Thursday, March 26, 2009

Corneal Infection

“Corneal Infection”
Lent 2009 – Day 27 (Mar 27)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

It was summer 1993, my first summer in Europe. After my first year in Rome I spent the first weeks of my summer vacation in The Hague in Holland. My mom, who at that time was still active in her garment business, came with my sister to participate in a fashion show. After some days with all the good-looking models, I began to feel something odd with my eyes. [Please, don’t think it was simply a matter of cause and effect!]. Everything collapsed when I learned that it was a corneal infection. I made every body go into troubles, from ophthalmologist visit to health insurance. Even worse, my eyes became so sensitive to light. I really hated any kind of light and preferred staying in the dark with my eyes tightly shut. Even a gentle ray of morning sunlight felt like a super bright spot light directed right on my eyes! A cloudy or even rainy day was perfect!

The problem was not with the light, but with my eyes. What was actually normal and pleasant became so threatening and burdensome. Jesus moved on with His mission from the Father. People began to be more irritated by the light He offered and tried everything possible to get away from it. Instead of curing the “eyes,” they made plot to eliminate the “light.” Yes, when with God’s grace I make some improvements in my spiritual life, even the gentle ray of that initial goodness in me may appear as a disturbing light for others. This, as Saint Ignatius of Loyola suggests, is typical of how the good spirit will be hindered by the evil spirit. When you are getting better, you will hear voice within you that convinces you that it is useless. Yes, you may even be convinced and say, “I’m a sinner. There is no way I can be better. Why still give it a try? Why fight if I will lose?”

When you are good and people around you like you, it is called encouragement, and it makes you “feel good.” When you are good and people around you hate you, it is called “the cross,” and it makes you “really good,” although you feel awful. Yes, when they hate you like this, be sure, the problem is not with the light in you, but with the eyes in them! Your cross makes them feel the serious corneal infection in their spiritual sight.

Kitchen Witness

“Kitchen Witness”
Lent 2009 – Day 26 (Mar 26)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

When I was a student in Berkeley some years ago, I lived with other Jesuits on their way to priesthood, and we took turn in cooking our evening meals. Our agreement was simple: “When you cook, use whatever you need, try to clean up as you cook, others will do the rest after meal, and you are free to relax!” Fair enough. There was one in particular who always used almost everything and left piles of dirty kitchen wares. On the day he cooked, cleaning up after meal seemed to take forever! Seeing those piles, we could say without doubt “He was here!”

I often channeled my urge for order to the drawer where we kept the silver wares. Every now and then I would arrange spoons, forks, and knives into a perfect lining! When someone opened the drawer afterwards, he could say “Deshi was here!” This is true with others. When I found the mixer had been used and nicely washed I knew who had just made his favorite brownies. When I found raw ox-tails on the kitchen counter, I knew exactly who had just been there. Yes, what we did in and to the kitchen witnessed about who we were! That’s an unbeatable kitchen witness!

When the Israelites are leaving Egypt, they say “God is here!” Soon afterwards, having no clue about Moses’ where-about, they say “God is gone!” Jesus’ opponents demand a clear explanation, but Jesus’ works clearly witness about who He really was. Moses reminds God to be merciful and forgiving. Jesus shows who God is by being merciful and forgiving. When we know about God, but we don’t experience God’s mercy and forgiveness, not surprisingly, our deeds will never witness about God.

If things are messed up, I hope that no one will say “Deshi was here.” If they do, my deeds clearly lack for mercy and forgiveness. It’s no witness to God! Our Berkeley kitchen knows better how to witness!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Lent 2009 – Day 25 (Mar 25) “Annunciation”

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

It’s hard to make a good group photo in these days of digital cameras. With five cameras trying to make a perfect picture of twenty people, for example, the result will probably be a picture of twenty people looking at five different directions. If you have asked someone to use your camera and do the shot for you, there is a higher probability that you will stare with your best smile at your own camera! The problem of focusing used to be that of the camera lens or of the photographer. Now, being defocused is mostly the problem with the people themselves.

Our world is so defocused. We are so defocused. I’m so defocused. Inevitably, my vision gets blurred and blurred. But surprisingly, it can suddenly get so focused when it has something to do with me. Who cares about other cameras? I want to look perfect in the picture from my own camera. After all, I can crop it and toss away other faces! So the question is: how do I want to be focused? Being defocused is just therefore a modern term for the centuries old self-centeredness or selfishness. I can remember perfectly, even as I’m typing this, how my being defocused has made me miss great opportunities to love and serve others.

Amidst our defocused lives, one day in the history of humanity, God came to a young woman from Nazareth. God is focused to Mary, since she is focused to God. Feast of Annunciation is a feast of this mutual focusing. It’s the feast when God as the best photographer comes to our group with the best camera and says, “Keep your cameras. Look at My camera! I guarantee you an award-winning picture of the year!” Yes, when we are all focused to God, we become indeed a perfect photo. Feast of Annunciation invites us to stare with our best smiles as one single group of humanity and together say “Cheers….!”

Monday, March 23, 2009

I Wish

“I Wish”
Lent 2009 – Day 24 (Mar 24)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

When I experienced my first life-changing conversion as a teenager many years ago the only thing I wished was to be a holy man! It seemed that I was already in front of the pearl gate to holiness. How wrong I was!

I wish to deliver powerful words as Jesus did to the paralyzed man at the Sheep Pool in Jerusalem, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk!” What makes Jesus’ words so powerful? Very simple! In Jesus there is no contradiction whatsoever. That’s obviously not my case. I can’t even count exactly the contradictions in me. So many!

I wish to flow like the water from the Temple that creates lives wherever it goes. That too is not my case. My words, my deeds, my attitudes, my choices, even my feelings, sometimes even kill the good seeds that God has planted around me. Feeling sorry always comes late. It always comes after the damage has been done. So many!

The water that used to be salty is in the process of becoming fresh. The paralyzed man who has just been healed is still limping and needs to learn how to walk straight. That not-yet-fresh water, that limping man, is me.

To all of you who have been wounded by my contradictions, I deeply apologize. Your ceaseless forgiveness gives me hope to keep striving for holiness. Spiritually I’m just a limping man who makes his best efforts to help others walk better. I want to be hope for others by limping graciously, and I thank you for letting me do just that.

When the Bamboo Broke

“When the Bamboo Broke”
Lent 2009 – Day 23 (Mar 23)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I warn you, this is embarrassing and disgusting! It was early 70’s and I was just a little kid. We lived in the suburbs of Jakarta. Vast rice fields and ponds were still found at the back of our house. It was customary that people would go to those ponds whenever the nature called. Yes, we had those “toilets” over the ponds. One day, as I was squatting and “doing it,” the bamboo underneath my feet broke and I fell directly to the water full of the dirty “waste” that my body had just released. I was literally in the midst of human “waste,” mine and everybody else’s. The next thing I knew, I was already at the well. My body was literally covered with human waste and our house maid was washing me through. She had bravely jumped into the disgusting water to save my life! Even today I can still hear the crispy laughter we both shared at that well. I’m forever grateful to her.

That is what God has been doing for me. Every time I sin, I spiritually jump into my own dirty waste, and God will immediately jump to save me. What a great God! This is basically the pattern that is repeated on and on throughout the Scriptures. Not only that. God even promises to create new heavens and new earth for us! Even more! God will exult in us! We are invited to share that crispy laughter as God washes us through! Think about this. God will rejoice over you, no matter how messy your life is now. God wants to heal you, and wants you to believe.

Even if there seems to be no sign that our lives are getting better (since we find ourselves repeating just the same sins again and again), God wants us to believe that we are not alone sinking in that disgusting water. God is there with us. All we need to do is letting God grab us and pull us out! Once we are out, we will also see that God mends and replaces the broken bamboo! God will smile and say, “Be careful! But be sure, even if you fall again, I’ll rescue you!”

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Turn It Off!

“Turn It Off!”
Lent 2009 – Fourth Sunday Year B (Mar 22)

You go to a medical check-up. All the reports clearly show that you have a serious but curable illness. The doctor instead tells you that there is nothing wrong, and simply says, “You are burnt-out. Take some rest!” You are happy with this, and you convince yourself that you’re really fine. Another doctor who is your best friend reads those reports, and honestly tells you, “You are seriously ill, and you must go for treatments if you want to be cured.” You have two options. First, you go to the first doctor, scold him for being a liar, sue him, and bring him to the court. Second, you are mad at your best friend, accuse him for making it up, cut off your friendship, and hold on to the false diagnosis from the first doctor. Here actually you have two big questions: “Do you want to accept the fact that you are ill?” and “Do you want to accept the sincere love of your best friend?”

That is another modern version of my relationship with God. Scriptures clearly show us that God never ceases to tell each one of us, “You are seriously ill, but with Me it is curable!” You can count the number of prophets whom God has sent. God knows that my life is so dark. So God comes as Light, but my sinful instinct says, “Turn it off!” (I even forget to add the polite word “please” at the end!). In fact, what I say is, “I’m fine. I’m not ill. I’m OK in the dark. I don’t need doctors. I don’t need light. Go away, God! You are making it up. You don’t really love me! If You keep telling me that I’m ill, I’ll go to another doctor, and I’ll never come back to You!” Wow, wow, wow…! Yes, this is our sinful instinct! We want God to say only the nice things that make us feel good.

One reminder that always makes the thick wall of my defense fall is: “Deshi, you are such a hypocrite!” You must be familiar with a specific phrase that is like an arrow being shot right to the very center of your heart. That harsh statement comes actually from God who simply wants to say, “I love you and I really care about you!” All I need to learn to say is, “Thank you doctor for telling me the truth. I’m ready for any necessary treatments,” or, “Thanks for the light. Keep it on!”

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Winner or Looser?

“Winner or Looser?”
Lent 2009 – Day 22 (Mar 21)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I was driving to give my evening lecture yesterday when I saw a tiny city car waiting to get in. I slowed down, let that car in, and felt good about it. However, as we were approaching the traffic light and I saw that it was green, my attitude changed. I began to be anxious, kept looking at the green light, and impatiently honked several times as I angrily said, “Come on lady, speed up!” That tiny car in front of me had just passed through, when the green light turned yellow, and immediately red. I stopped angrily. “This is what I got for being nice!” After that, when I saw a car waiting to get in, I sped up and honked aggressively. I did it twice. Hooray…! For a moment, there was a sense of victory. I lost the battle against one tiny car, but I won the battle against two bigger ones! This actually means: “I lost when I was good; I won when I was bad!”

The more I drive in this chaotic Jakarta, the more I realize that city streets can become a battlefield between “a looser” and “a winner.” However, the real battlefield is in my own heart. How I want to win the battle? By being and doing good, or by being and doing bad? The Pharisee believes that he is a winner, because he has done many good things. Another man, a tax collector, believes that he is a looser, because all that he has done were bad. Yet, in terms of honesty before God, the Pharisee is a looser, and the tax collector is a winner. How come? When I sin, I wound myself, but God will bandage my wounds. When I sin, I become a looser, but when I admit and confess my sins to God, I become a winner. Loosing and winning doesn’t depend simply on a list of bad or good deeds. It requires a personal heart-to-heart relationship with God.

Holiness is not just about avoiding what is bad, but also about doing what is good. Never buy the city street wisdom “When you are good, you are a looser; when you are bad, you are a winner.” Embrace the real truth: “When you are good, you might become a looser in the eyes of people around you, but you are a winner in the eyes of God!”

Friday, March 20, 2009


Lent 2009 – Day 21 (Mar 20)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I had just left my house yesterday when I realized that I had forgotten something. The U-turn spot was just three minutes away. It would not take more than additional fifteen minutes to get the whole thing done. Yet I thought, “Making a U-turn now is a waste of time. I can get the stuffs later.” So I went home at lunch time, had a quick lunch, got the stuffs from my room, and hit the road again. The whole trip took more than an hour! As I was stuck in the terrible traffic jam, I said to myself, “I should have made the U-turn this morning. But why I didn’t do it?” Then I realized that I didn’t do it, because I knew that my Jesuit brothers were still in the dining room, and they would probably have made fun of my forgetfulness. I knew that I had to return, but I preferred to save my face!

We are strongly warned not to fall into idolatry, into worshipping others than God. I didn’t make the U-turn, because I wanted to hold fast on my own pride. By doing that, I made myself an idol. The danger of idolatry lies not out there, but in here. Conversion, or returning, or coming back, or making a U-turn to God, is not always appealing to our modern ears. It might be judged by others as a sign of weakness, of the defeat of the most important idol, namely, “I.” When we pray “Deliver us from evil,” it also means “Deliver us from our own pride! Deliver us from our own resistance to make a U-turn to You!” But many people say, “I’ll come back to God when I get older.” It actually means, “I want to be holy, but right now, my pride is a lot more precious!” How sad!

The greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, strength. If we are focused on God, our pride will melt. That’s the power of love. When our pride is melted away, we can really love ourselves as God loves us, and in turn, we can love others as we love ourselves with the very love of God. Now we think that many more U-turns still lie ahead, while in fact there might be none. God knows.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Coffee is Brewing

“Coffee is Brewing”
Lent 2009 – Day 20 (Mar 19)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Are you a coffee lover? There are two things that I find very unique in waiting for coffee. First, when the boiled water goes through the filter filled with coffee ground and begins to drip into the clear glass container, it creates a very unique noise. When I hear that noise my expectation grows. I can be sure that soon I will enjoy the coffee. Second, when the coffee is brewing, it sends a very unique odor. When I smell it, I know for sure that someone in the house is preparing coffee, and who knows, I can have some of it too! Now, what is more powerful, the noise or the odor? For me, it is the odor. I can be far from the kitchen, even on the second floor, that I can’t hear the noise from the coffee machine, but the odor can break through the wall and hit the senses in my nose. The odor can be very strong that I spontaneously sniff with tremendous joy.

In the Catholic tradition we have a Latin terminology “odor sanctitatis,” which literally means “odor of sanctity,” or “scent of holiness.” This refers to a certain odor that the body of a holy person emanates, either during his or her earthly life, or accompanying his or her dead body. Have you ever known a person whose life is so devoted to God, that whenever you meet her, or him, there is a tingling in your body that tells you that there is something beautiful with that person? I’m obviously not that kind of person (well, at least not yet). It’s striking that the language has never coined a terminology like “noise of sanctity.” Why? Simply it is because “odor” is a lot more powerful than “noise.” Try to drive people away with your voice, and try to drive them away with a very bad and disgusting smell. You don’t even need a single word in the second case!

Seen in this perspective, holiness walks hand in hand with silence and quietness, not with noise. There is no holy person who has no intense experience with the deep silence. Saint Joseph is one example. He never said a word in the Bible, but through the ages people can still sniff his “odor sanctitatis” with tremendous joy. If you want to gain a spiritual strength, aim for the odor, not the noise, of your personhood. They will know, that indeed within you, “coffee is brewing!”

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Can You Hear Me?

“Can You Hear Me?”
Lent 2009 – Day 19 (Mar 18)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I called my mom and dad on their mobile phone yesterday. For me their voices were clear, but they kept asking, “What? What?...” Finally dad said, “I can hardly hear you.” To which I reply, “Never mind. I’ll call you back later.” I came late to my office this morning. [Not a good example. Please don’t tell my boss]. I had to make some important calls. First call: the voice from the other end was clear, but the response I got was “Sorry, he is out of town.” Second call: it went through easily. Yet as I began to speak, the other began to tell me, “Your voice is not clear!” I was a bit frustrated, but thank God, between several “what’s”, I managed to deliver the message. Third call: better than the first two? The voice from the other end was so clear and crisp, but the only words I got were: “Hello? Hello?...” Then, as I was trying to raise my voice, he hanged up.

My relationship with God can be described as “Who calls? Who hears?” The Bible abounds with this image. God is experienced to be a very close God. It can even claim that no other nations have a God so near like ours. Yet for me, it is always frustrating when I call God in times of trouble, but God seems to be absent, distant, indifferent, and worst of all, deaf! There are times when I even ask God, “Can’t You hear me?” It means: “Hey God, You’re not doing your job!” I try to imagine how many times God has tried to call me. How many times I have replied, “Sorry, I can’t hear You!” Or, even worse, I just hanged up. Or, worst of all, I tell God, “I can’t really hear You! There must be something wrong with Your phone!”

I usually don’t like the term “laws.” Even the laws from God create a feeling of being controlled, observed, under surveillance. Yet if I think that the laws are those attempted phone calls from God, then things will appear different. The problem lies within me, with my inability, or my unwillingness to really stop, slow down, take a deep breath, and listen carefully. When I do this, there is no need for the frustrating “what’s” since God’s voice will become clear and crisp.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fax Machine

“Fax Machine”
Lent 2009 – Day 18 (Mar 17)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I had just finished typing a very urgent document to be immediately e-mailed when the least expected happened: the electricity was gone! Fortunately I had also printed a sample of that document. So I turned to my Blackberry, typed the whole thing as an e-mail message then sent it. After a while I checked the addressee only to get a reply: “Sorry Father, the e-mail has not gone through! Please re-send!” Fortunately the electricity was back, although the internet connection was still down. So as my last hope, I turned back to the fax machine. [Oh how much I fell in love again with that machine in these days of e-mail and Blackberry]. Done! Well, not really. A few hours later I got a phone call on my mobile phone: “Father, there is no e-mail, no news from you!” To me that sounded: “Father Deshi, you are being irresponsible.” I was a bit irritated when I learned a moment later that they had not checked their fax machine, although I had informed them through a text message. That very urgent document has been there for hours! What I thought to be a business done in time, turned out to be half an hour late.

A day like that sounds familiar to you too, I believe. That is one of those moments when I feel that everything goes against me! A few moments earlier everything seems to be perfect. Just a little something out of the plan can easily turn it to be horrible. OK, that fax story is over now. But as I look back, it dawns on me that it is just a mini version of my life. Imagine what God thinks of me: now I’m very good, a moment later I’m a terrible sinner. Sometimes the boundary between what is good and what is sinful is just a thin line. I am reminded to what St. Ignatius of Loyola taught about sin: “It creates disorder!” If God forgives me, it means: “God recreates order.” The same thing happens with other people around me. If I forgive them, I participate in God’s work: “I recreate order in their lives.” No wonder I’m asked to forgive seventy times seven. No limits! Why? Simply because it is about participating in God’s very act of recreating order.

Back to the lovely fax machine that saved my face today, isn’t it true with God’s forgiveness? It’s available for us, but we don’t realize that it’s there because we’re still too focused with the disorder. “God forgives you” says fax message sent to you. Your job is to walk to the fax machine and find the message and believe it. Let God recreate order in your life.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Horror Movie

“Horror Movie”
Lent 2009 – Day 17 (Mar 16)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Had you come to my place at one o’clock A.M. during these past two days, you would have met three of our young Jesuits awake in front of the TV. To everybody’s surprise, these young men have suddenly become fascinated by horror movies! I’m not really a fan, but I can tell that a horror movie can be so attractive precisely because of its constant surprising uncertainty. The more uncertain you are drawn to be through the movie, the more exciting it is. Before long, you begin to think: “Wow! That was scary and unexpected, now give me something scarier!”

Welcome to one of human paradoxes! Facing real life, we want everything to be certain. We even lament when life becomes so uncertain. Strangely, we can be entertained and even relaxed by horror movies with all their uncertainties. Unconsciously we are often torn apart in our own expectations: “certainty” or “surprise”? Naaman, the commander-in-chief, has to learn about this. He needs to learn to accept that sometimes God’s ways are no surprise at all. Instead of being asked to wash himself in a beautiful river, he is asked to go to the Jordan River. Oh please…! No surprise? Too simple! Too certain! Give me something bigger and more uncertain!

Same thing happens to Jesus’ hometown’s people. They know Jesus too well. No uncertainty, no mystery, no hidden surprise about this man. Had Jesus lived in this age, He would have said: “No prophet is accepted and respected by his own friends on the Facebook! All these friends know his every ‘status.’ No more surprise!” When God becomes so simple and certain, we can even doubt: “Is this really God?” Yes, we may be off-track if we always apply the enjoyable uncertainty of a horror movie to God.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Nobly Destroyed

“Nobly Destroyed”
Lent 2009 – Third Sunday Year B (Mar 15)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I’ve just come home from a wedding party of an old friend. Everybody was happy. Finally at the age of forty-three this dear friend of ours decided to settle down, get married, and start a new life. Some of us came with their wives and children. Looking again at old faces always thrills. Those faces represent different sets of choices they have made along the way, willingly or not. During those precious minutes together we were brought back to a distant past when we used to sleep in the same dormitory, eat the same food, drink the same water, and yet at the same time we were also silently marveled by the differences life has created on each one of us.

Life appears to be continuous alterations of “building” – “destroying” – “rebuilding.” It is painful to start building from ground zero up. It is more painful to accept the fact that what we have built has to be destroyed in order to be rebuilt anew. Each stage demands a decision. Though at times the forces out there feel so overwhelming, we have to make a decision on how to go through. God builds a relationship, a covenant, gives a set of norms to be obeyed. We destroy the relationship by doing precisely what is forbidden. God rebuilds. And the story goes on. The magnificent temple has been built over the years, but it turns out that it will be destroyed only to be rebuilt into a completely new and unimaginable one. Along these alterations, we learn how to make better choices.

That blood-stained wooden cross speaks loudly to the world about the high price to be paid so that our building of sins can be destroyed and a new building of virtues can be rebuilt. If I think that to be destroyed is painful, for God it is more painful to see my resistance to be destroyed. God sees a lot more the better building. I simply do not want to see it at all right now. This destruction can be very painful precisely because it is a noble destruction.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wasting for Investing

“Wasting for Investing”
Lent 2009 – Day 16 (Mar 14)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

“Waste your time, invest their trust!” This is a simple wisdom that I have made as a reminder for myself. I am blessed with so many young Jesuits around me. I am aware of my own limitation and woundedness as a human being. Yet at the same time I have been entrusted with these young and promising Jesuits under my care. This logic of “wasting for investing” at the same time also train me in the virtue of patiently waiting.

I wonder how much God has wasted time with me. I wonder how long God has been patiently waiting. I wonder how much trust God has seen developing in me. Any story of conversion is a story of how an investment begins to show the benefit. When a son who out of a sudden decides to run away from home we may think that he is completely lost. What will change the story is the amount of time that his father has wasted with him. It will take time before his son eventually realizes that he can completely trust his father. Then there will be an unstoppable power within his son to say: “I’m coming home, Dad!”

So, start with “wasting,” and you will see that you are actually “investing” something priceless, namely “trust.” In the meantime you learn how to do a good “waiting.” For God, the name for such “wasting” is “mercy,” the name for such “trust” is “conversion,” and the name for such "waiting" is "life." What a great God!

Placing the Puzzles

“Placing the Puzzles”
Lent 2009 – Day 15 (Mar 13)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I am blessed with a caring elder brother and a loving younger sister. Yes, there is no perfect family. My mom and dad must have been working hard to make the three of us so closely knitted together. That’s why I always think that one of the saddest tragedies on this planet is the enmity, hatred, jealousy between siblings. I always cry deep in my heart whenever I hear how someone has managed not to speak to his or her sibling for years!

Of course there are times when I really wish that my brother or my sister were different. I have no doubt that there are also times for them when they really wish that I were different. Conflicts exist. Misunderstandings cannot be avoided. What makes us close to each other is that somehow we see each other as puzzles that have to be there to make the picture of each one of us complete. Suppose you have orderly placed 2,999 puzzles and you can’t find that missing puzzle. What an ache you feel within.

A more tragic irony is that when Jesus came to me as my brother, as the missing puzzle I actually need, I pretend not to see Him, not to need Him.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Attractive Dependency

“Attractive Dependency”
Lent 2009 – Day 14 (Mar 12)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Believe it or not, a good number of people have asked me: “So, tell me honestly Father, what kind of woman do you find attractive?” I usually ask back: “And you are asking this to a celibate Roman Catholic priest?” However, for the sake of honesty, I then continue without hesitation: “A very independent woman.” Yes, I always admire an independent woman who shows an inner power that makes the world around her turn properly.

Ask a similar question to God: “God, what kind of person do You find attractive?” God will certainly say: “Any kind.” Then try to ask further: “Don’t You find an independent person more attractive?” At this, God will smile and say: “Not really. In fact, I often find a too independent person is more difficult to deal with.”

For us modern people, being dependent is not a quality we want to strive for. Yet before God, we do need to develop “a right sense of dependency.” A tree planted near a river will be fruitful since it has the right amount of water it is dependent to; not too little, not too much, just right! The poor man Lazarus is so dependent to others, and this helps him to be dependent to God. On the contrary, the rich man is severely punished not because he is rich, but because his being rich makes him lose any sense of dependency to God.

An independent person who has a right sense of dependency to God will in fact be a much more attractive person. Your sacred, healthy, and balanced dependency to God is a quality this world is badly longing to find.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Treat Yourself

“Treat Yourself”
Lent 2009 – Day 13 (Mar 11)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

We are called to be happy; we are not called to make everybody happy. The good we do will always create division: some will be happy, some will be mad at us; some will love us, and some will hate us. When we do what is really good, people will have to choose how to react to such goodness. The challenge for us: we don’t always see the end result immediately. We might feel betrayed if the immediate result is the hatred of others that make us feel really down and unhappy.

If you keep doing what is good, those who hate this goodness will eventually try to trap you by using your goodness. Some people are just too scared to do good because her or his goodness might eventually kill her or him. If you want to be happy, drink the cup of bitterness, hatred, envy, not because you are a masochist, but because this is the good thing to do. It is good simply because this is the same cup that Jesus drinks. The time will come, when you will sit with Jesus in heaven and drink the best drink. [I wonder whether in heaven they will provide the best Cabernet Sauvignon. Well…that’s my favorite wine].

We need to learn to choose to be happy by doing always and only “what is good,” not by doing always and only “what makes people happy.” Treat yourself always and only with the “true happiness,” by doing always and only “what is good.”

Monday, March 9, 2009

An Active Business

“An Active Business”
Lent 2009 – Day 12 (Mar 10)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I’m afraid that if Jesus were preaching today, He would give this warning to His disciples: “Listen to what Father Deshi says, do what he tells you, but don’t ever do what he does!” Yes, preaching is one thing, practicing what I preach is another. In fact, for me as a priest, preaching the Good News is more enjoyable than practicing it in my own life. You’d better hope that Jesus wouldn’t say this to your kids: “Listen to what your parents say, do what they tell you, but be sure, don’t do what they do”?

There is a responsible question to ask every night before falling asleep: “How much of my preaching have I myself practiced?” In my case, at times I have become too passive in my conversion. The Good News that says “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” always comforts me. Yet, I pretend not to look at the other side of the coin: “Stop doing evil, learn to do good…!” I want to passively get God’s love for myself, but I don’t want to actively show it to others.

Unexpected thing that happens – like when your Dad was rushed to the emergency room – may serve as a reminder: “Do what you teach…learn to do good…” Actually I’m not always aware of such soft whisper from God. Conversion is also an active business.


Lent 2009 – Day 11 (Mar 9)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

The English word “addiction” comes from Latin “addicere,” which is a combination of “ad” (to) and “dicere” (say). Literally, it means “to say to (something),” or more precisely “to say yes to (something).” Hence, an addict is nonetheless “a devotee.” If you are addicted, you are “devoted” in the very meaning of the word. Yet, if initially “addicere” points to your freedom to say yes, today it points to your lack thereof. It means just the opposite. When you are addicted, you are dependant, chained, enslaved, not free!

Someone says that if we want to change the world, we can begin by bringing back the original meaning to every word. If this is true, I can proudly say “I am a forgiveness-addict.” It works both ways. I realize that I’m really dependant on God’s forgiveness as well as others’. I can’t live without forgiveness. The moment God or others stop to supply me with forgiveness, I certainly die. Yet, at the same time, I have to renew my choice everyday that I want to devote myself to be forgiven and to forgive.

Forgiveness is the life-giving blood of the covenant between God and me, a covenant between a faithful God and an unfaithful me. Should I measure up others or myself, that measurement is forgiveness. If I am a real forgiveness-addict, I’m on the right track to be set free.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Twist in the Plot

“A Twist in the Plot”
Lent 2009 – Second Sunday Year B (Mar 8)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

What is a bad movie? It’s when you can tell right from the beginning how the movie will end, and you’re right. What is a good movie? It’s when you keep guessing how the movie will end, and you only know the answer when the movie ends. What is a very good movie? It’s when you’re sure about the end, but toward the end there’s a twist in the plot, and you are totally surprised by the completely unexpected end. If life or faith life is a movie, it is indeed a very good one.

Abraham has to go through such a twist in his faith life when out of the blue God asks him to sacrifice his only and beloved son, Isaac. The disciples on the mountain are so sure about how Jesus’ life story is all about. Jesus reminds them not to be so. A lot needs to unveil. The disciples will only know Jesus on another mountain. This one is called Golgotha! Yes, if you really want to know Jesus, wait till you are shocked by the twist in the end.

Blessed Mother of Calcutta is known to have said: “If you want to make God laugh, tell God your plans!” Then after God is done with the laughter, God will tell you: “My child, wait until the twist in your life story.” Lent is a wonderful time to train our faith to be ready for any twists. Jesus is the unexpected twist in the history of the whole humanity. It is precisely this twist that makes it “a very good movie” of all ages.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Be a True Perfectionist!

“Be a True Perfectionist!”
Lent 2009 – Day 10 (Mar 7)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I used to be a perfectionist, even a hard-liner of the sort. As a teenager I didn’t go to sleep before making sure that everything was perfect. I would literally go around the house and check everything. Pictures on the wall, cushions on the sofas, rugs beneath tables, photo frames, and everything else, you name it (I even checked whether the Crucifix was still straightly hanging on the wall!). Thanks to my dear and only sister who always warned me, now I have become a very mild perfectionist. I mean, I’m no longer dominated by that impulse for perfection in everything, but I can determine when, where, and how I want to be perfect. (No wonder I can be comfortable now with the clutter on my desk).

Jesus says: “Be perfect as your Father in heaven!” What’s the deal with this Father? This is so obvious: this Father gives the sun and the rain for the good and the bad! For this Father, to be perfect means to embrace everyone. A true perfectionist therefore is not self-centered, but others-centered. If the Father is an all-embracing perfectionist, how is Jesus, the Son? Jesus not only asks us to love our loved ones and our enemies. The day will come when Jesus says: “This is my Body, my Blood,…for you and FOR ALL.” In other words, Jesus says: “What I give will embrace everyone.” As His Father, Jesus is an all-embracing perfectionist.

Do you want to be perfect? Do you really want to be faithful to God’s commands and ordinances? If you do, be sure, there is a school of perfection, offered to you, free of charge. That school is called “the Eucharist,” “the Holy Mass.” That is the privileged training camp for us to learn to embrace everyone, the good and the bad.

Friday, March 6, 2009

God as Band-Aid

“God as Band-Aid”
Lent 2009 – Day 9 (Mar 6)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Who wants my conversion? Humanly speaking, I don’t. The only one who really wants my conversion is God. I’m just too comfortable with the way I have been hiding my sins. I’m fine with this and I’ve been smart enough in doing all this hiding. Sinning is serious, but hiding my sins is even more serious. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden. If the first sin is eating the fruit of knowledge about good and evil as a sin of doubting the gift from God, the second and more serious sin is hiding before God. After sin, Adam and Eve really learned how not to treat God as God the all-knowing.

Do you know “Band-Aid”? We use it when we accidentally cut ourselves. We use it to cover the cut, and wait till the cut is healed. After that, I simply peel the “Band-Aid” off and discard it. The dried blood stain on it will also be thrown away. That’s how I treat God at times, no more than just a “Band-Aid.” I use God when I need, and discard God when I’m healed. The sign of my wound symbolized by the dried blood stain will go away when I discard God on a trash, and never want to see it again. No one wants to put a used “Band-Aid” in a nice frame and hang it in his or her living room!

Convincing myself for a long time that everything is fine will drain up all my inner resources. In the process, God becomes a mere object. The good news is: for God, no matter what, I’m God’s precious child. God will just wait. How much longer do I want to make God wait?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Learning to Drive

“Learning to Drive”
Lent 2009 – Day 8 (Mar 5)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Remember the first day you learned to drive a car? For me, the first skill I had to learn was how to coordinate my both legs (the left leg for the clutch pedal [you don’t have this, if you drive a “matic”]; the right leg for the brake pedal and the accelerator pedal), with my both hands (the left hand for the gearshift stick; the right for the steering wheel). Well, I know, actually, there is a lot more that my legs and hands need to learn to do. However, to put it simply, for me the secret of a good driving is to know “the right move, on the right time, with the right push.” You can feel the impact in the whole car if one of these three aspects is not “right.” When you are comfortable with this, the only thing left is to determine how much push you give on the accelerator pedal (this, I admit, is where I’m very weak; those who know me always tease me: “It will take forever to get there if you drive.” Oh well, I take it as a compliment, though).

Somehow I began to think that praying or making petitions to God is like learning to drive. After all these years journeying with God, I still need to learn about “the right move, on the right time, with the right push.” There are opposite extremes taught by spiritual teachers (or by those who believe to be so). Some teach that we need to insist boldly what we want from God. If necessary, so they teach, tell God every single detail in your petition. This is not for God, since God is all-knowing, but for us, to help us realize how dependent we are to God. Others teach just the opposite. They teach that we don’t even ask for anything at all. Just trust God who already knows everything about us. The former position is criticized as being too picky towards God, or even too pretentious. The latter is criticized as being too lame toward God, or even too ignorant about our own needs. Therefore it is not always crystal clear what to say when people ask me about this. However, I’m tempted to say: “Just think about driving.”

There are times when I need to be slow, but there are also times when I need to be a bit faster. No manual can tell me exactly when I need to shift the gear. No manual can tell everything on how and when to brake. The basic principle rings true: “the right move, on the right time, with the right push.” Forgive me for using such a banal analogy for something so spiritual like making petitions to God. What I’m trying to say is simple. As in driving, each one of us needs to create a certain “bonding” with each car, so too with God. In other words, rather than finding an answer for every single case in praying, I’d rather listen to the dynamics of my own relationship with God. Either I insist “God, you must do this now!” or I trust “God, you know me, do whatever you want,” I do this because of my relationship with God. God is OK with either type of prayer.

Queen Esther has to face a big challenge, a life-threatening danger. So she insists: “Come to my help, for I am alone and have no one but you, Lord!” Jesus directs us on the same path: to ask, search, and knock. In other words, Jesus is telling me: “Deshi, whenever you need something from me, never hesitate to come to me. I will always answer!” Wow! What a guarantee! However, in case I might think that I am allowed to ask for anything whatsoever from God, and be given, Jesus gives a clear reminder. God the Father in heaven will always give what is “good.” So, I hear God telling me: “Deshi, here is the deal. Anytime you ask for what is good, search for what is good, knock for what is good, and when what you think to be good really conforms to what I think to be good, trust Me, I will always, always, always give it to you. The how or when is My business, not yours.” Either you insist, or simply not saying much, it doesn’t matter. What really matters is that conformity between you and God in terms of what is good. The “good” will determine what is “right” to do when I make petitions to God. Yes, “the right move, on the right time, with the right push.” The next time you drive, think about your prayer life. Happy praying!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tiny Sign of Hope

“Tiny Sign of Hope”
Lent 2009 – Day 7 (Mar 4)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Talking about the child within? Well, let me tell you this. Beside my pillow, there are Nemo and Dory. Yes, I sleep with fish! My favorite scene in the movie "Finding Nemo" is when Marlin is in a deep crisis and wants to give up, believing that he will never find back his son Nemo. Dory, the blue fish with short-term memory problem, tries her best (you can hear the funny voice of Ellen DeGeneres here). This is my favorite line said by Dory to the frustrated Marlin: “…And-and I look at you, and I... I'm home! Please. I don't want that to go away. I don't want to forget…” Without knowing, Dory has been able to overcome her short-term memory problem simply by being with Marlin. For me this is a beautiful scene that shows how imperfect persons can go beyond the barrier in each one of them simply by sharing the slightest hope that still remains. For Dory, this tiny sign of hope is that as long as Marlin is around, she can remember certain things!

Jonah is not a perfect prophet at all. He ran away the first time he heard God’s call. The beauty in this story is that God doesn’t give up on Jonah. God tries again, and this time Jonah obeys. Not only that. That fragile prophet simply gives a warning: “Folks, only forty days left!” To his surprise, those words turn out to be powerful. All have to repent! (I can’t help thinking of those poor animals that suddenly have to fast!). Imagine the life in the city of Nineveh during those fasting days. Those days are filled with little story-telling here and there. Those days become special because they simply hold on to the tiny sign of hope that still remains. “Who knows, if we repent, God will not condemn us,” so they think. They aren’t even sure about what God would do to them. Here we see something very beautiful. Something, I believe, that God did on purpose in order to teach Jonah. Here we see how repentance becomes the only hope of life. The choice between persisting in sin and repenting from sin becomes the choice between death and life.

In the time of Jesus, people around Him seem to have lost their ability to see such tiny sign of hope. Repentance has become, so to speak, a cheap business. In the free market of life out there, the call to repentance doesn’t sell easily. In a sense, that is the situation in which we live today. How often we dream of a spectacular experience of repentance? Only “if” I hear that famous preacher, I will be touched deeply to repent. Only “if” I see a miracle in my brother’s life, I will repent. Only “if” God can really erase poverty from the face of the earth, I will repent. Only “if” there is a dramatic improvement in the stock market, I will certainly repent. The list can go on and on. Just think about the many “ifs” in your life. Or, simply think of all the “ifs” you have told yourself during these first days of Lent. You don’t need any more signs. The very fact that you are alive is a sign from God that you are still granted enough time to repent. It is the tiny sign of hope to which you should cling: repent!


“A Big YES”
Lent 2009 – Day 6 (Mar 3)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

One of my favorite photos of my childhood is the one showing my Dad and me. I had just accidentally bumped my head on a wall (you know, reckless kid). It hurt and I wept loudly. My Dad immediately ran to me, embraced me tightly, lifted me, and held me close to his chest. I was actually big enough to receive that unexpectedly special care. The photo tells a lot. I was weeping and shyly looked at the camera (please don’t laugh if you look at my forehead in that photo), while my Dad was smiling, looking at me, and pointing his finger to the camera. Every time I look at it, I can hear all kinds of encouraging words: It’s OK. Don’t worry. Take courage… Now in my forties, I believe that what my Dad did was simply showing his trust in me. He showed me that within my body as a boy, he already saw a man who can cope with any challenges in life.

God has trust in me. Through Isaiah, we hear that any words coming from God’s mouth will never fail to do God’s will. It’s so amazing. What a trust! First, there is trust in the power of God’s own words, but secondly, there is also trust in our human ability to receive those very words. Knowing how fragile we are, humanly speaking, God should never have any trusts whatsoever in us. That’s not the case with God I believe in. God trusts me, because God sees me as a good person, even if right now my life is in such a mess. Whenever I bumped my head on a wall because of my recklessness in life, God will just smile and invite me to look ahead. Yes, there is hope for me, because God has trust in me.

Jesus challenges his disciples. Many people believe that they should add more and more words in their prayers in order to make God hear. This is so humiliating for God. After all, God is the all-knowing. We sometimes do this because we don’t trust God. We have a serious doubt about God’s sincerity in loving us. To counter this we are taught not only to let God do whatever God wants. We pray “your will be done, on earth as in heaven.” By saying this, we beg that heaven and earth shall meet. What a bold prayer. To put it simply, I pray that God’s trust will embrace my distrust. So whenever I ask myself “Will I ever become a better person?” the answer is a big YES. And guess what? That big YES comes faster from God’s mouth than from ours. This is indeed good news for you and me.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Fighting Negligence

"Fighting Negligence"
Lent 2009 – Day 5 (Mar 2)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

A very dear person whom I always cherish affectionately in my heart gave me a new rosary. But, there is more. She also gave me a small pocket to keep the rosary, and with her own hands she made on it simple embroidery of my initials T A D R. I was touched by her sincere care and love. From then on, the rosary inside the pocket has almost become inseparable “attire” together with my glasses, watch, wallet, keys, and handkerchief wherever I go. (Well, I should honestly confess, that the list should also include my two mobile phones!). I thought that I would keep it for the rest of my life, but I was wrong. On a road trip I lost the pocket.

I lost a very precious gift from a very precious person who had stamped her presence, care, and love on it. I know she was hurt, and I still feel an aching shame about it. However, she gave me right away a new pocket for my rosary. This time there is no embroidery, but knowing my tendency toward negligence, she had sewn a button to make it easier for me to keep the pocket safely closed. That experience taught me a great deal about the harmful effect of negligence.

Negligence, or omission, is not less serious than action. So we say at the beginning of Mass: “…in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do…” The final judgment in Matthew speaks precisely about negligence: “…in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me…” If I can clearly tell how much pain I have inflicted on the person I love by my negligence, so much more is the pain we can inflict on Jesus by our negligence. Sin is not only about “the bad we commit,” but also “the good we omit.” In other words, if I know that I have to do what is good and necessary, but I don’t do it, I sin before God. I knew, and I wanted to keep the pocket, but when I fell asleep, I neglected what I should have done with the precious pocket. People in the Gospel know and want to do good to Jesus, but they neglect because they do not recognize Jesus in the poor and the outcast whom they meet daily.

If you are a mother and you know that you have to give your daughter a medicine, but due to a long conversation on the phone with your pal you forget to do it, you sin! If as a priest I know that I have to prepare my Sunday homily, but because I was absorbed in my favorite TV show and forget to do it, I definitely sin! A long phone conversation or watching your favorite movie in itself is not necessarily a sin. Your negligence to do what is good (here, to give medicine to your sick daughter or to prepare a Sunday homily) is certainly a sin. And on, and on, and on…you can name your own negligence.

There is more. When we neglect to do what is good, we neglect to do it to Jesus. My negligence hurts Him who has stamped her presences, care, and love in other persons we meet, no matter how their appearance is. In this case, negligence is a negligence to love. My lost rosary pocket, your sick daughter, your desk where you prepare your Sunday homily, and many simple things and persons around us, if we are attentive enough, cry aloud to remind us of our call to love. The conversion in this area is possible. It is offered right into your heart by Jesus during this Lent.

For any hurts and wounds caused by my negligence, I beg your forgiveness, and I pray God to do the healing.