Spiritual Graduation

spiritualgraduation

As I was driving home today, a question popped up. Is there such thing as a spiritual graduation? Perhaps the saints we canonized are the Valedictorians of the Spiritual University?

In all seriousness, do we ever figure it all out and graduate?

I would imagine God handing each one of us a scroll and while congratulating us, He says, “My child, it is time I let you go and trust that you will be steadfast in faith”.

Or is it a case of Him always wanting us to rely on Him like what most elders would want us to believe. Is the need for constant reliance and dependence divine or sowed by man? It seemed to me that our unworthiness is drilled in us through time – brainwashing so to speak. Each time we have done something good, we are reminded that we’re “poor sinners” and need to stay humble – also referred to as humility. Often times, I feel that the religion that I professed is similar to when someone caught a fish at the end of a fishing line. He reels in the fishing line enough just to let it go and as the fish seemed to have given up, he continues reeling the line in until finally, the fish surfaces and get caught in the net.

I am sure by now, anyone who is over religious would labelled me as someone under the influence of the devil. I beg to differ as I am not doubting and denying the existence of God but instead, I am just thinking out loud my conscious and legitimate concerns for man made beliefs and rituals.

We are always caught in a dilemma because there are some unexplained contradictions when it comes to the way we practice our faith. And I am a little jaded by the meaningless routines that has lost their purpose and starting to make no sense to me.

If it is music to the ears for most, whatever said that resonates and agreeable with us is considered prophecy. Or is it?

However, whatever that does not go down well with the norm, the devil gets blame for it. All these doubts are sowed by the devil as we like to convince ourselves whenever we are unable to address the questions and legitimate concerns regarding our faith. If we are unable to address a question or concern, wouldn’t it be considered a mystery?

A mystery is defined as something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. During a mass service, the word mystery is used and that made me wonder if we are indeed celebrating something that cannot be explained or understood? Are we doing something mysterious? In other words, is there a point in even doing something that is impossible to understand and explain?

Simply put, it seemed pointless to me.

But I want to reflect on the verses of 1 Peter 4:10-11:

10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

The verses started off stating that we have all been given unique gifts which make us unique individuals. It is only contradicting that we adhere to rituals that require us to conform to uniformity.

I can never make sense of the reason why it is impose on us to fast and abstain lest we lose our “membership” for the non-conformance and abstention.

So, this repetitive mysterious ritual that we participate in, do we ever graduate from it?

If the mysteries are solved, can we put an end to our participation in it?

And how would the mysteries be considered solved?

When they are understood and successfully explained…

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Disillussioned

Amazing how another week is now behind us. Here I am sitting alone reflecting on the past week.

Spiritual wise, the highlight for me this week is reading about Pope Francis stating that “it is better to be an antheist than a bad Christian”. One statement that can be interpreted in so many ways but as simple as it is, I must agree.

It got me thinking about the factors that causes us to hold strong to goodness and justice. And perhaps, what breaks.

The world offers us so many distractions and temptations that not only challenge our moral values but also pose a threat of destroying the fabric of our communities.

I sometimes wondered why people feel no remorse for their wrongdoings. I can only tell myself that there is a very thin line between good and bad. The tipping point or the most challenging moment is when one convinced oneself enough (through various justifications) that his or her morally and legally wrongdoing is right.

My observation tells me that we live in a very conflicting world where everyone wants so much to be correct. While some of us look at things from a higher moral ground, others are not at all too particular. Thus, good and bad are open for interpretation and definition.

But I guess the hardest thing is for us to expect others to act in a certain way that is within our acceptable and comfortable boundaries. That is exactly what religions are for some – a set of instructions to lead a good life. If only there is a Life 101 book, we would all be living in perfect harmony.

Lent is upon us and for Catholics, it is a time of fasting and self-denial. At a certain corner of my mind, I am questioning the need for conformation and uniformity. I am not one who follows blindly but seek the purpose of every action. I am bad news for religious people who are over assertive and imposing. The one question that I have always asked during this time is “Why should I be made, accused or compelled into convincing myself of being an undeserving sinner?”

What is the purpose in that?

Yes, through self-denial I may become a humble person but can I not practice humility without “downsizing” myself?

It really is a struggle. Just when can we stop crucifying ourselves? Year in and year out, this is rinsed and repeated. What is the purpose exactly – just to keep us in line?

Perhaps it is not my purpose in life. The struggles that I have within me is not about religious values anymore. It is beyond that. I know I must love – that much I have learned from the religion I profess.

My struggle is missing the people I love far away.

My struggle is not able to make people I love happy.

My struggle is not being able to get a good response when at one’s deathbed, the question “Have I Loved You?” is asked.

Plainly because, saints are not saints if they are not recognized and canonized. I wonder how many saints we have missed in our lifetime because of our disillusioned expectations and wrong moral obligations.

I would like to leave you with a quote from a very touching movie I watched only last evening entitled “A Dog’s Purpose”. And the quote goes:

So, as all my life as a dog, here’s what I’ve learned. Have fun, obviously. Whenever possible, find someone to save and save them.
Lick the ones you love. Don’t get all sad faced about what happened and scrunchy faced about what could. Just be here now. Be here now…

If you have not watched it yet, make sure you go watch this beautiful movie. Don’t forget to bring along some extra napkins – I am pretty sure you’ll need them.

Random Blip

Are we ever in total control or are we and every life’s event made up of a collection of individual random blips in this universe?

This weekend, I once again reflected on the topic of gratefulness and at the same time took a step back to ponder the what ifs in life.

My thoughts brought me back to the day I was conceived. To put things into perspective, I would like to invite you to journey with me through time to the day you were conceived as well. Just imagine that the number of couples engaging in the act of procreation throughout the world that day.

Accordingly, it is believed that a healthy man is able to release 40 million to 1.2 billion sperms in a single ejaculation. Multiply that to the number of men you would think was engaging in the act on the day you were conceived. If that is not a blip of randomness that you were conceived out of the billions of sperms fertilizing that single egg, I do not know what is. How can you even explain such randomness scientifically?

The thought of it is enough for me to give up explaining and put my faith in believing the existence of God.

If you would take a step further to imagine that out of the billions, you happened to be conceived into a place where you will not have the chance to even read this blog entry or do not understand a single word written, you might be profoundly grateful that you are indeed blessed.

Indeed, there are many aspects of our lives that are out of our control. They say the only constant is change. And in change, new challenges are presented before us.

In all the randomness, we are faced with nothing but problems. In fact, while pondering this weekend, I came to realization that the sole purpose of our lives is to solve problems.

From the moment we open our eyes until we lay down to rest for the day, we are constantly making a decision, answering questions, improving our skills, and seeking solutions. Sometimes we rely on the assistance of tools and technologies while for the rest, we seek to innovate or create anew.

I once thought that purpose was something with great significance and appears in the most dramatic of events.

But after going through much of what life has got to offer, I now understand that to truly discover one’s purpose is to always begin at the problem.

The world can be chaotic in throwing us with many random blips in the form of problems and predicaments.

All we have to do is tackle and solve one problem at a time. In doing so, may we discover new strengths, ingenuity, confidence, fulfillment, innovations, and creations.

And may your problems lead you to your purpose…

A random blip that turned out beautiful. This little dog came from no where and poked its nose into my camera lens.
A random blip that turned out beautiful. This little dog came from no where and poked its nose into my camera lens.

Legacy

A priest recently in his sermon introduced us to David Brooks’ Resume Virtues & Eulogy Virtues. He used these as examples to emphasize and explain how we should live a good life.

As I sat through the funeral mass for our dear friend this morning, I was overwhelmed with a great sense of sadness and grief. I can hardly contain my composure and the more I tried to suppress the feeling, the more tears started welling up in my eyes.

Being myself, I seek to find the reason why his death has affected me so badly emotionally. The priest’s sermon and the eulogy was spot on in pointing out the values that the deceased have lived by all his life. And how these virtues has shone through and influenced all those around him.

I came to realization it was the eulogy virtues that has established and nurtured a bond and connection. It was at this point that my mind flashed back all the memories when the deceased has inspired me throughout my life.

From him, I learned that hard work pays off and when faced with challenges, to have faith that God will be in control of all situations – good or bad.

One of the valuable lessons I can take away from his life is the importance of a close-knitted family even if it means being away from them regularly. In fact, whenever I am alone facing the great big world out there on business trips, he will come to mind as a role model and inspiration. With him as an example, I am able to draw strength to take on all the challenges head on.

Today, I also learned that every person have eulogy virtues that they live by and at death, should be recognized as part of the legacy he or she leaves behind. No one dies in vain – death only marks the completion of a purposeful and well lived life.

Grief

A friend passed away this morning. We lost him to cancer.
During his battle with the dreadful disease, his wife have always asked for prayers.

It got me thinking and asking why prayers are often requested and done silently.

It is quite contrary to the ways the world handles its other needs and wants. We are loud when it comes to complains, slanders, and chaos. How quickly have our worldly grievances on social media go “viral” and we bask gleefully under the amount of likes and comments?

And how often do you see prayer requests go “viral”?

We tend to shun the “holy moly” stuff so to speak. Perhaps, after a few shares, the momentum diminishes.

Have we lost faith? Have we stop believing?

As we grieve over the passing of our dear friend, I reflect upon his life’s journey and how it proves that the world handles things very differently.

I knew that he has always wanted to obtain his rightful citizenship but to no avail because the authorities constantly denied his applications. He was born overseas and there seemed to have been some complications in obtaining his birth documents which caused him to be labelled as “stateless” until the day of his passing.

But today, I believe the angels of the Lord accompanied him heavenward and Jesus with his arms wide open greeted him with a smile and a comforting hug saying, “Stateless No More, Welcome Home”.

So with a heavy heart and tearful eyes, I bid you “Rest In Peace” my dear friend. Please watch over all of us especially your wife and children.

You are a beautiful soul and we will miss you.