Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Lord, I believe!

Over the weekend of the Fourth Sunday of Lent, our little community here in Kampung Ponggol were blessed with the company of 25 wonderful brothers in the Lord who had taken time of their busy schedules and daily routines to come away to join us in being with the Lord during our recent Vocation Discernment Recollection. I love these gatherings of our aspirants because they are wonderful moments of grace for all of us when we can renew our commitment to one another as fellow companions on the journey which we are all undertaking with the Lord. During the short hours we spend together during the Recollections, we share intimate moments of communal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament as well as have moments of deep communion when we share with one another all the mighty works the Lord is doing in our lives as seminarians and aspirants.

The last Recollection was no exception when I could clearly see the mighty hand of God moving in our midst especially amongst the brothers who are continuing to persevere on the journey despite the many challenges they have to overcome. It was also amazing that we had a good number of new brothers whom the Lord had touched and had opened their hearts to courageously join us as fellow companions on this journey. I thank God for each of them and give praise to the Lord for what he is doing in our midst. Indeed, we are awaiting with great anticipation for the Lord to raise up a new generation of passionate and zealous Shepherds after his own heart for the local Church of Singapore. It was also wonderful that our Archbishop who has been extremely dedicated to facilitating the flowering of new vocations in Singapore also paid us a surprise visit and joined us during our Holy Hour. Many of us were deeply edified that the Apostle of our Land should come to be with us as we gathered together in prayer around our Eucharistic Lord. It was certainly a reminder of the scene of the first Pentecost when the Apostles were gathered together in intense prayer in the Upper Room awaiting the Lord’s empowering through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

That night, as I updated our brother aspirants about my own journey thus far, the passage of scripture narrating King David’s Call (1 Sam 16: 1-13) came to mind. My own call to possibly serve the Lord as his priest is always a mind-blowing revelation for me. In my own littleness, I shared with them how I could relate to the call of Kind David when the Lord did not choose any of his other brothers who certainly seemed to be more suitable for the post. The Lord says to the Prophet Samuel, “God does not see as man sees; man looks at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.” I felt the Lord repeating these same words to the group of us who were gathered together at the Recollection that night.

The Recollection went on smoothly and I was grateful to the Lord for touching each of us in some way at that Recollection. After the Recollection ended on Saturday afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised when I opened my Sunday Missal to read the scripture readings for the Fourth Sunday of Lent the following day. The same passage of David’s Call which had come to me the night before was the first reading of the Sunday. As I was praying with the scripture readings of the Sunday, I couldn’t but help feel the call to deepen my earlier reflection of the beautiful Recollection that had just ended and to look at my brothers, both seminarians and aspirants, through the lens of the scripture readings that were providentially chosen for the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

As I reflected on the awesome journey the Lord was inviting me and my fellow brothers on, I could not help but see all three readings of the Fourth Sunday of Lent having a special place in our hearts and journeys.

Many of us are indeed simple and ordinary disciples of the Lord and can certainly relate to the deep emotions that must have welled up in the heart of that simple shepherd-boy David when the Prophet Samuel anointed him as the new King of Israel. Furthermore, as we continue to respond to the Lord’s call to deepen our understanding of our special and unique life mission and vocation, the exhortation of St. Paul in the Second Reading (Ephesians 5:8-14) echoes in our hearts as we hear St. Paul saying to us, “You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth. Try to discover what the Lord wants of you….” Is this not what each of us is persevering to do in our lives? Are we not those who have come to the light in the Lord and are trying to discover what the Lord wants of us?

The Gospel of the Fourth Sunday of Lent was really the crowning reflection of all that I had experienced during the weekend of the Recollection. As I pictured the blind man in the Gospel who sat begging, I was reminded of myself and of my brother aspirants and seminarians. Just like that blind man in the Gospel, we too were once blind and oblivious to the presence of the Lord in our lives. Then, one day, Jesus entered our lives and radically changed our entire lives when He opened our eyes to the reality of his presence and his call for us. Many of us are still not completely healed but we know that the Lord is continuously placing the “paste with the spittle” on our semi-blinded eyes and he is sending us to wash our eyes in the pool. As we get distracted by the many blind spots in our lives, the Lord himself intervenes and asks us to wash ourselves again in the pool. Is this pool any other pool but the pool of the waters of baptism that each of us has been washed in. Each of us discovers our sight again only when we come to re-discover our baptismal vision of life.

What really caught my attention was the ending of the Gospel when Jesus found the blind man he had healed and asks him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” and the now healed blind man replies, “tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.” At this Jesus says, “You are looking at him; he is speaking to you.” I find that these words aptly summarise the journey of my life and that of many of us who are on the journey of discerning our vocations. We have somehow experienced restoration and wholeness in our lives through Jesus and with this concrete experience of his mercy and compassion in our lives, he asks us individually and personally, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Sometimes, we seem to forget what the Lord had just done for us slightly earlier in our lives and we ask again “tell me who he is so that I may believe in him”, only to hear Jesus reveal his identity patiently to us again and again - “You are looking at him; he is speaking to you.”.

At these words, our entire being cries out with that same response of the blind man that we heard about in the Gospel. What other response could we make but to cry out, “Lord, I believe!” There is no longer any need to look back or to think twice about this profession of Faith. “Lord, I believe!” These are the same words that I hear resounding from my own life and I see this same profession of Faith also arising from the lives of all other men and women who have allowed Jesus to enter into their lives and have encountered Him who opens their blinded eyes to an awesome new vision of life that they would have never otherwise seen. “Lord, I believe!

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