I'm not sure if many Malaysians have watched the Downton Abbey series before as it's not widely available to the masses here, except perhaps among those who are savvy in the downloading technology. It is simply the most magnificently cultured television show I have watched in many years.
This television series captures the life of a family of British aristocrats in the early 20th century together with their working class staff occupying the bottom level of their home as well as their society.
In the past five days, I've been receiving numerous messages on my Facebook wall, through Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp messages, and in person, all being warm wishes and kind birthday greetings from friends whom I have known, some whom I have just got to know, and even many whom I don't really know. These greetings are a stark reminder that I have just hit a major milestone in my life: I have just completed a full four decades of my life. No matter how hard I try to tell myself it's just another birthday, no big deal, I can't shake the reality off that it's a 40th birthday, and that's what makes it significant.
It is strange how as human beings, we often pander to phenomenalism by looking for sensational experiences in extraordinary situations. This following video is a stark reminder of how we miss out on the authentic beauty of everyday life when we are so fixated on the extraordinary.
I remember many years ago, in 2002 when I graduated from seminary, the graduating students of my cohort chose the theme "A New Song" as the theme for our graduation. This theme was certainly not an indication that we meant to forget the old phase of our life in seminary, but that a new phase of our lives and ministry was now presenting itself before us as a continuation of the "old song" that we had sung until then. The "new song" we were now going to sing, i.e. the new phase of our lives, was going to entail new and exciting challenges for us, and the "old song" we had sung prior to that was what had prepared us for the day of this "new song". Since that day, I had always been aware that change and dynamism were intrinsic to the life of ministry.
It's true, this year is going to be a challenging year for many of us, unless one is so filthy rich that multiple price increases have no felt impact on the state of his infinite wealth. But for the rest of us, life is going to be harder than ever.
As Malaysians, our disposable income and purchasing power had just dropped tremendously when the clock struck 12 last night. Beginning today, we will feel the effect when receiving our electricity bills, buying stationery for our children, buying foodstuff at the market, sending our children to school on the bus, paying the exorbitant toll fee when travelling on the highway, and a good many more activities we usually take for granted.
My dearest son,
At the tender age of three, you’re pretty young, and I’m quite amazed at how you’ve already come to understand many things about the world. But there is still so much to learn. In the years to come, there are some precious lessons about life you will need to acquire. And I’m noting them down now also as a reminder to myself to not forget to teach you these critical truths along the way.
I am aware that I am posting this reflection up somewhat a day late by the measurement of our liturgical lectionary. But this reflection is something that has been brewing in my mind all day as I went about performing my obligations for the day.
The words of our Lord Jesus in the Gospel reading earlier today sustained my attention: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Mt 11.28-30).
Many years ago, when I was just a 16 year-old teenager, a Christian minister gave me a verse from Scripture which I had carried with me until today and which I continue embracing as the essence of the humble ministry entrusted to me as a deacon of the Church, a minister of the Gospel.
The words he wrote for me were the words of the very apostle I had come to admire, whose letters I would read over and over again as a teenager, St Paul: "I do not place any value on my own life, provided that I complete the mission the Lord Jesus gave me - to bear witness to the good news of God's grace." (Acts 20.24)
I typically promise myself to write down a reflection at the end of every year; a reflection of how the year has passed and what I expect to come my way in the course of the coming year. But when life is defined by a kingdom that has come but that is yet to culminate in absolute visibility, a kingdom that is defined beyond time and space, this exercise of treading from year to year with fear and trepidation, coupled with resolutions we might most likely not fulfil, becomes rather meaningless.