Monday, July 23, 2018

With a grateful heart

As a blog writer who tries to put something with some freshness and originality each week on this page, I have always tried to be conscious of not putting myself or my ego in the forefront.  My life, as St Paul so courageously said, is all about Christ, and as a priest, it is my desire that more and more people start to see this as their life goal too.  

But I also do know that on certain occasions, and for a good purpose, it may warrant me to write something that affects me personally.  This week is one such occasion.

On Wednesday, 25 July 2018, which is two days away from today, I will celebrate something significant in my journey with cancer.  It will make exactly 5 years since I received that life-saving stem-cell transplant from an anonymous donor who so generously reached out and saved the life of a fellow human being.  Of course, many of you would know by now that one year after the transplant, the rules that govern the transplant permit that donors can find out about the identity of their recipients, and mine did just that – one year to the date of his donation, and the world now knows that Peter Mui of Chicago is my ‘earthly’ savior.

That 5 year mark for any cancer patient is really quite a big deal.  It means that one is considered to be medically in remission, and that one has crossed marker that makes one now a cancer survivor.  

So, this blog goes out to the many (and I am well aware that there are much more of you than I know of personally) who have journeyed with me these 5 years and given me the support of prayer, love, joy and friendship.  

Ever since my cancer journey began, I saw it as a gift from God – a golden opportunity and a reason for me to speak passionately about the place and importance that suffering has in our lives.  As a priest, I constantly come across so many (believers and non) who are angry, confused and have all sorts of problems whenever suffering enters into their lives in its many forms.  The great mystery of the Christian faith is that it is through suffering that the world was saved, and somehow, it was love within this suffering that effectuated the world’s salvation.  It is only from this lens can we try to see something good in suffering.  Otherwise, suffering will only have an evil end. The triumph of Calvary where the tomb was empty is our vindication in taking suffering positively.

I have come to not only see but also experience up close that our attitude towards suffering makes such a great difference.  In the past, I was inclined like so many, to view life this way – that I will only truly enjoy life and be happy when all my work is done, when my health is perfect, when I am physically fit, when all tensions within my circles of family and friends are in peaceful equilibrium, and there is a tranquility in the pace of life.  Then, I can say that I am truly enjoying life.  

My cancer journey and my cancer gift from God refined that idea.  It was an infantile idea and dare I admit, one that would never put anybody in any state of sustained joy and happiness.  That is because there will always be tensions in life, and because we live in a world that is prone to sin, stress comes in various forms.  I have grown to see that the so-called interruptions or distractions in life are the ‘stuff’ that makes life what it is.  How we face these challenges, the attitudes that we broach them with, whether we resent them and become bitter people, or whether we embrace them with patience, forbearance and fortitude, with an eye cast towards heaven, determines how close or how far we are from being images of Christ to the world.  

I have always been aware during my bouts of chemotherapy, the transplant, and the ensuing encounters with graft-versus-host disease that I was actually in a very grace-filled and rich time of my life.  In fact, I do look with much fondness back at those days, and with hindsight, see God’s amazing hand even in the tensions, nausea, pains, throbbing headaches and the hundreds of needles that found their way either into my veins or muscle-fibers.  

I thank God for my cancer and my faith, my bishop and brother priests who prayed for me and ministered to me, my various doctors, nurses and caregivers for my treatments, my fellow Christians and friends from the world over for their prayers and love, my family for their patience and constancy and undying love, my parishioners who have been journeying with me, BMDP (Bone Marrow Donor Programme) and Be The Match, Chicago, and of course, Mr Peter Mui from Chicago, who five years ago on this day, bothered to interrupt his own life to help me to face my own interruption in life when it was graced with leukemia.  


  1. Thank you... Gratitude certainly puts much in a life-giving light. Pax!

  2. Insightful reflections always. Keep it up, FrLuke!

  3. All praise and thanksgiving be to God for his Divine plan.

    Father Luke, very happy for you to pass your 5 year cancer mark today and May our Good and Almighty Lord continue to bless you and guide you as you walk closely with Him and Our Blessed Lady’s protection be upon you everyday of your life. God’s abundant blessings be upon you as you continue to be an useful instrument to spread God’s love, mercy, grace and peace to all in your Parish and those you come in contact with.

  4. I like what you said about .........

    “I have grown to see that the so-called interruptions or distractions in life are the ‘stuff’ that makes life what it is.” - this reminds me of what I read some time ago about C.S. Lewis in his biography. It was something I had not expected a don of Oxford and Cambridge to don - (besides being a renowned novelist, poet and lay theologian)

    In his biography ....his brother Warnie lamented that Lewis could have been more prolific had his adoptive mother not forced him to spend countless hours doing all the shopping and domestic chores . However, Lewis himself disagreed. He believed that it was these demands or interruptions his mother made on him, that kept him in touch with life kept his feet squarely on the ground and enabled him to have such a deep and sound and emphatic insights into the everyday human condition.

    Similarly, I feel that it is in these interruptions in life that you mentioned that we see God’s hand in our life....... yes, even through pain and suffering .......for that is how God can tutor us and guide us.....learning lessons in gratefulness.

    In fact in one of his writings (can’t recall) St John of the Cross too, did say that we need to have these distractions and interruptions (that you mentioned) that cause tensions in our lives so that in carrying them, we come to kindling temperature for without this we are like green logs thrown into the fire (of love).........we will not be dry/matured enough to burst into flames, to take in the fire that is around us until the dampness of selfishness has been dried out.

    So to be Christ to others, to live for others , is indeed a grace. It needs stoutness of heart and abiding love and trust in Him who first called you by name.

    Thank you for sharing Fr. God bless you.