Tag Archives: lenten season

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.

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.

 

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!

Holy Week

Palm Sunday marked the beginning of Holy week. It’s the last week of the Lenten season, when we commemorate the death of Christ on Good Friday and subsequently His resurrection on Easter Sunday. It’s a significant period in a Christian’s life because it reminds us of Christ’s triumph over death; thus encouraging us to persevere because if we do, we too–like Him-shall be conquerors. The last three days before Easter Sunday; i.e. Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are the most important of this season.

On Holy Thursday, we celebrated the last supper, when Jesus washed His Disciples’ feet, and shared His body and blood with them in the form of bread and wine before being betrayed by Judas Iscariot, which was the beginning of His passion and eventually His death on the cross.

Ever since I can remember, my favourite part of the Holy Thursday mass has always been the part where the priest washes some faithful’s feet, imitating how Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. Even as a child, I remember being fascinated by the thought. It’s hard to fathom a priest washing people’s feet because in all honesty, I consider that part of the body to be one of the dirtiest- relatively speaking. For one to be able to do it, they must have tonnes of humility, because simply put, it’s a gesture of self-effacement.

Pope Francis washing faithful's feet

It even becomes harder to fathom Jesus, the son of the Almighty God, doing the same thing. He, the king of kings, chose to wash His disciples’ feet to show them how to treat people. After He had finished washing their feet He asked them, “Do you understand what I have just done to you? You call me teacher and Lord, and it is right that you do so, because that is what I am. I, your Lord and teacher, have just washed your feet. You then, should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you…” (John 13: 12-16).

I look at the leaders we have today and each time I find myself wondering, how many would lower themselves the way Jesus did? Washing their servants’ feet? Majority of the leaders we have today expect to be served than to serve. Most of them wouldn’t be caught dead partaking in things which would seem to compromise their dominance; their superiority over the rest of the populace.

Jesus taught His disciples to attend to their own subjects; to desire to serve than to be served. As we come to the end of Lent that’s an important lesson to remember; to learn to be humble, regardless of our social status.

Today, Good Friday is essentially a day when we commemorate Christ’s death. It’s the saddest day in church, devoid of all the celebrations that are characteristic of an ordinary mass. Due to this, the faithful are supposed to observe silence; basically to reflect on the idea of Jesus sacrificing Himself for the salvation of mankind. It’s a day of penance when fasting and abstinence should be observed.

Jesus nailed on the cross

On Holy Saturday, there’s the vigil mass. This mass is celebrated at night as a way of keeping watch, awaiting Christ’s resurrection during the night. In this mass, new members are baptized to initiate them into the church; the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation are also given. Other members of the church renew their baptismal vows.

The three days (Easter Triduum) are crowned with the celebration of Easter Sunday; the morning after Christ’s resurrection.

We’re nearing the end of the lent season. A period of reflecting deeply on our lives as Christians and the relationship we have with God. It’s also a period when people are asked to repent; to atone for their transgressions. As I mentioned in the beginning of lent, I know not everyone is a Christian; but the fact that we’re all human makes us prone to sin and it’s therefore imperative that we take some time to see what wrongs we’ve committed and to be sorry for them.

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.

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.

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.

 

Tenth station: Jesus is stripped of His garments

Tenth station-Jesus is stripped of His garments

Reflection

It seems that every step to Calvary brought You fresh humiliation, my Jesus. How Your sensitive nature recoiled at being stripped before a crowd of people. You desired to leave this life as You entered it-completely detached from all of the comforts of this world. You want me to know without a doubt that You loved me with an unselfish love. Your love for me caused You nothing but pain and sorrow.

You gave everything and received nothing in return. Why do I find it so hard to be detached? In Your loving mind dear Jesus, did You look up to The Father as You stood there on that windy hill, shivering from cold and shame and trembling from fear, and ask Him to have mercy on those who would violate their purity and make love a mockery?

Did You ask forgiveness for those whose greed would make them lie, cheat and steal for a few pieces of cold silver?

Prayer

Forgive us all, dear Jesus. Look upon the world with pity, for mankind has lost its way and the principles of this world make lust a fun game and luxury a necessity. Detachment has become merely another hardship of the poor and obedience the fault of the weak.

Have mercy on us and grant the people of this day the courage to see and know themselves and the light to change.

Amen.