Divine Mercy Sunday: The Minimalist Christ

Every now and then, I get inspiration to create an artwork. Such a moment presented itself last evening and it became my short spiritual journey.

And this is the story of “The Minimalist Christ”.

1. As I gazed upon the cross in church last evening, a vision started to take shape. I couldn’t get it off my mind…

2. As we left church, I asked my wife to drive and go somewhere with a hardware shop so that I can get some materials…

I started to sketch in the car…

3. I came home to draw a better version of what I have sketched earlier…

4. I started “nailing” Jesus to the plank….

5. I then starting twisting wires around the nails but it just didn’t work as I expected. I wanted so much to give emphasis on the “crown of thorns” and it proved to be the hardest to shape. I kinda wondered why the people back then took the trouble making the crown of thorns…

6. The nails did not work in helping me shape the image I had envisioned so I started twisting and turning the wire using my hands. Nothing seemed to be going as planned. And in the end, something prompted me to end my work with a heart. Not a bad idea since we are celebrating Divine Mercy (Sacred Heart) Sunday.

Moral of the story is, do not emphasize on the crown of thorns but on the sacred heart instead. Love and not hate….

Mercy…

This was done using a single line of wire without breaking.

This is not the final product. I am looking for a cross that will match with the wire sculpture. I painted a cross on the wooden plank as a concept to see how the wire sculpture would look like on a cross.

I then decided to name this artwork – “The Minimalist Christ”….

7. And these are what’s left on the plank – holes from the nails. They reminded me of one of the verses used for the gospel reading this weekend:

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”~John 20:27

This morning, I went to the hardware store to get some wood to make the cross and to complete the artwork.

8. It is done and complete.

“The Minimalist Christ”

LOVE.

Living The Gospel: A Practical Approach

First of all, I would like to wish all of you a Happy and Blessed Easter! Indeed, the reason behind the celebration of Easter is the reason why Christians continue to exist and believe in the faith founded by Jesus Christ.

For many moons now that I have observed and practice the faith, I have always struggled living out the Christian values beyond the walls of the church and have wondered how it can be done. Unlike others, my approach may be somewhat “mashed up” or perhaps it is a little “fusion” in nature. Nonetheless, I have always tried to live out the faith in my daily life as best I can. Trust me, like many I have two different personalities while I am in a “holy” place like the church and outside of it. In my opinion, it is very easy to serve in the church while it is a different story outside.

“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” ~ Matthew 5.46

Speaking for myself, living out the faith outside of the church is a real challenge and subconsciously (or by the prompting of the Holy Spirit), each action is preceded by a quick “self examination”. Though when done habitually, this comes naturally. Of course there are times when it is difficult to follow through the path of righteousness due to various circumstances.

Since most of us spend substantial amount of time working as an employee, most of what I am about to write is pertaining to the approaches we ought to take as an employee while trying to live out the faith.

If you are familiar with the “The Parable Of The Talents” (Matthew 25:14-30), I have a different view from how it was literally written. I don’t see it as so much of the master expecting multiple returns from his investments, but rather in “a means to an end” approach.

Here’s a detailed explanation as to what I mean.

Profit and Tasks

First, noticed how the chimpanzees used certain skills to fulfill their needs. Are we any different?

Remember going through the interviews to secure a job?

Employers are always looking for employees that fits the organization’s goals but just how many goals are there? There is one and only one goal for any organization and that is none other than, PROFIT!

As an employee, we also have our goals but it eventually boils down to SALARY (our form of PROFIT).

In order for organizations to attain their GOALS (profit), they usually break the organization down into structures responsible for different roles that eventually adds up to what it takes to achieve the objectives.

Now, the Parable of the Talents does not only teaches us to “multiply” our riches but it goes beyond that. Think about the servants who doubled the investments. What did they go through to attain such profits? They must have learned something in the process in order for them to double their initial investment. Perhaps they found a way to buy something at cost and selling it at a higher margin or may learned to farm and made a profit selling the crops?

Whatever it is that the servants have done, they did well because not only had they survived but they thrived with their resourcefulness and in the process skilled up for sustenance.

The story ended with the master being furious at the servant who did nothing to double his investments:
“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.” ~ Matthew 25:24-27

Likewise, in the corporate world, our focus is to use our talents in such a way it aligns with the goals of the organization and company that we work for. That is all that matters.

All the politicking, resentment towards certain people and characters, gossips, and all other ill emotions related to our workplace are mere distractions and waste of our resources.

“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”~Proverbs 14:23

And to break it down further, in order for anyone to be successful in their role, it is a matter of breaking things down to smaller tasks. When each task is performed well, it eventually contributes to the attainment of the company’s goals as a whole.

So here’s a list of DOs & DON’Ts for Employees:

DOs:

  • BE HONEST

Keeping an honest and open communication with your manager can bring about a good working relationship. Besides, if he is the one who sees the potential in you during the hiring process, he should be able to see it through that you will be able to succeed in your role. That is because, your skills and talents matched the role aligned to the organization’s goals.

  • SHARPEN YOUR SKILLS

The first few months in a new job can be the toughest. Mainly because of the learning curve and getting used to the different approaches. There will also be a lot of distractions when many personalities get together. It is best to remain focus on your role and its alignment to the company’s goals. As time goes by and the more familiar one is with his or her role, “it keeps getting better”. The truth is, we will never be able to master everything that we do but it gets easier for us to be good at our work.

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”~Philippians 4:13

  • NEVER STOP LEARNING

“I learn something new everyday” should be your mantra. Be aware of the little achievements throughout the day and you will realize how much you learn on a daily basis. Take every task as an opportunity to learn something new.

The only way to stay profitable as an Employee is to equip oneself with the knowledge related to his or her expertise.

  • COMPARE IN WONDERMENT, NOT ENVY

We must always seek inspiration and aspiration. Being envious of others will not bring us success. Instead, we need to look at the effort others took to be successful so that we can emulate and eventually be successful ourselves.

DON’Ts:

  • DO NOT BE AFRAID OF BEING TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF

Often times, we fall short of going the extra mile because we cripple ourselves with the negative perception of us being taken advantage of. “How come he or she does not need to work so much but yet get paid the same or more” is what we like to tell ourselves and we stop at just doing enough. Think about all the opportunities missed in learning something new and accumulating the wealth of knowledge for bigger roles.

  • DO NOT KEEP SCORE AND FEEL SHORTCHANGED

At the end of the day, it matters not how much one does but how much one learns while doing. It is not healthy to convince yourself that you are being shortchanged because often times, there are many intangible benefits that will bring about good things in the long run.

  • DO NOT SUBSCRIBE TO THE FACT THAT YOU ARE DISPENSABLE

We cannot deny the cruel fact that organizations go through the process of restructuring all the time. When roles no longer align to the company’s new goals, people are shuffled around or asked to leave. But likewise, when a company’s goals no longer align to an employee’s plans, the employee will then seek greener pastures. In the event of company restructuring, the amount of anxiety such events and exercises bring can be catastrophic not only to one’s career but also one’s personal life. While we cannot avoid such situations, it does not give us the reason to lose focus on our roles and responsibilities. Instead of being resentful, take heart for all the knowledge and skills acquired thus far that will help in future undertakings.

Fear as we all know can be crippling. I have personally been through an environment where people are always talking about leaving for various reasons. It was very difficult to focus on what matters most that is, to use one’s talents to bring about profitability for the employer and subsequently ourselves.

I then realized that such situations allowed our emotions get the better of us. We tend to keep feeding our emotions with all these distractions that it became unbearable to a point that following through with our responsibilities no longer seemed worthwhile.

As a summary, there are two sides to being profitable. Our skills and knowledge not only help us to perform our tasks well, they can bring about profit for ourselves and also our employers. It will be good to remember and remind ourselves that it is our God-given talents that allows us to contribute to our community and in return, afford us “An Honest Day’s Work For An Honest Day’s Wage”.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters“~Colossians 3:23

 

 

 

Focus

One of the topics of photography is composition. Like an artwork, composition is how you tell a story with your photo. In other words, what is the focal point, leading character or object that you would like your audience to pay attention to.

I for one can never understand all the technicalities of photography and that is the reason why digital photography has since saved me a lot of money. I just click away because I do not have to worry about developing the photos just to look at the results like back in the old film days.

I have taken a lot of photos for the past 10 years. Most of them are cluttered and at first glance, no one will know what I am actually trying to focus on. Have you ever wondered how life could be if you can turn off the colors to things that are unimportant to you?

I asked myself that question today and here might be some examples of what my eyes and mind will see if I can choose what I would like to focus visually.

The Lifesaving Canoe. One that helps you stay afloat.
One that is good for your soul.
The Symbol of Love.
For the air we need to live and the inspiration that lifts up our spirit.
Life among the concrete.
Keeping afloat in the rat race.
Color -the beauty we often miss and take for granted.
It is hard saying goodbye to the last leaf.
Gives life amidst the dead.
Keeping food dry when it rains.
Storing the food that sustains us.
Food for the hungry.
Providing you with the air that keeps you alive.

Editing these photos in such a way helped me put into perspective what I emphasize and focus in life. There is a common theme in all of them and that is looking at what is life bearing and sustaining.

Isn’t that what we are all looking for? Not only to survive but to thrive.

May all that you do gives life and grow…

Darkness

It is the 4th week of Lent and the gospel reading today is about Jesus restoring sight of a blind man. The sermon reflects on this miracle in terms of spiritual darkness rather than a physical one. The blindness causes darkness to those inflicted.

As a summary, darkness is not caused by our past sins but instead, holds a meaning for the future. In other words, we do not look to our past in order to seek the reason for our current predicament. The current predicament holds the reason that makes us stronger in facing the future.

I was a little distracted at mass today and the only image that came to mind was an image of Padre Pio. I have no idea why but looking at the beautiful stained glass in the church inspired me to design a stained glass of my favorite saint.

Perhaps it is a sign that I should seek the intercession of this great saint to heal and deliver me from any form of spiritual blindness that I might be facing.

After a couple of hours, here’s the result of my digital artwork:

Unconditional

Another mundane weekend or so I thought.

There has been a time when I was so fired up in love with my religion that I was almost a fanatic. The logic can sometimes be incomprehensible to anyone except for myself. It was to a point of what the new generation would label me as OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

Through the years, writing has been my way of escape and expression. Like a journal, it can be somewhat therapeutic. I wanted to write all about it. I wanted to write about it but not in the way of “hallelujah” or “praise the Lord” in every sentence. I want to write about it the human way. How do I live in reflective of the Gospel – no holds barred. I want to tell it as it is. The joys, and the struggles in all the reflections.

It must have been all the past experiences combined that I sometimes walk around being too conscious of my every move. I try to swiftly get myself settled down at a particular pew in church every weekend and it was no exception yesterday. There seemed to be a mold to conform to.

Mid way mass, I remembered someone once telling me that the evil one have no place in a holy place such as the church. But yet, a statement came to mind.

“I must either be an ungrateful b*stard or God’s love is conditional”

This is in reference to all the obligations required for one to be considered a practicing faithful.

I am not sure if it is me or some of you out there may also experience the same feeling. This guilt of skipping a week in attending church. Is it because all the blessings and graces God have so generously bestowed upon us that we feel obligated to at least be in His presence on a weekly basis?

Perhaps it is the church’s “modus operandi” to keep everyone locked in? It treats you so well that you have no other choice but to “return the favor”?

Is this the case?

I was pondering this fact and then, the Gospel seemed to answer my inner thoughts.

The Samaritan woman at the well…

The priest pointed out that Jesus was not judgmental in his approach with the Samaritan woman. Though Jews and Samaritans have a long standing hatred, Jesus offered the woman “living water”. He did not care if she was a sinner (in human standard), a divorcee, a lesbian, a murderer, or anything of that sort. Jesus engaged and interacted with her anyway. Jesus loved her anyway.

The priest then continued pointing out that we are like the Samaritan woman, coming to church with our “buckets”. He hoped that we do not leave the church with an empty bucket but a bucket that fulfills our search. Perhaps peace, acceptance, love, hope, or whatever that we are seeking. The question to ask was, “What is in your bucket when you leave this place today?”

My concern earlier vanished. It does not matter the obligations. It does not matter how others perceive me.

All that matters is if I am recharged spiritually to endure the week ahead.

Did I fill my bucket up with manna that will last?

It then became a case of I am not there because I need to return a favor, but instead I am in need of a recharge. To be still and allow myself an hour in God’s presence just so that I can walk away with a bucket filled with the goodness that I seek.

I wish the same for you my friend. May your bucket be filled with “living water”…

LGBTQ+

This is not my attempt to be political correct. Like anyone else, we are all entitled to our opinions and views. This is my view as a human being living in this world filled with diversity. In fact, the LGBTQ+ does not concern me at all and I believe it should not be of anyone’s concern as well. Not something we should be invasive and imposing on others.

This post is inspired by the ban some countries and states have imposed on the much awaited movie – Beauty & The Beast. It was alleged that Lefou is the culprit.

These are my thoughts on the larger picture.

I believe that most of what we perceive, believe, and judge is learned. Often times, credible and influential people or organizations have a way and the power in controlling what we ought to believe as truth.

We are indeed taught and indoctrinated to shun the LGBT community and believe that they are a group of “diseased” individuals.

But the pertinent question to ask is whether or not we have personally get to know them as individuals – their aspirations and ideals?

I do not like to put a label on people but I do have a few friends who are either L, G, B, T, or Q. I found that when I get to know them personally, they are no different from any us and they are indeed, humans.

If you talk about a crime, it can be committed by anyone be it straight or otherwise. Therefore, we have no evidence and cannot pinpoint or accuse the rise in crime rates related to certain groups of people.

I am also very certain that the first thing that comes to our minds when the topic of LGBTQ+ is mentioned is SEX. Sex seemed to be what LGBTQ+ is all about. But if you take a step back and observe carefully all that are around us, you will eventually trace back to SEX. Look at all the beautiful figures on the magazines – girls want to look pretty and slim while boys want to look buff and muscular. Every beauty magazine is subtly oozing out SEX.

For me, LGBTQ+ goes beyond just sexual orientation. It is what every person is as a human be it emotion, physical, psychological, and etc. We have all disagree and agree on so many things and I do not see why we cannot take sexual orientation as one of it if that is what LGBTQ+ is all about.

Promiscuity and sexual transmitted diseases continue to plague mankind whether or not there are LGBTQ+. The world’s oldest profession – prostitution, continues to be in business whether or not LGBTQ+ exists.

So who are we to pass judgment on another person based on his or her sexual orientation?

But most importantly, how does it affect us?

It will only affect us if we allow ourselves to be affected. If we allow ourselves to be part of someone else’ judgment and hatred through our own ignorance.

You can be offended by anyone regardless of their sexual orientation. And likewise, you can be loved by anyone regardless of their sexual orientation.

But will you love unconditionally regardless of one’s sexual orientation?

Perhaps we should all remember that Love is not Sex…

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” ~ John 13:34

Fast

So I was feeling a little down throughout the last week and I can only conclude that it was partially due to expectations. And to put into perspective, the question that came to mind was “Are we suppose to feel happy all the time?”

There were many noises as well and one of which was a documentary I stumbled upon while going through YouTube. It was a documentary of sexual abuse by clergy in the Philippines. The video of course led to many more news regarding the same heinous crime and abuse of power elsewhere.

It is very difficult to comprehend the feeling of knowing that the entire belief system that I subscribe to more than half my life so far can open up to such rottenness. If the church is what it professes to be, it will never be a place for such acts – regardless of how forgiving and unforgiving it is.

It is very easy to brush it off as “not letting a few rotten apple spoil the entire basket” but if we take a step back and give thought to it, these are unforgivable crimes and must be fixed at all cost.

I then thought to myself if it would be fair that for every crime that happens in the church, I would stop practicing a ritual related to the practice of the church. I believe that is a very fair trade because each wrong doing slowly chips off my trust for the institution. If the institution is serious about what it practices and professes, it will somehow find ways to regain the trust of many and redeem itself.

I am still feeling a little disappointed and jaded at the moment.

What is the point of all this fuss about fasting and abstaining while knowing at the back of my mind someone entrusted with power and authority in the church somewhere is committing a heinous crime against the weak and vulnerable?

Why am I even allowing someone else affect my own experience and relationship with the institution? The key word here is institution – not God. If an institution like the church is responsible for crafting ways/practices to help us get closer to God and if the practices in the institution is attracting criminal conducts, then any person in the right frame of mind should stop subscribing to such practices. Regardless, a relationship with God is not sustained by a third person or institution. God dwells in all of us.

Sure, we are all human and imperfect. So why shall we observe the practices made by imperfect humans?

With a heavy heart, I walked into church the past weekend trying to somehow rekindle the light of my faith in this God who have blessed me immensely. Though at times, I felt that nothing seemed to make me happy anymore, there is still a sense of knowing things could be worse.

“Fast is not necessarily about the meat. Fast is being less judgmental and reduce the need to always be correct”, said the priest.

Perhaps, if I fast from over-thinking and over-analyzing, would it make things better for me?

Or if I fast from knowing about all the abuses in the church lest I pass judgments against the perpetrators, will I be happier?

Is ignorance truly bliss?

Maybe, just maybe it is the Lenten season that opens up our eyes to such sufferings so that we learn from it. We are made aware of such imperfections so that we find in ourselves the room to forgive.

Only time will heal and tell…