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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Snatched from the World...Possessed by God

Today we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Lent or lesser known as Rose or Laetare Sunday; mid-point of Lent.  The word Laetare (“lay-TAH-ray”) means Rejoice and is taken from the Latin translation of Isaiah 66:10-11, which is the Entrance Antiphon for the day.  In this Mass, the colour violet or rose is used.  Today the Catholic Church interrupts Her Lenten mournfulness; the chants of the Mass speak of nothing but joy and consolation; to encourage her children to persevere more fervently and courageously towards the end of our holy Lenten journey.
Nevertheless, joy seems to be the last thing on my mind today.  A close aging relative is down with a mild stroke and has been bed-ridden and hospitalised; earlier in the week, admitted to the Medical Intensive Care Unit as he was down with severe dengue fever; a mosquito-borne viral infection.  There is no specific treatment for dengue/severe dengue but he was fed alternative traditional herbal medicine known as porcupine date; a rare “stone” as one would call it, found in the stomach of a porcupine.  It is said among traditional healers that when a porcupine is wounded or sick, it will look for herbs to heal itself and as the healing process takes place, a “stone” may form in the stomach.
My heart is also a little restless, given that I have been robbed by a motorcyclist yesterday of something which is of great sentimental value to me, given to me by my grandfather, something like 38 years ago; a gold chain with a simple cross and a medal of the Sacred Heart which I have worn since.  Truly, snatch thieves at petrol stations are cruel and heartless barbaric creatures.  On the flipside, I thank God for protecting me from any serious harm; my Guardian Angel and St Michael must be working extra heart, I am sure.  Otherwise, I could have been either fatally stabbed or mercilessly slashed.  I am humbled by God’s love for me, a sinner.
This incident reminded me of some verses taken from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Chapter 3 verses 8-9, “I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For him I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him.”
Similarly, I have always been comforted by the Letter to the Romans, Chapter 8 verse 28 which reads, “And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good: to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints.”
My joy at this mid-point of the holy Lenten season is that I am happy because the anger did not rise within me for having “lost” some favourite material item.  Rather, I offered my prayers to the so-called aggressor so that the blessed chain and holy medals will touch and heal his inner being and bring him home, as appropriately mentioned in today’s gospel taken from St Luke on the prodigal son.  “..a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; was lost and is found.”
Deep down, this Lent, I have also come to be even more aware that God loves me more and has showered his grace upon me to enable me to surrender what I love most deeply so that he can work greater wonders for his greater glory.
I thank my God this Lent for giving me the strength to thank him for this rather unfortunate incident, as the consequence of this is that I have come to learn, albeit in a painful way, a little bit more about forgiving others, becoming overly attached to material things of the secular world and more importantly, about the radical work of his hands for me, a simple pilgrim, on my journey back home.