Category Archives: my life with God

Seventy times seven

Cold wars are a serious problem in my family and lately they are becoming annoyingly common; for instance, for the most part of last week and the previous week, my big sister and I were not talking to each other. What’s funny is that we’d fought over something so trivial – splitting house chores. At first the conversation had been going ok, but after a while we started disagreeing and before we knew things escalated…next thing we were going our separate ways.

A day later, I’d already gotten over the anger and I was ready to reconcile. My sister, on the other hand, seemed grumpy. I tried talking to her a couple of times but she blatantly ignored me. At some point I started panicking when I realized she was so bent on keeping to herself, that she would use alternative doors, so we wouldn’t bump into each other.

After a careful examination of my conscience, I realized that even though the things I’d told her were true, they were hurtful. Furthermore, the situation had been worsened by the fact that I’d said them with my voice raised. Possibly if I had said the same things calmly under different circumstances, they would not have stung as much as they did. Granted, I had said them in response to what she had told me and that’s why I had gotten angry in the first place. Since I knew she wouldn’t talk to me, I sent her a text apologising.

Still, she did not talk to me. I gave up trying and asked God to soften her heart because I could not understand how she could carry anger around for that long. I missed talking to her, but I did not know how else to reach out. Eventually, she started talking to me after a week. Of utter silence.

Over time I have realised that when I hold grudges, they consume me from within, so if I stay angry for long I end up hurting. That’s why I try not to stay angry for longer than necessary. Furthermore, there’s that reading about not letting the sun go down when still angry; meaning, even if it is alright to get angry sometimes, we should not drag it out.

“If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day… Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you…

Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God as has forgiven you through Christ”. (Ephesians 4:26-31).

Those words keep ringing in my head whenever I’m angry…and I thank God for them because they keep me from holding grudges, even when I feel someone has really hurt me. Coincidentally, the Sunday readings in church the last two Sundays focused so much on forgiveness.

One thing I got from this past Sunday’s reading is that if you want God to forgive you, you must forgive others as well. That is a prerequisite we must fulfil before seeking God’s forgiveness. That got me thinking, most of the time we walk around holding grudges against people, yet when we sin, we ask God for forgiveness, forgetting we haven’t forgiven others ourselves.

Jesus’ parable about the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18: 21-35) teaches on that. In a nutshell, it is about a servant who owed his king millions of dollars, so the king ordered that he be sold as a slave, together with his wife and children. The servant dropped on his knees, imploring the king to be patient with him because in time he would pay everything. The King felt sorry for him and forgave him his debt and let him go.

When this servant was on his way, he met up a fellow servant who owed him only a few dollars. Enraged, he grabbed him by the collar, asking him to pay all he owed him. The poor man fell on his knees asking for more time, just like the servant had begged the king, but he wouldn’t hear any of it. Instead he had him thrown in jail until he cleared his debt.

Other servants saw what had happened and they reported it to the king. Incensed, the king ordered that the unforgiving servant be brought to him. He castigated the servant for not showing mercy to his fellow servant. Subsequently, he had the unforgiving servant thrown behind bars, where he’d be punished until he repaid all the millions he owed the king.

As Jesus told His disciples, that is how God the Father will treat all those who do not forgive others. We should forgive each other seventy times seven times. This is just figurative. What Jesus was trying to say is that we should forgive as many times as possible because our human nature makes us prone to sin. That way, even God will forgive us.

On that same note, we are highly discouraged from avenging ourselves. In Romans 12:17-19 we’re told, “If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. Never take revenge my friends, but instead let God’s anger do it”.

One of the lessons I’ve learnt during this covid period is that being cooped up indoors with your loved ones could easily make them seem like foes, because everyone starts focusing on the small, insignificant things… We need to overlook those trivialities, because it’s in so doing that we can live in peace and harmony…and when fights inevitably break out, forgiveness is key. That way, our humanness doesn’t pull us away from God’s grace.

 

Lord Save me

Since Covid-19 became the most talked about phenomenon of year 2020, I’ve come across several covid-related memes; and, I thank God for humour because in the wake of this invisible monster, it’s one of the few things keeping people afloat.  This pandemic has made life relatively miserable…most of us thought we had problems, then covid came and proved to us that even when we feel things are bad, they could get worse in the blink of an eye.

As it is, we’re living in very precarious times. Even when making future plans, there’s that nagging thought at the back of one’s mind, that nothing’s certain anymore. I have across poignant stories about people who were ok before covid struck, then things went downhill too first…lost job… lost house, and before one could fathom what was happening, they were out on the streets…cold, with no place to call home.

This year has been very hard… Personally, I’ve been trying to find motivation from wherever I can, because what I have realised over time, is that if one has faith and hope, they can withstand, pretty much any predicament. In the same vein, if one has no faith, it becomes a matter of free-falling.

One such story is that Biblical story of Simon Peter, when he was out in the sea. One night, when he was in a boat with the rest of the disciples, they saw Jesus. Peter, asked Him to command him to walk on water, and Jesus did. However, after a while, Peter’s faith faltered and he started sinking.

Simon Peter walks on water

“Lord save me”, he cried out. More often than not, we forget God’s watching over us and the only prayer we need to say, is ‘Lord save me’, and He will come to our rescue. As seen during Elijah’s time when he was hiding in a cave, for fear that Queen Jezebel would have him killed, God appears to us discreetly. Chances us are He won’t come in a powerful wind, or earthquake…

As many may have noticed, He comes when someone’s about to give up. This means, we should not despair when things are not going the way we want… and we shouldn’t get tired of praying. Like I have said in previous posts, God may take time to answer when we call, but when He shows up eventually, He answers our prayers in style.

7th Blog Anniversary

Lovely happy work anniversary clipart collection

Today’s that day of the year, when I get to celebrate this blog’s anniversary. How time flies… For the last two years, I’ve been forgetting this day, save for the nagging thought at the back of my head that’s always making me feel there’s something special I’m forgetting.

However, today it was different. Not that I didn’t forget the anniversary at first…lol…but because my big sister reminded me. Unlike the past years where I’ve been forgetting it owing to my legal studies/work, this year I had forgotten it because somehow my days are all mixed up. I’ve lost track of days. This whole concept of staying at home has been disillusioning.

Weekends and public holidays are meaningless, in terms of those mid-week breaks we eagerly await. Sometimes I find myself wondering if anyone will ever want to stay home again when this pandemic is behind us. Still, we should thank God for His mercies; for instance, an online page like this, through which I can get to communicate with anyone in any part of the world. Thanks to the internet, we might be far from our loved ones, but we are not alone.

This year as I celebrate my blog’s 7th Anniversary, I’m celebrating all my readers, and my loved ones, who give me the motivation to continue writing; because truth is, writing can be hard at times. As explained in my ‘About’ page, part of the reason I write is because I find writing therapeutic, because it unclogs my mind.

7th Blog anniversary

Somehow, my mind is always working overtime, I guess because of my anxiety. Writing therefore acts as my safe haven, where I can lose myself for a while…vent, and this helps me unclog my mind. Furthermore, most of the times, as I put down my thoughts, I get a moment to reflect on things, with regard to what happened and the lesson learnt. That’s why most of my articles are categorised under ‘Reflections’.

Nonetheless, anyone who reads my posts constantly might notice that nowadays I don’t post much; and the reason for this is that I’ve been too held up with work and school… I’m immensely grateful to each one of you who spares a few minutes of your time to stop by and read my posts. I celebrate you all. You’re the reason this blog is 7 beautiful years today. Here’s to you all…

Happy blogging!

God, where are you?

When is today? Same day as yesterday…and the day before that, right? Nowadays it’s hard telling days apart. Even before this distressing pandemic befell us, when staying home wasn’t the new ‘normal’, I could tell Monday from Friday, because at the least, I had Sundays to break the monotony. Now that is not possible as well because churches have been banned as a way of curbing the spread of COVID-19.

In all my life, I have never experienced so much uncertainty as I am now. Each day passes by with every moment angst-filled. Once upon a time, watching TV was fun…but nowadays, there are the incessant live updates about the state of COVID. Nothing’s normal anymore…

I miss going out and not having to worry about touching things because they could be contaminated, or getting close to people…I miss walking into several stores in a day, and not having to rub different sanitizers on my hands before getting in each store…I miss walking outside, inhaling the fresh air, without the irritating inhibition of face masks…I miss walking into a mall, without being subjected to ‘hospital-like’ protocols, such as screening before going about with my business.

I miss waking up to the cheerful sound of children playing outside…I miss seeing jolly neighbours laughing at a barbecue, clinking bottles of beer on a warm Sunday afternoon…I miss hearing the occasional happy birthday songs when my neighbours’ kids are all gathered in one of their friend’s house cutting cake…or seeing them jumping on a bouncing castle… I miss…[sigh]… I miss…many things…I miss normal!

I miss going about with my normal routine, and not having to constantly worry about the people close to me, who I cannot see every day; because Corona is like an armoured thief lurking in the dead of night, waiting to creep in when someone’s guard is down. It’s like being in the battlefield, and knowing any bullet fired could be the ‘one’…

I miss days when one could just cough or sneeze freely, without fear of being suspected of having corona. I miss days when COVID-19 updates were not the main focus on TV. It’s even more disturbing, thinking all those numbers denote actual lives… It feels like we’re in a twilight zone…

Million dollar question is, when this invisible monster is ravaging the world at a terrifyingly callous rate, where is God? Of the things I have learnt to appreciate during this imposed ‘quarantine’ period, is the fact that I can ‘travel’ to the Vatican any day I want and attend mass, celebrated by His Holiness, the Pope.

One of the memorable masses is Good Friday’s mass, where the homily was given by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa. He said something that answered that million dollar question, which I believe so many people around the globe are asking, “God, where are you? If you’re real, why have you let this monster run loose?”

Fr. Cantalamessa said, “The pandemic of coronavirus has abruptly roused us from the greatest danger individuals and humanity have always been susceptible to: the delusion of omnipotence. A Jewish rabbi has written that we have the opportunity to celebrate a very special paschal exodus this year, that “from the exile of consciousness”. It took merely the smallest and most formless element of nature, a virus, to remind us that we are mortal, that military power and technology are not sufficient to save us…

While he was painting frescoes in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the artist James Thornhill became so excited at a certain point about his fresco that he stepped back to see it better and was unaware he was about to fall over the edge of the scaffolding. A horrified assistant understood that crying out to him would only have hastened the disaster. Without thinking twice, he dipped a brush in paint and hurled it at the middle of the fresco.

The master, appalled, sprang forward. His work was damaged, but he was saved. God does this with us sometimes: He disrupts our projects and our calm to save us from the abyss we don’t see. But we need to be careful not to be deceived. God is the not the one who hurled the brush at the sparkling fresco of our technological society. God is our ally, not the ally of the virus!

He Himself says in the Bible, “I have…plans for your welfare and not for woe” (Jer 29:11). If these scourges were punishments of God, it would not be explained why they strike equally good and bad, and why the poor usually bring the worst consequences of them. Are they more sinners than others? No!

The one who cried one day for Lazarus’ death cries today for the scourge that has fallen on humanity. Yes, God “suffers”, like every father and like every mother. When we will find out this one day, we will be ashamed of all accusations we made against Him in life.

God participates in our pain to overcome it. “Being supremely good”, wrote St. Augustine, God will not allow any evil in His works, unless in His omnipotence and goodness, he is able to bring forth good out of evil”’’.

The homily was relatively long, but in a nutshell, Fr. Cantalamessa assured listeners, that God does not bring about disasters. You know that concept of free will given to man by God? Nature was given that freedom to evolve as well. This is because when God created the world, He did not intend things to just function mechanically, in a manner that would be so predictable.

I know these words won’t do much to calm all the anguished hearts, but I pray, they will bring some slight comfort to all those who are afflicted and grieving over the loss of loved ones. This is not easy, but we will triumph over it, the same way Jesus triumphed over death. God is with us.

Here’s to… my first legal job: Part 3

Toast to 2

As I read through the letter, I figured my friend and I had been dismissed for absconding work. Interestingly, it had only come barely four hours after us failing to show up at work. Even the legal provision cited did not hold any water. After getting over my shock, I wrote down a 9-paged letter in response, detailing my miserable experience at the office.

I also told him I had noticed his partner’s flawed perception of my friend and I, had ruined our previously good work relation; subsequently leading to our ill-timed dismissal.  By the time I was done, I could breathe easy. Writing had been therapeutic.

At first, I had contemplated not replying, but then I thought, I would not want anyone else to be treated the way I was. It was callous, to say the least. After everything, I told my boss I had accepted the dismissal because I had prayed for that job a lot, asking for guidance on the way forward. I believed this was God guiding me, and I wouldn’t fight Him.

A day after receiving the dismissal letter, I sent my reply to my boss and I copied his partner. That same evening, he sent me a very moving text, apologising for everything I’d gone through. I did not reply. The next day in the evening, he texted me again, asking if he could call me. I wasn’t sure I wanted to talk to him yet, so I did not text him back.

Thursday at around noon, I texted him telling him he could call. About an hour later, he called. At that point I was anxious because I did not know what to expect. I had already made peace with the dismissal and I was afraid he would tell me things that would agitate me all over again. Unexpectedly, during his call, he made admissions, subsequent to the recommendations I had made in my letter.

He admitted that he regretted sending the dismissal letter. Furthermore, he also admitted that it took my letter for him to realize how much influence his partner had on him. I did not want to think too much, whether his apology was genuine or not.

All I knew is that prior to the dismissal, I had made a decision to quit, so either way I would have left. Moreover, given that he was my senior, the fact that he lowered himself to a level where he was admitting he had greatly wronged me, is what made all the difference. I know how hard it is to say sorry, so the mere thought that he apologized was enough for me.

As I had mentioned, I had prayed a lot, asking God for guidance on the way forward because I had gotten to a point where I felt the job was taking a toll on me, physically and mentally. Therefore, much as I had not expected to receive a dismissal letter, I chose to think of it as Joseph’s predicament that landed him in Egypt. God used it as a way to uplift him.

If you’re wondering whether I forgave my boss, I did. He told me he’d had sleepless nights since I sent him my letter because the picture I had portrayed of him was not who he really was. He asked what I wanted him to do for me as a way of atonement, but I did not want anything. His apology was enough.

However, we both agreed I could not go back to the law firm because his partner was still working there and clearly we were not getting along. That said, he told me his partner would be sending an apology letter as well, but it is yet to pop up in my mail. Not that I’m expecting it though. It’s enough that she knows I condemn how she treated my friend and I.

I had made recommendations with regard to the changes I hoped my boss would make, for the sake of his staff, and he assured me he would. That was all I needed, because I knew, there would be people joining his law firm after my untimely departure, and I would not wish upon them, the treatment I had received. So as I contemplate my next move, I toast to my first legal job. It did not last as long as intended, but it taught me many things.

My lessons learned are: firstly, if you do not like the treatment you’re receiving at work or on any other forum, by all means speak out. Not for the sake of being argumentative or insubordinate, but because by doing so, you could be saving someone else; secondly, do whatever work you’re assigned in the best way possible, so that if you’re faulted for anything, you will confidently speak out against it; and, lastly, forgiveness heals. I am now at peace because I’m not holding a grudge against my boss and his partner. I did my part and left everything else to God.

Turn the other cheek

If someone hits you on the right cheek, turn the other cheek as well…this is what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 5:38-48. I don’t know if it’s just me, but every time I hear that statement I usually wonder how many people actually comply with it; reason being, the average person is ordinarily very quick to retaliate when hurt.

I have heard this biblical statement more times than I would care to count, but there is one thing I’ve invariably overlooked… “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek”. I never thought much about it, until the priest in church last Sunday asked what circumstances would lead to one being slapped on the right cheek first.

Practically, for that to happen it would be a left-handed person slapping, or a right-handed person slapping with the back of their hand. Arguably, most people are right-handed, ergo, for someone to get to a point where they are using the back of their hand, it would mean they were so angry.

In light of this, going by our priest’s rationale, Jesus’ reasoning was that if someone is that angry, we should just let them vent by turning the other cheek instead of retaliating. Ordinarily, most of us feel the overpowering urge to attack, when attacked. However, the Lord Jesus, asks us to do the complete opposite.

The million dollar question is, how many of us are capable of turning the other cheek? In the Old Testament, the Law of Moses teaches us about an eye for eye…However, it’s a trite fact that an eye for an eye would make the whole world blind. Therefore, what we’re being asked by Jesus to do is to exercise restraint, and forgiveness. From experience I know it is very difficult, but it’s still within our capabilities.

On an entirely different note, I realize today (29th February), only comes every four years. In light of that, I wish you a very happy Leap Year day!

Joy of Christmas

Every Christmas I find a Christmas carol which rings in my head the entire season. In most cases it’s a reflection of my feelings. It’s not something I do consciously; I just hear a song and depending on my mood, I’ll find myself singing it over and over again.

This Christmas, two songs have stood out: John T. Williams’ Home Alone 2 (movie) version of ‘Somewhere in my memories’ and Pentatonix’ ‘Where are you Christmas?’ The former fills me with nostalgia as I remember the happy feelings I always have on Christmas.

The latter on the other hand, is an expression of the turmoil in my head this season:

Where are you Christmas?

Why can’t I find you?

Why have you gone away?

Where is the laughter you used to bring me?

Why can’t I hear music play?

My world is changing

I’m rearranging

Does that mean Christmas changes too?

Yesterday was Christmas day…for some reason however, it did not feel quite like it. In the evening I looked at my phone, and obviously the date on the screen was 25th December. If I didn’t know better, I would say my phone was malfunctioning, because the day itself just felt ordinary. I was not bubbling over with my usual Christmas cheer…and neither were my family members.

Light-heartedly, I said, “My phone shows it’s 25th….and that’s Christmas day!”

“What?” My big sis, getting what I was insinuating feigned surprise. Mom however, did not get my drift so she said it was Christmas indeed.

“Of course it’s Christmas,” I affirmed. “It just doesn’t feel like it”. Christmas is usually a big deal to me. It is my favourite season of the year. To me, it represents hope. My sisters and I have this tradition of watching Hallmark Christmas movies. For anyone who’s into them like we are, you will notice they are relatively predictable.

Most are usually premised on a love story, where a lady and a guy meet. Over time they develop feelings for each other, but then they run into what feels like an insurmountable hurdle. With determination either from both parties or just one of them, they find a grand solution to the problem and they end up together. Sometimes there’s a dash of Christmas magic…

My sisters and I are big on happy endings. Therefore it’s not hard to understand why these movies are so appealing to us. In a way, they are a representation of hope: broken families are reunited; lonely hearts find love, people who had stopped believing in the Christmas magic find a reason to believe again…  The movies are simply inundated with hope, and that’s what Christmas is all about; the wonderful gift of hope.

This year though, I have been running low on the Christmas cheer. I know a huge contributor to that has been this awful fatigue that’s been making me feel so worn out. This year has been a very busy one for me. At the start of the year I got into bar school and I only managed to come up for air when I finished my bar exams in late November.

Seemingly, the fatigue has aggravated my anxiety so I’ve been feeling on edge these last couple of weeks. Everytime I try to shake off the angst but the general atmosphere at home hasn’t helped the situation. This, I think, is what has robbed me off my Christmas cheer this season.

I know I’m not the only one who feels like the song by Pentatonix voices out their emotion, and there are several reasons this could be attributed to: it could be a family feud that has members distancing themselves from each other; or it could be because one has been hoping by the time the year ends they will have found love but they haven’t yet.

It could also be because a couple was hoping to get a child this year but they haven’t; or someone was hoping to get an end of year promotion but it didn’t come. It could also be because one’s fallen behind on paying their debts now they are drowning in arrears…the list is endless.

During the third Sunday of Advent, that is last Sunday but one, the priest gave an uplifting sermon about the joy of Christmas…and yesterday in church he reiterated what he had said then: the reason for this Christmas season is Jesus Christ.

We often think that having everything in life will make us happy. However, that is a fallacy. I remember watching Alladin, where Will Smith, who plays the genie cautions Alladin against drinking from the cup of voracious power because, not even all the money in the world could ever feel enough. That is true. The more one gets, the more they want…

In reality, the things we think might bring us joy might just turn out to be the bane of our lives: the child a couple thought would bring them joy might be the one who brings them tears and immense sadness; the spouse one waited for, for so long might be one who causes them anguish.

In light of this, we need to realize that all the joy we need can only be found in Jesus Christ. When one finds the joy of Christ, they can be happy even when they’re sick, childless, hungry…etc. That’s the joy we’re reminded to find this season. Speaking from experience, I know that’s easier said than done…but when we find that joy, everything will feel right…

I sort of got stuck on the first part of Pentatonix’ song, but towards the end, lies the answer:

Christmas is here… everywhere

If you care

If there is love in your heart and your mind

You will feel like Christmas all the time.

As we’re nearing the end of year 2019, I wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous Year 2020!

Why do you believe?

Why do you believe in God? If you heard, say through social media, that your religious leader/spiritual guide was involved in some very shady dealings, would you stop believing in God? Would you stop going to your place of worship? I know it is very easy for people to get discouraged, when they are made privy to unsettling stories about their religious leaders. Question is, should that cripple our faith in God?

A couple of years ago, I shared a post about a priest in my church who got involved in some very murky affairs, and all in the quest to have the parish priest removed from office, so he could be the parish priest.

At the time the story caught me by surprise because the parish priest at the time was a very jovial and kind man of God. He was humble and even in his interaction with people, it was difficult to fault him for any malice, hypocrisy, or anything of the sort. His kind personality notwithstanding, some devious congregants conspired with the assistant priest and came up with very serious allegations that had our parish priest suspended.

The cardinal set up a team, which set out to investigate these defamatory allegations; which included womanising and practising black magic. A couple of months later, a report was sent to our church revealing the findings of the investigation. By then, neither of the two priests was in our church.

Worse still, the entire missionary society had pulled out from our church so now we had new priests. The parish priest read the report to us and just as I had thought, the former parish priest had been found innocent. None of the sixteen allegations against him were confirmed.

On the other hand, we were informed that the conniving assistant priest had been dismissed from priesthood by the Pope. Reason being, he was found guilty of various offences, which were a violation of the sanctity of priesthood, in the strict sense; since ideally a priest is meant to be a representative of Christ on earth.

That announcement made me question many things about the church. I knew there were priests out there who molested children, or even sired children with women, yet a Catholic priest is required to be celibate…Now to add to the list, there was a priest practising black magic.

I thought about my personal interactions, with that assistant priest –for instance during confession- and I felt scared, because I wondered where he drew the line between serving God and practising black magic.

I questioned the effect of him celebrating mass, and worst of all consecrating the bread and wine to turn them into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Had any of that been real given his already tainted soul? To some extent I felt duped.

There I was, dedicating my whole soul to God, yet the person who was meant to be loosely put, ‘holier than me’ was there invoking powers from the underworld. Speaking from experience, it can be really disheartening.

Now fast-forward to the present, I have read online about this disturbing story of a priest who was found dead and it is alleged he was killed by a fellow priest. How do we trust murderers to guide us to heaven? It really is disheartening.

Then following further investigations, there’s been a twist…it is alleged, this priest was in a gay relationship and his supposed lover is the one who killed him. Technically, a priest should not even be getting involved in romantic relationships with women, leave alone men; which part of society still frowns upon. So that raises a lot of concerns, especially where believers imagine, priests are very holy people.

From where I’m sitted, I feel it is very easy to lose faith in God, if it’s premised on the holiness – or lack of it thereof- of our spiritual shepherds. I remember when I was in boarding school, there was this priest who used to come to church with blood-shot eyes, courtesy of alcoholism, and in my infantile mind I found everything wrong with that. As I was growing up however, I realised alcoholism was only the least of a priest’s shortcomings.

So with all these occurrences, how does one still ignore everything and continue attending mass, with the nagging thought at the back of the mind that the priest celebrating mass could be getting apprehended for murder, rape…etc. sooner than later?

In my humble opinion, one should nurture their faith in God, in a way that it won’t come crumbling down the minute news of a priest’s/religious leader’s flaws start spreading on social media. Normally, I discourage those around me from ‘getting prayed for’ by others. This is because, I believe praying is a gift God has given us all for free, so we don’t need ‘middle men’.

Attending mass, from a Catholic’s perspective is highly encouraged. However, one should not just be attending mass for the sake of it. One’s faith should be so strong, such that even when we hear our beloved priests committed a felony, we won’t get easily discouraged. I like to remind myself that all these spiritual shepherds are also human.

The implication of this is that, they are prone to sin like the rest of us. Therefore, one shouldn’t base all their faith in them, but in God, who has commissioned them to spread His Holy word. That way, it won’t matter what our religious guides do backstage when they are not ministering. We should always remember that when all this is over, we will stand before God, individually. It won’t matter if our spiritual guides were murderers, paedophiles, home wreckers…etc.; of importance will be, what we did with our lives…

Humble yourself and God will lift you up

Imagine you got invited to a high-end party…and when you arrive at the venue, you find seats are organized in such a way that all the VIPs have their own special area reserved, as it usually is in most cases. Therefore when you get there, you quietly (without any drama) take a seat at some table meant for the rest of the hoi polloi.

However, when the host sees you, they happily walk over to you and tell you that you’re sitted at a wrong table. Furthermore, they respectfully walk you to a seat reserved just for you at the VIP section. How amazing would that feel? I know I would be stoked.

Then, consider a contrary situation where you’re already sitted at the VIP section, then some ‘big shot’ makes their way to your table, in the company of their entourage. Judging by their flashy clothes and accessories, you surmise they are very, very important persons. In their presence you feel very small.

When almost everyone is in attendance, the host walks to the ‘big shot’ sitted at your table, and whispers something in their ear. You just watch as they rise to their feet, their face awash with palpable rage and shame. Albeit you didn’t overhear what the host whispered to them, you gather from the rest of the VIPs at your table that the person was sitted at the wrong table and should have been at the ‘commoner’s’ area; moreover, the particular seat is reserved for some other VIP.

This hypothetical scenario is based on this past Sunday’s readings in church (Luke 14: 1 – 14). Jesus was invited to the house of a ruler who belonged to the Pharisees. There, on noting the sitting arrangements, He told a parable to the guests in attendance. “When you are invited by anyone to a marriage feast, do not sit down in a place of honour, lest a more eminent man than you be invited by him.

And he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man’, and then you will begin with shame, to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher’. Then, you will be honoured in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”.

Jesus also went ahead to caution the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite friends or your brothers, or your kinsmen or rich neighbours, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just”.

Jesus’ teachings encourage us to be humble. If we don’t go around blowing our own trumpets and seeking praise from others, God will Himself uplift us. In the parable, He would be the host who invites the humble guest to sit at the high table.

Most of us thrive on publicity, and as result we end up doing things that might be deemed despicable. Case in point is Farrah Abraham’s recent ‘wardrobe malfunction’ at the Venice Film Festival. While the jury is still out on whether the ‘malfunction’ was accidental or choreographed, I’m of the humble opinion her reaction was too blasé for it to be considered inadvertent. Methinks it’s just another case of ‘Bad publicity is better than no publicity’.

Based on what I’ve gathered over time, some people gain popularity without even trying. I know some people who are so successful in life, but you wouldn’t know unless you deliberately set out on a quest to find information about them.

There are these verses of the Bible I love:

Matthew 6: 3-4: “When you help a needy person, do it in such a way that even your closest friend will not know about it. Then it will be a private matter. And your Father who sees what you do will reward you”.

Matthew 6:6: “But when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is unseen. And your Father who sees what you do in private will reward you openly”.

These verses encourage us to carry on with our affairs in confidence. Looking at it from Jesus’ perspective, one needs to be very humble for them not to go telling every one of their achievements. It really takes so much strength to keep good things to ourselves.

Sometimes we go ‘rubbing’ our achievements in people’s faces, partly out of excitement, and partly as a way of showing off. I suppose what Jesus is discouraging is pride. As the saying goes, “Pride comes before a fall”. Logically, one cannot be proud and humble at the same time. So it’s always a matter of personal choice.

 

 

 

The Narrow Door: Part 2

The thought of dying feels scary to most of us…and I imagine it’s because the afterlife would best be described as ‘unchartered waters’. Yes, there are some people who’ve come so close to following the proverbial ‘light’, when they get to that Near Death Experience (NDE); and when they regain consciousness they try to explain what they saw on the other side.

I’ve heard some chilling stories about what some people purport to have seen. In this case I’m deliberately using the word ‘purport’ because sometimes it’s hard to draw the line between what one actually experienced, and the part of it that’s just a hyperbole. One of the stories I’ve heard is about a man who died (almost died) but came back to life.

He claimed to have seen heaven and hell and interestingly, he says most of the people he saw in perdition were people who while alive were renowned servants of God; simply put, priests and pastors. Now one may ask, assuming this man was telling the truth, and that indeed the souls keeping the devil company are those of former religious leaders, then where does that leave the rest of us, who may not be that religious (in the eyes of our fellow men at least)?

In church yesterday, the priest’s sermon reminded me of that man’s NDE. The sermon was premised on the gospel about the ‘Narrow door’. In a nutshell, what this reading says is that the road to perdition is broad, and laden with flowers and all manner of good things. On the contrary, the road to Heaven is very narrow and thorny.

The basic explanation is that it’s very easy for someone to go to hell; because when one is in a moral dilemma, it’s always easy to choose the easy way out. For instance, if one is almost getting kicked out of their house because they have outstanding rent arrears, then while they’re walking on the street they come across a wallet on the ground, the financial crisis they’re in will prompt them to pick it up and use the money inside.

In essence, the right thing, in my opinion, would be to pick it up and figure out how to have it returned to the owner; say by contacting any numbers available in there. However, it is also understandable why someone would opt to use the money in it. It may not be right, but at that time it would be feeling like a tremendous blessing.

From a lawyer’s perspective, some of the cases I’ve interacted with have helped me realise that sometimes people commit grave offences, not because they have a penchant for crimes, but because difficult circumstances pushed them between a rock and a very hard place.

There’s this prayer/reflection about why saints became saints: they forgave when it was hard to forgive; they were patient when it was difficult to be patient; they were agreeable when they wanted to be disagreeable; they remained silent when they wanted to talk; and, they pushed on, even when they felt like calling it quits. What this reflection does, is that it makes one realise how hard it is to be a saint.

One of the recently canonized saints is St. Teresa of Calcutta, popularly known as ‘Mother Theresa’. The life she led, one would have to turn their back on all worldly pleasures to attain that level of holiness. She lived a very simple life serving others. Question is, how many of us are capable of that?

In the era we’re currently in, the people we celebrate as servants of God are giving us more questions than answers with regard to our quest to attaining salvation. This is because churches have been turned into money-making businesses. These ‘servants of God’ are preying on gullible people, minting money from them in the guise of ‘saying special prayers for them; or cleansing them…’

Our priest in church was saying, “Don’t be surprised if you get to heaven and find the local drunk was allowed in through the pearly golden gates, yet I’m still outside the gate begging to be allowed in. Going to church everyday, tithing, singing in the choir and joining all manner of prayer groups while commendable, are not enough to guarantee someone salvation.”

He continued, “Professing and proclaiming the name of the Lord is not enough. The life you live, must speak for itself. Because even if you dedicate most of your time to church activities, yet you don’t live a holy life, Jesus will tell you, ‘I don’t know you’. Aspire to live a life that pleases God. A life free of hypocrisy”.

His words gave me a lot to ponder on; sometimes we think because we’re always involved in church matters and always attending services/mass, we’re already guaranteed a place in heaven; and that those we perceive to be wayward will automatically go to hell? That is a huge misconception. Only God knows each person’s heart. The only thing we can do for ourselves is try to live holy lives, by following His precepts.