Monday, October 4, 2010

Hold on to the Cross to win in life

There is an annual contest here in Singapore where a radio station together with a car company as the main sponsor give away a brand new car to the person who can keep his or her hand on a specific spot on the car for the longest time without moving it. Apparently the record so far for this ‘feat’ is 81 hours, which works out to slightly over three days. Final contestants are decided randomly by a lucky draw, and this ‘challenge’ takes place in the piazza of a mall in downtown Singapore, where it is (so I am told) hyped up in a carnival-like atmosphere, where friends and relatives of the contestants come to support them and cheer them on, especially into the wee hours of the night, or when the torrential rains come.

It’s one of those ‘survivor’ type of contests, and the rules are stringent. One 5 minute break every 6 hours of standing, no moving of the hand off the car, no relieving of oneself while standing, no caps, sunglasses, drinks or food (except during that 5 minute break) and no communicating with any friend or family member either. I have never witnessed this but apparently, many people are interested in taking part in it, as the prize is rather attractive. After all, in Singapore, where owning a car is an unrealized dream for many, this seems to be a rather ‘simple’ way to get ownership of a brand new vehicle. Or so many seem to think.

While I don’t scoff or sniff at such events that are obviously drawn up to excite the masses, these things do set me thinking about the other more pressing and needful areas in life. And being a priest, one of them would be our spiritual lives and holding on to what really gives life.

Aren’t a lot of problems in our lives connected to the fact that at the critical moments of our lives, we have chosen to let go of faith and to choose the option that gives us the least problems? Or perhaps when we choose to hold on to what should be let go of, and let go what we should be holding on to? Right off the bat, a few come to mind.

A married woman ‘let’s go’ of her marriage and engages in an affair with someone who she feels ‘understands’ her, and gives her ‘love’; a couple is told by the gynaecologist that their unborn child has evidence of down syndrome, and choose to ‘let go’ of this child; a teen, just after Confirmation ‘let’s go’ of her faith and decides that going to church for Mass on Sundays is just not cool; a priest ‘let’s go’ of his vows of celibacy and finds someone to comfort him in his loneliness.

Are these surprising and far-fetched examples? Not really. They are instances (and there are many, many more) where there is a resistance to hold on to what really matters in life.

The contest that I referred to at the beginning of this morning’s reflection was for a car. Yes, in Singapore, this is a luxury item, and many would want to own one. But if just for a car, one is willing to not move one’s hand from the car, and stand in the blazing sun and the pouring rain, risk harm to one’s kidneys and bladder, deprive oneself of sleep, face starvation and dehydration, and experience moments of hallucination (it has been known to happen), it shows just how serious one is about the car.

What more for our faith, which is for ETERNITY? Dare we to say that we are equally or even remotely just as serious about faith as about a car? Our faith is often linked (and well it should) to the Cross of Christ, and it can be applied to all of life’s difficulties and challenges, especially those that have no direct answers for us. What we are meant to do as Christ’s disciples is to never let go of the Cross, because it is the Cross that saves us. (I shall not delve deeper into soteriology here, as theses galore have been written on it)

If we have been formed well in our faith in our early years, then it prepares us well for the times when we will encounter very tempting options to let go of the Cross for what appears to be more sensible, loss-cutting, comfort-bringing, logical and temporal options. When we do that, it would be akin to the contestants lifting their hands from car, and forfeiting the winning of the car.

Only in the case of our faith, we would have lifted our hands from the very cross that will save us. In the many challenges that we face in life, we would be circumspect to look carefully what we are literally holding on to, and what we should be letting go of.


  1. But isnt that the case in life, people go chasing after things that don't matter.. they believe that after having that one thing (car, girlfriend, ipad etc), they'll be satisfied, they'll be happy... And we keep running towards those things rather than to drink from the well, that never runs dry...

    in difficult circumstances where i can't "hear" God and don't know if He's around, i keep this in my heart,

    "Even when i don't see His hand, i know i can always trust His heart".

  2. As St Paul puts it, we run for the prize and don't lose our focus - well said, Father!

    i've been reading your blog since i was introduced to it via fb, and would like to ask if i could link mine up to yours? A lot of food for thought here, and i'd love to be able to share it there.

    Thank you and God bless!

  3. Dear Sojourner

    I am not sure what linking means. I am not keen to put anything on my blog page as any link, but you are certainly free to put anything on your facebook page to lead readers to this site. As you can see, I am not a very web savvy person. I just use it in its most basic ways. God bless.

    Fr Luke

  4. Letting go of the things which get in the way of God's plan is easier said than done. But it's not impossible.
    I know because I've done that.
    Years ago I was given a dream job, with the title, money, perks and the most seductive carrot 'performance bonuses'.

    Soon I found out that the things I had to do to earn the 'performance bonus' were( maybe) less than ethical. But (definitely) unChristian.

    My fellow workers told me that there's nothing wrong in what they had to do and that it was 'industry practice'.

    I did a lot of soul searching. I knew right off the bat what I had to do to reclaim myself as a Christian.No man can be a servant of money and God.

    Before long, I made the decision to quit that job. It was the best decision I ever made.
    It was a life changing decision. Sure I lost the bigger pay check but I gained something more.
    I regained my soul.
    I regained my ability to take communion with complete openness.
    I regained the ability to sleep in the confidence that if I should not wake up, i will still be welome in heaven.

    Before I resigned from the dream job, i was troubled by how it would look in the eyes of the industry.
    To be honest, the imagined fear was more intimidating than the actual act itself.

    When you pray for guidance to Our Father for the courage to do the right thing, you will be filled with a sense of courage and purpose which is so clear you can't help but submit yourself to it.

    My two cents is that if you were raised right in the Christian faith, every fibre in your body will protest when you are in a situation such as mine. It's instinctive, like burning your fingers on a kettle.

    Learn to ignore and drown out the 360 shouts on ads to get that car, buy that condo, take that watch.

    It's not easy i admit. But if you have the love and unwavering support of a Christian spouse and you have learned to live within your means, letting go just gets less difficult.
    In fact, it's easy.
    Just like letting go of a boiling kettle.

  5. Dear Fr Luke
    I find this post rather disturbing. How can we link holding on to a car in relation to holding on to God? In our faith relationship, it is God who holds on to us... We let go of him many a times, and yet he would welcome us back though we may still be busy sinning. It is this unconditional Love of His that draws us closer each time he brings us back into his Love.

    In a way, his holding on to us gets us stuck to him and his not letting go encourages us to do the same to others and that is how we love as he does!

  6. Thank you Martin. As with all analogies, this has its inherent flaws. It's not meant to directly be compared with holding on to God, but it serves as a springboard for further thought and reflective commentary. Yes, it is true that it is we who let go of God and not the other way around, but his unconditional love also doesn't mean that we can eat our cake (or in this case, hold on to the car) and have it. If we really are stuck on to him, we will have a great problem when it comes to exercising our free will, which can often show itself in our wanting to break free from that 'stuck' position. Ah, the mystery of God's love is deep.

    Fr Luke

  7. The critical moments of our lives are also the times of confusion, outward dis-orientation and 'un-freedom' for we are like a caged bird searching for a way out. We become myopic, having fixed our sight on that small 'space of ourself' as the only reality. It is not surprising then that we easily 'let go of our hand' on God. Perhaps this may be helpful ...knowing that Jesus came to restore the confused to their senses ( Mark 5:1-20) - so ask him. This could also be the time to become intent and be intentionally aware of this inner struggle, a time to quieten the mind and listen to the message of truth of the heart. tessa

  8. I just want to salute the above "Anonymous" person for having that great courage to serve God over money. God bless you and your family.

  9. Love. God's love for us is always unconditional and until i love God the way or as God loves me, the Cross is but one of the many things in my life. So daily i pray: "Lord teach me and grant me the grace to love You more than i love myself."

    He hears and answers :)