Hope

The End is Nigh

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          This morning, stopping by the late Nancy Shuman’s The Breadbox Letters for a quick nibble at my favourite blogs indexed there, a heading jumped out at me from out of nowhere.

The end is nigh.

A new life / world awaits you.

Then without warning, the page was suddenly refreshed and just like that, those words disappeared. I went blog by blog, searching for them but to no avail. They were gone.

          I sat back and turned things over in my heart. Just minutes earlier, I had prayed my morning prayers at my altar. Since we recite the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary on Thursdays, for some years now, I’ve called my Thursdays, Illumination Thursday, a day when I pray for the strength to see my soul and all its sins as God sees it and for the strength and will to repent and start anew.

          Thursdays have also become my Miracle Thursday, when I pray and ask God for every miracle possible.

          I had asked for both the illumination and the miracles today, for myself, my loved ones and for the world. God knows how much we all need both. Even at this point in time, with the many Covid restrictions being lifted bit by bit and life smoothening out once more, something in my heart urges me to still seek miracles. Not from the usual lack of gratitude do I sense that this normal life we are returning to is missing something. It could be the terrible war in Ukraine or Covid or the vaccine mandates or even all three that have changed us all in some way or another. But I cannot ignore this feeling that even if the life that is opening its doors to allow us back in seems much like the one we knew before, something, somewhere has changed.

          The windchimes outside my living room sliding doors chime in a sudden urgency, as if to signal the angels’ agreement with the gentle swirling in my heart.

The end is nigh. A new life / world awaits you.

          Two years of suffering is bound to change anyone. With a new boss having assumed the mantle of leadership, life at work is already different, yet without the sweetness of hope and joy, all the old the ruts and tangles remain. Still deep in my studies and discovering and learning so much, I too am no longer the same. Yet, none of this explains why the waiting world we are returning to has lost a bit of its flavour.

The end is nigh. A new life / world awaits you.

          Unless it means that we have not arrived yet at the lands promised to us on this earth.

          But that the appointed time is coming.

          And it is close.

Lent 29 ~ Sparrow~Words

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Those that sow in tears
            shall reap rejoicing.   ~  Psalm 126: 5

          Every Sunday, I stand before my altar and look up at my Jesus and reaffirm my promise to Him that I will live my Sunday as a day of special thanksgiving and rest. It doesn’t always work to plan, given that I am a workaholic and life does happen. Recently, I learned that even on a Sunday, God could still call me to go out into a vineyard of need. It taught me that each day given to us is His gift to us to live it as He has willed.

          Today, intent on that same rest and thanksgiving, I instead sensed a heaviness in my spirit. I could tell straight off, it was not mine, though. I felt it was someone suffering from workplace discrimination, with loss of hope in a long journey of suffering.

Or perhaps I was picking up on someone’s feeling of anguish that even if people cared, no one could really help.

          Last night, I had seen these words,

Whatever you do won’t be enough, I heard their voices say.

Try anyway.   

~  Barack Obama, A Promised Land

          Two tiny words that shone out their light, then receded into their stillness.

Try anyway  

          And so I did. I traced back this heaviness I was sensing, going backwards along its path of hidden tears, till I reached the eyes from which flowed this quiet pain. Is it hers, I wondered. I don’t know her. What if I’m rebuffed? What if her pain pushes me away? Because I could sense something very big and very deep behind this person’s statements of hurt.

Try anyway, gentle yet firm, the words came back.

          So, timidly and hesitantly I typed out the words I might want to hear from someone. Neither the words to feed the anger, nor to minimize the suffering, nor even to shame the person for crying out for help by saying, I suffered more, why can’t you bear even this? I tried my best to acknowledge the loneliness of her suffering, the isolation of it, the shame of being the only one. But I could feel the sparseness of my words, puny against this towering pain.

          Then, I told her I was going to ask God for a miracle for her. That her sowing of tears would someday reap the joy of rejoicing.

          The very minute I laid those words, as mundane and as small as the simple sparrow, by this unknown person’s heart, I felt the weight lift from mine. From a distance came the call of a lone eagle circling the whitened~blue skies as if he too had met this weight coming off from me.

         And with that I just knew that on this Sunday, those words of hope was all my Jesus had asked of me for a stranger’s pain.

Lent 25 ~ Coming Dawn

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God will help it at the break of dawn   ~  Psalm 46: 6

          How many times has this verse from the Psalms lifted me to hope, if not joy itself. Even if it were long in coming true, it has never disappointed.

          Today, I received news that I will be getting a new boss. Naturally, given all that has happened over the years, I have good reason to be apprehensive. But strangely, not a sliver of worry steals into my heart to trouble its waters. It comes to me, that for once, I am reaching out to hope with a lightness of heart, not fear. It is as if the dawn were already within me.

          And I know it is not my doing. Something far greater is taking root within me. Something beyond me, beyond what I can strive for, beyond even what I deserve.

          Telling me, Do not fear. I am already there in your tomorrow. And where I am, the Dawn is.

 

Lent 9 ~ Good Things

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          The vine of words from today’s daily Readings and the Gospel give me so much strength because they take me to a place of hope.

God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are You.
Help me, who am alone and have no help but You… (Esther C: 14)

          In praying these words, I am praying the words of another woman who has gone before me, one who was also alone and at the edge of the cliff. Yet, she had left one arrow and it was recourse to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

…turn our mourning into gladness
and our sorrows into wholeness.   (Esther C: 25)

          The words give me the liberty to pray for joy and healing, even if it is Lent. It tells me yet again that that God wants me to understand Lent differently this year – to seek the penance of true hope and heavenly joy after years of suffering.

When I called, You answered me;
            You built up strength within me.  ~  Psalm 138: 3

           And knowing my faith will waver in the sea of unanswered prayers, the angels come early to lay within my mind the memories of times past when God has hastened to my side, feeding me and nourishing me for the journey ahead. Again, knowing of my present anxiousness, knowing that my days are spent scanning the skies for an answer, they gently tip before me the dew of Promise,

The LORD will complete what He has done for me…   ~  Psalm 138: 8

          As I pray, Someone watches me quietly. Just before I rise from my prayer, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob presses His word into my wearied waiting.

If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask Him.   Matthew 7: 11

          And so against the Heart of my God, I lean my own heart’s prayer,

Heavenly Father,

Give us good things

Sunrise is Coming

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…because of the tender mercy of our God

by which the daybreak from on high will visit us   ~  Luke 1: 78

          Two days ago, I came across this verse, and it was like someone had ever so gently held an orb of soft light over me. In that very same moment, I felt moved to forgive a colleague here who had done me a harm no one should have, and not after what we had both gone through a few years ago. But bathed in the gentle light of St. Luke’s verse, none of that harm mattered any more. I found I could pray from the very depths of my heart, despite my own weariness.

          Today, pondering the verse once more, other things come to mind. Over the weekend, I had submitted my final assignment for this semester. It has been a grueling journey, one I care not to take on again. Yet, I must say, that final assignment brought me so much joy in the learning it accorded me. More than that, was the way heaven reached out and helped me through, step, by step. For every struggle to understand, I found the right books and the right articles. For every struggle to find the right words, someone was always there by my side, unseen, yet helpfully pushing words towards me, like a little child pushing his little blocks across the play table, each word finding its perfect fit within a sentence. There were days too when I worked from night till almost 5 in the morning because it took so long to make sense of things. And whenever I allowed myself to wonder, Can I get this out in time? Can I do this?, I felt an answering certainty, not mine,

A little more, you’re almost there.

          One evening, just before the end, I had looked up into the wan evening sky, to see the fading glow from a white~yellow sun, veiled by a sheen of mist. For some reason, it reminded me of my womb, from those ultrasounds during visits to the doctor when I carried babies within me. You are going through a birthing, confirmed a voice from within. Suddenly, I saw the truth of it – the long days and nights of struggling to understand and to learn, all the struggles to love and to forgive even when hurt, being deliberate in withdrawing from work to care for others and to pray for them, seeking stillness even in the depths of busyness – all so very much like the struggles of birthing, of the battle against the self to bring life into this world.

The splendour light of heaven’s glorious sunrise is about to break upon us in holy visitation  Sr Kathryn James Hermes, FSP, Luke 1: 78 (The Passion Translation)

          So, there is a purpose to all of this, nothing random in this weave of tight days. This is but the journey of each soul making its way to that day of the glorious sunrise, the journey of so many of us, of mine and yours too. Golden, happy days when every little thing is beautiful, interspersed with knotted moments when we doubt and fear and let go of God’s hand, when we fall and think we can never get up again. Each of those days, like different pearls on the same string, all going towards that mysterious sunrise.

          We are all headed there, from every part of the world, from every sort of life. To heaven’s sunrise we are all journeying, to where every bitterness will finally birth its sweetness.

          Just when we think we cannot move another step, we will have arrived just where He wills us, and

the splendour light of heaven’s glorious sunrise will break upon us 

Final Hours

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          Last day of a rough and bittersweet year. Softened by the cold, silver year end rains, the day is quiet and still, save for stray northeastern gusts that come in fits and starts. It is a day that lends itself to thoughts and musings and ponderings, playing in starts and stops in the back of my mind, much like the winds of the day.

          I want this year to end – but only if the new year to come is cleansed of all that has made this present one so very bitter and painful. After all that the past months have yielded, excitement and anticipation for the year ahead finds no home within me.

          Nonetheless, strangely too, I know I am no longer who I was before. I can sense that I am not too afraid of the year to come, even if all the signs thus far are far from encouraging. Some kind of hope does live in on within.

          But it is not ordinary hope, seen and perceived tangibly. Instead, it is like a candle, hidden within me, its quiet flame lit by an unseen Hand, burning brighter with each turn of heart towards thankfulness and gratitude for the precious joys the angels have tucked into the days of this year. And I am so very grateful for these little parcels of joys gifted to me by heaven and by angels on earth, for they softened the blows endured from September onwards, those bitter yet necessary lessons that must accompany each life if life is to truly mean something. The memories of those deep comforts now lodge within me a deep certainty that even in the darkest squalls of life, God is always there.

         As this year edges to its final hours, once more I tuck my hands into God’s, watching and wondering, as the waters of the new year curl to the edges of the old shores.

Come to Me, Eternal King

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MAKER of all, eternal King,

who day and night about dost bring:

who weary mortals to relieve,

dost in their times the seasons give:

Now the shrill cock proclaims the day,

and calls the sun’s awakening ray,

the wandering pilgrim’ guiding light,

that marks the watches night by night.

Roused at the note, the morning star

heaven’s dusky veil uplifts afar:

night’s vagrant bands no longer roam,

but from their dark ways hie them home.

The encouraged sailor’s fears are o’er,

the foaming billows rage no more:

Lo! e’en the very Church’s Rock

melts at the crowing of the cock.

O let us then like men arise;

the cock rebukes our slumbering eyes,

bestirs who still in sleep would lie,

and shames who would their Lord deny.

New hope his clarion note awakes,

sickness the feeble frame forsakes,

the robber sheathes his lawless sword,

faith to fallen is restored.

Look in us, Jesu, when we fall,

and with Thy look our souls recall:

if Thou but look, our sins are gone,

and with due tears our pardon won.

Shed through our hearts Thy piercing ray,

our soul’s dull slumber drive away:

Thy Name be first on every tongue,

to Thee our earliest praises sung.

All laud to God the Father be;

all praise, Eternal Son, to Thee;

all glory, as is ever meet,

to God the Holy Paraclete. Amen.   St Ambrose of Milan

          Today is the feast of St Ambrose of Milan to whom the prayer/hymn above is attributed and to whom I owe so much. He first came into my heart 2 years ago, with the hymn, Maker of All, Eternal King, at a time when I could barely see or feel my way around life due to exhaustion. He came, cupped my face and lifted my eyes towards heaven. And there, I found the hope that was missing from my days.

          Today, I sought him once more, in the relentlessly drying gullies of my life. While my work has become manageable, my studies have formed a storm of shouts. What was once so interesting and life-giving has become very stressful in recent weeks due to a course I have to take where I am not being given sufficient support by the distracted and rather disorganised lecturer. From not knowing anything, I am forced to practically tutor myself through the course in order to complete assignments. It’s the last thing I wanted, this being Advent especially. I am mourning the days which are too passing quickly, taking with them all the quiet time which Advent brings to me each year. No matter how hard I try, I can do little to hold my hand out and slow the passing of time.

          Into this disquiet I have come, yet in a strange way, I am holding Jesus’ Hand even more tightly. More than ever, I feel I am truly walking on water, somehow making it from hour to hour, despite the churn of waters below me.

          Still, I would exchange it all in a heartbeat for the stillness which would allow me to rest my head against Jesus’ Heart.

I can hardly express my joy at seeing the increase of devotion to the Sacred Heart of my Saviour. I seem to live for that alone. Sometimes such an ardent desire to make It reign in all hearts is kindled within me that there is nothing I would not do and suffer to bring this about.   ~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

          So, even this is willed, I realise, and it resigns me to these severe days. This is why I have to endure what I am enduring, this is where it all goes, into the Heart of my Eternal King.

          As the day rises and sets once more, I turn my eyes toward heaven,

Maker of all, Eternal King,

To Thee my work and life I give;

All is Yours, Eternal King, all is Yours

Come and rest in me.

More Than A Sparrow

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Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. ~ Matthew 10: 29 – 31

          After a late-night sparring with an insensitive and thoughtless colleague from work, I awakened to a Saturday morning, still an angry red from the thorns of that unexpected conflict. 

         Pausing at my window, I looked out at our front lawn. The first rays of the sun were already falling from a blue-and-white-tufted happy morning sky. It should have been a cheery start to a much waited for weekend but it wasn’t because of a late-night text message sent by someone who had thoughtlessly pushed aside consideration and compassion. On any other day, I might have absorbed it, fumed over it in silence, and them, moved to comply. But Friday night wasn’t any night; it was one of the many nights we have been enduring, in deep suffering and emotional privation that has yet to see its end. And some days, you can only take so much before something erupts from the force of relentless stress and pressure.

          Friday night was such a night. At my window the next morning, I was upset that even the gift of a fresh Saturday morning, a blue-and-white day, wreathed in the gold of new sunshine, was dulled due to what had happened. I had prayed for God’s forgiveness in case I had sinned by engaging with my colleague when He had told me to be still and to let Him fight for me; and I had prayed for my colleague too even as I prayed to forgive her – but it seemed as if any allure the golden morning promised had been extinguished.

          Presently, I saw something I don’t often see: two sparrows poking around and pecking at the thick grass of our lawn beyond the window. Their littleness and perhaps, their nondescript appearance do not make them the birds I often search for or listen out for. But I know they are always around – on the fence, on tree branches, on the electricity wires, pausing for a quick moment to collect bird-thoughts before urgently taking off.

          They are everywhere but I’ve never noticed them on my front lawn, even if it’s where they always are.

          Soon enough, I forgot about the wee brown birds. There were Saturday things to do and a nice twilight ride out to the countryside to look forwards to.

          And then, the sun speared light through the clouds. Another text message from my colleague was awaiting me and it was clear a light had pierced her. In that moment, the thorns of the previous night left me and I forgave her from my heart and told her my love for her remained. In a few quick strokes, the bitterness of the night had passed and I went on with my day, my heart much lightened.

          Towards the end of the day, driving out on languid roads, a JJ Heller song, Don’t Give Up Too Soon, came on. 

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