CONTENTS Message from:
Archbishop John Ha
Auxilliary Bishop Simon
The Council of Leaders
Empowered Ministry Feature Empowered Logistics & Technical Ministry A Bowl of Kampua Mee Alex Lee
A Season of Grace Evelyn Chow
Mercy: A Path to Forgiveness and Forgiving Philemon Kho
Moving on with Mercy Rick Daeg
“Mercy – Why Won’t You Release Me!” – Duffy Mary Voon
Saints and On Becoming A Saint Kenneth Chen
When Life Gets Tough Samantha Teo
Experiencing Mercy Crystal Belle
慈悲 · 圣门 · 爱 欣星
Life-Giving Mercy James Lai
Empowered Special Feature Flame Youth Group
The Waves and Wind Still Know His Name Amanda Danielle Ng
Mercy Meal: When A Meal Is More Than Just Food Mervyn M. Lee
Instructing the Ignorant? – A Personal Reflection Alex Lee
Romans 8:28 Dorothea Chin
With Mercy, Comes Freedom Ann-Marie Khor
The End of ER2016 Jonathan Soon
20 Injustice Allows Us To Love
Angelino Chan Jr, Philippines
More to Love James Lai
The Mother’s Nag Chrishen Gomez
Misererei, Mei! Marcella Chia
Forever and Always Amanda Therese Pasaoa Lee
Mercy. Love. Compassion. They’re All Interchangeable. Jo Terry
P.E.A.C.E Ralph Balan
Message from the Editor Shalom and a blessed Easter to you! This issue marks the 10th year of Empowered Magazine. We are excited to celebrate this year's magazine with a double issue. Woo hoo! MANAGEMENT PRODUCTION MANAGER EDITORIAL CHIEF EDITOR ASSISTANT CHIEF EDITOR PROOF READERS CREATIVE TEAM GRAPHIC DESIGNERS
Sheryl Caroline Lee Sheryl Caroline Lee Natalie Ha Claudia Law Natalie Ha Clare Wong Flora Mujan Jaya Hobart Kho Iain Bong Lewis Lo Sheryl Caroline Lee Patrick Choo
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” - John 14:27 How fitting this verse is for our day-to-day lives. Even in the midst of preparing and getting this issue out, there were countless of times this verse was being repeated in my head and heart. Not easy at times, but a great reminder indeed. Praise God and thank you for those working behind the scenes in ensuring this issue gets published on time. And especially to all the contributors and sponsors, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. May these small gestures of ours help to evangelise and speak to you as you continue your journey to find peace in all that you do. As we celebrate Easter – Jesus’ resurrection from the dead – may we all get to experience His peace and love by being merciful to one another through this year of Mercy. With love and prayers, Sheryl Caroline Lee Chief Editor
MODEL ON COVER: Wendy (volunteer of SERVE:LOVE Lent Project 2012) and an unnamed child (a resident of Kampung Kudei Lama)
is produced by a team of young Catholics of the Mass Media Ministry of the Empowered Community (St Joseph’s Parish Youth Ministry). It aims to be a portable source of religious information, helping youths to live out the Christian lifestyle.
Empowered Ministry Kuching
This magazine does not aim for profits but aims to bring people closer to God. Sponsorships and love offerings/donations can be made by sending us cheque (made payable to “ARCHBISHOP OF KUCHING - ST JOSEPH’S CATHEDRAL”. Please indicate on the reverse side of the cheque “SPONSORSHIP FOR EMPOWERED MINISTRY”) to the St Joseph’s Parish Office.
014 694 5414
Please write to us with your comments or drop by the Youth Room, St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Kuching, Sarawak, MALAYSIA
Message from Auxiliary Archbishop BishopHa John Simon Poh
ER2016 falls within the Jubilee of Mercy. The theme selected for it takes its inspiration from one verse of the Gospel (Jn 14:27) of the 6th Sunday of Easter which is the closing day of ER 2016 and inevitably includes in it the elements of mercy and door – thus, “Mercy – the Door to Peace”. In the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, as in all Jubilee Years of the Church, there is the tradition of having the Holy Door in selected churches or pilgrimage centres. For sure, the Holy Door is a man-built entrance or closure to a selected church or pilgrimage centre. It is a physical facility. Of its own it only serves as a point of entry to or exit from the building. However, the Church’s tradition of the Holy Door is drawn on Jesus’ self-identification as “the door of the sheep” (cf. Jn 10:7). Before this verse, the Gospel has Jesus assert that anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate (door) is a thief, while the true shepherd enters by it. The sheepfold is where the sheep return to rest in safety and under the protective eye of their shepherd (cf. Jn 10:1-2).
Translated into Christian terms, the metaphor of the door and the sheepfold conveys what our faith affirms as the eternal presence of God our Father into which we seek to enter through Jesus Christ. In the Father’s presence, we feel absolutely safe as we enjoy a share in His eternal life. Here, we are assured of true and lasting peace. This peace is not just absence of or protection from dangers but our total well-being. We are in good relationship with God and with neighbour and are assured of total acceptance by God and neighbour as well. In the Jubilee of Mercy, all this peace in God’s eternal presence through Jesus Christ is symbolised by our entering a selected church or pilgrimage centre through its Holy Door. Indeed, Jesus Christ, “the door of the sheep”, and “the good shepherd”, leads us to the eternal presence of His Father. In His mercy and love for all of us, God the Father sent Jesus His own and only Son into our world to bring us to His house (cf. Jn 14:2-3) where there is lasting peace – the peace that the world cannot give.
Indeed, Jesus is the visible face of the invisible Father. He makes His Father’s love and mercy felt by us. Following Him to His Father leads us into eternal peace. Jesus, the mercy of the Father towards us, is truly the door to peace – our salvation in the presence of His Father. A true experience of the Lord’s mercy gives us the impetus to share it with others – that is, to “be merciful as the heavenly Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). May ER2016 be an experience of the mercy of Jesus leading into God’s peace. May all participants of ER2016 share this experience with others by being “merciful as the Father is merciful” and lead them to God’s peace through Jesus Christ. Happy Easter Rally to all. God bless. Archbishop John Ha
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Message from Auxiliary Bishop Simon Poh Dear youth, students and children, We are now also in the midst of the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. It is very fitting that our Easter Rally 2016 focuses on God’s Mercy – Door to Peace. In world news, we are bombarded with tragedy, fighting, religious fundamentalism, terrorism, disasters caused by climate change, etc. All these cause a lot of anxiety, despair, fear and loss of hope in the hearts of many. In this weekend’s Gospel of John 14:13-29, Jesus offers peace as his personal gift to his disciples at the last supper: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” After the supper, he walked the talk as he entered into his passion, agony, betrayal, crucifixion and death. Hanging on the cross on Good Friday, Jesus knew he had been betrayed and denied by his disciples, rejected by his own people who had earlier welcomed him on Palm Sunday. But in the depth of his suffering, he prayed for all humanity. He pleaded with his heavenly Father: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). He promised life to
the repentant criminal: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) On the Cross, Jesus revealed the loving and merciful face of the Father to everyone. When Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples, there were no words of judgement or condemnation on his lips. Instead he offered them peace. “When the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” (John 20:19) No locked door could prevent Jesus from seeking out his disciples. Jesus had told them earlier: “I am the door… If anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:7-10) Pope Francis invites us to contemplate the Holy Door, “a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instils hope.” (Misericordiae Vultus n.3) During this Easter Rally, you will be invited to enter the Holy Door of Mercy at St Joseph’s Cathedral, Kuching.
Christ is our Door to the Father’s mercy. Therefore, to pass through the Holy Door from outside into the Cathedral symbolises: X through Christ, we pass from this world into the presence of God X we confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and our Lord X we accept Jesus as our Saviour who suffered, died, and rose for our salvation X we encounter the Father’s love and abundant mercy What is our response to Jesus who knocks on the door of our hearts: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20). Let us open our hearts to him. Let us enter into the threshold of hope, striving for holiness and a new life of grace and mercy. After ER2016, like the disciples, let us share the same mercy, hope and peace with everyone. Go and proclaim the Good News of the Lord. Alleluia! “Merciful like the Father” (Luke 6:36) Auxiliary Bishop Simon Poh
Message from Fr Felix Au
Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, Blessed Easter! Welcome to the Easter Rally of 2016. It is edifying for me to witness the vitality and fruitfulness of the Empowered Ministry in the Easter Rally as young people are brought together to minister to and inspire one another to be more fervent Catholics. This year’s ER carries the theme “Mercy – Door to Peace” from John 14:27 - “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives...” The peace that Christ brings flows from the experience of mercy. The sinful choices we make leave us unhappy, broken and wounded; they drain and rob us of peace. Sin leaves in its wake disharmony within ourselves and dysfunctional relationships with others and with God. Surely the disciples of Jesus were weighed down with sadness because they had failed the Lord – they abandoned him when he was arrested, tried, tortured and crucified. In spite of this, when the Risen Lord appeared to
them on the first Easter, he spoke these gracious and merciful words, “Peace be with you...” (cf. John 20:19). The words must have filled the disciples with unspeakable joy which displaced their fear and doubts. Not only were they astounded to see Jesus risen from the dead, they were astonished that he didn’t admonish them but lovingly blessed them with peace instead. The peace Christ gave to them (and continually offers to every Christian) is different from what the world calls peace. After the resurrection and ascension of our Lord, the disciples would embark on tough and difficult missions. According to tradition, they zealously proclaimed the Gospel even to distant lands even in the face of incredible opposition. Every apostle except St John would suffer violent martyrdom for his faith.
being in right relationship with others. It comes from doing what is right, even if that may be difficult. Peace is the consolation one obtains from letting go of our hurt and forgiving those who have wronged us. Saints experience this peace because Jesus, the Prince of Peace, lives in them. Dear friends, I pray you may experience that peace in ER, but don’t only be recipients of God’s graces. Make yourselves Christ’s instrument to pass his mercy and peace on to your family and the people in your life. I want also to express my thanks and gratitude to all who serve and support ER. May God bless you for your generosity and care for our young. Yours humbly in Christ, Fr Felix Au
But neither hardship nor torture could take away from the apostles the peace they received from Christ. How so? Christian peace is borne not out of absence of life’s crosses, but from being reconciled to God through his gift of mercy and forgiveness. It flows from
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Empowered ELDERS’ MESSAGE MERCY is our door to Peace. How many times must we show mercy? Jesus said, “70 x 7 times.” Once expressed and exercised, a deep sense of Peace will fill our hearts and souls. A sense of peace which is unbelievable yet real and everlasting; inner peace that we will bring with us to wherever we go. No matter what we are going through or what is going on around us, it is this Peace that will be one of our life’s fulfilments. This is the peace which can only be found in Jesus and this is His promise to us in John 14:27.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27) 27
Through ER2016, let us together dare ourselves to first experience the Mercy of God, to genuinely enter into His door of Mercy, whose arms are outstretched to welcome us because He loves us. Have a blessed Easter. With love & prayers, Ben & Sarah Lo
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Holy Father calls us as individuals and as a Church “to be witnesses of mercy” by reflecting on and practising the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. It is an invitation for us to love, to show kindness and to share limitless generosity, forgiveness and healing with our hurting world. Taking up this call, we as the modern Church are challenged to reflect on, receive and show mercy to others – just as we ourselves have encountered and experienced the great mercies of our Heavenly Father. However, the truth is this: receiving and showing mercy today is not easy. Often, the world confronts us with her values – favouring us to lord over another, demand what is rightfully ours while forsaking others who are in need. But in the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), we see the boundless mercy and generous grace shown by the Father, touching the lives of the wayward younger son and his stubborn older brother. We are reminded that encountering mercy means encountering love. And there is no other more perfect or satisfying love, than that of God Himself (1 John 4:9-10). For it is through this encounter we are transformed – in our lives, our relationships, our work, our studies, our hopes and dreams – in all our experiences of life.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit; 16So do not let your good be reviled. 18Whoever serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by others. 19Let us then pursue what leads to peace and to building up one another. (Romans 14:17-19) 17
I pray that this Easter (and in this E.R.), as we choose to recommit ourselves, our families and our nation to the Father, may we have a personalised transformational encounter with the One who is all merciful and love. By the simple embrace of His incredible love, may we experience true complete Peace (Shalom) … Amen! Mervyn Martin Lee
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Message from Fr Felix Au EMPOWERED COUNCIL OF LEADERS 2016 I’m not a very good Catholic. I thought it would be best to be honest and put it out there. My first real confession was made when I was at a ripe old age of 17, more than a decade since I was baptised. The feeling of my soul’s burdens lifting as if being carried away and disappearing into thin air was such a powerful experience that for awhile, I went back every week to confess my sins. But as it is with human nature, when feelings determine our actions, we soon forget what is important as time numbs those feelings. We soon take for granted the things that used to bring joy and relief. It is this reason I believe, that many find the Church boring and irrelevant over time. After years and even
“become the voice of every man and woman, and repeat confidently without end: ‘Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.’” (Ps 25:6) – Pope Francis
decades of just going through the repeated notion of Masses and Catholic conferences, sometimes we wake up in the morning and ask ourselves why. And then we get stuck looking for an answer. It doesn’t help when there are those around us who label us as being a goody-churchy pride, and accuse us of being hypocrites every time we do something that they think a Christian shouldn’t do. For those who forget, don’t worry about these people – the church is not a museum of saints; it is a hospital for sinners. Focus instead on ourselves. At first at least. Pope Francis called for an extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy, because in his own words, “I am convinced that the whole Church – which has much need to receive mercy, because we are sinners – will find in this jubilee the joy to rediscover and render fruitful the mercy of God, with which we are all called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time.” Note the sequence in that sentence – we first find the joy to rediscover, and then spread that to others. We become numb to the feelings that made us fall in love with Jesus, our Church and even our community
because we become content. Mass after mass, camp after camp, event after event, we are content with attending for the sake of attending, ministering for the sake of ministering. We need to never tire in digging deeper, be patient in rediscovering the little things and feelings that made us fall in love in the first place, and then want more. We need to rediscover what it means to depend on Him because we will not be able to do this by our own strength. We need to constantly ask and listen to God, bravely seeking what He wants for us, instead of staying put where we are. And when we grow, it will show. Only then will we be able to spread His gospel of love tirelessly wherever it is needed, wherever we are needed. I pray that everyone will have an amazing experience this E.R. and may we, the Church, “become the voice of every man and woman, and repeat confidently without end: ‘Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.’” (Ps 25:6) – Pope Francis. Hobart Kho Chairperson on behalf of the Empowered Leaders Council
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Empowered Ministry Feature
LOGISTICS & TECHNICAL
The Empowered Logistics and Technical (LogTech) Ministry is an essential, behind-the-scenes service ministry that manages the technology aspects of lighting and sound equipment, live bands setup, and manpower solutions for transporting equipment. The ELTM team exists to serve with the Empowered music ministry, priests, minister worker and ultimately, God and His people.
How we started
I believe we were mutually invited to take part in the unique opportunity from a volunteer, helper, then to be interested in learning more about technical stuff. We were formed as a Band of Brothers who live through our actions and
intentionality, to know, love, celebrate and serve one another. As part of the preparation for Easter Rally (ER) in 2013, The LogTech team took up the biggest challenges in setting up the live performance concert stage @ Kuching Amphitheatre (Jalan Budaya) for ER2013 10th anniversary celebration concert, and the ﬁrst ever Christmas Musical called ‘The Christmas Shoes’ in St Joseph's Grand Hall, ACCPC, St Joseph’s Cathedral. Just as Noah built an Ark by faith – we, the LogTech team, work through our faith. Noah, when warned about things yet unseen, in holy fear, built an ark to save his family. “Noah did all that God had commanded him, so he did – Hebrews 11:7”. The faith that presses on to preserve the soul as the assurance of things hoped for and the
conviction of things not seen, gradually led to other forms of outdoor and offsite events support, such as the Empowered Weekend Away (EWA), Camp Empowered (CE), Leaders Retreats, Ministers’ Retreats and so on.
Just as Noah built an Ark by faith – we, the LogTech team, work through our faith. Our Vision
We were urged to be internally strong to achieve God-given talents. To be physically strong and ﬁt is a ﬁne goal, but there is a greater strength that is even more essential – a strength that can only be found in God. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10). “I will give you wisdom for every new challenge" (James 1:5). “I will be with you and strengthen you and help you” (Isaiah 41:10).
What We Do
As “mighty men” of the ministry, it is important to us to build best practices, systems and guidelines so that the presentation experience of Empowered is consistent throughout venue. This is
where we look into the setting up, tearing down, delivery and collection of necessary equipment to and from our service venues. Through delivering equipment to transporting people, we are always on the go to ensure everyone gets to receive the Word at the service venues. We desire to inspire every youth to make himself fully available to God so he can see the will of God fully manifested in his everyday life.
What makes us happy?
Our Role in Events…
We are happy to welcome students from secondary school and university who are interested in serving God through LogTech. You will have a chance to be trained on how to operate the sound or lighting equipment.
As LogTech, we often work hand-in-hand with other team ministries for the purpose of achieving Church growth and kingdom expansion, and to carry out any duties that may be assigned to the ministry group from time to time. We often see ourselves as tools of God as we amplify sounds and helping others to grow in Christ-like maturity by demonstrating holiness in ministry environments. We also make arrangements for pre-event rehearsals, event sound-checks and technical support, maintenance of audio, stage lighting and scenic designs.
It makes us happy to experience the quality ampliﬁcation of live and total immersion during worship. To be afﬁrmed that we are being helpful to others and are accountable for our actions. To get to know that we are not alone as we work tirelessly behind the scenes of ELTM Ministry. Called to serve in LogTech?
Our Active Servants
David Wong, Joshua Bong, Oliver Tiong, Brandon Chee, Gordon Choo, Ian Bong, Joshua Tami, Moses Hiu, Brian Chin, Daniel Goh, Kristien Bong, Victor Stanny, and Victor Ng currently serve actively in the Log & Tech Ministry.
The struggles serving LogTech Ministry
People often talk about how they are “burnt out” after they hit that brick wall. Burnout happens because we expand energy and passion. It happens because we have done our best and given everything to the Youth Ministry. If we are not at some point experiencing burnout, it means that we have never been on ﬁre; that we are not as passionate about Youth Ministry as we should be. So we LogTech ministers do sometimes feel the pain of burnout, but it doesn’t mean that we are weak, worthless or a failure. In fact, it means the opposite. It means that we have been on ﬁre. It means we have done something for God. It means that we have been energetic and passionate. When youths join us, lives are being changed, parents are getting along and spiritual growth is happening; we will get our motivation back again whether it was initially due to laziness, distraction, frustration or burnout. E
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A Bowl of Kampua Mee
by Alex Lee
As a Catholic, unlikely as it may seem, one of my favourite times of the Liturgical Calendar is the season of Lent. As a Catholic, unlikely as it may seem, one of my favourite times of the Liturgical Calendar is the season of Lent. This year, it was even more interesting for me because on top of the usual observances of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, our beloved Pope Francis also calls us to live out our faith: to perform works of mercy. Pope Francis told us that Lent is a time of conversion and a time to deepen one’s faith, demonstrating and sharing it through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. During his message for Lent this year, he said, “Faith ﬁnds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit.” Particularly during the Year of Mercy, he said that Catholics are called to recognise their own need for God’s mercy, the greatness of God’s love seen
in the death and resurrection of Christ and the obligation to assist others by communicating God’s love and mercy through words and deeds. What a wise leader we have in Papa Francesco! So, all this emphasis on the works of mercy… It’s only natural that this will be a hot topic during youth meetings, talks and other church related events. Well, at least it is for me. I am serving in the Empowered Ministry of St Joseph’s Cathedral Kuching, particularly in the Music Ministry. So during all of our practices for the past few months, we have been sharing and reﬂecting on each and every one of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The intention behind this is to be in line with the Pope’s vision and also because this year’s theme for Easter Rally is… *drum roll*… “Mercy: Door to Peace”.
Midway during Lent this year, I had a very personal experience of “showing mercy” and it really left a mark in me. It was one of those days; it was pouring the whole day, I had a long day at work, got into some arguments with some people, physically and mentally tired with my commitments at home and in the church. So I did the most logical thing known to mankind, at least according to me. I got angry at God and I was blaming Him for the predicament I was in. Yes, at this age, I still go through this occasionally. When I got home that evening after a meeting at Church, it was 11pm and I just wanted to end the day by going to bed. So I tried to sleep but I failed to do so because the rain was so heavy and loud. My mind was still so active. As I thought more about my problems, the angrier I was at Him. So I sat on my bed
and talked to Him. For the record, I did most of the “talking”, to the extent that I questioned myself, “Why am I still serving You when You don’t even care?” I felt like an emotional teenager who just got an invitation to go out with my friends rejected by my parents. Sorry for the weird analogy but that was how I felt back then. My life sucks and it’s all God’s fault. And I made it a point to tell Him that. After that, I went back to position zero and continued attempting to check in to slumber land. A few minutes later, a friend texted me and asked if I’m free to accompany him for supper. Thank God! Well, I wasn’t really thanking Him that time because I was still upset with Him, but you know what I mean. So I responded and my friend picked me up at 12.15am for supper nearby our place. When we arrived at the coffee shop, it was still raining heavily. We found ourselves a table and we ordered our drinks. My friend and I were the only few customers at the shop. The only stall that was still open was a Kampua Mee stall, operated by a married couple. So both of us sat there and talked while enjoying our drinks. After twenty minutes or so, an uncle came by on his motorcycle, drenched from the rain in his banana-coloured raincoat. He looked like he is in his 60s, was holding a silver tumbler and sat at the table in front of the Kampua Mee stall, which happened to be the table in front of me.
As he was ordering his drink from the waiter, the waiter asked why he was up so late. The uncle responded by saying he had just ﬁnished work and he wanted to take shelter from the rain before heading home. I had no intention to eavesdrop but because of the rain, people were talking at a higher volume than usual.
and then at the sign. He did it so many times that it seemed like choreography. While doing that, his other hand was holding his tummy. He seemed very hungry. In the end, he reluctantly ordered a plate of Kampua Mee and asked the stall operator to sell him the cheapest and smallest plate he could get.
After several minutes, the waiter came back with his order of a glass of hot water. The uncle then took off his raincoat and I noticed his hands were scarred and bruised. Not the kind of wounds you get from physical abuse but the kind you get from doing hard labour. He took his tumbler and poured whatever residue of what I think was coffee left into the glass of hot water and stirred it. That was his drink for the night.
At this point when I heard him place his order, images of Pope Francis and his message about mercy was ﬂashing profusely in my head. I felt compelled to do something but I had too much happening that day which made me reluctant to. Sitting there for about a minute deciding whether to act out of my empathy felt like a very long time. I gathered my courage and I walked to the back of the stall where the man was preparing the noodles. I told him to prepare a bigger bowl of Kampua Mee for the uncle and assured him that I will pay for it but he must not tell the uncle it was me. The stall operator was confused at ﬁrst and he asked if I knew the old man. When I said I did not know the uncle personally, he kept questioning me why was I doing that.
When the waiter came back to collect the payment for the drink, he took out the only piece of RM5 in his wallet and paid. I told myself, it’s none of my business, and I continued to converse with my friend. And for some weird reason again, I couldn’t help but continued to keep my eye on the uncle. What I saw for the next few minutes made me have an internal debate like never before. As he was enjoying his cup of diluted coffee, the waiter came back with his change of RM4.50. Seriously?! 50 cents for hot water?! Anyway, the uncle kept turning his head to look at the sign posted on the Kampua Mee stall. The sign said: “Kampua Mee, RM4.50”. Then he looked at the money in his hands,
For some weird reason (maybe I’m just weird), I started to observe the uncle.
“Faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit.”
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The next morning, I thought I would feel better after a good night’s rest and that the new day would be great. Oh, how wrong I was. I was still angry at God and a good deed last night did not erase the existing worries that I had. I went on with my day, running errands with my dad. Around two in the afternoon, I had some free time so I went to a church near my house and spent some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament in hope for more peace with myself and God. Again, to no avail.
Because my Mandarin speaking skills had deteriorated throughout the years due to lack of practice and to save myself the trouble of explaining about it being lent, works of mercy, almsgiving, and so forth, I just said: “I have my reasons. Please allow this uncle to enjoy a nice meal.” I paid him for the food and headed back to my seat. When the plate of noodles was delivered to the uncle, the stall operator told him that it was already paid for and told him to enjoy his meal. The uncle persistently asked the man who paid for the noodles and the stall operator just said the person left the shop already. I witnessed the whole thing. I saw how the uncle gobbled down the noodles with a grateful look in his eyes. After my friend and I ﬁnished our drinks, we left for home.
Before heading home from church, I felt thirsty so I walked across the street to a random coffee shop I’ve never been to before and ordered a cup of iced coffee. As I was sitting there, to my surprise, guess who I saw? It was the couple who operated the Kampua Mee from the evening before. The man saw me and said to the wife, “I told you!” before they greeted me. I asked him what he meant when he said that to the wife. Then they told me, when my friend and I left the evening before, the uncle ﬁnished his noodles and said he was very grateful to whoever paid for his meal and personally thanked the couple as well before he left. Then the husband and wife were trying to come up with a logical reason as to why I did it. Apparently the only reason the husband could think of was: “Maybe he’s a Christian.” I was confused because the evening before I did not say anything or wear any religious article on me which would clearly show that I’m a Christian. So I asked, “How did you know I am a Christian?” They both said they saw me walking out of Church before heading there. They afﬁrmed me for what I did for the uncle and told me that they were ministered by my actions. They ended the conversation by saying, “The world needs more people like you.” And they left after saying goodbye. Did I feel good about myself after that? Yeah, I did. More than that, I was dumbfounded. After hearing all that, I also started to feel a little bit of guilt. Me? The world needs more people like me? I don’t deserve this kind of
compliment after saying those things I said to God. I was just afﬁrmed of my identity as a Christian by some strangers when at the same time, I doubted God’s role in my life. I was seeking an answer and He revealed it to me in a way that I wouldn’t even imagine possible. What can I say? He win liao lor! He won, my ego lost. This took me back to a teaching which I used to hold very dearly to my heart but was gradually forgotten, “When you pray for strength, God may not automatically and magically make you strong, but He deﬁnitely will provide you plenty of opportunities to be strong. Same goes with love, forgiveness and everything else about being a follower of Christ.”
I am not called to do the world a favour by my acts of kindness but I am called to love the world and to show them the love which I’ve personally experienced from God.
Until today, I can still remember the look in that uncle’s eyes as he accepted that plate of noodles. The funny thing is, if you look at it from the secular point of view, it is only logical that he feels grateful. I mean, it is only right. What is even more amazing is that I am also grateful for him. Because of my encounter with him, though it was short, it was something which revealed more of God to me. So I guess that’s what works of mercy is all about to me personally. I am not called to do the world a favour by my acts of kindness but I am called to love the world and to show them the love which I’ve personally experienced from God. To bring God into the lives of the people I meet. Maybe then I can fully experience true peace. E
Experiencing Mercy by Crystal Belle
To me, whenever I hear the word ‘Mercy’, I think of a father forgiving his child after he/she has done something bad. ‘Mercy’, to me, simply means forgiving or forgiveness. I receive Mercy almost every day. I receive Mercy from my parents – perhaps not so much from my friends – but I definitely receive forgiveness from my family members. I think the greatest Mercy that was shown to me is from Father God himself. You see, I was like the prodigal son. I ran away from God. I was lost. I neglected my night prayers and refused to “contact” Him. Why? The reason I gave myself (or God, hoping that he would hear the reason why I refused to talk to him) was: “I’m busy, I’ll do it tomorrow” and more. Nothing worked, not even going for mass — because it felt like a Sunday evening chore.
I didn’t think I was worthy of receiving forgiveness after what I’ve done. Through this experience, I definitely learnt to show Mercy to others who have hurt me.
By the end of my high school life, I was desperate and needed to pass my upcoming SPM examinations. I turned to the only one whom I hoped would be there for me: God. I knew I was spiritually dry but I prayed to him the night before the big exam. Before starting to pray, I closed my eyes tightly thinking that I would see Him, and I waited for everyone to be asleep so that I could hear Him.
When it was time to pray, I bowed my head in shame. I was embarrassed. I couldn’t bear the thought of me receiving forgiveness. I thought He would say, “Oh, you only pray now?!” but instead, I felt warm inside, so much so that it felt almost like a hug. I stopped crying not because I wanted to but because I felt happy. It was weird, but I felt the presence of God as though He was saying, “I forgive you, my child. I have never and will never leave you.” Honestly, I never thought that I would receive Mercy. I didn’t think I was worthy of receiving forgiveness after what I’ve done. Through this experience, I definitely learnt to show Mercy to others who have hurt me. I did not like it at first, but thinking back on that experience and the Mercy showed by own family members; it is the right thing to do. Everyone should definitely show Mercy towards others more often. It gives you this unexplainable feeling of being free from the heavy grudges or hatred you feel towards the people you dislike. Trust me when I say this — you’ll like the aftermath of showing Mercy, because not only will you feel free; but you will definitely smile more too. E
EMPOWERED MAG | 15
慈悲·圣门·爱 by 欣星
这样的一年，教会的话题总不 离开慈悲禧年的活动、即朝圣 、圣门、大赦，因为这是天主 对我们的极大慈悲时刻。祂召 叫（calling）、 邀请我们，并 等待我们回应祂的 邀请。今年 特别恩赐的慈悲禧年里，让我们 以通过走过圣门的朝圣来 取得 大赦，并鼓励我们把这样的大 赦奉献给那些可怜的炼灵们回 归到天父那里。因此这是天主 恩赐给我们很好的机会来参与 祂的救恩计划，因此走圣门朝 圣就不是一件普通的事了。 对我而言，圣门，除了是通 往天主的门，更是进入天主表 达祂对我们极大的慈悲和爱的 宣示。前几天的弥撒中神父分 享到“门”，在土著的语言， 也涵盖家庭的含义。 几道门就 是几个家庭的意思。门已不再 单单只是指表面的含义，更是 有着进入新的生命、家庭和团 体的含义。 门+耳=闻 闻，即聆听天主的圣言。在每 日生活中我们是否有保留一些 时间给天主，安静的陪伴祂、 以及默想祂想对我们说的话。 门+日=间 间，即时间的间。这是一个为 期不到一年的慈悲特殊禧年， 特别的时段。时间一直往前走 ，在我们过的每一天都是天主 对我们全人类彰显祂极大的慈 悲。我们是否真的意识到自己 需要祂的慈悲？特别是在这段 时间里？是否我们珍惜所过的 每一天的慈悲？并把天主的爱 与慈悲传给别人？ 门+马=闯 在决定做天主要我们做的事情 时，我们需要“闯”，即是马 上去做！不要迟疑或犹豫。
门+一=闩 闩是指门闩，有锁上门的意思 ，即是提醒我们对于魔鬼的诱 惑我们要弃绝（锁上）。
得我被欺骗了，因为在当地这 类的乞讨诈骗是很常见的。但 可能是顾虑我的感受所以都只 字不提。
门+才=闭 即是对世俗的“关心”闭上心 门。在这个充满各种欲望的世 俗，我们更是需要天主的慈悲 帮助我们明白，除了祂，没有 任何事物能真正给我们内心的 平安与喜乐。
当时的我感到很孤独、不被认 同，这事也一直在我心中得不 到答案。就是当我们不能确定 我们所遇到那些口中说需要帮 助（特别是钱）的人时，我们 应 不 应 该 帮 ？ 后 来 有 一次，我跟一位朋友聊起这件 事，他说了一句话让我至今还 印象深刻：对方向你求助时你 帮不帮他（能力范围内）是你 的事；至于对方是否虚情假意 那是他的事。
门+心=闷 最后一个则是闷，虽然在生活 上常常有一些不顺心的事，心 中难免感到郁闷。此时我们仍 需要谦卑地把目光放在耶稣身 上，背起十字架跟随着祂。 耶稣说，“除非经过我，谁 也不到父那里去。”(若14：6) 天父借着圣子耶稣邀请我们进 入祂的家庭，活出新的生命。 我常提醒自己，在决定并进入 天主的家，特別是走过圣 门时，自己是否真的愿意弃绝 “旧我”、弃绝“地上的事”、 弃绝“魔鬼的诱惑”？是否 准备好接纳并活出这新的身份 —主的儿女。 最后分享之前在留学的日子 曾经经历的一件让我对天主的 仁爱与慈悲有所感触的事。一 天晚上，在与朋友约好聚餐地 的马路对面，遇见两位青年女 孩向我乞讨，由于一些原因导 致她们没钱买东西吃。当时心 中曾经怀疑对方所说的是否属 实，但最后我决定给了她们十 元还反过来问她们是否足够。 她们并没有乞讨更多并表示很 感谢。 那次的聚会我的心里并不好 受，因为朋友们都看到当时的 情景，但大家都默不作声。 从他们的眼神可以看到他们觉
他的话提醒了我，重点并不 是对方是否说实话，而是自己 是否有那个仁爱行为？是的， 我们时常习惯地把“目光”放 在别人身上，而忘了自己的本 份。我相信在这事上，天主不 会因为我是否被欺骗而感到失 望难过，反而因有那颗怜悯之 心而开心。 “因为我饿了，你们给了我吃 的；我渴了，你们给了我喝的 ；我作客，你们收留了我：我 赤身露体，你们给我穿的；我 患病，你们看顾了我；我在监 里，你们来探望了我⋯ 君王便 回答他们说：我实在告诉你们 ：凡你们对我这些最小兄弟中 的一个所做的，就是对我做的 。 ” — 玛25:35-40 这是玛窦福音中记载耶稣在 晚餐厅的最后训言，全以彼此 相爱为主题。天主是爱，祂爱 我们，我们在接受祂的仁慈与 爱，更应毫无保留地把祂的爱 传给别人。 E
EMPOWERED MAG | 17
Empowered Special Feature FLAME YOUTH GROUP Shalom and Blessed Easter! The newly established Chinese Youth Group in St Joseph Cathedral – FLAME Youth Group – is now two years and four months old. Initially, FLAME was started to train future young Sunday school teachers and co-workers. However throughout the journey, it developed a clearer vision which is to gather youths in St Joseph Cathedral Chinese community including youths from high schools, colleges and working young adults to support one another in developing faith life. This is to encourage the youths to build and deepen their relationship with God in life. Through the community life experiences, the youths are able to support and learn from one another to grow spiritually.
“Even if it is a tiny little spark (flame), it is enough to burn whole plains.
We call ourselves the tiny little sparks (FLAME); hoping to be in union and growing in togetherness, and that this ﬂame of faith will keep burning in the hearts of youths, to light up and bring warmth to the community.
FLAME’s Youth Gatherings are scheduled on every second and fourth Sundays of the month (fortnightly) from 10.45 a.m. – 12.00 p.m. Not only does FLAME include youth gatherings, but also a variety of activities such as faith and life sharing, bible sharing, praise and worship, seminars, fellowships, pilgrimage and Christmas carols. Apart from that, the youths also assist in Sunday
school’s outdoor activities such as Easter celebration, breakfast sales, children’s camps and so on. FLAME will continue its journey leading the youths. May the ﬂame of faith continue to burn strongly within the hearts of youths to become convincing witnesses of Jesus Christ. E
When the fire of Holy Spirit comes amongst us, we are going to pass it (God’s love) on.”
EMPOWERED MAG | 19
by Angelino Chan Jr, Philippines
Injustice! This has been my cry since I was young.
I am youngest amongst my brothers, so I have four big brothers who more or less bully me occasionally. If I was the ﬁrst one to get to watch the TV and my brothers would come, they would always say, “You have had your time. It is now my turn.” While when I would want to watch and I get to tell them that they have been watching the TV for a long time, I would hear, “Sorry, I was the ﬁrst one here.”
IT WAS SO UNFAIR. Deep inside, I would have liked to protest and ﬁght for my right! (I was so angry that time because watching the television was very important to me…) But I know that with my size and my rank…I had no chance to win. Well, this is just one of my experiences. (We are not talking about food yet!) I know that everyone of us have experienced injustice one way or another. Whether it is about something very important or
something very trivial (like my television rights), we know how it feels. It is UNFAIR! They have no right to do that to us. This is just not right! I must take revenge! They must SUFFER for their wrong doings! How nice would it be if I receive an equal reward/ recognition for my every effort? And how satisﬁed we would feel if another (especially our enemy) receives the punishment that he/she deserves? Then I grew up (and I realised that my television rights were not real) and eventually learned that the world is UNFAIR. We do not always get what we deserve. Sometimes we suffer from problems that we did not even cause. We sometimes even get blamed when all we wanted to do was to help. This convinced me that there is something wrong with the system. I thought that the world needs to be more ﬁrm, to be stricter, just to be able to protect Justice. That time, I became so rigid and strict with myself and with others. Everything for me had to be in black and white. And if there were any gray areas, I did my best to come up with a policy or agreement which would
clarify and set the line between right or wrong. Due to this, as an ofﬁcer in our choir, I became very strict. Because people were usually late, I implemented a rule where they would not be allowed to serve if they were late even for just a minute. This was just one of the policies I came up with, thinking that it would solve the problem. However, in my disappointment, it did not solve the problem; instead, things got worse – there were less people serving every Sunday. However, I kept telling myself that there was nothing wrong with the policy; the problem was their lack of motivation. Eventually hearing feedback from a few of the members, I realised how I have actually taken away the joy and love from their service. They were telling me that I should be more considerate and understanding (while I was thinking that I was not strict enough). Even our most enthusiastic member’s drive dwindled because everything just became an obligation. Only when I ﬁnished my term as an ofﬁcer in our choir did I realise that I was actually not leading them to Jesus.
Then, while randomly browsing through the Internet, I encountered this wisdom from St Thomas Aquinas about justice and mercy. He said that “Justice without Mercy is cruelty.” Now I get to understand that Justice is not enough. It is not the policies that would make them come on time, but it is in understanding their struggle that we can help them improve. I realised that most of the time, our initial response for offenders was that they should be punished so that they will not do it again. However, are we not taught about forgiveness? Are we not asked to always give a second chance? Do not get me wrong; what is wrong must be corrected. Offenders must be disciplined. As St Thomas also remarked, “Mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution.” We may get abusive when we learn that we will not be penalised for our wrongdoings. As I have read from www.RC.net in their daily readings & meditation, Pardon without repentance negates Justice. The purpose of punishment or penance is that we do the right thing next time and not to inﬂict pain and suffering. I believe that is not the intention of our God, He who is love. But due to our stubbornness, sometimes these are necessary. Sometimes it is the only way we can learn. That is why I think it is more important for us to understand why they committed this mistake so that we can help them regain their dignity and reclaim their identity as creations in God’s image and likeness. It is very difﬁcult to see Jesus in someone who committed murder or someone who ruthlessly violated another but we
should not let our human limitations hinder us from seeing God’s spirit in our brothers and sisters. And here, I get to appreciate that Mercy actually ampliﬁes the love that there is. Now, let me ask you, have you ever done wrong to someone you love before? (I know you did, no need to deny.) And I am not talking about pranks or crazy tricks to our friends. I am talking about disappointing someone you love or failing the people who depends on you. It is painful. We feel very sorry. If only we can turn back the time, we would. And we would do everything in our power just to ease the pain that we have caused. We know that we deserve to be punished, that they have all the rights to take revenge and what we have done is unforgivable. In this case, WHEN WE ARE FORGIVEN, I believe that is how Mercy ampliﬁes love. This is the time when we realise that we are given something (we want) that we do not deserve. How thankful are we when we are forgiven, when we are given the trust again, when we are shown love even if we have made them suffer. Same goes when we forgive someone, especially if it is a grave mistake. It IS difﬁcult to forgive; to just forget the pain they have caused; to accept injustice. But that is where our love is stretched and tested. We can naturally love people for their beautiful side, but it is a challenge to accept and embrace them with their limitations, ugliness and wickedness. When we forgive, we strengthen our muscles for love. It grows bigger and stronger. We become more like Jesus. This reminds me of a story from BBC. How could a mother forgive
someone who killed her son? But she did. And I believe that takes love; not just an ordinary love, but an unconditional love. Is this not what He always asks from us? Well it has always been what He’s giving us. Like the mother, God loved His son, but He sent Jesus to cleanse our sins. In Justice, we should all cease to exist and suffer from all our sins. (Thank God it is not. Pun not intended) But because of his indescribable abundant love, it is through Mercy that He saved us.
St Thomas said that “Mercy does not destroy justice, but is a certain kind of fulﬁllment of Justice.” I would like to add, that Mercy does not only fulﬁll Justice but more so give a deeper meaning to our relationships because it allows us to discover a whole new face of love, a higher level of love. It amazes me that it is through His mysterious ways that He teaches us to be more like Him; to Love more and more and more…(still a very long way before we get there so let’s get going. Let’s start forgiving. J) E http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/religion-a nd-philosophy/philosophy/mercy-is-not-sentimen tal.html http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/luke1711.htm
EMPOWERED MAG | 21
by James Lai
I always thought that doing the things I wanted to do around other people is a drag. When you work in group projects for a college assignment, there is usually one or two person(s) who is/are pulling the entire team down. When you approach that person to talk about his/her performance, he/she started showing some attitude. When you want to jog or cycle around, you probably have friends who are usually far behind so you have to slow down your pace so that no one gets left behind. When you want to hit the gym, go on adventures, try out new food and places, etc., there are usually friends who can’t or are not interested to join you so you decide to cancel your plans because you had no one to go with. Personally, I find that I’m restricted from living a more content and fruitful life because of other people around me. Hence, I decided to come up with a resolution for this year; “Whatever I want to do, I will just do it, even if it means doing it alone” – and I did. For the first quarter of 2016, I’ve been away from home due to work. I had the opportunity to travel all around Sarawak and experience new food, places and people along the way. Everything was great until I started feeling ‘empty’. I didn’t know how to describe this unpleasant feeling. ‘Empty’ describes it best. I tried to understand the reason for feeling this way. Maybe I was bored? My laptop and phone had no games. I ran out of movies to watch on my laptop. There was hardly any WiFi at the hotels I stayed in. I was abstaining from listening to secular music due to Lent. What else is there for me to do? I
constantly went jogging at the places I’ve visited (Sarikei, Saratok, Sibu, Kapit, Mukah, Limbang, & Sri Aman), checking out places of interest along the way, hitting the gym and cyber cafes, and so on. But I still felt empty. Maybe it was my past sins and relationship with God that made me feel this way? I needed God to fill this ‘void’ in my life. Hence, I went for confession, did my penance, prayed, asked for forgiveness from people I’ve hurt, and performed corporal works of mercy. Certainly, something in me changed when I did all that. It wasn’t easy to perform corporal works of mercy when you’re doing it on your own
and there’s no one else with you for support. However, I still felt empty after making myself right with God. Why? I thought I received love and showed love through Christ. I talked to a group of friends about this and they helped me understand what my love language was at that time – quality time. It was something which I had not had for quite a while. My love tank was empty. Perhaps, this was what ‘empty’ means. I needed somebody to talk to and spend time with. At the same time, I didn’t want to bother anyone else who might have other better things to do than just keeping me company.
What is the point of me sharing this? We all need love. I believe the following Bible verse best describes our need for love:
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
We can distract ourselves from feeling ‘empty’ (like I did) through many ways – like hitting the gym, jogging, travel to new places, trying new food, playing games, watching movies & TV series, reading books, surfing the internet, working, and the list goes on. But when we start stripping ourselves from all these distractions, we will come to know that we all need love, and love can only be shown or received from another person – whether it be in the form of words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, receiving gifts or physical touch. Although I may depend on God as my source of love, it is not enough just spending time with a God I can’t physically see or hear. I needed something more obvious – like the Sacrament – being God’s outward appearance of inward grace. I forgot to realise that God also lives in each one of us, and when we received love from another person, that’s God’s love appearing to us. E
EMPOWERED MAG | 23
NAG by Chrishen Gomez
Whether evolution is a thing you believe in or not, we all came from somewhere, and getting to where we are today, is no small feat. It required our evolutionary ancestors to adapt and develop behaviors since a long time ago in order to ensure that we survive the constantly ﬂuctuating world. To understand this better, we look to our closest biological relatives: the primates!
Lo and behold, we see behavioural patterns that are similar to our own. A mother nursing her young, keeping them close to her side, cleaning and washing them up, picking ticks out of their hair (usually replaced by ear cleaning and hair combing in the human context), and most importantly, constantly showing them how to survive by repeated and consistent (annoying) reminders. Sounds familiar? NAG. A mother’s nag is the most consistent familial behaviour that we share with our closest evolutionary relatives. As long as you’ve had some encounter with an older female ﬁgure who is close enough to you, I’m sure we all have had a taste of this incredible phenomenon, some more than others. The word “nag” is most often associated with the most negative and “up-wall driving” experience in any household. Coming from an Indian family in Kuala Lumpur with a mother who was my full-time companion throughout my
schooling days, I too have had my fair share of nagging. I remember days when I would prefer to remain quiet and hidden in my house so that my mother couldn’t ﬁnd something to nag at me about. I used to wonder why my mother couldn’t see the good in what I did, to a point my ﬂaws and failings had to be ampliﬁed 100 times besides being constantly reminded that I needed to be better. Why couldn’t she wake me up by saying, “Good morning my intelligent, hardworking, kind, generous, affectionate, good-looking son.” Instead, it would most often be a sharp “You’re always late!” or “Get out of bed!” or the classic “Stop being so lazy!” Like most teenagers, these thoughts began to get a hold of me, and before long, I started believing that my mother was simply inconsiderate, irrelevant and moody. I remember a friend vividly telling me one day, after he had met my mother, that I make my mother sound like the devil when I talk about her. However, all this soon changed due to a sequence of seemingly unrelated events. In April 2008, I received an invitation to be part of a team of 20 young Catholics of 18-14 years old to facilitate a “Youth Rally” in my parish at the end of the year. This marked the beginning of my spiritual journey. The formations we underwent were intense and challenging. It required us to make
big mindset shifts. We were guided through a process of reﬂection, where we were constantly prompted to look within ourselves, to ﬁnd that love of God that is present in each one of us. I was introduced to spiritual exercises such as the “Examen” that guided me during the long journey within to understand my emotions and thoughts better. It prompted me to deal with areas of my life that were painful for me to look at: my temper, lack of discipline, addictions, and lastly but most signiﬁcantly, my relationship with my mother. Almost every disagreement I had with my mother was rooted in the fact that I could no longer tolerate the nagging I received consistently. It had become my kryptonite – never failing to completely destroy my mood within seconds, regardless of how pleasant the day had been. The anger that was building in me, I soon learnt, was not the person that God was intending me to be. It was leading me away from the image of Christ that I so strongly wanted to emulate, and I needed to do something about it. I realised that in every instance of these nagging experiences, my immediate reaction was to question why my mother had to be so picky and ﬁnd external factors for an interior failure. The feelings I felt had come from inside of me, which led me to understand that I was the cause of it in
the ﬁrst place. This line of thought shifted my thinking completely. From asking “why did my mother had to be so picky?”, I immediately started asking, “why was I getting so angry?” . These little questions I began asking soon led to the most fundamental change I’ve seen in my spiritual journey so far. It opened me up to a door of wisdom that was staring at my face every time I was told to make my bed. Looking within, I found that the crux of the matter was not the nagging itself, but my reaction to it. My immediate instinctive reaction was to get angry, when I should have been RESPONDING in love. I began to expose myself to the idea of loving through self-denial and to embrace suffering for the Body of Christ. These things made me realise that the anger I felt was an expression of an inner pride I was not willing to let go of. This had to be ﬁxed. I was inspired by the stories of many saints who had found the grace to “die to their own desires” in order to put God ﬁrst in their lives. I began to understand that the key to overcoming my anger was not by my
mother stopping to do the most natural motherly thing to do, but by me, learning to die to my pride and deny myself of the impulses that would normally follow these situations. I later understood that this concept was commonly known as “Self-Mastery” – the mastery of one’s own thoughts and emotions. My self-mastery was sharpening every time I responded to my mother’s nagging with a simple “nod”. The nagging never got easier to hear, nor did it reduce in frequency. As time went by, it progressively became easier for me to die to my natural desires of defending my pride, thus strengthening the mastery of myself. Now, here’s where my mind was blown open. Self-mastery does not only apply to the control of emotional impulses, but encompasses even physical, intellectual, and sexual ones. These impulses are normally the basis of addictions. Addictions happen when we are no longer able to control the impulses that we have given in to until we become dependent on. The only solution would be self-mastery; to not
only desire for change to happen, but to have the grace and strength to make that change happen. It was teaching me to stop “reacting” and start “responding”. Two similar ideas with very different outcomes. One is instinctive and impulsive, while the other involves patience and discernment. A person who reacts would think ‘what I can do for my own good’, while a person who responds would think ‘what I can do for the good of the situation’. As it turns out, the key to ﬁghting this battle with addictions has been presented to us the moment we entered this world. Our mothers have, through the evolution of time, constantly provided us the tools to “sharpen our sword” in building up this virtue in our lives. So the next time you encounter statements like “Why didn’t you make your bed?” or hear a long lecture about the importance of going to bed early, remember the powerful wisdom and opportunity to glorify God right at that very moment. E
Our mothers have, through the evolution of time, constantly provided us the tools to “sharpen our sword” in building up this virtue in our lives.
EMPOWERED MAG | 25
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Miserere, Mei! by Marcella Maura Chia
My God. Where are you? I seek to ﬁnd you, all my life. I ﬁll up my days with things and people just so I can feel contentment – feeling of hope and light. Indeed, You’ve appeared before me. But I’ve let you pass me by. You whispered in my ears. But I shut you out. My God, I am sorry.
I fear you with all my heart yet I seek you and want you; I want you to be right beside me I want you to teach me Like how an earthly father would to his daughter. Teach me to have patience and to have faith. (Psalm 119:90) to give and to receive, to nurture and to love, to inspire in ways that leads to perfect meaningful life.
My daughter, My sweet daughter, Know that I am with you every step of the way. Believe me that whatever decision you make, I am here for you. Lay your head on my shoulders and let me carry you. Let me wipe those tears away because my dear Child, I only want the best for you. I will never leave you nor will I ever let anyone or anything harm you. All I ask is for you to forgive yourself and not sin again.
Do you not know, my child? I have always been there for you. Listen and look around you with an open heart. There are many wonderful things around you and those that I have planned for you. Here, reach out your hand to mine regardless of where you are at right now; Know that My love for you is an everlasting promise that will be with you, forever and ever.
Manifest in me your power of forgiveness and mercy Help me in this journey of mine to rediscover your divine love and inﬁnite mercy. As said in Psalms, “Great is Your mercy.” My God, I’ll hold on. I’ll hang on to You, now and always. Ultimately, My God, Misererei Mei! which means “Have mercy on me.”
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A Season Of Grace by Evelyn Chow
Where you go, I will go; Where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me. Ruth 1:16-17
It was a sunny Sunday outing at Damai beach, where the few of us 20-year-olds then, laid lazily on beach chairs facing the sea. Our heart-to-heart talk slowly led us to the question, “What is the one trait that your significant other must have?” Being at the far end of the teenage spectrum, and the gradual transitioning into young adult life, questions like this deserve more than just a flimsy response bordering “tall, dark, handsome, rich” or “must-haves: cash, car, condo, credit card.” After much thought, I responded with “He must be a man of God.” Who knew that this Sunday beach outing would serve as a memory anchor ever since. Though I questioned myself time and time again, whether “being a man of God” is enough to survive in a competitive world or whether I will forever be single, if “being a man of God” means becoming a priest. Since then, I have not dwelled much on the memory, but have not forgotten about it either. For the next three years, I found myself growing closer to Christ through ministerial service and communities that have partly formed me into the person I am today. I’ve found new families in the Kuching Young Christian Students, Empowered Ministry and Lifeline Young Working Adults and Youth Ministry, so much so that I was quite settled with the thought of staying single in my vocation, and offering myself and time to serving others. It was through serving in Lifeline Ministry in 2011, that my path crossed with this “man of God”. Fast forward four years later; we made a commitment to journey together into the vocation of marriage. In hindsight, although the four necessary years of courtship were full of realignment and taught us to live a more others-centric life, I had not given much thought on how God would “level-up” this challenge in our period of engagement. Despite enjoying the companionship of one
another, there were instances where I doubted my vocation. Given our human weaknesses that surface in relationships, I felt that I am unworthy, even incapable of living the vows; “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” It was then that I was reminded of how God’s grace appeared most tangibly through our married friends, Sheena and Aaron, who most generously ministered to us through their sharing, words of wisdom and most of all, through their companionship. I am at a loss for words at how their ministry of presence made us feel secure being in God’s hands, whether we realise it or not. Not only do I feel genuinely understood and loved, I felt hopeful and less angry at God for allowing such ‘purification’ to take place in a relationship that I thoroughly treasure and enjoy. One defining moment was during the early years of our courtship, where Kenneth was considering the religious vocation. Although we were blessed to have our parish priest lovingly accompany us in the journey of discernment, I inevitably felt that it was also a period of trial between God and I; I know that I am no match for the almighty if He calls him to the religious life. Sharing our experience of this crossroad in our relationship, we found comfort in Sheena’s sharing of their similar experiences during their early years of courtship. Sheena shared about God answering her prayer in a way that requires her to “hold Aaron with open palms” – God gives, and if He wills it, God will take. I found peace knowing that all I have to do is to lift all this up and trust in God’s plans. Having been engaged to Kenneth for almost a year now, I am truly thankful for this divine grace that sees us through. I slowly came to recognise that the engagement period is not just the period of booking venues and planning for the wedding, but a necessary season of grace – to grow, to accept and to learn to live the vow that I am going to make before God and before this man of God. E
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MOVING ON with
by Rick Daeg L.
“Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?” “Not seven, I tell seventy-seven times.”
How many times have we heard this passage in our lives, making us cringe? But, more often than not, it disappears from our mind as quickly as it came. The difficulty in forgiving, or some call it “unforgiveness”, has always been an obstacle in our spiritual lives. It begins when another person’s weakness betrays the trust we had upon him. The immediate reaction to most cases of betrayal would be the unwillingness to forgive. We harden our hearts and shut all doors to that person who lied, took something away or betrayed us of which fills us with rage and frustration. In that hurt, we find it easy to simply stay away from the person in order to prevent further hurtful damage. The worst part is that we prolong our isolation from the person by forgetting about him or silently holding grudges.
Some say ‘time heals all wounds’, making it the reason they hold on to the bitterness in hope that someday somehow, life goes on as if nothing happened. But just like a piece of paper that was crumpled then flattened out again, how can one deny the effects of that betrayal which still stays on, like the creases of the once crumpled paper? Others argue that getting away from the person helps us to move on, but in doing so are we solving what caused that betrayal of trust in the beginning? How can we go on to the next chapter if we have not closed the previous? Pride, one of the most primal natures in humans, seems to be the factor that prolongs this struggle. When hurt, we tell ourselves that they were wrong; they should be the ones to first apologise. Pride enforces us not to back down, insisting that the one who wronged us be the first to stoop low and raise us high. It is definitely the part of the one who wronged us to seek forgiveness,
but we should also be ever ready to grant him of what he seeks. Often times we also see how unforgiveness lives on even after the olive branch was offered, as the victim feels that he has the ultimatum to grant this forgiveness whenever he feels suitable. Without the granting of pardon by the one who was hurt, unforgiveness will continue to creep in our lives, keeping us from growing especially in our faith. I have heard from friends many times, “I have forgiven, but I will never forget.” This act of forgiveness was merely in words, rather than what the heart really meant. The true act of forgiveness is to be able to lay down our pride, hurts and pain, and allow love to bind our hearts back with the one who wronged us; this is exactly what makes forgiveness difficult. With mortal strength, it is almost impossible. The human heart filled with so much pain, anger and frustration is not able to perform such act of forgiveness. But with Christ, it is
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possible. Only with love so divine from our God can we impart such act of love – a love that knows no bounds, a love that covers all things. Friends, it is no mistake that Pope Francis declared this year a Jubilee Year of Mercy. His Holiness urged the Church to open Her arms to all Her children; the lost and rejected. As the Church, we want to let the world know that there is hope in this life, that the love of Christ forgives them of their sins should they come back in repentance. What good does it do if we offer up gifts to the Lord, yet our hearts are still unsettled with unforgiveness? As God Himself said in Hosea 6:6, “I desire mercy, not sacriﬁce”. The greatest commandment that His Son gave us – to love one another as He loves us – reminds us of the importance of granting this same mercy to those who have wronged us. So vital is this mercy that it was what formed us to be believers today. Should God not grant mercy to Adam and Eve our ancestors when they wronged Him, would we be here today? How ﬁtting it is that the motto for the Jubilee Year is “Merciful like the Father”, echoing loudly the example we are to take after. Perhaps we feel that granting mercy is to let the wrong one off the hook. However, we should see the act of forgiving be like opening a path for Christ to enter into his heart, giving him the opportunity to experience God’s saving grace. Whether it is in giving or receiving mercy, let us take this time to remember our past hurts and take a step to move on from here, enabling us to grow closer to Christ as we ﬁnd love with our brothers and sisters. May this Jubilee Year be a fruitful one for you. E
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Sunday, 13th September 2015: It was my last day of a short trip in KL and my friends had gone back home to Kuching, taking the early morning flight. I was all alone, so I decided to attend Mass at St John’s Cathedral before heading back to Penang. As I walked in, I took pictures of the Church building, trying hard to be like a ‘tourist’. However, about 4 to 5 beggars caught my eyes as they were begging nearby the statue of Mother Mary. I approached one of them and started talking to him. I noticed he had a crooked leg and was on his crutches. As we talked, he began to tell me his life story. He said he got into a motorcycle accident in which broke his leg, but he had no money to go for an operation. He comes weekly to Church once in a while to beg, and he said he feels comfortable here.
This man has a broken leg, could barely walk and was on his crutches, wants to lead me to my destination which is about a kilometer away?!
Mercy why won’t you release me – Duffy by Mary Voon
“For they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” Mark 12:44
After much talking, I asked him if he knew the way to Puduraya bus terminal from Church. He then explained to me in detail the directions by foot but I picked up nothing because I’m an absolute bimbo when it comes to maps and routes. He saw how puzzled I was, and guess what? Out of his kindness, he offered to walk me to the bus terminal! This man has a broken leg, could barely walk and was on his crutches, wants to lead me to my destination which is about a kilometer away?! It doesn’t sound like a big deal for us, but for him to walk that far would be agonizing! He told me to look for him after Mass and insisted to walk me there.
When Mass ended, I looked for him again and told him that I had to decline his offer, thanked him, said our goodbyes and left. It was honestly the most memorable and genuine kind of mercy I’ve ever received in my life. How could a person be so selfless to show such mercy by looking past his difficulties and inadequacy? I can never understand that, but what I know is that I was blessed to have experienced the love of Jesus from a stranger; my faith in humanity and in God, restored. E
M ER CY by James Lai
There is an Indian short ﬁlm titled “Choice or Destiny” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v =3Rh2ZQ8F8YE).
who are hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, hurt, and dead if they didn’t even do anything to hurt you? These works of mercy may seem to lessen one’s burden but it’s more than that. Mercy is also about life-giving. What does this mean?
In this short ﬁlm, there was a crippled beggar who went to a taxi driver and his two passengers to ask for money. The taxi driver didn’t want to give the beggar any money, but his two passengers did so and questioned the taxi driver’s lack of kindness. At the end of this short ﬁlm, the taxi driver got out from the car and it was revealed that he was also crippled.
• When Jesus stood up for the adulteress who is condemned to be stoned (John 11-8:1), He didn’t just show her mercy – He gave her an opportunity of new life.
A crippled beggar asking for money from another crippled person. That sounds ironic. I’d probably be like the taxi driver. Why would I help someone who can help himself but refuse to do so? If I give the beggar money, how will I know that he will spend it on better things other than drugs, cigarettes, gambling, or some criminal organisation? What would Jesus want me to do? He’d probably want me to show the beggar mercy.
• When the 10 lepers asked Jesus to have mercy on them (Luke 16-17:11), He didn’t just healed them – He gave them a chance of new life.
In our human sense, why should we help such a person? By doing that, we are prolonging his life of misery and allow him to continue leeching from people who actually worked for the money. Then something struck me… Previously, I’ve learned that mercy is forgiving others who do not deserve your forgiveness. Even Google deﬁnes it as: “compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm”. Based on the seven corporal works of mercy and seven spiritual works of mercy (which you can ﬁnd online), it is clear that mercy is more than unconditional forgiveness. How can you forgive those
• When Jesus saw a widow who was weeping over the death of her only son in Naim (Luke 17-7:11), He didn’t just had pity on her – He gave her and her son new life.
• When a paralysed man was brought to Jesus (Luke 26-5:17), He didn’t just show him mercy – He gave him new life. • When a blind man in Jericho cried out to Jesus for mercy (Luke 43-18:35, Mk 10:46, Mt 20:29), He not only restored his sight – He gave him new life. There are many more instances in the Gospels which tell of how God’s mercy does not only forgives sins and heals us but also gives new life to all those who seek Him. I believe that we should show mercy with such life-giving intention as well – not because it is the year of mercy or because everyone else is doing it. Do it because of God’s mercy for you and in you. E
God’s mercy does not only forgives sins and heals us but also gives new life to all those who seek Him. EMPOWERED MAG | 35
It is only by the grace of God that we make it through the raging seas and hurricanes.
It is only by the grace of God that we make it through the raging seas and hurricanes. God helps us in facing our daily challenges even if we don't see it. He is the light, and with Him the darkness of the world ceases. In the year 2009, I lost the person who was, still is and forever will be truly signiﬁcant to me; my Dad. On the spur of the moment of his passing, I felt like my whole world was crumbling down into pieces that could never be found, everything gone in a heartbeat as he breathed his last breath. I never knew this day would come so fast. In a split second, everything changed.
plans for me every single day. There were times when I felt so lost and far away from Him. My faith started to crumble down into pieces. As I am a cradle Catholic, my family didn’t really make it a priority to attend masses every weekend. I didn’t know the signiﬁcance of prayer nor did I believe in the existence of angels until one day. One ﬁne day, I was paying a visit to my dad’s grave. It was a really sunny day and remembering how he used to tell me “my love for you is as colourful as the rainbow and as bright as the sun”, I was playing those words at the back of my mind while looking up to
THE WAVES STILL KNOW I inevitably doubted Him in one way or another and questioned His plans for me every single day. 36
Coming home every day to an empty house without the warmth of his presence was the hardest part. My dad was my mentor for basically almost everything, and with him no longer around, I felt as though I had lost my passion for everything I used to love. I ﬂunked my exams as I really struggled to cope with my studies. Most of all, I struggled to cope with myself and I had to be the pillar of strength for my mom. As much as I tried to put my full trust in God, I inevitably doubted Him in one way or another and questioned His
the sky. And there I saw it, for the very ﬁrst time in my life. I saw an angel. I saw a vision of my dad. I thought I was dreaming but I wasn’t. I saw my dad dressed like an angel, all in white, looking so young, radiant and pure with a halo around his head. He was smiling and he was so happy; so much happier than he was on earth. And that was the moment I realised my dad was saved by the grace of God’s mercy. By the power of God’s unending love and mercy, He has brought my dad home to Christ even at the hour of death. It has given me the
strength to move on because I knew that no matter where I would go, my dad will be watching me from above. He will inspire me to live my passion from my heart where he stays. This assurance made my mom and I grew closer to God in the midst of our sorrow. We experienced His omnipresence as we started attending daily masses and other church activities. Sunday masses had become a priority to us. Through the power of the Eucharist and continuous prayer, He granted us tremendous healing and restoration by his grace and mercy.
I may not be able to see my dad grow old, he may not be able to see me graduate and ﬁnally get a job, or even walk me down the aisle on my wedding day but I know God has a purpose for everything. For His plans are not our plans, nor His thoughts, our thoughts. Looking back, I am in awe of how God has walked with us through our pain and sorrow. He has ﬁlled our emptiness with His Heavenly Father’s love. Most importantly, He has reminded me that I am His child, and it is through this that I have found my identity and a home in Him.
It was through my own Experience that I became aware of how broken the world really is.
AND WIND NAME His by Amanda Danielle Ng
Brother and sisters in Christ, sometimes we may not know what God has in store for us. We tend to question and doubt Him so many times in our lives. It scares us out of our wits as we may never comprehend His plans but it teaches us to walk by the spirit and to put our full trust in Him. He rules over the surging seas and when the waves mount up, He will subdue them. Take heart, and know that He is God. E
He rules over the surging seas and when the waves mount up, He will subdue them.
Gradually I picked up the broken pieces; I picked up in my studies and did better as the years passed. It wasn’t the best yet, but even baby steps count. It was through my own experience that I became aware of how broken the world really is. God has taught me to be compassionate, merciful and to reach out to those in need. It was also through this experience that I’ve discovered my talents and its purpose to give glory to Him and to Him alone.
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I always had the notion that God forgives until a cer tain extent of sinfulness. If we surpass that, weâ€™ re doomed or better off dead. But I was very wrong. We are never too sinful to be forgiven by our good Lord,and it is definitely never too late to experience the overwhelming mercy, love and peace that God has for you and I.
Forever and always by Amanda Therese Pasaoa Lee
The Past You see, four years ago, I experienced my most painful breakup ever. Trust me when I say it was painful because I was that girl who was constantly in one relationship after another ever since I was 13 years old. I was searching for what I thought was love in every guy I met. Placing my worth and identity in the palm of their hands, break-ups became normal to me. Yes, it hurts quite a bit, but before you know it, I’m back at the who’s-into-me-let’s-get-together game once again. Why do I say it was the most painful break-up? Because that man – the man whom I thought was different from the rest – loved me for who I am just because he went to extreme measures to make me feel on top of the world. He did the sweetest things I could ever imagine to make me feel special and worthy. For the ﬁrst time, I didn’t have to spend a single cent for a guy to like me. I was so blinded by all the “I love you” and “forever and always” text messages that I willingly lost what was most important to me then – my virginity. Everything spiralled down when he dumped me on the ﬁrst day of SPM (Malaysian Certiﬁcate of Education). I bawled my eyes out; I self-harmed; I lost my appetite; I stopped going for prayer meets (not to mention Mass); I shut myself out from all things godly, to the extent that people were not allowed to talk about God to me — nothing. I shared with no one about my situation. I told myself I was going to hell because I had sinned so greatly and that I had no more hope. I thought I lost everything; and I became suicidal. There was no peace at all, so I went back ﬁnding my identity in guys again, but this time, it was physical. That was when I thought: our God – is non-existent.
The Message I used to be a frequent goer of anything that the Charismatic group organised and everyone was concerned about my whereabouts because after almost a year had passed, I was still adamant about going to church. I used my swimming training sessions as an excuse (how lucky and smart I thought I was). Yet, my mother pestered me to attend what was called A Renewal In the Spirit Experience (ARISE). I vividly remember the deal I had with God in my bedroom that morning of the seminar, “If You are really there, or even real, You will speak to me and show me this weekend. Not on Monday, that’s too late – but this weekend.”
Not of this World The great Pope St John Paul II said, “Apart from the mercy of God, there is no other source of hope for mankind,” Often times we are so welled up in our sins and shortcomings that we feel ashamed and unworthy of God’s love. Instead of running to Him, we run away from Him. We lose out on experiencing our merciful God. We forget that the love of God for us is so great that He sent His son to die on the cross just so that we would be able to receive forgiveness for our sins. It’s because of His mercy that we’re forgiven of our transgressions. It’s because of His mercy that there is hope for you and I to be with Him in Paradise.
During lunch break, one of the guest speakers approached me and said, “You’re Amanda, right? He has a message for you.”
God gives us so much more in a blink of an eye than the world could ever offer in our lifetime. Even though we often fall right back into sin, His mercy and love for us transcends our imagination. He still pursued me after all those terrible moments I got myself into. So, no matter what we’ve done prior to this, He is earnestly pursuing us every single second of our lives, and I promise we will never regret saying “yes” to God.
I thought to myself, “Who is ‘he’? Can’t ‘he’ tell me on his own?! What a coward.” However, being as polite as I could to the speaker, I asked, “Oh, who is it? And what is the message about?” The speaker then answered, “You’ll know” and gave a wide smile. “Anyway”, the speaker continued. “I don’t know you or what you’ve gone through but he wanted me to tell you, ‘My daughter, I have never left you. The past year of darkness, I was there with you, and I am here with you. You are precious in my eyes, my princess. Forever and always.’” My knees weakened when I heard those words ring through my ears. I stood there, sobbing, not knowing how to respond to that message; but there was this sense of peace that settled in me. That was when I realised: our God – is merciful.
“…I do not give to you as the world gives…” – John 14:27
St John Vianney wrote it excellently when he said, “Our sins are nothing but a grain of sand alongside the great mountain of the mercy of God.” Let us not focus on how far we’ve strayed from Him but rather the mercy He has through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, with the peace in knowing that He loves us no less. As Pope St John Paul II explains, “Confession is an act of honesty and courage – an act of entrusting ourselves, beyond sin, to the mercy of a loving and forgiving God.” Therefore, I urge us to approach the confessionals despite the number of times we fall. To desire and seek Him with every ﬁbre of our body and never lose sight of Him, because He gives us the peace that no one ever will. “What the world can never offer is everlasting peace and joy.” – Pope St John Paul II. E
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M E R C Y. L O V E . C O M P A S S I O N . Mercy /ˈmərsē/noun: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.
cell of that life-pumping organ of yours will be jolted. A little. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be human. Or even a creation of Mercy himself.
Compassion /kəmˈpaSHən/noun: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.
The world tells us the things that keep us alive are water, oxygen, food and shelter. But they forgot mercy. We would all be dead had there not been an ounce of mercy existing in this world. I don’t need to mention love because some people may ﬁnd that word too heavy, deep, cheesy, stupid and hard to pronounce, even. Yes, this is the reality of our world, sadly.
Indifference /inˈdif(ə)rəns/noun: lack of interest, concern, or sympathy. … says Google. To me, being merciful and compassionate simply means showing sincere concern for those who need… well, mercy and compassion. It is the opposite of being indifferent towards others. Who, in your opinion, needs mercy and compassion? Nobody can tell you exactly that because there’s no subject in
You can’t love the person who hurts you. You can’t love a criminal. You can’t love someone who rejects love. You can’t love someone you don’t know. You can’t love someone whom – you feel, in your most (un)humble opinion – does not deserve love.
“May every Church and Christian community be a place of mercy amid so much indifference.” – Pope Francis school that teaches you that. Trust me, Pendidikan Moral doesn’t teach you half of it. It contradicts itself the minute it makes berani dengan tidak membuta tuli its sub-nilai because there are times when we need to be berani dengan tidak membuta tuli when we’re showing mercy. You can argue with me all you want but eventually you will be able to catch a glimpse of my point. Even if you’re the most cold-hearted person, at least one
But you can, it seems, love and protect the animals that you don’t even know, and the trees in the forest that you haven’t even been to. I’m not saying we mustn’t go all out to preserve the other creations. I’m just saying that if any living beings deserve our love more than anything, it would deﬁnitely be the human beings, good or bad human beings. It really doesn’t matter. Because if we were going to
T H E Y’ R E A L L I N T E R C H A N G E A B L E by Jo Terry
convince ourselves and others that we’re followers of Christ who’s part of God the Creator, then we’re deﬁnitely expected to follow God’s example of showing love, mercy and compassion towards every single person he created, regardless of who they are or who we think they are. That includes the currently most condemned person in the history of our country’s politics. (Don’t throw stones at me, now.) Like any other virtues, mercy needs to be an action. Mercy is a sincere act of compassion and love. Or as my title suggests, these three words are all interchangeable. Even if you shift them around in that sentence, it would end up being the same thing. I believe a situation that requires our mercy usually ﬁnds its way to us. Not everyone is called ‘to the rescue’ of every situation. And I believe that when one of these makes itself visible to us, we need to do something about it… by executing the act of mercy it requires. And when we do, we need to show it through our actions in the most sincere way. Not just by saying, “Aww, poor thing”. We need to actively and sincerely do something about a situation that needs mercy. If possible or unless required, keep our opinions on the situation to ourselves; rather than saying things that might make the person feel bad about themselves or obligated to us for the so-called mercy we’re showing them. I have personally witnessed in so many situations where the person called upon to show mercy discriminate the person who needed
mercy by saying harsh words that brought the latter to feel like they’re the most unworthy pest alive. In this case, a simple ‘no’ or ‘I’m sorry, I can’t assist you’ from the former would have sufﬁced. Having said that, I also have been in situations where I was on the giving and receiving ends of an act of mercy. And I can attest to the fact that being on the giving end of an act of mercy is one of the most wonderful, most rewarding experiences in the world. Seeing the joy on the face of the other and knowing that you have done something to contribute in making their life better is a blessing in itself. There was one homily where the celebrant mentioned that there is reason the poor exists among us. It is deﬁnitely not for us to condemn them as being too lazy to work while expecting help from others. The poor is there for us to practise our acts of mercy. If everyone is rich, capable and independent, then there would no place for us to practice these acts of mercy. And when we do show mercy, we do not question. We just give. Unconditionally. Sincerely. I cannot imagine how we would ever survive if we were to turn to God to ask for his mercy and have, “What’s in it for me?” slapped in our face, instead. Everyone has the calling to show mercy to another. But not everyone responds to it. Let’s not be indifferent when we are called. Let’s show love. Let’s show compassion. Let us be a community of mercy amid all the indifference in our world. E
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p.e.a.c.e by Ralph Balan
In the modern, fast-paced world we live in today, the gift of peace (Gal 5:22) is often underrated and those who attempt to achieve it may even be labelled as an idealist. In the modern, fast-paced world we live in today, the gift of peace (Gal 5:22) is often underrated and those who attempt to achieve it may even be labelled as an idealist. Back in 2010, I remembered speaking to the participants in the Empowered Weekend Away (EWA) for that year on the topic of Moving On. The gist of the whole talk was to send out a reminder to everyone on how it is never too late to pick oneself up again and keep going – especially when we have a God who delights in showing His mercies (Mic 7:18). Simple as it may seem, it is not the case, realistically. Emotions and biasness tend to influence our judgement at any given argument or conflict for the worst. One may justify saying that it is only but human nature to react, as part of the fight or flight response, in a situation where one might be losing or have completely lost a sense of control. But I believe we are more than just ‘helpless victims’ of our own humanity; I will not allow that to sit in. How does one explain the spouse who holds back his or her hand from reaching the partner’s face when news of infidelity or mistrust comes to light? Or a teenager who bites his or her tongue while getting an earful for not telling the truth by a parent or an elderly, when they themselves do not walk their talk? So back to my experience in 2010, this was what I shared with the participants of EWA on my five simple tips when handling a problem (with some additional improvements as well).
“P for Patience”
“C for Chance”
In James 1:19-20, it states, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. For human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.” In facing a problem, try your best to remain patient and avoid the rush to react. As mentioned earlier, emotions get stirred faster than the brain can process what is really happening in a difficult situation. Try as much as possible to retreat from the discourse and make time to reflect and even pray to make sense of what is really going on.
After looking inwardly and taking time to process what has happened, it is time to consider giving out second chances. Again, another act that is easier said than done because how does one find the heart to let go and move on? I believe the grace in giving the person who has offended me a second chance is really to give God the space to work in my life again. I have had to go through a lot of dilemmas in life so far to decide whether I should give some people another chance or just walk away, especially when one of them shares the same flesh and blood. It takes a lot of humility and faith to commit to this, but the fruit of it is worth it.
“E for Express” This does not refer to speed, but it is about letting out what you are bogged down with. Your expressions can be done in various forms – confide in a close friend or a small group you can trust or even pen it down. The Bible contains a lot of reference to love thy neighbour, yet sometimes we forget that we ourselves are someone else’s neighbour (give someone the chance to listen to you). Bottling up problems within rarely turn out well for most people, and so does lamenting on social media pages – blindly expecting someone to respond kindly.
“A for Ask” In a world where information is just at the tip of the finger, assuming facts seems more convenient than to have to ask someone if the facts are accurate. I am one who is accustomed to questioning a lot (I even had the title as one of The Annoying Twins at a younger age) and I am still trying to figure out what motivates me to be curious. Asking questions helps me to see things from another person’s point of view and helps me to understand the situation better which guides me to strategise my next move. I also find that whether it is asking rhetorical or straightforward questions, I actually learn new things about myself.
Again, giving second chances should not be done blindly or taken lightly. In my experience, I still had to keep my guard up around these people and it took me a long time to be able to trust them again. Know The Truth and live it out.
“E for Experience” Finally, in all the things that have happened, keep it as a learning experience in life. The words that St Francis of Assisi used in his prayer for serenity speaks volume:
God grant me the serenity To accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference. Sure, many situations in my life did not turn out as how I expected it to, but I remain faithful to Love and continue to commit daily to Him. Wisdom is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and it goes very well with experience.
Give these tips a try and who knows, you might just discover the peace that Love desires so much for all of us. E
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MERCY a path to forgiveness & forgiving by Philemon Kho
When I think about mercy, the one parable that strongly resonates the message of mercy is the parable of the Prodigal Son. We’ve all read or heard the parable before. However, for those who have no idea what this parable is about, here’s the CliffsNotes version.
A man had two sons, the younger son asked for his portion of the inheritance from his father and left to squander all of his inheritance. Famine hit and the younger son was hired to feed the pigs in the ﬁelds, while he had nothing to eat. Coming to his senses, he practiced what he was to say to his father with words like: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son,” and headed home. To his surprise, his father ran towards him, embraced him with a hug, ordered the servants to put a robe, a ring and sandals on his son and even had the calf, which the family had been fattening, to be slaughtered in celebration of his return. The elder brother who was coming home from work in the ﬁeld, was angry as he found out that there was a celebration for the younger brother despite his squandering while he, who has always been his father’s side was not honoured in the similar way. With words of comfort, the father said: “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
Based on that, oftentimes we respond to God’s mercy in two different ways; two different extremes actually. One of the extremes is that we think that we are not worthy of God’s mercy and love. We beat ourselves up about our past sins and continuously ask for forgiveness even when we have already been forgiven. We just cannot fathom the reason why God would forgive us for what we have done, which was probably what the younger son felt in the parable as his father ran towards him and embraced him. There is a song lyric from Hillsong’s ‘From the Inside Out’ that perfectly describes this, which says: “A thousand times I’ve failed, still Your mercy remains, and should I stumble again, I’m caught in Your grace”. The amazing showcase of no matter how much we fail and stumble, God will always be there to catch us again. Another extreme is that we take God’s mercy for granted. We take advantage of our loving Heavenly Father by letting pride take over. We think that we deserve God’s mercy, like how the elder son responded towards his father’s generosity in celebrating the comeback of his younger brother. We are oblivious to the fact that God’s mercy is a gift or a privilege, instead of a right. We even deny and reject God when things don’t go right or when we think that we can do things on our own without help from God. We often think we know better but as a matter of fact, we don’t. As I reﬂected further, this is the power of mercy and its impact on forgiving and forgiveness. But ﬁrst, what is mercy? To me, mercy is an extension of grace, where you may have done something wrong to a person but they repay you with goodness that you do not deserve. For example, I shoplift a pocketful of candies from a store. The shopkeeper catches me but I am not turned in to the police, which is something that I deserve for stealing. Instead, he gives me more candy and lets me go, which is an action that I do not deserve.
With that, mercy is showed by the father mentioned in the parable and it is actually a step closer to forgiving and obtaining forgiveness. Often when it comes to mercy, it is a power struggle. When we are given the power to offer forgiveness, we tend not to forgive especially in situations where we are deeply hurt, for reasons of human limitations or perception. My experience to share would be my relationship with my brother. We grew up in a traditional Asian family and we have a major age gap of nine years. Nonetheless when we were younger, we used to be very close. However as time progressed and both of us were growing up, we slowly grew distant with unknown reasons. I remember us arguing and ﬁghting a lot, as siblings do, but we never made up. When my brother ﬁnished his high school and was furthering his studies abroad while I was at the tender age of 9 back then, I rejoiced internally in liberation as I would only be seeing him once a year. When he would call home, I would normally stay in the corner hoping that he would not be coming home anytime soon. As mum would pass me the phone to talk to him, I would talk to him, asking how he was and the usual same old questions – and pass the phone back to mum. Even to this day, after he has graduated and is working, we seldom have conversations. If we do, it would be on small topics or favours that we would want each other to do such as hitching a ride to go to youth activities. Nothing more. You can say that we do not have quality conversations; I envy other siblings who talk about anything and everything with each other. In spite of all these, I would say that we have a better relationship now – from no conversations to minimal conversations. Sometimes it is weird to hear things about him that I do not know of from our mutual friends, but it is always nice to know that he is doing well. The youth ministry deﬁnitely provided us an avenue to communicate more.
Through this experience, I realise that offering forgiveness is hard because of how hurt I was. The whole of my entity – mind, body and soul – was ﬁlled with not only anger, but sadness as well. It is during these times that I embark on a journey of self-discovery, which essentially leads to self-mastery of knowing how I would react to certain situations. This journey is crucial as it helped me to move on from my past hurts. During this time, I would contemplate and pray to God about the situation. I went for my ﬁrst adoration in Camp Empowered 2010, my ﬁrst ever youth camp, and I laid it all out on the cross. I realised that no matter how much we struggle with our choices and cling onto worldly things, we still cannot do it on our own. I learned that through those trials of hardship, we would eventually come to our senses. It is this moment that we acknowledge the need for God and we have to turn to Him for the grace to give mercy and to forgive. Our Heavenly Father calls us to be as loving and merciful as He is. It is in humility that we can offer forgiveness and ask for forgiveness. I learned that by constantly trying to talk to my brother and catch up on each other whenever we can. One of the fondest and most recent memories I had was on the day I had to leave for Perth for further studies last year: he brought me out for a last minute food-hunt around our favourite childhood spots in Kuching. He even ﬁlmed the outing but never posted it, because two of the three places we wanted to go to were closed. Nonetheless, I was touched by his initiative to try and reconnect with me by doing something fun. (Thank you, Ko <3) There are fruits in forgiveness, even though they do not come fast but time eventually heals and so does God. What/who are you called to give mercy to today? E
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Saints And On Becoming A Saint Compiled by Kenneth Chen
A saint is someone who is considered to be in heaven and an example of holiness that we can follow with conﬁdence. They are not only someone through whom we learn to be Christ-like but also our companions who journey with us in our life, praying for us unceasingly and encouraging us to be a better person.
‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.’ – Saint Peter
While many of us may think that saints are ‘holy’ by default and their life of holiness is difﬁcult or even out of our reach, nothing could be further from the truth. Saints were ordinary people with limitations and shortcomings, just like you and me, created equally by God. They deeply understood their own shortcomings and the redeeming love of Christ. Their becoming of saint is a clear manifestation of God’s love and mercy.
‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ – Jesus
We are all called to be saints and it is not an impossible feat, even at a young age. Here are the stories of St Dominic Savio, the youngest non-martyr saint aged 14 years old, and Blessed Chiara Luce Badano who was beatiﬁed at the age of 18; to inspire us and offer us some insights on what it’s like to be a saint:
ST DOMINIC SAVIO
BLESSED CHIARA LUCE BADANO
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ST DOMINIC SAVIO FACTS Patronage : Choirboys, falsely accused people, juvenile delinquents Feastday : March 9 Birth : 2 April 1842, Chieri, Italy Death : 9 March 1857, Castelnuovo Don Bosco, Italy Beatified : 5 March 1950
Childhood On a beautiful spring day, April 2, 1842, in the village of Riva, two miles from the town of Chieri, in the province of Piedmont, northern Italy, Dominic Savio was born. He was the second of eleven children born to Charles and Brigid Savio, who were poor, hard-working, pious people. School Days Dominic was very bright and enjoyed school as well as play. He was well liked and respected by his friends. Dominic had remarkable control over his emotions, and while he could get angry like any of his companions, he was able to control himself in most situations. He was friendly and showed early his leadership qualities and a strong sense of duty. He was a prayerful person and had an ever-maturing spirituality. The Savios attended church in the town of Murialdo and the pastor, Father John Lucca, knew them well. Fr Lucca recognised the boy’s remarkable piety and let him make his First Communion at the age of seven.
Growing Faith As the day of his first Communion drew near, Dominic wrote down four resolutions, remarkably mature thoughts of a seven year old:
1. I will go to Confession and Communion 2. I will sanctify Sundays and holy days in a special way. 3. Jesus and Mary will be my friends. 4. Death but not sin. As we shall see Dominic lived by these resolutions. This boy of ten trudged a total of twelve miles to and from school every day for a whole school year without complaining. While full of energy and ready to join in any game with his friends, Dominic’s health was weak. Growing Love It was at this school that an incident occurred which shows the depth of
Dominic’s kindness and thoughtfulness. Once a classmate with a reputation for misbehavior committed a serious offense. The culprit falsely accused Dominic of the offence and the teacher severely scolded him but he made no reply but stood in silence head bowed. A few days later the boy who was actually guilty was discovered. Regretting his previous harsh words, the teacher asked Dominic why he had not defended himself. His answer came slowly but simply: “I knew that the other boy was in trouble for other things. I remembered how Our Lord had been unjustly accused, and I hoped that if I kept silence he would be given another chance.” This incident took place when Dominic was only eleven years old. It shows the depth and simplicity of this young soul. Meeting A Guide For several years, Don Bosco would take some of the young people of the Oratory on an outing during the customary October break. Early on the morning of the first Monday of October in 1854, Dominic and his father went looking for Don Bosco, who was going to be in the town of Murialdo on the outing. Their encounter
resulted in Dominic arriving in Turin at Don Bosco’s Oratory of St Francis De Sales in early October 1854. He was twelve-and-a-half years old. Called to Holiness A few months later on the second Sunday of Lent, 1855, Don Bosco was preaching to the boys of the Oratory. He exclaimed, “Everyone is called to be a saint, and do you know, it is easy to be a saint. Just do this: diligently do the ordinary things of the day in an extra ordinary way.” Dominic was profoundly impressed. He began to think most seriously about what it meant to be a saint. At first Dominic did not really understand what Don Bosco meant. In his eagerness to become holy, Dominic began to do what he understood to be penance. He had heard about saints of the Middle Ages who would go on severe fasts and punish themselves with painful physical penances. Dominic actually put pieces of wood or small stones in his bed so that he could “suffer for Christ.” When the dormitory monitor told Don Bosco about this he called Dominic aside. “The way to be a saint, Dominic, is to be always cheerful, do your duties to the best of your ability, and give your classmates good example. Keep in mind that the Lord Jesus is always with you and wants your happiness.” The educational method Don Bosco and his Salesians was guiding Dominic and the other youngsters of the Oratory, helping them to develop and grow into maturity. Don Bosco’s approach to ministry was to foster in the young people the skills and talents that would help them to develop into good Christians and upright citizens. Learning to Minister During the next two years Dominic grew in his awareness of God’s call to holiness. He was already very pious, but now he became a person of prayer. Dominic realised that part of becoming a saint was sharing his knowledge and awareness of God with his companions.
On one occasion two boys had gotten into an argument and challenged each other to a rock duel. This was a common way young thugs and street gangs settled arguments. These duels usually ended with someone getting hurt and sometimes seriously. It seems that one boy had insulted the family of the other. The two boys became so enraged that the only way they could think of settling the affair was to fight with stones. They were to meet in the lot about ten minutes walk from the Oratory.
“Everyone is called to be a saint, and do you know, it is easy to be a saint. Just do this: diligently do the ordinary things of the day in an extra ordinary way.” Dominic Savio learned about the fight. He caught up with the boys and tried to talk them out of it. They would not hear of it. Dominic followed them to a field where the fight was to take place and stepped between them. Taking out a small crucifix, which he used to wear around his neck, Dominic held it up. “Before you start the fight you must look at this crucifix, and throw the first stone at me.” He strode before the angrier boy, and kneeling down said, “You start! Throw the first stone at me!” Taken by surprise, the boy began to tremble. “No!” he protested. “Never! I have no argument with you, Dominic.” Dominic ran over to the other boy. He too was astonished and assured Dominic he was his friend and meant him no harm. Then Dominic stood up. Looking at them, he said with great emotion: “Neither of you is ready to
hurt me because I am your friend, yet you want commit this sin over a stupid remark made at school. Christ, who was innocent, died for us rather than seek revenge from those who hated him.” Dominic stood, silent, crucifix in hand. Both boys dropped their stones, ashamed before his courageous stand. “At that moment,” one of them later admitted, “all my determination broke down and a cold chill ran through me. I hated myself for having forced a good friend like Dominic to go to such lengths to keep us from sin. To show my regret, I forgave the boy who had insulted me and asked Dominic to tell me of some good priest who would hear my confession.” Apostle of Prayer Dominic had a special love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He prayed asking for the grace of keeping his heart like Mary’s, free from every impure desire. “Mary,” he would pray, “I always want to be your son. Let me die rather than commit a single sin against chastity.” Every Friday he found a few minutes during recreation to go to the chapel with some friends and recite the Seven Sorrows of Mary or the Litany of the Sorrowful Virgin. One Saturday, for example, he invited a companion to recite Our Lady’s Vespers with him, but the lad tried to get out of it by pleading that his hands were cold. Dominic took off his own gloves and gave them to him. Another time he lent his coat to a boy to have him go to church with him for a few moments. (Apparently, in the winter the Church was colder inside than it was outside.) Dominic drew up an interesting set of stories about Mary, the mother of Jesus, to tell his schoolmates. Now and then he would drop a good hint to get someone to go to confession and Communion in honour of the Blessed Mother. He was the first to set the example. Source: www.donboscowest.org
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BLESSED CHIARA LUCE BADANO FACTS Feast Birth Death Beatified
Sometimes we’d prefer that our lives be a different story than the one God seems to be writing. In our fragile existence it doesn’t take much to turn a romance into a drama, or an adventure into a tragedy. At a glance, the story of Chiara Badano – an only child conceived after 11 years of marriage, who died at 18 after a bout with a painful form of bone cancer – looks like an empty tragedy, but not from the perspective of the Divine Author. Chiara seemed to have everything going for her as a teen. She had a loving, holy family and a rock solid faith that was nurtured by retreats and youth ministry programs. She was popular amongst her friends and was liked by boys. It’s not hard to see why. She was beautiful. Chiara loved to hang out in coffee shops. She was great at tennis, swimming and mountain climbing. Her outgoing personality and adventurous spirit made her dream of becoming a flight attendant. Chiara had a bright life ahead of her.
: : : :
29 October 29 October 1971, Sassello, Italy 7 October 1990, Sassello, Italy 25 September 2010
One day while playing tennis, Chiara experienced excruciating pain in her shoulder. Shortly afterwards she was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma. She watched her bright future slip away. But it’s here that the real story of her life begins – the story of heroic virtue. Chiara’s joy was explosive and it only increased with her suffering. After one very pain-filled night she said, “I suffered a lot, but my soul was singing.” Google pictures of her on her death bed. Her eyes look like pools reflecting the glory of heaven. One of her
“Through her smile, and through her eyes full of light, she showed us that death doesn’t exist; only life exists.”
doctors remarked, “Through her smile, and through her eyes full of light, she showed us that death doesn’t exist; only life exists.” Cardinal Saldarini heard of this amazing teen and visited her in the hospital. Awestruck, he said, “The light in your eyes is splendid. Where does it come from?” Chiara’s reply was simple: “I try to love Jesus as much as I can.” Chiara had a profound sense of redemptive suffering. She often repeated the phrase, “If this is what you want, Jesus, so do I.” Like any teenage girl, she loved her hair, but with each lock that fell out she’d pray, “For you, Jesus.” She frequently refused morphine, saying, “I want to share as much as possible in His suffering on the cross.” During one of her many hospital stays Chiara took walks with a depressed, drug-dependent girl, despite the pain of walking from the huge growth on her spine. When she was encouraged to stop and rest she said, “I’ll have time to rest later.” Ever thinking of others, she said, “I have
“I have nothing left, but I still have my heart, and with that I can always love.” nothing left, but I still have my heart, and with that I can always love.” Chiara requested to be buried in a wedding gown. As the end of her short life drew near she told her mother, “When you’re getting me ready, Mum, you have to keep saying to yourself, ‘Chiara Luce is now seeing Jesus.’” She died on Oct 7, 1990. Her parents and friends were with her. Her last words were: “Goodbye. Be happy because I’m happy.” Reflecting on her pending death, Chiara said: “Previously I felt ... the most I could do was to let go. Instead, now I feel enfolded in a marvellous plan of God, which is slowly being
Chiara's upbeat personality inspired everyone who came to visit
unveiled to me.” The story of our lives with all its riveting twists and painful turns is written by an author who loves us very much, and for him, even death is only a comma, not a period. The greatest protagonists in life’s story are the saints. They shared the eternal perspective of the Author. That’s why not even the most profound pain could take away their hope.
Source: Christopher Stefanick - Director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry for the Denver Archdiocese. Photos from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/arti cle-2833242/The-Schoolgirl-Saint-courag e-Chiara-Badano-propelled-Catholic-church -s-highest-honour.html
All of us are capable of making a difference, though we may feel that the difference made would not be as ‘remarkable’ as the difference made by the saints. We could start small, according to our gifts, abilities and skills God has bestowed us. Blessed Mother Teresa assures us that ‘we can do no great things, only small things with great love.’ E
‘Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.’ – Saint Catherine of Siena Chiara’s parents with a 1987 portrait of their smiling daughter
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WHEN LIFE GETS TOUGH by Samantha Faith Teo
Everyone wants to stay in their comfort zones and never get out of it. That’s because the moment we get out of it, we tend to regret it; for example, our beds. But what about our hometown – the place where we really love and dwell our hearts in; where all our families and friends are? You see, I thought that it was a common thing to miss home once I’m out of school and into college, and that I’ll get used to it in time. I thought that I would meet great people here in college and blend in. My mindset was that I was going to have a new life and meet new, awesome people and live life the way I always wanted or dreamed of. Indeed, I made many friends during my ﬁrst semester in college, but most of them could not understand me. At that time, I did not know what to do but continue befriending them with certain limits. I ended up awkward around many people and they drifted away from me. Soon, I was left alone and I had no one to talk to. Thereafter I was told that I was a gossip topic among the rest of my colleagues. The more I ignored it, the more these gossips spread like wildﬁre. “Was this just me?”
“Am I being too paranoid?” “Is it my fault for having trust issues due to past experiences?” I often questioned these to myself but I could never answer it. Later, depression set in and my grades were deteriorating. All these came to its peak when my grandfather passed away in November 2014. I was already under much pressure and this news hit me so hard that I could no longer take it. At that point, I was angry with God and scolded Him, “Why did you take Kong-Kong away? Did you not know that he was everything to me; my motivation and hope, the reason why I’m still surviving even when I’m buried alive 6 feet underground with the hate of this world’s cruelty?” I contemplated suicide since that day. I was aware that if I ever did commit suicide, things would not change for the better but this thought came by every day. I started hating life and stopped being spiritually present in God’s house. I turned myself around into the materialistic world thinking that it would wash away the suicidal thoughts which instead stayed and grew. Eventually, I was leading multiple lives to a point I didn’t know who the real me was anymore.
Not long after, I was told about a retreat by a friend and was highly encouraged to participate. Not knowing what the outcome would be like, I did not hesitate. However, that decision made my stomach crawl as it had been a very long time since I participated in something like that. I kept telling myself that it would be very awkward as I had not met some people for years and that there would be many people whom I would not know. Nonetheless, I kept persuading myself to embrace it as I really needed a getaway at that time. During the retreat, we were required to share our life stories of how have we experienced God. I didn’t really know what I wanted to share but the Holy Spirit took hold of me as I held the microphone. As I told what came to mind, I couldn’t help but cry non-stop – all the bitter experiences of not being able to make friends easily, losing a friend whom I thought would be there for me, how hard college life is and my grandfather’s passing. I wanted to stop talking, stop crying and not make a fool of myself but I felt the Holy Spirit insisting for me to continue my story. Once I was done with all I needed to say, I headed off to another section of the hall, trying to
calm myself down. A friend caught up with me, gave me a hug and walked with me to where I wanted to go. It was only a few steps that I could no longer hold my feelings that I broke down. My emotions were all over the place and tears streamed like a waterfall. All of this was what had accumulated since the beginning of college life, and some from before. I had not cried since then, but this time I just did as I felt the need to let it all out.
I admit that trusting God not an easy thing to do but I am still trying my best up to this day. If you are reading this and experiencing something similar to what I had, I urge you to give your best in trusting God no matter how hard it can be because God is ever faithful to His promises for us and He loves us even in our darkest days. Amen. E
After many minutes of intense crying, I calmed down. Once the session was over, people came over to me one by one and gave me words of encouragement and comfort. Some even offered to share my problems with them especially when I away in college. Since then, I realised that there are people out there who actually care about me and are willing to listen to my problems. It came to mind that in all that has happened, God has always been there for me, but I rejected Him and depended too much on ďŹ xing things by my own will. I realised that God wanted me to focus on what I have been blessed with and not seek things that bring me away from Him. He wanted me to learn to trust Him under all circumstances because His love never fails and He never gives up on me. Psalm 62 speaks about putting our trust in God alone. The ďŹ rst few verses describe what I had experienced in life. Verse 8 speciďŹ cally spoke to me about trusting God at all times even though it is not easy.
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MERCY WHEN A MEAL IS MORE THAN
MEAL: JUST FOOD
by Mervyn M. Lee
Often we see food as nothing more than just a meal – something to satisfy our hunger pangs. But this Lent, we had the opportunity to participate in a special Meal of Mercy: the Passover Seder. Over 130 youths from the community of St Joseph’s Cathedral Kuching, with friends from Holy Trinity Parish (Kenyalang), Chapel of Mother Mary (Stutong) and as far as St Stephen Parish (Bau) came together to share in this simple yet spiritually symbolic Meal of Mercy. The Passover Seder is a ritual feast that marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover. The celebration is observed by Jews throughout the world, beginning on the evening of the 15th day of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar and lasts for seven consecutive days. The meal commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt (Exodus 12). Ceremonies and customs of Passover meal includes retelling of Israelite exodus story, drinking of four cups of wine (the Cup
the the the of
Sanctification; Joy; Redemption/Blessing and Praise), eating the “Matzo” (unleavened bread) and partaking of the symbolic foods on the plate (“Charoset”, “Maror”, “Karpas”, “Zeroa”, “Beitzah”). Although the meal that we shared was not the traditional authentic Jewish Passover Seder but a Christianised modern version, yet much of the ceremonies and traditions practised in the original meal were observed and reflected upon – as they closely connect us to our modern-day Eucharistic heritage and Salvation story. For example, the yeast-less bread (unleavened) which is served during the Passover is likened to our modern communion wafer. The original Passover flat-bread (“Matzo”) is usually prepared by pricking many
tiny holes and baking it in a wood-fire oven, hence allowing it to bear “charred burnt marks”, liken to Jesus’ pierced and scarred body, as he was scourged and tortured by the soldiers. Jesus, the Bread of Life, gave of Himself so that we may have new life (John 6:35 & 48). As we journeyed through the various sections of the meal, what caught my attention was how a simple meal connected the whole community together on this wonderful experience of discovering God’s Grace and Mercy. Through this meal I am reminded that I have sinned and have fallen short many times. Yet through the generosity and mercy of a loving Heavenly Father, I am shown much forgiveness and grace. And to be shown such compassion and love challenges me to see beyond my fenced-up life, in search of others who too need to encounter and experience the Mercy of a loving Father. I am also
reminded that the journey I take on spiritual growth is not one taken alone, but with the support of a community of faith. Personally, the two most significant moments in the Passover Seder that we shared were during the lighting of the Festive Candles and the “Urkhatz” (ceremonial washing of hands) at the beginning of the meal. The honour of lighting the festive candles is given to mothers – signifying the important role mothers have in
imparting the faith to the children. She is also likened to Mary, our Blessed Mother, who through her obedience allowed the Light and Hope of God to enter our world through the birth of Christ. And in the ceremonial washing of each other’s hands, I am reminded of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet at His last Passover supper with them. Despite knowing how His beloved followers will later betray, deny and abandon Him, Christ humbled Himself like a servant and lovingly washed their feet.
I am truly challenged: will I wash with mercy the hands of those who have hurt me? In experiencing God’s grace and forgiveness, will I in turn wash with mercy the hands (and hearts) of those seeking God’s Hope and Love – such as the abandoned and in need? Will I allow myself to be washed in mercy by them – recognising the beautiful sanctified life before me? Lord, may you find my hands clean and heart pure – to be counted as worthy enough to stand righteous in Your Holy presence (Psalm 24:3-4) … Amen! E
“It has been a great opportunity to experience the Seder Passover meal. I would never have expected this to be a joyous occasion where I get to share a meal similar to Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples (on Holy Thursday), with a community of youths. Celebrating a Seder is more than feasting on the Matzah bread, bitter herbs, sweet Haroset, roasted lamb, hard-boiled egg, salt water and grape juice. It is a remembrance of the Passover story, a call to journey through a spiritual experience that can enrich one's faith. I hope to share what I have experienced with my parish community in the future. Thank you again for the invitation and this experience!” (Stephanie Michael @ St Stephen Parish, Bau)
“Previously, I couldn’t see the close connection between the traditions of the Jews and my Catholic faith. But through the Seder meal I’ve come to realise that God fulfils His promises in the most unique of ways. I am amazed that even though God gave strict guidelines and instructions to the Israelites (His chosen people) on how to prepare the meal, this Seder is still made available and shared with the poor and foreigners. Now I begin to see the special relationship between the Lord’s Last Supper (the Passover meal) with the Eucharistic feast (Holy Mass) which we now enjoy! ” (David Wong @ St Joseph’s Cathedral, Kuching)
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“The Seder has been meaningful to me – because it involves the community; sharing experiences with one another through the “sweet and bitter” moments of the meal (“Haroset & Maror”) in reflection of the joys and hardships of life. I am reminded that through life’s journey, Jesus walks with me – giving me the strength and courage to champion through. I was edified when the meal ended with everyone giving thanks to God for the wonderful experience. It was indeed an evening of celebration – to be grateful for the blessings we have received and to find joy amidst the “bitterness” (pain and hardship) in life. Praise God for such an experience!” (Kelvin Chan @ St Joseph’s Cathedral, Kuching)
“Though this was my 1st Seder Meal, it was very good because through the whole “makan-makan” experience, I deepened my knowledge and understanding of my Catholic faith heritage. As I reflected on the various components of the meal, such as the hard unleavened bread, the bitter herbs and the sweet apple-nut mix, I am reminded that life can be hard at times. But through each bitter-sweet moments, there is always good and hope to be found, if we choose to believe in God. Eating the meal together at the same table shows the communion we share with one another – partaking in the same food, communicating that One Love from above, irrespective of who we are or where we come from.” (George Anderson @ Chapel of Mother Mary, Stutong)
“Taking part in the Seder Passover meal made me appreciate and realise how God’s works of salvation began in the Old Testament days and continues until today. It also helped me to relate the Passover meal to the Holy Eucharist, as we prepare ourselves for the Holy Week. Since the Israelites (and Jews) celebrate this meal faithfully as a sign of gratitude to God, it reminds me to always be thankful of His sacrifice and presence in the Eucharist. Furthermore, it’s a very healthy menu!” (Riady Siswoyo @ Holy Trinity Parish, Kenyalang | Pontianak, Indonesia)
“The Seder Meal was truly a great experience for me. I was deeply touched by the washing of hands exercise where we were invited to wash the hands of those seated on our right. For me, the touching of someone’s hands (mine included) is something very intimate, personal and private – only reserved for important gestures and actions. But now, I am asked to wash the hands of (possibly) a total stranger – someone whom I barely knew. How am I going to do this? But then I remembered Jesus… washing the feet of His apostles during the Last Supper meal. Bare feet – definitely much dirtier than any random hands! How could He make it possible? He is the King; yet He humbled Himself to wash the feet of His disciples. Then I came to realise, rather than complain I should see this opportunity as a lesson into humility and servanthood. Christ humbled Himself to serve others – and we are called to do the same; Yes! ... Even to total strangers! "I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you." (John 13:15). Jesus has set an example for us and we are called to serve one another in humble heart and mind. (Prescilla Chermai @ Holy Trinity Parish, Kenyalang)
“This was my 1st Seder Passover Meal experience. Although I had fun, it was a real challenge to finish certain food portions – especially the bittergourd (“Maror”). But I am reminded of Jesus’ trials and struggles that He faced as He journeyed towards Calvary. It was not easy, but He knew He had to finish the race he started, and this inspired me to finish the meal, as well as given me the confidence and strength to face obstacles in life!” (Veevean Natasha @ St Joseph’s Cathedral, Kuching)
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Ignorant? a personal reflection
by Alexander Lee
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has called for Lent to be ‘lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy.’ “Instructing the ignorant” is one of the seven spiritual works of mercy which really caught my attention. Why? Because ‘Ignorant’ is not a word with which most of us would like to be associated. It is most often used as a put down to demean its target. I know that if someone calls me ignorant, I deﬁnitely won’t be delighted.
out to people’s hearts; to help them even if it’s just a little bit, to encounter God and His mercy. One of the most effective ways of sharing God’s mercy to people is through our own life stories and testimonies. Sometimes to open someone’s heart to instruction, what we really need to do first is share our story because no one can argue with your testimony. Many of us struggle with this because we see our lives as uninteresting. Not only that, most of us tend to be “fixers”. It sometimes seems easier for us to just listen to their pain and then offering “instant solutions” to their problem. People need deeply personal answers to deeply personal questions. There is a difference between saying, “I’ll pray for you” and being vulnerable to share about what God has done for you. Which one of these is better for the person at that point of time? Everybody is going through something in life and people need to know that they are not alone. Most of the time, all they need is someone who will walk with them through it and try to better understand their pain. This is where we can share our own stories, to let them know we share their struggles and that we want to hear about them and then love them however they need it.
What does “ignorant” really mean? To be ignorant means to be lacking in knowledge, awareness or information in general. In order for us to think about what the Spiritual Work of Mercy of ‘instructing the ignorant’ involves, we need to think carefully about who ‘the ignorant’ are. We are not being asked to give a lesson about manners to those we consider as rude, as the common usage of the word might imply. To instruct the ignorant, then, is to proclaim the gospel to those who have not heard of it, to lead people closer to God by imparting knowledge to them that they have yet to know while we ourselves are privileged with such knowledge. The recipient of this instruction may be those taking the first steps in faith – a child, or someone who has never encountered Christ; or it might be someone who is on a different journey – someone seeking a truth they haven’t quite found, someone who has rejected what they have understood of God’s love, or perhaps even someone who has left the faith. And in order to do that, we have no choice but to ensure that we are equipped with the necessary knowledge. Sounds really complicated, right? But then I thought to myself; where I am today, am I qualified to instruct others? What if I’m the ignorant one who needs to be instructed? If yes, how can I carry out this spiritual work of mercy in my Christian life? After much reading, Google-ing and reflecting, it dawned on me that instructing the ignorant is not always about the depth of your knowledge of the Catholic faith. It is about reaching
Many of us often think twice about sharing our story because it does not have any dramatic climax or things like that. We think our stories are boring and not worth sharing. But all of us at some point in our lives have failed, suffered, doubted, felt alone, rejected, worthless, confused, angry, exhausted and many more. I know I have, and there were times I felt so hopeless. Despite all that, I have also laughed, and I have loved. I have delighted in the people and things around me – and in my Lord Jesus Christ. I have experienced a love that comforts, heals, and transforms. I have been embraced in my deepest pain, and was given joy that makes it all seems so small. And so have you. God is working in your life and in your heart. You can testify to that. Mark 5:19 said ‘But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.”’ How have you struggled? What are the doubts you have faced? How have you experienced the incredible mercy of God? How have you found freedom in your faith? Wherever you are in your journey, you have a story worth telling. And so have you. God is working in your life and in your heart. You can testify to that. Mark 5:19 said ‘But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.”’ How have you struggled? What are the doubts you have faced? How have you experienced the incredible mercy of God? How have you found freedom in your faith? Wherever you are in your journey, you have a story worth telling. E
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Romans 8:38 by Dorothea Chin
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”
Shalom to all my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. My name is Dorothea Chin, 22 years old, currently pursuing my Bachelor of Psychology in Universiti Malaysia Sabah. It is such an honour for me to share with you my experiences when I was in Kolej Matrikulasi Labuan (KML) [2012-2013]. That one year in KML held many fond and bitter memories for me but I praise and thank God it happened because it moulded me into who I am today. During my ﬁrst semester (if I recalled correctly), rumours spread like wildﬁre about an Iban girl (Catholic if not mistaken) from rural Sibu, let’s call her “Emily”, who was converted by a number of ustaz right after her 18th birthday (the legal age to convert without parental consent). It was during the puasa month that she was converted because according to Muslims, they will gain more pahala or merit points in heaven during the fasting month if they are able to successfully convert a non-believer. Even before her conversion we were strictly not allowed to hold Christian or Catholic gatherings within college compound and we had to gather during weekends at respective churches. Towards the end of the semester before our ﬁnal exams, intensive classes and lectures were given by our Muslim lecturers in the mosque and not in lecture halls. They knew we were Christians, but still we were called to join them at the mosque. The invitation felt tricky and even though the thought of exam tips did sound tempting to us students, most of us did not attend those lectures. Muslim friends started preaching to us and invited us to their prayer meetings
and even my roommate was so happy about Emily’s conversion and asked if it was true that she’s a Catholic, like me. It hit me then that my religion, my faith was being attacked. So much so that all of us (Christians) were living in fear and distress most of the time. Even though those ustaz and ustazah were our lecturers, we had no idea what went on behind doors, what they were secretly up to. We only had each other to turn to. And this was the part I was most grateful for. Despite the fear in college, we began praying more earnestly than before. We began to be active in church activities and started inviting our Catholic friends who rarely went to church to join us every Sunday. We started to care more for our siblings in Christ by really looking out for one another. Blessed Sacrament Church in the diocese of Labuan was aware of this issue and began to hand out letters to KML students to inform us of the consequences for converting into Islam. The church started to organise healing sessions and more youth activities for us, and announced to the congregation about the issue. Due to Emily’s story, we received lots of prayers and so much love to stand ﬁrm and be strong in our faith. Madam Visita (my English church choir lecturer) went to ﬁnd out the truth behind Emily’s conversion because like a mother, she was always concerned of her Catholic sons and daughters and was very worried of us when she heard the news. She confronted Emily about what happened and Emily confessed that she was converted at college compound with the help of a handful of ustaz and ustazah. She did not inform her parents beforehand and according to her, no one
forced her into conversion; she did it out of her own free will. Madam Visita was ﬁercely warned by those ustaz and ustazah to stay out of this matter because Emily was no longer her responsibility. Madam later told us the story about how those ustaz and ustazah tracked her down to her house and intruded her housing compound to further warn her to stay out and refrained her from taking any further action. She later sued them for trespassing, ignored their warnings and instead continued to warn other Christian students to be aware of this serious issue. Then for a long period of time, Madam Visita did not attend her classes or any of our choir practices. We did not know what happened. Some said she was sued; others claimed that she was thrown to jail. There was nothing much we could do but to pray for her to be strong enough to pull through whatever was happening. In their defence, all Christians were called to the stadium to hear the truth from Emily herself and told to ask her any questions or forever hold our peace. Apparently the Muslim lecturers were tired of hearing accusations of them forcing her into conversion so they wanted to clarify the truth. Emily came forward with her tudung and was instructed by the lecturer to admit publicly about what happened. She confessed to everyone that it was indeed her own choice to memeluk agama Islam and no one forced her. We were still skeptical of what she said even after she told her story. This issue was so signiﬁcant that it made into the newspaper headlines in Labuan. It clearly stated that KML students were unable to live peacefully due to the great amount of stress.
Surprisingly, it affected both Muslims and Christians alike. Our KML Director did not comment much on the issue but made it clear to all lecturers that no conversion was allowed in college compound to maintain the harmony between all religions; students should not feel fearful of their surroundings, friends and lecturers. After a month or so, Madam Visita came back to KML. She looked frail and weak and I couldn’t help but ask her what happened. Was she really thrown to jail? Was she sued? She was strong enough to announce before us (choir group) that she recently had her ﬁrst miscarriage. Her ﬁrst baby. We were devastated and saddened by the news because she was so busy protecting us that she didn’t look after her own health. The sacriﬁces she made touched us and motivated us to be better in offering our choir service to the church. We felt as though we owed it to God and to her for loving us so much. Today, this piece of information will still bring me to tears. What I went through could have been worse. But what I did go through was necessary for me to look back and be forever grateful to the God who was there for me. I have been away from home since I was 18 and it was God who never failed me, who loves me and protects me. I couldn’t have made it without the prayers of my loved ones near and far, and the strong support from my collegemates. Due to this incident, I can now relate fully to Romans 8:38, and hold ﬁrm to it. All glory and praise to the God who loves! Do keep me in your prayers as I pray for you too. E
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With mercy, comes freedom
by Ann-Marie Khor, Penang
When Pope Francis announced that the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, I felt truly blessed. What a time to be alive! Before I go on, let’s break the word “mercy” down. Google tells me that mercy is deﬁned as “compassion or forgiveness, which is shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” In simpler words? It is to forgive someone, in spite of whatever they may have done. In fact, the very basis of being Catholic was founded on God’s endless stream of mercy. He did, after all, love us so much, giving us his only son so that we may have eternal life (see John 3:16). I started off the “year” participating and helping out in an aptly-named camp in Penang – Callback Camp Eleos. “Eleos” is the Greek word for mercy, and is also the theme of the camp. Since then, I have made it a point to read up more on my faith, and spend more time in prayer. It’s not because I have to. Rather, it’s because I want to get to know this God of mine who, without even a second thought, has saved me. With that being said, Easter is actually the highlight of the church calendar for me. The past few years, whenever the Passion of Jesus Christ is read on Palm Sunday and on Good Friday, it gave me so much to think about. The cruciﬁxion of Jesus; the precious Lamb of God who had to go through all that
pain and anguish. All that, just for the redemption of our souls. As I was writing this story, I thought about a character in the Passion, who is often dismissed as a brigand, criminal or murderer. Barabbas, who can be seen as someone who “lucked out” with something like a “get-out-of-jail” card for nothing. The crowds demanded that Pilate release Barabbas, who, based on his crimes, should have been cruciﬁed. On the other hand, we have Jesus, holy and spotless, who was “sentenced” to the cross when he deﬁnitely didn’t deserve it. The innocent was sent to be cruciﬁed, while the “guilty” was set free. In some ways, you and I? We’re Barabbas. Jesus was sent to the cross for us, as a sacriﬁce for the sins of the world. I’ve asked myself time and time again - Am I really worthy of it? Or even, are *we* all worth it? All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (see Romans 3:23). What has kept me going is God’s mercy. It is in His giving of His only son to redeem us that reminds me to get up each and every single time I fall. If you asked me whether mercy was important or not, I think the answer is a clear yes. For without this thing called mercy, we would not even have a chance at eternal life in Heaven. It is my prayer that no one takes this gift for granted, especially in this Year of Mercy. E
THE END OF
2016 by Jonathan Soon
So you are at the grand celebration of ER2016. Your best friend is next to you. The talks are amazing. The music is terriﬁc. You are trying to mimic the dance by the Dance & Drama Ministry. You have just witnessed God’s mercy. You have never felt so loved, so overwhelmed by His generosity. You have never been happier. You just want ER2016 to go on forever. But Sunday afternoon will come. Sooner than you expect it to be. And it’s back to your daily routines. Back to college with the crazy assignments. Back to school with your annoying teachers. Back to work with never-ending e-mails. The joy that you feel over this weekend will diminish. ER2016 will be just another ﬂeeting memory. The experience had come to an end.
You will be placed into difﬁcult positions: “WALAO, YOU WANT ME TO SAY SORRY AH? HE WAS THE ONE WHO SPRAY ME WITH THE AIR FRESHENER!” “BRO, SHE CHEATED ON ME. THIS IS THE THIRD TIME ALREADY. HOW CAN A PERSON DO THAT? THIS KINDA PERSON DOES NOT DESERVE HAPPINESS.” “THIS ONE WRONG. THAT ONE WRONG. NOT EVEN MY FAULT ALSO KENA SCOLD. SIEN LAH. NEXT TIME I PURPOSELY SABO MY BOSS TO MAKE HIM NO FACE.” Mercy is the least logical response. It does not make sense. Not at all. We are victims. Being merciful only makes us look like epic losers. But the truth is: these are the perfect opportunities for mercy to happen. Mercy is about being kind when others are not. It is about being the bigger person. It is while staring in the eyes of hatred; we do not react with the same emotion. Mercy is hoping for the best even though experience dictates otherwise. Easier said than done, right? But it has been done. When the Jews condemn Jesus to death, He didn’t say, “WALAO, YOU WANT ME TO SAY SORRY AH? YOU ARE NAILING ME TO THIS PIECE OF WOOD WEI!”
And when Jesus felt forsaken as He made His painful way up to Calvary, He didn’t complain, “FATHER, I CAN’T FEEL YOU. YOU SAID YOU WILL BE HERE BUT WHERE ARE YOU NOW?! YOU KNOW I CAN SABO YOU NOW BY ABANDONING THIS ALTOGETHER.” Instead, He didn’t let His humanity deny Him of His responsibility. He died on that cross, and proved that mercy is the only way, even in death. Mercy is about being vulnerable. It is allowing yourself to be hurt by others. It is letting go, giving up whatever pride, and embracing the situation with love though it hurts so much. And only when we able to do so, the ER2016 experience will come to a complete end. Mercy – Door to Peace. True, divine peace. E
Instead, He requested God to forgive them, and took His place at the cross. When Peter denied Jesus the third time before sunrise, Jesus didn’t respond, “BRO, YOU SAY YOU DO NOT KNOW ME. FOR THREE TIMES SOME MORE. I THOUGHT WE WERE FRIENDS. YOU DO NOT DESERVE A PLACE IN HEAVEN.” Instead, He stood by Peter after His death. And Peter wenton and built the Catholic Church.
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10th Anniversary Edition