Monday, October 10, 2011

How badly do we want this?

On the television right now are several talent shows from different continents. I think they are both called the X-Factor, with one being held in the UK, and the other, here in the USA. After the huge audition rounds, the next step is what is called ‘boot camp’ followed by ‘judges’ houses’, where the competitors are jetted to some exotic location somewhere far from where they live, and go through yet another round of very tough judging from another group of judges together with the usual four. When these competitors come to face the judges in their houses, they are often asked one question before launching into their song, and it is this – ‘tell us, how bad(ly) do you want this’, to which the contestants are wont to say “oh, you wouldn’t believe just how much!”

Much as it is a predictable response from these celebrity hopefuls, what lies behind the question is the fact that wanting all the trappings of success on the celebrity scene comes with it a truckload of difficulties, challenges and heartbreaks that no one seems to envisage before they get it. As I study theology, and deepen my spiritual insights on life and the great challenge that Christianity poses to every one her believers, it is clearer and clearer to me that this question is also asked of each believer at various times of one’s life.

What is our ultimate aim in life? What are all our hopes and aspirations and dreams and endeavours as we live this life? Oh, I am sure that many will respond that it really depends on what we want in life – some of us are family centered, and want that to be the ultimate aim in life; some are so contented to be married and to have each other as spouses to see them through the days of their lives; some are career minded and want to really go as far as they can to succeed in their jobs. And I am sure there are many, many other ‘options’.

Though these are not bad per se, for us Christians, we cannot but remember that beyond these things, which are good and wholesome (at least we hope they are), we all have one common aim and goal in life, and that is to love and serve God first and to be with him in the next life. That familiar first question of the Baltimore Catechism puts it in the proverbial nutshell.

Knowing that well and having it engrained in us will set us right in our relationships with one another, and with the way in which we interact with nature and the world, and all that is in it. The problem is that even as Christians, not all of us are convinced that this is the fundamental imperative and so, we set all sorts of different priorities and agendas in our lives, oftentimes clashing one with the other, causing a whole gamut of stresses and anxieties. Yesterday’s gospel text of the rejected invitation to the wedding banquet uses those excuses as an analogue for our own excuses why we often find ourselves not wanting to respond wholeheartedly to the offer of the divine life by the one who is Divine.

But I can also see that an inadequate understanding of what it means to love God as the number one love can do to many who think they understand what this entails. Many think that it means that they have to abandon their families, be underachievers in their workplaces, and live consecrated lives, and to forego happiness and pleasure in life. That is a false or misunderstood definition of what holiness is. Holiness is not saying “I can’t do that, or do this now”. It is “I can see the pleasure that this gives me, but I can also see that there is a greater, more perduring pleasure that I should be aiming for, and I will take great efforts to choose that with my will and intellect”. Of course, that ‘struggle’ is what each one of us faces every time our lives come to any sort of crossroads that requires of us to make a decision of where we should be going; what road we should be taking.

I would certainly hope that catechumens in the RCIA would be as enthused as some of those X-Factor contestants before significant moments in their journey of metanoia and formation. Would they respond with such deep conviction that those contestants have and say “Oh, I want this so much! I eat, sleep, and drink this – it means my life”.

Because that would be what loving God with one’s whole mind, whole soul and whole strength means.

So, how badly do you want this?


  1. I used to be a very perfunctory Catholic. I would just meet the basic requirements of my obligations as a Catholic. I didn't see the need to dress-up for the Eucharistic Celebration; as long as I don't get thrown out by the wardens, it's OK. I would arrive just in time for the celebration because, hey, at least I'm not late. I would leave the moment the procession passed me as the recessional hymn was being sung because, well, it's technically not wrong.

    I now realise I had cheated myself so much. A prayerful journey I had untaken 2 years ago changed everything.

    I am now very, very thankful for every Eucharistic Celebration I'm able to participate. I nearly couldn't make it 2 Sundays ago because I was on a business trip & even that Sunday was packed with meetings. When I finally made it to the local church, I cried tears of sheer joy & gratitude. Yes, the celebration was in a totally foreign language but the love of Christ through that celebration sustained me through a very stressful time later in the week; I was able to draw on the love of Christ & remain dignified under intense pressure.

    So yes, I want it very badly for I now realise it is only through God's love & mercy that I can have true freedom & joy.

    Thank you, Father, for your sharing.

  2. In the early years of my career, I was posted to a God- forsaken place where the nearest church was more than 30km away and even then, Sunday mass was a sporadic event there, as it was determined by the availability of any visiting priest. I vividly remember how ‘’hungry’’ I was for mass.

    When I finally made my way here, I practically choked on the surfeit of masses available not only on Sundays but even on week days as well ! Unashamedly, I became a ‘’glutton’’ for mass. These ‘’years of plenty’’ lulled me into a complacency that was again jolted when I fell critically ill. I was so physically debilitated that there was no way I could participate in any Eucharistic Celebration even if it was made available. Through the ministry of the Communion Ministers for the house-bound I was able to receive Christ once a week but the hunger to participate in a full mass was never fully assuaged. On the contrary, the ravenousness was so acute as to become palpable!

    It was then that I tumbled upon the words of Isaiah from the Psalter readings ( Isa 38:10-14,17-20) and I made them my own to cajole and coax Him daily – yes even to ‘’threaten’’ Him that........’’ For Sheol cannot thank you, death cannot praise you.........’’ whereas .....’’it is the living, the living , he thanks you as I do this day....’’ And the day came when miracle of miracles, it was possible for me to be at one with the community at mass again. I shall never forget that day – that’s how badly I want it !
    God bless you Fr.

  3. Dear Fr Luke

    I think we only realise how precious something is when it is taken away. Only then do we fully appreciate the little things that we have taken for granted all along. Caught in an unexpected maelstrom, i really have tried to put God at the centre of my life and sought to evaluate this effect on my existing priorities and relationships. And I have been comforted and touched by the way existing friendships have been tested and deepend on my journey to make sense of and maintain my sanity from the circumstances thrust upon me. As such, the idea of wanting to love and serve God has been a baby step in the journey to being able to trust that God always has a Plan and to ultimately find the courage to put my faith in him.

    Thank you so much Fr Luke, for caring, for the wise words and for everything.

  4. i have been in and out of faith for the most part of my life but Father God is ever so patient, so loving, so merciful. i lost my job but found Him. And as Charles de Foucauld wrote : "As soon as i believed there was a God, i understood that i could not do anything other than live for Him."

    Lord, i'm trying.

    thanks frLuke for your ruminations :)


  5. Dearest Fr. Luke,

    Last Sunday's homily about how we often use mere excuses to reject God's invitation was something I had been guilty of.

    God deeply touched me and I had a heart conversion in a retreat in Sabah back in 1999. Back then, I had badly wanted to join church ministry, but something kept holding me back, like the excuses made in the gospel story... I had to get my degree, had to work, establish myself, etc. Looking back, I was thinking of the "sacrifices" it entails , afraid of the demands of the commitment.

    Slowly, my reluctance stagnated into nonchalance and from an on fire for Christ (Shine Jesus Shine) enthusiastic, I backslidden. The fire died and turned to lukewarm.

    My renewal came in 2007, I still remembered it was All Saints Day Mass at IHM, you were the celebrant ;). During Thanksgiving, the choir sang the hymn, Shepherd me O God, ( and as I kneel there praying (after received Eucharist), the song was like a revelation to me. God's love filled my heart and I feel so loved by Him, so overwhelmed was I that I could not stop tearing. I felt so awed and so unworthy of this great love.

    St Theresa of Avila - Love calls for Love in return.

    How Badly I want God you asked? Not as badly as He wants me. Though I forgotten Him, HE never forgot me. And in my humble gratitude having received His unconditional love, can only return this love to my best ability. Returning this love not to God, as He has no need of my love, but to give back this love through sharing and witnessing, so others may know how much God loves them.

    How amazing is our God, it is us who Badly need HIM, YET it is HIM who Badly Wants us. (And oh, we wouldn’t believe just how much!” ;p)

    His unconditional love for us astounds even the angels in heaven. ;)

    Thank You Fr Luke.
    Will keep you in my prayers as you stoically endure the cold season, may you bear much (Christian) fruits in spring. ;)

    Happy Feast Day in advance.

    May God be with you always.