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.