My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, have you ever received a good return on an investment? What would your next course of action be? I don’t know about you, but I would likely invest the rest of my resources with the one who has delivered (after doing my due diligence, of course). In a similar vein, let me share with you how I made the best investment of my life.
Here’s the deal…
I was baptised when I was in primary four, but faith was never a factor in my life. In fact, I would dare say that growing up I was a model Sunday Catholic – if it wasn’t for an hour during Sunday morning, I wasn’t Catholic. However, Army changed it all. I was posted to the 1st Commando Battalion and amongst other things I was afraid of a ‘mishap’ of sorts. So that was when I honestly prayed and made God a ‘deal’. I said: “God, if You are real, help me to get through these two years, alive, whole, hale and healthy and I promise to go back to Church and to serve You.” That you are reading this is proof that Our Good Lord kept His end of that bargain and, so I had to keep mine.
The blank cheque…
Upon entering the National University of Singapore, I joined the Catholic Student’s Society (CSS) and stepped up to become the CSS head of publicity in the Faculty of Arts and Social Science. Many things happened that year and I felt called to journey with my fellow brothers and sisters on a more personal basis. As such, at the end of my term, I decided to step down to become a Cell/Catholic Group Leader (CGL). As part of being a CGL, we were tasked to plan out the spiritual direction for the CSS Arts Community for the following year. We began our discussions at the Church of the Holy Spirit on a Friday and it was on Sunday evening when we completed our discernment and plans. I remembered feeling so joyful and in sincerity I could only thank God and prayed the following prayer:
“God, I cannot out do You in generosity. I gave You my time – You gave me grades that I did not deserve. I gave You my resources – You gave me so many real and loving seniors and friends who proactively provide me with help the moment they sense I am struggling. I gave You my talents and abilities – You gave me so much more knowledge of You in this one year than I ever have known in my entire life and I am hungry for more. And to top it all off, You gave me a bonus – You gave me a girlfriend! And she is so beautiful, so loving and so kind. I think she is the one and I want to marry her!
O God, I have nothing extrinsic left to give You. All I have is my body and my soul – I give these to You as well. Do with these as You wish, for I have seen Your Hand in my life and I know that You can do no wrong.”
I cannot remember what the readings at mass were that day nor the homily; that entire Mass, this prayer kept repeating in my heart. Accordingly, I went up to receive Holy Communion and went back to my pew, knelt and prayed. That was when I heard/felt a Voice that came from my heart and that Voice said just one word – “COME”. Words fail to describe that Voice, the closest I can come to is that it felt as though Eternity Itself was talking to me. At that moment, I felt a whole tumult of emotions fear, terror, awe and love amongst a whole host of others. Along with that Voice came a vision of the silhouette of a man with hands raised, his right, holding a circle, above his left, holding a chalice.
Immediately, I stopped my prayer and looked at my friends to see if anyone was playing a prank, but all were still in prayer. Our Blessed Lord had just encashed in full…
I knew what it all meant, but I could not bear to do it. Give up the love of my life? Surrender my dreams of having children of my own flesh and blood? Throw away my goals of earning loads so as to give my future family and parents the comfortable life they deserved? The Lord had turned from the star investor to a debt collector. So, I did what any bad debtor would do – I ran.
Eventually the relationship with my girlfriend ended. However, I was stubborn and determined to do things my way and so after some time I tried to get attached again. The thing was, I could never bring myself to make any “official” because I felt that I was cheating on two parties – the girl and God. I was miserable.
In 2012, my community, 1 Peter, decided to go for a pilgrimage to Israel. I jumped at the opportunity! I would give God ‘face’ and ‘sort things out’ with Him in the Holy Land, I would ‘explain’ the call away and go after the girl I fancied. Try as I might, every site we visited and every passage we relived, I could not explain the call away. The tipping point came when we arrived at the Lake of Genesaret where even I could not stomach my own lame excuses. It was time to pay Up.
I shared everything with Father Valerian who was our Spiritual Director for the pilgrimage and upon returning to Singapore, heeded his advice and approached Father Alex Chua who went on to be my Spiritual Director for the next 5 and a half years. Father Jovita Ho kindly filled in for Father Alex when he suffered a stroke.
The first instalment…
My dear co-worker, as I enter our Blessed Lord’s vineyard and explore the length and breadth, height and depth of His love, I seek your prayers and forgiveness. Pray for me that I will be ever more for Him and you. Forgive me for the times I fail to do so. For me, I hope that you too will discern what the Lord is inviting you to invest in and consider, what are the investments which truly matter? What kind of returns would you like to receive?
The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off in his joy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.
Matthew 13:44 (NJB)