Letter to Pope John XXIII

Chris writes a letter to Pope John XXIII — a Saint whom he finds very jolly and jovial (with a very important lesson to teach!)

“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”  – Pope John XXIII

Dear Pope John XXIII,

Congratulations on your recent canonisation four years ago! I hope that all’s well with you in Heaven and that you’re enjoying yourself immensely with the communion of saints as well as the perpetuation adoration of our Lord, God and master, Jesus Christ.

I must be honest: I write to you today not because I have loads to share with you nor do I have any particular prayer intention that require your assistance. Pope John XXIII you must forgive me: I hardly know you and only just read about you the other day whilst completing the book The Ascent of Mount Carmel: Saint John of the Cross Reflections by Friar Marc Foley, OCD. That being said, after chancing upon one of your quotes and reflecting on it deeper in prayer, I must say that I felt a stirring in my heart to get to know you better. I will share your quote momentarily but before that, I just want to say that I’m moved by how light-hearted you seem to be. Reading up on you has allowed me to get a better sense of who you are. Yet, most – if not all – of the quotes that I’ve read about you seem to paint you as an exceptionally jovial and joyful person. Pope John XXIII, your personality speaks to the depth of my heart simply because you don’t take yourself too seriously; you seem to exude a distinctive childlike aura that I find deeply alluring – one that painfully reminds me just how “adult” I’ve grown to become.

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The Discomforts of Waiting for Confession

Chris shares a reflection he had whilst queuing for the Sacrament of Reconciliation

In a few weeks’ time, parishes around Singapore will be holding the annual Lenten Reconciliation Service. This is an important time when we take-stock of our lives, recognise the areas where we have sinned and prepare ourselves for the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is a timely juncture for pause, a period for recollection and a space to redirect our inner dispositions towards Christ; it is a moment where we deeply acknowledge our failings, confess our sins and gratefully receive liberation from the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Along with the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, I have always found Confession to be one of the most humbling experiences of the Catholic Faith. The Sacrament of Reconciliation gives me the opportunity to tangibly partake in God’s unconditional love for me.

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Silenced by Truth: Zechariah’s response to Angel Gabriel

In the following article, Chris compares the differing responses of Zechariah and Mary towards Angel Gabriel’s proclamation of Good News.

As a child, I often wondered why Zechariah, father of John the Baptist and husband to Elizabeth – Mary’s cousin – was “unable to speak” and became “mute” after his encounter with Angel Gabriel (Luke 1:20). Correspondingly, I found it even more interesting to compare the aftermath of his response to Angel Gabriel with that of Mary. Therefore, in this Advent season, I found it timely and poignant to properly articulate my thoughts juxtapose these two pivotal characters of the Advent Narrative. Why did Mary’s brother-in-law, receive such a harsh treatment from Angel Gabriel and what made his response any different from Mary’s? What lessons can we then learn from both their responses?

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Placing the Inn Keeper in the Advent Narrative

Chris shares a bit more about the inn-keeper in the Advent narrative and wonders whether all of us are sometimes inn-keepers towards the Holy Family as well.

“While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”  – Luke 2:6-7

I often wonder how Joseph must have felt when he received the news that there was “no place” for him and his pregnant wife from the innkeeper. Having travelled so many hours, in probably harsh and treacherous conditions, Joseph must have experienced immense disappointment, frustration and anger. Joseph possibily even panicked. Did he have a backup plan? He and his wife could not possibily stay on the streets right? And how about pregnant Mary? Surely traveling in her physical state must have been awfully tiring and painful. I wonder whether she cried out in helplessness upon hearing that there was “no place” for her and her husband. I wonder whether Joseph and Mary felt hopelessness and despair. Is it not interesting, then, to briefly ponder about how the Advent story – the often overly-cherry, merry-making and consumerist-laden narrative – began as a tale of rejection? On hindsight, would the innkeeper have created space and made room for Jesus, Mary and Joseph, should he have realised that he was actually rejecting the Holy Family?

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Creating Space for God

Chris shares about the importance of carving out time to reconnect, recalibrate and recenter one’s life in God’s love.

Lately, I’m noticing an invitation to actively create space and make myself available for God in my life. The availability that I actively consent to, the willingness to sit with my inner restlessness and resist the constant (and inordinate) desire to do something (for God, for the church, for ministry-related activities etc. in a knee-jerk and sporadic manner), better allows me to cooperate with God’s divine grace and trust in His perfect timing. Continue reading “Creating Space for God”

A letter to Chris

Chris writes a letter to himself regarding burnout, disillusionment and the importance of self-care.

Dearest Chris from 2007,

Are you aware that the growing resentment that you’re feeling in your heart — that gnawing perception that you’re being used and abused by this ministry; that you’re only wanted when there is a problem to solve and when someone else is having a problem— is reflective of months (perhaps even years!) of pent-up frustration? Have you not realised that you’ve neglected your own needs for quite a while now? Don’t give me the “it is in giving that we receive” narrative that you have so often used to justify your supposed altruistic and selfless actions in this ministry. Stop trying so hard! Stop trying so hard to please everyone around you. Stop trying to cater to everybody’s needs whilst neglecting your own. That really is an impossible feat! No water can be drawn from an empty well; you cannot give what you do not have.
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