The Will of God

Lent 5 ~ Just Turn Up

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          Just a couple of days into Lent, something began to gnaw at me – I just couldn’t seem to quieten down. With work moving ahead with full force, one project ending tomorrow but others either lined up or well on their way, my hours were already packed. Now, with devotional practices special to the season of Lent added on, I seem to be running, gasping from one port to the other.

          Something tells me that this is not the way it should be.

         Just before Lent began, I saw the words, Descend into your inner room. And yesterday’s sermon by my priest made clear that Lent is a period of withdrawing from the world in order to bring ourselves face-to-face with God. He spoke of the Desert Fathers and of hermitages and monasteries. Moving away from noise in order to hear God clearly.

          Listening to my priest, I understood why I had been feeling out of skip with the season. But I did not have the luxury of escaping to a quieter place or even that of a reduced workload. Being on lockdown meant that the whole family was working or studying from home so there were constant distractions and disruptions. Lockdown also meant that I could not quieten down in church before the Blessed Sacrament. God surely knew all that, so what was I to do to descend into my inner room instead of being suspended halfway?

          The answer was unexpected.

Let go, said God.

          I was still trying to control my Lenten walk to some extent. In my praying of the daily decade of the Luminous Mysteries for healing, I fret over the people I am praying for, concerned I have missed someone out. As I go about my day, my radar is up, searching for souls who need to be added on for my Luminous Rosary because guilt whispers in my ear that I have no right to stand before God with arms anything less than full.

          But God is saying just the opposite. He is saying, Let go. In trying to descend to my inner room, paradoxically, I am also the one stalling my descent. His call for me is only to be obedient in praying the prayers He has given me. It is not for me to meddle in who I am to pray for nor to get distracted in checking if my prayer cart is full, if everyone is on board. Likewise, it is not on me to peck and poke, trying to discern the connection between my Luminous decade for the day and the prayer needs I am praying for. God alone decides where my prayers and sacrifices should go. And if there’s anything beyond that which I need to know, He’ll tell me – but in His time. All He asks for is my obedience and trust. Not much, far less than what I’ve put upon myself.

        Just turn up, says my Lord, with a smile in His voice.

 

No Other But This

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Thus says the LORD:
On that day I will raise up
the fallen hut of David;
I will wall up its breaches,
raise up its ruins,
and rebuild it as in the days of old,
Yes, days are coming,
says the LORD,
When the plowman shall overtake the reaper,
and the vintager, him who sows the seed;
The juice of grapes shall drip down the mountains,
and all the hills shall run with it.
I will bring about the restoration of My people Israel;
they shall rebuild and inhabit their ruined cities   ~  Amos 9: 11; 13 – 14

          For much of the past months, it has seemed as if every structure in my country is being torn down, every belief attacked and shattered. I returned to work some weeks ago and to my sadness, found that the weeks of stay-home had not made better persons out of all of us. Colleagues who had been bitter and who had chafed at the constraints of lockdown, now returned to raucous revelry, grimly intent on reclaiming lost time.

          Over the years, as more and more of my workmates became increasingly distracted from their core portfolios and responsibilities, the noise levels at work had been rising, fed by daily office potlucks, gossip cliques and online shopping addiction which steadily made inroads into formal work hours and beyond.

          But the post-Covid noise decibels in my work place now is beyond belief. Too many are high on something not good. Work is a farce. Silence has fled.

I brought upon you such upheaval
as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah:
you were like a brand plucked from the fire;
Yet you returned not to Me,
says the LORD.   ~  Amos 4: 11

          I am struggling and yet, paradoxically, I am working well too. Even as I fight to put out one fire after another within my heart, my work is not held back in the least.

          But there’s no escaping the deepening frustration and sadness at the scale of moral destruction before my eyes. In my work place. In my country. I can see where this is going. We are fast reaching a point of no return. Something in my heart tells me that once that invisible line is crossed, there will be no coming back. In each one of those rabble rousers at work and elsewhere, there are yet morsels of sweetness.

But if a major correction does not come soon enough, even that will be lost.

When the last light within them goes out, I fear that no other light will live in its place.

          When I took this to Jesus, His surprising answer to my distress was,

My Time has come. I am about to bring to fulfilment my plan for you and for those whom I have sent you. My Eucharistic Face will shine over this new hour of building…   ~  In Sinu Jesu

          He did not speak about the rising squalls. Yet, I know Jesus is not ignoring the ruin we are bringing ourselves to. Through the In Sinu Jesu words which lit hope in me, Jesus is clearly asking me to shift the gaze of my heart to what I am called to. He is not advocating the indifference of the deaf ear nor of the blind eye to the massive unravelling around me; instead, because of it, Jesus wants me to be in my place, doing what He has willed for me.

          This is not the first time I am hearing this. I have lost count of the number of occasions, when upset over developments in my part of the world, He has sent His Angel to remind me that my place is

Not in the violent winds

Not in the earthquakes

Not in the fire

but in the hiddenness of the presence of God. In the Eucharistic Adoration I am called to – even in the busyness of work.

          This is not due to anything of merit in me – but simply because Jesus knows well my weaknesses. I don’t handle confrontations well. I am easily intimidated. And it takes me longer than others to recover from battles. For other stronger souls, He might have earmarked the vineyards of greater work right in the midst of violent winds and earthquakes and raging fires.

          But not for me – because I’d drown.

          Or more likely, drown others.

          Often, I do feel hurt that God hasn’t marked out ‘greater work’ for me. Often, I tire of the hiddenness and obscurity of my own little vineyard. But many years ago, God made it clear,

If you cannot on the ocean
Sail among the swiftest fleet,
Rocking on the highest billows,
Laughing at the storms you meet;
You can stand among the sailors,
Anchored yet within the bay,
You can lend a hand to help them
As they launch their boats away.   ~  Your Mission, Ellen M. H Gates

 

My work is as ever, among the shadows of greater suns.

          Still, today, He lifts the veil a little.

My Time has come

…this new hour of building

          Something is ahead. Something different from the usual rebuilding of torn down structures. A newness to the coming hours. Slowly, it dawns on me that the recent weeks of being buffeted by lashing winds didn’t affect my quality of work – because God was trying to show me that was my place, to steadily build on but to build by the sidelines of life. Not in the centre of a field easily sighted; but in the purposeful hiddenness to be seen only by those who are seeking.

          In Jesus’ gentle way, He wants me to learn that I am not placed in the open fields to catch the eye of the multitudes because I am not meant to be there for everyone. My vineyard is only for the wounded, the trampled, the weak, the fearful.

          Those who are not looking up, searching for suns,  but whose gaze is cast down. Those are the ones God has given to me. The broken and the hurt. The humble and the hidden.

          That is why no other vineyard will do but this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Answer Comes

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God has answered me. Troubled by the Sri Lanka Easter Day bombings, I had asked God to tell me what to do. Exactly 3 days after my asking, He answers through another person,

Pray a special Rosary for the Muslim fasting month.

From May till early June.

Pray for conversion of Muslim hearts.

 

          When I asked Him 3 days before, I was restless and anxious. Then, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque calmed me with,

This divine Heart is naught but sweetness, humility and patience, therefore, we must wait. . . He knows when to act.  

Her words made me realise that patient wait went hand-in-hand with humility. I saw that my fretting was caused by my lack of humility – I was impatient with God; I wanted to lead. Once I saw that, I returned to doing His will in my daily life. I went to work. I cared for my family. I worked as hard as I could in quietness. When the tough hours drained me of vigour, I forced myself to be grateful for littles. Over and over, I prayed from the depths of my heart, Lord, Forgive me for I have sinned.

          And all through the 3 days, I sensed the softest, lightest breath upon my spirit, saying,

For reparation

For reparation

For reparation

          On the evening of the 3rd day, a friend’s words moved me to pray to forgive those who hurt me. I did not think of my family members. Instead, immediately, I thought of my superiors and some co-workers. And again, from the depths of my heart, I prayed, I forgive…

          The very next instant, God spoke and told me He wanted the Conversion Rosary. The Muslim fasting month presents the same danger we as Christians face in Lent – the abyss of spiritual pride. Spiritual pride that comes when we think we are great for the fasting we do each day, for the number of prayers we recite, for the various added Lenten rituals.

          But in many ways, it is harder for them. They have no Jesus who fought off the devil. They do not have Jesus’ example. They do not have His words. So, when pride assails them in that desert of deprivation, it finds an easy target.

          And they emerge from the fasting month, worse than before, for being nourished by pride.

Pride in any hands is a deadly weapon.

          But we have a weapon far greater, far more powerful – the Rosary. It is a weapon that can defeat any other because it is a weapon of love and of humility – not of pride, not of arrogance, not of hatred.

          It is this same journey of humble and loving entreaty that God is asking of me in this May Rosary. Not to demand, but in love and humility, to pray for the conversion of brethren Muslim spirits.

          That with us, they too seek to love and obey the Divine Heart of Jesus.

 

 

 

Lent 23 ~ I Seal My Heart

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          All through the night, at each gentle awakening,

I seal my heart in Your Tabernacle

          The prayer of consoling Jesus, even when sleep might take me away from Him. For some reason, I was peacefully bound to this prayer last night. Perhaps someone was in need. Or that God needed the silence of my will to work on my heart. Or even yet another way He is helping me to keep my eyes on Him.

          As the gentle rain ties diamonds everywhere it falls, I too secure my heart to Jesus once more,

I seal my heart in Your Tabernacle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 21 ~ Freed

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          I had to go into the city pretty early today for an afternoon appointment. Since I had some time before the appointment, I decided to go to church. I was delighted. It was a Friday and what better way to observe Sacred Heart Friday as I called my Friday observance, one I’ve been trying to keep since the first Friday of the year.

          I also had a little plan. There was someone at church I wanted to have a word with. She was the church clerk, Patricia, a simple, open and trusting young lady. I had met her sickly mother after Mass the week before and she had unhappily confided in me that Patricia was going to be married in a few months. I was happy for Patricia although I knew it was going to be hard for the mother whose last daughter was going to move to the capital, some 4 hours away, leaving the mother all alone here.

          Slowly, I began to sniff out what was not being said – that the mother’s anxiety actually stemmed from the fact that Patricia was probably marrying a non-Catholic, more likely a non-Christian. To a woman whose own non-Christian spouse had walked out on her and her 4 very young children early in their marriage, it must have seemed like a revisiting of an old nightmare.

          I felt the mother’s pain keenly and I was determined to help. A young relative of ours had married the same way a year ago and there was no end of problems unique to  mixed marriages. I didn’t want to break up Patricia’s relationship or anything; I was not God and not about to play one either. But I hoped to at least remind Patricia to choose Jesus in her relationship with this man – and then see where that choice took her. If it didn’t change anything, fine. After all, both spouses being Catholic wasn’t a guarantee of marriage stability or permanence.

          When my husband left me at church, I saw Patricia striding quickly towards her car and taking off rather hurriedly. I shrugged. If it was meant to be, it was meant to be. And anyway, the wedding was to be in September, so I still had some time.

          It was a comfort to be inside the almost empty church. The deep stillness within was almost like a womb. I felt secure and loved and at peace.

          Taking out my precious little brown rosary, I began to recite the Divine Mercy chaplet. I tried to pin intentions to the chaplet but by the second decade, it was clear that I could plan all I wanted; the Chaplet was going to proceed under Someone else’s leading.

          Feeling unusually secure and mellow, I wasn’t in the mood to put up a fight. So, I let God lead and tried to empty myself – of myself.

          After the second decade, I felt the Chaplet end prematurely. I looked around the church a bit as my heart shone a torch at my spirit to see what the problem was.

          All was still. ‘Nobody’ was yielding any secrets.  

          I eyed Jesus in the Divine Mercy image. I am here to console Thee. If today You ask me to be still, I will be still, I told Him.

          Having said that, I didn’t bother to try to discern any more intentions. I settled back and relaxed, my mind actually empty.

          I was feeling pleased and was about to enjoy the feeling when I felt my eyes being taken, from Jesus’ face, to the words at the bottom of the Divine Mercy image.

          I read the words, Jesus, I trust in You. Words I have seen and read many, many times before.

          Simultaneously, I felt Someone write on my heart,

Trust in Me.

          My breath didn’t still, my heart didn’t catch. Just peace and calm.

          After a few minutes, I felt ready to leave the pew. As I stood up, I looked at Jesus on the Cross. Jesus, I have to go now, I told Him, but I leave my heart sealed in Your Tabernacle.

          I had brought some work with me to do while I waited for the appointment in town. As I sat down to it in the Parish Community area, I saw Patricia return and walk into the office.

          Strangely, despite my firm resolution earlier to do some good intentioned meddling, the fervor to go and poke my head into the young lady’s life had now disappeared. 

          Odd.

          Several hours later, appointment over, I was back at church expecting my husband any second to come and get me and for us to make the long trip back to our home, when Patricia herself bounded up to my table.

          I immediately brought up the topic of her marriage but almost immediately as well, I felt a strong urge to still my tongue and just listen to Patricia. It was not Patricia’s doing; it was from deep within me, this certainty that what was needed now was to empty myself of my plans and words and….just listen.

          I found myself asking the girl gentle questions  – but not to draw her to my turf –  instead, to lead her to open up and speak. Again, what she needed to hear from me no longer mattered; what mattered was that she be allowed to speak freely.

          I tell you in all honesty, that was never the plan. Never my plan, that is. Not that I wanted to push her into a corner and clap my hand over her mouth and force her to listen to me. I just didn’t want a long, drawn out conversation about her marriage plans. What little I had to say, I wanted to do it fast.

          But nothing went to plan. Neither did I flail and lunge trying to steer the conversation to my earlier intentions. Patricia talked animatedly. I listened – with great interest.

          At the end of our conversation, I did ask her if her fiancé was going to convert to the faith. She shook her head, a shadow passing over her face. It was clear that I had put my finger right on the pulse of Patricia’s struggle with her mother. Her answer should have upset me. Yet, with a strange firmness, I heard myself say,

If he ever converts, let it be only because he loves Jesus.

And he will love Jesus – through you,

          I watched the light return to Patricia’s eyes.

          Driving home with my husband afterwards, I gazed at the undulating road ahead and wondered what on earth had happened at church. Then, I remembered,

Trust in Me,

and

I leave my heart sealed in Your Tabernacle

          In a silken sureness, I understood. I had given my heart to Jesus. In return, I was freed to do His will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Straying Beyond the Sheepfold

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          Yesterday, a lady shared about an awful family situation spanning many years. Listening, it seemed to me to bear all the hallmarks of Narcissistic  Personality Disorder. The woman was at her wits’ end, didn’t know what else to do with her husband and how to go on. Being intimately acquainted with that same disorder, I felt sorry for her. Even if it wasn’t NPD, it was clearly emotional and mental abuse that she was enduring on a daily basis. And decades of it was, well, a long time to suffer the way she had. In my case, I received church counselling to create a firm boundary. It saved my sanity as well as the sanity of my husband and children. However, I didn’t know how a boundary was going to help this woman’s situation without destroying what was left of her marriage.

          Nevertheless, I felt I needed to do something before this poor soul crossed the line of no return. So, without giving her any details about my situation so as not to unduly influence her, I told her I’d pray for her to receive a special enlightenment – because what she needed was a very special light for her extremely difficult journey.

          I’m now on a small prayer mission using my newly received St. Raphael’s healing oil. I first prayed using the blessed oil for a friend suffering from addictions and other attacks but never told her exactly how I was praying for her. This friend’s subsequent communication to me bore strong indications that the prayers were having effect on her. That strengthened my faith in Archangel Raphael as well as I’ve never really invoked him in this way.

          A short time later, speaking to a priest, I heard about his immense struggles with his family as well as with the parish he was assigned to. There was also his acrimonious relationship with a fellow priest and its spillover effects. That troubled me more than anything. If our priests were falling out with each other, what hope did we have for ourselves? Nonetheless, it wasn’t something I dared advise him about, mainly because of the distinct possibility that it was above my paygrade.

          Nonetheless, a strong urge took hold of my heart. So, I began the same prayer I had said for my friend with the addictions, for the 2 priests, using the St. Raphael’s healing oil, so kindly and generously sent to me by the Healing Oil Ministry of South Grafton, MA. I have no idea how long I am supposed to pray for this intention but I’m confident the Archangel will let me know.

          And now, I fully intended to invoke Archangel Raphael’s intercession for the lady struggling with her Cross.

          I tried to pray Hail Marys for the woman all Saturday morning. It was a very busy morning, and rushing to and from errands and duties, I couldn’t manage more than a few Hail Marys, recited distractedly. But I was undeterred. We had to travel long distance to Mass later, so there’d be lots of time for prayers.

          I planned to pray using the oil before the drive. I remembered – about 15 minutes into the drive, it didn’t make sense to turn back.

          Then, I tried to pray Hail Marys again for the lady. Again, I got distracted after the first few.

          Arriving at church, I hurried inside to lay down my prayer cart before the Divine Mercy image. Fixing my gaze upon the image, I offered every prayer – except the one for the lady. Clean forgot.

          I had a few minutes before Mass began so I opened my battered copy of St. Faustina Kowalska’s Divine Mercy in My Soul. Jesus speaks very clearly to me through lines in this book, different lines in each reading. I needed to hear God’s voice and I prayed to hear it through the book, if it was willed.

          It came. But it was not what I expected.

A priest who is not at peace with himself will not be able to inspire peace in another soul.   ~   Entry 74, Divine Mercy in My Soul, St. Faustina Kowalska

          I stared at the line for a good few seconds. What?

          It was just before Holy Communion that I suddenly remembered my intention to pray for the woman. So, I did but it was harried and hurried. It had been that way the whole day – but it didn’t affect other prayers; only the prayer for this lady. 

          Something began to disturb me lightly. Don’t you want me to pray for her, for her enlightenment? I grumbled to Jesus. What do I pray for? I directed my exasperated asking towards St. Faustina, assuming there was some other prayer needed for this lady.

A priest who is not at peace with himself will not be able to inspire peace in another soul, came the calm, quiet reply.

          I decided to stop my prayers or rather, my attempt at prayer, for the troubled lady. I was learning again the lesson I have learned many times before: that just because I had sympathy for someone, it didn’t mean that I could get ahead of God, even in prayer. What prayer, how we are to pray, if we are called to it – is all governed by God. We get nothing done by straying ahead of Him. To pray outside of His Will, never mind whatever good intentions, was to leave the sheepfold. I had tried enough. It was clear that this was not the prayer – for now or perhaps, ever. I knew God would let me know if and when anything was needed. If I said I loved God, then it was His will that I had obey, even in something like what to pray for, who to pray for or when to pray.

          And so, I retreated from that prayer, but focused on the prayer for peace in priests.

          This morning, I met this lady once more. Imagine my utter surprise when she made it clear that she wasn’t looking for enlightenment for herself. If anyone needed it, it was her husband, she said. She was grateful for support, for comfort. For listening, for the prayers for her husband even. But she didn’t need God’s direction because her husband was the problem, not her. God needed to speak to her husband and her husband needed to listen to Him.

          That was the kind of prayer she was looking for.

          I suddenly understood why the wind had stolen my every prayer for her.

 

 

 

Unheeded

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“It’s important that we listen for the voice of God.”

          Those were the words of the pilot of the plane that safely took off from Palu Airport on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, minutes before the horrific Sept 28 earthquake and tsunami.

          Pilot Mafela had been feeling uneasy all of that Friday before he landed the plane on that island. He was so troubled that he recited the 23rd psalm and began to loudly sing songs of praise as he taxied the plane to a landing.

          Then, his anxiety unabated, he requested permission to take off 3 minutes ahead of time. He cut short the turnaround time to 20 minutes and didn’t even leave the cockpit during that time. As they were taking off, the pilots saw the runway bend and wave like a curtain blowing in the wind.

          They were 3 minutes ahead of schedule and those 3 minutes saved them.

          But Captain Mafela is more specific. He credits the prompting of the Holy Spirit for this miracle escape.

“It’s important that we listen for the voice of God.”

          That twin tragedy of earthquake and tsunami occurred on the 28th of September. On the 28th of October began a storm devastation like no other in parts of Italy. Flash floods took lives, large swathes of forest land were flattened and hundreds of cars at a port awaiting export caught fire and were destroyed. Long time residents say they have never experienced such a thing in their decades of living in those places. Listening to survivor accounts, from Indonesia to Italy, some adjectives echo.

Apocalyptic

Unexpected

          But I believe that in both countries, there would have been those, like Captain Mafela, who heard a whisper in their spirits. Who heeded that whisper. And escaped. Not all would have heard – some because that whisper never came to them, others because noises dulled its pleading.

          But those that did hear and who obeyed were either saved themselves or the whisper in their spirits was that they warn others whose lives were ultimately saved. People lived because someone had listened and obeyed.

          This year, especially from August, I’ve had one upheaval after another. This is no way compares to the natural disasters experienced the world over. But reading the signs meant for me in Indonesia and in Italy specifically, I suddenly see that the losses I have suffered from August were in fact a removal of noise.

          Chances of career advancement were diminished. I lost a turbulent friendship of 20 years. I am losing my place of belonging at my workplace.

          With each loss, I sink deeper into the earth. It feels like I am leaving the light and being forced into shadows and darkness. But suddenly today, it’s beginning to dawn on me that I am interpreting it all wrong.

          I am being removed from the noise.

          Because noise doesn’t just come from stress, distractions and unnecessary busyness. It is also in initiatives to reach out to those who do not want our help or who demand of us in order to abuse. Noise in found in destructive friendships. In bullies who take over our ears and diminish peace in us. Noise also comes from seemingly good aspirations such as to earn money for the family, to seek a place or position where we can contribute better – but which are not willed by God for us.

          Noise is created when I hold on to what is not willed by God.

          And when God cuts me off from a person or a place or a hope, if I rebel in sorrow over that loss, I create a deafening pandemonium within my spirit.

          It builds up and drowns out what I need to hear.

          And the Spirit’s soft whisper goes unheeded.