Tag Archives: God

These jars that we are…

Ever been in a situation where you’re travelling, you’re done packing…or at least you think you have, and then you realise there are a few precious items you forgot and there’s no more space left? Normally, the first instinct is to try figure what’s not so important, so that it (they) can be taken out to create space for the more important things.

Essentially, that’s how we human beings are fashioned. We’re like jars; and as is common with jars, they do fill up at some point. So the million dollar question is, what’s your jar filled up with? Are they things which under normal circumstances you would want to get rid of? Personally I know there are so many things I would want to get rid of.

A couple of days ago I got a chance to listen to one of Joel Osteen’s enlightening sermons. It was edifying, Joel likened human beings to jars. He said that if one’s jar is filled with guilt, self-pity, anger…etc. there will be no room for good things like peace, love, confidence…

Every once in a while when I’m talking to my sisters, I’ll remind them that if one’s worrying too much about something it diminishes one’s faith, because one can’t believe in God and be afraid at the same time. That’s the same thing Joel said; if one’s jar is filled with anxiety, that takes up the space for peace and serenity. If one allows their inner voice to convince them they’re always making the wrong choices, then that takes up the space for confidence.

If we want to receive God’s blessings, then we must create space. So, like that suitcase we need to empty out to make space for a few valuables we left out, we need to empty our jars to make room for the good things God needs to fill us up with.

Empty out the anxiety, the anger; empty out that self-pity, that self-loathing; let go off of the remorse that has been burdening you…for all those things happening in your life that you don’t understand, let go off the thousands of questions which have been tormenting you; and God, who’s got everything in control will fill you with peace that surpasses all understanding.

It’s only by so doing, that we’re going to receive God’s blessings in our lives. Life’s too short to dwell on the negatives, and much as we may all agree unanimously that being happy is an uphill task, emptying out all the negatives will create room for joy and cheer.

Joel Osteen made me think of something I’ve never thought of before. In a hypothetical setting, Mary the mother of Jesus, bumps into another woman in heaven; the mother of Judas Iscariot. If you were Mary, how would you deal with her, taking into consideration the painful and humiliating death her innocent son was subjected to, thanks to Judas’ betrayal?

Most of us usually strive to get over the painful moments we’ve gone through in life. That might be a very high bar that will likely put us under so much pressure. Truth is, we might never get past the pain and the hurt, but we should endeavour to get past it; and gradually we’ll get to a point where that pain doesn’t feel like an earth-shattering experience. It’s just a matter of getting rid of the bad things, so that we can create space for the good things.

Like Joel said, we shouldn’t go through life looking through the rear-view mirror. The voice of the enemy will be there, reminding us incessantly of the failures we’ve had in life; the wrong choices we’ve made…but that’s the past. If we hold on too tightly to it, we won’t have space in our hands to receive the immeasurable blessings God showers upon us.

So when the enemy reminds you of your past, remind him of his future; he ain’t got one, because God’s got it all in control.

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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.

A world at war

france church attack

When I was a child the one thing I hated most on TV was news. I hated news with a passion. If by bad luck I found myself watching news and was in a situation where I couldn’t leave the room, I would cover my ears with my hands, just so I wouldn’t hear what was being read out. Yeah, it was that bad. But it wasn’t difficult to figure why I felt that way about news; I’ve never liked anything which revolves around horror and on a typical day, the things one hears on the news are about accidents, bombings, political wars, starvation and such horrid stuff.

Thankfully, as I was growing up, my attitude towards news changed gradually as I developed a liking for matters politics. So now I can’t say I hate news. However, I’m sure if I was a child at the moment, I would possibly hate news more than I even did before. Reason being, it’s too depressing watching news.

Wednesday for instance, I woke up to the news of the France church attack in St. –Étienne-Du-Rouvray, where an 85 year old priest was killed. The attack was allegedly carried out by two radical Islamists, one of whom was identified as a 19-year old man.

Not too long ago, there was the Turkey airport attack, and the other attack in Nice, France, where a Tunisian-born French national mowed through a crowd of people in a truck, zig-zagging past the masses and shooting to maximize the number of deaths. In that incident, at least 84 people were killed, among them children. An eye-witness said bodies were just falling like bowling pins. It was gut-wrenching.

Following the inhumane attack in Normandy, the Pope expressed pain and horror at such callousness, where a priest was brutally murdered in his own church. He said the world was at war, but it wasn’t religious.

I can’t begin to explain what I felt when I heard of the attack. It’s impossible to comprehend why two human beings, in their right minds would think of killing a priest. If a man of God, standing before a sacred altar can’t be deemed as an innocent, then life has lost meaning; the world is indeed coming to an end.

I’ve tried to understand why innocent people are being killed like worthless bugs, and there’s no reason in the world that could possibly make me see the sense in such wanton murders. Guys who knew the 19-year old said he always had sadistic ideas, which they said were based on wrong quotations of the Quran and each time they would try to talk him out of it.

What I refuse to understand, is how someone would boldly, and unprovoked, take innocent lives in the name of God/religion. One thing I’m pretty sure of is that God wouldn’t be in favour of such ruthless killings. If the same God this attackers claim to kill in the name of, is the same one the rest of the Muslim population serves, then why are they against it? Why do Muslim clerics condemn it? Isn’t this a clear indication to these attackers that what they’re doing is absolutely wrong?

Reports say that the Muslim community mourned in the wake of the Normandy attack. Doesn’t this say something to those few who have made it their business to go killing innocent people? Islam is a beautiful religion. I have many friends who are Muslims and they are wonderful people. So why would a few misguided individuals want to sully that?

When I heard of the attack, I was like, “Not again!” My heart bled; for the victims and for the Muslim population. For the former because of the loss of life, and for the trauma the survivors must have suffered; and for the latter, because of how their religion keeps being painted in such bad light.

Pope Francis said the world was at war, but it wasn’t a religious one and I agree with him. I reckoned, every religion has a few ‘bad apples’; individuals who can’t help but create a bad image for that particular religion. So does that justify the rest of the world to judge a religion harshly because of those misguided few? I would think not.

In my case for instance, I would really hate it if someone thought my church was full of paedophiles because a few priests have been accused of molesting children. In that same light, it wouldn’t be fair to label all Muslims terrorists because of the few who go about perpetuating cold-blooded killings in the name of Islam; because one thing I’ve gathered is that Islam explicitly condemns terrorism. In any case, Islam respects all human beings and faiths.

What I’m trying to get at is simple; there are too many problems globally. It would be calamitous, if God-forbid, we converted them into a religious war. There are diverse religions in the world, each with its own beliefs and practices. Instead of letting those differences divide us, we should embrace them and respect them, appreciating that it’s those same differences which make us unique. The world would be such a boring place if we were all alike, don’t you think?

The way I see it, instead of shunning our neighbours because they don’t share the same beliefs we do, we should respect them; and if there are issues in conflict, the best way to solve them would be to do a little research so we can get enlightened. That way, we won’t harbour unfounded suspicions, which are merely based on ignorant hearsay.

united religions

God’s greatest command to mankind is to love; and it’s not hard to understand why. Love is that magical cord, which binds us all together, irrespective of our numerous differences. Now, more than ever before, the world needs love, not war.

 

What will people think about me?

Saint Joseph

Whom to please, God or man?

How many times have you found yourself conflicted about whom to please? To please God, or to do all you can to please fellow men. Many times most of us find ourselves at odds, especially when it’s something we feel we need to do so we can look cool; so we don’t lose credibility in our friends’ eyes, yet doing that precise thing would make us fall from God’s grace.

During this period, as we count down minutes to the birth of Christ, we get to learn from the story of a man, who is not celebrated a lot- he fades into the background once the star of the season (Jesus) comes to the scene; and not to mention His Blessed mother- a virgin, who conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We’re going to focus on the story of Joseph, Jesus’ father, because from him there’s so much to learn. As most of us are aware of, Joseph and Mary were Jews, and at the time Mary conceived, she and Joseph were not married. They were only engaged and had therefore not consummated their relationship.

Actually, at the time, so much would have gone wrong if God-forbid they had engaged in coitus before being married. For starters, Mary would probably have been stoned to death for engaging in sexual immorality. Now that brings me to Joseph. When Mary had that Immaculate Conception, he obviously knew the baby wasn’t his and he could have done what the men of this generation do without a tinge of remorse.

“He’s not mine!” Joseph would have denied vehemently, and unlike the guilty men who just bail on women they had been involved intimately with when they say they are pregnant, his denial would have been warranted. We, who have been enlightened about the story of Jesus of Nazareth, know Mary was a virgin when she conceived.

Joseph, however, did anything but. I’m thinking, if he was from this era we live in, he would have called Mary all those unholy names after making it clear that the baby she was expecting was not his. And maybe, just maybe, he would have called the authorities on her, given that they lived in a time when all these sexual shenanigans people from this era partake of so indiscreetly, would have cost them their lives.

But contrary to what would have been expected of a guy in his position, he accepted Mary. He didn’t care that maybe all those who knew the baby wasn’t his would have had him ostracized. The thing about most of us, is that we’re inherently afraid of being shunned by society, so whenever we feel like our actions might get us rejected by the larger society, we cower and do what will keep our relationships intact, caring less about what God will think of us.

Basically, if Joseph did what most us would have expected him to do, he wouldn’t have accepted Jesus because deep down he knew that was not his son. He would even have accused Mary of lying. I mean, just think, how often do women get pregnant by Immaculate Conception? It was just that one time; and Joseph believed it. He didn’t go all berserk, accusing her of whoring. God forbid!

Obviously, as the story goes, God intervened: Joseph contemplated breaking up with Mary but as he didn’t want to humiliate her in public, he planned on doing it in private; however, when he was asleep an angel of god appeared to him, asking him not to break the engagement as she had conceived by the Holy Spirit and the child would save mankind from sin. (Matthew 1:18-24)

But then again, how many times does the Holy Spirit speak to us and we blatantly ignore? I would say, severally. Joseph, however, listened to the voice of God, and accepted that Mary had been chosen to be the mother of Christ, and he unquestioningly, agreed to become the father of Jesus.

Joseph didn’t do what he thought would save him from people’s derision; he chose to follow the will of God. Now, years later, we talk about him, awed by his submission to the will of God. Chances are if he had acted in fear-fear of being rejected by society-he would have disobeyed God and by so doing, he would have earned God’s wrath, instead of blessings.

Prayer to St. Joseph

We have so much to learn from that. Whenever we find ourselves at a crossroads, where we’re not sure whether to follow God’s will and be shunned by society or do good in people’s eyes but displease God in the process, we should take comfort in Joseph’s story. Following the will of God will always earn us blessings.

Knowing how much pressure people find themselves subjected to whenever they have to make some very conflicting choices, it’s not hard to understand why, or even how people end up making choices that make them fall from God’s grace. We shouldn’t get discouraged though. These problems we face are not unique to us. They happened before and as it is, Joseph’s story should encourage us all.

The question to ask is not, “What will people think about me?” but rather, “What will God think about me?”

It’s better to be at war with all of society and be at peace with God, than be loved by all of humanity but lose favour in the eyes of God.

And because tomorrow is Christmas, I wish you all the merriest of Christmases. May the new Christ child be born in our hearts.

Christmas

 

Lord, help me know your ways

Because the Lord is righteous and good, He teaches sinners the path they should follow.

He leads the humble in the right way and teaches them His will.

With faithfulness and love He leads all who keep His covenant and obey His commandments. (Psalms 25: 8-10)

Today is the first Sunday of Advent (the period preceding Christmas). I just can’t believe how the time has flown. This would be that part where I just stare into space and ask, “Where did all the time go?”

Christmas is practically right around the corner. That still sounds hard to believe. People have actually started putting up Christmas decorations because in less than a month we’ll be celebrating the birth of Christ. Would you believe that?

Many people around the world –Christians and non-Christians alike- are waiting excitedly for that festive season. To the former it is because the birth of Christ signifies so much; new beginnings and all, whereas to the latter it’s about the festivities; fun trips, parties, gifts…merrymaking and all.

In my opinion, Christmas also shows that the year is coming to end. We’re counting days now, before we cross over to Year 2016. That means this is that time of the year when we start evaluating whether we achieved the resolutions we set when the New Year was starting.

The verse above (in italics) was our responsorial psalm in church today, and it had me thinking about a few things.

Primarily, it’s a prayer, asking for God’s guidance. That reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend a few weeks ago. We were talking about relationships and he asked me how one knows when they’ve found ‘the one’.

As I’m not a love guru, I answered him based on my Christian belief and a few experiences. For starters, I am of the opinion that relationships don’t last nowadays. And if I was to put in my two cents worth on the matter, I would say it’s because majority of us lost track of what people should be looking for in relationships. If for instance, two people get together for financial reasons, it goes without saying that if God-forbid the money runs out, even the relationship goes, ‘bye-bye’.

There’s this one time my sisters and I paid our paternal grams a visit and she was saying, “Nowadays young people are spending too much money on weddings, even taking loans to fund those extravagant events, yet very few of them are lasting for more than five years”.

So what’s the problem really?

I feel many people have turned away from God. Sex is not sacred anymore, in any case it’s been reduced into a currency that the better of us give in exchange for goods and services; people worship money, such that the penurious are treated like pariahs, who don’t have a place in society; and because of this importance we’ve attached to money, people are doing just about anything to get it. We’re practically ignoring all that’s right because as most ask, “How far will being good get you?”

In my humble opinion, we should go back to God. Seek His guidance in all that we do, and He will never fail us. Regarding the question my friend asked me about knowing when you’ve found the right partner, I told him to pray. That sounds cliché I know, but it’s something I learned from experience.

See there’s this guy I was so into; I even told my mom about him because I was almost sure he was the one I would be spending forever with. He proposed informally and that put me in that place where I knew the decision I would make would be one of the most important ones I’d be making in my life. So I embarked on praying, asking God to help me make the right choice.

It’s been a few years since then and given that I’m still single, it obviously means I said no. In the course of the brief relationship we had, I found out a few things, which if I had found out later, we would have divorced. Point is, praying feels a bit overrated, especially for those who haven’t established that personal connection with God, but it actually works.

However, there’s one thing I believe; for as long as the sun shines and the earth rotates in its axis, we’ll always need God; whether we realize it or not. And like my friend asked me, “How do you know you’re making the right choice?”

My answer was, “God will grant you that discernment, to know what is right or wrong. The conviction will be so strong and everything around you will point towards the right thing/person. You will know it.”

Therefore, as we prepare our hearts to welcome the new-born Christ in our hearts, and as we assess the decisions we’ve been making since the year began, it’s imperative that we seek God’s guidance in all we do, and trust me; God never fails those who rely on Him.

“Teach me your ways, O Lord;

Make them known to me.

Teach me to live according to your truth,

for you are my God, who saves me.

I always trust in you. (Psalms 25: 4-5).

Matters Faith

Matters faith

In my opinion, when it comes to matters faith, there are basically two categories of believers, who can further be grouped into four other sub groups:-

  1. The suffering believers
  2. The content believers

The suffering believers are fundamentally those who are immersed in unimaginable perils or typical glitches that could be feeling a little weighty at the moment. They can be divided into two:

  •  those who drift further away from God because they believe He abandoned them and that’s why they’re suffering;
  •  then of course there are those who trust God more at that time because they put their faith in Him to find a way out of their problems.

The content believers are those who are satisfied with the current state of affairs. They can be divided into two:

  • those who drift away from God when they are happy because they are in that bubble of bliss, which bursts eventually and it’s only then that they realize that they can never live without God; think the prodigal son…
  •  then again there are those who get closer to God at this time because they believe it’s only by God’s mercy that they have been able to enjoy the good moments in their life.

Point is, whether we’re struggling beneath the weight of overwhelming miseries, or are in a place in life where we feel life couldn’t be better, the situation we’re in, whether good or bad could determine the relationship we have with God. And it’s a choice we make…

Sometimes when life is too good we drift further and further from God, when we’re too caught up chasing the pleasures of life. One wakes up in the morning but because they are in good health and have servants at their every beck and call and money to indulge their every whim, they forget to say thank you for it all.

Truth is, we don’t always have to present ourselves before God when we need favours from Him. It’s only right that when He grants us our desires we thank Him; and even for those irking situations, because if we remain positive, we’ll see the good in those painful moments.

Unfortunately, our sinful human nature deters us from doing so. More often than not, I have heard a sick person say they can’t wait to get better because in more ways than one, the illness is curtailing their lives in ways so unimaginable.

When they recuperate, they realize that being healthy is not something that should be taken for granted. Looking at it from that perspective, I believe that while the majority of us might hate being in less desirable situations in life, we can choose to look at it from the ‘glass-is-half-full’ perspective: it’s only when we’re freezing during the chilly weather that we realize how much we need the sun; and when the sun’s blistering hot and we can’t stop whining, that’s when we realize we need the rain; we momentarily forget how much we detest mud.

In short, unpleasant situations in life make us appreciate the really good moments. As it is though, in life nothing is constant. Today someone is seated at the helm of a prestigious company; next thing you know they’re church-mouse poor because the company was declared bankrupt;

or maybe one is so healthy today, and tomorrow they’re moving from one doctor to another hoping to get a different diagnosis because they’ve recently discovered they’re suffering from a chronic illness. Such is life; no one knows what the next minute holds.

One thing I know though, is that the God who was there before those who came and went before us, is the same one who still reigns. He makes the earth rotate in its axis, clothes the ground with beautiful greenery and flowers.

If one is in a situation where they are struggling, they should remember the same God who provided for them before is still the one who reigns and will therefore grant them their heart’s desires when the time is right. So one shouldn’t let despair get the better of them.

If on the other hand one is feeling really blessed because for some glorious reason everything is falling into place, they should remember to hold on to God, because He who gave them all that gladdens their heart could take it all back if He deemed it fit; say when someone becomes too arrogant because their bank accounts are bursting at the seams and they could buy anything money can get them, so the need to be humble escapes them.

Whatever stage we’re in, we should remember nothing in life is constant; and as the cliché goes, ‘life is full of surprises’. What we need to always remember though, is that God never changes; and neither do His ways. If we don’t have what we need today, it’s not because He hates us. And when humility feels like a needless task because we have everything we could possibly want, we should remember that tomorrow could be a very different day.

Either way, we need God. When we’re happy, we should thank God and remember to treat everyone else with kindness. We shouldn’t wait for life to deal us tragic blows for us to grasp the whole concept of humility; and if we don’t have, we shouldn’t be bitter, despising all those who are blessed, because when our time comes, God will bless us too.

Of temptations and Lent

Jesus in the wilderness

“We’re all in the desert”. Those were the priest’s words during mass as we celebrated the first Sunday of lent. Today’s gospel was on Jesus’ stay in the desert for forty days and nights (Mark 1: 12-15). In the olden ‘Biblical’ days, it was believed that demons resided in the desert.

Ergo, when Jesus went to the desert, He put Himself at ‘a risk’…not that the demons would have done anything to Him, no matter how desperately they desired it. However, that just goes to show the magnitude of His suffering for those forty days He stayed there. I’m imagining it was like head-to-head; with every demon giving it their best shot so they could brag they’re the ones who annihilated the Son of the Almighty God.

Satan, the father of all evil, tempted Him but Jesus remain steadfast; his faith unwavering, as He prepared Himself for the excruciating pain He knew lay ahead of Him during His passion. Based on what we read in the bible, He wouldn’t have wished such agonizing pain upon His own self, but only agreed to it as that was His Father’s will. Forty days later He was out of the desert, having triumphed over Satan.

In the Genesis story of how Lucifer – a once hallowed angel- came to be the father of all evil, we’re told that He wanted to have the same power as God. Subsequently, God kicked Him out of Heaven and damned him to hell – the eternal pit of fire.

Angry and vengeful, Lucifer waged war against God, promising to turn the same men He’d created in His own image against Him. With that he set up camp on earth, determined to live up to his threat. From then on, temptations became the order of the day as he tried to win more and more souls for himself and slowly, the world became full of evil as brother turned against brother, shedding blood callously… and the rest, as they say, is history.

This, I believe, is what the priest had in mind when he said we’re all living in a desert. Satan walks in our midst, doing his best so we can all sell our souls to him. More often than not, we find ourselves at crossroads, trying to choose between the real right decision that might not be the most pleasant or even easy to achieve and the easy decision which appears more appealing but which invariably turns out to be another one of Satan’s numerous traps.

For instance, someone’s marriage is on the rocks. Right when they are in the middle of that crisis, another person comes along promising them the moon. So instead of working on the breaking marriage, which might actually turn out to be the best decision in the end, one opts to get into a secret affair with the ‘stranger’.

Eventually, one learns first hand that ‘it’s better the demon you know than the angel you don’t’, when everything with the ‘stranger’ moves from rosy to disastrous. It’s all part of the devil’s schemes to get back at God; problem is, were the ones caught in between; and he strikes when we’re most vulnerable.

The painful fact is that for as long as the earth rotates in its axis, and the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, there will always be temptations; moreover, based on the strength of our faith, chances are we will fall sometimes.

We may not be in a situation to help it but there’s a solution; to pray without ceasing. Lent is that time of the year when we’re called to reflect on our actions – what we’ve done and what we’ve failed to do – and how all that affects our relationship with God.

Mostly, we fall into temptations because of the problems we encounter in our lives. If we’re going through a difficult phase in our lives, the bible tells us to pray, believe that God has heard our prayers and then wait patiently without worrying.

Not worrying, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts is easier said than done, but once we get into the habit of entrusting God with those ‘impossible’ problems, we will realize the benefits that come with it. We will wade through those murky waters and come out victorious, just like Jesus did.

So don’t forget; the secret really, is to pray, pray and pray some more. Additionally, the pillars of lent, are prayer, fasting and alms giving –helping those in need; and as I’ve said before, anyone – irrespective of faith/religion- can take this Lenten season as a period to reflect, and to see what they can do to be better than they were yesterday.