Monday, March 25, 2013

Entering into the Jerusalems and Gethsemanes of our lives

As Holy Week begins, the Church through her liturgy will guide the faithful on a journey that recalls vividly the passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  There are, to be sure, multivalent levels of participating in these deep days of prayer, worship and reflection, the simplest of which would be to look at it from a non-involved and sterile distance, as if one were a member of an audience at a very prolonged opera.  This would assure that one makes that false divide between faith and life as clear as possible, without seeing any need to make any connection between the life of Christ and one’s own life. 

If Liturgy ends up with the faithful doing this, it would have failed to be what Liturgy is meant to be.  Liturgy is meant to draw one closer and closer to the life of Christ as one becomes absorbed by the mystery that one participates in.  Properly celebrated and conscious of the words of the Celebrant ‘ite, Missa est’ (Go, the Church has been sent) are proclaimed, each participant whose sense of Christian mission has been heightened by deep participation at the Liturgy becomes aware of the pressing need to live the life of Christ in a real and dynamic way. 

Holy Week brings this reality to the fore.  We see Jesus entering Jerusalem for the last time and we also see the dark reality of sin and evil.  But it is not just sin and evil, pain and suffering that we see as in abstract.  We are made aware of how real this darkness is in our own lives, and how we struggle and cope with this constant fight because there is also a very real side of our lives that also wants to live for Christ and holiness and goodness.

Each of us has Jerusalems and Gethsemanes that we inevitably have to face with a certain dimension of aloneness.  In most of our sufferings, we generally have the community’s support, shared faith, and prayers.  I have personally benefitted, and still am benefitting, from the many who have been with me in prayer as I live with my illness.  But I have also come to realize that like wanting to be with a friend who is going on an overseas flight at the airport departure terminal, there is a point at which he or she needs to go beyond a certain point alone.  These are the Jerusalems and Gethsemanes that I am referring to.  It is not that the prayers of loved ones are ineffective.  They will always be sources of strength and moral support.  But just as Jesus was so aware of his being alone with no one else but the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane even though his beloved friends were just a ‘stone’s throw’ from him, so too do we sometimes find ourselves in life.  We can sympathise with sufferers of all sorts of pains and life-struggles all we want, but there will always be dimensions of their suffering and darkness that will always be something that they alone can experience, and they alone have to live through. 

But it is what these experiences end up doing for them that also forms (or deforms) them.  Jesus did not let his aloneness make him an embittered, angry and resentful man.  He commended his Spirit to the Father as his final gift of his complete self.  But he had to go through his Passion to get to that point.  What this means for us is that one cannot make short-cuts one’s journey to that surrender point, as much as we would want to.  It is that portion of life between the Jerusalem’s entry and that final surrender that forms us.  And it will only happen if we allow it to form us. 

As I begin Holy Week I will be going back to the hospital for my second round of intensive chemotherapy, I will also take this reflection with me.  It will be the most interesting Holy Week since my ordination thirteen years ago.  Though there will be no Liturgy that I can participate in, I will be participating in another kind of mystery altogether, and I take with me as my companions all those who are suffering in small and large ways, and with you, I too, look forward to the Resurrection with eyes that look toward the wonders of Easter joy.  


  1. Blessed day ahead father,
    " Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
    Luke 12:6-7

    So no matter what problems you are facing right now, you can rest in His love for you. There is no problem that is too insignificant for Him to handle. He is not just God Almighty, He is also your heavenly Father Who loves you.

  2. Keeping you in my prayers and thanks for your sharing which are affirmations from God through you!

  3. Dear Fr. Luke

    May the peace and love of God be with you always..

    Isaiah 41:13 - For I, God your God, I am holding you by the right hand; I tell you, "Do not be afraid, I will help you."

    Jesus loves you.

  4. Fr Luke
    Sad to hear that you are still not done with chemo but glad that you had a little rest at home and be with loved ones. So encouraged to see you faithfully posting your weekly blog despite your difficult illness. We hope to be able to continue reading it for a long time to come as it is like a live sermon.

    You are a special child of God, He loves you very much and remember, He has a plan for you, to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future!

    Always remembering you in prayers

  5. Fr Luke, thank you for keeping up with your blogs and encouraging others. You are in my daily prayers.

  6. I was truly struck by what you have written. The analogy about leaving at the airport is especially poignant; and it makes me wonder...

    Indeed there is a secret place deep, deep in the centre of our very being that even those closest and dearest to us cannot reach or touch. Only God can go there, if we let Him. But that can only happen when we have put to death all our pretensions and false ideas about our true worth.

    Paradoxically, it is not that we over-value ourselves, but rather, seriously under-value ourselves. Yes, under-value. For God to have sent His only Son in order to save us reveals just how precious we are to Him. Yes, you are so precious to Him.

    God bless,

  7. Dear Fr Luke,

    Yes, for some the passion of Christ is simply what they see performed as a historical play; for others unfamiliar with the story, they may be informed; still others reminded of Christ's suffering for our sins will renew their commitment to conform with his Way; at each level, the mystery will no doubt transform us.

    God loves you, Fr Luke.

    Richard Contardo

  8. Dearest Fr. Luke,

    Indeed this year’s Holy Week will be a time of deep reflection and intimacy (alone) with God, as He is with you, carrying you in His bosom, leaving His set of footprints.

    An encouraging quote to share from the Film – St Francis of Assisi, which I watched last night that stuck me – "If all things belongs to God, then it is only our suffering that truly belongs to us that we can give to God." (In context to the film – quote was spoken when St Francis was suffering Jesus’ Stigmata.)

    I pray for all going through Gethsemanes and Jerusalems in their lives, that their experiences will not only form them, but to transform them.

    God is with you always Fr. Luke,
    Blessed Happy 13th Year –Day of Priesthood.

    United in prayers,

  9. ‘’........just as Jesus was so aware of his being alone with no one else but the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane............................., so too do we sometimes find ourselves in life.............................Each of us has Jerusalems and Gethsemanes that we inevitably have to face with a certain dimension of aloneness................’’

    When I reflect on these words, together with the Liturgical readings of Holy Week - I feel that .......... the Jerusalems and the Gethsemanes are the ‘inevitables’ of our human-ness ( our vulnerabilities?) but they are also the necessary means through which we can work with Him to save ourselves.

    So, though you said that you are ‘not participating in any Liturgy’........I believe that you are actually participating in the ‘Liturgy of Life’ – as Jesus would have it. For He came to show us how to enter our Jerusalems and Gethsemanes and how to allow them to transform us, if we, but dare reach for His hand in our alone-ness. And each time we consciously reach for His hand – we experience an awareness of self and of the moment we are in.........
    Thus, alone-ness and silence need not be a bad thing, but may be very necessary for introspection and growth.
    God bless you, Fr.

  10. Dear Fr Luke

    May you find strength and courage as you share in the passion of the Lord - may His riches fill your soul...

    God is with you.

  11. Hi, Fr. Luke,

    Thank you for posting your reflections; they are always so insightful. We at the Dominican House to continue to pray for you and think of you. It must be very hard, among your other physical sufferings, not to celebrate or participate in the liturgical celebrations of these Holy Days. I will join my prayers to all those praying for you for grace to bear this unique spiritual cross. God is close to you.

    God bless you, and thank you for your prayers and sacrifices,

  12. Hello Fr Luke,

    As the priest sang the Alleluia last night, you came to mind -
    I remember you singing it some years back at St Anne's .
    That year during the sprinkling rite, I was splashed in the eye. (happy memories)
    Been praying for you (as so may are) God bless you & keep you in His loving care.


  13. Hi Fr Luke,

    When I had my colon cancer about 7 years ago (during Easter) you visited me at SGH. You prayed for me and I needed that as it gave me a divine assurance and comfort that JESUS was with me in my journey with the big 'C'.
    I am now in remission and although I could not visit you my Prayers are always with you for your recovery and I am optimistic that you will....HE healed me and so will HE heal you too.
    HIS Grace is suffcient for you. GOD Bless you and your family.

    RA(frm OLPS)