Monday, April 8, 2013

Sufficiency at each moment

I remember rather vividly when the doctors first suggested that I may have cancer about a month ago.  Back in Singapore already by then, I was placed in the investigative care of several doctors who were tasked to find out the origins of my daily bouts of high fevers.  One of them suspected that it was Leukemia. I recall just letting the news flow into me like an incoming tide on a very calm day.  No drama, no anger, no incredulity.  It was as if I was looking at myself from a distance, and there was a reassuring calm that assured me that “it’s ok”, and that this is in no way an abandonment in any way, shape or form.  If at all there was an ‘out-of-body’ experience that I could ever refer to in my life, that would be a very close one.  Even up till now I am amazed at the kind of grace that I have been privileged of receiving on a daily basis, where it does seem that I have simply hightailed it from denial to acceptance. 

I have read about and encountered many peoples’ difficult and painful struggles about that fluctuation between the so-called five stages of grief management (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance), and even had on several occasions myself asked cancer patients if this is a linear movement, where one finishes with one stage and moves on to the next one, in some sort of progressive way.  Apparently, it is different for different people, and one can actually go through all five stages in the span of a few hours in a day, and even go back to a stage several times.  There is, as such, no hard and fast rule about when and how long one is at each stage of the grief process. 

I have asked myself the pointless question of why this does not seem to be the case for me, and lately, in the silence of my hospital room (I hardly have the TV or radio on in the room) I came to the conclusion that this is perhaps because I have never seen this cancer-challenge as something that is grief causing.  Sometimes, it is the label that one gives to things and situations that can determine and cause the way one deals with life challenges.  Truth is, I have never seen cancer as something that I should be dealing with by looking at it with grief.  Grief is defined as deep sorrow, often caused by the news of a death of a loved one.  My faith in God and his deep Divine Mercy has deeply instilled in me that the only true sorrow in life that is truly deep is when one has cut off oneself from this font of mercy and love by one’s sinfulness and stupid willfulness.  Everything else is a commentary.

Do I mean to be flippant about the true and agonizing suffering of millions of others who also have to deal with physical pain and psychological torments?  Certainly not.  I fully acknowledge that each person’s suffering is real.  But there is a certain point at which a person can choose to dwell on that suffering, or ask God to use it creatively for the betterment of God’s Kingdom.  I remember having a conversation with my friend in DC, Fr Paul Appel, a priest-student from Iowa, a kind hearted and gentleman12 years younger than I who stayed in the same college as I did.  It was at the beginning of my fever bouts, and he asked me how this experience of illness (of course we didn’t know that I was at the genesis of leukemia then in early January of this year) would affect the way I ministered to the infirm in future.  I remember saying to him that the words I use in future will no longer have a hollow ring to them, as I know for a fact how one feels when one is truly sick. 

Yet, having said that, I look at my own situation now, and realize that I have been graced by God and have fully and almost immediately accept this cancer-journey with a spirit of peace and quite calm.  Does this mean that I have yet to really walk the walk, almost nullifying any claims to being in real solidarity with my fellow cancer sufferers because my lot seems to be so different?  Yet, I am fully convinced that this whole experience has not just a teaching and living lesson for me, but for many out there who are looking for some semblance of positive outlook in life when it appears that life is only giving out lemons.  Many have written to me and told me how my open reflections about the mystery of life and suffering have given them some form of a shot in the arm.  (God knows the kind of unpleasant shots that we have had to endure in our infirmity!)

One of the ways that I think has helped me in looking at things positively is to see that there is an air of sufficiency in everything.  If I am to look at life and its challenges as something that is lacking, something that needs topping –up, something that needs mending and something that requires a completion by my or God’s acts, there will be an insufficiency that fills my world and my spirituality.  I will be always looking at life as a half-filled glass, and I may well be walking around with an air of discontent, impatience and a sense of being unfulfilled.  That would be a living nightmare.  But if our lives can be filled with some semblance of sufficiency, where we know that no matter what happens or has happened in our lives, that it is sufficient, that God is more than sufficient, that our lot in life is sufficient, and that ‘lack’ is a human category that often renders one ungrateful, impatience and unwilling to yield, I truly believe that we can begin to make ‘acceptance’ a place where our spirits, hearts and minds can dwell for a long time to come, and the Holy Spirit can truly be a long-staying guest in the depths of our hearts.


  1. It reflects your total trust and dependency on God and believe it is the fruit of your daily Holy Hour frLuke.


  2. Yr sharing is truly uplifting. Continue to depend on Him as he will not abandon us. Will be praying for u.

  3. Hi father,
    Keep your eyes on Jesus. While it may sound impractical, it is the most powerful thing you can do, and Jesus will
    Cause you to reign over every storm in your life. :)

    We can walk above our problems when we keep our eyes on Jesus and trust Him.

    Rest well


    1. hi fr. luke,

      to me.. you have demonstrated the all-sufficiency of Christ, who is your strength in your time of weakness, struggle and pain (as in 2 Cor.12:9; Phil 4:13). Having attained somewhat, a measure of equanimity ..(or a state of inner balance which enables one to be calm, quietly confident and trusting, being centered in Christ).. in the midst of life's turmoils and storms.. Not unlike St.Paul in Phil 4:12, who described his state of being 'content in any and every situation', whether it be one of adversity or blessing..) But it is not equanimity in the sense of being indifferent to pleasure or pain, where you remain dull in senses or neutral in your observations of life. Through the kind ministrations of God, it is both a 'gift' and also a 'fruit' of the Spirit which sensitize you to the pain of others, deepening your empathy and compassion to another's struggles and suffering..
      And No!!.. You certainly don't strike me as being "flippant about the true and agonizing suffering of millions of others who also have to deal with physical pain and psychological torments.." (in your words)..
      thks for the sharing..
      Grace and Peace,
      - jl

  4. Hi father,
    When it comes to your desires, hopes and dreams, there is no detail that is too minuscule, minute or insignificant for Jesus. If it matters to you, it matters to Him! Even if you go to Him in prayer to remove that small pimple on your nose, He. Is not going to look at you and reply mockingly, "Hey buddy, don't you know that I've got a whole universe to run? Come to Me when you have a bigger prayer request."No Way! A thousand times No! Jesus will never ridicule or deride your concerns as petty. He is never dismissive or condescending. If it bothers you, it "bother" Him. You are important to Jesus. Know with full assurance in your heart that Jesus knows your perfectly. If you are challenges your sicknesses, jesus's unmerited favor will protect, deliver, prosper, bring restoration to and provide for you. His unmerited favor will transform you into wholeness and it is the goodness of God.

    Get well soon

  5. Dearest Fr. Luke,

    I remembered the day when my mother was called home to the Lord, and I felt as if my world had collapsed, I was in numbing shock and grief as she left suddenly without giving us a chance to say goodbye. The only thing that kept my sanity and in fact still holding me in a piece is the peace of knowing God is a loving God who loves her more than I do.

    If all of us, (Baptised Christians at the very least), come to truly know God, and more importantly come to trust Him as a loving God, indeed, nothing in this world will frighten us. No bad news, no “end of the world” predictions, no catastrophe or pagan superstition will shake our grounding. In fact, no unknown, unchartered territory will petrify us as we know deep within, - All things happen for the good of those who love God. ;) CCC 313 ; Romans 8:28

    In fact, this state of “sufficiency” – as you explained, is also the very state the Catholic Church calls us to be. (CCC 1014 -…Death would have no great terrors for you if you had a quiet conscience. . . . Then why not keep clear of sin instead of running away from death? If you aren't fit to face death today, it's very unlikely you will be tomorrow. . .)

    It is no easy feat to reach this tranquil state, as fear is ingrained in our fallen nature. But Perfect love cast out all fears. And so we should strive and pray that God will be as generous with us, to grace us with peace and sufficiency. I remembered a sharing by a convert-catholic who disclosed– the reason she decided to join RCIA is because of her catholic colleague who passed away in such peace and serenity that greatly appealed to her, after witnessing her own family elders who left the world in unforgiveness and anger. She hopes she can too, one day, experience this peace when she leaves this world.

    Will be praying for you Fr. , as always.
    Thank You for your sharing.

  6. Dear Fr Luke, Miracles do happen and the immediate miracle that God can give now is to give you the donor that enable you to have the stem cell replacement. We are all praying for you.

  7. Dear Fr Luke,
    "Peter said, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water," and Jesus said. "Come" (Mt 14:28-29) As long as he kept his eyes fixed on the Lord and not on the danger, Peter walked successfully on the waves, but when he looked about at his precarious situation, he began to sink. Fr Robert Baron explained that as long as we keep our eyes on Jesus we can walk in deep water, the moment we turn away, we sink. Fr Luke, your are truly graced by God to be able to remain this calm in your present situation. God loves you and I will keep praying for you.

  8. In today’s Gospel reading ( John 6:6-21) about Jesus walking on the lake – these words moved me, “ the wind was strong, and the sea was getting rough.........they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming towards the boat. This frightened them.....”

    And we were told by the homilist that the disciples were frightened because they feared they were seeing a ghost or it could be that they knew that Jesus is God and they feared meeting Him face to face for we are told- no one can see God face to face and live! Even Moses’ face became so radiant after his encounter with God that he had to wear a veil.

    However, Jesus said, “It is I. Do not be afraid.”

    Reflecting on this, I felt that in the storms, the windy, rough seas and even in the roaring tempests of Life............such as the devastating news of terminal and chronic illnesses, sufferings, pain and hardship- we are no longer afraid to see God face to face. Instead Jesus’ gentle assurance, “ It is I. Do not be afraid”...........would be our greatest comfort and we would make haste to welcome Him into our boat. Though the sea may still be rough and the winds may still howl, with Him inside, our boat will not be tossed aimlessly and our senses will be centred ....on an even keel......for in a way, we have reached home. That is more than sufficient.

    And so like you said, “God is more than sufficient, our lot is sufficient.....” Jesus is more than sufficient! For when Jesus is in our boat, His Spirit moves to heal and unite our fragmented selves, pouring the balm of peace and the fragrance of tranquillity on our troubled minds and body - rejuvenating us, beckoning us to rise above all these shadows for we are made for Easter.

    So, yes, I believe that, then – “ the Holy Spirit can truly be a long-staying guest in the depths of our hearts.”
    God bless you, Fr.


  9. Dear Fr. Luke, thank you for continuing to share your journey. Indeed we need constant reminder that no matter how hard the journey, God is with us. He is sufficient.

  10. Dear Fr Luke.
    Have faith and be stong, we are with you every step of the way. May your journey be strengthened with serenity and courage.