Outreach

Perhaps one would have felt a plethora of emotions when told that our community adopting an evangelistic approach

Apprehension..?

Excitement…?

Fear..?

evangelism

By now, the idea of sharing our own experiences with God within the OYP community isn’t really daunting

What about with a stranger? Much less someone who isn’t local

Not sure how much content you remembered from Fr R. Barron’s video about Evangelli Gaudium

It feels like we are unprepared for this Saturday’s outreach. Truth is, our hearts are never 100% ready for God , nor are we fully prepared to do his Will

HAVE FAITH

That’s what WE are called to practice. Just like Peter when he walked on water towardss Jesus.

May we allow the Lord & and The Spirit to lead us through this Saturday’s session

PS: FAREWELL VAL!! We will miss you 🙂

Community is not for everybody

After being actively involved in a Catholic community for about 2.5 years, I sometimes feel like I know community through and through and yet at other times I feel like I know nothing at all.

But what amazes me is how much my life has been changed because of community. Many a times now instead of speaking about the weather or food or work (oh the endless whining about work!), I often catch myself now having full dinner conversations all about God or community. Almost like God, community has been a topic where everybody has an idea or opinion of what it should be and everybody sees it with a perspective of their own experience and expectation.

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Credits: theodysseyonline.com

Below is just one topic that I find discussed quite extensively and an important one especially for those discerning community.

 

Community is not for everybody

Yes, this is definitely true. But this is also not the important question. The real question is how can community (or the lack of one) help you grow closer to God? Typically when one discerns to leave community (or a conscious decision not to join one), we should reflect on the reason for pull or push factors. If the reason to leave or not join one is a pull factor, that is, you see the good in a community but there is an even greater good that you are attracted to to grow in faith, then YES! go with joy and gratitude!

However, if the reason is a push factor, that is, you perceive something negative in community and it compels you to leave, it could be a bit trickier. On one hand, we cannot discount the fact that some communities or an aspect of it can be particularly toxic to some people. Communities are after all made up of people and people can hurt people. But if one finds himself/herself jumping from community to community or avoiding community in general, then perhaps some self-reflection may prove valuable.

At the same time, when we start loving communities, it is also important not to start treating community as your god. Community is NOT God.

“The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.”

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

There are many dangers of treating community as God.

  • Creating unrealistic expectations to conform to YOUR idea of community
  • Limiting your growth as a Christian only with the formation / sharing in community
  • Scoping your understanding and idea of Christians to only members in your community
  • Forgetting that Jesus’ coming was to save everybody – not just the members of your community

 

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It is of course very natural to have a special fondness for people we journey so closely with every week. After all, these are people who we have opened ourselves to, laughed and cried together and treated like family. After weeks, months or even years of learning and risking to trust them, we wish to hold on so tightly to these friendships and safe spaces that we have created. We may feel that we no longer want to open to trust anybody else again.

However, we cannot let this make us forget that our ultimate comforter and trust should be in God. May we always be filled with gratitude and joy for what God has given us, and yet be open to trust where God plans to lead us.

What’s Your Treasure?

There are three things that every human being yearns for.

Every single person, regardless of whether they are Christians or Buddhists or Muslims or atheists, spends their whole life searching for these three things. We will spend countless hours working for them. We will travel across the world for them. We will spend all our money on them. Some people might even kill for them.

Can you guess what they are?

Take a second to make a mental list in your head.

Okay here are the answers (according to what I learnt at RCIA haha):

Love

We all want to love and to be loved. Even the most selfish, bitter and angry person in the world wants to be loved. That’s why we start families and make friends and join communities.

That’s why so many people are addicted to Facebook Likes and pornography. That’s why we work like crazy to become rich because we believe that it will buy us love.

Truth

Even though we’re surrounded by lies and illusions, we have a strong innate desire to find out the objective truth about ourselves and the world we live in.

That’s why we engage in scientific research and read books and watch documentaries. That’s why so many people become lawyers and researchers and journalists.

That’s also why so many people are drawn to religion – to answer the fundamental question: Is there a God? Is there a sense to this life and all of this chaos around us?

Beauty

This last one is a little hard to guess, but deep down inside, we’re also searching for beauty.

That’s why we’re drawn to art and music and poetry and dance. That’s why we’re driven to create works of art – to express the beauty in our hearts and in our imagination.

That’s why we travel across the world to experience a magnificent cathedral or gaze at a beautiful mountain landscape.

Where Does That Lead Us?

Now, pop quiz: Let’s say we had all the resources and all the answers in the world. Let’s say that we’ve spent our life searching for love and truth and beauty in their purest and ultimate forms. Where would that eventually lead us to?

The answer: God.

For God is the Ultimate Love, the Ultimate Truth, and the Ultimate Beauty. Nothing else in this world could ever fulfil these deep longings besides the One True God.

Why do you think we long for these things in the first place? Why aren’t we like a dog or a monkey, who just gets by surviving and eating and reproducing?

We desire for love and truth and beauty because God put those desires within us. Unlike the animals, we were made in His image. And like an artist, God put a little bit of Himself within us.

The Treasure That Money Can’t Buy

I was reflecting on this concept when I was reading today’s Gospel on the treasure hidden in the field:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

I used to wonder: How do we accept that God is our Treasure? What kind of Treasure is this, and how does it compare to something immediate and concrete, like money or status?

Yet, thousands of martyrs have endured torture and given up their lives for this Treasure. Our priests and religious have renounced everything they had to follow Christ. Tens of thousands of people today still risk their lives and persecution to celebrate Mass.

If this Treasure is just an illusion, then these people are probably the stupidest people in the world. Why would you sacrifice so much for something that isn’t real?

But maybe there really IS something here.

If we realise that this Treasure is the Ultimate Love, the Ultimate Truth and the Ultimate Beauty that we are all yearning for, then these sacrifices start to make sense.

Lord, grant us the wisdom to sacrifice our worldly treasures in exchange for You: the real Treasure of our hearts. Amen!

Image credit: talkingplant

The Good Stuff And The Bad Stuff

When I was a kid, my mum would take me to Novena, charismatic sessions and neighbourhood Rosary sessions.

That’s why I always had this holier-than-thou impression of Catholics. Oh man, they are just a bunch of retired uncles and aunties who don’t have anything better to do, and that’s why they’re so holy!

As a young, ambitious, 22-year old, I couldn’t relate. I was ready to take on the world, make lots of money, travel and party like a rock star. Besides, I was sinful with all the usual trappings of a young man: Lust, selfishness, and greed characterised my actions.

When a Christian dance group on my university campus approached me to join them, I reluctantly agreed because I didn’t have anything better to do. I rolled my eyes whenever they said prayers before practice. I made fun of them because they said “Oh my GOSH”. I thought it was ridiculous that they chose to live in the same dorm instead of mixing around with other people on campus.

Again, I couldn’t relate. Too holy for me.

Joining Community

It would be another 8 years before a personal crisis would lead me to the Seven Graces community.

Before I joined, I was really worried. Would these guys be another version of my holier-than-thou campus Christian group? Were we going to spend every Saturday afternoon saying the rosary and speaking in tongues?

While I was now open to the idea of God playing a role in my life, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to become that person – especially since I was still clinging to my old lifestyle and disposition. I was still selfish, still ambitious, and I sure wasn’t going to quit my job to volunteer at a church or something.

Would I be able to relate?

As the weeks passed, I slowly got to know the people in community better. And surprise, surprise, I found out that these weren’t overly pious, holier-than-thou folks. These were NORMAL PEOPLE with normal struggles I could identify with!

  • The professionals who gossiped about difficult bosses
  • The guys who struggled with lust
  • The families who got into bitter arguments with their parents over their kids

I realised that we don’t have to be ashamed of our humanity, our weaknesses and our sin. That despite all the shortcomings in our lives, we STILL come back to God because we know that we need Him.

NOW I could relate.

Wheat And Weed

So that’s why today’s Gospel reading about the wheat and weed (say that five times fast!) really stuck with me:

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 

And the servantsj of the householder came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 

But he said, ‘No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ”

Maybe God doesn’t want us to be perfect now.

Like weeds, our imperfections and sinfulness eat up our resources and choke our growth. But the Lord still allows them to do so anyway.

He recognises that we NEED our imperfections and struggles. We NEED the worldliness and the pains and everything that makes us human. That doesn’t mean that we passively accept them, but maybe God wants us to struggle through and overcome them – always reaching out for His great love.

Why? Because there are SO MANY OTHERS out there who’re experiencing the same pains and struggles and sinfulness as us. We’re not going to reach them by acting all pious and holy and saying twenty rosaries a day.

We can only bring others to Christ when we enter into their experiences and suffering. And then show them that all of us – from the holy aunties to the frustrated parents to the ambitious professionals – need Jesus to save us.

Image credit: sleepyclaus

A conversation with God

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I seldom dare to be rude to God. Well, at least not directly. I may have lost my mind at that moment, but God chose that very moment to reveal Himself to me.

“Ok Lord, it is your problem. I’m throwing it all back to you!”

Those were the words that I left the OYP adoration room with during the second night of the Combined Community Retreat (CCR). I was pondering about human suffering. I kind of knew the Catholic textbok answer of “We are not meant to understand everything but we must trust God and His plan for us.” At the same time, that school of thought really annoyed me just as I know how difficult it must also be for people who suffer and try to accept those words.

What does it mean to us? Is it like the same way we speak to ignorant children when we are just too tired to explain or simply don’t have the faith that they will understand if we took the time to teach? We then simply end it with “You will understand when you grow up!” So like a child, I replied to God.

“Fine! I don’t know or understand anything. It is all up to you then!”

I left the room. One hour later when we were all well-fed, a couple from 1Peter community gave their testimony. They wanted to know why did God take their son away and confronted Archbishop with the question. Archbishop replied (rephrased):

“You do know that your son belongs to God and not to you, so who are you to demand that answer on why did God take your son away? We ourselves all belong to God.

You said you love your son, but who do you think is a better guardian for him? You or Jesus? So why do you insist on keeping him on earth when now he has returned to Jesus the perfect guardian?”

Harsh as it was, the answer really struck me on 2 levels. Firstly, that of course in all my own childish tantrum and conviction that God will never reveal an answer to my earlier questions in the adoration room, God actually chose to reveal it to me in such a profound way just 1-2 hours later.

Secondly, it struck me at how we can actually both love and be selfish at the same time – of course I meant it in a mortal manner. I would never doubt the love of a mother, a family member or a friend in times when they see their loved ones suffering. Like how the mother in the testimony grieved for her son who, in her perspective, was born to suffer on earth for 20 days before leaving again.

What is the point of it all? We all want our loved ones to be healed. We all want them to be close to us and the chance to show our love tangibly to them.

But indeed, no matter how meaningless or how desolate we judge a life to be, God has made each one of us purposefully and meaningfully. He has made each one of us, He will take care of each one of us in His own time and in His own way.

Maybe to even wish for something else would be a cheapening of God’s plan.

A 9-Min Recap Of Fr Andrew Dalton’s Talk On The Shroud of Turin

Fr Andrew Dalton came to Singapore and delivered two amazing talks on The Shroud of Turin on 20 and 22 Jun 2017.

I attended together with a bunch of 7G folks, and I was so blown away by it that I wanted to share what I learnt. Since writing out everything would take too long, I decided to do a quick 9-min summary video instead!

It’s my very first video, so please excuse the uhms, ahs, and amateur editing 😀

Please let me know if you found it useful and I’ll be happy to do more of these in the future.

All credit goes to Fr Andrew Dalton, LC. To see more research on the Shroud of Turin, head to shroud.com

 

Ministry – 2 i’s. Only 1 God

As session yesterday came to an end, I could not help but feel somewhat challenged yet hopeful when we were told “30 Enquirers….. everyone would be a buddy”

To me, it is a privilege of sort to journey alongside a fellow Catholic 

Throughout mass at IHM, dinner and into the night I began digesting that piece of news – That someone’s spiritual journey would be “led” (not completely) by each of us. A gargantuan task.

If my memory doesn’t fail me, many of the Saints & Apostles in the history of the Catholic Church were once sinners. Each of the them have shown one thing in common – they were reluctant human beings, reluctant in will and in courage. 

Yet, the Church has always liked to use the phrase “prophetic courage” when referring to the need to hunker down and do the challenging tasks that will end up bringing about a transformation. 

Why do we need courage?  Because all transformations, especially the ones that are deep and that require one to be not just moved but yanked out of one’s zones of comfort and security.  

It will inevitably bring some form of chaos and turmoil at first. Just like how i’ve struggled to overcome a lifestyle of debauchery.

The ultimate transformation of the human heart is the work of God – it is divine work.  We human beings, even the shepherds of the flock, are but co-operators with God’s spirit. All we can is pray and let God amaze us

Sometimes, when we resist changes and reformation to things that have been on even keel for a long time, it could be that part of the problem is because we may have unidentified ego-related reasons.  The more we make it about how we feel, how we are now inconvenienced, how we are seemingly deemed irrelevant, we may have made it more about us than about Church and community. 

Ministry is a good word.  It means to be of service to others and the community at large.  But if one is not careful, one will put more emphasis on the ‘I’ in ministry.  The temptation is always there, perhaps because there is not only one “I” in the word, but two. 

If we are too hurt by changes made, remember – God’s task of transformation is invariably entrusted to reluctant human will and courage.  Some will always be more reluctant than others. 

 

The season of Waiting

We aren’t strangers to waiting 

Whether it’s for this

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THIS….. 

Bildergebnis für Polyclinic queue
OR THIS (Trying my best to not sound like a disgruntled bourgeois)Bildergebnis für queuing up singapore

Being rather practical people, one would often find ways around waiting by either leaving earlier or taking an alternative route.

But what if it’s concerning our Spiritual Journey ?

Humanly, one would be predisposed to be frustrated during this journey. Prayer’s aren’t always answered. We have to wait ( and wait..) for a response from God

Psalm 13:1–2 writes:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
And i’m sure we must have all felt this way before.
I struggled with a lot of insecurities & fears. I’ve often prayed to God for an answer, a remedy of sort regarding my father, my addictions etc
But all I often got in return – Silence (And I would get angry with God)
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There have been moments where Jesus has waited for us, but we have ran away either in fear or our own laziness
It’s really hard to quantify or even pen down how a relationship with God can be built through waiting
I’ve realized that waiting is a means to forge our faith.
To make us attentive to his voice.
To deepen our relationship.
To solidify our trust.
To prepare us for ministry.
To transform us into his likeness.
During this period of waiting, a great deal of self reflection can be done
– To understand why we feel a certain way
– To “cool down” and  allow ourselves to be more objective
– To foster a spirit of discipleship and trust in God (INSANELY DIFFICULT)
And as we gear towards welcoming the new enquirers, may we mindful that these group of people have been waiting too in their search for answers, a deeper meaning in this Spiritual Journey etc

And as we continue to wait, I invite you to meditate on this bible verse 

Ecclesiastes 3 – A Time for Everything

Community Living – Part 1

I joined Seven Graces (or Budding Community as it was called then) in December 2014. I remember being extra nice, gentle and smiley to everybody because isn’t that what is expected of a Christian? <Inserts beaming face here>

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We are smiley people! Taken at Seven Graces retreat 2017

That exactly were the expectations I was subconsciously bringing with me into community! And of course, everybody was being super nice to me as well – a new girl in the community.

Anyway, at this point, I would like to introduce to you an excellent book by M.Scott Peck called The Different Drum. You could get a copy on Amazon here. (Get the kindle one, it is cheaper =p)

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According to M. Scott Peck, any group of strangers coming together to create a community goes through 4 distinct and predictable phases. The very first phase is “Pseudocommunity” of which the essential element is conflict avoidance.  Here are more details about what that entails:

Pseudocommunity

Members are extremely pleasant with one another and avoid all disagreement. People, wanting to be loving, withhold some of the truth about themselves and their feelings in order to avoid conflict. Individual differences are minimized, unacknowledged, or ignored. The group may appear to be functioning smoothly but individuality, intimacy, and honesty are crushed. Generalizations and platitudes are characteristic of this stage.

That exactly depicts what I felt on my first few weeks in community! And actually to be frank, in any new setting in my life. Everybody seems friendly and nice and you naturally want to do the same for others too. The problem only starts when you are not ready for the next stage of community living.

Chaos

Once individual differences surface, the group almost immediately moves into chaos. The chaos centers around well-intentioned but misguided attempts to heal and convert. Individual differences come out in the open and the group attempts to obliterate them. It is a stage of uncreative and unconstructive fighting and struggle. It is no fun. It is common for members to attack not only each other but also their leader, and common for one or more members–invariably proposing an “escape into organization”–to attempt to replace the designated leader. However as long as the goal is true community, organization as an attempted solution to chaos is unworkable.

Chaos is not necessarily bad in this case, and in fact to be encouraged because a community can never really grow if it stays within the pseudo community stage. Most importantly, why would one prefer to be in a community where people are not free to show their individual differences? Of course, this is not to be confused with excuses for our own failings and be condoned for hurting one another. Instead, we should recognize the necessity to work through our differences together, learn more about one another to take that extra step daily to avoid hurts and to love one another authentically for who we are individually.

There are two more stages as described in the book above, but I’m going to keep that to the next post. Keep watching this space for more updates on community living! =D

 

Evangelisation

This morning there was a new guy in the office. A fellow Christian sister in my office then quickly asked me if I knew he was Christian and the conversation went something like this:

Colleague: “Is he Catholic?”

Me: “Nope, he isn’t Christian. I know his wife.”

Colleague: “Is the wife Catholic?”

Me: “Nope, they are both non-Christians.”

Colleague: “Then we must bring them the truth! We must evangelize to them!”

Woah woah woah hold on there. Alarm bells went off in my head. Isn’t that too in the face? Haven’t we been scaring and pushing people off the church because we are too aggressive? Will they find it a turn off? Question after question just started popping in my head.

Very quickly I started judging how I think she may be pushing people away from the faith because of the “aggressiveness”. Then I kind of dismissed it and went along my day.

Well, at least until tonight. I attended the talk Living with Passion organized by OYP. Fr Jude did an opening sharing and this line struck a chord with me.

“You know inside we all wish to be mediocre, because we are so comfortable with everybody being okay, you okay, I okay, we all okay together.

Then we meet somebody living with passion and we call them so ‘in the face’. But we are so uncomfortable precisely because we know they excelling so much more than us in that aspect.”

Disclaimer: I have paraphrased his words due to poor memory.

I realize how true that is. What my colleague was capable to do to evangelize was beyond my means. I have recognized how I fell short of that passion for God and the courage to share it.

Have you ever had good chicken rice and you found yourself dying to share it with everyone? You try to persuade them to go and if not, you find yourself dragging them to eat it with you and you won’t give up until they give you that nod of agreement that the chicken rice is the best.

I hope one day to do the same with Jesus.

It was one of my prayers that I brought to WYD 2016 and held on tightly to – for Jesus to help me know and love Him better. I knew my hesitation to share about Jesus had strong roots in my lack of a real relationship with Him.

I think while we can take baby steps to evangelize – such as what they call passive evangelization. To lead a Christ-like life so that people may observe us and attribute our good life decisions to having Jesus in our lives. But beyond that, let us also build up our relationship with Jesus, through prayer, through action, through dying to oneself and then sharing about this best thing that we have with everyone we meet.