Pope Francis once said in his homily: “God is the God of surprises. God is always new. He never contradicts himself.”
To be surprised. Don’t you feel that the older we get, the more we lose our sense of wonder and the ability to be amazed? We go through life- like “whatever”.
Well, God never stops to surprise us with His word that brings new hope; with His love that renews us; with His plans that call us to a new step, a new change.
Have we ever experience God as a God of surprises? Do we dare to open ourselves to let Him bring us to higher heights… or to let Him lead us to new steps, to higher ground, to deeper waters?
Sometimes we are afraid of newness that God wants to bring to us.Newness means that we have to leave our old ways, our old securities, our old habits, our old familiar life.
In John 3:8: Jesus told Nicodemus this: “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus was a Pharisee.He went to Jesus in the dark of night to ask him questions because he did not want his other Pharisee friends to know. He did not want to spoil his reputation.Jesus invited Nicodemus to let go of all his fears, his love for his image, his security in what he knew and to let God blow him.
We all have Nicodemus inside of us.We weigh ourselves down with all our securities, ideas, comfort zones, plans and dreams. The greatest spiritual challenge for all of us is to let God blow us to wherever he wants us to, even to the point of allowing Him to overturn our lives around.
Listen to the words of Jesus as He tells us: “The wind blows where it chooses, you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it goes…”
The Wind refers to the Holy Spirit. Jesus uses wind as an image to describe the Spirit. He does not use “Air”. Air is motionless. Wind is dynamic, active. It is always going somewhere. It is always blowing in a direction. It comes from somewhere and it goes to somewhere. This is how the Spirit of God acts or move, like a wind.
We cannot control the Spirit of God. He is in charge. All we have to do is to let Him take us to the direction where He wants us to go.
Let us ask ourselves: Where? How? What?
God is God of surprises who will never blow us to danger or to harm.
Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil,to give you a future and a hope.
This is the direction that The Spirit is blowing us to- for peace, not for evil, for a future and a hope.
By Sr Sandra Seow, FMVD
LENT: Towards God…Towards Love
Lent is a journey towards more of God. We are so used to associate Lent with fasting, praying, giving alms, which are the 3 disciplines of Lent. These are good. We should all do these. However, these 3 disciplines are means towards the end, the goal. They are not the end themselves.
For example, we want to go to Changi Village to eat nasi lemak. Changi village is the goal. We travel ECP to get to Changi Village. But ECP is not the goal. It is the way we take to go to our destination. Likewise, God is our goal, our destination. Fasting, Praying, Almsgiving are simply means or the way or the road we take to get to our final destination, i.e. God.
All our ‘giving ups’ should lead us to add in more of God into our life. The question that we should ask is:‘How can I find ways during this Lent so that I can have more of God in my life?’
Instead of just focusing on what we want to give up, perhaps it is time to change our focus to what we want to gain. The destination of Lent and in fact the whole of our life is: TOWARDS MORE OF GOD. This Lent is to add God in our lives.
When we include God more into our life, He will also lead us to expand our hearts to include others.
- 1 John 4,19 ‘We love because God first loved us. If someone says he loves God, but hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. Because he cannot love God whom he has not seen, if he does not love his brother whom he has seen.’
Think of someone whom you find it difficult to love because of different personalities, past misunderstandings, etc. This Lent, God is inviting you and I to love the person we have in our mind because it is when we love this person, we are loving God. Our life has to be centred on Love. Look at Jesus on the cross, in the Eucharist and we see the unconditional love that we are called to imitate.
At the end of our life, what we really leave behind that really matters is not the money or the house or the car. We leave behind the love we have shared with those around us and the goodness we have done. We leave behind our love for God and others. This is what really matters.
By Sr Sandra Seow, FMVD
The WORD OF GOD IS ALIVE AND ACTIVE
The Word of God is alive and active. The Word is not just made up of capital letters, alphabets.The Word is a somebody, not a something. The Word is Jesus.
Pope Benedict XVI (Sept 3 2008, Vatican City) stated: “Christianity is not a new philosophy or new morality. We are Christians only if we encounter Christ… Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we really become Christians… Therefore, let us pray to the Lord to enlighten us, so that, in our world, he will grant us the encounter with his presence, and thus give us a lively faith, an open heart, and great charity for all, capable of renewing the world.”
The key word here is ENCOUNTER. In the Christian context, when we use this word Encounter, it is not a ‘hi and bye’ meeting, but it refers to have a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST. Encounter is about developing a close intimate friendship with Jesus, the One who knows and loves us the most.
Everyday, Jesus is here to encounter us. He stands at our door, knocking.
Rev 3, 20: ‘ Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into his house and eat with him and he will eat with me.’
Jesus wants to enter to be THE WORD that is Alive. He wants to be our companion in our life, A Friend who journeys with us.
What will our answer be?
By Sr Sandra Seow, FMVD
As human beings, we fear one thing or another.
Some fears are huge like giants that paralyse us from living life.
We become insecure- Fear and Insecurity go hand in hand.
Many fears that we face are:
Fear of Failure: Letting people down because of high expectations
Fear of Change: New stage in life – from student life to working life, Change in a bad habit.
Fear of Losing: Someone we love goes away.
Fear of opinions of others: Judgement, being misunderstood, letting people down,etc.
Fear of mistakes we made in the past, and the uncertainty of tomorrow.
Fear of not making use of our time well. We are fearful with how to allocated our time to do what, to go where, to be with who.
All these fears are real. They do not go away if we do not DO something about facing these giants. When we take the first step to stand firm to face our giants, God will not abandon us because he is with us to help us.
Remember the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17, 20-50?
Like David, we need to do something with the giants. In the same way, David stood against his giant, Goliath.
We need to face our giants. The Israelites, even King Saul, were shaking with fear whenever the Giant shouted his challenge.
Verse 24: Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.
The Israelites saw Goliath. They run away.
Where was their focus? They focussed on his strength, his loud voice, his threats, his weapons. They looked at the giant and run away. David too looked at the giant but he focussed on God.
- Verse 45-47: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin,but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
This was what made the difference. David looked at the Giant, but he looked at God more! David trusted in God, and knew that God will be there to help him, to guide him, to give him courage.
- Verse 50: So David triumphed over the Philistine with a slingand a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.
With a sling and a stone, David conquered the giant. What about us? Do we fix our eyes on God, or at the many fears we have that paralysed us? Where do we put our trust?
Sr Sandra Seow
Verbum Dei Missionaries
18th October 2015
Jesus’ gaze of love changes everything. When Jesus was about to be crucified, Peter denied Him 3 times. Jesus did not look at Peter with anger or bitterness.
Luke 22, 61-62: The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Jesus’look was a look of love that moved and hit the depth of Peter’s heart. He cried bitterly for his shame, his denial.
We too in our lives have said “No” to God’s love.
Question is: Where do I go from here?
We know the story of Peter. He denied Jesus-Yes. But Jesus did not give up on Him.
Instead, Jesus looked at Him with love. In John 21, Jesus came looking for Peter, His lost sheep.
Three times- Peter denied Jesus.
Three times- Jesus asked Peter: Do you love me?
Three times, Peter undid his No’s with “Yes, I love you. Yes. You know that I love you.”
What about us? Where do we go from here? Do we allow our Good Shepherd to find us? Do we have the desire to experience the joy of being loved unconditionally by God?
When I was 18 to 21 years old, it was the darkest moment of my life. I went for mass. I was the president of a church group. I was helping out in RCIA class. I was a catechist. I was active Catholic. Within, I felt the furthest away from God. I felt like I was in a dark hole, hidden and forgotten by God for the many stupid things I did at that time. In 1998, my sister and I organised a retreat for our young adults’ group in our parish. Verbum Dei Missionaries were the ones directing it. In the session of God the Father, we were given a letter from God the Father. In that letter, Isaiah 49 spoke to me loud and clear- and hit the deepest depth of my heart.
“How can I forget you? I have craved your name on the palm of my hand.”
I felt loved, despite my many faults and failures.I knew that God’s love is greater, much greater than all my sins.
I remembered the deep joy. That day, I chose to remain with God and let go of all the things that led me away from Him.
The experience of God’s mercy was the start of my journey that made me to be where I am today.
Sometimes, we think that God is angry and is waiting to punish us. We think that God loves us like how we experience our parents, friends, boss love and value us.
- When we do something good, we are praise.
- When we make a mistake, we are punished.
Hosea 11, 9: God said, ” I am God, not man.”
Let God be God. He looks at our sins, and offers us His mercy.
By Sr Sandra Seow, FMVD
Verbum Dei Missionaries
27th October 2015