Tag Archives: God’s will

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.

Here’s to… my first legal job: Part 2

Earlier that day, my boss had arrived at the court late, and somehow thought it would be wise to put the blame on me. This was despite the fact that I had found someone to hold brief for him, requesting for the case file to be set aside. I had even notified him about it, detailing what had transpired in court in his absence, and even texted him the exact time the matter would be coming up again.

However, previous incidents of me shouldering blame for faults that were not mine had made me realize I could not continue carrying myself as a martyr. I would only, own up to my mistakes. Furthermore, stoicism wasn’t working for me, because the anguish was ravaging me, from the inside.

That day, a fellow colleague and I were summoned to my boss’ office, to be reprimanded for being incompetent. The lady partner was also present, and all she was doing was fanning dying embers. That is when it became vividly clear, what her intentions were. She did not like me one bit and she would do whatever it took to make my time there miserable as hell.

Unbelieving, and unable to fathom what was happening right in front of me, I explained to my boss all the concerns I had; all of which he seemed to understand. For the first time in a while, I felt the weight on my chest ease. I laid everything bare, detailing the instances they had faulted me for their own mistakes.

Afterwards, my boss went back to how he was in January; calm, and soft-spoken. However, that was not meant to last, as I would later discover. Two weeks ago, my colleague and I expressed our concerns about going to work amid the coronavirus outbreak, seeing how fast it is spreading and our work entailed filing matters in court and serving. On a good day I would spend about two hours in the office. The rest I spent out, running office errands.

The boss’ reply was, if we skipped work without leave, we would not get paid. Given what was at stake, I opted to pass on the money, and so did my friend. We even agreed to quit because the office was becoming too toxic. As my friend had put it, even other colleagues had started showing their true colours.

One thing I’m not sure I like about the legal profession, is that there’s a hierarchy, where someone is regarded, based on when they were admitted to the bar-‘seniority’. In layman’s term, it is an equivalent to how in the society young people are supposed to respect their elders. In this case, an ‘elder’ could be a twenty six year old, who was lucky enough to join the profession early, lording it over a fifty year old, who decided to become a lawyer after completing a PhD in an entirely different field.

Therefore, due to this concept of seniority, the ones at the bottom of the chain such as my friend and I, who are merely pupils, might end up getting overworked or maltreated by the rest. That is something my boss’ partner was keen on implementing, because she told my boss succinctly, that pupils should be the ones doing the bulk of the work.

This is what made my friend and I opt to skip work, given that most of the work assigned to us was clerical work, which ordinarily would be assigned to the firm’s clerk, or a certified process server. Next thing I knew, I was reading a letter of summary dismissal. Honestly, the letter caught me by surprise because I had not done anything to warrant dismissal.

Here’s to… my first legal job: Part 1

Toast to 1

Last year December was not a very good time for me, reason being, I was so anxious about starting my pupillage. See, I went for my interview in mid-August when I was still in bar school. At the time I was still preparing for my bar exams. Ergo, the mere thought of starting on a tasking job was automatically out of topic.

My supposed pupil master seemed so eager to send me on errands, even before I formally started working. Due to this, I feared once I started working, he would overwork me. I had heard several ‘horror’ stories about other students’ horrible experience during their pupillage, so that made me very cautious. I prayed I would not have one of my own to give after my pupillage.

However, when I reported to work in January this year, everything I had worried about seemed like an unnecessary fear. The first few weeks felt like heaven. Every evening when I got home, I would go to bed eagerly awaiting to rouse early the next day, so I could go to work. My job, actually felt like a dream job.

In late January my good work relationship with my boss  turned sour abruptly, and my ‘dream job’ became the sole cause of my anguish. I dreaded going to work, and whenever I sensed my boss’ presence, I would get knots in my stomach. I hated being at work, because every encounter with my boss was awfully stressful.

I bet one would wonder what I did to damage my once good relationship with my boss? Saddest thing is, even if I went back in time, I wouldn’t be able to change a thing; because all of that was not because of anything I had done.

See during the first few weeks, my boss’ partner was still MIA. I had only met her once during an end of year party I had been invited to by my boss. Funny thing is, my instincts told me she and I would have trouble getting along. Interestingly, at the time she had not done anything specific; it was just my intuition.

When she finally started showing up at the office constantly, she and my immediate boss started having constant impromptu meetings. Coincidentally, every time they met up to discuss ‘God knows what’, my boss would become visibly hostile towards me. My guess is, she had admonished him about seeming too friendly. Consequently, he started nit-picking, invariably blaming me for everyone else’s faults, literally. Sometimes I even got the weird feeling he was getting a kick out of making me miserable.

I know this might sound like I’m trying to ward off blame, but truth is, my personal work ethic dictates that when I’m working on something, I should give it my best shot. For the longest time, that has been my guiding principle. Even at the office, everything was running smoothly, until that lady showed up. Every time I found myself at the verge of quitting, I would ask God for the grace to push on; because my completion of the pupillage was, and still is, a prerequisite to me getting admitted to the bar.

After a careful deliberation, I decided to have a discussion with my boss. He had to know my perception of things, if we were to continue working together. Thankfully, I did not have to ask him to spare me a few minutes of his time; the opportunity presented itself in a very unprecedented manner.

Beautiful December

December just came and has flown by so fast, I’m having trouble accepting 2018’s almost over. I had been waiting for this year’s Christmas since last year but how it just came and passed quietly has really astounded me. We’re practically doing the countdown to the ushering in of the New Year and I’m here wondering how the Christmas festivities eluded me…We have a half-decorated tree to show for it.

However, the Grinch is not to blame for our failure to have a ‘proper’ Christmas. On the contrary, this month has been a beehive of activities…and good ones at that. The month basically started off with my birthday celebration. Then while we were still feasting on the birthday cake, we started preparing for my graduation. Last Friday, I was conferred the degree of Bachelor of Laws. In light of this, this is my first post as a lawyer. It still feels so surreal.

With my graduation behind us, Christmas was at the doorstep, waiting to be let in. By then, my family and I were recovering from the graduation fatigue. Given how much time we spent on the preparations, by the time I was graduating I hadn’t been sleeping enough; and my family hadn’t either. As Friday approached, we were eagerly waiting for the day to pass so we could go back home and rest. Therefore, when we got back home later in the day, we just slept.

Since then we’ve been squeezing in time for siestas in between meals, after mass…pretty much while transitioning from one activity to the other. For the first time in almost forever, I slept on the afternoon of 24th December. I hadn’t planned on that but when sleep came knocking I couldn’t resist. That day I had woken up early, made buttermilk pancakes for the family and shortly after, I was counting the Z’s.

I slept through lunch and later that evening I got up, prepared supper for the family and it was Christmas Eve. By then, we hadn’t found the time to put up our decorations. Though we’d attempted to a couple of times, we hadn’t quite gotten to do it. We had tried putting them up on 23rd. However, we found out our Christmas lights had stopped working and therefore needed to be replaced.

That evening mom and dad went to buy new ones but as is common with late shopping when things are on high demand, the lights were out of stock everywhere they checked. Before then, it had never occurred to me that the Christmas lights might be impossible to find. That’s why our tree ended up half decorated, because once we realised it wouldn’t be glowing like it should, the psych for decorating went out the window.

For the last four years I hardly celebrated the holidays because I was too busy reading for exams or trying to complete some assignment. Since I finished law school, I had imagined this would be the best Christmas. Little did I know it would just be overshadowed by school-related stuff, again!

Now with 2019 edging closer, I’m thinking about all the expectations I had for this Christmas. While most of them only remain dreams, I’m still thanking God for helping my family and I celebrate this one. It wasn’t what I had in mind…but the phrase, ‘count your blessings’ comes to mind. Though I know this Christmas could have turned out better, I also know given the circumstances, it was actually the best.

A day after my graduation, one of my lecturers called to congratulate me and I was just lamenting about how my Christmas had just slipped through my fingers since we didn’t have any plans for the festive season; and he comfortingly told me in life we need to do what needs to be done. Christmas comes every year but graduations only happen rarely. I saw the sense in his words.

Most of December was spent preparing for my graduation and even though that wasn’t what I had anticipated, I’m still so grateful because my mere graduation was a colossal blessing to start with. God made everything fall into place. So all factors considered, December has been a very beautiful month… I turned a year older, became a lawyer and got to celebrate the best holiday of my life, Christmas.

One major thing I’ve learned is that though things may not always go as anticipated, God makes everything alright. Like a jigsaw puzzle, every little piece just falls into place gradually. We only need to be very patient and open-minded…to love and appreciate things as they happen according to God’s will, because His plans are the best.

Given that we’re still celebrating the holidays, I wish you the happiest…

And a very Happy & Prosperous Year 2019!

 

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.

 

Waiting patiently for my ‘Lamborghini’…

It takes one tonnes and tonnes of strength for their faith, and willpower not to be swayed easily by difficult situations… and I’m speaking from experience. I think on average, the state of affairs in my life is one that is almost-always depressing. It has become a habit for me to talk myself out of stressful thoughts that by now would have had me falling into an abyss of clinical depression.

Occasionally, on days when I’m just trying to be honest with myself (my faith in God aside), I’ll internally admit that this life is hard; really, really hard. However, since my mom and two sisters are more pessimistic than they are optimistic, I try to remain positive for their sake at least, so that when worry sets in, we won’t all drown in it.

Comfortingly, even with all our seemingly incessant problems, God has showed me that He really listens when I call; so I’ve learned not to rush Him. He does take His time sometimes but when He ‘arrives’, He does it in style; so the wait is always worth it. That thought is what keeps me motivated. I kinda equate this feeling to when a teenager requests his parents to buy him a car on his 16th birthday. He waits anxiously, only to be disappointed when he receives some relatively cheap gift instead.

His 17th birthday comes and goes, and there’s no car still. So he gets very desperate and reminds his parents that all he wanted was ‘just a car’. Something he can drive to college in… He gets more frustrated because he’s wondering how come his parents haven’t noticed all the kids his age already own cars…

When he realizes the car might not be coming from his parents ever, he even stops asking for it; and it even gets more exasperating when his parents fail to offer any explanations for not granting the request. On his 18th birthday however, something totally amazing happens…

Naturally, because of the crashed expectations over the months, he’s not even eager to get out of bed because he already realized the car he really wanted would be purchased with his own hard-earned cash in the future; furthermore, his friends and neighbours already teased him for not being able to afford a car, and the ‘joke’ got so old that they found something else to laugh about.

When he finally gets out of bed sulking and generally unexcited about turning a year older, he makes his way to the dining to have breakfast with the rest of the family. At that point, he’s feeling so lethargic that nothing, in his imagination, would be grand enough to wipe the gloom away.

Surprisingly, when he’s pulling up a seat, something odd occurs to him. It’s already bad enough that he never got his car, which from his own estimation, his parents could have afforded if they willed it; now on his 18th birthday, no one even seems to remember it’s his special day. At the table, everyone’s demeanour bespeaks of another humdrum day in the family’s life.

Even the younger siblings who are always regarding him with so much adoration barely recognise his presence. Things just got worse in a span of two years, he thinks; from relatively cheap gifts to no gifts at all. Suddenly the gift voucher given to him a few birthdays ago feels like an awesome gift.

However, when they are about to pray for breakfast, the mother announces that she was unable to have breakfast ready on time and she has a meeting so everyone will have to fix their own breakfast. At that point, the teenager wants to punch something… even getting breakfast on his birthday is now a problem. Infuriated, he pushes his seat back and when he’s about to exit the room, his dad calls out, “Hey, you forgot something”.

Internally, he feels like a volcano that’s just about to erupt. Nonetheless, looking over his back, he asks calmly, “What?” He masks his disappointment behind a half smile.

His dad only holds out the key in his hand, and the teenager kinda looks confused momentarily. He can see that is definitely a car key, but he’s wondering if that’s a hint for him to rush to the store to get a few ingredients for breakfast. Then to his surprise, the entire family says cheerfully, “Happy Birthday!” And suddenly, as realization dawns on him, he walks towards the dad and takes the car key.

“You didn’t think we forgot your birthday, did you?” The mom asks, smiling because she already noticed her son had thought they did. When he rushes outside, he can hardly believe his eyes. He only asked for ‘just a car’, but parked outside, is a sleek Lamborghini, and it’s all his. He even feels guilty for getting mad at his parents for not buying him a car.

“We didn’t want to get you just a car,” the dad says. “You are our son and we love you so much, so we wanted to get you a quality car. And we knew this is what you’ve always wanted, even though you never asked for it expressly.”

“I thought you didn’t think I was ready to have my own car”, he confesses, awash with guilt.

“We couldn’t afford it at first so we realised we would have to save up some more for it,” the mom offers. And it all suddenly makes sense to him. When the air has been cleared about delayed gifts, the mom tells them she made a breakfast reservation in a five-star hotel. The day that had seemed so dull takes a 180-degrees turn and everything feels like a scene from a fantasy movie.

That is how I see the relationship we have with God. He might take long to answer but when He does, He ‘arrives in style’. So unlike the impatient teenager, we need to wait patiently… and to trust God.

Christmas Eve

Tomorrow is Christmas! How cool is that? I don’t know if it’s just me, but there’s this very beautiful feeling about Christmas that spices up the general aura; everything feels better. I guess this is what is commonly referred to as the Christmas Spirit. To my family and I, This Christmas isn’t like last year in so many ways, and this is one of the primary reasons I’m profoundly telling God thank you.

Unlike last year when we put up the Christmas decorations on a day like today (Christmas Eve) and almost missed Christmas because everyone in the house was held up, this year we put them up relatively early; at the start of the month. It’s been awesome really. Furthermore, some cousins from the countryside visited so we have a full house; and you know what they say, “the more the merrier’.

Even nature conspired to make this Christmas a success; Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, so for those who like attending the Christmas vigil mass, they will attend two masses today: the normal morning mass, which marks the last Sunday of Advent; and the evening mass, which marks the birth of Christ.

Christmas signifies different things to people. Some value it as a religious feast, where the world celebrates the greatest gift of God to mankind; His only begotten child. To others it’s about the gifts and the celebrations; spending the holiday with loved ones… For whatever reason we cherish Christmas, it’s imperative that we spread the Christmas cheer, and we don’t need to reach out to people who are so far from us. It could even be to those around us; whether friends or foes.

Depending on one’s age, one may have celebrated a couple of Christmases so far. Question is, what’s been different with those Christmases? Have you met anyone, or encountered a situation which made a particular Christmas feel exceptionally good? This Christmas we have a chance to make someone else’s holidays good. We’re therefore called to remember those who are needy at this time.

Now that we’re celebrating Christmas tomorrow, the implication is that the year is drawing to a close. 2017 is almost over. It’s that time of the year when we evaluate the New Year resolutions we fulfilled, and the ones we didn’t. It’s also that time of the year when we make new resolutions for the new year.

As we evaluate the progress we’ve made this year, we shouldn’t get discouraged if there were set goals we didn’t achieve. All we need to always remember is that God makes all things possible. Every new day, is another opportunity He presents to us to make good on those plans, so we shouldn’t get discouraged.

Furthermore, we need to remember that though we may have dreams, God has plans for us and those plans will override our own desires. When David wanted to build a temple for God, he didn’t realise that dream because God’s plan was for his son Solomon to do it instead.

In addition to that, when the Virgin Mary conceived of the Holy Spirit, she was betrothed to Joseph. They were both afraid of the Immaculate Conception for various reasons: Joseph was reluctant to marry a woman who was pregnant by ‘another man’, and Mary was afraid she would be stoned to death for ‘adultery’, which at the time was like a capital offence.

They were both afraid, and things were not going according to how they had planned but they trusted in God. That’s what we need to do; trust in Him. We need to give Him space to work in our lives; and if Mary’s story is anything to go by, He will make it worth our while. Thousands of years later, we still celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary, because Her Son Jesus Christ is the reason for this season!

So as we do our countdown to the commemoration of the birth of Christ, we need to remember that His birth is a symbol of hope. Therefore, we need to cross over to the New Year with tonnes and tonnes of hope, because God is in control. Bottom line is, whatever you do, keep believing…

May the new born Christ fill your hearts with unending joy… I wish you all the merriest of Christmases, and a Happy and prosperous Year 2018!

Happy holidays!

 

Perfectly imperfect

Do you ever wake up and wonder why you’re on this earth? What purpose you’re meant to achieve? Sometimes I feel that. Lately my sisters and I have been asking that a lot. The stage we’re in currently puts us in that situation where we constantly question the purpose we’re meant to accomplish. Sometimes life does that to people…

Like an answer to these questions, I found an old post I had written a while back but it was just a rough draft I’d scribbled on my notebook. As I was reading it, I felt some sense of calm descend upon me, as I was reminded of something important; each one of us has a purpose we’re meant to accomplish. We might not have realized it yet but in time it will be revealed to us.

That particular draft I’d written one Sunday evening, after hearing the story at mass earlier that day. While giving his sermon, the deacon had told us about a man who owned two jars. One was in perfectly good condition, while the other one had a crack on it.

Every morning this man would wake up and he would carry the two jars down to the river. Given the jars’ condition, it always happened that the man would get back home with the perfect jar full, whereas the other one was almost empty.

For many days, the broken jar wondered why its owner insisted on using it when he should already have discarded it. It was broken; imperfect; of what use was it? Eventually it asked the man why he was still using it, yet it always got home almost empty, unlike the perfect jar, which served its function perfectly. Affectionately, the man asked the jar to pay close attention the next day, when they’d be coming back from the river.

Anxiously, the jar waited for the next morning. Soon it was going to find out what purpose it was meant to achieve. The next day finally came and as instructed, the jar watched closely as the man carried it and the perfect jar back to the house.

On its side were beautiful flowers lined along the path. The man explained that he had noticed the jar’s defect and had decided to make use of it. He had planted flowers along the way and watered them every single day with the water leaking from the jar. From its imperfection, the flowers had been nourished. The man further explained that its perceived imperfection made it perfect for a different purpose.

Given that humans are flawed beings, I would say each one of us is like the broken jar. In our own way we’re all broken. We’re imperfect. Like my sisters and myself, someone might be looking at the life they’re leading and they might be wondering what good could possibly come from it.

Well, here’s the thing; our lives might not be perfect; we are undoubtedly imperfect, but the good news is that God focuses on our little imperfections and He brings out the best from them. If I could use examples of people we know or might have heard of; Simon Peter had imperfections of his own. He denied Christ three times, among other things, yet Jesus chose him to be the rock on which His church would be founded.

St. Paul, formerly known as Saul, was a persecutor of Christians. Yet, unbelievably, he became one of the most acclaimed men in history. God didn’t shun him, instead he chose him as one of his humble servants; through someone society detested He made His name known. St, Augustine was also a flawed man and we now celebrate him as a saint…

Imperfections may vary. It could be a physical challenge that one has; it could be the abject poverty which hinders one from achieving their dreams; it could be a sinful life one is living…but as the saying goes, ‘all saints have a past and all sinners have a future.

Point is, we shouldn’t let the current stage we’re in, in life discourage us. We’re capable of so much, even in our imperfections; because those imperfections are what make us unique and therefore perfect. So if you’re there wondering what purpose you’re meant to fulfill, don’t give up on yourself, or on life. Because like the broken jar, in time God will reveal to us too what plans He has in store for us.

We’re not put on this earth because we’re perfect, or to lead perfect lives. On the contrary, God appoints each one us for a special mission, fully aware of our imperfections; and He doesn’t love us less. So if He, who is the quintessence of perfection accepts us in all our ‘flawedness’, who are we to love ourselves, or our lives less?

Since it might take a while before we discover what we’re meant to accomplish in this life, we should take each day as it comes…and be the best we can be…and whatever the situation is, we shouldn’t despair.

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