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.