Monday, August 16, 2010

We all have a quest for God and transformation. Do we?

As a priest and a person who is deeply concerned in the spiritual development of his people, I come across a great number of people who seem not have the view that there is in us an inherent need for God, and that there is no real need to want any sort of transformation.

I am not talking about people outside of the faith or people who are unchurched. I am referring instead to those who are baptized, people who do come to weekly Mass on Sundays, and perhaps even people who are in active ministry. Herein lies a sad reality – that there are many who are just not interested in growth, in maturity, in seeing God’s surprising ways that he can show up at life’s doorstep, and what he is leading us to. There exists in a great many people the idea that God, religion and anything spiritual are simply items to be ticked from a list of other items on life’s agenda.

While I am not saying that we should simply become fanatics and abandon jobs, friends, or family to ‘follow Christ’, I have realized that many are not even considering that it is in the arena of life where God enters in and moves us. Perhaps that explains why so many simply get back to being irascible, argumentative, obstreperous, road bullies, abusive, and display a whole assortment of mean spirited behaviours right after the priest dismisses them at the close of Holy Mass on Sundays. One wonders if there was really any communion at any level when Holy Communion was received. For many, all that negativity seems to be far more real than the God whom they were supposed to encounter and worship.

Perhaps it is for the better that I don’t have a business-mind as I go about my quest for aiding spiritual transformation and trying to be the catalyst for this to happen in peoples’ lives. Just by sheer numbers alone, I am sure that I have not really succeeded in this proposition. Jaded fellow priests who have experienced many a disappointment in their priestly lives may even wonder why it took me so long to come to this realization. I must admit that sometimes, I do find myself wondering why too.

But this is where I have to look deeply and lovingly at Our Lord and allow myself to be with him on Calvary – alone and abandoned, save for a few faithful friends. Even then, was he even sure that they really got the message of living transformed lives, of embracing the beatitudes and of the true meaning of the Cross? And this is also when I need to recall what Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta so often said – what God wants is faithfulness, not success.

Post Script:
Dear blog readers - I have a simple request. I do notice that some of you tend to leave anonymous comments, and I do hesitate to post these, for various reasons. One of them is that I think it helps us in our spiritual growth to really stand up for what we say and be accountable. It's really a sign of maturity. So, can I ask that you identify yourselves, or at least say which country you are posting from. At least this way, I get to know if my blog is read by people outside of Singapore. Thank you so much and God bless.


  1. Father, we can only pray that there will be a point in time in their lives that they will see that they need God so desperately, as someone underwater struggles to breathe.. and it probably is only in that pain that they will truly seek God. I used to pray for something big to happen in my friends' lives, such that they will know that they are helpless and turn to God.. however, thats akin to calling disaster upon them.. would it be wrong??
    don't be discouraged Father, when they are in the pit, they'll know that you are there.. :)

  2. hi, i'm jac from sydney! got ur blog address of a friend in sg. as i'm attending both a catholic and christian church, as i get more involved, i see a need to choose either one.. thank you for your blogging so religiously and also being so honest about the struggles as a priest.. in sydney, being the birth place of hillsongs, the christian church and community here is very strong and they, as my friend says, "do life with God".. in the catholic church though, the priests seem to be stretched between several parishes and there is very little on outreach.. however, i find the rich heritage of the christian church very appealing. there has to be something about the catholic church for it to survive for so long..
    anyway, thank you for blogging once again, and as i said in my earlier comment, the pple know where to find you when they need you. and THAT is impt..

  3. Dear Father Luke

    I agree with you with you on the need for spiritualty growth. But perhaps that there can be various ways of doing this for the ministry. I think I am ready but I wish to speak for many others who are not ready. They have various reasons for not being ready, some valid and some for personal reasons. I know growing in faith is never easy. I failed many times before I get to my present path which I am grateful to God but i know the minute I let down , I have wasted all my efforts. It requires focus, dedication and sincerity. I can only say that we need to pray a lot more to connect with God and experience his enriching presence. I have enjoyed the love, peace and joy. I have been encouraging others to do likewise, especially for those who have left the church. Sometimes I succeed , but most times, I have failed, but I am not giving up . One such person is my non catholic ill brother but now he is better through the grace of god. So long as I have tried, the timing of the desired result is at best left to god. OLSS-Singapore

  4. Robbie J (James Robert)August 16, 2010 at 12:36 PM

    Dear Fr. Luke

    I can understand that, as a priest, it can be frustrating not to be always able to “lead the people to Christ” - but please don’t be discouraged.

    As a husband and father probably my strongest desire is that my children will continue steadfastly in the faith, right up to the end. But even so there is no guarantee that they might not go astray. All I can do is; lead by setting a good example (Lord, help me!), pray for them constantly, and let God do the rest.

    I think the basic misconception for many is the idea of what being a follower of Christ actually means. I’ve often pondered about this, and it took me a long time to come to the realisation that being Catholic is not about what we DO: rather it is a matter of BEING; of what we ARE.

    Sons and daughters of the God most High.

    For many, being Catholic is a never-ending series of retreats, church-related activities, prayer-meetings and the like. These are certainly good in themselves, but they doesn’t automatically make one a true disciple. We’ve got to get to the point where we (and this includes me, too) are able to see things “through Catholic eyes.” Where everything we do is referenced to just who we ARE; followers of the GodMan who suffered, died and then rose for us. This, I believe, is the starting point of a life of faith of a baptised Catholic.

    This state of “being” also includes submission to the authority of the Catholic Church, and I mention this because I know of many Catholics who disagree with certain aspects of our faith - and therefore are not in communion with Catholic teaching.

    I’m not trying to pontificate here - for I too, struggle with my own wretchedness (the ego seems to have a life of its own, doesn’t it?)

    Still, struggle we must..

    God Bless

  5. Somehow I make a connect reading your blog and today's (16.8.10; Monday Week 20) Gospel reading. Many a times, I think we approach our desire for transformation wrongly. We come with the question "Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?"

    Many of us baptized and church-active people are trying to enter the Kingdom through the wrong door. In our secular world, we are identified by the wealth and title we have. In church, our identity is fueled by the ministries we serve and offices we hold. Like boy scouts, we proudly wear all these badges on their chest for to see. The acceptance of our peers in church is seen falsely as our "entry into transformation”.

    Suddenly, you come along and tell us that whatever “transforms” our identity, i.e. the achievements in our career, our services rendered to the church, the commandments and traditions we have religiously kept, is not good enough. You want us to look beyond the medals and badges, and perhaps even beyond our baptism certificate (which to some of us is the golden coupon to heaven). A deeper transformation is a kenotic experience that entails sacrifice and giving up of the badges we wear so proudly. No wonder, the rich young man walks away when Jesus says, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’

    In Jackie Chan’s Forbidden Kingdom, his disciple was describing to him how much they know about Kung Fu. And in Karate Kid, the boy was full of attitude. In both cases, Jackie asked, “How do you learn when your cup is full?” And how the master taught the disciple was by being patience and by making the disciples do the simple thing of letting go first. Perhaps there is a lesson for all of us in these movies.

    In conclusion, I think it is not so much that we don’t desire to change. It is that we think we are sufficiently transformed. And when a priest comes and challenge us, we react by (1) being docile and willing to change; (2) walk away thinking we are incapable of reaching a higher ideal; and/or (3) getting agitated and angry because our wealth is not enough. So, dear Father Luke, I hope you now know at least what goes in the mind of a rich young man – Me!.

    Leonard Rich, Singapore

  6. Mrs Mathilda Chen (OLSS-Singapore)August 17, 2010 at 12:54 AM

    Dear Fr Luke, your homily did hit home this morning - I try to be faithful to my daily prayers (angelus, guardian angel's, divine office, family's, novena for upcoming feast days), readings and rosary.
    I do love all the beautiful prayers written down in books for the busy is so complete with praises, thanksgiving and petitions neatly written down...and there is a reflective silence indicated too....I am reassured I wouldn't miss a thing.
    Now, coming to place all these wonderful feelings into is too overwhelming I think. After Divine Mercy prayers one evening, I saw a fellow parishioner in tears...I just froze...Overhearing someone else talking to her - I thank God for sending an angel.
    At work, knowing and understanding the demands of colleagues and very sure of my own capabilities, I will put in my best foot where it will fit. Only with the grace of God can this be possible...I enjoy my work and the mutual respect of colleagues.
    Having gone thru' angina, I've learnt not to take my health for granted. Hubby is patient in accompanying me in brisk walking and bringing my confidence level back. A definite transformation by the will of God.
    Both of us like to see a more vibrant church - all of us has to play our we allow each other space to use our talents to its best ability, we know deep down; God's love begins with 'me' and if I'm capable of passing it on...Wow, it does feel like heaven on earth....Thank you Fr Luke for all inspirations.

  7. Hi Fr Luke,

    I recall that St Augustine once that the soul is always labouring until it finds rest in God. Some people might claim that we do not need oxygen to live, but that is more because they do not realise that they need it, similarly perhaps it is not so much that people do not have the view for their need for God as that they do not realise their need.

    Maybe the lack of a desire for transformation is the result of religion being as you say one more item on the checklist. This checklist mentality, being a product of the secular world we live in that tries to tell us that there is ‘real’ life then there is religion. Religion is another obligation to be fulfilled, rather than the one unifier in our lives. There are so many distractions in life that people end up confusing the one real need for God as another distraction to be dealt with and cast aside. That being the case, the soil would probably not be fertile.

    The noise that surrounds us becomes so loud and obnoxious that we succumb to it, and don’t realise that there is an alternative. We give up trying to find that calming peace. We can only appreciate silence because there is noise. Similarly our work, church service and different talents are (I’d like to think) God’s way of helping us each in our own way draw closer to Him and grow in His image by seeking Him in all things - when we put on everything we do the cloak of the divine by making it a way of growing closer in God. But rather than become tools in the field, as they rightfully are, these things become the harvest in themselves. It really shows how only God can correct the priorities of man and all of us are merely conduits of His grace. Please do not go too hard on yourself.

    Personally, it seems that even our disappointments and negative encounters are ways of God working to bring us closer to him. To your quote in the final paragraph, ‘what God wants is faithfulness not success’ perhaps we could add, ‘you do your best, God does the rest’. Maybe it is His intention that we obtain some sort of desolation so that we come closer to realising our impotence without Him?

    Thank you for your blog, I started to read your blog when I came across the article in Catholic News a few months ago and it has been a blessing!