A Life Of Grace

My aunt died recently. She had lived most of her life as a nun and a teacher outside her congregation in a big Irish town. For me as a child she was my clever, funny aunt, who was wildly cunning at card games and a friendly ear in all our family dramas. Over the years she became a spiritual friend to me, someone who accompanied me in the ups and downs of living a Christian life in the middle of all the things most people live through: job hunting, romance, sickness, finance problems and the pursuit of happiness. I say she was a spiritual friend and not a spiritual director; I didn’t go to her for advice and direction – I went to have a laugh and some company, to get a feed and then sometimes to see what insights she had on various situations. This was because I knew that behind all her light heartedness and unassuming good nature was a saintly person who had faced profound challenges in living her vocation and had been a true Samaritan to many deeply troubled people.

This is what I learned from my aunt about personal prayer. You feed prayer not with lofty expectations but by bringing everything in your life in prayer to God and you should never think any little thing is unworthy of His attention. God is your friend, not your schoolmaster. Friends are there for little things as well as big things. The big conversations start with little conversations. My aunt wasn’t all that interested in whether or not people spoke in tongues. She didn’t go to seminars or to Medjugorje. Her routine was Mass, Rosary and the Divine Office. She went to Adoration daily and did her work. In all these things, she gave everything to God, and she waited. Most of the time she felt that prayer was about waiting- in the security that God is working. She knew that when we experience darkness or temptation or block in prayer, we are actually a step closer to the grace of prayer. The closer grace is, the closer we see our sinfulness and limitations, and this is a great gift to us. Prayer done well will make us humble and loving: even if our sin and weakness seem the same, our response to them will be different. We will be different in our interaction with others: we can express love and solidarity to others and give practical support in their suffering and brokenness because we can see that they are much closer to Christ on the Cross in their situation than we are. Half the town came to my aunt’s funeral, and many there were in tears. Through a life of simple but effective prayer, she transformed her life and the lives of many others.

by Dr Ted Lynch, Ireland,

Who Can Enter The Kingdom

Recently, I noticed a child who was crawling on her knees around the church during Mass. As she passed her mother, she would give a sideways glance to see what her expression was. I realized she was indirectly seeking permission to roam around like that. This made me think. Are we like this with God? Do we seek the will of God in every decision we make? Do we invite the Holy Spirit into all aspects of our lives? Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

I sat down to reflect on what it would be like to be a child before Jesus. Matthew 18:3-4 says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” I wondered, why do I have to lay down my ego and humble myself? Can I not just come to God as I am? I understood that if I can lay aside my ego and come as a humble child, I could sit on the lap of Jesus. However, as an adult I cannot. As an adult, I have habits that I don’t want to give up, which then hinders my closeness to Jesus. But through the humility of childlike innocence, I have the privilege of hearing the whisper of Jesus’s voice.

If this is really true, then it brings me to another question. Jesus says that the prerequisite for entering the Kingdom of God is to become like a child! Now I wonder, what is the requirement to remain in it? For me, the answer is that I must always remain a child before Jesus. Children always dare to ask. For them it doesn’t matter if they like the moon, they will tell their parents without hesitation, “I want to have the moon!” There is something about a child asking his Father that melts his heart, it is the same way with our Father in Heaven. Children are also very trusting; if their parents or elders say something or teach them a theory, they believe it as they have such unwavering trust.

When children are afraid, they always flee to their parents. They do not think of fighting the danger by themselves, instead they seek help. Likewise, when we face temptations, we must remember to seek the help of the Holy Spirit. Many times we think we can overcome the problem by ourselves and end up making mistakes. Instead, if we ask God for help, we will be successful because He is a loving Father. In Romans 8:15-17, St Paul explains our identity in Christ as sons and daughters of the living God. He says that since we are His children, we are also heirs of the Kingdom of God. We have a Father in heaven who delights in His children. May our Heavenly Father delight in us and take pride in carrying us on His shoulders!

Joyal Joseph, UK

The Desire To Be Loved

At the core of every human life, there lies a desire to be the core of every human loved. Think about it. Why do we bother about the number of likes we get on Instagram? Is it because we subconsciously feel more valued and loved when this number increases? Also, why do we smile from ear to ear when showered with messages on our birthday, but feel disheartened if our DMs are ‘dry’ on this day? Is it because we crave to be adored and appreciated by other people? When people take the time to wish us well, we feel loved and important. We continuously seek love in our lives; through people, objects, career, social media etc. This never-ending desire to be loved is never a bad or selfish human characteristic because love is crucial for our development. However, we must ask ourselves: can I ever be fully satisfied with the love I gain from the world? The answer is simply no.

Momentary Happiness
Although we may feel loved waking up to a flood of birthday wishes, after a few hours we begin longing for more. We start to wonder why certain people did not wish us happy birthday, why there were no parcels delivered at the doorstep or why no one called at precisely 12 am. This list could go on because we cannot feel complete with the love we gain from the world. The love we experience from worldly things is temporary – it gives us satisfaction for a brief moment, then leaves us emptier than before. Everything from the world which makes us feel loved has the ability to change within seconds. The love from your Instagram followers may reduce, your relationship may no longer exist, or your friends may change. However, the love of God is permanent, for He “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). God’s love which formed you in the womb, cherished you as you grew and caused Him to die for your salvation, is the same love with which He looks upon you today. Many of us feel loved, but are we experiencing the unconditional love from God, or are we just distracted with the temporary love from the world?

Redeemed by His Divine Blood
God is the only one who can fully satisfy your longing for love – this is the truth. It is beautifully written in John’s gospel, “God so loved the world that he gave his only son” (John 3:16). The love of God for His people is personified through the sacrifice of His Son. God did not hold back anything as He gave His only Son to be mocked, tormented and crucified. God is so full of love for us that He allowed His Son to suffer and die for us, in order to win us back.

Silent and unseen God holds your hand through every stage of life, never letting go and never pausing His love for you. He knows your ambitions, worries and struggles. He knows everything about you because you are loved by Him. Do you know His love for you? He loves you more than you could imagine – to the point of shedding His Divine Blood for you. God Himself said He will give anything in exchange for you, “because you are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4). It is only this Heavenly, selfless love which can satisfy us. We often feel unworthy of God’s love due to our sins. However, God does not agree with this human reasoning – He loves unconditionally. God does not look at what we have or have not done, but rather He loves us for who we are – His creation. We are loved infinitely by our Creator, who gave us beauty and dignity by forming us in His own image. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1). A meditation based on Mother Teresa’s teachings tells us, “You do not need to change to believe in His love, for it will be your belief in His love that will change you.”

Our desire to be loved creates a sense of void in us, which we often try to fill with temporary materials from the world. The love which we experience one day on our social media page does not last till the next dawn. When we cling to the world, all the attempts which we make to feel loved are often unsuccessful. So, is it not time to turn to Him who defined the word ‘love’ through His unthinkable sacrifice? We have all explored many different options in our search for love, but now let us select the option which will never fail us; let us open our hearts to God, right now, more than we have ever done before.

by Mariet Emmanuel, Glasgow,

November 2020 – Editorial

Recently we witnessed the beatification of Blessed Carlo Acutis. It was a welcome change to see a very young teenager who lived in the 21st century being added to the roll of holy men and women. Carlo’s love for the Eucharist is both commendable and inspiring when one considers that he was only 11-years-old, when he started developing a website of Eucharistic miracles. He is quoted as having said, “The more Eucharists we receive, the more we will become like Jesus, so that on this earth, we will have a foretaste of Heaven.” This special teen saw the web as a tool to use with responsibility, without becoming enslaved. Pope Francis presented him as an example for young people in the whole world who can use the new technologies to communicate the Gospel and its values and beauty.

The world is going through a great time of sufferings and anxiety due to Covid – 19, yet such blessed lives can teach us that even though we have problems and sufferings, yet there is hope for a believer. “Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18). When faced with problems, let’s not reject the Lord by complaining and moaning about them. Rather let’s join our sufferings to the sufferings of Jesus on the cross and offer it up for the salvation of the world. Each one of us are called to be saints; so, let’s aspire to live like one.

Where Can I Find Him

When Mother Mary and St Joseph lost the child Jesus, they went searching everywhere for Him. They could not find Him for three days. However, on the third day, they found Him sitting in the Temple, talking with the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law. They were relieved when they found Him, but He posed this question to them; “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s House?”

Where is Jesus?
There are many instances in our lives where we are constantly trying to find God. We attempt to find Him in our hectic lives, and we search everywhere to seek His presence. Mother Mary and St Joseph spent three days searching through all the marketplaces and the alleyways within Jerusalem to find Jesus. On the third day, they had the thought of looking for their son at the Temple. To their surprise, He was there. St Paul says in his writings, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Corinthians 6:19) The Lord is already within us as we are His Temple. May God give us the grace to always remember this and to keep our bodies clean from all impurities.

Search Within
Although Jesus knew that His parents were searching for Him, He did not go looking for his parents, but remained in the Temple. Since Jesus was God himself, He would surely have known the anguish they suffered during the whole three days, however, He didn’t take a single step out of the Temple. Those three days represent the times that we are lost and can’t find the Lord in our daily life as we search for Him. But once we open our eyes and realise that He is in the Temple, waiting for us, all our worries will disappear, and we will be happy that we are reunited with God once again. He is waiting for us to return to Him. Jesus is giving us the responsibility to find Him and realise who He truly is with our personal effort. As St Augusine of Hippo says in his book, Confessions: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

Jesus, give us the grace to sense Your presence in our lives. Help us to have full faith and trust that You will always be there for us, through our ups and downs. Take us on that three-day journey just like your parents did and bring us to your presence at the end of that third day. Lord help us to know that we should search for You in our daily lives so that our faith will become stronger. Lord You are already in our hearts, give us the wisdom to understand this. Amen

by Allan Jomon

God’s Over Flowing Love

An Invisible Enemy
A life-changing crisis often motivates a person to go on a deeper spiritual search. A loss, a trauma, a transition, or even an illness suddenly disrupts our life and compels us to find meaning to our suffering, and a new purpose in living. Recently, a tiny virus caught us all unaware. We were unprepared for what followed: people were locked up in their homes with hardly any physical contact with the outside world. All the super-powers with their mighty weapons stood helpless in front of an invisible virus which brought the world economy to a standstill. We, who took everything for granted, were brought to our knees. We, who thought medical science has the answer to every illness, have been proved wrong.

In times like these, many are worried and fear for the future. But Isaiah 27:3 promises, “I, the Lord, am its keeper; every moment I water it. I guard it night and day so that no one can harm it. ”When we have such a God with us, why should we be worried or be scared? Our God is a God who is near us, always walking with us and protecting us. I would like to remind you of what Moses told the Israelites: “For what other great nation, has a God so near to it, as the Lord our God is, whenever we call to him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7). Amidst the uncertainty in the world today and with fear engulfing the people, the Lord reminds us, “For my angel is with you, and he is watching over your lives” (Baruch 6:7).

His Grace is Sufficient
In our weakness and vulnerability, we need to believe in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” Our faith is put to the test in such circumstances. But Jesus is assuring us that His grace is sufficient for us. We are all serving in a battle in one way or the other. Jesus promises us “I am going to bring it recovery and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security (Jeremiah: 33.6).” The Lord is writing the history of salvation through each one of us today. We have to become a mighty instrument in His hand. Mother Theresa once said, “I’m just a pencil in the hand of a writing God,” and what a beautiful pencil she was! Today Jesus is calling each one of us to be a pencil in His hand. He wants to write a love letter to the world. So, let us allow ourselves to be His instrument.

Mary Magdalene
On that fateful morning, Mary Magdalene went to tend to Jesus’s mortal remains. Weak as she was, she had accepted the reality as she saw it but was determined to do what she could do to bring dignity and honour to her beloved Master. She was present at the crucifixion on Calvary, and surely there at His burial, and the first to the tomb in the morning, remaining there after both the disciples had left. Mary became an example of the heartfelt and consistent devotion we should all give to Christ; how we should cling to Him and long for His appearing. Her life reminds us that Jesus offers us total deliverance from our past bondages. She was the woman from whom Jesus had driven out seven demons. She was a sinful woman but when the Lord touched her, she became a new creation. Her devotion is unparalleled to any other in the Bible. Her devotion was duly rewarded by the Lord by appearing to her first, after His resurrection. Today she is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church.

Her example teaches us that we only live once, so we should live it right. Through our strong faith in Jesus, we can lead the whole world to Him. Even during illness, we just need to remember Psalm (41:3), “The Lord sustains them on their sickbed; in their illness you heal all their infirmities.” Every Christian is called to live a disciple’s life regardless of how smart, qualified, talented, beautiful, worthy or sane we are. God does not call the qualified; He equips the called. Just listen to His voice. Jesus is calling your name. He wants to heal, free and redeem us forever. This assurance gives us a purpose in life. If we hold on to Jesus, He will tell us the same thing He told to the sinful woman in Luke (7:50), “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

by Rajni Manoj

Two Metre Distance

Regardless of age, we have become familiar with words such as lockdown, isolation, handwashing, masks and two metre distancing. After all, it was the only topic being talked about in mainstream media for the past few months! As I sat contemplating the phrase “two-metre distancing”, thinking what the world would be like if this situation was to become permanent, a thought came to my mind – “Did we keep sin at a two-metre distance during this lockdown period?” Upon deep reflection I concluded that sin was, in fact, closer than I had thought. On many occasions, I did things that I should have never done. I had plenty of time, but I had become so lazy! I spent too much time watching television, neglected my prayers and even at times ignored the presence of God. My heart had in fact, strayed away from Jesus.

I suppose some of us, especially children, may have had this type of experience since we did not have to attend schools or colleges. We may have spent more time playing games or watching television, sometimes disobeying parents and elders. Parents might have had no time to check on us because they had been busy with their work. We might have stayed up later than we ought to have and woke up late in the morning. All our routines could have been ruined. Sin, the uninvited guest, would have been much closer to us. Our eyes and ears may have been shut to what Jesus had to say. Did I wear a mask to prevent sin from entering my soul or did my washing techniques fail in my spiritual life? Many such questions have arisen that need to be answered.

For those of us who did not keep a two – metre distance to sin, the good news is that we can avail of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, now that our Churches have re-opened. Let us examine our conscience and run to the confessional,asking God for mercy and forgiveness, just as the prodigal son ran to his father saying, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you. “Yes, dear friends, “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Once we truly repent of our sins, then we can start listening to God’s voice which says, “And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’ (Isaiah 30:21)”.

by Matilda Dominic

Finding Freedom

If I hadn’t surrendered my life to Jesus, I wouldn’t be writing this testimony right now. As a child we did read the Bible at home, participate in Holy Mass and had daily family prayer. That was mainly it. For me, prayer was very routine; I never had a real connection with Jesus. As time went on, I felt like something was missing. When I was in school my friends would go with other people, leaving me alone. My parents loved me very much, but that didn’t satisfy my heart. I needed something that no one could give me. So, I tried being funny to make people like me, but that failed too. To make things worse, we moved from New South Wales to Brisbane and I had to make new friends, which I was not good at.

That year, my dad’s faith was strengthened, and he started praising out loud during prayer.The rest of my family were a bit hesitant at first, but eventually they started joining in. I only did it to make my dad happy. In that same year, I went to a retreat and I was greatly moved by God’s mercy, but I still didn’t surrender. So, I went back thinking that something was missing – and there was. The next year I went to another retreat, and again the same thing happened. My focus was to make new friends, but I did not realise that there is a Father in Heaven who wanted to be with me all the time. The next year, I went to another retreat. And, as you guessed, the same thing happened. I just felt that I could not change and that I would always be a nobody in this world. My parents advised me to pray at school, but I resisted, saying that I had no time to pray. In reality, I was just too afraid of what my friends would think. I thought that if I didn’t measure up to my friends’ standards, they would leave me.

My 12th birthday passed, and I was still looking for truth. 2020 came by and then it quickly became Passion Week without Holy Mass. While my parents were praying on Good Friday, I left them and went to my room. I started thinking about my life and started crying because of the way I had been behaving. I got angry quickly, was bitter with my brother and did not like sharing. In my heart I really wanted to change. I needed someone who could hear me from the inside and understand me. My parents could not do it, my friends could not do it and I myself couldn’t do it. But then I quickly remembered that there was someone who was spat at, kicked, nailed, pierced and crucified just for me. His name is Jesus, my Saviour. I remembered the verse from Jeremiah 1:5,“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations”.

I just could not believe that there was a Father who loved me for who I am and who never cared about my physical appearance or weaknesses. Even when I failed again and again, He did not hold anything against me. He loved me. He loved me because He made me, and He wanted me to be a witness for Him. He picked me up from the dust and carried me as if I was as precious as gold. Then I surrendered myself, and now I have become a true follower of Christ. I live for Him and no one will take my hand away from His hand. I told my friends about discovering my friendship with Jesus, and the Holy Spirit gave them the wisdom to understand about my discovery. Even when people stand against me, I know all I need is Jesus.

God chose me. I have a purpose in life, and so do you. Surrender and be free from your chains. He has a plan for you, as it says in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Let Him have His way with you. Then you will have peace that no one can give you, only Him. Jesus takes me to places to bear witness to His word, and He will take you too. Let Him come into your heart. Turn to Jesus now, because there might not be a tomorrow. Jesus is waiting for you today.

By Lenah Yeldo

October 2020 – Editorial

Some people have an idea of God as someone who is chasing them down because He wants to give them some kind of a beating for disobeying Him. In reality nothing can be further from the truth. He is pursuing them to show them how much He loves them. We often tend to follow the ways of the world and goes away from the path the Gospel teaches us. We must remind ourselves that Jesus never said follow my people, instead He said, ‘Follow Me’.

God called Jonah to preach to the Ninevites for He was going to punish them for their evil ways but, instead of obeying, Jonah decided to run away from the presence of the Lord. Jonah did not want the Ninevites to be saved; he feared that God would forgive Ninevah because He knew the nature of God. (Jonah 4:2) – “For I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.” Eventually after a dramatic journey in the opposite direction of Nineveh, Jonah reaches Ninevah and proclaim God’s message.

Initially, Jonah emerges as an example in the Bible of how not to behave. But the book of Jonah is about God and how great His heart is towards His children who run away from Him. God never gave up on Jonah and the people of Nineveh because He is slow to anger, compassionate and abounding in love (Psalm 103:8). Albeit with reluctance, Jonah’s obedience to God brought about great results, results that only God could bring.

Have you ever tried to run away from God? If so, did you know that God is pursuing you today? He will never abandon you nor forsake you because, He says in Isaiah 43:5, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” He wants you to bloom where you are planted