Msgr Philip Heng, SJ

In this second part of the “Living a More Discerning Life” series, it is good that we reflect on the lives we have been living, as we cannot presume that we are doing this. We are each called to discover anew the blessings that God intends that we experience in our daily living.

God loves each of us personally and deeply, and wants us to live a more meaningful, fulfilling and happy life.

I would like to begin with a true story of “David” (not his real name) who shared with me in front of his wife: “Father, I used to drink at least one big bottle of brandy, a case of beer every night with my group of friends; and smoke two packs of cigarettes every day. My good wife told me many times to stop, as it would destroy my health. I refused to listen ...

However, one day, my young son of eight asked me, ‘Daddy, do you love me?’

“I was taken aback by the question and replied, ‘Of course, I love you my son, why do you ask?’ His reply was, ‘Daddy, if you love me then you have to stop drinking and smoking. Otherwise, you will not see me graduate.’

“This shocked me. For the first time, I saw how sad my son looked. After saying this, he went to his room and cried.

What my son did to me that morning, broke my heart. Clearly, God spoke to me through him! I went up to my young son and hugged him and I cried. From that day onwards, till today (some 40 years later). I have never smoked another cigarette or drank another glass of brandy!”

David then turned to his wife and said, “Dear, Is this not true?” She nodded.

From this story, it would be good to ask ourselves sincerely questions like: “In the way I live, do I have ‘addictions’ that hurt my loved ones and harm myself?”

Our “addictions” may not necessarily be excessive consumption of alcohol or smoking of cigarettes. Our “addictions” can be gambling, sexual fantasies (pornography) leading to immorality, or they can even seem “harmless” addiction to phones, computer games, social media or even work . . . (come up with your own list).

These basic questions need to be asked, encountered and embraced through a deeper reflection of “How am I living my life?”

We need to have a better sense of the quality of our daily living. We cannot presume that the way we live need not be challenged: we may not be aware of our attitude and impact of our behaviour, like David in the story.

We also cannot presume that we are not causing our loved ones much pain and suffering by harming and destroying ourselves. We can be as “obstinate and blind” in our addictions as David was.

In reality, many people do not even recognise that they have “addictions”; they refer to them as habits. Regardless of what one calls it, “addictions” enslave us, steal our limited time and prevent us from living a more meaningful life, and experiencing deeper relationships with others and God.

If we have “addictions”, then the first acts of wisdom is to recognise, repent and renew our desires to live a more wholesome life, even though the truth may be very painful. Secondly, we need to pray for God’s graces to act on our desire to change for the better, and tell ourselves, “I need to do something about this.”

David in our story did so very decisively, out of his love for his son. For us to be liberated from our “addictions”, we need to draw strength from God and place Him at the centre of our lives for the “conversion” to take place.

It is upon such a “conversion” of heart that we can take a step in the right direction towards living a more wholesome, fulfilling and happy life that God wills of us because He loves us dearly and personally. 

Msgr Heng is Rector of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd

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