Did You Know You were Made from Stardust?

Of late I have been thinking quite a bit about being alive. A group of young women I have been journeying with have recently started reading a book on sexuality, whose first chapter takes us through the cosmic origins of human love. 13.8 billion years ago, most scientists agree, the universe was born in an immense explosion of creative energy - a phenomenon we call the Big Bang. In the time that passed, stars came into being, matter cooled to form planets, and after an immensely long time, life began on the planet we know as Earth: the first single cells, the ancient sea plants, eventually animals, and then the early humans. You might be surprised to know that, if we used a calendar month to represent all the time that has passed since the moment of creation, the entire history of human civilisation as we know it can be compressed into the last minute of the last day. Our lives are but the blink of an eye on this cosmic scale. And yet how unfathomably wonderful it is that it has taken…

A Love that Crosses Borders

The 9th of August next month is Singapore’s national day, and I was asked by someone in the embassy here in Manila if I would help with the making of a video celebrating the ties between our two countries. It started me reflecting on my own journey here in the Philippines - from those painful months in 2014 when I felt I had crash-landed in a strange new world, up till a few weeks ago when I caught myself, in a WhatsApp call with my parents about the Singapore elections, referring to the Philippines as ‘we’ and Singapore as ‘you’!

Not that I feel any less a part of my own country, of course - or that it has any less a place in my heart or affections. But I am grateful to have discovered that it is possible to love beyond borders.

I have loved (and hated) my daily commutes to work here by foot and jeepney (when jeepneys were still running!), traversing dirty and polluted streets teeming with life, watching stray dogs and people as they sold goods on the street or flagged down tricycle…

Be Still

There is a typhoon tonight. We have closed all the windows and doors, but you can still hear it - the rain battering down, yes, but the wind - ah, that incredible wind - a constant roar, all around you in the dark. It is the kind of wind that brings down branches of trees and rips off roofs. Still, what we have here is only what they raise a 'signal 2' warning for. 'Signal 3' is being raised down in the south, where the full strength of the typhoon is passing, and where there has already been fierce destruction.

Earlier today I had been frustrated about the slow progress of some work I'd been doing, intending to pick it up after dinner, but once the storm rose it hardly seemed important. We sat in the chapel for a while, lighting a few candles and simply listening to the storm. Prayer is wordless at a time like this, the words or concepts you might usually use dissolving in the raw power of nature around you. Your thoughts go to those who are suffering... But perh…

Living Liminal Space

'We keep praying that our illusions will fall away. God erodes them from many sides, hoping they will fall. But we often remain trapped in what we call normalcy—“the way things are.” Life then revolves around problem-solving, fixing, explaining, and taking sides with winners and losers. It can be a pretty circular and even nonsensical existence.

To get out of this unending cycle, we have to allow ourselves to be drawn into sacred space, into liminality. All transformation takes place here. We have to allow ourselves to be drawn out of “business as usual” and remain patiently on the “threshold” (limen, in Latin) where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin.'

So writes Richard Rohr in his beautifully insightful way. The various forms of 'lockdown' we have experienced in the past few months have cert…

Productivity at All Costs?

A friend of mine has a 2.5-year-old son who used to go to pre-school on weekdays while both his parents worked. When the circuit-breaker measures against COVID-19 recently took effect in Singapore, he and his parents found themselves - like most Singaporeans - confined to the house. As part of the nation’s home-based learning drive, his pre-school teacher emailed worksheets to his parents every day, which they ignored for a week while trying to juggle working from home and taking care of their toddler. Then, the teacher called and asked them to submit the worksheets. Nowadays, the parents (who thankfully still have a dose of common sense) take turns to do the daily worksheet and then let the child doodle on it before submitting it online, in what they call a “team effort”.

When I heard this story, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The idea of 2.5-year-olds having homework to submit everyday - not to mention in the middle of a worldwide pandemic - simply boggles the mind. Stories…

Which Pandemic Are You Living?

In the past weeks, I have often felt as if I was living in two worlds. When on the phone with family and friends in Singapore, while listening to international news, or joining in various prayer events against COVID-19, I am in a world where anxiety over the COVID pandemic is front and center, with its grievous toll of thousands dying alone, overburdened health systems, and the valiant sufferings of frontliners. This is a world of masks, hand-washing, daily case number updates, and - thankfully - inspiring acts of kindness between people.

Some of the people around me in Metro Manila, though, live in another kind of world. I became acutely aware of this on the first day that we were locked down. Jose (not his real name), a homeless man whom we knew, rang the bell. I had never seen him so terrified. The local officials were asking him to get off the street or be arrested. But where could he go? The street was where he lived and collected recyclables for a living. He needed rent money, …

What does it mean to be a witness of Christ?

Our guest writer is Leonard Mah S.J.

Many of us who are familiar with the Easter story and resurrection of Christ will generally identify the first witnesses to the Easter miracle as the holy women (Mary Magdalene being the most prominent) who came to visit the tomb of Jesus.  However, if we were to read the gospel account of Matthew, we would see that there were other human witnesses present too with the women. These would be the Roman soldiers who were assigned to guard the tomb of Jesus.  They were present when the violent earthquake struck and the angel of the Lord came and rolled away the stone (Matthew 28:2).

We can only imagine how these Roman soldiers would have felt when they saw the angel descending from heaven. It might have been the equivalent of watching a scene right out of a horror film for them (with the cast consisting of other-worldly beings), except that it was for real (there wasn’t a movie industry in those ancient times anyway).  St Matthew even notes that …