When we celebrate Christmas, our hearts are filled with joy because God- Emmanuel has come into our lives to be with us; God in the person of Jesus has come to proclaim the Good News that it is His Father’s Will that every human person be saved from the destruction of sin.
When we celebrate Easter, our hearts are filled with joy because Jesus who proclaimed the Good News is Himself the Good News of Salvation. He Himself has Risen from His Death; He has conquered death and has thrown open the gates of heaven and is offering us the gift of eternal life and happiness. Jesus’ Resurrection is a historical fact and His gift of eternal life is the most precious gift that any human person can ever hope to receive during our lifetime.
Tonight, this divine gift is very specifically given to 51 non-Christians who are to be Baptised into the Christian faith. They will each be washed clean of all the sins of their past lives and they will be transformed into the most beautiful human persons on earth; pure and without sin, and having a deep and perfect union with God, as God’s son or daughter. In addition, we will also witness 7 of our Christian brothers and sisters being received into full communion with the Catholic Church. And, together with the newly Baptised they will receive Christ Himself at Holy Communion and the fullness of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation.
For those of us born Catholics, do we sense a certain “holy envy” for these brothers and sisters of ours who are in such perfect union with God and we are not? If we have such holy “envy,” then tonight is the night we should all the more renew our faith and commitment in God as our “holy envy” could be a sign that we have not been living our faith as deeply as God Wills of us.
But, for those of us who do not have such “holy envy” for our newly Baptised, then we know from experiences, that while we are so blessed to have the gift of faith, we are also aware of the many trying and painful challenges that come with our faith. I would like to share with you the testimony of Christopher Minjoot, who is present with us with his three Catholic young boys and his wife who is to be Baptised tonight. Chris has given me the full permission to share his faith journey with us.
Chris is at present 42 years of age. He shares that from young, my relationship with God has been bumpy. When my grandfather who brought me to church, passed away, I stopped going to Church. However, at SJI I went through some catechism programme to prepare me for my First Holy Communion. After graduating from university, I spent 16 years working in a Finance sector. I had become a senior vice-president in my firm before I was 32 years. My pay went up every year, and my bonuses started to become obscene towards the end of my career. At that stage, I was at best a “Sunday Catholic”, although I served in the Rotary Club and volunteered in my son’s school PTA.
In 2005, I discovered I had colorectal cancer. The news was earth shattering for me. To make a long story short - the surgeons removed about 20 cm of my affected colon. Soon after that I went back to work and plunged myself into it. Although there was always time for family, there was not much time for exercise, and not much time for church. . .
Four years later, in June 2009, I deservedly got my second wake-up call. My oncologist told me that the mean life-expectancy for recurrent cancer patients was 30 months. I endured 6 straight months of treatment and suffered all the side effects. Soon after that, I did what a lot of ignorant people would do; I went back to work!
However, at my wife’s promptings, I decided to go to Lourdes. When I dipped myself in the bath at the Lourdes grotto, I was immediately filled with deep peace; it was like a 1,000 times the peace that you receive after going for a good Confession; all my burdens in life immediately dissipated; it was clearly a miracle for me.
Several months later, I decided to stop working. At first, it was very very difficult not to work as a big part of my persona was from my work. To be honest, it took a year for me to “let-go” and stop suffering from withdrawal symptoms. It was a right decision: I became a house-husband, and this allowed me to learn humility and to spend more time having a deeper and more meaningful relationship with my children and family, and most importantly, to have a deeper relationship with God.
I told myself, with God on my side, I will be healed! However, in November 2011, a blood test showed otherwise. My cancer markers had shot up and the cancer had metastasized. I was in a state of shock. My faith was shaken. Why me God? Haven’t I been good? I no longer prayed and I stopped going to Church. My wife kept prompting me to reach for God, but I ignored her. I felt that God had deserted me. This went on for over a month. Then, miraculously, got showed me another sign. In a contemplative moment, God said to me, “Have I ever let you down in your times of trouble?” This was my eureka moment – a moment that finally made sense of my life after all these years. God truly loves me!
In spite of my rejection of Him, He continues to be there for me. And yes, He has never let me down. I have so many incidences in my life that I can look back upon, and see how God loves me and my family so deeply and unconditionally. Actually, I can now see that God has always provided for me and answered my prayers . . . He has given me a beautiful life that is filled with peace, love, happiness and hope. He only asked that I have faith in Him, even though on so many occasions, I have let Him down.
So, I can say that my cancer illness has been a blessing in disguise for me because through it, I have finally found God and am now able to see how much He loves me and my family. One of my special prayers is to be present at my wife’s Baptism tonight. Here I am tonight witnessing to her Baptism; we are now all Catholic as a family; and we can all look forward to living together as a family for all eternity in heaven. Today, even as I don’t look sick, I am very sick, but most important of all I am happy in my faith.
St Augustine once wrote, “God would never permit evil to come on a person if he was not strong enough and good enough to draw good even from evil.” Jacques Maritain, echoes a stronger idea and says, “God permits evil only in view of a greater good . . .” Put differently, as someone said, “what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Creator calls a butterfly . . .” While the murder of Jesus, the Son of God was the worst mess in human history, God was able to bring forth the salvation for all peoples through the Resurrection of Christ.
The experiences of Chris in our testimony tonight reminds us that we must always to put God as our most important focus in life. While work and other daily needs are important, while our trials and tribulations may tempt us to lose our faith in God, we must never forget that God is always there for us; He always answers our prayers and He is our true Peace, Joy, Love and Wisdom that gives us Eternal Life. This our joy and celebration of Easter tonight!
Fr Philip Heng,S.J.
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