Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Story of Our Life Belt

This is the homily I delivered at the Expatriate Community Mass at St. Theresia Church this afternoon.


"The Story of Our Life Belt"
Deshi Ramadhani, SJ
Expatriate Community, Holy Thursday Mass, April 1, 2010

I bought a leather belt more than ten years ago when I was still a student. This is how it looks now: a bit deformed, but still good. I believe that each belt has recorded in itself our life story. As you can see, out of five holes, three have been used. One was used when I was ten kilograms heavier than I am now. The other was when I was for a very short period ten kilograms less than I am now. And the middle hole is for how I am now. In other words, along the way, I had to decide which hole would fit best for me, not too loose, not too tight, but just right.

The first reading and the Gospel today speak about some sort of belt. In the first reading, we have that image of the Israelites getting ready for the flight from Egypt. The promise of freedom is right there before their eyes, soon to be fulfilled. “This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight.” In our modern language, “with your loins girt” means “with your belt rightly buckled around your waist, not too loose, not too tight, but just right.

Belt, or girded waist, speaks loudly about readiness. So here is the pun: you are ready for the flight only when your waist is tied. Time is so limited. You will loose it if you still need to look for your belt, to take it, to put it around your waist, and to tie it rightly. Freedom should come from being tied. Running away from the slavery in Egypt does not mean that they will never be tied any more at all. True freedom requires a certain amount of being tied.

What about Jesus? “He rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist.” Jesus ties himself with the towel around his waist as if it were a belt. So, again, belt speaks loudly about readiness. Jesus, who is completely free, lets himself to be tied. He wants to show us, that true freedom should be celebrated from our being tied. The challenge is just the same. One needs to do it right: not too loose, not too tight, but just right.

Yes, belt speaks loudly about readiness. But there is something more with Jesus. He uses towel. He wants not only to wash his disciples’ feet, but also to dry them well. If he lets the disciples go with wet feet, soon they will attract more dirt. The washing does not have sense without the wiping. Jesus’ belt, made of towel, speaks loudly not only about his readiness to serve, but also his readiness to serve fully and responsibly.

As it is with belt, so it is with the challenge in our life. I believe that many of us are inspired to serve, to love, to give good examples, and to maintain any other good values. Problem is, we are kind of juggling between “being tied too loosely” and “being tied too tightly.” Some of us may think that the real freedom in serving others is when we can do whatever we want, in whatever way we like, and anytime we want. These people are breaking rules and accepted norms in order to serve. Some of us have our belt too tight, and hence we believe that the only way to serve others is too impose rigid rules and disciplines, to play with dos and donts.

Let us look then to our imaginary life belt. What stories have been recorded there? Which holes have we been using? Are we walking with difficulty as Jesus’ disciples, simply because we either let our life belt too loose, or we make it too tight? Today, we are invited to rewrite our story recorded in our life belt. If we can ask Saint Paul about what story to write, the answer is obvious. We heard it in our second reading. “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” Our story is none other than the death of Jesus. The challenges in our lives to find the right hole in our life belt are like wide doors open to us to touch again that death of Jesus.

The good news for us is clear. Either our life belt is too loose, or too tight, or just right, we can always return to the Eucharist to relearn about our life story, to rewrite it, to find the right hole, or simply to be amazed by how God can indeed write a better story of our life belt. And I do hope that from now on, every time you buckle your belt each morning, you can hear again that invitation to be ready for the true freedom, to serve, and to do it fully and responsibly. God, help us! Amen.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

We Can't Let You Leave

“We Can’t Let You Leave”

Lent 2010 – Day 34b; Palm Sunday, March 28.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Last Tuesday I had to go to Manila. Since this was not my first time, I took the whole thing too easily. I printed my departure ticket on the very last minute before heading to the airport, and didn’t even bother to print my return ticket. Then, the nightmare came. Without the return ticket, the guy on the check-in counter said: “We can’t let you leave.”

I had to make phone calls. The return e-ticket shown on my Blackberry screen was not enough. As I was waiting, that seemed forever, I asked myself: “Why don’t they let me leave?” Luckily the guy at the counter was generous enough to find a solution. I could leave. Yet my question has already been ingrained in my mind.

Thinking of this holy week of Jesus’ passion and death, I began to see a symbolic meaning in my experience. Jesus was willing to suffer because He won’t let me leave. Many times I have thought of freedom which is actually a new kind of bondage in Jesus’ eyes. I have tried to convince Him to let me go, but Jesus has never given in.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

So Disappointing

“So Disappointing”

Lent 2010 – Day 30; Tuesday, March 23.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

God knows how much I have been so disappointing to those I love. I admit that I have made many promises, but I have broken even more. Along the way, I know so much pain and hurt I have inflicted upon others. To be honest, I should have lost all chances of having friends any more, even of being loved by any one.

I have been so disappointing to God too. Want to know what is worse? I don’t easily admit that I’m just that bad. Instead, many times I put the blame on God. When I hurt after I fall, I blame God for not doing His job to protect me. I even wonder if sometimes God completely forgets how to be a real God.

Truth is, I haven’t always been ready for new challenges. I run to others, begging for my healing, while I don’t really admit that I’m sick.

Monday, March 22, 2010

It Feels Good

“It Feels Good”

Lent 2010 – Day 29; Monday, March 22.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Waking up early in the morning has become a real challenge for me. It’s a simple daily exercise to see clearly the difference between “what is good” and “what feels good.” Continuing my sleep certainly feels good, but it is not the good thing to do, since every morning I have to (and I want to) say Mass for my younger Jesuits.

I believe that at the end, the basic challenge in my faith journey is all about knowing the difference between “what is good” and “what feels good.” Once I know the difference, a lot bigger challenge will present itself before me, namely, the daunting question: “What do I choose?” To choose well requires freedom.

Such inner freedom will bring me further. Even if I do what is good for others, I still need to answer honestly: “Whose need is being met here? Others’ or mine?”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Where Is My Car?

“Where Is My Car?”

Lent 2010 – Day 28b; Sunday, March 21.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I went to a mall this afternoon. The first challenge was to find the parking spot. I was not familiar with the parking setting. Finding one free spot was a real challenge. The parking guys were so nice. I mean, they just put a smile, but not helpful at all. Then I found it. I noted the section: P5 22. OK, that’s easy.

When I was done, I walked calmly to P5 22, but my car was not there. Then I realized, that in addition to letters and numbers, there was also color-code. I got to P5 22 Red! Thank God, I could see that the next section was Blue. After some sweats and heart racing, there it was: P5 22 Blue! Stupid? Yes!

Tuning in God’s will is like that: simple and tricky. God is so good with challenges that force me to notice carefully. I’m glad that God keeps challenging me.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Will It Work?

“Will It Work?”

Lent 2010 – Day 28; Saturday, March 20.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Here we are. Busy with noble deeds: fasting, penance, and charity. What else? You name it. Looking back to the beginning of Lent, I can’t help asking myself a threatening question for a man: “Do I have what it takes?” Well, I can get rid of coffee, meat, fish; I even fast on Fridays. But still, something is missing.

I realize that there is no big enemy out there. No one is planning to entrap me. Yet the pain is there. The fear is there. I know that I’m really afraid if this Lent will turn out just like any other years. Just a bit of spiritual highs, and that’s it. Soon enough, I’ll return to my old life. Will it work this time?

Those who know me well might sneer and say: “No, it will never work! So why bother?” Deep within, I can still hear a different voice, saying: “Hang in there!”

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Loud Silence

“The Loud Silence”

Lent 2010 – Day 27; Friday, March 19.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

It is said: “Actions speak louder than words.” When you practice what you preach, people will notice, and the power of words will take effect. I thank God that I’m gifted in dealing with words. This, however, scares me. What if the beautiful words I arrange actually come from my mind? I’m afraid that I can only write, but never do what I write.

Ever count how many words come across your mind in a single day? We can’t think without words. Even if we are silent, words keep flying aggressively in our mind. Wordless silence is hard to achieve. Centuries ago, a man called Adam, was silent. Out of this silence, sins evade. Centuries later, a man called Joseph, was silent too. Out of this silence, blessings flow.

Silence can become loud, since it tells clearly the origin of various words in my mind. This loud silence is the best training camp to choose right.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Learn to Grieve

“Learn to Grieve”

Lent 2010 – Day 26; Thursday, March 18.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I watched the movie “Closing Ring” the other day. Yes, it’s about a ring. But linked to the ring is the whole journey of a woman. For fifty years she has been refusing to grieve over the death of her husband, a gunner of a US Airforce whose airplane crashed in Belfast during the war. A boy found the ring and got it back to her. She eventually visited the site of the crash. It’s only then, for the first time in fifty years, that she cried.

Without planning, I’ve been absent from this blog for two days. My dream of offering a complete set of daily meditation for Lent was crushed. Yet deep in my heart I can hear a gentle calling from God to grieve. I need time to really grieve over my past and present sins, over my stupidity and recklessness, over my defensiveness, and most of all, over the pains and hurts I have inflicted upon so many people, men and women.

God asks me to learn to really grieve. Once I learn to touch and embrace the pains, God’s healing power will flow to me, and in its turn, through me to others.

Monday, March 15, 2010

At Four AM

“At Four AM”

Lent 2010 – Day 23; Monday, March 15.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I was awaken at 4 AM this morning by a text message: “I’ve arrived. Please open the door.” Without thinking twice I sprang out of my bed. I was expecting a good friend of mine, a Jesuit priest from another city. With half-closed eyes I managed to open the gate, but no one was there. I gave him a call, only to hear a calm voice: “I mean, I’ve arrived in the city, and I’ll be there in 15 minutes.”

Those 15 minutes became very precious. I could have had an extra 15 minutes of sleep. But I didn’t dare to put myself in back in bed. Instead, I got ready. Why? Even if he had stolen my precious 15 minutes of extra sleep, I didn’t want to make him wait. If I can be so determined not to let my friend wait, why on earth have I been making Jesus wait so long? Deep in my heart I still feel that echo of the threatening God.

Letting myself enter into God’s heart is a risky business. And letting God enter into my heart is dangerous. But isn’t it the danger that I actually have been longing for?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Misplaced Wallet

“Misplaced Wallet”

Lent 2010 – Day 22b; Sunday, March 14.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I just returned from leading an over-night recollection for a group of laypeople. I quickly packed my things, since I didn’t want to be caught in traffic. Once everything was done, I realized that I couldn’t find my wallet. I searched inside my bags, even under the bed and pillows, and under my car seat. Then a horrible thought: “Has it been stolen?” I decided to take all my clothes out of my backpack, and voila!

What a relief! It was my fault. Yet my first reaction was to put the blame on someone else. I knew there was a deep anger. This sounds so familiar. It became clear to me, that I don’t always want to claim full responsibility for the pain of sin. While I can admit that I have made mistakes, there have been times when I tried to justify a bit by saying that I was just a victim, or that it just happened in a finger snap!

It’s a real challenge to move from saying “I have been led astray by others” to “I have made a wrong choice.” The pain in making this move is truly liberating.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Looking for Direction

“Looking for Direction”

Lent 2010 – Day 22a; Saturday, March 13.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I went to pay respect to my Franciscan friend who passed away. The parish church is located in Depok, now a suburb of Jakarta, quite a distance from where I stay. I got e-mails and text messages about the direction. I also made phone calls to make sure that I got it right. I even asked a Jesuit brother to drive for me, while I made sure that we were on the right track. Having someone with me made the journey feel safer.

There were several spots where the road trickily splits into several directions. We had clear information, but we still had to decide which one to take. It reminds me of my journey of conversion. Because God trusts me, God leaves to me the decision on what direction to take. The possibility of making a wrong turn is still there. But we simply couldn’t think too long. The cars behind would honk angrily!

Conversion is a challenge. It’s a long drive to the unknown places. It requires true masculine spirit. So I wonder, why there are not so many men attracted to this challenge.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Unexpected Death

“Unexpected Death”

Lent 2010 – Day 21; Friday, March 12.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

One of my batch-mates, a Franciscan priest, tragically died, choked alone in the tiny 15-meter-deep well at the convent’s backyard, while trying to fix the pipe. His body was found more than 24-hours later. A special rescue team was called to evacuate him. An accident like that is always shocking. It reminds me of the brevity of life and disturbs me to ask about my own life. How much time do I still have?

The surest thing in life is that we all die one day. Yet, death like this one feels so unexpected. Along the way after the first half of this 40-day journey, somehow that question keeps ringing in my conscience: “How much time do I still have?” I’m sure that God can still wait for me to return home and say “I’m really sorry. Please forgive all my sins.” All the more, God loves me just the same.

God is saddened by my unwillingness to repent, because God knows very well that one day I will feel the burdens of sins unbearable. I don’t need to delay that long, do I?

Romo Sunar Suryo, Requiescat In Pace!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Silence Button

“The Silence Button”

Lent 2010 – Day 20; Thursday, March 11.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

For me, the handiest feature of cell-phone is that as a default it tells the user about who the caller is. When a name appears on the screen, and you don’t want to talk, you probably say: “Oh, No!” But for politeness or fear you answer it, making your voice sound as normal as it can be. Or, you can just push the “silence button,” and pretend that nobody is calling. You ignore the caller, but he or she doesn’t feel rejected.

God never forces me. That attitude is simply not God’s. So God would appear like on my cell-phone screen. Every time it rings, and the name appears, I need to make a quick decision. I have to admit, that many times I’ve said “Oh, No!” and pushed the silence button. Before long, it will become spontaneous to push the silence button whenever God tries to reach the deepest recess of my heart.

God comes and I feel disturbed. God acts and I suspect God of a hidden agenda. God is silent and I get angry. If I keep ignoring God, I can be utterly confused.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

After the Tyrant

“After the Tyrant”

Lent 2010 – Day 19; Wednesday, March 10.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Do you know how it feels like to live in a country under a cruel regime? One thing is sure: you have a lot of anger against the person who has the highest authority. Laws are easily designed to support the ruler. When the tyrant falls, people are happy. But there is a sad side to the story. People begin to desire to live without any laws at all! Democracy is understood as a validation to do whatever you like.

I guess the same thing happens in Christianity. Ages ago, for sure, many Church leaders acted as tyrants, and they taught by imposing on people severe laws labeled as God’s commandments. Nowadays, we tend to approach God more tenderly, as to a very loving daddy. The bad news is obvious: we think that God is not so serious with the divine Laws. Christianity without demands, that’s what we have now.

God is never a tyrant. We made God so. Now that God is more lovable, the challenge for us is to obey God’s laws out of love, not of fear. Love is demanding!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sign of Strength

“Sign of Strength”

Lent 2010 – Day 18; Tuesday, March 9.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I realize that I get angry easily whenever another vehicle edges into my lane. My first reaction is usually honking loudly. If I have extra time I’ll do my best to beat it back. When there’s enough space, I’d speed up, edge back into the lane, and brake a bit to create suspense. I feel victorious.

That kind of anger is actually a sign of my weakness. It’s like letting all my dignity be disturbed by simple thing. Sometimes I need to tell myself: “Take it easy. Your dignity is way too high to be robbed by such thing.” It’s not always easy. Yet, when I do refuse to revenge, I actually show my true strength.

When I decide not to forgive others who hurt me, I actually inflict upon myself a lot more severe punishment. I put myself in chains. When I forgive, I set myself free.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Who Is the Owner?

“Who Is the Owner?”

Lent 2010 – Day 17; Monday, March 8.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I was a teenager. My big brother had just learned how to drive. We were about to get back to our car from the grocery when we spotted two nice girls walking by. I said to my brother: “Come on! Quick! They will disappear soon!” He obediently backed up the car at full speed, and….. There was a car parked right behind our car!

People rushed to the site. My brother looked calmly at the damage, and said, “Well, not bad!” A man angrily responded: “Not bad?” To this, my brother innocently asked: “Who is the owner?” The same man got angrier and said sharply: “I am!” Ouch… The owner just claimed his property. He would do anything to defend it.

For a very long time I have asked God to “heal” me. No answer. Why? Because actually I don’t really want God claim me as God’s property. I still want to own myself.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fifty Thousand Bill

“Fifty Thousand Bill”

Lent 2010 – Day 16b; Sunday, March 7.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I was approaching the toll gate to the highway this afternoon. The toll was nine thousand, and I had a fifty thousand bill ready. I opened my window, not knowing that there was a strong wind. My fifty thousand bill was blown away from my hand. I panicked, stopped my car, and got off. Thank God, the money lied still just there, close to the tire.

Had it been blown far away, I would certainly have felt a big loss. Fifty thousand bill plus nine thousand in total! It was not so much about the value itself, but it was about my dignity. How could I be so stupid? That sounds so much like sin. When I sin, I pay too much for something that is actually so cheap. Sadly, I don’t think about my dignity.

Conversion is not so much about saying no to sin, as saying yes to the true me. If I can get for free a first-class stuff, why do I still spend so much for rubbish?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Want to Be Loved?

“Want to Be Loved?”

Lent 2010 – Day 16; Saturday, March 6.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I heard a husband complain about his wife: “She keeps asking me ‘Do you love me?’” He was frustrated. No matter how hard he tries, his wife doesn’t feel loved. The same thing is true with God. Many times has God tried to love me, and I just ignored that love. Yet the good news is: God will always find ways to make me feel loved.

How many Lenten seasons have you ever had? How many plans about fasting or penance have you ever made? How many times have you been frustrated by the same failures even on fasting days like Fridays? Then you might want to give up. Enough! It never works! Why bother? God is unfair. You think that conversion is reserved just for few.

Oh really? But never forget, that those few people are those who let themselves loved totally by God. So the question is quite simple: Do you want to be loved?

Friday, March 5, 2010

There's Something

“There’s Something”

Lent 2010 – Day 15; Friday, March 5.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

This happens many times. You eat and you don’t realize that there is something left just outside your mouth. Everything seems to be normal. Then the person you eat with lets you know. You’re embarrassed and with your fingers try to clean it, not knowing exactly where, until the other person says: “It’s fine now.”

I need someone to point out my mistakes to me. The moment when someone honestly tells me about something stupid that I’m not aware of doing, is actually the moment of exceptional grace. Many times sin is an expression of stupidity. That’s why it can convince us that everything is just fine, while in fact it isn’t.

We act stupidly sometimes out of jealousy. Sin of stupidity is more serious than sin of jealousy itself. Ironically, when you’re jealous, you’re sure that you’re not stupid.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

No Signal

“No Signal”

Lent 2010 – Day 14; Thursday, March 4.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Remember the days before the cell phone’s booming? Before you go to meet your friend you need to agree about two basic things: the place and the time. Today you will simply say to each other “When you’re near, give me a call” or “Just text me.” When you realize that there is no signal there, it’s too late! You’re totally lost!

We put too much confidence in our communication gadget, while we have plenty of time and easy way to communicate face to face way ahead. Real encounter becomes less important than the one mediated through the telecommunication network. Sadly, we replace what is “personal” with what is “practical.”

Between me and God? I might simply count on “something” that God can give, but never bother to relate to God as “someone.” Nothing personal; just practical.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Did I Order It?

“Did I Order It?”

Lent 2010 – Day 13; Wednesday, March 3.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Have you ever tried a new menu in a new restaurant? Not knowing exactly what to order, I usually look at the picture. Of course, they know how to present good pictures that can make the food look good and so appealing. When the waitress comes, and put the plate in front of me, many times I ask “Did I order it?”

I have heard many times people complain “My life was better before becoming a Christian!” Don’t they know, what they have ordered? If Christianity is like a meal package, whatever you pick, be sure you’re ready to accept the complimentary side dish for free. That is, the cross! Cross is not an exception. It comes with the package.

The clearest sign that you’re on the right track is when you suffer because you do what is really “good,” not what “feels good”!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Admire Me!

“Admire Me!”

Lent 2010 – Day 12; Tuesday, March 2.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I grew up in a fashion industry. Not with the big names like Versace or Armani, but just my mother’s garment business. Part of my childhood memory was watching those handsome and pretty models in and out our home. I can even say with pride that as a 10-year old boy I did walk on a catwalk as a model.

Never will I forget the first time I heard hundred of people applaud me. I can still feel the sensation standing at that corner where I stopped, made a gentle spin, put a big smile, and waited for the applause. Deep inside me I shouted: “Admire me!” But now the key word of fashion performance really disturbs me. That word is “fake.”

I’m afraid that the same word exists in my faith life. People might see me good. I might be so, not because I want to be or to do good, but simply to look good. How empty!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sickly Boy

“Sickly Boy”

Lent 2010 – Day 11; Monday, March 1.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

When I was a little boy, I used to be sickly. I disappointed my big brother for not being able to play outside with him. I made my dad feel desperate. I made my mom worry. My little sister became my closest friend. People around me kept making a remark: “You are such a sickly boy.” Without knowing it, I began to internalize it and convince myself: Yes, I’m sickly.

I bore that remark for many years. My fellow seminarians, as well as my Jesuit brothers, continued the same remark. Then the day of liberation arrived. I was sent to Rome. No one knew my history. No one made that remark. And guess what? I became healthier and healthier. Today, every time I do my exercises, I remember that liberation. Innocent judgment can be deadly!

If Lent is time to be set free one more time, it’s also my responsibility to set others free. To do that, I would begin by turning my judgments against others into words of appreciation.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sign Language

“Sign Language”

Lent 2010 – Day 10a; Sunday, February 28.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I have a very beautiful cousin who is so special, and was recently married to a man who is also special. Due to their conditions, they communicate a lot in sign language. What strikes me is the fact that his younger brother has learned very well the sign language. He did it out of love: this is the best way to communicate to his brother!

That gesture of love is really inspiring. It reminds me of how God has always been trying to communicate with me in a language that I’m capable of. God always finds the right way to get me. God is not the problem, but I am. I’m so slow in letting God talk to me. I’m too stubborn to recognize how God has purposely learned my language.

Sometimes I ask myself: why does God choose me? I have a hint. God may find that learning my language is so fascinating. That’s why God never gives up!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Not Too Clean, Please

“Not Too Clean, Please”

Lent 2010 – Day 10; Saturday, February 27.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Do you believe that if you clean your ear or nose too well, you might create an infection right there? I’ve had both, nose infection, and some years later, ear infection. Do you know what the doctor said? “Clean it, but not too clean!” Well, fair enough. My ear or nose needs that greasy, disgusting, yellowish substance to protect itself.

Loving my enemies, forgiving them, even praying for them don’t always come easy. Many times I’ve asked God to help me to forgive them. Yet, I know they are still there. What if those painful experiences actually need to be there to make me function well? Could they be like that greasy substance in my ear or nose?

Dreaming of a clean new life is understandable. But, I’m afraid, that I might want it too clean, that I unintentionally create a spiritual infection harder to heal?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Craving for Sin

“Craving for Sin”

Lent 2010 – Day 9; Friday, February 26.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I decided to give up coffee for Lent. The first days were really hard. I realize more than ever, that I’ve really become a coffee lover. Something is really missing. Even worse! I develop some high level of cravings for coffee. It feels like there is a big hole in my daily schedule. It feels awkward to start a new day without coffee.

Like you, I’ve been wrestling with sins. I realize that somehow the pattern of sin has become a basic ingredient in my daily regiment. You can imagine how it feels when I really want to give up sin. Yes! Now I even have some cravings for sin. I become groggy if I live a day without sin. How horrible!

Another reason why we haven’t made any significant progress in our spiritual life can be this: we actually still crave for sins!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Take a Number

“Take a Number”

Lent 2010 – Day 8; Thursday, February 25.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Remember the last time you were in a line? Take a number and wait for your turn. Soon you begin to count every second. Still ten numbers before you. Then you give up, trash the number slip, and walk away. You don’t realize that all the ten persons before you did just the same earlier. So you miss your chance to be the very next person to be served.

Many times that has been my attitude in prayer. Waiting for God to answer my prayer really takes a courage and generosity. So I need to learn to simply enjoy the waiting. The answer will come in an unexpected time, even in a surprising way. Indeed, many times it is the waiting itself that really count and transform me.

If I see the waiting as part of God’s answer, when God does finally answer my prayer, I can really celebrate it. To do this, I need to stop from counting every second.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010



Lent 2010 – Day 7; Wednesday, February 24.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Ever been to a dentist for tooth extraction? Well, to make your life less miserable, today’s doctor is generous enough with anesthesia. You won’t feel any pain, and you trust your dentist to proceed. If he or she wants to fool you, he or she can extract any tooth. You simply trust him or her, as long as you don’t feel the pain.

I’m afraid that I might have been so used to self-anesthesia in regard to my sins. Year after year, I’ve been able to convince myself that everything is just fine. Heaven knows, how many times I have asked God to hit me hard so that I can repent from my sins. God has indeed hit me hard many times, yet I haven’t felt any pain. So why bother?

Too much confidence in God’s mercy and forgiveness can indeed make me numb. Problem is, how much time do I still have before my time is up?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

By Law!

“By Law!”

Lent 2010 – Day 6; Tuesday, February 23.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I was boarding a flight in Singapore when I noticed a sign which looked scary. Well, it was just a “no smoking” sign, but right below it were two monosyllabic words: “BY LAW.” Somehow I felt threatened. Behind those two words there was a tremendous power. And sure enough, breaking that law was the last thing I wanted to come close to.

Lent is a time to get in touch again with a tremendous power. It doesn’t depend on the quantity of words I say in my prayer, since less means more. When I hold my tongue, I make a decision to go deeper in my heart. Once I touched again that power in the innermost recess of my heart, it will flow into my entire being.

It’s time to touch again my desire to be a better person, and to say with a renewed conviction, “Yes, I really want it.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

Love Decision

“Love Decision”

Lent 2010 – Day 5; Monday, February 22; Feast of St. Peter’s Chair

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Love is a decision. After the highs of the “in-love” stage is over, the time will come when one should make a decision to love. It’s the moment when one is invited to go beyond theoretical knowledge. While it isn’t feeling anymore, it isn’t simply about logics either. Love is not simply mathematical calculation. It’s a decision of the heart.

In terms of making and changing decision, we humans are expert compared to God. Yes. I don’t think that God has ever changed the decision to love me no matter what. We humans take time. In some cases, it seems to take a lifetime to decide to love God back. No wonder we need Lent every year, and we are just the same messy people.

Here is a paradox. When I finally decide to totally love God, it’s actually a decision to let myself be loved totally by God. Being loved so much is a lot scarier than loving itself.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gentleman on the Stairs

“Gentleman on the Stairs”

Lent 2010 – Day 4a; Sunday, February 21.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

If you go with a woman, and needs to take the stairs, be a gentleman. If you go up, you let her go first, and you stay right behind her. But if you go down, you should go first and stay right in front of her. Why? Should she trips and falls, you’ll be right there to catch her. You also make her feel secure since she knows you are her protector.

Sadly, I’m not always willing to let God be my protector. Who knows? I might sub-consciously feel that this is too feminine. I am the man, I am the protector. So, I let myself fall into temptations. I bet, this applies to woman too. Letting God be the protector is letting God to act manly. For some women with past hurt from men, this is too much.

God wants to protect us. When we don’t let it happen, we might violently emasculate God. I wonder if this is what saddens Him the most.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Desirable Sickness

“Desirable Sickness”

Lent 2010 – Day 4; Saturday, February 20.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

When I was a young teenager I once got very sick. I was literally confined to bed for a whole month. Along the way I learned how to let others help me. I even began to enjoy being sick, since everybody paid attention to me. It was suddenly over when the doctor allowed me to get up and walk. I was healed, and I lost all the special treatments.

Being sick can be so desirable, especially when it is the best way to get attentions. I wonder if the same thing applies to sin. I know I have to get rid of certain repeated sins, yet I also know that staying with this sin will attract God’s attention to me. And that certainly feels good. I’m addicted to the notion of fighting against sin with God.

God wants to heal me, to change my life. Yet I’m afraid to let God do it, since I’m afraid that if I become a better person, I will lose God’s special attention to me.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hallmark Card

“Hallmark Card”

Lent 2010 – Day 3; Friday, February 19.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I tell you one of my secrets. When I was a lot younger, I used to collect beautiful Hallmark cards. Every now and then I would stop by at a Hallmark store, browsed them, and read thoughtfully the beautiful words on them, and bought one I considered the best. I usually didn’t have any particular person in mind. Now, imagine that eventually I sent one among the best cards to someone, only to hear her say: “You shouldn’t waste your money for this.”

Here is the crucial thing. For her, that card is just “something,” while I put a great deal of myself into it that I feel like me being present in it. I wish that the card would be accepted as “someone.” The same thing happens during Lent. After all these years, I now believe that fasting or penance is not about something, but about someone. It is not about “excluding something” for Lent (coffee for example, in my case), but it is about “embracing someone.”

If I can say no to coffee, but can’t say yes to love God and my neighbors, I’m not really doing the real penance.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Deadly Diet

“Deadly Diet”

Lent 2010 – Day 2; Thursday, February 18.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

Just look around. You will see some who are struggling with high cholesterol level. Look how they eat. Are your shocked? Listen to what they say: “It’s OK. Just a little bite… and if things get worse, I’ve got my pills.” Don’t forget to notice the victorious smile on their faces. And guess what? The next morning you will hear them complain: “I’ve a terrible headache.” Duh…?

Choosing is part of life. Yet, making the right choice is not always in the picture. Sometimes we even play with life or death choice. If this is what happens with choosing between holiness and sinfulness, I feel so embarrassed. When I choose sin, I choose death. The more I respect my life, the more I want to choose holiness. My repeated fallings and negligence may simply be signs of my lack of respect toward life.

Want to know the worst part of the story? It’s when you say a split second before committing a sin: “It’s OK. Just a little bite…”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Scary U-Turn

“Scary U-Turn”

Lent 2010 – Day 1 (Ash Wednesday); February 17.

Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

I hate making a U-Turn at certain spots in my neighborhood. Why? It always feels like fighting a battle. Rarely will the vehicles from the opposite direction stop or slow down. On the contrary, they seem to speed up nastily when they see I need to get in. Things can get worse during the rush hour. If I can avoid making U-Turn, I will certainly opt for it.

Here I am, another year, another Ash Wednesday, another Lent. If conversion is like going back by making a U-Turn, I know why it is sometimes hard. It requires patience and the right moves. Making an abrupt and reckless U-Turn can cause a collision. Yet, making a very slow move can also cause a collision. I guess that’s my prayer: “God, grant me patience and teach me the right moves during this time of conversion.”

If conversion is indeed a battle, it is no doubt a battle worth fighting for. Hesitation to go through it will only reveal my true self as a coward.