Reconciliation

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I am not sure about you but every once in a while, I stumble across a book that not only gives me a new perspective but also compels me to live and emulate the principles that it presents.

My wife had left this book entitled “Whose child is this?” by Pastor Bill Wilson on the dashboard of my car last Saturday and having had some idle time that morning, I decided to give it a read. I finished the book early this morning. It had taken me a good 3 days – the shortest time I had finished a book (I failed speed reading). After finishing the book, I was compelled to write a review about it and found a spot on Google Books. To my surprise, no one had written a review for such a great book but it is not uncommon since the world at large do not always appreciate anything Christian.

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I will leave it to you to get and read the book on your own effort – that is the least you can do for yourself if you are interested to have a life changing experience. And remember, God helps those who helps themselves.

I am not going to make it too obvious which denomination I belong to lest I get excommunicated from the religion I have come to love enough to want to see change. Am I not stating the obvious already?

In all seriousness, I am about to do a comparison that may not go down well with certain folks who are dead set in their ways. Perhaps, I will be labelled as arrogant and deserve no place in the church. Well, it really is for the church to disown me rather than the other way around. How can I abandon a church that I have found solace in and made me the person I am today?

Besides, like many, I have fallen in love with the rich history and the many beautiful architectures belonging to this denomination I embrace as my religion of choice.

But I believe therein lies the first problem with this denomination. We emphasize so much on history and rituals that we are not fluid enough to stay current. We tangle ourselves in all the red tapes, “protocols” and in the end surrender to the fact that it is “God’s will” things are not working. How convenient it is to blame God when one have not even at least try.

I can imagine all the prostestants jumping for joy that I am offering good reasons for them to condemn the Church in attempt to gain more membership for their own. Don’t tell me I am wrong because the reason why I am where I am today is because of a protestant condemning the same church I have fallen in love with. So if a protestant is talking to you and trying to convince you that another denomination prays to the Mother of God or idols, and lists all the “faults” I am about to discuss here, please know that you are speaking to Satan himself. Go to the nearest grotto you can find and Our Lady will come to your aid.

In all its shortcomings, I also see that the Church have the structure in place to provide its members with a wholesome spiritual experience. We even have a free for all counseling/psychological therapy labelled and packaged as “Sacrament of Reconciliation”.

This is infact what I would like to write about.

Before any major celebrations like Easter and Christmas, the Church encourages its people to receive the “Sacrament of Reconciliation” or in simpler term – confession. This is when one practicing the faith confesses his or her sins in exchange for absolution. The way I see it, it is an act or ritual that helps complete the circle of love. It is an affirmation that God loves us and forgives us of all our faults and weaknesses.

It is the season of Advent and we are in the midst of preparing ourselves to once again welcome Jesus in the celebration of Christmas. And the weeks leading up to Christmas, there will be Penitential Services held in every church for the faithfuls to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

After many years, I will be returning to the church to seek this sacrament. Yes, you will read part of my “confession” on this post because I will be sharing with you why I had stopped receiving the sacrament for the past few years.

Just before I do that, I would like to share what finally made me decide to be different this time around.

Last week, the priest in his sermon spoke about how in the past, the church requires the confessors to keep score of each sin committed. That only causes the sins  to be over emphasized and so much so that the faithfuls lost sight of their strength and goodness. Sounded to me that today, the church is taking a different approach.

He went on to say something along the lines of “whenever you complete and received the Sacrament of Reconciliation, you should leave knowing how GOOD you are”.

Likewise, that is exactly what I think should change in how the church shape its faithfuls’ mindset. We are always told to be modest, humble, and fearful of God. We tend to do as required because it is unquestionable obligation. We then just go through the motions just because we have to. We feel meaningless and jaded at the end of the day. We ended up having a church that is poor financially and in spirit.

We really ought to learn from some of the more vibrant Protestant churches. They truly glorify the Lord and make His glory known. These churches has since moved forward with a lot of abundances. Don’t get me wrong, they are not proud, arrogant, or self glorifying. They truly make God’s wonder known and they continue to be blessed. Mock them for the tithe they commit to the church but this practice has brought about manifold blessings to many churches. They are rich in both finances and spirit (thus, the vibrant and lively churches).

Coming back to the reason why I had stopped receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation (and I am sure by now, my church friends will look at me queer or even judge me in a certain way),  is because I have grown too tired of “crucifying” myself. What the priest said hits home because all these while, I have been keeping scores of my weaknesses and became too fed up feeling worthless anymore. I have never came away from confession feeling I was any good – a poor doomed sinner. I hope it will truly be a different experience this year.

But this priest has always given me hope and to honest, he has held me firm in my believes and offered me nothing but LOVE in his words and actions.

In all said and done, we are all in need of love. And in the spirit of Christmas, we shall all seek and give LOVE.

God is LOVE, God is GOOD.

Repeating what the priest said, I wish for all of you going for the Sacrament of Reconciliation that you walk away knowing that you are GOOD because in His unconditional LOVE, He forgives and heals your every wound and weakness.

When that happens, God has taken His place in your heart.

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Paradigm Shift

With the leadership of Pope Francis, the church seemed to be evolving towards a much more positive direction as we see mercy and compassion being the common theme lately.

Growing up through to 80s and 90s, I get to observe and experience many paradigm shifts. From the shifts in computer languages to methods of parenting, so it is with the evolution of the church.

The sermon by the priest this morning confirms what I have written on my previous blog entry. He encouraged us to move away from a religion of sadness into one of joy and love. The gospel today was about Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana. Indeed, it was a miracle of turning sadness into joy. The wine was seen here as the symbol of joy and love.

I believe most of us Asians who grew up through the 80s and 90s would agree that it was truly a school of hard knocks – literally. It was a punishment model rather than one that is of reward.

The belt, rattan cane, and feather duster are common themes in many households with children. I have had my fair share of skin split apart from caning – the struggle was real I tell ya!

The Rattan Cane
The Rattan Cane
The Feather Duster
The Feather Duster

And how many among us are familiar with the statements “Do not make God angry”, “You will go to hell if you…”, and “God is watching!”?

Parents in the old days found it really hard to bring up their children without instilling fear. Perhaps we still do but we have found it much more effective to explain and reason instead of resorting to the belt, cane, or feather duster.

I guess that is how a paradigm shift comes about. We are constantly gaining access to better knowledge and improve our methods in achieving or obtaining results. Through wisdom, we are able to progress in life.

I like to believe that the church is also learning and evolving through the years. Although we still have parishioners who are still accustomed to wearing that veil of old, conventional ways are slowly changing.

In my humble opinion, the moral stand can always remain while the practice can be dynamic. I couldn’t agree more with the priest this morning when he said that we should not allow the religion to be so dead set with legalities, rules, and petty customs/rituals.

Contrary, Jesus brought about a religion of love and joy. Turning water into wine is akin to turning sorrow into joy. Giving him the dull water and to be given wine in return is more than a sign that Jesus only wanted us to be cheerful and happy.

And indeed, after a few glasses of wine, it goes without saying that most of us can be a very happy and joyful…