“ 51 He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man. ”
I moved in to Choa Chu Kang – Yew Tee area (CCK) in 2000. St Joseph Church Bukit Timah (SJCBT) thus became my home parish. Every Sunday, my family and I would go to SJCBT for mass before going out for lunch. It was at SJCBT that I started discerning my vocation to priesthood. It was also here that I started to serve the church by joining both the St Vincent De Paul Society (SSVP) as well as the sodality wake prayer group. It was here that the then Assistant Parish Priest (Fr Chris Lee) directed me to the vocation director as I informed him that I would like to discern for priesthood. It was also here that I began my spiritual direction with Fr Alex Chua. Naturally, it was also here that Fr Edmund Chong, the parish priest then, sent me to the Seminary to begin my formation in January 2016. Thus, you can say, it was at SJCBT that I was inducted into my vocation, taught to pray, serve and discern. SJCBT was also where I grew in spirit and human as I began a new journey in my life as a Seminarian. To me, all this was under the watchful care and patronage of St Joseph.
So the first thing that came to my mind when my parents moved to Clementi last year was a big “WHY?!” I had so many fond memories of my time in CCK. Even my God experiences during prayer were in my room at CCK. But because I am now staying in the seminary most of the time, I grudgingly knew that I no longer had any say in them moving. I had already made a choice to enter the Seminary and so too, my parents had made a choice to move out of CCK to Clementi.
Isn’t this the same when we make decisions in life? Every decision we make continues to open some door and close the others. A decision to go to a particular school means you do not go to other schools anymore and you choose freely to accept the values that the school encompassed. Similarly, for work, a marriage partner and other major decisions in life.
As Christians, we are also asked to make many choices in life based on our religious beliefs. The first and foremost question is naturally “Are we willing to follow Christ?” This question when answered has many implications. Firstly, the mission. Choosing to follow Christ is to choose to follow his teachings but most importantly his mission. Jesus Christ came to show us and all human beings how to live as human, loving God and fellow humans, living in triple harmony with God, people and nature. His mission for all Christians is to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” But wait. This does not mean that all of us are to leave our jobs and be missionaries. Christ’s mission must be taken in the context of our life and the situations we face. We are therefore tasked to bring Christ into our world, wherever we are who kowtow to the whim of every authority, secular or religious – certainly the early Church martyrs were no doormats or pushovers.
Secondly, changes will happen. The choices we had made will change our life. Similarly, we can see this in the life example of St Joseph. After he had made his decision to continue his engagement with Mary and to bring up Jesus as his own son, his decisions had their subsequent implications and entailed many sacrifices. To protect Mary and Jesus, he had to uproot his family and flee to the safety of Egypt. When the family returned to Israel, St Joseph chose to stay in Nazareth and once more, starting from scratch and with his bare hands, providing the shelter, bread and butter for his family through his carpentry work. Any plans to start his own family were also put aside as he chose to remain chaste because of the mission given to him.
Similarly, choosing to be a Christian has its challenges too. I am not talking about abstinence (not eating meat) on Fridays, but challenges in our daily lives. To spend time listening to your kids sharing their day at school repeatedly, to wash the dishes when you see that your spouse is busy with the kids, to come back from a hard day of work with kids shouting and arguing amongst themselves, to be tolerant to the neighbour who belts out songs after songs on the karaoke when you just want some peace and quiet, when the babies brawl and cry during masses, when someone blocks your car and you have to leave the church soon for an appointment. Yes, we are asked to challenge ourselves to practice a life of Christian virtues and to love your neighbour when you are down, frustrated, tired and busy, are all trying times. But persevere! The mission of Christ, that we willingly embarked on, will require us to make sacrifices and die to one’s self. The ultimate example is Jesus Christ himself – his crucifixion on the cross. He himself did not lose his focus and mission. He “resolutely walked to Jerusalem” and died on Calvary for our sins.
It is perfectly normal and human to feel dejected, rejected, down and sad, when we embarked on this way of Christian life. However, being a Christian means that we are not alone in this journey. Millions have come before us and completed their journeys. It is now our turn to do so and the many Saints in heaven cheer for us to persevere. The Church is also here to accompany us on this journey, nourishing and preparing us, growing us spiritually and humanly. Participate in the sacraments of the church regularly. That is the best way to garner strength to do the small things (and a little extra) with love in our ordinary way of lives. Find a devotion that you are comfortable with and stick with it (Eg. like a rosary each day). Talk to a priest, counsellor, or fellow church members if you are down and out. Enrich yourselves with the many media resources and books that can engage you spiritually or grow your knowledge in academic areas (Go join CTIS for classes and sign up as a library member of CTIS for access to more than 30,000 books). Form communities with like-minded people or with those who live near you, like your neighbours. Join the various church ministries you have in your parish. In SJCBT, many ministries are very welcoming to new members as they seek to grow in numbers and to renew their leadership.
Yes, choosing to be a Christian is not a bed of roses. Many challenges await us as we make our choices daily. For me, I am now in my third year of formation and I am challenged to look at myself, and growing emotionally and spiritually is tough. I have moved to Clementi and now, my new Parish is Church of the Holy Cross. It is apt, don’t you think so, that in this stage of my life, I am constantly reminded of the mission that I have said ‘yes’ to – the mission of being a Christian, a follower of Jesus whose death on the cross is the triumph over sins and the world. The Holy Cross is the victory emblem of Christianity. Many think that it is a tragedy but we know that there is no other way to eternal happiness except through the Holy Cross. If there were an easier one, I am sure Jesus would have directed us there, knowing how weak we are.
Therefore, I no longer whine or cry foul that I am now in Clementi. My family and I have begun a new life here, at the Holy Cross of Jesus and many new and exciting opportunities to grow awaits me here. I have made my choices to pursue and say yes to the vocation God has given me and I am resolutely going down this route. The Holy Cross is now my mission and being a parishioner of the Church of the Holy Cross is God’s constant reminder and gift for me that I am to persevere in this vocation, never to forget my mission and to turn back on the choices that I have made. Yes, many challenges await me in my formation here at the Seminary but I am confident that with the help of St Joseph, who has helped me to nurture this vocation of mine, will continue to allow me to be obedient to those over me and that I too will advance in wisdom and age, and favour before God and man.
Are you ready to be a Christian and follow Christ?
May St Joseph lead you to the Holy Cross of Jesus.
 Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (Mk 16:15). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.