The Journey

The coming of the New Year is a time when many people make New Year resolutions. They take a look at themselves and decide that there are things they would like to change and January 1st sees them trying to put those changes into place. However, most of these resolutions are expressed in terms of actions – e.g. I will do 20mins exercise each day, or maybe say the rosary each day – but I have found that trying to change myself through actions – i.e. doing or not doing certain things – can be a very uncertain way of proceeding, for should I slip just once, I invariably give up the whole project. “My resolution is broken, so, I may as well give the whole thing up!”

I remember, in the days when I used to smoke, I would usually take the beginning of the New Year and the beginning of Lent as opportunities to stop smoking – and so ruin several Lents by losing heart when I slipped just once with my self-imposed smoking ban. I still clearly remember one Ash Wednesday, travelling to an Iban longhouse for Mass and the blessings of ashes, and this journey took me past the home of a Catholic Chinese family, set back a little from the road. I knew that if they were at home they would invite me in for a drink and the Papa would offer me a cigarette, and so, to avoid stopping, I speeded up as I came near the house and tried to look the other way, so I could say that I had not seen them wave, but when I got near the house, I found the Papa standing in the middle of the road waiting for me. He knew I would be coming, as he would be at the longhouse later for Mass, and he must have heard my car from a way off, because only few cars travelled that path – the upshot was that I had to go into his house have my cup of tea, accept the proffered cigarette – and so another Lenten penance ended in collapse!

I am gradually discovering, however, that there is another way of changing my way of living, one which does not concentrate on particular actions, but on choosing the type of person I would like to be – and by doing it this way, I make sure that the Lord is a part of the project. The problem with “act-based resolutions” is that I myself decide on the act and I depend on my own strength to carry it out – I may ask the Lord for the grace and strength to do so, but I realise now that I never used to ask him whether I should be making these resolutions in the first place. It was me saying: “I have decided on this, but I need your help”, but by doing that I reduce the Lord to my servant, instead of my Master – and in my experience, he will not go along with that!

If I am to change, then the Creator must do you – I have neither the inspiration nor the power how to do it – and as St Irenaeus teaches, the Father creates by using “his two hands” – the Word and the Holy Spirit. Through his Word, God gives me a vision, not of what action I should do, but of what type of person I could become; and, through his Holy Spirit, the Father fills my heart with longing and so enables me to choose to become that person.  This “choice” is my part in this transformation, however, it is not a choice to do something, but to become someone and it is also a choice which is not made just once, but many, many times, for, through the situations I meet in my life’s journey, Lord leads me to make that choice at ever deeper levels in my soul – and it becomes ever more a choice for Christ, the choice to be his companion, the choice for an ever-deepening friendship with him. This choice will involve me in doing or not doing certain actions, but these actions will change for what may be a good action in one situation may not be so in another and the only way I can know what I should do is by handing the situation into the Lord’s hands. For instance, it is good to go to Mass to seek the Lord’s grace, but should there be someone in my house who is sick and needs my attention, then it would not be a good action to leave that person by themselves while I go to Mass. So an action which is right in one situation is not necessarily right in another.  Our journey, then, must be a journey of trust, and one I can never be certain that I have got right.

Because of this, it may well seem safer to hold on to rules and actions, which I believe to be “right”, for fear that I will sin and so be cut off from God, but our weakness or sinfulness does not necessarily cut us off from God, they can instead reveal to us what we are really like and so open the door to God at a much deeper level than we had reached before. For, as I sit in sorrow, amidst my weakness and failure, I can turn to God and say: “Lord, here in my failure, I see more clearly nowl which way I want to go. I want to be like you; I want to be your companion. Lord, here in my failure, I choose you, please accept me”.  And my baptismal promises become even more firmly rooted – as the Exultet at Easter says: “O Happy Fault, O truly necessary sin of Adam that brought us so great a Redeemer!”

The Christian life is a journey, a process – it is not a series of “right” actions. This can be a little frightening, and we may worry, “because perhaps we have got it wrong!” This is where trust comes in. We are only Christian because the Lord has asked us to share in his mission and we have chosen to do so. If we hold on to that vision, he will not let us fail – even though at one time of our life we follow him in this way, and at another time we follow him in that way. He is the “Master of the meeting” and he is the one who moulds us, even though we may not realise what he is doing. This is the meaning of the Lord’s first miracle – changing water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana. We are like that water and only the power of God can change us into wine. This is not done overnight, but is a process which takes our whole life for God to accomplish – and our failures, weaknesses and sins have a vital part in that process. So, our failed resolutions – be they at New Year or Lent – may be of greater benefit to us that if we succeeded in carrying them out.

Diary

Over Christmas, I had a three-week break from chemotherapy – God bless the Doctor!  I still feel weak, but I also feel normal, but last Thursday I started the treatment again. I was fine on Friday and Saturday, but it laid me flat on Sunday. I am gradually getting ready to go again tomorrow. Thank you for all your prayers and good wishes over Christmas and New Year – and if I did not reply, I do so now.

The seminarians are away on vacation and will not be back until Chinese New Year. This means that I have to sit and watch the grass growing all around me with no one to cut it. The growth is helped in that we are in the rainy season and so with the sun and then the rain and sun once more, you can almost see the grass shooting up; a good lesson in patience.

God bless,

Terry

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Letting the Lord love us

Some time ago, an older woman, here in Kuching, phoned me and said, “Father, I don’t want to go to Mass” and I replied, “Then, don’t go!” She was obviously surprised by my reply and said, “You mean I don’t have to go?” I knew that she had been suffering from slight depression for some time so I said to her, “You still love Jesus, don’t you?” and she answered, “Yes!”Then”, I said, “You have money in the bank from all the years you have cared for him and served him. Now you are under the weather, relax and let him look after you!”

                Most of us were taught our religious duties as children in the same way that a Mother teaches her children what is “right” and “wrong”. She may, for example, tell her son that it is “wrong” to kick his younger brother – and that may be the only language he can understand at that age. It will take some years for him to gradually appreciate that friendship between brothers is something wonderful but needs to be cherished – and this friendship is not helped by being kicked! So, also, we are usually taught as children that it is a “sin” to miss Mass on a Sunday – but unlike children in a family, we often get stuck there and, as we grow, continue to understand our Sunday Mass as a duty we have to do, rather than a time to taste the deep and abiding friendship that is growing between God and us.

This is the difference between “head understanding” and “heart understanding” and it is present in all of us, although most of the time it does not cause us too much trouble. When most of us ask ourselves why we come to Mass on a Sunday, our head tells us that we do so because we must fulfil our religious duties, but at a much deeper level we know that we come because our heart draws us there. We choose to come not to avoid sin, but because of the friendship between God and us in our hearts, a friendship we cherish and value, a friendship we want, even though it is so deep that we often miss it. Thus, we will be tempted to say that we come to Mass, “because it is a sin not to go!” It is only when circumstances do not allow us to get to Mass on a Sunday and we fee drawn to confess it that we are given the opportunity to understand ourselves more deeply and so come to appreciate the power which moves us and leads us to choose to be there at Sunday Mass.

Some time ago, a man came to confess that he had missed Sunday Mass and when I asked him “Why?” he replied that his wife had been dying and so he stayed with her. I gently explained to him that to have left his wife and gone to Mass would have been wrong – not the other way round – for in caring for his dying wife, he was living out that love and care that he learnt about and received at Mass. In other words, he was celebrating Mass there with his wife. Like most of us, this man followed God’s love in his heart, but when he tried to understand what he had done, he used his head to try to understand – not his heart – for the reasons of our heart are so deep that we cannot grasp them with our head. As Blaise Pascal, the Catholic Philosopher said, “The heart has reasons that reason (the head) cannot understand”.

I have come to experience this myself, at this present time, when the side-effects of the chemo-therapy I am receiving cause me, at times, to feel so tired and lacking in energy. Here in the seminary we begin our morning prayers at 6am and I used to get up at 5am so that I could spend a half hour in quiet with the Lord before prayers began. Now, I usually have to drag myself out of bed in the morning, even though it is much later than 5am that I get up. My head tells me that I am being lazy and with a little more effort I could get up for prayer and show the Lord how much I loved him. But then, another, much deeper voice whispers, “I don’t need to be shown that you love me – I know it! Now it is my turn to look after you and minister to you”. Here are echoes of St John in his 1st Letter, “Even if our conscience condemns us, God is greater than our conscience” (3:2).

Love is not something that can be known with our heads – only with our hearts. We have to dare to let ourselves be loved in order to “know” in the full, experiential way, what love is. I have learnt this at different times of my life when I have had to stand before God in my weakness and shame and let him love me back to health. I am learning to do that again now, in my weakness, even though my head sometimes condemns me for it. By God’s Grace, I learning again to let him love me and it is because of this that I could say to that older woman, who said that she did not want to go to Mass, “Then, don’t go!” If she follows that advice she will experience God’s love in a way not yet known in her life, for she will be making an act of faith far deeper than any she has made up to now in her life, for she will be letting God love her as she is.

Diary

I grow African violets. I got to like them through my Mother, who also grew them. They are a very grateful little plant, for if you take a leaf and put it in water, it will grow roots and even if you just put a leaf straight in the ground it will also take root. I started to grow them a few years ago when I saw one rather bedraggled, sorry-looking pot of African Violets in our cloister and I took it to my room and adopted it. It seems to like the air-con and I remembered that while it likes a lot of light, it does not like direct sunlight. So, I set it by my window and it has flourished. I now have ten plants – not including some I have given away – and I have a nursery of five babies. They help remind me that I am supposed to be a life-giver.

Our students have gone for their end of year break and will not appear again until after Chinese New Year. So, the College is very peaceful and quiet. I asked my “student grass-cutter helper” to cut my lawn before he went home and he has done so and it looks good for Christmas. I shall probably get irritated as I see it getting more and more straggly, but one student who does not live so far away has promised to cut it during the holidays. (With all the things to worry about, here I am worrying about my lawn – shows I am human I think!)

I go to Singapore, this coming Wednesday and Thursday, for my last chemo session before Christmas. I have had a two week break since the last and I needed it as the last two hit me very hard. However, I am learning to say to myself, “This too shall pass!” and it does. My doctor has been very kind and has cancelled the session I should have had on Christmas Eve – so after Thursday I shall have a three week break before I go again. So, I should be in a fit condition to remember you all at Mass on Christmas – even though I may not have the energy to celebrate Midnight Mass.

May you all have a very happy Christmas – wherever you are and whosoever you are with. My grateful thanks for your kindness to me throughout the year, especially your encouraging emails, prayers and gifts both to help with my Singapore treks and support for the Mill Hill Family here in Sarawak.

God bless you all,

Terry

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Two Answers

At the beginning of November, I went to Singapore to see my doctor. I usually see her once or twice a month, but this was to be a special visit because they were going to take a scan of my tumour and compare it with the one taken, when I was first diagnosed as having cancer. From this, they would be able to see whether the treatment was working and I am pleased to be able to tell you, that the treatment seems to be working for they discovered that the tumour has shrunk fairly considerably – from 8.1 cms to 6.6 cms.

When, on that day, I arrived at Singapore General Hospital, I was rather pre-occupied with what the results of the scan would be, but, in such a place, you cannot just be concerned with your own welfare, for all around you are people in a worse condition than you and with them are the many helping hands of friends and relatives, together with the Hospital Staff, whose support and care give a richness to their living. I noticed this particularly on the day before I saw my Doctor, when with many other patients I waited for my turn to be scanned. There was a friendliness among many of them, due probably from having met in that place before and they chatted together as they waited, but my attention was drawn to two quieter men, one in his 60s, I would think, and his companion, a younger man, probably ten or fifteen years younger than him. It was the older man, who was having the scan, but I noticed the concern with which the younger man sought to help his friend.  After having completed the preliminaries, I was directed to a waiting area for the type of scan I was to receive and, shortly afterwards, these two men came and sat down near me. There were only the three of us there and I do now so wish I had spoken to them, but as so often, in such places, I didn’t. We sat there in silence until I was called in for my scan and then I went back to my hotel.

I saw them both the following day, as I waited a little nervously to see my Doctor, for unbeknownst to me these two men were in her office, being told, I presume, the results of the older man’s scan. The door opened and I saw them come out and watched them as they walked away – the younger man leading the way. The older man walked with his head slightly bent, but then I looked at the younger man and I have never before seen such a look of devastation as was on his face. He led the way out of the clinic like a man lost, almost as though seeking to run from what he had heard – and I was reminded of the words of the song: “How am I supposed to live without you?”

I was then called in to see the Doctor and she smiled and said, “Good news. The treatment seems to be working” and she asked how I was managing the side-effects of the chemotherapy. However, relieved as I was to hear the news, when I came out of her office and prepared to go for my chemotherapy session, the face of that younger man kept coming to mind and I realised that my possible return to good health could not be looked at in isolation from all else, for I am intimately linked to all others – and, in a special way, to those two men, a little of whose sorrow and pain I had been privileged to witness in the corridors of the Hospital.

Since that hospital visit, the thought of those two men has come back to me again and again, together with the feeling that the Lord was trying to show me something. I do not know what the doctor told them, but, from their demeanour, I feel she must have said that the older man only had a few months, or even only a few weeks left, and I started to wonder what those weeks or months would be like for them. I am sure they will be a time of tears and maybe some regrets about things left undone or unsaid, but, by God’s grace, it could also become something quite wonderful.

Some thirty years ago, I visited a man in New Orleans, who had been told that he only had a few weeks to live, but who refused to talk about it to his wife and family. Somehow, my visit helped break through that barrier and his wife told me, sometime later, that those last weeks of their marriage were the most beautiful of all. There was born, within their tears, a deepening of friendship, of care and concern, which we hope, one day, will be ours in the joys of heaven. The walls, with which we surround ourselves in life protect us from being hurt, also prevent us from caring and being cared for. When these walls begin to crumble through sickness or coming face to face with our own death, we are given a chance to see and reach out for that for which we were born – to allow people to love us, to dare to reach out to those in need – to risk being spurned in order to be held against someone’s heart – to die so that we might find what life is. I pray it may be so for those two men.

Two answers given in a Doctor’s office: one answer seems to speak of death, but, at a deeper level, a door to life is opened. In the time given them, no matter how short that may be, may they find that caring, that concern for the other, that will bring them into that deep friendship, which says that life is complete and the great treasure has been found.

The other answer given in the Doctor’s office seems to speak of life – or least the hope that it might be so – but does it? Through my silent meeting with those two men, God is showing me, I think, that even had the Doctor told that I had been cured, I would still not have received the gift of life, that would depend on what I did with the time given me. What such an answer would give, is not the gift of life, but the opportunity to truly live – to care, to be concerned and to reach out to others and so find something of that deep friendship that God calls us to – the promise of friendship he leads us to see in the people around us, and maybe especially as we sit in hospital waiting rooms.

Diary

My life is very much taken up with medical matters these days – no grass-cutting stories to tell – except to tell you that one of our seminarians has taken over the tending of the lawns at St Peter’s College, which are my pride and joy, and that he keeps them beautifully.

Two weeks in three I journey to Singapore either to see the doctor or to have chemo – or both. However, the Lord always  seems to make sure I have companions. There is one lad from Kuching newly working in Singapore and I have met him for a meal once, even though sadly I have had to let him down twice because I have not felt too good, but I should be good this coming week and he has promised me a hamburger. Likewise, when I went on the day of the scan, I wished I had a companion to go with and as I got off the plane, a man introduced himself as from Kuching and told me he knew why I was in Singapore and pressed a gift on to me “so you have a good meal while here”.

I usually go to Bali for Christmas, but this year I shall stay in Kuching and so shall miss seeing my community there this year. However, a friend of mine from there has asked if he can spend Christmas here with me, which is very nice of him, for it will be nice to have company, but I do not think I will be fit enough for Christmas visiting here in Kuching.

God bless,

Terry

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On Respect

Hello – I wrote something on Respect a few weeks ago, but I have now re-written it and I think it is better – and thought you might like to see it.

A while ago, I went to Singapore to begin radiotherapy. The procedure involved inserting lots of tiny little radio-active beads around the tumour I have, to try to make it shrink so that it can be operated on. It is a very impressive operation, with the doctors slowly guiding the tiny beads into the position they want them, but I want to tell you about the doctor, who led the operation, because I was so struck by the respect and courtesy with which he treated people.

The procedure was a little late in starting, so he came into the room to apologise that there would be a slight delay, as he was helping out a colleague with a difficulty. Then, when he was ready to begin, he came and again apologised and began to talk me through the entire two and a half hour procedure – enquiring, all the time, how I was doing. This courteous attention was not because I was a priest, for he only discovered that towards the end of the operation, nor was it because I was a European, for I noticed he spoke to all his staff in exactly the same way. He was a courteous man and this courtesy – to those, who are sick or in a position of weak dependence – is “healing” and so, whereas I was wheeled into the operating room as a patient – someone in need of treatment – I was wheeled out as someone “healed”; someone, who mattered, no matter what was wrong with me. And it was the doctor’s courtesy that had helped make it so.

There is a difference between being “cured” and being “healed”:  to be “cured” is to have a particular ailment or sickness put right, but to be “healed” is to be touched in the deepest part of who we are and be brought into “wholeness”, because by being recognised as a “person” we are given the grace to accept ourselves as we are – even though our sickness or disability remains. We are, in this way, enabled to take up the challenge of living, with all its possibilities and limitations – at peace with ourselves and the world around us.

I remember once visiting the famous Leper Hospital in Carville, Louisiana, USA, and being told of a Doctor Brand, who had worked there. He was a skilled rehabilitation surgeon and rebuilt the hands of his patients, crippled by untreated Leprosy. When he was congratulated on his skill, he would reply: “It is not my skill that heals them, but my heart; my skill can rebuild their hands, but only my heart can give them the courage to use them. Someone, who has been despised or considered of little worth – or believes him/herself to be of little account – often loses the courage to live. They need someone to believe in them in order to find their own self-worth and accept the challenge of living to the full – and the courtesy and respect given them is often be the sacrament by which God brings us into such healing.

This is not just true of the sick or marginalised, but of all people and all situations in life. I remember, a few years ago, visiting a priest friend of mine in his rural parish and as he did not have a housekeeper, we went next door to a small local café for our evening meal. We gave our order to the waitress and chatted while we waited to be served. When the waitress brought our drinks, I thanked her and my priest friend burst out laughing and when I asked him why, he said “You did not see her face when you thanked her; she is obviously not used to being thanked”; he told me to watch, when she brought our meal. It was, however, another waitress, who brought the meal, but when I turned to her and thanked her I saw the look of surprise and pleasure on her face. She was obviously used to being ignored, when she served people and it seemed to me that she walked a little taller and with a little more dignity as she returned to the counter. Such is the power of a word of respect – through God’s grace, it gives life!

We are taught how the Spirit of God moves with his renewing power throughout the whole world, but the way we understand the Scriptures can often obscure this. If we see the Scriptures as a “Sacred Script”, imparting knowledge of doctrine and rules etc., we will not see the wonder of the Holy Spirit’s passage through our world, but if we take Scripture as a “Key” which shows us where the Spirit is at work in our world, then, we will more and more see his finger in all the happenings of our daily life – including the courtesy with which someone like my doctor treats us.

The Scriptures reveals that whenever God approaches us, he does so with infinite courtesy and respect. We see this at the beginning of the History of salvation, when the Lord first spoke to Abraham, and we also see it in the courtesy with which Christ received and spoke with the outcast and despised, such as the leper, who said, “Sir, if you want to, you can heal me” and Jesus answered: “Of course I want to” and touched the man (Mk 9:23).  We have an ancient saying in the Church – that wherever we find love and friendship, there we find God. We can also equally say: that wherever we find respect and courtesy, we can see the Life-giver at work – for courtesy and respect are the beginnings of love.

Diary

I went for my first dose of chemotherapy on 23rd September and felt great – for two days! Then I began to go downhill, until a week later, when I was due to go for my second session I was almost on my knees. When I arrived at the hospital in Singapore, I had a blood test, and later the doctor’s assistant came and told me that my white platelet count was too low to have chemo, so they would give me two weeks rest before the next one, which will be this coming Thursday 15th Oct.

I was told that this is a fairly normal reaction to the first session and I have now recovered and feel good and ready for the next session. Several people have kindly invited me to stay with them in Singapore, but because I politely declined because of how I might feel and stayed at a hotel next to the hospital. I was thankful for that decision last time, because I felt so bad I went to bed in the hotel, when I arrived the day before, and stayed there for 12 hours. If, however, I begin to tolerate the treatment better, then I may accept one of the kind offers, because Singapore is expensive.

Apart from that, I am managing to teach and do other things, and whereas I feel somewhat tired, I am also feeling very good in myself. I am sure that your prayers and good wishes contribute to that – “Thank you so much” for that.

Someone at the seminary said to me the other day – “You look good, but I will know that you are truly better when I see you behind a grasscutter again!

God bless,

Terry

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On Respect

Diary

My brother used to tell me that he sometimes missed out what he called the “holy” part of my blog, but always enjoyed my diary. I suspect that there may be others like that too, so I am beginning this blog with my diary, partly so that the “diarists” can go straight to the part that interests them and partly because, in the reflection, I want to tell you about a doctor I met last week and whom I mention in my diary.

I went to Singapore a week ago and stayed in hospital for two nights for the “procedure”, which involved inserting tiny radioactive beads round the tumour in my liver. The doctor, who did it, was very friendly and talked me through the whole procedure, and, afterwards, I was told that he and the other doctors are happy with the way it went. I now have a month to recover before my next appointment and should all go well, and the tumour begins to shrink, I will then begin four months of chemotherapy, with a visit to Singapore each week. I must admit that I am not looking forward to that, but the Lord has carried me gently thus far and I trust he will carry me through the next phase.

The side-effects of the radiotherapy have not been too bad, but I think they were compounded by the fact that I was put on a course of antibiotics because I had a slight fever after the procedure – and I don’t do well with antibiotics. I think the fever may have been caused by a cold I caught, while going to Singapore. I sat next to a woman on the plane, who coughed and sneezed all the way over, without covering her mouth and nose. I think I shall take a nose-mask when I travel in future.

Now, I must apologise for being grumpy to those who asked me how I was, when I was first diagnosed – and received a grumpy answer in reply. I have been wondering why I reacted like that and I think it was because I did not know what to answer. I had only been told that I had cancer a day before it was announced in church, but it took me over a week or more for the news to begin to sink in and to accept it – so when people kindly asked me how I was or how I was feeling, I really did not know, but also ‘I did not know that I did not know!’ Please forgive me and thank you for your kindness in asking. Now I am answering such enquiries: “I really do not know, but I feel ok today – and that is all that matters.

About a week ago, I was listening to a song sung by Leonard Cohen, whose name suggests that he is Jewish, but he has a great insight into spirituality, including the Christian story, and one line of this song reached out and held me: “Jesus walked upon the waters, because he knew only drowning men could see him!”  My heart says: “How true!”

 

On Respect

I want to tell you more about the doctor, who performed the procedure on me in Singapore. He was an Indian doctor and I was struck by the respect and courtesy with which he treated me. The procedure was a little late in starting, but he came in to apologise that there would be a slight delay, as he was helping a colleague in a difficulty. Then, when he came back and started, he again apologised and then talked me through the entire procedure, enquiring, all the time, how I was doing. This courtesy was not because I was a priest, because he only discovered that at the end, nor was it because I was a European, for I noticed he spoke to all his staff in the same way. Such courtesy, especially to people in my position, is “healing” and I realised that he was a“Healer”, a healer, who healed with his hands, but above all with his heart and by so doing, he revealed “God the Life-Giver” in action.

There is a danger in the way we Christians tend to approach the Scriptures. The Scriptures reveal to us who God is and what he is doing in the world and it is so easy to come to the conclusion that it is “only” the Scriptures that show us this and so we may try to imprison God within our religious ideas. Scripture, however, is given to us to open our eyes to recognise God wherever and whenever he is at work – be that in a religious context or not. God is not bound by religion! In last Sunday’s Gospel, when Jesus told the crowds that God succoured Elijah through a poor pagan women, not an Israelite, the people did not like it and wanted to kill him. The Word is given to Israel, but God works through the heart of anyone who is open to it. I do not think that my doctor was a Christian and he may indeed have been an atheist, but I recognised God’s Presence and healing power in that doctor – I saw it in the compassion and respect with which he treated those around him.

We are taught that Christ has won for us “salvation”, but that word can so easily blind us to what Christ is actually offering us, which is “Life!” The life he offers is a life of friendship, of mutual support and understanding – a life which will go on into Eternity, but a life which begins now – and we can only receive this life, when we offer it to others. The Christian paradox is: “We can only receive salvation by giving it away!” This life we are being given is the life of “First born sons” (Heb. 12:22) – those who are extra-special in the eyes of God. God offers us this through the immense respect and reverence with which he treats each one of us – but we can only accept this gift by treating others in the same way that God treats us. That doctor in Singapore is such a person – he is a life-giver – and I was one of the many to whom he gave life – through his hands, but above all through his heart.

God bless,

Terry

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A little news

Hello to you all,
                               Thank you for the many messages of concern and prayer that so many of you have sent. I am very grateful and touched by your kindness and affection. Thank you so much.
      I went into hospital in Singapore for two days last week to see whether I was suitable for the radiotherapy treatment – I must admit it was a tough four hours under the machine while they explored my liver, but most of all because I was dying to use the toilet!! God bless the male nurse who came to my aid!
       I was told when I left hospital that I was borderline for being accepted for the trial – and there followed three days of waiting – but I feel very blessed for my heart was at peace and I knew myself to be completely in the Lord’s hands – I was given a very great grace in that I found my heart happy to accept whatever the Lord decided. I realized that the phrase “he has freed me from my foes” has its deepest meaning when we have been freed from fear.
        Then today, I was told that I have been accepted for the radiotherapy trials. I am grateful for all your prayers for this – and I go back into hospital to begin on 24Aug.
My prayers are and have been for all of you.
God bless,
Terry
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To pray the Mass

About a week ago, I received an email from a friend of mine who used to be a student at Reading, when I was Chaplain there. After leaving Reading, he studied for the Maronite priesthood – the Maronites are a part of the Catholic Church, but of a different “rite”, which means a different way of saying Mass and a different tradition of theology. He told me that, at the moment, he was spending a little time at home, but “prayed the Mass every day” – and that phrase really made me stop and take notice. I am used to saying: “go to Mass” or “attend Mass”, but I cannot remember ever before hearing the phrase “pray the Mass”! This may be the way the Maronites express it, in their worship, but it is a very beautiful expression and it made me pause and ponder on what the Mass actually is!

There are, of course, two aspects to the Mass; there is the Mass itself – and then, there are the words and readings that we use when celebrating Mass. Usually, I think, our attention is focussed on the words being said and the readings being read, rather than what is happening in the Mass itself is! To use an English proverb – I think that most times “we don’t see the wood for the trees!”

The phrase led me to ponder on the Mass, for although it is so much a part of my daily life, it is also such a Mystery. The first thought that came to my mind was: “Why do we go to Mass week after week?” Many, I think, would be tempted to answer: “Because it is a sin not to go”, because this is what they were taught in catechism, but, deep down, that answer doesn’t hit the spot! I know that I, and also many others, go because we are drawn to the Mass. There is a “wanting” in my heart, evoked by “the whisper of God” calling me to himself, calling me to Mass and there is always something there specially for me. We sometimes have the idea that we are supposed to pay attention to everything that is read or said at Mass, but this is not so. Not everything read or said at Mass on a particular day is for me – but there is something there that is and if I am attentive, the Spirit will gently “nudge” me to notice it – maybe a word, a hymn, an action – something which I experience as touching my heart. This is how we can “pray the Mass”.

Our response to this whisper of the Lord is not so much a word as an action – and the symbol of this is the offering of the bread and wine. When the Lord speaks, it is always, in some way, an invitation to join him in giving life to the world and the offering of the bread and wine is our way of choosing to join him – but usually we do not know much about what is being actually asked of us. Thus, the offering, when I make it mine, is a profound act of trust in the Lord, and I was reminded of that by the words of Frodo in the Lord of the Rings – which I am now re-reading – where he offers to carry the ring to Mordor – “I will take it, but I don’t know the way”.

This leads into the great miracle of the Mass, which is often taught as God coming down into the Bread and Wine, but to stop there is to miss the greatest wonder of all – for it is not so much the Bread and Wine, which becomes the Body and Blood of Christ – but us who receive it. The miracle of the Incarnation finds its fullness in us the community – we become the Body and Blood of Christ – the place where God dwells and the place where he is reconciling the world to himself by bringing the world to life. “To pray the Mass” is our resounding “Yes”, to God – or maybe, on occasions, our weak and half-hearted “Yes”, but if that is all I can give, the Lord lovingly accepts it. God accepts us as we are – not as we think we ought to be – for all have a place in his great mission to the world.

John Henry Newman speaks of this, when he speaks about the mission that God has for each one of us. It is our glory and our unique vocation and even though we may never know what it is, we will do it, if we make the “Yes” of the Mass our “Yes” – and the phrase “to pray the Mass” points the way we make that “Yes”.

Diary

I went to Singapore last week to see a consultant, because some friends here in Kuching asked me if I would be willing to take a second opinion. As soon as I said, “Yes” I found the appointment booked, air-tickets provided and a hotel booked – for which I am very grateful. However, the plane was full, so my friends booked me business class but that led me to wonder how to hide my face in case any Catholics saw “Father” sitting in a business class seat. I thought of buying a newspaper – but solved the problem by getting on the plane last!

I have cut down on my grass-cutting – especially my pride and joy which is the central lawn of the seminary, which is just a little too much for me now. However, I have trained a seminarian in how to cut it – very short so as to get the lines to appear, just like Wembley!! He is getting quite expert.

I go to Singapore again this Thursday for tests to see whether I am suitable for the radiotherapy treatment and then I shall go for a short holiday with a friend of mine from Bali.

God bless,

Terry

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