Msgr Philip Heng preaching at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd. Photo: Vita Images.
Are We a Downcast or Easter People?
Since the launch of the GIFT campaign, Catholic Foundation has received many heart-warming responses. In this issue, Msgr Philip Heng SJ shares his own encounters of generosity and faith in this abridged version of a homily he gave on 30 April at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.
It is good for us to reflect on whether we are a downcast people who are locked in the negative perceptions and pains of life, or are we an Easter people of faith in the Risen Christ?
During the Cathedral Dedication celebration two months ago, I have encountered those who truly illustrate what it means to be an Easter people.
The first encounter is with a family of four, whom I baptised last year at the parish of St Ignatius. The parents of 12-year-old Ashley Tan had asked me, “Father, our daughter has painted some eight paintings and we would like to offer all of them to you for any worthy fundraising cause.”
So, I went to their home and saw the beautiful paintings and asked whether they could be used for the GIFT Campaign which raises funds for the archdiocese. They immediately agreed and said, “Father, you can have all the paintings!”
Then, on the side, I went to Ashley and asked, “Ashley, you have spent so much time and effort painting all these beautiful paintings, they must all mean very much to you. How do you feel about having to part with them?”
Without any hesitation, Ashley looked straight into my eyes and said, “that’s fine with me because the money is for a very good cause for the building of our archdiocese’s needs.”
When I shared this story during a lunch-time Mass at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, the next day, a lady (let us call her Joyce; not her real name) approached me and said, “Father, I was very touched by your story about Ashley and I would like to offer you two pieces of my jewellery for the archdiocesan fundraising campaign.”
She then showed me a gold chain with a medal of Our Lady, and a jade ring. Deeply touched, I asked her, “Joyce, why don’t you give this to your daughter?” Joyce replied, “I don’t have a daughter; I only have one son.” I questioned further, “But, what about giving them to your daughter-in-law?” Joyce then shared, “Father, for several years in my marriage, we had no children. Then, one day, God answered our prayers and I conceived and gave birth to a son. However, our son is autistic.”
She described, “We have gone through great trials and pain in our hearts, but we are not angry with God, for God has a purpose in allowing us to have this beautiful son of ours. I had to resign from my job to take care of my son. Since then, my husband has had to work very hard to provide for the family. These jewellery are from my mother. And, just like Ashley, I too want to do my part to help build our Church.”
At the art fundraising auction held during the Cathedral Dedication celebrations, I had placed each of the jewellery pieces at the reserved price of $1,200 each. At the closing of the bid, a young gentleman by the name of Andrew (not his real name), raised his hands and offered, “$3,000 per piece of the jewellery, but on one condition, that both jewellery be returned to Joyce.”
A few days later when Andrew brought me the cheque, he also passed me an “ang pow” (red packet) for Joyce and her family. On it was written, “I was deeply inspired by your great generosity. Thank you very much for witnessing Christ to us.”
A few days later, I called Joyce and her husband and explained what happened. Both were in tears.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, in this simple story, we see the inspiring selfless generosity of Ashley’s parents, who brought her up with such Christ-like values. Ashley in turn touched the heart of Joyce, who in turned moved Andrew’s heart and made him generous too. The whole project eventually raised $117,000 for the needs of our archdiocese.
In short, this true story of Ashley, Joyce and Andrew is a story of what it is to be an Easter people! Both Ashley’s and Joyce’s families were each facing different challenges in their lives. Yet, their hearts were able to go beyond their suffering and respond generously to the opportunities that were presented to them.
This is what being an Easter people is about. We are each called to have the eyes and heart of our risen Lord who serves His Father’s will and the greater glory of His name. Let us set aside our old and narrow ways of thinking where we are over-occupied in caring solely for ourselves and our families, and not others. If we retain this mind-set, we would end up only giving our loose change, offering our left over time and serving with disinterested and dissipated energy.
Does God deserve such treatment from us? Especially after giving Himself to us, so totally and unconditionally, through His suffering and dying on the Cross? If not, then let us become the generous sharers of God’s blessings, the selfless servants to God’s people and the joyous light and love to anyone that God will place in our daily lives.
P.S. I have no doubt, many of you would have wealth that is more than what you need even if you were to live to 95 years of age. I urge you to seriously ponder and pray about contributing a portion of that to the Church, by nominating your CPF to the Archdiocese of Singapore. Please do your part to help build a more vibrant, missionary and evangelising Church.