December 25th, 2019 was my very first Christmas not being home with my family. At 8 AM Jakarta time, I left my house towards the airport. I was going for MAGIS (Jesuit Conference Asia Pacific) JCAP 2019. It was raining and I started my prayer as I step out my door, wishing I could have a safe and nice journey.
On my first flight from Jakarta to Bangkok in the afternoon, I enjoyed the cloudy sky outside the window, while my mind took me back to 2017 when I had just completed a year module of MAGIS Jakarta formation. At that time I saw myself were so on fire as I felt my spirit has renewed.
In the last days of 2019, I considered that I had so much anguish living my spiritual life. Could not lie at all, that for the latest year I often drenched in doubt and negativities. Many times I felt bothered when some of my Catholic friends mocking me as a ’heroic holy person’ just because seeing me praying before eating wherever I am, including making cross-sign in the middle of the busy food court as a minority in my country. Or when they found me regularly go to First Friday mass, or when they question me why do I so active in doing church choir and also busy with my MAGIS community; some said I was too fanatic, that I just make friends only with Catholic fellows.
For some people, being faithful in religion and doing its tradition are kind of delusional and old fashioned things. Meanwhile I still believe that we may sometimes confuse but it is part of the mystery of faith itself. Because of this condition, many times I somehow felt lonely and refused, also hurts. I went for MAGIS JCAP 2019 with this distress and concern, as well as my desire by deepening spirituality does not mean being fanatic and exclusive, but being aware of God’s presence in the diversity of living in harmony with all creation, which also can increase our tolerance for every human being, not bordered by their culture and religion, not their ideology and political views.
After we arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we stayed in Navipa Resort. In the morning I felt so fresh even when I just have about 5 hours of sleep. Not only because of the good weather of Chiang Mai but also because I met all MAGIS friends from around Asia Pacific countries. All of them were so warm and friendly, felt like we have known each other for a long way before. It was not really strange to have a conversation with them, also with the fathers and brothers. My loneliness slightly disappeared, transformed into hopeful feelings as I wished I could enjoy my this meeting. The theme of this meeting is “ID:, Ideal, Identity, Indifference, In Diversity”
On the second day Br. Aot led us to deepen the first ID topic: Ideal. It was about what we like-dislike, also what we proud of and be ashamed of. Before we shared it with a friend, we asked to do self-reflection first by drawing those things on paper. In the first 5 minutes of that session, I felt frustrated even for thinking about what I wanted to draw. There was a part of me that did not want to take a look back about those things. It was so dark and saddened my heart.
Silently, I called Jesus’ name three or more times in my heart, while pushing myself to re-feel my optimism at the beginning of this meeting. Gradually my insecurity handled, as I finally could draw and shared it with not only one but two friends. That half-day was tiring for me.
Then there was a time for Fr. Miguel’s turn to present the topic of Indifference. I was so touched by this session, especially because I found myself tend to like making reasons only for my comfort. When I felt dry in spirituality, I tend to give up, while God never gives up on me. Fr. Miguel played a song to complete his presentation, and I found a very meaningful and awaken verse: Far away with you, life is not life. To break faith with you is to be no one. This session took me to review about principle and foundation in Ignatian Spirituality. I felt prisoned in my anxiety and doubts, especially when my parents and close friend thought that I was too much or too radical when I tried to live in simplicity in learning to be indifferent. This gave me pressure when I kept pondering about fulfilling the ideal version of my parents or to be ideal as what God really wants me to be.
Prayer from Different Tradition
At night, when we did preparation for our Immersion Experiment, I wrote my wish to be opened to hear God’s voice and to see God’s sign. I also wrote my fear; that I was afraid I would give up in this process. I was grateful to be placed to practice Vipassana meditation. It was so beautiful that I could learnt from different religious belief and culture to enrich mine. What captivated me the most is the Buddhist teaching of food contemplation; that food is for our health, not for the beauty, eat only what you need for doing your activity. It made me remember about living indifference also about the Tantum Quantum concept. We have to focus in the present time, as we supposed not to think about our past also about our future. What we had to do was observe all thoughts that passing in our mind, like a person who stands in a person at the train station and watch many trains come and go, passing the person, but that person not jump into any of them.
Again, there was a part of myself denied that concept and quickly compared it to the way of doing Examen prayer where I need to be brave to look back and reflect all things that already happened. Interestingly, it was on the second night of my stay in Wat Umong meditation center, God helped me to understand a thing: we supposed not to be drowned in our past, moreover our mistake. We have to consider it and not ignore it, but not let it be a burden to our mind that may become a mental block for us to change our life in a better way.
As in Examen prayer, when I ask for God’s forgiveness, I ask His healing, so I will have a new perspective to see my mistakes; I am longing for His love so that I am not dissolved in guilty feelings that can kill my faith and hope, so I may not lose my spark and joy to continue my life, to glorify His name. Presently, I’m still thinking of that moment, when God nurtured me patiently just in His time. He might not let me comprehend instantly to save me from my arrogance. Many times I felt ashamed and wanted to cry to see how unfaithful I was, while God always be. I’m so grateful to find Him through other participants’ presence. To see my friends who try to be disciplined as hard as I was in doing meditation made me strong and did not give up.
I felt so blessed for everything that happened for about 10 days in MAGIS JCAP 2019. I could feel the atmosphere that everyone had a huge love to adore God and glorify Him more and more, all of my friends who attended this meeting seems fight for the same reason: to keep the faith in Jesus Christ despite all pressure, for example, some of my friends still suppressed by their government, some others are living so near in conflict areas which full of injustices, many of us are a part of minority religious group in our own country, and I think almost everyone, the youth also all fathers and brothers agree that it is not easy to stay in the depth of our spirituality in this modern era.
I got many insights, inspiration, and the most important one is encouragement. I came with much of inferior feelings but I thank God for every appreciation and acceptance from all of my “friends in the Lord” who could see all the best things in me. I felt to be loved for everything I am.
In another occasion, Fr. Moreno (President of JCAP) delivered his sermon at mass about how we need to follow the story of “The Magi” in Bible who went home in another way to avoid Herod. I also developed a special intention to change my perspective about preaching the Good News of God to young people; not only focusing on making those who don’t believe to believe, but I need to pray more for those who have believed to persevere in their faith despite all challenges in this world and be a good companion for them.
In this process my path was not that smooth, many times I had to fight myself, my arrogance. Many times I tempted to give up and my heart was often overwhelmed with failure feelings. I could feel that God never abandon me, as there was no single of my prayers that were not answered by God during my days in MAGIS JCAP 2019. This helped grow my hope for God’s faithfulness in every step of my life so that I would no longer be afraid to follow him even though I had to feel a tense struggle in my pilgrimage with God.