This year, Good Friday and Passover met on 30 March. Before that, there were a number of robust discussions at the dining tables of good friends who are Jewish, Muslims, Christians and Catholics, and atheists. Those frank, inspiring and terribly intellectual conversations, however, won't be shared here. It's not meant to be done on this platform.
This Lent, I went through 'In The Upper Room' (2007) written by John Chong Ser Choon. I used it for Lent last year too. Clearly, lessons ought to be repeated because I uhhh...forget. So the devotionals are still read over again and again. I use the Douay-Rheims Bible. Never bothered switching it out since that was the childhood bible.
[Ser Choon is a graduate of Regent College (Vancouver), completed his Master in Spiritual Theology with Dr James Houston, and is currently the Retreat Director for Community for Spiritual Formation (CSF), previously known as Trinity Life Center.]
The book begins with Ash Wednesday: 'Re-entering The Upper Room' (Luke 22:7-14). From then on, we go to First Sunday in Lent: 'Life In The Trinity', Second Sunday in Lent: 'The Paraclete ~ Power or Person?', so on and so forth for 40 days till Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Resurrection Sunday.
Every year, different passages will resonate. This year, two chapters went round and round my head. The first being Tuesday Of The Second Week In Lent: 'Destination, Route or Person' (John 14:4- 6). That, "Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me." Obviously, I have a ton of trust issues. Ser Choon shared,
At a time when land was so critical to livelihood and existence, this was a radical call: to trust a person for the well-being and security of an entire clan, instead of relying on material, tangible possessions! Is Jesus not saying the same to the disciples in the Upper Room?
The second chapter that made me linger over was- Saturday Of The Fourth Week In Lent: 'A Little Knowledge of God that is full of Self' (John 16:1- 4). Of Judas's treachery, Peter's denial, of Saul-then-Paul, impending death, imminent persecution of the Church and her disciples. Well, these aren't just issues facing Christians a decade ago or right now. It's important for us to recognize the persecution of any religion (or race) as unethical and wicked, and the ironic oppression of the majority. Ser Choon wrote,
A fellow Christian once blurted out in exasperation: "You can never argue with someone who is right. Either you agree or you are wrong." He was being sarcastic of course. During our stint in National Service, I remember my colleagues nicknaming an officer as Mr "No-You-Are Wrong". This officer would often cut off his subordinates by telling them, "No, you are wrong!"
Oh, the terrible danger of a self-possessed zeal that does not know God! One appears to be religious without being Christ-centred, knowing what is spiritual but not who God the Father is. It can generate its own inherent logic to rationalize and justify, even murder, death to others who are not "for us or our cause."
Lenten reflections are necessary for me. It is the one time in the year that my thoughts truly turn to God and religion, mulling over the teachings and Scriptures as when they were written (in those times), versus today's interpretation by various denominations and the ahemm sad state of world affairs. How I find this balance, is my journey to tread, and my story to keep.