Monday, August 19, 2013

Reset at 200 - what a joyful and blessed irony


Undoubtedly, what marks out a Christian’s life as a Christian is when he or she is able to mirror in small and large ways the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ.  Throughout our rich Christian history and heritage, being able to live out this kind of life as close to that of Our Lord in various dimensions of life had been the template of what differentiates an ordinary Christian from the Christ-follower par excellence, the cannonized Saint.  But much as some of us may have this wonderful and loving desire to truly follow the Lord by our lives, it will not be granted if not by the grace of God.  In short, no one gets to heaven by pulling his or her own bootstraps. 

It is when desire, passion and love are combined with the grace of God that something more than amazing happens.  We will realise that at an early point in time of our lives as dedicated Christians, there was a lot of ‘me’ in the dream.  But that is ok, because like almost everything from marriage to even the priesthood, we all have to purify our motives.  No one, I am absolutely certain, enters into something that requires a lifelong commitment with one set of emotions, dreams, hopes, and desires, and after a long time, has left these all unchanged, unchallenged, and wanting the bar set higher out of love. 

The pensiveness that is evident in today’s blog entry comes about due to a few factors that have seem to coalesce at a strange point in time in my life.  As some of you may know by now, the doctors who have taken such good care of me during my arduous stem-cell transplant ordeal deemed me healthy enough to be discharged from my 28 day confined hospital stay.  They want me to continue my recuperation in the comforts and love of home and family, though I have many more out-patient follow up visits to the doctor each week to monitor any infections or viri that could weaken my immunity at any time.  I am well aware that this ‘short’ time of 28 days is considered very quick, and it was largely due to God’s grace, and the faith of a large community that has been praying for me. 

As I lay so tired and exhausted from even small movements like walking from one part of the apartment to another, or even sitting at table for a meal of a small handful of food, I cannot help but realise that I have had a major ‘reset’ in life with the engraftment of the stem-cells in my marrow.  It is a very real experience of a ‘new life’, a ‘being born anew’, a ‘resuscitation’ that is as close to a resurrection that I could ever experience in this life.  In so many ways, I have become like a newborn all over again.  I eat at the speed of a toddler, I cannot quite taste my food, small simple tasks leave be panting and needing to sit and rest, I am bald as a babe, and I need to take small naps throughout the day.  This entire event has required of me to really slow down so much and to look at life from a new angle, very often one that is richly layered now with a new compassion, less haste, much less judgment, more patience, and a new heart of charity. 

But if we really think about it, should not these be also the notes that mark out each newly Baptised follower of Christ?  After truly accepting Christ as Lord and Saviour, as the neophyte steps out of the waters of new life and is ‘re-created’ in Christ, should not he or she also have a new vista from which to tend to each moment in life, now no longer just with the old eyes of the world, but from then on, through the lens and life of Christ?  Where each moral, ethical, social and political decision is viewed with a new dimension?  It is not something that is going to be automatic – each baptized person needs to learn in small, and sometimes painful steps, learning how to ‘taste’ life with new Christ-like taste-buds and applying Christian sensitivities with that touch of charity and love, in a prayerful dimension.  Perhaps this is not emphasized enough to the about-to-be Neophytes about the reality of true Christian living, and that is why many simply go about living post-baptism, in the same way that life was pre-baptism.  Christ in yesterday’s gospel passage had that deep desire that the world be on fire with the baptism that he had to go through.  It made full sense to me when I contemplated on this, but at the same time, I also see how God is so patient when it comes to one’s true and lasting conversion in life.  And if God is so patient, so too must we with those who are slow to truly ‘get’ what living the Christian life is at its core.  Some lessons just take a longer time to sink in.

In my days of younger innocence, I recall being read those heroic stories of how the Church martyrs bravely died to defend the faith, and how the glories of heaven awaited such courage borne of faith.  Silently in my heart and head, I would imagine how I would want to be able to imitate such an ardent love of Christ, without really thinking about how they really felt at that point in time of their torturous death and suffering.  But admittedly, I was much, much younger then and dreaming and fantasizing were not only allowed but encouraged, and played an important part of my young Christian childhood, especially when our teachers and some Christian Brothers would regale us with stories about these faith heroes.  Maybe we really should heed the old adage that we ‘beware what we wish for’!

In some ways, with my illness and the subsequent transplant and the struggle in the darkness to wait for the engraftment to take place, the ‘dream’ has become a reality.  Part of me had died with those mega doses of total body irradiation and conditioning Chemotherapy prior to receiving the donor’s stem-cells.  I was graced to go through the long period of time where all those complicated side effects set in which allowed me to share in some small way the suffering and passion of Christ.  And now, I live to be able to see each so much in a new light – a new light of gratitude, of thanksgiving, of charity, and of Christian hope. 

I hope I am clear about today’s blog.  It is not about me.  It is about inviting all my readers to still continue to want to live the Christian dream of imitating Christ in the various dimensions of life.  This ‘gift’ can come in so many different ways, but I noticed that often, it comes in and through a situation that somehow forces one to ‘stop and smell the roses’ of life.  I share my story in this concrete way because some of you have been wondering why I have been plagued with this illness.  Your faith may have been shaken.  I hope it does the opposite – that it will strengthen your belief that God works in and through different situations that are hidden blessings.  This is not a plague, not a curse, but in some strange way, a very rich and also hidden but deep blessing. 

It is also ironic that this blog entry is a milestone for me.  If you have been reading and following my blog from the day I started way back on October 9th, 2009, you will realise that this is my 200th blog entry.  For me, it is a celebration in more ways than one.  God has given me the grace to be able to faithfully and consistently write an essay a week for 200 weeks, with hardly a repetition in theme or content.  I have so much to be grateful for in my slow but steadily growing readership, some of whom are from parts of the world where I have never ever been to.  Many have told me how my ponderings on life and faith have moved and touched them, drawing them closer to loving God and a stronger faith.  This is only possible because God is good.  My blog site-meter counter tells me that this page gets about 3600 page view per week, and I am encouraged to ask for the grace to be able to continue this web ministry despite my weakened state.  I know it is nothing close to web sites which win awards and get sponsors, enabling them to make some money through their writings, but that is far from my aim.  My slowly growing readership tells me that there are people out there who are yearning for truth, for meaning and for life.  But many go to the wrong places to look for the answers, or to places which only give temporary distracted relief.  I only have one aim in writing this blog, and that is to be instrumental for others to get to know, to love and to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour.  Everything else, as they say, is commentary. 

So, my dear readers, do keep those comments coming in.  I am encouraged every time I get a response to my thoughts, and I do realise that some of you have stopped commenting for a long while.  Indeed we lead busy lives, but reading this page is also a spiritual moment that you dedicate to God.  Each comment tells me that you are thinking and reflecting deeply on what I am sharing, and that it is affecting you in some way.  It keeps my blogging desire alive and I am assured that I am not just writing to a ‘blank’ audience.  You are, each of you, a treasure of God, and there is so much potential in you to be co-builders of his Kingdom. 

Happy 200th everyone,  and God love you.

31 comments:

  1. Dear fr Luke may God comfort and encourage u as u suffer. am inspired by ur sharing.lots of love from Kenya.Faith

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  2. Good morning Father Luke
    I look forward to your post every Monday morning. Though I speed read your post, I always take time to re-read again in the evening. It's so good to hear that you're recuperating at home.

    I was thinking the same that you have journeyed through the Sorrowful Mystery and is now 'resurrected' to new life. Throughout your illness you've shown great faith in God and strength. This is an inspiration to many who are suffering.

    May God bless you with healing and a good week. God loves you and so do your parishioners. Will continue to pray for your full recovery.
    Elaine

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  3. Dear Fr Luke

    This sentence strikes me deeply as I reflected on my faith journey from the beginning, "I hope it does the opposite – that it will strengthen your belief that God works in and through different situations that are hidden blessings."

    When both my parents were struck by some unforseen circumstances, at that point in time, I placed all my trust in our God's healing grace and power. Indeed, God works in His own way to heal the sick and helpless, and they got healed quite miraculously, I would say.

    And it is another good news that God has worked in His own marvellous way on you too.

    Peace & Get well soon!
    Zita (Iggy)

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  4. Dear Fr Luke

    I am a regular follower of your weekly blogs and have never found a dull moment reading them. I am so glad to know that you are recovering speedily; thanks be to Almighty God and I am confident that HE will make you 'whole' again in HIS time to be his effective instrument of His Love.

    Well done, Father Luke and keep up the excellent work!

    OLPS Parishioner


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  5. Hi Fr Luke,

    God works in mysterious ways! I can totally relate to your post; I too, had a similar life event that caused a 'reset' in my life. 4 years down the road and vivid though the memories may be, I realise that God knows best - I would not not responded if the trigger event had been anything else. I do believe that now, I view life and what I have with much more gratitude and thanksgiving. Rejoice! For it is a new day and our Father will give us this day our daily bread.

    I am so happy that you have been deemed well enough to recuperate at home. Rest well and come back soon to tend to your flock!

    God Bless.

    DL

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  6. Keep on blogging frLuke. You are doing what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI advocates, that technology "is put in our hands to announce the Gospel." And so, thank you father. And like you usually ends your homily, "Jesus loves you"

    wt

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  7. Peace be with you, Fr Luke,
    I rejoice with everyone else you coming out of your 'tomb'! The imagery is so apt & the mystery so awesome.. this is truly something to ponder. As I read your blog this morning, the image of Hosea kept coming up?! Then it finally dawned on me that just as the Lord asked Hosea to live out, in his person, the prophetic message entrusted to him, you too, our priest, maybe are asked to embody for us, in our time, His passion death & resurrection (but not to marry a prostitute hor!! 'hor' is just singlish, no pun intended)

    What does it feel like to literally have new life? Have you been reconfigured? re-substantiated? Maybe you have superpowers now? (ok maybe i watched one too many summer blockbuster)

    But seriously, I fully agree that a more concerted effort can be made to apprise neophytes of Christian sensitivities & reality of Christian living. But I think it truly sinks into the heart only after neophytes (or anybody for that matter) have themselves gone through the baptism of which Jesus speaks, whether in a small or big way. I feel that what neophytes need are loving, responsible & well-formed godparents, fellow parishioners, ministry members or people who can journey with each neophyte after RCIA ends, so that as & when neophytes encounter the challenges, the teachable moments in their individual journey, there is ongoing support & mentoring from the community.

    What a true disciple wants is to be useful to his master & the Lord knows it. It's painful when u say u are not 'usable' right now. It is so not true & you know it :) Isaiah 49:1-6.

    shalom
    an Anthonian

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  8. May God continue to shower His blessings upon you. Rest in His love.

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  9. Fr Luke thank you for sharing your good news that the doctors are sending you home to recuperate. Contrary to what you shared about being 'unusable' last week God has been using you through your blogs to touch many. So do keep up your blog entries and rest well - look forward to seeing and hearing the newborn Fr Luke Fong.

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  10. Thank you for writing even in your condition. Your words have provided much comfort to me and have provided much room for thought as well. Our journeys are different, but similar in the sense that all roads lead to God. May the good lord watch and keep you always.

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  11. Dear Fr Luke

    I have been reading your blog way before your illness because your sharing is very inspiring and I often share with my friends what you wrote on your blog. Some have started reading your blog too though we are 'afraid' to comment. So today I shall attempt to make a few 'comments' on today's blog. The first thought that came to my mind when I read today's blog is 'you are very brave and very strong'. Don't know why. but when I came to the para where you said "I hope I am clear about today's blog. It is not about me.....This is not a plague, not a curse, but in some strange way, a very rich and also hidden but deep blessing"
    the words touches me and my tears came down.
    The sentence "Maybe we really should heed the old adage that we 'beware what we wish for' reminds me when sometimes we say we wish for this and that then someone will comment 'eh. better don't anyhow wish!'
    About "those who are slow to truly 'get' what living the christian life is at it's core. Some lessons just take a longer time to sink in"..I think it's not just neophyte, but there are some 'long time' catholics who also don't 'get'it.
    Fr Luke, I enjoy reading all your blogs and I especially like today's blog. Many of my friends (we are not your parishoners) 'like' you and are very concern about your illness and are praying for you.
    "one day at a time" and Jesus will give you the strength to eat, sit and walk better.
    Jesus loves you

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    1. Dear Fr Luke, I am very happy to learn that you are now recuperating at home. God really love you and has found you a suitable stem cell donor. Praise the Lord! He has also given you the grace and strength to overcome the transplant. God is the healer and may He continue to heal you and bless you abundantly. Peggy (HOSEA)

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  12. Smelling the RosesAugust 19, 2013 at 5:50 PM

    Happy 200th Fr Luke, and God certainly love you!

    This morning when I tried to carry my 3 year-old from her bed, she said, “Don’t carry me papa, I am not a treasure.” My reply was, “You may not be a treasure box filled with gold and diamonds but you are certainly my treasure. And I want to carry you!” Fr Luke, your treasure box may not be filled with good health but I can see God, our Father, carrying you and giving you the grace to bless so many with your words.

    Guilty as charged. I seldom comment on your blog these days although I have been an ardent and faithful reader. It is my “stop and smell the roses” moment on Monday mornings before I begin my work in a hectic world.
    Having lived a blessed life (thanks be to God), it is hard to comment when I have to learn about suffering vicariously through you, and through the many follow-up comments. Other than my well-wishes and continual prayer, any comment may sound “lightweight” and insincere.

    I hope it hearten you to know that this “silent” reader is seeking ways to live a life dedicated to God. And should suffering and hardship befall unto me, let me remember, through your example, that God’s grace is ever present.

    Looking forward to your next 200th blogs.

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  13. Father Luke, all I can say is I love you. You have been a great inspiration to me. My heart has nothing more to say but filled with love for God and our Holy Mother. Thank you

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  14. Happy 200th, Fr. Luke! Just like you, I've dreamed of 'doing something heroic' for God. Some grand gesture; some amazing sacrifice that would leave others awestruck. Silly me!

    I've come to realise, though, that it is the myriad of tiny, everyday acts of sacrifice and service to others - done with great love, that is required of us. Not many will be called to a time of hard testing, such as you have (been). I guess that makes you special. God only knows (literally) why you were called; and I'm sure, in time, all will be revealed to you. You will see the fruits of your faithfulness. Peace and Joy,

    RJ

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  15. Dear Fr Luke,the gift you have in writing these beautiful essays, to me, is a form of healing! I have read your essays and many others and I am far from writing. I am glad you have prompted us to write our comments as I tend to put it off, the reason is busyness. As you are recuperating/recovering, please take baby steps, now that you feel like one, and be not anxious. Your immune system is like a baby. I knew this as my late brother-in-late did not survive after his marrow transplant due to infection. It was in the year of SARS (2003). Be not anxious and this is a reminder for all of us. Rest well, smile and God Bless ~ Serene

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  16. Dear Father Luke,

    Thank you for sharing. Last Sunday, the homily at my church was about God purifying us until he can see His own image in us. Much like a silver smith who puts the silver in the furnace and removes the impurities that float to the top. The silver smith keeps repeating this till all impurities are removed. How he knows that all impurities are removed is when he can see his own image in the pan of silver.

    What you wrote jumped out at me "This entire event has required of me to really slow down so much and to look at life from a new angle, very often one that is richly layered now with a new compassion, less haste, much less judgment, more patience, and a new heart of charity."

    Father Luke, thank you for your humility in writing honestly and transparently. Thank you for letting God purify you. I would be so afraid if I was faced with such illness, but your sharing reminds me that when God purifies us, He gives us strength to go through it, and it is a blessing. He wants to make us more like Him.

    Keep writing.

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  17. Dearest Fr. Luke,
    I am very grateful and comforted that you are recovery well, indeed, how great is our God. He knows all our thresholds ... :}

    Reflecting with thankfulness, on your blessed 200th post,

    It is when desire, passion and love are combined with the grace of God that something more than amazing happens. …

    I too, had a lofty dream, not to be that of a martyr or anywhere near, … but to live out the prayer of St Francis – to make me a channel of peace. And yes, there is a lot of “me” in the dream, and with each day of growing awareness in self-examination, with grateful realization – this dream need way beyond “me”, every good intention, when without God, does more harm than good.

    Pondering on the great martyrs and biblical heroes (apostles like St Peter and Paul), their tenacity, passion and obedience which caused them great physical sufferings, persecutions and eventual death, became the source of our great blessings. With each “yes” of obedience surrendered to God, He will return with blessings multi-folded.

    Only when our motives are purified through painful call to death of self (obedience), can we be co-builders of God’s kingdom, and something more than amazing will happen. Indeed, God will create titan waves, all He longingly wants is our ‘yes’, no matter how begrudgingly or slowly given. :}

    I do believe, Fr. Luke, with your suffering surrendered in your humble obedience to Christ, many many great blessings is happening… ;)



    I always remembered this joke which amused me, the sharp-edged humor of the undercurrent, as it was told by my exasperated teacher during class on a day when we were particularly disruptive... (Some sleeping openly…)

    Teacher: Class, do you know why when the priest died he did not enter heaven but when the reckless bus driver died, the driver did?

    Silence...

    Teacher: Because when the priest preached, everyone slept but whenever the reckless bus driver was behind the wheels, everyone prayed fervently...

    Well, Fr. Luke, you are definitely no reckless driver but am sure you did inspire more than your 3600 readers in intercessory prayers for you. This in my humble opinion may be the most ‘beneficial’ form of prayer, not only for the person prayed for, but it also enlarges the heart for love for the person who is interceding… Blessings of multi-fold, still rippling…

    Take care of yourself Fr.Luke,
    United in prayers (of thanksgiving)
    Laura

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  18. Dear Father Luke, I am glad you are recovering and will still pray for you. With Love, Kevin Siew (former parishioner of St Anne Church Singapore) (now attends St Francis Xavier Church Singapore)

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  19. Indeed, in the end, it is all about LOVE.

    Wui

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  20. Blessed 200th Blog Entry, still going strong: Congratulations Fr Luke,"May God grant you speedy recovery!"Love you.

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  21. Dear Fr. Luke,

    Michele and I just learned about your blog from a relative who posted a link to it on Facebook.

    We are very concerned when we read about your present contition and we are praying that you have speedy recovery.

    You seem to have a handle on your situation and you are taking it in stride. I don't mean to question God but, in this case, I feel that he got it wrong.

    I have just read your 200th post and I will continue reading your older posts. I like the way that you are writing it. Your words are deep and full of God's love and caring for all of God's creations.

    As I read your post, however, all I could think about was the fact that you are not able to taste durians. Imagine that!! Is there any sadder fate?

    Michele and I wish you all the best and if there is anything we can do for you, please let us know. We are still in the same place and at the same addresses/numbers.

    Please take care of yourself because we are looking forward enjoying a meal with you again.

    Love,

    Paul, Michele and Kyle

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    1. Hi Paul,

      With all due respect, God NEVER gets it wrong. It might seem to be so, but rest assured; all is in God's good hands - and that includes you, me and Fr. Luke. Have faith that all of this is happening for a good reason, known only to God Himself at this present time. God love you.

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  22. Fr Luke, thank you for writing this blog. Wishing you a speedy recovery.
    <3

    Love Matthew and Mel (OLPS)

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  23. Father Luke, you are a true instrument of God. Through your writing, you have inspired many people!

    I truly believe you are recovering soon and will inspire even more people out there. God Bless you always.

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  24. Dear Fr Luke

    Happy 200th (and 201th) blog entry..... The circumstances under which the 100th and 200th blog entries have been written have been so different and yet each has brought with it different challenges. This blog page is truly a journey for you and for us. Although the ride has taken unexpected turns and faced what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles, I at least have been forced to take stock of my values and principles and these have been influenced and guided by your much wiser responses and reflections, which are in themselves guiding lights. Thank you for the gift of this blog and onwards to the 300th entry and beyond!

    Sf.

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  25. Hi Fr Luke,
    We are one of the silent ones who have been reading your blogs but have not been commenting. After reading this article, thought we should let you know that we find your writings and ruminations thought-provoking and enriching. Thank you for continuing to share with us.
    Tom & Ceci

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  26. Hi Fr Luke,

    I too have been a silent reader of your blog. Rest assured the audience is far from 'blank'.

    Thank you for your continuos sharing.

    May God bless & keep you.

    Joanna Lim

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  27. Hi Fr Luke,
    You are not writing to a 'blank' audience. I am we are all reading; we are all thinking and we are all reflecting. Thank you for all your entries; they have been a great source of inspiration and guidance.

    Wishing you well.

    Regards
    theresa

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  28. Hi,
    Had not visit your blog for a long time. It should be us to say thank you

    Cheers!

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  29. Hi Fr Luke,

    It had been a long time not visit your blog. Just want to say thank you for all the effort despite of your conditions

    Cheers!

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