Let COMPASSION be your DEFAULT

I almost fell off the chair hearing that piece of simple, wise, profound and extremely hard to live by advice. It is indeed very simple and the more I journey in life, the more I realize the simplest things takes the most practice and effort. Precisely because the simplest thing is not necessarily the easiest thing to do.

The easier thing to do in circumstances that drive me nuts is to blame the other and judge them. That has been a default I operated in and I have also been given the grace to see how much I need to grow out of that. Once I tried walking a mile in the other’s shoes, I can begin to glimpse how hard it must have been to him/her. Only a glimpse can soften my heart a little to be more compassionate towards the other person. That glimpse would not be possible if my first reaction to the situation is to lash on the person. That glimpse is only possible when I begin to take a pit stop from the whole situation.

Pit stop is practically time I give to myself to be present to myself. I name my emotions and I give the situation a just look. When justice means the fault of the other; that is where I exercise my compassion. Yes, even if the other person holds the weightier fault, how do I respond lovingly in this situation? What is the shape of compassion in this situation? If I hold the weightier fault, can I have the humility to apologize? Can I allow myself to receive the compassion I need?

The journey to making compassion as my default is sure an interesting journey. If we want to learn patience, God would put us in situation where we are stretched and we grow in patience. If we want to expand our hearts to love, we will find ourselves in situation where we may find it hard to love with our natural ability. So it is with compassion – to grow in compassion, we need to experience compassion ourselves and to be in situations where we cry out for help. Only when we been through the fire of experience does our practice of compassion is made perfect.

The good news about our desire to grow and the price involved in it is that GRACE is always available for us;

“but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong”

– 2 Corinthians 12: 9 -10 –

Dear friends, if you are praying for an increase of compassion in your heart and found yourself in a sticky situation, take heart for GRACE is sufficient for you. Keep going, keep practicing for in our deliberate decision to make compassion our default, we will get closer to our goal. Even at times we falter, look up and smile for Compassion is reaching out His hands towards you to pick you up.

Have an amazing journey in growth!

With lots of love,

Irene

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…

Two Years Later

I do not feel the pain of the wounds any more. But the scar of my father’s sudden departure is still visible. Two years ago today was an emotional day of saying my earthly goodbye to my earthly father. Two years flew by just like that but not without watering and nourishing my soul.

Reflecting upon the time of my mourning and finally coming to a total letting go has been a great blessing to me. I recall my time of mourning the loss of my father and I realised I went through that time in gratitude. I am grateful and very privilege to be born in this family that my father and my mother built. I am grateful that I had him for 32 years before seeing him off to our Heavenly Father. I am grateful for the ups and downs we had when I was growing up. I am grateful that my father chose to fight for our family and stayed as the head of the family. I am grateful that I am just like my father (indeed proud of it). I am grateful for the times we fought because through those times we grew to understand and love each other. I am grateful to be able to see how my father tried his best to be supportive; to be a father to the best of his ability.

Mom, Dad and I My parents and I (2013)

Most importantly, I am grateful that he is given the gift of salvation in the eleventh hour of his life. Two years later things are still looking kind of rocky but I have peace of knowing that my father is in the good place. Since dad’s death, I have been reflecting a lot about death and how it teaches me about life. Death brings people together; the masks went down and true emotions arise. But how long would this sincerity lasts? More often than not, people forget easily the lesson of death, most especially when the dispute of money is involved. Family broke apart and ended up not seeing each other eye to eye. My family has not been spared from disputes as well and that has placed a deep sorrow in me.  Some part of me felt that I should be conforming to the demands of the family and stay back at home but deep within I knew I could not deny this call to mission God has placed in my heart.

Being far from home put me in a position of helplessness. This helplessness is also an opportunity to trust. The experience of exercising my trust have given the peace that surpasses all understanding. The more I cannot do anything physically, the more powerfully God can work. It is not a logic that is easily understood, rather it is an experience that teaches me about who God is and who am I in Him.

There are heaps of time that I wished things are a little smoother and easier but I learnt that anything worthwhile has to go through purification. Any precious gems or pure gold can only come to the true state of pricelessness through rigorous purification which I believe are not pleasant. These two years has been a time of rigorous purification for me. I learnt about the value of letting go and letting God, the beautiful freedom of trusting God fully and the amazing life of allowing myself to be loved by God. Coming to term with God’s will has taken me a journey of discovery. In the journey, the road can be really rough and tough but as I look up, I can see that the scenery is beautiful and the destination; makes the journey worthwhile.

SiblingsWith my siblings – re-enactment of of childhood photo (two days before our father died)

So, looking back from two years ago when salvation came to my household (Luke 19: 9); I am filled with a sense of gratitude. My father’s death has definitely impacted my life deeply and it has also encouraged me to live my life to the fullest. I realised the importance to die well by living my life well. I want to leave a legacy on this earth and I began to realise how important it is after saying to goodbye to the man who gave me my life. I also began to realise how true the word of God is when He said;

“Heaven and earth will pass away but my word will not pass away” – Matthew 24: 35

Things on this earth are temporal even the best of our relationships. In our best relationship we know that one day it will be a goodbye. Therefore it is so important to build our lives upon the rock of Christ. In view of the temporal nature of our lives, I choose to appreciate my relationships. I choose to love the people God has placed in my journey of life. I choose to cherish moments of my life that would enrich my journey. I choose the purifying part of loving others, loving myself and allowing others to love me. So, thank you for making a positive impact in my life.

For my father, I would say;

“Pah, even in death you are loving me. Thank you for shaping my thought and praying for me. I love you and will always cherish the gift of life you have given me. I pray that you are dwelling in your eternal rest with Jesus”

With lots of love,

Irene