Church is a nice place to seek refuge. It has that awesome feeling of being in something big and all enveloping. Like a huge palm that embrace you and tell you, ‘Hey, it’s ok, you are safe here’.
But then, many times, we are too self-assured, too preoccupied with our achievements, too busy with life to feel the need to find refuge.
I guess there are also many people who live goody-goody life, nothing extreme, no tragedy, no betrayal, all rosy and hunky-dory to even need God. I don’t know.
So, yesterday was one of those days when I know I need that little refuge. And I walked in. All dressed up for work. I was going to some Muslim area and I wore some baju kurung type of blouse.
And there was this vineyard story. I actually am quite fearful of the sourgrapes and the bad vines that will be chopped and throw in the fire. I mean, come on, how are we to know if we are the sourgrapes or the sweet seedless grapes? Right? It is not like we have some lable at the church entrance.
Or at the exit. Where the priest is going to give you a little golden star sticker for being a sweet grape and a black one for being a sourgrape. And you walk out, knowing which grape you are.
Sure it is easy for priests to preach about being good and being bad. But really…how are we to know if we are good or bad? What defines good and bad? The expectations and approvals of the people around us? That inner voice inside us?
Anyway, I was feeling rather tired of things, very empty and such. Things most Christians can relate to. Don’t try to make sense of what I said if you aren’t sure of our Christian feelings are. Because it can be interpreted differently.
And wham! The second reading speaks to me :
Philippians 4:6-9 ©
There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honour, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise. Keep doing all the things that you learnt from me and have been taught by me and have heard or seen that I do. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Then, Father B gave his homily. Very simple story. God gave this priest a cup full of milk. God asked him to bring it to the centre of the city (or something like that). And the priest did it for two days.
And God asked the priest what he was thinking in the last two days. And the priest scolded, ‘With a cup full of milk like that, and having to walk all the way to the city, how can I have time to think of anything else except to make sure the milk doesn’t spill.’
(I know Father B is going to feel glad that at least one single soul remembers his stories)
We are like that priest, too preoccupied. Sometimes, we have to be like the poor farmer (the other example mentioned). Poor people have to seek Divine help. Many times, I too have been desperate and pleaded with God. Well, I actually don’t see my Divine as God but rather Jesus. Again, we Christians have the option (maybe not exactly a right word) to connect with the Divine in the Trinity. God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Back to Father B’s homily, he talked about the sourgrapes and the good grapes. And I was shifting in my seat. The homily is getting long. I have to be at Straits Quay before 8 pm. Traffic is bad. Oh Father, how do I know if I am a good grape or bad grape? How? How? How?
And he reminded us that God has made us perfect, giving us all the tools to make sweet wine. He asked if we are giving God a good deal, ROI. He said. I was amused then. Hey, how come I never thought of that?
You know, people can get very self-righteous and think they are all giving God a good deal. They think they are perfect. They think their lives are the model families that is painted in our Family prayer. I hate those questions like ‘When is your husband coming?’ (to be baptised as Catholic). They are the sweet grapes, lah.
When I get that too often, I will sink and label myself the sour grape. Rugi punya investment God made in me. Doubts creep in. People always see me sitting alone in that pew. It does get scary when you are surrounded by families. People with 5 kids, 4 kids, 3 kids all in a row.
It was getting late and I slowly creep out after holy communion, never returning to my pew because it was already 7.10 pm. I got out of church, ran to my car which I had parked far away to avoid getting jammed.
And that question of ‘Am I a good ROI, am I a sourgrape’? Did I make God disappointed with whatever rubbish I have done?
But like always, the sky opens up. So many things happened. I met people who assured me that I am the changed person, the baptised Christian. I get uplifting words.
And at night, I somehow ended up in a venue with 20,000 mostly Muslims. Pious and religious one. And I feel peace. That we can actually have different faiths but that’s ok. When they prayed, I too remain solemn and think of how Divine the Almighty is.
Oh come on, if not for Divine intervention, I wouldn’t have been caught up in a situation where on my left, there are 20,000 Muslims and on my right, there are the highest and some of them most religious people. Initially, I freaked out. OMG, I SMS my colleague ‘Adoi, mati lah saya, berdiri pun tak boleh, jalan pun tak boleh, mati lah’. Because there was no space to move, and the only thing I could do was to sit at the side of the stage. I think I dare not even breathe! I was praying, ‘Aiyor God, I don’t know what they think of me, sitting here without my head covered, somemore in matching earrings. Will they curse me? Help me, God, aiyor, how lah, I can’t do anything at all’
But it was a rare opportunity and I brave myself and remind myself what my job is. And I got what I needed and am utterly proud of it.
So, a sweet grape I am.