Msgr Philip Heng, SJ
Do we have peace in our hearts or are we restless, angry and fearful in our daily living? What has living a “holier life” got to do with these? Everything. To live a “holier” life, we are called to be more fully “connected” with Jesus in our hearts. The big question is – how?
Julie (not her real name) was so depressed with her family that she was contemplating divorcing her husband. She was not a Catholic. However, one day, in the depths of her despair, she felt the urge to enter the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd. Listening to her heart’s promptings, she “obeyed”.
As soon as she entered the Cathedral, she was overcome with deep peace. In the following days, she returned several more times to seek the respite that had become a source of much-needed calm for her soul.
With each visit, sitting in full view of the crucified Christ and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, she began to recognise that the gift of deep peace she was experiencing was coming from Jesus Himself, who was giving her the peace and assurance that “all will be well again”.
Emotionally, none of this made sense. She could not see how she could get out of her present crises, let alone for things to be “all well” again in her life. Yet, in her heart of hearts, Julie continued to sense the gentle inner promptings and assurances of Jesus.
To cut a long story short, Julie joined the Cathedral’s RCIA programme and was baptised at the Easter Vigil last year.
Since coming to know our Cathedral community, Julie has become one of the most peaceful, joyous and God-centred Catholics we have – attending daily Mass, constantly and unfailingly witnessing to her family and everyone how truly blessed we are to have Jesus, and most importantly to be able to receive Him in the Eucharist.
Many may be able to identify with Julie’s experiences. Like her, our lives often have moments of restlessness, anxiety and fear, but in faith we have come to discover the peace and joy of God-centred living in the Catholic faith. However, there are inevitably many who are still weighed down by the challenges of life, and hope that like Julie “all will be well again”.
While Julie was enveloped in the darkness of her depression, she continued to love her family and the dearest people in her life as best as she could. In doing so, the light of the Holy Spirit penetrated her heart to give her the spiritual consolation she needed to carry on.
However, unlike Julie, there may be some of us who are unable to cope and may be harbouring hatred, anger and an obsessive desire to “get even” with those who have hurt us.
In the process, we may be nursing a wound that gives in to a deep fear that if we were to forgive, show compassion and/or admit that we too have wronged and sinned, justice would not be served, and we would never forgive ourselves for such an admission.
In such a state of helplessness, if we are not careful, the fears within us can paralyse us, and our anger could fester into hatred. Clearly, none of us would want to go down this path of self-destruction, even though such tendencies and temptations can be very strong.
We are called to pull away, fix our gaze and contemplate Jesus’ underserved suffering. Yes, the sinless Son of God, crucified and persecuted by His enemies for preaching and witnessing to the Good News of Salvation.
Let us put Jesus back into the centre of our lives – Jesus, who wills that we live the fullness of life that is in accordance with His Father’s Will and who knows our restlessness, anger and fears. And like Julie, He will embrace us with His compassionate love and calm our hearts with His consolation and assurance. We are not alone. He loves us personally and deeply.
Live the holier life by beginning with the prayer from your heart: “Lord, how can I love you more deeply and personally?” You will inevitably find that you are not alone, and that Jesus is truly there for you. That was what happened to Julie, and can and will happen to you too!
Msgr Heng is the Rector of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.