Tag Archives: Communication

Silent Retreat: Prayer

Spending 2.5 days in silence was certainly a new and enriching experience for me and my spiritual life. I wrote and read so much, it’s difficult to summarize all my thoughts succinctly.

What I would say though, is that there is true wisdom in Jesus’s advice to be still, find a quiet place, and pray. Time was tremendously slowed and I felt like I was Adam in the Garden of Eden (before the Fall) during the retreat.

The place was beautiful and the moment I stepped foot inside, I experienced peace and serenity. The retreat center sported a huge garden with birds, rabbits and flowers. A 15 minutes walk outside would take me to the Chiang Mai lake and waterfalls.

I felt like it was Heaven on Earth. In my experience, all Christians should find time to turn contemplative instead of consistently remaining active, especially in stressful Singapore. All should at least once in their life, be still and retreat to a lonely place.

It is easy to find God in Silence, and even easier to pray unceasingly. By silencing ourselves, we are forced to listen, to read, to reflect, to contemplate. Moreover, the beautiful nature there helped sharpen my focus. I’ll share a few scriptural verses that best describes my entire experience, in order:

Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while. (Mk 6:31)

But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray. (Lk 5:16)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. It will be a healing for your flesh and a refreshment for your body. (Prov 3:5,8)

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you would wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Mt 6:25-26)

Bless the Lord, O my Soul. O Lord my God, you are very great. You are clothed with honor and majesty. (Ps 104:1).

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning; the patient in spirit are better than the proud in spirit. (Eccl 7:8)

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Originally posted on Instagram.

Imitating the Gaze of Jesus

I used to be (and unfortunately, still am at times) a rather obnoxious Catholic. Fueled by my enthusiasm for Truth — and wanting affirmation of my knowledge — I would loudly proclaim Church teachings urgently, so that other people would no longer live in error. Particularly in a culture of moral relativism and a “do what makes you happy” environment, wanting to immediately step onto a doctrine-blasting soapbox seemed like a good thing to me. Yet, the more I examined my life, heart, and ever-abundant pride, the more I realized that I was going about evangelization in the wrong manner. As I began to read Scriptures more and more, I began to really notice how Jesus interacts with other people.

“Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned,* like sheep without a shepherd.” ~Matt 9:35-36

Jesus’ heart was moved with pity. In Mark’s Gospel, when Jesus encounters a rich young man, we learn that “Jesus, looking at him, loved him” (Mk 10:21). Time and time again, we see that Jesus is moved with love, and pity for the people he meets-and he lets this compassion flow into the interactions he has. He looks at these men and women intently and listens to them. 

As I reflect on the actions of Jesus, I feel challenged. Even when people were living in sin, he didn’t immediately jump onto a moral high horse. First, he looked upon them with love. In our current culture, Jesus’ approach may not seem to initially be challenging — after all, we are living in an age that is all about acceptance and affirmation. “Just love people for who they are and accept them” is a common refrain.  How dare we criticize sinful actions! After all, aren’t we supposed to be like Jesus, who looked on others with love?

Yet, while Jesus looked on people with love, compassion, and pity, he never affirmed the sinful choices and lifestyles that pushed people away from God. The story of the woman who was caught in adultery (recorded in the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel) is fairly well-known and loved, so let’s look at that for a moment. When Jesus encounters this woman, does he say “Woman, I just want to love and accept you; you need to do what makes you feel happy“? No, he does not. Instead, Jesus says: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more” (Jn 8:11). He looks upon the woman, loves her, listens to her, and invites her to become transformed and change her life. 

This is what really challenges me as I reflect on the words and actions of Jesus.  It would be fairly easy for me to, upon meeting another person, jump into an attitude of “I will preach doctrine at you because you’re living in sin and I know better.” I’ve done this far too many times as I’ve sought to fuel my pride and be known as the person who was instrumental in another individual’s conversion. It would also be convenient to fall onto the other end of the spectrum and embrace the all-too-common attitude of moral relativism that’s sweeping our culture.

Instead of these extreme approaches, I’m trying to imitate what Jesus does — and this is hard for me. I’m holding my tongue more and first listening to the stories of the people I meet. I’m seeking to encounter others with an open heart. I’m trying to walk into conversations without the expectation that I’ll convince another person of a certain teaching or doctrine. I’m trying to slow myself down and actually form relationships and build bridges of communication with other people. I’m striving to be more open to the Holy Spirit, and while I don’t back down from my convictions, I’m seeking to gaze at other men and women with God’s love and compassion.

I often fail at this. Sometimes, I should be quicker to speak up about my beliefs, but I’m silent. Other times, I should probably remain silent instead of speaking up in a rather harsh manner! I’m an imperfect evangelizer, but I’ll keep praying and try to let God use me in whatever small ways he can.

Photo Credit: “People” by MabelAmber via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain. 

[Not] Us Against the World

I was really happy today when I logged onto Ignitum Today and noticed this post, which deals with Christians avoiding anger, because I think that is a very good place to start the conversation I want to have. Fundamentally, the question I want to ask with this piece is this: why do we as Christians often write and comment online angrily as if we’re constantly in the middle of an argument against everyone?

My reason for writing this piece is pretty simple: I use the internet. Knowing that the internet is a dangerous place to form an opinion of anything, the reality is that each of us forms opinions based on things that we read. I think, therefore, that it is important to evaluate the way that we as Christians are perceived based on our online presence. For my money, I would bet that most opinions of Christians formed via the internet is that we are a bunch of angry, self-righteous people who disagree with most of society on just about everything.

I understand that we as Christians do disagree with many people about many things, and we have the right to have our voice heard about those things. The question, though, is whether the voice they are hearing is the voice of Christ, or a jaded modern-day Christian voice that repels much more often than it attracts.

In Pope Francis’ message for this year’s World Communications Day, the theme of which is “Communication at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter,” he makes this point abundantly clear. In his message, the Pope spends time to talk about the ways that modern communications can unite us, allowing us to be closer than ever to people from around the world that we never would have been able to communicate with previously. What the Pope says is that “[t]he walls which divide us can be broken down only if we are prepared to listen and learn from one another.” You can read more of what the Pope says here: Pope Francis Communications Day Message, but the key of it all is this: our modern media can assist in communication and encounter with one another if we are willing to speak to those we normally wouldn’t and really enter into a dialogue person-to-person.

What makes me more than a little upset is when a see a Christian blogger write an article where they are very angry about something they do not need to be angry about, and then the blog they angrily and hastily wrote about some non-issue or non-related issue spreads on my social media feeds like wildfire because we want people to be angry with us. When we as Christians create this closed off mentality where we have to make every issue an us against the world issue, we are never going to do anything but lead more souls away from Christ, and that is a tragedy.

As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI stated in 2013, the internet and social media now provide many new spaces for communication, and these “spaces, when engaged in a wise and balanced way, help to foster forms of dialogue and debate which, if conducted respectfully and with concern for privacy, responsibility and truthfulness, can reinforce the bonds of unity between individuals and effectively promote the harmony of the human family.” What I hear both of these Popes calling for is very different than what I see happening, and the challenge for all of us is to change our mentality from an angry, us-against-the-world mentality to a welcoming, engaging mindset which desires to reach out into the world and win hearts and souls for Christ.

What I propose is this: from now on when we read a story or hear about a recent development, let’s start by hearing it and not by picking it apart. Maybe if we are willing to sympathize with the other before we disagree with him or her, we’ll see the benefits of friendship and open communication as our voices are more readily heard than they currently are. If we start by truly hearing someone and respond with openness and sympathy instead of anger and outrage, then maybe our words won’t so often sting and offend but will become, as Pope Francis says so beautifully, “a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts.”

The Importance of Life Media

lifetvOne of the downsides of being pro-life in 2013 is the negative stereotyping. Being”pro-choice” is so normalized and they seem to have the popular debate covered. They have the jargon, while we as pro-lifers have to well explain our side of the debate. A side that once heard out, often changes hearts and minds towards the plight of the unborn (or born, as with present euthanasia debates around the world).

In today’s world image and communication are crucial. In all sectors.

When it comes to the life debate, the ‘other side’ is so good at public image and getting into the media. We need to be just as savvy at being soundbyte friendly and able to hold a modern argument. Just as we have to with being Catholic. We need to be present, active and smart about what we put across and how we use social media. What we share, how we comment and how we interact.

As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in the 2013 message for World Communications Day (which is well worth the read, I found it hard to pick one quote, I would have copied the whole thing!):

“Believers are increasingly aware that, unless the Good News is made known also in the digital world, it may be absent in the experience of many people for whom this existential space is important. The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young.”

We need to utilise media well to be able to popularise and make more positive the message. To try to change the stereotype. To practically equip people who would term themselves ‘pro-life’ but shy away from actually talking or doing anything about it. This is the start of getting involved in the modern age prolife battle in a media savvy world, let alone winning it! We need to normalise being prolife and show that we are actually out there in high numbers and it is a livable thing that regular people believe. In the sanctity of life.

Life TV is a youtube channel that endevours to do just that. It offers regular original pro-life webisodes designed to unpack and explore the pro-life ethic. Currently it features two regular shows and a few special features. One is The Pro-Life Guy – a show which answers questions and provides reasoned answers which defend the logical soundness of the pro-life ethic. The other show is called Life on Film and it’s a panel discussion show which will explore the pro-life and ethical themes found in mainstream movies. I happen to feature on the panel of Life on Film.

Oh and it hails from New Zealand, so enjoy our lovely accents!