CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 February 2019

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A 'Ray' of hope

If you were to give a title to your faith journey, what would it be? A Roller-Coaster Ride? Matthew 25:34-40? Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart? 
 
For Ray, there could be many choices: So Close Yet So Far, Genesis 3:1-8, Come Back to Me with All Your Heart… See, Ray’s journey encompasses so many elements that it is hard to find one expression that captures it completely. 
 
Growing up in Hong Kong, Ray went to university in the United States and eventually moved to Canada. An information technology professional, he is living a middle-class life with his wife, Cathy. Over the years, his faith life has run in a parallel pattern: he was an altar boy in Kowloon, then stopped going to church for about 20 years, then in the past few years he has been attending Mass and has become very active in parish life with his wife.
Why did he leave the Church in the first place? This seemed to be a case of so close yet so far.
 
“I started not going to Mass when I was in university because few people I knew went to church,” said Ray. Over the next two decades, the light of his faith dimmed gradually as demands from schoolwork, employment and daily living came to occupy the centre of his attention. He did not even pray in difficult times. 
 
Although he often saw churches as there was one five minutes away from his university and another one around the corner from his house in Canada, “the faith had disappeared completely from my life.”
 
If the process of leaving was gradual and linear, that of the return was sudden and indirect. In fact, it was like a mirror image of Genesis 3:1-8. 
 
One day, a client at Cathy’s office said she should become Catholic. She said OK. “I just agreed to it,” she said. “I don’t know why but I did not use my brain at all.” When she told Ray about the conversation, he said, without thinking, “Go ahead!” He then joined Cathy in the weekly Rite of Christian Initiation of Adult classes and in Sunday Masses. 
 
Just like that, Ray came back to the Church and a new interest in his faith was ignited. Soon, he even became an altar server again. This return—‘”second life” as he would later call it—seemed to be the exact opposite of the serpent-Eve-Adam path to the fall in Genesis 3:1-8. In Ray’s case, it was the stranger-wife-him route to his rebirth. Indeed, instead of hiding when he heard God’s call, Ray ran out to receive it with a bare-naked heart. 
 
Yes, Ray would “come back to me with all your heart,” as the hymn, Hosea, asks.
 
“I was very touched at the end of my first confession in 20 years,” Ray said. “God forgives you even when you cannot forgive yourself!” 
 
As he discovered the joy of coming back to his faith, Ray also found the spark of energy to put his faith in action. Starting with altar serving—“because it felt like a calling and it was not difficult”—Ray joined the Knights of Columbus, a worldwide men’s ministry that serves parishes and the wider communities. 
 
As a knight, he was introduced to working with cancer patients though he knew little about the disease. Later, he would also participate in a cancer support group in the parish, which offers talks and sharing sessions to patients. He has since helped organised community drives to promote the awareness and treatment of leukaemia. 
 
At first, these activities provided a pleasant distraction from his computer job. Soon, Ray found in them a new appreciation of love and faith. “Love is not just about talking; it is practicing,” he said, adding that “faith had been abstract until I saw it through my actions and contributions.” 
 
To him, the sufferings of many, his work for them and the genuine happiness of many volunteers have all illuminated God’s presence. Even the surrendering to God in one’s helpless state as a patient or a helper speaks to him of the joy of following God.
 
With such enlightenment about his faith, there seems to be no turning back from it. Nevertheless, Ray recognises that weaknesses and the downturns in life will test him in the future. “In those times, you have to do more homework. You have to pray. You have to depend on God.” This attitude is quite unlike the last time he was tested: then, he simply ran away. 
 
With Ray’s confidence and trust now, what is a good label for his journey? Maybe, A Ray of Faith? 
 
Perhaps more importantly, what is the title for your faith journey?
 
 
 
Leung Kwan-ho, Canada