Monthly Archives: April 2014

Spiritual blindness: Part 1

Jesus light of the world

Blindness is fundamentally described as the inability to see. That could go two ways: the inability to see with our physical eyes or the inability to see through our eyes of faith. In relation to the latter-spiritual blindness-a majority of us live in darkness, and some of us don’t even realize it. It could be anger that keeps us in darkness; refusing to see past it and making decisions when angry, which in most cases turn out to be wrong. It could be jealousy or lust…the list is endless. Every person knows specifically what keeps them away from the light.

Many are afflicted by spiritual blindness, and there is only one cure for it; to trust in God. In John 9: 1-41, we’re told the story of a man born blind who was healed by Jesus: He and His disciples were walking when they saw the man. His disciples asked, “Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents’ sin?”

Jesus answered, “His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parents’ sin. He is blind so that God’s power might be seen at work in him. As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent us. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

After He said this Jesus spat on the ground and made some mud with the spittle. He rubbed the mud on the man’s eyes and told him to go wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam (which means sent). So the man went and washed his face and came back seeing.

His neighbours couldn’t believe him when he told them Jesus had healed him; they took him to the Pharisees, who also started questioning him on the same. When Jesus heard what had happened, He found the man and asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

The man answered, “Tell me who He is so that I can believe in Him.”

Jesus said to him, “You have already seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you now.”

“I believe, Lord!” The man said, and knelt down before Jesus.

Jesus said, “I came to this world to judge, so that the blind should see and those who see should become blind.”

Some Pharisees who were there with Him heard Him say this and asked Him, “Surely, You don’t mean that we are blind too?”

Jesus answered, “If you were blind you wouldn’t be guilty. But since you claim you can see, this means that you are still guilty.”

This is an abridged version of the chapter as the original version is quite long. Basically, we see Jesus restoring the man’s physical and spiritual sight. The Pharisees could see with their physical eyes, but were spiritually blind because they did not believe Jesus was the Son of God.

Believing in God heals us off our spiritual blindness because with the belief comes the strength to live in accordance with God’s Holy will. Spiritual blindness refers to sin. And in the bible, even physical blindness was associated with sin; that’s why the disciples were quick to ask Jesus who was responsible for the man’s blindness; if it was his own sins or his parents’.

Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will have the light of life.”

 

God doesn’t discriminate

In the world we live in there’s so much proclivity for physical beauty. In an average girl’s eyes, a cute guy is one who is tall, and bears a six pack. In an average guy’s eyes on the other hand, a beautiful woman is one who has voluptuous boobs, an endowed bum and basically has an hour glass shape. That is how we measure beauty. But does God judge the same way?

In 1 Samuel 16: 1-13, The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you continue grieving over Saul? I have rejected him as king of Israel. But now get some olive oil and go to Bethlehem, to a man named Jesse, because I have chosen one of His sons to be king.”

“How can I do that?” Samuel asked. “If Saul hears about it he will kill me!”

The Lord answered, “Take a calf with you and say that you are there to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will tell you what to do. You will anoint as king, the man I tell you to.”

Samuel did what the Lord told him to do and went to Bethlehem, where the city leaders came trembling to meet him and asked, “Is this a peaceful visit, seer?”

“Yes,” he answered. “I have come to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me.” He also told Jesse and his sons to purify themselves and he invited them to the sacrifice. When they arrived, Samuel saw Jesse’s son Eliab and said to himself, “This man standing here in the Lord’s presence is surely the one He has chosen.”

But the Lord said to him, “Pay no attention to how tall and handsome he is. I have rejected him, because I do not judge as man judges. Man looks at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart.”

Then Jesse called his son Abinadab and brought him to Samuel. But Samuel said, “No, the Lord hasn’t chosen him either.” Jesse then brought Shammah. “No, the Lord hasn’t chosen him either,” Samuel said. In this way Jesse brought seven of his sons to Samuel. And Samuel said to him, “No, the Lord hasn’t chosen any of these.” Then he asked him, “Do you have any more sons?”

Jesse answered, “There is still the youngest, but he is out taking care of the sheep.”

“Tell him to come,” Samuel said. “We won’t offer the sacrifice until he comes.” So Jesse sent for him. He was a handsome, healthy young man, and his eyes sparkled. The lord said to Samuel, “This is the one-anoint him!” Samuel took the olive oil and anointed David in front of his brothers. Immediately the Spirit of the Lord took control of David and was with him from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah.

Naturally, if it was just some random human being looking to choose a king, they would have picked Eliab; he was tall and handsome. Even Samuel thought he would be anointed as king. And after God rejected him, one would expect one of his other brothers- except David- would be chosen. But God surprised them all when He picked David, who was the youngest and smallest of Jesse’s sons. No one saw it coming.

God made it evidently clear; He, unlike human beings, doesn’t look at the outward appearance; He looks at the heart. Sometimes when one is feeling so downcast, they feel God wouldn’t look their way either because they have committed something they feel guilty about or because they suffer from a certain disease.

The readings above make one thing irrefutably certain; He doesn’t see the blemishes; He doesn’t see the crime committed; He only looks at the heart. If one feels God wouldn’t consider them for a favour, they shouldn’t look at their physical appearance, but their heart. Therefore, in my opinion, we should not judge people by their appearances but by their hearts, just as God, whom we serve does.

‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’; that is an adage I heard when I was very small. It doesn’t apply to books only. If one decided to judge a book’s contents based on its cover, there are numerous books that would be gathering dust on bookshelves, unread. I speak from experience; if the books I’ve read are anything to go by, some of the books with the most unattractive covers turn out to be the most interesting.

love thy neighbour

That said, next time don’t disregard someone just because they don’t match your expectations. They could surprise you-in a good way of course. Give people a chance; let them show you who they are. If you end up dismissing them, let it not be because you assumed them, but because you have interacted with them and don’t like them. Whatever the case, don’t judge; don’t discriminate.

Do not feel rejected; He loves you

Fifteenth station-Jesus is risen from the dead

ALLELUYAH! ALLELUYAH! ALLELUYAH! Christ is risen from the dead!

Christians all over the world are celebrating the resurrection of Christ. After the lent season, which is essentially a solemn period, now we are in celebration mode.

Christmas and Easter are the two most important feasts in a Christian’s life. The former is fundamental because we celebrate the birth of Christ, and the latter because we commemorate His death and resurrection. Easter is more important though.

So much has been said/written about this whole dying and resurrecting thing; one article caught my eye though. The writer talked about man’s origin from a scientist’s perspective; the evolution theory seeks to explain where man came from. To them it’s all about physics and chemistry. They say the genesis story is all a myth.

Science can explain it all, right? The day the sun stood still and the moon stopped so Joshua and his army could fight; the dividing of the Red Sea during the Exodus, when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and Pharaoh’s men drowned… but what about the resurrection of Christ? The gap between life and death? Christ’s ascension? Is it all a myth?

The resurrection of Christ is the basis on which Christian faith is founded. During mass, bread and wine are consecrated as a re-enactment of the last supper. Jesus in His words said, “Do this in memory of me.” Christians faithfully follow His will. And the mystery of faith, ‘Dying You destroyed our death, rising You restored our life, Lord Jesus come in glory.” See, it’s all founded on His resurrection. If He didn’t come back to life, people would have no hope of life after death.

Many non-believers think of death as the ultimate end of a person’s life. Christian doctrines however, teach that death is only the beginning of eternal life. All this we believe because Jesus Christ died and resurrected.

Naysayers doubt Christ resurrected. From the scriptures though, it’s clearly evident He rose from the dead. Firstly, the tomb, which was guarded by roman soldiers, afraid that His disciples would steal His body, was opened. Early Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the entrance. (John 20: 1).

Secondly, the soldiers who guarded the tomb went back and told the chief priests everything that happened. The chief priests met with the elders and made their plan; they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers and said, “You are to say that His disciples came during the night and stole His body while you were asleep. And if the governor should hear the story we will convince him that you are innocent and you will have nothing to worry about.”

The guards took the money and did what they were told to do. And so that is the report spread around by the Jews to this very day. (Matthew 28: 11-15).

Thirdly, doubting Thomas’ experience confirms further that Jesus resurrected: He was not with them when Jesus came. When the other disciples told him they had seen Jesus, he said, “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in His side, I will not believe.”

A week later, the disciples were together again indoors and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting and believe me!”

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God.”

Jesus said to Him, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who believe without seeing me.” (John 20: 24-29).

These alone are enough evidence for anyone to believe Christ rose from the dead. He conquered death. Whatever your situation, whether in prison, sick, childless, mourning, hungry… do not feel rejected. He loves you! Through his resurrection, He conquered death; a wage of sin committed by our first parents, Adam and Eve. Because of His resurrection, those who believe in Him have nothing to fear.

He destroyed death; man’s greatest enemy. What else can’t He destroy? Your problems and mine are nothing to Him. We only need to take them to Him in prayer. We only need to keep the faith.

Now one would ask, “If He was in deed the Son of the Almighty God, why did he have to die in the first place? Couldn’t God spare Him the excruciating pain?”

Truth is, if God wanted to, He could have spared Jesus the pain. Before Jesus was arrested, He prayed while at the Mount of Olives. “Father,” He said. “If You will, take this cup of suffering away from me. Not My will however, but Your will be done.” (Luke 22: 41). God could have stopped Jesus’ passion, but He didn’t. He, in His infinite wisdom, knew His Son would achieve something greater by dying. Through His death and resurrection, we believe.

When Jesus died, His disciples hid themselves, afraid the same fate would befall them. But after they learned of His resurrection, they went out courageously preaching the things He had taught them (Acts of the Apostles). God knew Jesus’ followers would need something to believe in. He let His son suffer for the sake of mankind. He so loved the world, that He gave His only son. It was all for us.

Christ’s resurrection is a renewal of faith and hope. This Easter, we’re called to be His followers; to believe in God’s undying love.

HAPPY EASTER!

Holy Week

Palm Sunday marked the beginning of Holy week. It’s the last week of the Lenten season, when we commemorate the death of Christ on Good Friday and subsequently His resurrection on Easter Sunday. It’s a significant period in a Christian’s life because it reminds us of Christ’s triumph over death; thus encouraging us to persevere because if we do, we too–like Him-shall be conquerors. The last three days before Easter Sunday; i.e. Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are the most important of this season.

On Holy Thursday, we celebrated the last supper, when Jesus washed His Disciples’ feet, and shared His body and blood with them in the form of bread and wine before being betrayed by Judas Iscariot, which was the beginning of His passion and eventually His death on the cross.

Ever since I can remember, my favourite part of the Holy Thursday mass has always been the part where the priest washes some faithful’s feet, imitating how Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. Even as a child, I remember being fascinated by the thought. It’s hard to fathom a priest washing people’s feet because in all honesty, I consider that part of the body to be one of the dirtiest- relatively speaking. For one to be able to do it, they must have tonnes of humility, because simply put, it’s a gesture of self-effacement.

Pope Francis washing faithful's feet

It even becomes harder to fathom Jesus, the son of the Almighty God, doing the same thing. He, the king of kings, chose to wash His disciples’ feet to show them how to treat people. After He had finished washing their feet He asked them, “Do you understand what I have just done to you? You call me teacher and Lord, and it is right that you do so, because that is what I am. I, your Lord and teacher, have just washed your feet. You then, should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you…” (John 13: 12-16).

I look at the leaders we have today and each time I find myself wondering, how many would lower themselves the way Jesus did? Washing their servants’ feet? Majority of the leaders we have today expect to be served than to serve. Most of them wouldn’t be caught dead partaking in things which would seem to compromise their dominance; their superiority over the rest of the populace.

Jesus taught His disciples to attend to their own subjects; to desire to serve than to be served. As we come to the end of Lent that’s an important lesson to remember; to learn to be humble, regardless of our social status.

Today, Good Friday is essentially a day when we commemorate Christ’s death. It’s the saddest day in church, devoid of all the celebrations that are characteristic of an ordinary mass. Due to this, the faithful are supposed to observe silence; basically to reflect on the idea of Jesus sacrificing Himself for the salvation of mankind. It’s a day of penance when fasting and abstinence should be observed.

Jesus nailed on the cross

On Holy Saturday, there’s the vigil mass. This mass is celebrated at night as a way of keeping watch, awaiting Christ’s resurrection during the night. In this mass, new members are baptized to initiate them into the church; the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation are also given. Other members of the church renew their baptismal vows.

The three days (Easter Triduum) are crowned with the celebration of Easter Sunday; the morning after Christ’s resurrection.

We’re nearing the end of the lent season. A period of reflecting deeply on our lives as Christians and the relationship we have with God. It’s also a period when people are asked to repent; to atone for their transgressions. As I mentioned in the beginning of lent, I know not everyone is a Christian; but the fact that we’re all human makes us prone to sin and it’s therefore imperative that we take some time to see what wrongs we’ve committed and to be sorry for them.

Of mortality and forgiveness

Death serves as a constant reminder that this life we have is just a passing breeze. It’s only a temporary stopover to the main place; eternity. Not many believe in that but the faith I profess teaches about life after death. What we believe however, doesn’t change the fact that death is real. Whether we believe there is eternal life or not doesn’t stop people from dying. And each time someone we know or love crosses over to the other side we are reminded that we’re here only for a while.

Last Friday but one my big sister left for school. Minutes later, the doorbell rang. I was about to start saying my morning prayers when my small sister opened the door. It was our big sister. I didn’t know why she had suddenly come back. Curious, I went to see what the matter was. She had a horrified look on her face. At first I’d thought she had forgotten something or couldn’t get a bus to school so wanted me to drive her, but the patent fear on her face told me it was something more serious.

“You’ll want to sit down for this one,” she said.

My curiosity graduated to dread in an instant. Taking her advice, I sat down. I didn’t want to freak out but her body language bespoke fear that was almost tangible. “D is dead!” She blurted out, a palm pressed against her chest.

My small sister and I gasped in horror. “What?” We asked simultaneously.

“Are you sure it’s him?” We asked.

“It’s written on the noticeboard at the gate,” she replied, grief stricken.

When the shock wore off, my small sister stated crying. “I don’t believe it,” she said.

“But I saw him in church on Sunday and he looked happy and healthy,” I added. My sisters both agreed they saw him too and he didn’t appear ill. Minutes later, my big sister left for school. For close to an hour my small sister and I tried to guess what could have led to his sudden demise. He was a young man in his twenties, and though he and my small sister were once tight, they had long fallen out; at the time of his death we were not in good terms.

He and my sister started off as friends and after a while he told her he wanted her to be his girlfriend but my sister turned him down. She wasn’t ready to get in a relationship. The disappointment of my sister rejecting him sought of embittered him because anytime he saw any of my sisters, mom or me, he would start making snide comments about us with other guys, high-fiving and all. He was actually the one who inspired my post, ‘men in skirts’.

He ran a movie shop near the place we bought groceries. Everytime I went by to buy some vegetables, he would find something irritating to say about my hair extensions, or my weight; anything he knew would piss me. He always succeeded because I would always leave feeling so offended, breathing fast, fists clenched.

At one point I told my sisters I would give him a piece of my mind the next time he dared say anything about me. They warned me; that would be imprudent. Reluctantly, I gave heed to their words. I didn’t have the stomach for all the nastiness, so I chose to stop going there. Every one of my family stopped going there. The place we’d previously frequented became alien.

We were not sure avoiding him and his friends was the best choice but it felt better. We didn’t have much to complain about. Since we stopped going there, we didn’t know what he said about us, but everytime he saw us passing by, he would laugh so loud. I imagined he was doing that so we would think he was laughing at us. Maybe I was wrong. It was irritating, but we didn’t let it get to us.

Christianity teaches about forgiveness; but constantly, we wondered how we could forgive him given that he didn’t seem remorseful. Forgiveness and repentance go hand in hand. For one to be forgiven, they need to be ready to make amends for their shortcomings. He didn’t seem ready; we therefore opted to stay away from him.

Until the time of his death, we were not talking. I was never really friends with him, but my sister was. It tore me to bits to see her grieve over a man who spent his better days making her life and ours miserable.

“If we heard it was an April fool’s prank they forgot to take down and we found out he was alive, what would you do?” I asked her as she wept.

She took a while to reply, pondering over the question. “Nothing.”

“See. It wasn’t because we didn’t want to make peace with him. He just wasn’t ready for it.”

For forgiveness to work, the involved parties need to meet halfway. If one is forgiving someone that’s far, it is easier to forgive them in order to get some closure to some painful experience. But if the person one needs to make peace with is present, it’s difficult to mend fences if they are unwilling.

When we learned of his death, we wished everything had been okay between us; nonetheless, it’s easier said than done. Truth is even he were alive, there wasn’t much we could do, unless he also realized the need for us to reconcile.

Even so, I realized it’s good to be at peace with everyone. There’s no telling what tomorrow brings.

VERY INSPIRING BLOGGER AWARD

Very inspiring blogger Award

Blog awards to me feel utterly precious. I think of them as a way through which other bloggers use to tell fellow bloggers they like/appreciate their work. I’ve been nominated for a few awards previously and one would be tempted to think that once you get them you get used to it. I don’t know how others feel but personally, each nomination gives me that incredible feeling. Sometimes I just lack the words to describe it but in all it’s a very, very beautiful feeling.

I was nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award by Kimberly Jo Cooley some days ago but couldn’t post about it yet as I was working on the Way of the Cross series. Her nomination touched a deep part in my soul. When I started this blog, my aim was-still is-to inspire anyone who stops by. Like I wrote on ‘why memoirs of aly’, I share my experiences because that way I’ll be able to connect with people who have gone through similar experiences and to enlighten others who haven’t because when all is said and done, life is too short to experience everything; but if one wills it, they can choose to learn from other people’s experiences.

Sometimes I post religious stuff even though I know not all my readers profess the Christian faith. One thing I’d like to put across though is that the main reason I do it is because I struggle with anxiety and faith gets me past those dark days. With the Way of the Cross for instance; the first time I said those prayers and actually reflected on them was last year. They opened my eyes to faith and I feel I couldn’t have found them at a better time because last year so much happened in my life and the strength I had derived from the prayers got me through it all.

Ergo, this year I decided to share the prayers, so people would reflect on them during this Lenten season, in the hope that they will offer great inspiration to all who read it like they did to me. My intention with this blog, as I’ve stated before, is to inspire, to motivate, and I share what I deem inspirational or something readers can reflect on.

Through Kimberly’s nomination, I feel I’m achieving my aim; and for that I’m immensely grateful. Thank you Kimberly! I also want to thank all my readers; all who spare some time to read my ramblings. Thank you all.

This award doesn’t come with rules but as it is, I’ve read many blogs which I feel are really inspiring. Basically, inspiration-according to the Oxford dictionary-is all about things/people who make one desire to be better/successful; things/people who give us ideas for something, especially something artistic or imaginative. And the thing about inspiration is that one can draw it from anything; it’s all about having an open mind. That said, below is my own list of inspiring nominees:

AB atperspectives on life, universe and anything

Karina Sussanto at Karina’s thought, encouraging and inspiring through God’s word

Findingmyinnercourage

PattyB at thoughtsfromanamericanwoman

VicBriggs at shards of silence

Kim Saeed at letmereach

 

There are no rules – for accepting this award. Just copy it and place it on your blog in a post or wherever you like… link back if you have time to do so.

 

 

Fifteenth station: Jesus is risen from the dead

Fifteenth station-Jesus is risen from the dead

My Jesus, I repent of the sin of hopelessness. I beg Your pardon for many of the times I fell into depression for small setbacks and tragedies in my life. My Jesus, let me never feel rejected or defeated as You are risen and alive. I put my complete trust in You O Most Holy Risen Lord Jesus. I worship You and I bow down before You. All glory be to You O Risen Lord Jesus Christ, forever and ever.

Closing Prayer

My Jesus, I have travelled Your Way of the Cross. It seems so real and I feel so ashamed. I complain of my sufferings and find obedience to The Father’s Will difficult. My mind bogged down by the poverty, sickness, starvation, greed and hatred in the world.

There are many people who suffer so unjustly. There are those born with physical and mental defects. Do we understand that You continue to carry Your Cross in the minds and bodies of each human being?

Help me to see The Father’s Will in every incident of my daily life. This is what You did-You saw The Father’s Will in Your persecutors, Your enemies and Your pain. You saw a beauty in the Cross and embraced it as desired treasure. My worldly mind is dulled by injustice and suffering and I lose sight of the glory that is to come.

Help me to trust The Father and to realize that there is something great behind the most insignificant suffering. There is Someone lifting my cross to fit my shoulders; there is Divine wisdom in all the petty annoyances that irk my soul everyday.

Teach me the lessons contained in my cross, the wisdom of its necessity, the beauty of its variety and the fortitude that accompanies even the smallest cross. Mary my Mother, obtain for me the grace to be Jesus to my neighbour and to see my neighbour in Jesus.

Amen.

 

These Way of the Cross prayers are courtesy of the Vincentian Congregation, whose aims are to preach to the non-Christians so that they may be brought to the Christian faith and to preach to the Christians, to help them grow in faith.