Jul 22, 2019

God is faithful to those who are faithful

Appearance of Jesus Christ to Maria Magdalena (1835)
by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov. (Source: Wikipedia)

Today is the feast day of St Mary Magdalene.

I totally admire this holy woman, and her love and faithfulness for her friend and master, Jesus. She, like our Mother Mary, is truly the "apostle of apostles" of Christ. She accompanied Jesus until the very end. Even at the tomb, she was so saddened at the disappearance of Jesus' body, whom she laid to rest. When everyone had left, she stayed back in an attempt to find out where and why Jesus' body had been removed.

If any biblical figures could qualify as the "perfect lover", it has to be Mary Magdalene. For truly, she sought him whom her heart loves (Song of Songs 3:2). So it is no wonder why certain Gnostic gospel recorded that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were involved in a romantic relationship! (And how many people have been scandalised by this story!)

While many reflected on how Mary Magdalene was privileged to be the messenger to announce the resurrection of Christ, and thus we too are called to proclaim this Good News through our lives, I drew from this Gospel a different insight.

As a reward for her persistence and her deep, genuine love for Jesus, the Resurrected Lord appeared before her and greeted her. "Mary!" (John 20:16) He even called her by name; that familiar and gentle voice! He did not forget nor let down this faithful woman, whom he knew loved him tremendously. I believe that for Mary Magdalene, the greatest privilege was to be the very first person to have met the Resurrected Lord.

This Gospel account gives me so much hope.

I have often questioned myself. Would my deep desire to see my Beloved Lord face to face, despite my frailty and frequent fall into sin, and my failed daily attempts to die to self, be rewarded with that same reward granted to Mary Magdalene?

I believe God will not disappoint anyone who loves him. He knows that our human love is imperfect. "The Lord knows our weakness, that he is mindful that we are but dust and ashes” (Psalm 102:14). And he "looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). He is faithful to those who are faithful to him.

This is the very hope that keeps me going.

St Mary Magdalene, pray for us, that like you, we too may meet the One whom our hearts loved.

"For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved."

-- St Gregory the Great on St Mary Magdalene

Feb 25, 2019

Reflection on the air

I have no idea since when, the Kuching airport has become quite a nostalgic place for me. It is so familiar, yet at the same time giving me the feeling of sadness. I travel alone most of the time, always with caution, alertness, sometimes with anxiety too, but other times, excitement.

But today, as I made my way to the departure area, I felt my heart sank. As I watched the plane took to the sky, it felt as if I was leaving Kuching behind and would not be back for a long time. Even though I was with a few friends, and we were flying to another town for a short business meeting.

Is death something like the airport too? Like the airport, it is an area souls await to be brought to their final destination? There would be those who are unwilling to leave their loved ones behind, and therefore the feeling of such a heavy heart. There would also be those who are more than ready to leave every earthly thing and look forward to go Home.

If God would give me the chance to choose how I would prefer to die — a sudden painless death (due to accident or in my sleep), or slowly fading away (due to old age), or a painful deterioration (due to sickness) — I wouldn’t know which one to choose.

As I advance in age, and as I bid goodbye to more and more people in funerals, and shared in the sorrow of friends who lost their loved ones, I began to truly realise the brevity of our lives and deeply treasure those who are close to my heart. I have to admit that I am becoming more and more afraid of losing those whom I love. I wish I could keep each and every one of them by my side so that I could care for them all, but I know that in reality, we could rarely get the best of both worlds.

So that brought me to yet another realisation: that death is never about how we are going to die, because it is not up to us. But we can definitely choose how to live our lives, by giving ourselves completely to those whom we love. We can choose to live by dying to ourselves everyday, that when the time finally comes for us to leave for Home, it will not catch us unprepared and unwilling.

To my loved ones, particularly Mom and Dad, and my fiancé Ahmos, I love you all most deeply.

(Penned on 25 February 2019; on the flight to Tawau, Sabah)