I am humbled by requests for my reflections and homilies to be made available on the expanse of the world wide web by my friends and parishioners. I realized that I could not just say ‘let me think about it’ and leave it at that. I had a few valid concerns, one of them being that sites like these are usually reserved for the cream, the erudite and the esoteric. Spiritual greats like Ronald Rolheiser, Robert Barron, Paul Coutinho or Joyce Rupp are the ones who have columns that people are interested in. But I am only a priest of 8 years of ministry experience! Wouldn’t that be considered over-confident, pompous or presumptuous at best? I brought this to prayer, and the peace in my heart prompted me to give this a try, and see if it works out. If not, and no one is really interested in it, it will die a natural death, and I can safely say that I gave it my best shot. So, here it is, the start of something that I only wish to offer up to God as something that can give him the ultimate glory, or as my Jesuit brothers say “ad majorem Dei gloriam”.
I have just completed the first part of my movement from the parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to the parish of Our Lady, Star of the Sea. That’s the physical move. These are two parishes in the island republic of Singapore, and though only about 25 minutes of driving time separates the two, I have come to realize that any kind of movements affect us in ways small and big. Living out of my packing boxes still, rifling through stacks of clothing to finally find that the one I really wanted was in another box altogether, seems to a daily affair. I long to be settled in properly as soon as possible so that my life can be ordered, organized and tidy. Bringing this ‘untidiness’ up to God in prayer and meditation set me thinking - is getting things “ordered, organized and tidy” really what life is about? I realised then that apart from a physical move, there's a spiritual move that one is invited to address.
There’s a part of my family that upholds cleanliness and orderliness, and I’ve inherited it in my genes. Though it can be a virtue, oftentimes, I sit back and wonder if it could be the very thing that prevents me, and many other compulsively disordered people from “living in the moment”? Far from being perfect, tidy, orderly and organized, surely life should be seen as more than only about making sense of the messiness that most of us find ourselves in.
After all, most people I know do not have the luxury of getting things all ordered and tidy and organized before their ‘work’ starts. Appreciating this reality in my life is akin to the kind of counsel that I have offered many of the faithful who walk into my life and my office, seeking some sort of “direction” in their lives to get rid of their mess and clutter, which come in so many different forms. As I pray with them, guiding them and directing them, they often get to see the truth that getting out of the mess and getting things “perfected” is not the solution. Rather, it is the discovery of finding what it is that God is drawing them to, or drawing out of them, from the situation of ‘messiness’ that allows them a new insight to life, and ultimately, God.
This messiness could be an illness, or a relationship crisis, or a work-related issue. If our spiritual lives are entered into some depth via these often unpleasant and ‘untidy’ situations that we find ourselves in, perhaps I too, should be challenging myself to see what God is telling me about my present ‘disorganized’ situation that I find myself in, in this new assignment of mine.
I have titled this, my first entry as “Moved and Shaken”, not because of the recent earthquakes in Sumatra, but because the term ‘movers and shakers’ in the corporate world refer often to the bigwigs who create ripples by the decisions that they make at the top, moving and shaking all those under them. I certainly don’t count myself anywhere close to being a mover nor a shaker, but in this movement of mine from one parish to another, I am rather, “moved and shaken”, and in the process, I am invited to see once again my love for God and his people being further purified.
Sisters and brothers, if this struggle is something that resonates with your lives, join me in my slowness, in lifting this up to God, and declaring “ad majorem Dei gloriam”.