Tag Archives: God’s will

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.

 

Let yes be yes, and no, no

promises

“Now what do you think? There was once a man who had two sons. He went to the older one and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’

‘I don’t want to,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

Then the father went to the other son, and said the same thing.

‘Yes, sir,’ he answered, but he did not go.

Which one of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The older one,” they answered.

So Jesus said to them, “I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John the Baptist came to you showing you the right path to take, and you would not believe him; but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. Even when you saw this, you did not later change your mind and believe him.” (Matthew 21: 28-32).

This was a parable told by Jesus to His disciples. One brother refused to go to the vineyard at first, but later he changed his mind and went. The first brother signifies those who are considered sinners by the society; those who hear of God’s word but refuse to believe in Him. Like the brother though, after some reflection they change their minds and commit their lives to God.

The second brother refers to those who consider themselves righteous; they hear God’s word and believe it so readily, but later on, down the line they stop believing and fall from His grace. One might condemn the older brother because he didn’t accept to oblige to his father’s will at first, but the thought that he realized what was the right thing to do later is what counts.

In our daily lives, some of us are like the older brother; we say no to something without giving it much thought but later on we do what we’re expected to, while some of us are like the other brother; saying yes to something then reneging on our promises.

A story is told about a man and a woman, who were tying the knot. When the time came for them to exchange their vows, the bride developed a cough. “I promise to love you, in [cough] and in health, in good times and in [cough], till [cough] do us part,” she vowed.

“What’s wrong?” The priest asked.

“I seem to have developed a cough father,” the woman replied and the priest unsuspectingly, went on to unite the two. Some weeks later, the married couple started experiencing some difficulties. “I’m leaving,” the wife announced.

Shocked, the husband stood up in protest. “But you vowed to stay with me till death do us part.”

“Did I?” The wife asked. “We can watch our wedding video to confirm. I was coughing the entire time so no, I didn’t promise to love you forever. I knew there would be bad times ahead, and there’s no way I was going to spend the rest of my life in difficulty.” And just like that, she walked out on him.

The wife is like the younger brother; she accepted to marry a man but later left him. The parable encourages us to be firm in our decisions; if it’s a yes, let it be a yes and if it’s a no, let it be a no. It’s good to change our minds, but sometimes that is never a viable option. Ergo, when making decisions in life, we should take time to think about what we really want so that in the process we don’t hurt others.

In the man’s case for instance; he married a woman, hoping to spend the rest of his life with her but she broke her promise. Obviously he was hurt. We’re encouraged to put some thought into the promises we make, so we don’t go back on our word. But just like the first brother, if we realize we made the wrong choice, we can always do what’s right.

Spiritual blindness: Part 2

Saul’s conversion is another biblical incident where physical blindness is attributed to spiritual blindness: As Saul was coming near the city of Damascus, suddenly a light from the sky flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” He asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you persecute,” the voice said. “But get up and go into the city, where you will be told what you must do.”

The men who were travelling with Saul had stopped, not saying a word; they heard the voice but couldn’t see anyone. Saul got up from the ground and opened his eyes, but could not see a thing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. For three days he was not able to see, and during that time he could not eat or drink anything.

There was a Christian in Damascus called Ananias. He had a vision, in which the Lord said to him to go place his hands on Saul so that he might see again. So Ananias went, entered the house where Saul was and placed his hands on him. “Brother Saul,” he said. The Lord has sent me-Jesus himself who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here. He sent me so that you might see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

At once something like fish scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he was able to see again. He stood up and was baptized; and after he had eaten his strength came back. After his conversion he went on to spread the word of God. In the company of Barnabas, he went to the island of Cyprus, having been sent by the Holy Spirit.

They went all the way across the island to Paphos, where they met a certain magician named Ber-Jesus, a Jew who claimed to be a prophet. He was a friend of the governor of the island, Sergius Paulus, who was an intelligent man. The governor called Barnabas and Saul before him because he wanted to hear the word of God. But they were opposed by the magician Elymas (that is his name in Greek), who tried to turn the governor away from the faith.

Then Saul-also known as Paul-was filled with the Holy Spirit; he looked straight at the magician and said, “You son of the devil! You are the enemy of everything that is good. You are full of all kinds of tricks, and you always keep trying to turn the Lord’s truths into lies! The Lord’s hand will come down on you and you will be blind and you will not see the light of day for a time.

At once Elymas felt a dark mist cover his eyes, and he walked around trying to find someone to lead him by the hand. When the governor saw what had happened, he believed; for he was greatly amazed at the teaching about the Lord. (Acts 13: 4-12).

In both incidences, Saul and Elymas lost their physical sight because they were spiritually blind. In the bible we are told of people who lost their sight because they did not believe in God so the only cure was to believe in Him; like Saul did. In life however, blindness is a condition attributed to other causes and not necessarily sin.

It is so with us. We may be able to see with our eyes, but when it comes to matters faith we fail to see what God intends for us to see. Only He can restore our spiritual sight. That, we can achieve by seeking His help and trying to do what He expects of us, and by learning to see Him in every little incident; in the things that bring us joy, even sadness. To believe that everything that happens to us happens because He allows it, for a greater purpose; a reason our finite minds may not be able to comprehend.

spiritual blindness

In everything we do we should involve God in our plans. That means we shouldn’t cling on to our plans; we should leave room for Him to surprise us, because sometimes the plans we make are different from what He has in store for us. By entrusting our lives to Him, we do away with things that lead us into darkness, e.g. anxiety and disappointment which comes from failure to achieve set goals.

Seek the Lord

Do not feel rejected; He loves you

Fifteenth station-Jesus is risen from the dead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAPPY EASTER!

Fifteenth station: Jesus is risen from the dead

Fifteenth station-Jesus is risen from the dead

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

Closing Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

 

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

 

Fourteenth station: Jesus is laid in the sepulchre

Fourteenth station-Jesus is laid in the sepulchreReflections

My Jesus, you were laid to rest in a stranger’s tomb. You were born with nothing of this world’s goods and You died detached from everything. When You came into the world, men slept and angels sang and now You leave it, creation is silent and only a few weep.

Both events were clothed in obscurity.

The majority of men live in such a way. Most of us live and die knowing and known only by a few. Were You trying to tell us, dear Jesus, how very important our lives are just because we are accomplishing The Father’s Will?

Will we ever learn the lesson of humility that makes us content with who we are and what we are? Will our faith ever be strong enough to see power in weakness and good in the sufferings of our lives? Will our hope be trusting enough to rely on Your providence even when we have nowhere to lay our head? Will our love ever be strong enough not to take scandal in the Cross?

Prayer

My Jesus, hide my soul in Your heart as You lie in the sepulchre alone. Let my heart be as a fire to keep You warm. Let my desire to know and love you be like a torch to light up the darkness. Let my soul sing softly a hymn of repentant love as the hours pass and Your resurrection is at hand. Let me rejoice, dear Jesus, with all the Angels in a hymn of praise and thanksgiving for so great a love, so great a God, so great a day!

Thirteenth station: Jesus is taken down from the cross

Thirteenth station-Jesus is taken down from the cross

Reflections

My Jesus, it was with deep grief that Mary finally took You into her arms and saw all the wounds sin had inflicted upon You. Mary Magdalene looked upon Your dead body with horror. Nicodemus, the man so full of human respect, who came to You by night, suddenly received the courage to help Joseph take you down from the Cross.

You are once more surrounded by only a few followers. When loneliness and failure cross my path, let me think of this lonely moment and this total failure; failure in the eyes of men. How wrong they were, how mistaken their concept of success!

The greatest act of love was given in desolation and the most successful mission accomplished and finished when all seemed lost. Is this not true in my life, dear Jesus? I judge my failures harshly. I demand perfection instead of holiness. My idea of success is for all to end well-according to my liking.

Prayer

Give to all men the grace to see that doing Your Will is more important than success. If failure is permitted for my greater good then teach me how to use it to my advantage. Let me say as You once said, that to do the Will of the Father is my food.

Let not the standards of this world take possession of me or destroy the good You have set for me-to be Holy and to accomplish the Father’s Will with great love. Let me accept praise or blame, success or failure with equal serenity.

Amen.

Eleventh station: Jesus is nailed to the cross

Eleventh station-Jesus is nailed to the cross

Reflection

It is hard to imagine a God being nailed to the cross by His own creatures. It is even more difficult for my mind to understand a love that permitted such a thing to happen! As those men drove heavy nails into Your hands and feet, dear Jesus, did You offer the pain as reparation for some particular human weakness?

Was the nail in Your right hand for those who spend their lives in dissipation and boredom?

Was the nail in Your left hand in reparation for all consecrated souls, who live lukewarm lives?

Were You stretching out Your arms to show us how much You love us?

As the feet that walked the hot, dusty roads were nailed fast, did they cramp up in a deadly grip of pain to make reparation for all those who so nimbly run the broad road of sin and self-indulgence?

Prayer

It seems, dear Jesus, Your love has held You bound hand and foot as Your heart pleads for a return of love. You seem to shout from the top of the hill, “I love you, come to me. See, I’m held fast, I cannot hurt you, only you can hurt me.”

How very hard is the heart that can see such love and turn away. Is it not true that I too have turned away when I did not accept the Father’s Will with love? Teach me to keep my arms ever open to love, to forgive and to render service; willing to be hurt rather than hurt, satisfied to love and not be loved in return.

Amen.

 

Evaluating New Year’s resolutions

Next week God willing, I turn a year older. I’m so thrilled. However, I realized as opposed to my younger self, who would look forward to that special day with so much eagerness, nowadays I feel like the day is not just about parties and gifts anymore, but a reminder of the things one hasn’t achieved yet. This thought took me back to the start of this year. I, like many goal-oriented people, drew up a list of the things I wanted to fulfill by the time we tipped our heads to this year, when ushering in  the New Year.

Naturally it’s that time of the year when people start evaluating their Year’s resolutions and drawing up new ones. I don’t remember any particular year that I accomplished all my set goals, but this year has been particularly one of a kind. Of the goals I’d set I achieved only one, but I feel at the same time I have achieved so much this year that I hadn’t quite planned for. This blog for instance; I hadn’t planned on it, and of my year’s achievements, I feel like it has been one of my greatest.

When I started it, it was almost mid-year, and I remember feeling I had a few more months to check off all the resolutions I’d made. Now it turns out, there are only a few days left before the year ends. Normally I would be disappointed for not achieving all my set goals, but this year I’ve also learnt a lot pertaining to matters faith.

That said, I will not look at all that I haven’t achieved; instead I will count my blessings. I will look at all that I have achieved this far, whether I’d planned for it or not. I’ll be content, because I feel I have achieved a lot so far. I will also be content because the goals I won’t be checking off my list were not achieved, not because I didn’t try hard enough, but because circumstances wouldn’t allow it.

I don’t know if from a professional’s perspective that’s a good way of looking at it; but seeing as I believe God was with me all through the past eleven months, since this year began, I’ll look at it through the eyes of faith; in my finite mind I made my plans, but God, in His infinite wisdom, had better plans for me. And whatever I’ve accomplished was what He had intended for me to accomplish.

Telling the difference

the serenity prayer

Many things happen in life, some pleasant, and some unpleasant. It happens almost naturally, that we’re more inclined to accept the good things that happen but when tragedies strike we ask, why? All through my life I’ve been looking at the negative occurrences from a pessimistic perspective, you know feeling like my life would be better if they didn’t happen; however, lately I’m learning to look at things all differently. I’m acquainting myself with the idea that everything happens only because God wills it that way.

To some people the idea might sound odd, because to them it doesn’t feel right that God would allow some things-the painful ones especially-to happen to us if He really loves us unconditionally like the scriptures tell us. Well thing is, nothing happens without His consent. As I said, this is just a concept I’ve embraced only recently; I wasn’t always like that.

A few months ago I would have gotten all discouraged because something didn’t happen the way I had envisioned it, but I ditched that mentality. However, one question pertaining to this whole idea of accepting everything as God’s will always pops in mind; ‘If really we should accept everything as God’s will, what about those instances when we’re told to fight for the things we love/believe in?’

For instance, there’s this prog I watched last week; it was a Mexican telenovela to be precise. One of the two lead couples found out they could be related. They were devastated; I doubt any two people in love would be pleased to learn they had the same blood flowing in their veins because they shared a father. The lady was most affected. Distraught, she went and married her best friend, who had always been in love with her, eager to move on with her life; she didn’t want to hold on to a love that was forbidden.

In the panicky mode she was in, she reasoned that would be the best solution; her boyfriend wouldn’t pursue her if she was another man’s wife. Apparently, she loved her boyfriend too much to get intimate with her new husband; she and her best friend had a mutual understanding that sexual intimacy would be off limits.

I couldn’t help shaking my head at her irrationality. She didn’t even care to fight for her love; she willingly accepted the painful fact that she couldn’t spend her life with the man she loved because providence had put an impenetrable barrier between them. Naturally, one of the major characteristics of soaps is that there’s just too much scheming; this one was no exception.

It turned out that the two lovers weren’t really related; they guy’s ex-girlfriend had conspired with the owner of the lab, where the two had a DNA test, to have the results altered. The test had come out positive and that had had driven the young miss into her best friend’s arms. As I watched her I wondered, if she hadn’t been too quick to accept the results, she could have suggested they have another test in a different lab just to be sure; sometimes it’s good to have doubts.

In life we’re faced with such situations; at a crossroads, wondering if we should accept everything as God’s will, or fight for the things/people we love. In my opinion, it’s difficult to actually tell the difference. However, I believe with patience and prayers, God will reveal to us what’s right.