Power of the Embrace

I was on duty to carry the cross in procession during a Stations of the Cross session and I was worried if my hands are going to sore as the old wound on my right wrist was showing up again. Experienced cross bearers gave me suggestions on how the cross is best carried, afterall it was a long journey.

Right before the procession I decided to adapt to a method suggested to me: to carry it in an embracing way. And as I move along, to shuffle my hands so as to give my hands some relief. I did just that and at the end of the session, a friend, who is an experienced cross bearer asked me; was it easier carrying the cross that way? I answered; yes, it is much more bearable when I embrace the cross.

At that moment of grace I realised the significance of my statement. Many are times I found myself grumbling and rejecting my cross. The “why me?” litany and pity party were part of the drama. My attitude has rendered the cross heavier and very unbearable.

As I grew in my relationship with Christ, I slowly came to a state of surrender and rest in the Lord. In surrendering to the One who wants nothing short of the best for me, I became more accepting of my unpleasant circumstances a.k.a. my crosses.

In our walks of life, crosses are part of the journey. Our crosses often represents an uncomfortable situation. When we are uncomfortable, there bound to be the tendency to complain and may even compel the person to run away from his/her situation. Afterall, some say; ignorance is bliss. It may be a short lived bliss but mind you, problems unfaced will come back to haunt you as a matter of time. That has been my experience when I allowed myself to be deceived by my deliberate ignorance.

In this light, it makes perfect sense to face our crosses. The way I find efficacious is by embracing my cross. I must admit my crosses are hard and very unlike a soft toy that is nice to be hugged. My crosses are rough, hard and heavy. Knowing clearly well that the way to my freedom is by carrying my cross, I choose to embrace it because embracing my cross made it more bearable. The weight remained the same but the way I carry it brings a significant difference to my journey.

Crosses are meant to be carried anyway, why not choose a way that makes my journey more beautiful and meaningful? Personally for me, my way of embracing my cross starts with an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude opens the floodgate of grace and grace is the sustenance of the journey. Having the attitude of gratitude does not mean I would not fall; I could not even begin to count how unfaithful I had been in carrying my cross. I still complain, I still grumble and I still struggle. Through the times I fell, I came to understand the value of being dependent on God and being totally honest with Him. In my honesty, oftentimes I wrestle with God and as Jacob did, I will not let go unless He blesses me.

My stubbornness in my wrestle is the blessing that oftentimes brought me to a place of rest and trust. As I rest in God, I gained my energy to continue in my journey once again; to pick up my cross, embrace it and to carry it along my journey again. The destination makes it worthwhile to travel my journey carrying my cross and the power of the embrace gave me the eyes to appreciate the spectacular view of the journey.

Dear friends, wherever you are in your journey of life, know that victory is eminent and I pray that you are encouraged to embrace your cross and march the victorious journey of life.

May you be blessed 😘

With lots of love,

Irene

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SMILE

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” – Ephesians 2: 10 (NLT)

How many of us pay attention to the signature gesture that is really us? People may make fun of it and have a good laugh out of it. Sometimes we become too self conscious about it. Along this line of thought, I recall leading a fellowship session last year where I came out with an idea of honouring each other. However, before we do that, the person who honours will have to imitate the one he/she honours. The rest in the group will guess who this person before the honouring start is. We had a good laugh that night and I was so amazed how attentive we were to each other. Personally for me, I was amazed how people could guess immediately when I was imitated and the word spoken to honour me was simply beautiful.

Reflecting upon that evening, one thing that stood out for me was the uniqueness of each person. We truly are a MASTERPIECE, fearfully and wonderfully made by the DIVINE ARTIST. How delicately He formed us to be who we are today. All of us here on this earthly pilgrimage are a work in progress towards becoming more and more like the image and likeness of our Creator. And we cannot deny what masterpiece we are when we know the One who made us!

Moving along my journey of life that got turned downside up when I fell in love with LOVE, I come to appreciate myself even more as I come to know the One who made me. The grace that God has provided for me to be able to leave my security for His plan to unfold in my life is simply awesome. This has been a journey of discovering my Masterpiece-ness through knowing and loving my Creator. The One who made me has the operating manual with Him and He also knew what my past looked like. It was not a nice place to be in; the darkness and pain were real and I would rather not go there but He showed me what redemption really looked like. His mercy is proven to be beyond my sins. I experienced unconditional love and that had led me to path of healing.

Through healing, I come to embrace the fact that my brokenness has made my being so much richer and so much more beautiful. That beauty of my being is being affirmed by my habitual gesture – my smile. Countless people affirmed me of my smile that brings about comfort, consolation, confidence and affirmation for them. I have not paid much attention to it as it was very natural for me. Wherever I go, people who were initially not smiling will smile when they saw me. I used find it funny and I thought I had a funny face, which was why people smile because it was impolite to laugh. As time goes, I received more and more affirmation about my smile; I started to take it more seriously. Maybe I do have a healing smile. It is a simple and yet such an important gesture.

During one of the low moment of my life, I recall the struggles I went through internally and yet that was the time I was called to reach out to people. I have nothing to give but my smile and the little that I gave leaves an imprint on people’s heart. Although I do acknowledge that God has given me a wide range of gifts and talents, there were times that those talents have not had a platform to flourish. During those times, my smile became my only gift, my small way of reaching out. I believe it pleases my Heavenly Father. I am indeed very grateful for the gift of my smile because it gave out a sense of welcome to strangers. My smile is the sign of my simplicity. The simplicity that speaks about my loving Father. I just need to be me and that radiates Him who made me. That is what makes me a masterpiece; a masterpiece that comes with her package of beauty out of ashes. Embracing my whole self in the package of my beauty, my redeemed and yet to be redeemed brokenness gave me the peace to offer to others – my SMILE.

Dear friends, what gesture represents you? Be it a smile, a handshake, a hug, or a simple wave; may that be a testimony of your being. May that gesture open doors of opportunity to reach out and bless God. May you in turn be blessed of your signature gesture that speaks about your state of MASTERPIECE.

And remember, you are indeed a MASTERPIECE!

With lots of love,

Irene

Via Dolorosa

This age old devotion is commonly prayed during the season of Lent.This year it is a little more special for me as a group of us undergoing our formation were given the privilege to write our reflections for the Way of the Cross. I was privileged to lead the Stations of the Cross last Friday, 26th February 2016. The responses I received were really encouraging and that has given me the idea of sharing my reflection here.

I would like to invite you to take this as a personal journey to the Cross. Your imagination would be of good use here. Do take the journey reflectively and respond with a generous heart to Jesus. If you would like to have images to help you with your reflection (highly recommended), you may try the images from http://www.strichardschichester.co.uk/strichards/oconnollart.shtml. I personally quite like the images from St. Richard’s Church. I wish you every blessing as you journey with the Lord to Calvary.

Stations of the Cross 

Opening Prayer

Lord Jesus, we thank You for Your invitation to accompany You in Your way to the Cross. We thank You for preparing the way for us and we ask that You grant us the grace to be aware of Your love. Give us eyes to see You; sense to feel what You are feeling; courage to respond to You and strength to persevere in this journey with You. As we journey, show us our hearts and grant us the grace to turn back to You. Amen.

The First Station: Jesus is Condemned to Death

V: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You

R: Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world

Reflection;

What were You thinking about my Lord when the death sentence was pronounced on You? Are you agitated? Are you fearful? I would imagine a lot is going on in your mind. But I see compassion in your eyes. You are not angry but full of love. You willingly accepted this death sentence although you are through and through innocent.

Your meekness teaches me Lord. Jesus, in times of false accusation, how do you want me to respond? 

My Lord Jesus, teach me to be compassionate in times of trial. Grant me the grace to see situations through your eyes when I am falsely accused.

R: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on me.

The Second Station: Jesus Carries His Cross

V: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You

R: Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world

Reflection;

How do you feel when the cross is placed on your shoulders? The instrument of death was placed on the Lord of Life Himself. I do not understand it but all I see in you is that determination. Your sharpened focus is simply awesome and I can see how it gave you the strength and even the enthusiasm to carry the Cross.

At times when I felt burdened, Lord Jesus, what would you say to my soul? <pause>

My Lord Jesus, remind me of my ultimate destination which is Heaven whenever I refuse to pick up my cross. Help me to be grateful for my cross by which you chisel away the impurities from my life and lead me closer to you.

R: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on me.

The Third Station: Jesus Falls for the First Time

V: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You

R: Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world

Reflection;

How heavy is that cross, O Lord? I can see how solid it is. When the weight of the cross falls on you, what was going on in your mind? Lord, my small mind cannot comprehend it! In spite of the weight, Lord, you never lost sight of your destiny. The cross is heavy and yet you willingly rise up again in spite of the fall.

When I lose sight of my destiny due to circumstances, Lord, awaken my zeal.

My Lord Jesus, fan into flame the passion for your name. Awaken me whenever I fall under the weight of the cross of my sin. Let your consuming fire consume my lethargy that I may rise up to your call

R: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on me.

The Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Mother

V: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You

R: Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world

Reflection;

Lord, it must have been really comforting to see your mother and to be touched by her. I can see tears trickling down your face and hers. I hear you say to her “Mother, I am making all things new”. How it pierced her heart hearing those words from you, her Beloved Baby Boy. Seeing you bruised and wounded must have wounded her heart more than I can imagine.

Your example of honouring your mother and your Heavenly Father is simply awesome. Lord Jesus, show me the area of my life that needs your grace to help me to honour the authority placed above me.

My Lord Jesus, teach me to honour the authority placed above me. By that, teach me the meaning of honouring You and honouring the power of the cross that redeemed me.

R: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on me.

The Fifth Station: Simon of Cyrene Carries the Cross

V: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You

R: Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world

Reflection;

Lord, you must be really exhausted by the weight of the cross. I see the soldier forcing Simon of Cyrene to help you with the cross. I can see that he was reluctant but Lord, your kind gaze, the one that communicates to the heart, changed him. I am in awe Lord, in your seeming weakness; you are willing to accept help from Simon.

Your strength and beauty exudes in weakness. In situations when I feel weak, Lord, how do you want me to respond?

My Lord Jesus, in times of weakness, I know I can count on you. Help me to reach out even when I am weak and grant me the humility to rely on a “Simon of Cyrene” that you sent to me in times of need

R: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on me.

The Sixth Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

V: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You

R: Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world

Reflection;

In the midst of a busy crowd, a young woman had the courage to come to you and offer her kindness. Lord Jesus, you are the God of the universe and yet you accepted the kindness and help of a woman. How humble are you, Lord and how generous are you when you rewarded Veronica for her act of kindness.

Your humility arises in me a question; have I allowed “Veronica” to wipe my tears when I cry?

My Lord Jesus, in times of grief, teach me to be generous and open myself to allow others to show me your kindness. Grant me the grace to allow you to love me through the acts of kindness from others and teach me in turn be a “Veronica” for people in need of your kindness.

R: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on me.

The Seventh Station: Jesus Falls the Second Time

V: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You

R: Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world

Reflection;

The exhaustion on your face, O Lord speaks volume about the weight of the cross. But Lord, nothing seems to deter you. Not the exhaustion, not the pain. How focused are you, Lord! You rise up yet again after falling for the second time.

Your determination brings me to the question; How easily do I give up in the face of repeated adversaries?

My Lord Jesus, I sincerely do want to live my life glorifying you but you know me well enough that I come in a package of strengths and weaknesses. In times of difficulties, my weaknesses creep in to discourage me. Lord, in those times, grant me the grace to be focused on you and even if I fall, grant me the strength to rise up again.

R: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on me.

The Eighth Station: Jesus Meets the Daughters of Jerusalem

V: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You

R: Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world

Reflection;

A group of women took pity on you and wept bitterly. You, O Lord accepted their concern with an encouragement for them to weep instead for their children. How secure are you in your identity! You know who you are and you know exactly what you are doing. You are so loving in your response and you did not reject anyone who came to you.

Your response makes me question; how do I respond when people show me their care?

My Lord Jesus, you know well that I am on a journey to be more and more like you but sometimes in my self-rejection, I reject the concern from others. Forgive me, O Lord and heal me. Teach me to respond with love, teach me to be grateful for the care others show to me and teach me in turn to care for others in a generous way.

R: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on me.

 The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls the Third Time

V: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You

R: Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world

Reflection;

O Lord, again you are weighed down by the cross and your exhaustion is showing clearly on your face. Through all the turmoil of the fall, I still see a face of love. I am amazed Lord at your zeal. I am touched by the love you emulate through your act of rising up again to complete the work you are called to.

Your perseverance is beyond description; speak Lord, to my heart, speak that word of love…

My Lord Jesus, I have been fearful of failure. When faced with failure, remind me Lord of who I am and who you are to me. Grant me the grace to persevere as you did when you fell for the third time carrying your cross.

R: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on me.

 The Tenth Station: Jesus is Stripped off His Garment

V: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You

R: Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world

Reflection;

Lord, your dignity is stripped off. The heat of the day is shining directly at your wounds. I see so much of the scars from the scourges. Some are still bleeding. Oh my Lord, how painful must it has been! As I look into your eyes, all I see is your determination to make all things new, just as you had said to your mother.

Lord, you were firm even when your dignity is stripped; speak to me Lord who do you say I am…

My Lord Jesus, when I feel that I need to hold on to my inordinate attachment, move me Lord to surrender my all to you. When I feel that I am losing my dignity, remind me that you have won it all. You were stripped off your dignity to restore mine. Let me not be afraid to walk in your path.

R: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on me.

The Eleventh Station: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

V: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You

R: Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world

Reflection;

I can literally feel the pain of the nails piercing through your flesh. It is just beyond description. I do not want to imagine it, Lord, as it is simply too much for me to bear. And yet, I dare to look into your eyes. I see mercy, compassion and love. You did it for me, Lord.

Speak Lord, to my heart…

My Lord Jesus, I am afraid to die to myself. But Lord, I desire to do your will. Help me to give myself completely to you. It is you who have conquered death. Grant me the grace to be courageous in giving myself fully to you.

R: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on me.

The Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross

V: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You

R: Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world

Reflection;

It is accomplished! I heard you say as you hung on the cross. I can only see your mother, a few women and one of your disciples at the foot of the cross when you are facing your death. I know for a fact that death is not the end; rather it is the beginning for greater things to come. But it is all bleak now, Lord. My eyes do not perceive. All I see is your dead body. Total silence, dark clouds and chaos.

Death is the only sure thing in life; have I allowed death to teach me about life?

My Lord Jesus, the fear of death is real. I always want to cling on to my dear life my way. Dear Lord, teach me about death. Death in this life is the beginning of eternal life with you. Teach me to die well by living my life fully in accordance to your will.

R: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on me.

The Thirteenth Station: Jesus’ Body is Removed from the Cross

V: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You

R: Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world

Reflection;

Your lifeless body is all that is before me. No more pain, my Lord and truly it is accomplished. Your bruised lifeless body is taken down from that cross that nailed you. A cross on which you died gave me life. How mysterious are your ways, Lord. It is hard to comprehend and it is even harder to see your mother holding your lifeless body. She is grief stricken but I see the same love in her as I see in you. Her calm presence speaks deeply to my heart.

When I could not understand the way things are going in my life; what is my attitude towards God and people?

My Lord Jesus, I questioned a lot when things do not seem logical to me. In moments like that, Lord, remind me that your ways are not my ways and that you work in mysterious ways. Help me to cooperate with your saving grace as I commit to do your holy will.

R: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on me.

The Fourteenth Station: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb

V: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You

R: Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world

Reflection;

The stone is rolled and I cannot see you physically anymore. It must be really dark inside the tomb. Behind that huge stone laid my Lord and I know something amazing is going to happen. I am waiting Lord, for your promise to be fulfilled.

Our waiting time can feel like a dark tomb. But God works miracle behind those stone in the dark. What is my attitude when I am in a situation of waiting in the dark?

My Lord Jesus, the time you spent inside that dark tomb becomes a time of miracle. You are the biggest miracle in my life and you allowed the dark waiting time in my life to work an awesome miracle for me. Grant me the grace to trust in your plan

R: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on me.

Closing Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank you for going through the way of Calvary to redeem me. Thank you for giving me the grace to see, touch and experience what you have gone through in the journey of suffering to redeem me. Thank you for the hope of the resurrection that will come with death. I pray for grace of gratitude and repentance as I ponder upon my experience of walking this way with you.

Let us pray for the intentions of Pope Francis; Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory be…