This is going to be a long, long post with biting remarks so you can take your pacifier and smelly blankie and go play far-far if you cannot stomach things related to religion. However, there are precious thing in life that it is worth writing down so that one can come back and read it again for inspiration.
I am normally not a ‘fanboi’ of visiting priests. There are lots of people who will stand and wait to shake hands with visiting priests. I hate that because I feel like such a fanboi (adoring fans of celebs) and so fake. Moreover, I doubt the priests care if we say, “Hey, Father your homily rocks my socks or your homily put me to sleep.” because they usually have their courteous smile and all.
Anyway, I stopped to tell Fr. William Goh from Singapore that his homily is very inspiring and I probably broke a few bones on his hand with my warm handshake. Fr. William is the rector from the Singapore seminary.
I am on OHP duty today and when I saw he and another Singaporean priest plus 10 others seminarians in their white robes coming for mass, I freaked out. Scary, you know? All the holy men in their white robes are very intimidating. What if I tersilap flash the wrong slides and malu-fied the whole Penang in front of the kiasu Singkapohleans? However, thank the Lord that I had met a few of the seminarians at College General and one of them, a young man even has me as his friend on Facebook. Ahh….I love how Facebook connects people.
The homily started pretty normal and I was sitting there, not anticipating much, behind the computer and the ENTER button on the keyboard. I guess I am one of those lukewarm Catholics who attend mass because I am expected to.
However, the small size, gray hair Fr. William’s voice soon started booming when he warmed up to his homily. He said, “When we love, we take the risk. Love is foolish. God is foolish.” God loves us unconditionally and He gives us lots and lots of chances. The Gospel is about the man with his vineyard and the tenants who killed all the people the man sent, including the man’s son. In a gist, it is about how we often disbelieved in God even when we know Jesus (this applies to Christians, ok?).
Fr. William said we are all like the chief priests, who feel as if we are the exonerated lot. Well, I do not exactly know the meaning of exonerate but nevertheless, I took out pieces of papers and started to scribble what Fr. William said. There is always dictionary online for me to refer later on. (exonerate : To discharge from duty or obligation, as a bail.)
(Thank You, Ray Boltz)
He said eventhough we have all been given by God in so many ways, yet, we often do not believe. As Christians, we have encountered Jesus because we have seen the Risen Lord. Father William asked us what is our response to God’s love? What kind of Catholics are we?
Are we nominal Catholics? Is our way of life reflecting this? Do we disappear from church after baptism (confirmation)? Are we lukewarm Catholics who attend church a few times a year? Are we prophetic Catholic? Have you been witness of Christ’s love? Have we became complacent and lost the zeal to bring Jesus to others?
Well, I can feel myself shifting in my plastic chair. Yes, all of us are guilty somewhat. If we are not one of the above, we are the other type of Catholic which is the self-righteous, pain-in-arse type. Of course, Fr William did not say this, I only made my own conclusion.
Then, Father William in an even louder voice said that he empathize with us. For a small size man, he really has very loud and commanding voice. Oh dear, I wonder how many of the seminarians kena his wrath before?
This is when I feel I can totally connect. Father William said he understand why each of us remain somewhat lukewarm to Christ. It is because we have not encountered Jesus. That’s why we have no real love for the Lord. We are merely practising Catholics who come to church, give a little bit of money as donation and put on some shows.
Father William said, “THIS IS NOT WHAT THE LORD ASKED FROM US.” He said at most, only 15% of the parishioners are involved in the church. Are you a Christian witness in the world?
He then said, “When people do good things, people tend to forget. When people do bad things, people tend to remember.” This is so true.
Father William asked, “Where are you today?” Yes, indeed, what are we? Nominal, lukewarm, practising or prophetic Catholic? Why does this happen to us? Because, according to Fr William, we are lacking good priests. Many of us have not tasted the Word of God. That’s why we need more priests to break the Word of God to the people. In my mind, I wickedly agree.
Yes, so often, I had attended mass and hear a thousand homilies and most times, it was just ‘one of those boring sermon’. I am not saying that our priests are not good. It is just that sometimes, they are probably sicked of us. Yes, the priests are probably sick of us, the parishioners because they have to endure like 6-7 masses each weekend and see the same blank faces, deal with the same old politics and maybe power crazy people who wants to be head of every ministries. Suddenly, I emphatise with priests. Thank God for our three parish priests who possess different personalities. (the fatherly, the brotherly and the ‘I will screw you if you try to get too holy-moly with me’. Hehehe, no need to guess who is who.)
Back to the homily, Father William said if we are parents, we will understand God’s pain. How often we have been giving and giving to our children, only to find that they are ungrateful. However, despite of that, we the parents are still giving and forgiving. If we are employers, we can sack our ungrateful and errant employees. If we are parents, we have to bear the pain.
This is the part where it hurts me to tears. It is not my own children I was thinking of. It is the world in general. What Father William said makes so much sense. I realise that I am blessed in some ways because my children are lucky that we have been through some tough times when our parental’s love was shown to them through my deceased son. That period of time when my children had seen what pain and sufferings are and what unconditional love are, have made them fare better as individuals than some of their peers.
Father William said that when we cannot experience God’s love, we as parents cannot love as Christ loved us. And when parents cannot experience that kind of love, we cannot give that kind of love to our children.
We are like paying them (through materials needs) to study well, to be good. There is no Christ in our hearts, only by faith. So, that’s why we are all lukewarm to Christ’s love.
Then, in conclusion, Father William as the rector (a rector is the head of the college where they train young men to be Catholic priests) told us to pray for vocations. He said it is every baptised Catholics’ duties. Be aware of what is happening and know that priests are crucial in helping all of us to be what God wants us to be. Not lukewarm, not nominal, not practising but the kind of Jesus’s followers who follow the Father’s will.
Father William said vocations can only come from families who are in love with the Lord. He asked the young people to consider the Lord’s calling.
Later on, when I was back home, I told my sons about Father William’s homily and teased them that I am going to pray for them to be priests. Well, actually, it is not a bad idea, you know? I don’t mind being the mother to a priest or two. I only discover this when I spent time with some of the young seminarians. One of them, a lawyer with his own firm, left the profession and is now at the college, studying to be a priest. The other few young men too used to have good careers until they decided to leave everything and follow their hearts. I specially prayed that in a few years time, I can address them as Father. May the Lord keep them close to His path, strengthen them (and also their families), keep these young men strong in faith and away from temptations of the world.
This reminds me of something. Last night, at the candlelight vigil, the rector from Penang (Malaysia) Fr. Edwin asked me where is my Michael. I was like, “Huh? Michael?” before I suddenly realised that Fr. Edwin is asking where is my son. LOL. I thought who he was talking about. I told my son that Father Edwin asked about him and he said, ‘Swt lah…morning, I ate breakfast with three archbishops at the same table, at night, another Father asked about me. Die lah….” I told him, “Mana mau lari, God is calling you….” Bwahahaha….