from the top down. You know nothing about Pakistan, nothing about the Islamic religion. Moreover, the last thing we need in the church and the world today is a couple of naïve, misguided missionaries, thinking they can save the world! You will do more harm than good!’ John and Martha have also already thought about this: You’re right. We are naïve, and maybe we are misguided. We don’t know anything about Pakistan and Islam, other than some rather superficial things we’ve picked u by reading a couple of books. But again, that is the point. We are there as sheep. We’re not going there to preach or to convert anyone. We just want to live among the people there and try to understand and love them. Maybe we will get killed, but we hope not. We are not going there to save the world; it’s more ourselves and our kids and grandkids whom we are trying to save!’ Now imagine what would happen if neither their family nor the priest could talk them out of their plan and they indeed went to Pakistan, stayed there, and died there. What would be the reaction of their family ten years after their deaths: ‘Our parents were crazy!’? More likely the reaction would be: ‘We had extraordinary parents! They did this incredible faith thing when they retired! What an incredible witness they gave us! What an incredible memory we have of them!’ And if they could articulate this in more religious terms, they might phrase it like this: ‘What a freeing and life-giving spirit they left us! They gave us their deaths as a gift!’
This fantasy might seem pretty fanciful and far-fetched. Who would ever do something like this? John of the Cross would, I suspect, answer the question this way: You may as well risk this kind of radical journey, because if you do not do this of your own volition, it will be done to you. Sometime, and it will happen to us all, we will walk into a doctor’s office and be given a death sentence. Or death will catch us even more unexpectedly in a heart attack, stroke, or accident. At that moment, metaphorically, we will have been handed our one-way ticket to the greatest of all unknowns and, from this journey, there will be no coming back. Palliative care awaits us all, and palliative care is a one-way ticket. We can enter it on our own, on purpose, or we can wait to be eventually taken there against our will. Either way, we will now stand before the same choice that Jesus had to make in the Garden of Gethsemane: How am I going to give my death over? In freedom or in clinging? In graciousness or in bitterness? In anger or in forgiveness? The particular spirit that our death leaves behind, our final gift to the ones left behind, will be determined on how and what we choose in our dying.
[Extracted from pages 300-305, SACRED FIRE- A Vision For A Deeper Human And Christian Maturity by Ronald Rolheiser]
To get off the roller coaster of excessive commitments and put God in the driver’s seat, here are a few things to consider:
1. Put God first. If you can trust God with your very life and eternal salvation, you certainly trust Him with your career. Prioritize your life to serve God first, and make your work an act of service to Him along with a way of serving others.
2. Maintain spiritual practices when you’re busy.History is full of examples of extremely busy people who pray constantly and build other pious practices into their daily routine. The ultimate example is Jesus Himself, who, during His public ministry, frequently withdrew to spend time in prayer. You’re not busier than Jesus, are you?
3. Read Scripture regularly to maintain perspective.Isn’t it amazing how the Scriptures are constantly new and applicable? Sometimes when we’re most troubled by things at work, reading Scripture can help us regain perspective.
4. Have a plan. Build a routine around the things that draw us closer to God. We know that God is always with us and that He cares about even the most mundane aspects of our lives. Our work is important to Him, so by offering it to Him as a form of prayer, we most effectively accomplish His will.
-Extracted from the book, ‘Faith at Work-Finding Purpose Beyond the Paycheck’ by Kevin Lowry
The highlighted part in my previous entry (as below) triggered me into something beyond my comprehension. Would you like to know what was that something? The term life-long learning brought me into another quite related phrase: Eternal life. It was like a sudden thought at that time and it triggered me to have a very strong desire for becoming a religious priest.
I suggested to her that pupils could self-study and read English story books independently during that time. She said that reading story books was not a good idea and raised her tone, saying that I have failed my Year 6 pupils up until this moment. She wanted me to focus more on UPSR format questions which I felt was not the best solution, since my pupils don’t have strong grammar and lack vocabulary. The ironic thing was that she agreed that my idea was indeed good for the pupils’ long term andlife-long learning. That’s what I believe! To prepare pupils for life-long learning, not just prepare for the UPSR.
Through the phrase, ‘Eternal life’, there are two specific verses that captivated me which can be found in the bible; John 3:16 and Matthew 19:16-22
In John 3:16 Jesus says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whomsoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
Meanwhile in Matthew 19:16-22, it is about The Rich and the Kingdom of God (New International Version)
16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”18 “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honour your father and mother,’and ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
What kind of treasure do you store up for yourself in this life and in view of eternal life? Life on this earth is not eternal. He who believes in Christ and is sorrowful for their sins is capable of having not only eternal life in Heaven, but also Christ in them, and they in Him while they are here on earth. The world in which I have grown up is a world so full of grades, scores, and statistics that, consciously or unconsciously, I always try to take my measure against all the others. Much sadness and gladness in my life flows directly from my comparing, and most, if not all, of this comparing is useless and a terrible waste of time and energy. Our God, who is both Father and Mother to us, does not compare. Never. I believe if we were to put Jesus first in my life, everything else will be in place. As long as we belong to this world, we will remain subject to its competitive ways and expect to be rewarded for all the good we do. (gain recognition) But when we belong to God, who loves us without conditions, we can live as does. The great conversion called for by Jesus is to move from belonging to the world to belonging to God. In silence, I would like to ask myself deeply two questions in the process of my discernment: ‘Would you say yes to My love invitation after your 5 years contract? What are the things that bothering me to say yes to Jesus?
p.s: It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint. I can choose to be grateful when I am criticized, even when my heart still responds in bitterness. I can choose to speak about goodness and beauty, even when my inner eye still looks for someone to accuse or something to call ugly or crazy. I can choose to listen to the voices that forgive and to look at the faces that smile, even while I still hear words of revenge and see grimaces of hatred. (Inspired by The Return of the Prodigal Son written by Henri J.M. Nouwen)
May the Lord give me the wisdom to discern His will, and the strength and courage to follow His plan for me, wherever it may lead me. Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever! Amen.
Today is the Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Therefore, I would like to dedicate this entry to Saint Ignatius of Loyola.
Dear St Ignatius, ask God to help me pray with sincere faith this prayer you used to pray:
“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, also my understanding and all my will. Everything I have and possess You have given me with love. All the gifts You have given me I gratefully return to You. Do with them, Lord, whatever You will. Give me only Your love and Your grace. This is enough for me, and nothing more will I ask. Amen.”
A treasure buried in a field, a pearl of great price. When we discover the kingdom of heaven (of God) as a great treasure or as a pearl of great price, we will not have to be told to renounce what we have to obtain it. The kingdom of God will be so attractive that we will joyfully give up everything just to get it.
This was the response of St. Ignatius of Loyola to God who attracted him and won him over as he was recuperating from a broken leg. He abandoned his earthly ambitions and single-mindedly sought God. He later said that should the Society of Jesus ( which he founded and was dearer to him than life itself) be disbanded, he would need only a few moments of prayer to regain his composure. That was because what mattered to him was the will or rule of God.
When God is your all-sufficient all, you will gladly let go of anything.
This unique Marian shrine (read here for The Shrine Story) dedicated to Our Lady of Good Heath is called Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni. Based on the popular decoration to Mary who is said to have appeared in 17th century in a coastal village called Veilankanni, in Tamil Nadu India and she has come to be known as Annai Velangkanni, meaning Mother of Velangkanni just as Mary our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Fatima. Now she has taken her residence in Medan, for the first time to make it an archdiocesan pilgrimage centre in Indonesia.
The uniqueness of this shrine lies in the originality of its Indo-Mogul architecture, in its ornaments and display of colours done by amateur hands and above all in its Biblical content. This majestic looking building resembles a towering temple, which will certainly draw the attention of any person by Sandwiched, as it were, between two housing estates, Taman Sakura Indah and Taman Alamanda Indah, the shrine could be noticeable from afar. Multipurpose building in nature, the shrine consists of two floors ; A community Hall on the ground floor and a place of worship on the first floor with a balcony and scene storey tower with triple domes, symbolizing Heaven, the abode of the Triune God Almighty. By its left side lies a little chapel of Annai Velangkanni used for daily prayers and in front of it is a beautiful Mini Garden dedicated to the memory of Marian Pope John Paul II. In addition you can see a Children’s Park at the back of the Chapel with in the shrine complex an area of 6000 square meters.
The ceiling above the altar representing The Sistine Chapel at Vatican
As any one enters the main gate he will not fail to notice the inculturation welcome of North sumatra with traditional Batak houses in miniature, adorning the entrance. The visitor could immediately feel that he is entering a pilgrimage centre which is a place of welcome and encounter of God with His people at the sea, the asphalted road in the form of man falling in prostration before the Majesty of God and the two ramps that lead to the second floor where huge statue of Annai Velangkanni with the baby Jesus stands, look like the two arms of Mary receiving the visitors with a motherly embrace.
Just in front of the Community Hall is located an attractive fountain symbolic of Jacob’s Well where the Gospel scene of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman who came to draw water is depicted.
Side view of the shrine
When the visitors starts his tour, the shrine will begin narrating the Biblical history of Salvation starting from creation until the Second Coming of Jesus through its structure, ornaments and paintings.The whole concept of the shrine was inspired by one of the contemplations on the mystery of incarnation as suggested in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order. The designers, Rev. Fr. James Bharataputra S.J, has tried to give a concrete form to his life-long contemplation as a Jesuit.
At the entrance of the second floor stand two huge statues of St. Paul, the Apostle of nations and St. Francis Xavier, the Apostle of Asia welcoming the visitors. As soon as we want to step into shine’s main church we are greeted by the Lord ” Come to me all you who work hard and who carry heavy burdens and I will refresh you” making us at home in His house.The interior of the church is studded fully with relief, paintings, and ornaments it is a feast for our eyes. The Altar with its background is another unique feature. The dome above the altar has three paintings describing the Second Coming of Christ and the Last Judgment scene. If anyone who happens to visit Medan and fails to pay a visit to Graha maria Annai Velangkanni, he will certainly miss something in his life.
Rev. Fr. James Bharataputra, S.J. designer, architect, and contractor of this monumental shrine
The shrine of Mary Annai Velangkanni was under construction from September 2001 up to September 2005 and was declared open by Acting Governor Drs. Rudolf Pardede of North Sumatra Province in Indonesia and the dedication of the Shrine was performed by the Mgr. A.G. Pius Batubara OFM Cap., the archbishop of Medan on 1 October 2005. As the shrine contains too many details to narrate within this short space, it would be better if you can come and see for yourselves for “to see is to believe”