Fullness of Life: Blooming Where We Are Planted

Our guest writer this week is Valerie Tan.

I believe that many of us ask ourselves - what can I do to make my life more fulfilling? How can I be happier? And some of us may think that the answer lies in taking decisive steps to discern and effect a change in our external circumstances. For instance, a switch in careers, re-establishing ourselves in a different country, ending or beginning new relationships, etc.

I fully believe that there are times when God calls us to step into new territory. There are times when He leads us to new terrains and new experiences, as a part of our journey to be more fully human, more fully His children. There are indeed times when He will thus call us to take decisive action to move on from where we are, to move us closer to Him.

Yet, there are also times when He says - wait.

Just as it can be challenging to take a step into the unknown in order to move into new places that we are called to, it can also be challenging to sit on your hands and wai…

Why We Have Reason to Hope

A few weeks ago, the day after Christmas, one of my friends was telling me about her celebrations and ended off saying, “My heart is full!” I smiled on hearing that. What a lovely way to describe the overflowing blessings of a grateful heart!

I’m sure the end of the last year brought similar sentiments to many people. I always enjoy our FCJ community’s celebration of Christmas here in Manila as it gives us many opportunities to share joy and special moments with people around us. This year, there was plenty of joy to be had in the smiling faces, cheerful sounds and delicious smells of the season, but what touched me most was several encounters we had that revealed a little of the wonder and vulnerability of humanity.

One of these encounters took place when our community went carolling in a hospital with some of the young people with whom we work. Our objective was to bring some joy and sympathy to those patients and their families who had to spend the Christmas season in hospital. Fo…

Changing Myself

This reflection by Afra fcJ was inspired by the FCJ Constitutions, #276.

I can only change myself….
     What I cannot accept about others
          reveals aspects of me that I haven’t fully accepted
     What annoys me about others and my surroundings
          speaks of disharmony inside me that calls out for balance
     What triggers my disproportionate behaviours
          points to brokenness within me that needs healing
     What inspires me about others
          awakens my deep desires
     and what are my deep desires
          but God’s desires in me, and for me?
I can only change myself.

The time for conversion is today,
     is now.
I don’t have to wait for tomorrow
     because there is always something I can change about myself today … now.
Conversion is continual;
     it is always now.

It does take awareness
It does need humility, and gentleness
     to change myself only
     and to do it now and always.

(I look at my Beloved,
and my Beloved smiles and says,
“I love…

A New Year’s Blessing

Here we are again at that strange, blessed in-between time, between the old year and the new. I always appreciate this interval between the busy-ness of Christmas and the welcoming of the new year – a kind of fallow space in which to gather the blessings of the year that has passed, and listen to the new hopes and dreams emerging in our hearts for the future. It is a time for gratitude, and also for renewing our commitment to what truly matters.

As I looked back over this year, this passage from Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letter to a Young Poet” spoke particularly to me:

You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me. You have asked others before. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems. … I beg you to give up all that. You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in t…

How Beautiful the Light that Shines in the Dark (Christmas)

All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God. Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands; break into song; sing praise. (Psalm 3b-4)

The readings at Christmas are full of joy that seemingly cannot be contained. Our God has done a new thing, they proclaim – Christ has come!

Of all the readings, though, my favourite is this more solemn passage of John’s:

What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1: 3b-5)

A light that the darkness does not overcome: that is the hope that Christmas brings to me. Our violent, divided world – and our wounded, fickle hearts – are, incredibly, the darkness into which God’s everlasting light has come, in the form of a small child. Christmas then is a yearly reminder to us of that incredible truth that God has chosen to become incarnate in the messiness of our lives, and thus given it infinite value. Daniel O’Leary puts it beautiful…

Blessed are You, Who are Not Too Small (Advent Week 4)

"You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel.” (Micah 5: 2) Thus begins the first reading of this Sunday.

This is one of many surprising statements in the scriptures, in which those who are “small” and overlooked are actually the ones blessed and chosen by God. The Gospel reading also takes up this thread as it follows the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth, two poor women from a backwater place, to whom God has inexplicably come. “And how does this happen to me…?” asks Elizabeth, not quite daring to believe (Luke 1: 43a).

In fact, Jesus himself will go on to spell out this principle authoritatively in one of his best-known sermons:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6: 20)

Most of us would have come across that verse many times. Often, though, for those of us who are not materially poor, there is a temptation to “whitewash” the statement; to avoid its discomf…

Rejoice; Do Not Worry! (Advent Week 3)

"Shout for joy…! Sing joyfully…! … [The Lord] will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love; he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.” (Zephaniah 3: 14, 17-18a)

Have you ever experienced someone bursting into joyful song because of you? Those who have fallen in love with another have perhaps experienced such joyful expressions of love in other ways – in a heartfelt letter, in a tender embrace, or in the particular way that our beloved looks at us. This Sunday’s readings call us to rejoice, because God loves us just as passionately – and more!

How do we experience God’s love? At some points in our lives, of course, it is difficult to believe in our beloved-ness: in times in confusion and hardship, in times when we are aware of our failings and imperfections, in times when we feel lonely and in pain. But the coming of Christ in the stable, light to a people suffering and oppressed, reminds us that God in God’s infinite love is already prese…