Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sixth Sense

“Sixth Sense”
Easter 2009 – Day 01 (Easter Sunday)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Look back at those intense days during the Holy Week (or Passion Week). We are so engaged with God through our senses. We smell the incense, eat His Body, drink His Blood, feel His touch as He washed our feet and wipe them, look at Him in agony in the Gethsemane, look at Him hanging on the Cross, kiss His wounds, see the darkness, see the new fire, see the new light from Easter candle, hear the joyful invitation to rejoice, see the newly baptized, feel the water sprinkled on our skin. As a good friend of mine said, “Roman Catholics come at full force through symbols during these days!” Yes, those symbols speak to us through our senses. God knows how to relate to us humanly!

As we stand in the empty tomb and look at the folded linen, we are faced with so many questions. This is the time when God wants to go further with us. It is the beginning for us to use our sixth sense. Yes, we go beyond our five senses. Yes, we go deeper into our hearts. Yes, we look deeper beyond the wounds on His hands, feet, and side. Resurrection is the celebration of our sixth sense. Or, more precisely, we can only celebrate the victorious Easter Sunday with our sixth sense enforced by that power of love!

These days are called the Octave of Easter. We want to extend the joy of Easter by shouting loudly “Hallelu-Jah!” We want to develop our sixth sense to be aware that He is indeed risen, alive, at work, and always present near us, even if we don’t always realize this with our five senses. Have a great victory with Jesus!

Incomplete Journey

“Incomplete Journey”
Lent 2009 – Day 40 (Apr 11); Holy Saturday

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Here we are, right at the very last day, Day 40, of our Lenten journey. At the beginning I had a dream to faithfully write meditation every day. Yet, as you can clearly tell, I’ve not been able to do that. The last thirteen days were so messed-up. With trips and other issues to handle, I have always been behind the target. At first I was so upset with myself. But, honestly, I was upset for a very clear reason: I wasn’t able to give my best to some of you who were walking with me along this journey. The darker side of it is also clear: I was upset because I wasn’t able to present myself as a good spiritual writer. I know, my intention is still stained with some need for self-glorification, and I do apologize for this.

Later on, however, I became at peace with this. A beautiful lesson I learned from God is precisely on this point: conversion journey is always an incomplete journey, and it does not fully depend on me. Conversion can only take place because God’s grace works out my incompleteness. If any of these short spiritual notes has ever deeply touched you, it is certainly God’s work. If what you find is dryness, have no doubt, it is because I was not always attuned to the works of God’s Spirit in the process of writing.

Holy Saturday is always awkward. In Indonesian we call it something like “Silent Saturday.” It is silent because we are no longer with the living Jesus, but not yet with the risen Jesus. We may not always realize this, since we are usually busy heading to the Easter Vigil. Silent Saturday is what we experience quite often in our daily life. We are in an uncertain ground. Yet, we need to stay there. We need to go through this stage if we really want to get at the victorious Sunday. Silent Saturday is a good reminder that our conversion journey is indeed always incomplete. Only when we meet God face to face we can call it complete!

Kissing Our Guilt

“Kissing Our Guilt”
Lent 2009 – Day 39 (Apr 10); Good Friday

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

[This is actually my homily on Good Friday which I delivered in Indonesian. Believe it or not, it was also the first time for me to preside at a Good Friday Liturgy]. Do you want to hear a terrible bad news? I’ve got one for you. Here it is: we have lost something precious, and we are not aware of it! What is this something very precious? Our sense of guilt! Yes, in the name of human self-fulfillment, we have become more and more allergic to the healthy and necessary sense of guilt. Why is it so? First, we have learned so well how to manipulate others by purposely incur the sense of guilt so that we can gain what we want. Look at relationship between a young man and his girlfriend. This young man can play and get what he wants from his girlfriend simply by replaying again the litany of her mistakes in the past. “Oh I see, you forgot to call me because you don’t love me anymore!” “Oh well, you always prefer your family to me!” “Right, your exam is more important than my love to you!” and on and on and on. That’s why we have no clue of what a healthy and necessary sense of guilt should be.

Second, we keep asking others to understand us. Look at the streets in Jakarta. When it rains, motor bikers will stop under the fly over right at the busy cross street, or just in the under pass tunnel. They don’t care if hundreds of cars are slowed down. All lanes are practically blocked by the parked motor cycles! Or, just look at how people stop at the traffic light. Many of them don’t care if they stop at the far left lane which is supposed for those who want to turn left. The result! All other cars behind are blocked, since there are some drivers who don’t want to wait. When they are reminded, either they get angry, or they show their miserable faces. Whatever they do, it is clear, that implicitly they say, “Please, understand me!” “Please, understand us, it is raining, and we need shelter!” “Please, understand me, I don’t have time to wait in the line!” and on and on and on. What they actually say is, “I’m not wrong! Why do you make a big case out of it?” No wonder, we have really lost our sense of guilt.

Third, we have become excellent liars against ourselves. We know that what we do is wrong, but we can cleverly find excuses, even spiritual and pious ones, that at night before going to bed, we can tap on our own shoulders and say, “Don’t worry, everything is OK!” and go to bed peacefully. This, I think, is the most serious one. Many of us have even begun to see that what is so wrong is OK! Just look at the good and beautiful and logical and theological and spiritual and psychological explanations about your wrong doings. How many times do we really say and admit honestly “Yes, I’m wrong”? Look at how easily we justify ourselves simply by saying, “Well, it just happened!” By saying this, we actually say, “I was not wrong. It was stronger than me. I was just a victim!” How many times we can say plainly, “Yes, I did it, and I know it was so wrong”?

Now, do you want to hear a soothing good news? I’ve got one for you. Here it is: even if we have lost our sense of guilt, even if we can’t say anymore “I’m wrong” or “I’m sorry,” there is a man like us, with flesh and blood who is willing to do it for us, even if this man is totally blameless. His name is Jesus! He is always willing to bear the burden of our mistakes. We even let Him do this. He lost His beautiful figure. He became so unlike any other human beings. We don’t want to look at Him! Yet, on Good Friday, we do exactly this: walking to the crucified and pay respect to Him. Some would touch, while others would kiss.

We do this not with a pity to that Man, but with a pity to ourselves. We kiss not only His wounds, but our own wounds. We don’t want to embrace our sense of guilt and let Him do this by being so inhumanly disfigured, nailed, wounded, and pierced. Yes, when I kiss His wounds, I actually kiss my long lost sense of guilt! Jesus will look from the cross and say gently, “When will you embrace back your healthy and necessary sense of guilt?”

Two Birthdays

“Two Birthdays”
Lent 2009 – Day 38 (Apr 09); Holy Thursday

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

In Italian we say “Buon Compleanno” which literally means “Good completion of [another] year. In French we say “Bonne Anniversaire” which comes from the same linguistic root that means “year.” In German we have “Geburstag” which is actually very close to our English “Birthday.” Honestly, I prefer the expression in English or German or any other languages which clearly points out the notion of “birth” and not simply that of “[another] year.” When you see a form in English, you will be asked to fill in your DoB, Date of Birth! And so every year, we simply add up the year while maintaining the date and month of our DoB. In fact, I always think that Birthday is a day about “birth,” not about “another year.”

Every year Roman Catholics have a celebration of two birthdays. On Holy Thursday, as we gather to remember the Last Supper, we celebrate the birthdays of two sacraments: the Eucharist and the Priesthood. When Jesus said “This is My Body” and “This is My Blood” He established the Priesthood and the Eucharist. For us priests, of course, this is a very special day! It reminds us about ourselves and our ministry to preside the Eucharist.

We also reenact the washing of the feet. But, notice well, the Gospel actually tells about two important actions: Jesus washed their feet, and after that Jesus wiped their feet dry. It is a big thing to bring people to conversion, but it should not end here. To help people grow is another thing. How many of us stop with the washing of the feet and forget to wipe them dry. When you wash your feet and with wet feet you just walk away, you will end up with more dirt on your feet! Moms know this well when she reminds her kids to wash their feet before bed.

So, you actually have to pose these two questions to yourselves: “Have I let Jesus wash my feet?” and “Have I let Jesus wipe my feet dry?” Then, you also need to ask: “Have I washed others’ feet?” and “Have I wiped others’ feet dry?” Conversion and growth should go together. This is what we see every year on Holy Thursday. In other words, every year, on Holy Thursday we celebrate the birth of our “yes” to Jesus to participate in His ministry of loving, serving, giving, and forgiving.

Road Trip

“Road Trip”
Lent 2009 – Day 37 (Apr 08)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I returned from the US in 2004. Since then, among other things, what I’ve been missing is the experience of road trip. My memories of driving across California came back when I drove from Jakarta to Bandung, and then back to Jakarta. It took me three hours to get there and four to get back. While I was driving along one among the newest highways in West Java, I realized one thing: I have never driven such a distance by myself. That was so far the longest drive alone I’ve ever had in my entire life. Yet, I enjoyed my time. I had a lot of time to process and get in touch again with myself.

As you know, the tricky thing in driving along highways is to know the exact moment to change lane. The first command that operates automatically in our mind is: get the fastest lane. So changing lane always means leaving the lane where the drive can be slowed down, and entering another lane where we can speed up. Getting slowed down is considered a bad thing. Just remember when in front of you there is a very slow car.

The second command is: get a better view. By this, we don’t want to keep driving behind a big trailer or bus. Why? They just block our view. For this reason, even if the other lane is slower, we can decide to change lane to get a better view. Driving slowly is still better than driving without a good view ahead.

All this driving experience took place just shortly before the Holy Thursday. It became a symbol for me. Here we are, Roman Catholics, remember and honor a Man who decidedly took the slowest lane! To gain power, He chose the lowest rank in society. Not only that, He decidedly enter into a journey where everything seems to block His way. This block is a lot bigger than the biggest trailer or bus ever existed. This block is my sin.

Yes, we want to follow that Man on the slowest lane with a big block in front of us. The good news is: there is assurance that we keep driving forward with Him. With Jesus, the slowest lane is actually the fastest, and the blocked view is actually the clearest.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Saved by Coins

“Saved by Coins”
Lent 2009 – Day 36 (Apr 07)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I brought back my Italian friend to the hotel. He put some more stuffs in his luggage. We said “arrivederci,” and I watched him leaving the hotel in a Silver Bird taxi. I looked at my watch, and I didn’t want to get caught in the afternoon traffic. Then the nightmare! I looked at my wallet, there was not much cash. Even worse, the hotel has no ATM! What should I do? I asked the guy to check with the parking gate man. After a series of phone calls, he said, “Sir, you will have to pay Rp 16,000. [Well, that’s just a bit more than one US dollar!]. I walked slowly to my car (remember Naomi?), hoping for the best. Luckily I still kept the small purse. Coins! I counted, added with some bills left in my wallet, and got Rp 16,500 total! Yes, I wanted to give my best kiss to those coins that saved my life! So embarrassing! I drove out of a luxurious hotel and paying the parking toll with coins. Yet, deep in my heart, I was so grateful.

Looking at my life, doesn’t it look just the same? I have my car key, my car works well, the gasoline is still near the full line, but I simply can’t use it and go out of the building. There are times in our lives, I believe, that we find ourselves in a very good situation, but when we want to move on, we realize that we are stuck. Honestly, for me during those few minutes, that beautiful hotel was simply a prison! I even had a slight regret that I had ever parked my car Naomi there!

How much in our lives we have similar experiences? How often what we consider beautiful and perfect can turn in a matter of seconds into a nightmare? My heart and my sympathy go to those people who were hit by the rushing water from the collapsed dam recently. Yes, life is so fragile. Moments like that always remind me of how temporary my life is. I just don’t know how much time I still have. No one knows.

The good news is clear. God can come in simple things just like those coins! When things go well I don’t appreciate them so much. Yet I know, even a small coin of a small value can bring me to freedom. Now look for those small coins in your life. Who knows, God is there waiting for you.

Excellent Liar

“Excellent Liar”
Lent 2009 – Day 35 (Apr 06)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

People have been debating for ages on the so-called “white lies.” Is it OK to lie for a good reason? Can the benefit pursued justify the lie? Where is the limit between the “white” and the “black” lie? Others argue, that white lie doesn’t mean that you tell what is not true, but you don’t tell the whole truth. In other words, you don’t really lie, but you simply hold back some truth. So here we are. When a husband is asked by his wife, “Where were you?” he simply says “I was at the office.” Sure, he was at the office. But this is not the whole truth. What he actually did at the office is another story. In other words, he said the truth, but he holds some of it. He does not lie to his wife, but he does lie to himself. This is a lot more damaging!

Honestly, this is one of my biggest fears in my spiritual journey. The more I know about faith, or God, or religion, or spirituality, the bigger the danger for me to lie to myself. I can cleverly justify and argue with myself what sin really means. I can write pages of good meditation to convince myself that everything is OK, while everybody else can see clearly that it is not so. This is the case with Judas Iscariot. He tells the truth, that the ointment that Mary used for Jesus is very expensive. He tells the truth, that it can be sold and the money can be given to the poor. Here we see a man who has really become an excellent liar, and the victim is himself. He feels that he plays it safe, but he is destroying himself. How sad.

These days we are invited to look at that Man, Jesus, who holds on the whole truth and strives hard to make us see again what it means to be human beings. So, look for the lies in your heart and bring them to light. That’s the first step to go to the resurrection.

Hotel Receptionist

“Hotel Receptionist”
Lent 2009 – Palm Sunday Year B (Apr 05)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I picked up my friend from Italy at the hotel. He had to check-out and go with me for the Psalm Sunday at the nearest Jesuit parish. I saw those young ladies at the reception desk. For the first time I was impressed by them. Not so much by their beauty (although this is also true), as by their perseverance to remain standing all the time! Out of curiosity I looked for any chair behind the desk. None! I wondered how long each shift is, and I was marveled by the fact that who ever is on the job, she or he has to stand and be alert. They are also at the front line of the hotel. Just next to us, there was a guest checking-out, but for some reason his voice rose of anger. The lady spoke calmly, always with a smile, and soon the problem was solved. I began to see this as a charism of a receptionist.

As Jesus walked by on that street entering the Jerusalem gate, I wonder how the people really saw Him. How many of them pushed their way to be as near as possible to that Man and shouted as loud as possible “Hosanna to the King!” Many did see Him coming, but not all of them were alert. Many wanted to be near, but not all of them wanted to stand at the front line all the time! Many were eager to “talk” about Him, but not all of them were really willing to “walk” with Him. Many put down their clothes and palm branches, but not all of them put down their pride. Many were “cheerful” for that solemn procession, while in reality their “cheerfulness” served to veil their “fearfulness.” The day is coming closer. We are called to talk less and walk more.

The frontline is where we find ourselves striving to stand firm in the midst of false judgments, accusations, and suspicions. It can happen any time, any where, any how. Just keep standing. We need that charism of a receptionist in order to persevere in our faith journey.

Mall Janitor

“Mall Janitor”
Lent 2009 – Day 34 (Apr 04)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Back to the mall! Let’s go to the restrooms. Sure enough, we will find the janitors. You can tell the quality of the mall by looking at how the janitors are. I’m impressed by the janitors who keep cleaning the restroom. For my standard, sometimes it is even a lot cleaner than my own bedroom! Yet, he keeps wiping, drying, cleaning. It must be written in his job descriptions. Their job is to look at the smallest dirt, or water drops, or stains, and clean it right away. In order to do this, they have to be trained and therefore they have a greater awareness of the uncleanness.

Why clean if it is not dirty? Why fix if it is not broken? Why renew our life if it is still good? This is what I often ask. Conversion will never happen, unless God gives me a new awareness of the uncleanness in me. As long as I think that it is not dirty, I will never clean it. I have other plans to do, and I go for it.

Sometimes I compare myself with some fellow priests. They look calm, orderly, human, happy, responsible, and honest. At times simply encountering some fellow priests can be a gentle reminder from God. It is as if I have to realize that my own bedroom is a lot dirtier than the restrooms at the mall!

It’s true, as it has often been said, that to err is human, but to forgive is divine. The most difficult person to forgive is my own self. Why? I don’t always want to recognize the uncleanness within me. The good news, God is willing to be that responsible janitor and right now is waiting in front of my bedroom door. If Lent is like training time to develop a new awareness, will I now let Him in?

Pretty Woman

“Pretty Woman”
Lent 2009 – Day 33 (Apr 03)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I arrived safely at the airport and walked directly to the gate. The person who had invited me would pick me up there. Well, the truth was, we didn’t really know each other, for we had only met once some months earlier. I walked slowly, tried hard to guess which one was my host. I got near the parking lot, and I couldn’t find him. As I reached my cell phone in my pocket, I had a sense that the crowd suddenly grew in excitement. I looked up, and there she was. No wonder, a pretty woman was passing by. People behind me commented, “She must be a model.” Yes, she was tall, slim, walked nicely, and most of all she was too aware that people were staring at her. For a split second I forgot that I had to make a phone call. I did it, and you know, my host was just five steps away in front of me. [I hope he didn’t notice that my jaw dropped when the pretty woman was passing by. Oh, well…].

Then I realized that I was wearing my red baseball cap. I couldn’t recognize him and his wife, and they couldn’t recognize me either. There we were, confused, trying to recognize each other, while other people around us were attracted by the pretty woman. It made me think hard. How attractive is Jesus for me? Well, honestly, is Jesus still very attractive? What about this first Friday? All we see is that pierced side of Jesus from which flow only blood and water. There is nothing special, and it is totally unattractive. But why do we, Roman Catholics, still consider the first Friday every month (and more so during Lent) to be so special?

When we look at Jesus’ side we actually see that Jesus is not the focus. His focus is us. Unlike any pretty models that inevitably are really “attention-getters,” Jesus is attractive because He is really an “attention-giver.” So as I look at His heart I actually look at myself. It is for His love for me that He let His heart be pierced. I think, when I become a sincere attention-giver, I can beat the attractiveness of any super models ever exist on this globe.

Keeping the Promise

“Keeping the Promise”
Lent 2009 – Day 32 (Apr 02)

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Priests are human too. Strangely, for some, it’s hard to accept. If you know me well and live in the same house, you will immediately know what I mean. Yes, we priests, make mistakes, ranging from simply oversleeping and thus coming late to say Mass, to agreeing to preside a wedding for two different couples in two different churches at the same time! Yet, people keep coming to us priests and ask for our prayers.

A senior priest jokingly said to a group of lay audience, “When your priest says, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ don’t believe him. He won’t do it. There are too many people asking him for prayers, and he can hardly remember each of them.” I can relate to this. Sometimes I can only say in my prayer, “God, I don’t remember who exactly has asked for my prayers and what petitions they have. But I want to keep my promise, and so I offer all of them to You.”

Breaking a promise is a lot easier than making it! This is certainly true with us humans, but not with God. The beauty is this: God knows that we will break our promise to Him, and that’s why God always keeps His promise to us! Yes, I said, “that’s why.” Our inability to keep our promise is the reason for God to keep His promise. After all, in terms of keeping promise before God, we are helpless! What a wonderful God we have.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Parliamo Italiano

“Parliamo Italiano”
Lent 2009 – Day 31 (Apr 01)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

An old friend from Rome is in town. I had a dinner with him last night at the hotel where he stays. Driving through the heavy traffic, I made some mental exercises. After several years away from Italy, I had to pick up the language quickly. Then one big question came. How should I greet him? Of course a hug is the most natural thing Italians would do, but how? Americans would give one’s right side of the body as they hug. I vaguely remembered that with some French friends I used to give “a package of three”: left-right-left cheek. I was not sure about how Italians do it: is it left first, and then right? When I met him, I gave my hug, but without realizing it, I mixed it with the American way: right first, then left! Thank God, my friend didn’t embarrass me. Later as we exchanged stories at table, I kept stumbling, trying hard to find back the right Italian words to say. I was not really free as I used to be when I was still in Rome (well, eleven years have passed since I left).

Being free is not simply a matter of knowing, but more than that, it is a matter of personal engagement. No wonder Jesus had a hard time to tell His listeners, “The truth will make you free.” This is not the truth that one can read in a book. Even in the Bible you can’t find this truth. King Nebuchadnezzar couldn’t understand the truth that made Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego so free and willing to prefer the fiery furnace! Yes, this is about truth rooted in personal engagement with God. Each one of us will find it personally in a very unique way.

Even if last night I could rather proudly make those close to our table really hear that “parliamo italiano” (we speak Italian), I was not really free. I still know the language and the culture, but I miss my personal engagement. For me, Jesus’ words now sound, “Deshi, do you want to know the truth that will set you free? Just let yourself be deeply engaged with Me.” In other words, I can be free only by being chained to God’s love!

Precious Defect

“Precious Defect”
Lent 2009 – Day 30 (Mar 31)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

We have an old TV set, with screen that immediately feels too small when nine pairs of eyes are focused on it. If you are not familiar with it, be very careful when you turn it on. Once it is on, the volume will reach its peak, loud enough to wake the whole house up and you will nervously push the volume button to decrease it. With good familiarity you will know how to do it right. You simply need to follow a certain procedure, combining two remote controls, one for the cable device, and one for the TV set. In any case, at least, every now and then, with such sudden loud noise, we can be sure that the TV set is still there and still works. The sign of its presence is precisely its defect!

In the desert the Israelites had to accept the fact that they were not in a nice air-conditioned room with puffy sofas and a big pitcher of cold iced lemon tea. Food and drink in the desert are certainly unlike the ones you find on a restaurant menu. Walking in the desert was always walking with all the defects. In fact, all the defects clearly showed that they were really moving forward, not backward to Egypt. The defects in the journey were actually good signs. Now think of the Cross. Christians even proudly lift it up to tell the whole world that this disgusting defect is indeed our good sign. All the imperfections in you right now are signs of your moving forward and signs that you still exist.

Go to a factory outlet and you will most probably find stuffs with all the hidden defects. Yet when you see the slight defect, you can still convince yourself that it’s OK. Why? Because at least you can join the high class celebrities who walk around with their Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Armani, Salvatore Ferragamo, Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, and other big legends. You don’t focus on the defect, since you want to embrace the big names attached on it. No one doubts that the Cross is the nastiest defect, yet we choose it, knowing that a really big name is attached to it, and his name is Jesus!

Good Questions

“Good Questions”
Lent 2009 – Day 29 (Mar 30)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I was a young priest and student in Rome. After some struggles I finally picked the topic I wanted to work on for my Licentiate thesis. So I courageously approached one professor. Yes, it took courage to talk to that so-called “cold-blooded” professor! With his mysterious smile he said: “Make a good question!” That was it. Weeks passed and I found it so difficult to make a good question. I struggled a lot to get my thesis done in time. Some years later, when I began to engage myself in writing, teaching, and directing my students’ theses, the wisdom of my professor became clear. Yes, a good question is necessary to help us have a clear mind. My students know it well and I can tell that a good paper is always based on a good question. If we can make a good question, it means that actually we already know half of the answer.

Good communication is often times based on the ability to make a good question. Daniel knew this, and his question was simple and sharp, “Under what tree were Susanna and her presumed secret boyfriend found?” A question like this saved Susanna’s life. Good question can be life-sustaining and life-giving! The woman who had been caught in adultery was left alone with Jesus. As if to go deeper to the woman’s heart, Jesus simply asked, “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?” Of course Jesus already knew the answer. Yet it was a lot more than a simple rhetoric. Good question is life-giving.

A mother was furious after she had found some drugs in her teen daughter’s closet. She began to bombard her daughter with stupid questions, “Who gave you this? Why did you lie to me? How long have you been taking drugs? Have you wasted my money? Are you so stupid?” And on and on and on…! Communication went bad! Following an advice from her spiritual director, she learned to make better questions. She tried to start with a question of love with a gentle voice, “Do you really feel that I love you so much?” With this, the whole climate is changed, trust is developed, and openness is easy. Yes, good questions are indeed life-giving.

Earlier Flight

“Earlier Flight”
Lent 2009 – Fifth Sunday Year B (Mar 29)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I arrived early at the airport for my return flight. Being so uplifted, I gave my best smile to the young lady at the check-in counter who also gave her best smile only to say, “Your flight will be an hour late, Sir.” My smile disappeared immediately. I moved to another counter to get an earlier flight. The man wrote down my name on the waiting list and said, “Please come back in half an hour, Sir” Later on I nervously stood in front of the counter, hoping against all hopes. Finally the verdict was announced, “No seat for you, Sir. This flight is already full.” I angrily moved to the previous counter, got my boarding pass, and waited with other angry passengers. [Well, I was lucky to have friends who in the meantime picked me up, treated me at a good Chinese restaurant, and dropped me back at the airport].

Looking back at how desperate I was to get a seat with the earlier flight, I can’t help asking, “I had my ticket confirmed, but why did I still fight for my fortune with an earlier flight, knowing that my chance was actually close to zero?” I did it because I wanted to beat the airplane company! Yes, we do funny and silly things when we face the probability of a long wait. It is even funnier if I compare it with my spiritual life. There I do exactly the opposite. No need to rush to become a better person! If possible, get the very last flight with many possible delays! The longer the delay, the more I feel secure.

The Israelites kept delaying themselves by continuously breaking the covenant with God. Surprisingly, God responded by making a new covenant with them and writing the Law in their hearts! No more explanations needed. When our hearts are deeply touched, we don’t even have the slightest idea of delaying. Since we don’t do it naturally, Jesus had to do the first move. He didn’t delay, knowing perfectly that a grain of wheat had to fall and die in order to live and to be life-giving. A delay would mean death for many people. If options are still open for you, choose the earlier flight, even the first one when it is still dark! Ironically, in spiritual life, we do funny and silly things for fear of being so early with God!

Poor Cab Driver

“Poor Cab Driver”
Lent 2009 – Day 28 (Mar 28)

By Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I took a cab to rush to the airport earlier this morning. Well, nothing new, just getting late, again! [Guess what? As if just for a change, the flight has just been delayed! I’m typing this at the airport]. Once I hopped in, the cab driver told me about the nightmare he had just had. He had the night shift, and since 3 a.m. I was his first passenger! The radio communication didn’t work at all. A computer error disrupted the whole system. Usually by the time I hopped in, he had had four or five trips in between.

[I had to stop typing. You know why the flight was delayed? The co-pilot came late due to some ground transportation problems. Whatever that was, I had to board the airplane, and since then, five days have passed]. What a symbolic picture of my relationship with God. As with the operator from the central office, God has always been busy to contact me. I have been busy waiting to listen to God’s voice. Strangely, God can’t reach me, and I can’t hear the voice. So here I am, wandering with no clear sense of where to go and what to do, and none the less, blaming God, the operator at the central office, for not giving me clear orders!

Among many other computer errors in my communication with God, I can see one: I’m so sure that I already know so much about God! Jesus found the same problem in his opponents. They knew so much about how the Messiah was supposed to be, and unconsciously kept filtering Jesus with what they knew. Jesus who knew a lot better was treated like an ignorant lamb being led to the slaughter-house! What an irony! Yes, I am in fact that poor cab driver. Instead of blaming God, I need to fix my heart’s computer, by humbly saying: “Jesus, here I am, I don’t want to filter you with my knowledge. Help me to let you love me deeply.”