Tag Archives: Christianity

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.

 

Angry because God is taking too long to come through?

Have you been praying incessantly, and after months, or even years of waiting you’ve still got nothing to show for your devotion to God? Are you so angry with God that you’re praying less and less, and slowly you feel your faith has been waning? If the above describes your situation, then this post is meant for you.

In church this past weekend, the priest was telling us about the importance of effective communication in a relationship. Ordinarily, most relationships break down because the parties are unable to communicate with each other.

When someone is hurting because their partner did something they didn’t agree with, the problem is resolved easily when they can express their emotions. That way, even if the other person didn’t know they had done something wrong, the minute that issue is brought to their attention, they start making amends.

Normally when a couple is preparing to get married in church, one of the essential parts of their preparation is going through counselling by a church minister or a priest. During this counselling, they are usually advised to be open with each other. This is because where there is no communication in a home, a minor disagreement generates into a glaring chasm, which at some point becomes impossible to fix.

This is the same thing that happens with us when we stop communicating with God. Our relationship with Him gets affected. In light of this, the priest was telling us to learn to communicate with God. If you feel angry because God is taking too long to grant your wishes, have that conversation with Him.

Tell him Him you’re angry…you’re frustrated…and you feel life is becoming unbearable. Break your problems down from the first to the last, making clear what is bugging you about the whole situation.

Now, you might be thinking, “But God is infinitely wise and He already knows my problems”. That is true. He does know all your problems. Essentially, the importance of this exercise is to decongest your thoughts, and chest. Personally I find it very therapeutic when I take time to meditate, having that deep conversation with God. Then when you’re done, ask God to guide you on the way forward because you feel lost.

This exercise is very important because when you stop communicating with God, despair sets in and before you know it, your faith becomes history…and I know, once someone’s faith weakens, rekindling it becomes a herculean task.

From experience, I find it calming when I know God has everything under control. So with regard to all matters faith, it’s advisable for us to talk with God, telling Him how we feel. If you’re feeling God has abandoned you, or He’s taking it too long to act, tell Him about it today…

Sentenced to death!

Imagine you were this very down-to-earth person. You lived an exceptionally good life; fed the hungry, took care of the sick, sheltered the homeless. Where there were issues of rights violations, you sought to help the aggrieved persons find that highly craved justice.

Slowly I’ve come to realise that the word justice is at the tip of almost everyone’s tongues. Sadly, it’s a very emotive issue which only remains a mirage; the desolate yearn for it and wake up every morning, hoping to find it. The ‘authorities’ on the other hand, avoid it like a plague and pull all possible strings to ensure the common citizenry don’t even come remotely near it.

Moved by the plight of these dejected people, you do all in your power to help them resolve their issues. In short, you are the epitome of a saint. But as this is not some delusional utopia where everyone advocates for good, you become an irritating prickly thorn in the flesh of all those who are in one way or another inconvenienced by your saintly actions; say corrupt officials, who feel you’re upsetting status quo by opening people’s eyes to the rampant evil being perpetrated against them by those in power.

Furthermore, majority of the hoi polloi can’t quite comprehend how someone walking the streets in a world shrouded by moral depravity could be so good for real. So they presume it’s just another case of some shrewd charlatan trying to act all ‘holier-than-thou’ and stuff… and obviously, from that erroneous presumption stems deep-sitted loathing.

The self-proclaimed ‘saints’ on the other hand, who should at least try to understand you for God’s sake, fault you for blaspheming their God, because you claim to have some special relations with Him. He is your Father; and the world just can’t take it. You’re too much… and therefore must be eliminated.

Eventually, you’re brought to trial for ‘being so good’… It’s preposterous, isn’t it? The officials, whose wicked ways wouldn’t let your saintly ways drive them out of business, are only very eager to have you silenced permanently. Unsurprisingly, people are so willing to give you away.

You realise, everyone hates you. Everyone’s against you; even the ones you helped when they were in dire in need refuse to stand by you. The only people who know and love you are a measly handful; who essentially, are your family and those in your inner circle.

After awfully skewed deliberations, the verdict is given. You’re sentenced to death by being nailed to the cross. It’s the most shameful way to die. You’re stripped off your clothes and displayed on a windy hill for all and sundry to see. Weak, and helpless, you watch, as the people you tried so hard to fight for jeer at you, watering down all the good you did…

What they don’t know is, that you were neither a charlatan, nor some self-righteous ‘goody-two-shoes’. You are who you claimed to be; merciful, kind, and loving all unconditionally. Better still, you know The Almighty God on a very personal level.

As a result of that, even in that dejected moment, when your scourged body is bleeding out, and your heartbeat is growing fainter, you still hope that someday, all those who have rejected you will understand and accept the principles you so bravely championed for; and subsequently accept you.

Ultimately, in one final act of love, you ask God to forgive them, for they knew not what they were doing. You’re so good, that even in that searing pain you can’t harbour any grudges against them.

And you breathe your last!

Taking all that humiliation into consideration, imagine you had some supernatural powers… Knowing my human weaknesses, which I try so hard to overcome, smiting with lightning immediately comes to mind…

Today is Good Friday, and we’re commemorating the death of that baby born on Christmas day. He died such a shameful death, when he was just at the peak of His youth. And if you’re wondering what he was guilty of, His love for us nailed Him to the cross. He was the Paschal sacrifice, whose blood was meant to wash our sins away.

This Easter, we’re called to reflect on that great love, that made Jesus give His life up for us. There are many lessons to learn from His Passion. Now, the onus is on us; to reject Him, or to accept Him and follow the precepts He died advocating for: to love God above all; to love one another and to follow the Will of God in our daily lives. He too accepted His Father’s will; to die on the cross, knowing only too well, that it would be a harrowing experience.

I wish you a very blessed Easter.

 

Close of the Year of the Divine Mercy

divine-mercy

Last Sunday but one marked the close of the year of the Divine Mercy. That sounds weird I know; because God’s mercy is timeless and lasts for all time. However, this year we have been celebrating the year of God’s Divine Mercy. Thinking of what that title alludes to; the hopes and promises… it’s so easy to get discouraged if those prayers don’t come to fruition just yet.

That’s the situation my family and I find ourselves in. We’d hoped this year would somehow bring some relief after all we’ve been through but as this year comes to end what we feel is utter discouragement. Most of the things we had prayed would come to pass didn’t.

In any case things seemed to have gotten worse. For instance, dad’s drinking worsened and he squandered most of the money he had set aside for our school fees. So now we’re always getting in constant arguments with him because of that. Additionally, he completely neglected mom completely so basically the only thing that keeps them together is the marriage certificate.

Since he works out of town, he only comes home when he needs to withdraw a large amount of money from the bank. Normally he will call her to notify he’s coming home but as it is he’ll just take a detour, to some nearby bar and by the time he comes home it will be the next day at dawn, in a drunken stupor. It goes without saying that in that state there can be no civil conversation between him and anyone. When he talks it’s usually annoying because all he does is offend everyone.

Later in the afternoon he’ll wake up and go back to the bar. In all honesty, I cannot remember the last time I saw him eating at home. Mom, as a result of this, has been so stressed lately. If it wasn’t for the fact that I believe marriages are meant to be for keeps –in good times and bad times- I’d suggest she file for divorce and subsequently institute proceedings to get a church annulment.

Whatever little faith I had in matters marriage has completely waned. Now I feel like marriage is just a prison; an institution that one walks in filled with hope but gradually closes in on someone, leaving them constricted and without a way out. Mom’s a prisoner of love, and this year has left me absolutely doubtless that if she had married a different man she would have been very happy. A far-fetched dream from the misery, that is her life.

So now that the year of the Divine Mercy is behind us, I’m almost feeling desperate. Our lives completely denote the saying, that ‘the more things change, the more they remain the same’; even with everything around us changing, the only constant has been problems; which obviously everyone has. But my faith in God keeps reminding me that all hope is not lost because God’s mercy is timeless.

I would imagine there are very many people who are in similar situations; feeling spent because life seems to continue kicking even when someone’s already down. However, there’s one thing I refuse to give up on; hope. So if you’re feeling like my family and I are, don’t give up just yet. There’s hope. I know that because there’s this deep conviction I have that God listens; so if you have been praying and hoping, that big break is in the offing. Believe it…faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains, remember?

All through, since I became aware of my own existence, I’ve always believed God never disappoints those who hope in Him; and more often than not, He’s proved me right. So today, even if you’re feeling distraught, don’t give up; because tomorrow we’ll be a better day. Why, you ask? Because He lives.

Special three!

blog anniversary 2

Today, 8th May is a special day. For three main reasons:

We celebrate the Ascension of our Lord Jesus. The church commemorates the day He went back to heaven, after which He sent us His helper- The Holy Spirit. A day (Pentecost) we’ll be celebrating next Sunday. The caring God He is, He ensured we would never be alone.

During mass the mass the priest told us about this man who died and went to heaven. When he got there, God showed him the life he’d led when he was on earth. The man watched as his life was displayed before him. He realized that all through there were footprints left behind. There were two pairs of footprints. However, he realized that at a time in his life when he had been going through so much tribulation, there was only one pair of footprints.

Turning to Jesus he asked him, “You left me at a time when I needed you most. Why?”

“Never did I leave your side,” Jesus replied. “Those two footprints you see are mine. I carried you, when you couldn’t walk on your own.”

The man was speechless.

I bet if we had a conversation with Jesus we would ask him the same. ‘Why he left us when we needed him most’. Sometimes I feel like I’m alone. But obviously that’s never the case; because we’re never alone. God’s always there with us. We just need to believe that and push on, even when we feel like life couldn’t get worse.

Today as we celebrate the Ascension of Christ, we should remember that we are never alone. God made sure of that. If ever we get to a point where we feel alone, we should just trust that He’s right there with us and push on.

Ascension

The second reason why this is a very special day is the fact that today we’re celebrating our beloved mothers. I wish all the mothers out there the happiest of mothers’ day. Personally I celebrate my mom. She’s impacted my life so greatly. The suffering she’s gone through so my sisters and I can make it in life has taught me a lot. She sacrificed, and still continues to sacrifice her happiness so we could at least have a shot at life.

It hasn’t been easy one bit, but from her experiences I understand what motherhood is all about; or at least I think I do. One thing I know without a  shadow of a doubt is that being a mother is a full time job and given that it’s not something a woman can just delegate, it’s just about the hardest job in the world.

I remember this post I once read about a mother’s job. Can’t remember the exact details but in a nutshell, a mother’s job is like a ‘medley’ of jobs. A mother is a care-giver; she’s a teacher; she’s a doctor… a mother is many things. If God-forbid I didn’t have my mom, I couldn’t possibly start to imagine where I would be right now… she’s been there to help me through difficult times; seeming strong even when everything around me was crumbling…

Because of her, I have felt the healing touch of a mother’s love. I acknowledge that no one’s perfect and for that, even she has had her own shortcomings. Even so, I couldn’t have asked for a better mom. I love her, and I cherish her.

Happy mothers’ day to all the mothers.

happy mothers' day

The third reason why this day is special is because today I’m celebrating my blog’s third anniversary. It’s really hard to believe that this blog is now three years old, and counting… I haven’t been blogging much lately but I’m so grateful to all my readers; for your patience and understanding, especially where I go for weeks before replying to comments. It’s never intentional. There’s so much going on in my life right now…

blog anniversary

I cherish you all. Because without you, I wouldn’t have the motivation to write…much as I find it therapeutic. Thank you for your continued support, and encouragement.

So today, I celebrate the Ascension of Christ, all mothers in the world, my blog’s third anniversary and my readers. Such a special day!