Tag Archives: hope

Your Expectations Will Not Remain Unfulfilled: Part 2

There is a kind of faith that can become the memory of something once beautiful, now simply to be recalled.  Many people – we too – experience such a “faith of memories,” as if Jesus were someone from the past, an old friend from their youth who is now far distant, an event that took place long ago, when they attended catechism as a child. A faith made up of habits, things from the past, lovely childhood memories, but no longer a faith that moves me, or challenges me.

Going to Galilee, on the other hand, means realizing that faith, if it is to be alive, must get back on the road. It must daily renew the first steps of the journey, the amazement of the first encounter. And it must continue to trust, not thinking it already knows everything, but embracing the humility of those who let themselves be surprised by God’s ways.

We are afraid of God’s surprises; we are often afraid that God will surprise us. And today the Lord invites us to let ourselves be surprised. Let us go to Galilee, then, to discover that God cannot be filed away among our childhood memories, but is alive and filled with surprises. Risen from the dead, Jesus never ceases to amaze us. 

This, then, is the second message of Easter: faith is not an album of past memories; Jesus is not outdated. He is alive here and now. He walks beside you each day, in every situation you are experiencing, in every trial you have to endure, in your deepest hopes and dreams.

He opens new doors when you least expect it, he urges you not to indulge in nostalgia for the past or cynicism about the present. Even if you feel that all is lost, please let yourself be open to amazement at the newness Jesus brings: he will surely surprise you. 

Going to Galilee also means going to the peripheries. Galilee was an outpost: the people living in that diverse and disparate region were those farthest from the ritual purity of Jerusalem. Yet that is where Jesus began his mission.

There he brought his message to those struggling to live from day to day, proclaiming this message to the excluded, the vulnerable and the poor. There he brought the face and presence of God, who tirelessly seeks out those who are discouraged or lost, who goes to the very peripheries of existence, since in his eyes no one is least, no one is excluded.

The Risen Lord is asking his disciples to go there even today. He asks us to go to Galilee, to this “real Galilee”. It is the settings of daily life, the streets we travel every day, the corners of our cities. There the Lord goes ahead of us and makes himself present in the lives of those around us, those who share in our day, our home, our work, our difficulties and hopes.

In Galilee we learn that we can find the Risen One in the faces of our brothers and sisters, in the  enthusiasm of those who dream and the resignation of those who are discouraged, in the smiles of  those who rejoice and the tears of those who suffer, and above all in the poor and those on the  fringes. We will be amazed how the greatness of God is revealed in littleness, how his beauty shines forth in the poor and simple.

And this is the third message of Easter: Jesus, the Risen Lord, loves us without limits and is there at every moment of our lives. Having made himself present in the heart of our world, He invites us to overcome barriers, banish prejudices and draw near to those around us every day in order to rediscover the grace of everyday life.

Let us recognize him here present in our Galilees, in everyday life. With him, life will change. For beyond all defeats, evil and violence, beyond all suffering and death, the Risen One lives and the Risen One guides history. 

Sister, brother, if on this night you are experiencing an hour of darkness, a day that has not yet dawned, a light dimmed or a dream shattered, go open your heart with amazement to the  message of Easter: “Do not be afraid, he has risen! He awaits you in Galilee”.

Your expectations will not remain unfulfilled… your tears will be dried… your fears will be replaced by hope. For the Lord always goes ahead of you, He always walks before you. And, with Him, life always begins anew”.

Like Pope Francis said in his homily, if we put our hope and trust in God, our expectations will not remain unfulfilled. It’s easy to forget that when we find ourselves wading through life’s inevitable sufferings. Nonetheless, the trick is to remind ourselves that there is someone greater than our tribulations; and in time, He will save us. We just need to remain hopeful.

Your Expectations Will Not Remain Unfulfilled: Part 1

Your expectations will not remain unfulfilled… your tears will be dried… your fears will be replaced by hope. For the Lord always goes ahead of you, He always walks before you. And, with Him, life always begins anew”.

These are some of the uplifting words we need to hear constantly, so we can be reminded that even though the world is ailing, and most of us are walking around feeling desolate, owing to the challenges brought about by Covid-19, and our own personal hardships, we are not alone; and, all is not lost.

On 3rd April 2021, we were celebrating Holy Saturday (The Saturday before Easter Sunday); and, owing to the restrictions put in place to combat the spread of Covid-19, I had the honour of following the Easter Vigil mass celebrated by Pope Francis at the Vatican. In his homily, the holy father shared the words below, and I thought I should share them with you, so you can draw inspiration from them, like I did,

The women thought they would find a body to anoint; instead they found an empty tomb. They went to mourn the dead; instead they heard a proclamation of life. For this reason, the Gospel tells us, the women “were seized with trembling and amazement” (Mk 16:8).

Full of fear, trembling, and full of amazement. A fear mingled with joy that took their hearts by surprise when they saw the great stone before the tomb rolled away and inside a young man in a white robe. Wonder at hearing the words: “Do not be afraid! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen.” And a message: “He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.”

May we too accept this message, the message of Easter. Let us go to Galilee, where the Risen Lord has gone ahead of us. Yet what does it mean “to go to Galilee?” To go to Galilee means, first, to begin anew. For the disciples it meant going back to the place where the Lord first sought them out and called them to follow him. The place of their first encounter and the place of their first love.

From that moment on, leaving their nets behind, they followed Jesus, listening to his preaching and witnessing the miracles he performed. Yet, though they were always with him, they did not fully understand him. Frequently they misunderstood his words and in the face of the cross they abandoned him and fled.

Even so, the Risen Lord once more appears as the one who goes ahead of them to Galilee. He precedes them. He stands before them and constantly calls them to follow him. He says to them: “Let us start over from where we began. Let us begin anew. I want you to be with me again, in spite of everything”. In this Galilee, we learn to be amazed by the Lord’s infinite love, which opens new trails along the path of our defeats. He is like this, and he invites us to Galilee to be like this.

This is the first Easter message that I would offer you: it is always possible to begin anew, because there is always a new life that God can awaken in us in spite of all our failures.

Even from the rubble of our hearts – each of us- knows, knows the rubble of his own heart. From the rubble of our hearts, God can create a work of art; from the ruined remnants of our humanity, God can prepare a new history.

He never ceases to go ahead of us: in\ the cross of suffering, desolation and death, and in the glory of a life that rises again, a history that changes, a hope that is reborn. In these dark months of the pandemic, let us listen to the Risen Lord as he invites us to begin anew and never lose hope.

Going to Galilee also means setting out on new paths. It means walking away from the tomb. The women were looking for Jesus in the tomb; they went to recall what they had experienced with him, which was now gone forever. They went to indulge in their grief”.

Don’t despair… There’s hope!

When this year started, I had so many dreams… Dreams of getting admitted to the bar…moving out (can’t wait for the day)… I could see the light at the end of the tunnel…and I was so excited, like a child anxiously waiting for Christmas morning so they can unwrap their gifts.

Then Covid-19 happened! Next thing I knew, the World Health Organization was declaring it a global pandemic. I remember feeling a shiver run down my spine. I’d watched enough news to know what cataclysm Covid portended. It was like one of those horror movies where there’s an inexplicable wave killing people, and the best one can do is pray and hope that God will contain the situation soon.

This year has been one of a kind; a dreadful kind no one would have foreseen. The phrase, ‘The world is just a global village’, could not have felt more spot-on than it does now; for the first time in my lifetime, everyone, everywhere, in every continent has to walk around wearing a mask. Working from home has become the order of the day. States across the globe are imposing one lock-down after another in an attempt to break the transmission cycle of the virus.

When we’re about to celebrate because infections have gone down and the harsh containment measures can be relaxed, infection rates spike again and we have to revert to the containment measures. Everyone I know is suffering from ‘Covid-fatigue’.

Most people have grown weary of wearing masks every time they are in public places…and this whole business of sanitizing hands every two seconds is tiresome… Furthermore, nowadays one has to take a moment to consider the pros and cons of getting into physical contact with people, especially the close ones whom we would instinctively hug/kiss before. Covid has made us grow sceptical of our dear ones… and basic handshakes have become a dreaded thing of the past.

Now we’re all contending with what has been dubbed, the ‘new normal’. A ‘normal’ which has crippled businesses…led to mass lay-offs and reduced wages/salaries… This ‘new normal’ is hard. I miss the days I could comfortably get into a commuter bus, or walk into a crowded place without fear of contracting some deadly virus…

I miss the days when I could sneeze or cough without a care in the world…or hear someone else cough/sneeze and not think that could be Covid… So much has changed these last couple of months. Still, I believe there is hope… All is not lost!

The other day I saw this quote, “When you see babies being born, just know God has not given up on mankind”. It made me think a lot about the situation the world is in today. If God has not given up on us, why did He allow Covid to ravage the earth?

I was talking to a friend of mine a few days ago… Normally he’s very funny because he will make jokes out of every situation. However, that evening he sounded downcast… I tried probing and he told me he felt alone, and empty inside. because he’s had very many losses over the years…

My normal reaction was to tell him to trust in God because He knows why things happen the way they do., and his reply was, “I gave up on that shit!” That kinda shocked me, because I’ve always known him to be Catholic, although last year he’d told me he’d not been going to church for the last couple of years.

Honestly, I got concerned. His problems had pushed him over the precipice of faith. I didn’t know what to tell him. I felt he’d made a drastic move, but at the same time I tried walking a mile in his shoes. Sometimes it’s hard to believe in God when one has lost so much. Then, I remembered the Biblical story of Job. He lost everything!

And when he was at the verge of giving up on God, God came through for him, and He gave him back everything he’d lost in double. Given the hard times we’re living in, it is easy to despair. Like my friend lamented, “I’ve lost so much, yet I believed in God”.

I know there are so many people like my friend, who gave up on God because He’s let them go through untold suffering. And just like I told my friend, do not give up on God, because He will never give up on you. When we’re suffering we tend to think we’ve hit rock bottom, and there’s no hope of getting back up. That is not true.

Jesus died on the cross to give us hope. If we see how he suffered, we will be encouraged to persevere, when we’re going through tough times. Count your blessings…every small one…starting with the gift of life…and by doing so you’ll realize just how much God is present in your life.

Most importantly, Pray! The Bible (Philippians 4: 6-9) says, “Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers, ask God for what you need, always asking Him with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe, in union with Christ Jesus”.

Don’t get tired of praying…and don’t give up on God. He has not given up on you…and He never will. Believe it!

Gift of hope

Whatever you do, no matter the circumstances, don’t lose hope. All other virtues are premised on this one and this is in the sense that desperation makes us do things we wouldn’t ordinarily do. Desperation makes good people do bad things. For instance, hunger could make a person steal if they do not have better means of obtaining food.

Love as we know it, also stems from hope…A person whose heart has been broken so many times will be afraid of falling in love again because they are afraid of going through the pain that’s already too familiar, if things go awry. On the contrary, where someone has hope, they will embrace a potential love because they are hopeful things will turn out fine.

When things are not going on as well as we may want, what keeps us going? It’s hope; hope of seeing better days. Lately I keep reading stories about people who have come so close to taking their own lives because they were suffering from depression. From my understanding, hopelessness is what triggers suicidal thoughts.

While I may not have gotten to that point where I felt the urge to end my own life, I have battled depression before and I know, only too well, the state someone is usually in…one finds themselves in a situation where no single thought triggers happiness…everything feels bleak, and wherever one tries to comfort themselves that the future will be better, all they see are misery-laden days.

When someone wakes up every morning, feeling like they have nothing else to live for, hopelessness engulfs them and the next thing that prevails over them is the thought of ending their own lives. Hope strengthens our spirit to fight through unpleasant situations.

In life we can’t always be on an upward scale, because failure and pain are just an inevitable part of life; and I bet, this is where the saying, ‘it’s not about how many times you fall, but how many times  you pick yourself up’ arises.

My maternal grandma passed on five years ago, and everytime I think about the months leading to her death, I usually suspect she died a depressed woman. A few months before she died, mom brought her home so we could take her to hospital. She had been unwell for a while and her two sons who she lived with upcountry seemed to have neglected her.

Moreover, the two had been fighting over the ownership of her land. Given how peace-loving grams was, I usually imagine those clashes between her sons sent her to an early grave. She abhorred violence and they wouldn’t resolve their disputes amicably. Sadly, when she fell into depression, they didn’t seem to notice.

When mom learnt she was sick, she went for her and brought her home. I loved her so much, and I even had the honour of being named after her. Looking at her, I could tell all was not well with her. Even while sitted next to her, I would get the impression she was miles away because she had this bleak stare. At night I would sit by her bedside, trying to give her examples of all the good things she could look forward to, so despair wouldn’t suck her into its dark abyss.

As days passed, she got better and she started insisting she wanted to go back home. We didn’t want her to go just yet, but we figured she was feeling disillusioned because she was in a foreign place. Since we wanted her to be happy we agreed to let her go. A few months later mom and I visited her at her place and shortly after, we heard she was sick again.

Before we knew it, she was gone! When she was well, she was very lively. So when I think of hopelessness, she comes to mind and I hate what it does to someone. The way I see it, though grams never jumped off a cliff or stood in front of an oncoming train, she died because she lost the will to live.

She didn’t have the strength to fight illnesses when they ravaged her frail body and eventually when death knocked, she just opened without putting up a fight. I usually feel she could have lived for many more years if she had been happy. Hope would have opened her eyes to the endless possibilities that the future held.

The worst part about depression is that it’s very easy for one to fall victim, yet it is relatively difficult to get out of. Hope is that priceless shield which protects us from falling into that chasm. When I’m feeling low, I remind myself of the Bible verse, which says, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, but with prayer and thanksgiving, make your requests known to God”.

From my own experiences, I know it’s very easy to lose hope; but one thing I’m learning, is to look up to the man of sorrows. Jesus would have despaired in life because He already knew the painful death He was going to be subjected to, yet He didn’t. Everytime we feel despair gnawing at us, we should ask Him to help us. Because we too can be victorious like He was.

 

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.

An instrument of peace

Lord make me an instrument of peace

‘These must be the end days talked about by John in the book of Revelations’. This is the thought that comes to mind everytime I hear about some disturbing occurrence in some part of the world: the war between Israel and Gaza, earthquakes and landslides, life threatening diseases…

That thought, which mostly feels like fear is further heightened by the moral decay in the society; most of the things we do today are what led to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Surely, we’re not special than those people who lost their lives in previous Biblical ‘Armageddons’. If we do the things they did, then we’re bound to suffer the same fate.

For this reason, when I hear of people dying in masses I just imagine God is just angry. He is slow to anger but I’m thinking, if we don’t make any effort to correct our bad deeds, He gets angry eventually. He loves us unconditionally and equally (doesn’t have favourites), but that does not mean He is permissive.

God’s greatest desire is for us all to love each other and to live in peace. But the defiant human beings we are, we continue to fight, perpetrating war and hatred; everything God hates. Countless lives have been lost because of wars that could have been prevented.

Not all of us have been to, or live in any of the warring nations I keep hearing about on the news everyday, but we have been involved in at least one fight. Heavy artilleries don’t have to be used for it to be termed a war. It could even be something petty; say picking a fight with a neighbour because their dog backs too loud…etc. Point is we have in one way or another been involved in a fight.

Question is, as an individual, what role do/did you play in that fight? Were you a mediator or a perpetrator? Did you help end the fight or you only added coal to the fire?

‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there’s hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there’s doubt faith,
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant me that I may not so much seek:
To console, as to be consoled
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.’

The above is a prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, which embodies his simplicity and poverty. According to Father Kajetan Esser, OFM, the author of the critical edition of St. Francis’ writings, the peace prayer is most certainly not one of the writing of St. Francis.

This prayer, according to Father Schulz, first appeared during the First World War. It was found written on a holy card that had a picture of St. Francis. The prayer bore no name; but because of the card it came to be known as the Peace prayer of St. Francis.

The first time I read this prayer I was around seven years old. But when reading it, in my infantile mind it was just another prayer that had to be recited. At the time, mom was the one who was strictly enforcing our faith, seeing to it that we attended mass and prayed.

At some point, as I grew older, I stopped saying it; I’m not so sure why because I was still saying other prayers. It’s not until two or so years ago that I started saying it again. Unlike the first time I said it, this time I was pondering over every word; taking each word into consideration.

The words did not serve only as a prayer, but as a great piece to meditate on. It made me think about my life; when I’m dealing with other people, do I make them feel happy or do I just make them cry and feel bad about themselves; do I stop a fight or do I only aggravate things? Do I understand people, or I only seek to be understood?

I read each word, examining my conscience, and as I did so, I realized so many faults in my ways. On many occasions I had been selfish. Many are the times I had put my needs before others’; fighting because I only wanted others to understand why I had acted in a particular way; holding grudges because I was reluctant to forgive those who wronged me.

The prayer helps one reflect; what do we inspire in others? Love or hate? Forgiveness or vengeance? Hope or desperation? Sadness or joy? Do we only seek to be loved, rather than love others? Do we forgive, or like the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18: 21-35) we adamantly turn away those who seek our forgiveness? Do we only take without giving back?

Many fights start as small disagreements and eventually they graduate into full-fledged wars, because someone was too unwilling to forgive or understand; because someone was reluctant to love. It’s not too late to do something. We still have a chance to make things better; to prevent more loss of lives. Let’s live in peace.

Twelfth station: Jesus dies on the cross

Twelfth station-Jesus dies on the cross

Reflection

God is dead! No wonder the earth quaked, the sun hid itself, the dead rose and Mary stood by in horror. Your human body gave up it’s soul in death but Your Divinity, dear Jesus continued to manifest its power. All creation rebelled as the word made flesh departed from this world. Man alone was too proud to see and too stubborn to acknowledge truth.

Redemption was accomplished!

Man would never have an excuse to forget how much You loved him. The thief on Your right saw something he could not explain; he saw a man on a tree and knew He was God. His need made him see his own guilt and Your innocence. The promise of eternal life made the remaining hours of his torture, endurable.

A common thief responded to Your love with deep faith, hope and love. He saw more than his eyes envisioned; he felt a presence he could not explain and would not argue with. He was in need and accepted the way God designed to help him.

Prayer

Forgive our pride, dear Jesus as we spend hours speculating, days arguing and often a lifetime rejecting Your death, which is a sublime mystery. Have pity on those whose intelligence leads them to pride because they never feel the need to reach out to the Man of sorrows for consolation.

Amen.