Discovering God’s Plan, Living God’s Call: Joel Leong had cruised along for years till he decided to rediscover his faith

Who are you God? And who am I?
What are you calling me to be?
When I listen to my heart, I can hear you whisper…
Asking me, lovingly, to come and follow you.

I have always found the first stanza of Chris de Silva’s song ‘To Follow You’ so accurate in capturing every Christian’s struggle – What is God’s calling for me?

Unsurprisingly, I landed in that position in 2013 when I was approaching the end of my university studies. I could no longer hide under the shelter of studies but had to confront an uncomfortable reality where I was called to grow up and start taking responsibility for myself.

I wish I could say that I knew what I wanted or had everything figured out, but no, I was simply one who floated like driftwood. I was never too ambitious or too relaxed. I simply hovered in the middle – nothing wrong with that, it was comfortable but also stagnating. I had merely cruised along and was not particularly active in church.

 

God Had A Plan for Me

God decided to turn my passivity into activity when I was in university. Somehow, I was always stuck with people who liked to ask questions about my faith. They liked to challenge me even though I was not the most faithful person around.

Unfortunately, I was poor at witnessing. I could never give satisfactory answers to defend our faith. With each passing failure, I grew more and more disappointed with myself.  I felt like a hypocrite and realised that I could no longer remain ‘half-baked’. My prideful self said, ‘if I were to call myself a Catholic, then I better know my faith well’. I decided to join RCIA for a refresher course.

At a RCIA refresher retreat

Few months after joining RCIA, things took on a pretty drastic turn when I caught up with my Catechist from my Confirmation days. It was a simple meet up yet somehow, our conversation led me to wonder what in fact was my life’s purpose, what is God’s role in my life and what is He calling me to be. From there, the idea of vocation began nagging my mind heavily and it felt like something that I could not get rid of.

As passive I was, deep within, I believe that God has a unique call for every person. I told myself that, if I wanted to live a purposeful life, then I better start taking responsibility. No longer could I carry with me this attitude of postponement that I will eventually figure things out.  Hence, I embarked on this journey of rediscovering my faith and ‘wooing’ God.

One might ask what should one do to ‘woo’ God and can God even be ‘wooed’? Well, to be honest, I had no idea. As with all relationships, I guess I simply did what made sense to me, and in this case – to be more “churchy”.

I started hanging around church more often, reconnected with various individuals in church, which then led me to join the Catechetical Ministry in church. I participated in random church events (Prayer and Fellowships) and courses offered by the archdiocese like Personal Morality Compass by Fr David Garcia. I also had the chance to participate in one of the retreats conducted by the Office for Young People (OYP) and subsequently even made it to World Youth Day (WYD) in 2016!

The Singapore contingent at World Youth Day 2016

The Turning Point

Being at WYD was a true game changer for me. Day in and day out, during the WYD experience, we would pray, eat, share, learn and experience together. The best thing was that Christ was in the middle of it all. Everything revolved around Him. We would gather for morning prayers, attend master classes on a faith-related topic, celebrate Masses, visit holy sites, and end the day with night prayers together.

I lived in a community of young people who love Christ and were eager to share their faith stories. My fondest memory of WYD was in the little moments we had in between classes or walking from point to point, where we shared about how we were touched by Christ, and not gossiping or talking about meaningless mundane topics. I then realised that young people could be so joyful with Christ in their life. Faith and life integration is possible and should be the way! And that was how I imagined heaven to be, everyone madly in love with Christ.

Thanks to WYD, I also got to meet many religious people! Each time I met one, I would always ask about their vocation story and how they arrived at where they were. This was all very exciting to me because it brought about a greater understanding of how one might discover one’s life mission and the journey towards embracing it. There was just something about them living so purposefully and yet so free. They seemed to possess this inner freedom to love and to give, a type of interior stillness that seduced my heart. At the core of my being, I knew something has shifted.

The Catechetical Ministry at the Church of St Anthony

Living God’s Call

Fast forward today, I’ve been happily working professionally as a counsellor and serving in the Catechetical ministry for 6 years. I love every minute of it. I believe this is God’s personal call for me. Work has also been a lot more meaningful. There are other catholic counsellors at work, whom I journey with and they are my closest friends. While I would not say I have full clarity of knowing what my entire life’s purpose is, something I can say for sure is that I need to learn to be holy and to be loved, and if I were to remain on this journey of love, I will be where I am supposed to be. That is, a general direction headed home towards the eternal kingdom.

Sharing at work

Looking back, I could see how God with his divine finger, popped my bubble of comfort and placed me in this ocean of love. At first, I felt like I was drowning but actually, all I needed was to relax and float in His grace. He was there the whole time. All that was required of me was to allow myself to be loved by God. And so, it was never about me chasing God but for me to respond to God chasing me.

When the rich young man approached Jesus to ask what more he could do to enter the kingdom of heaven, Jesus asked him to sell everything, then “come and follow me”. He was not able to do it and then he walked away sad. I did not want to walk away sad. With baby steps, I am slowly aligning my life to Christ’s and my prayer for you is to do the same.

———–

My prayer for the Catholic Church’s 200th anniversary

Good and gracious God,

You created each one of us unrepeatably unique. With each of us here in Singapore, you entrusted us with a personal call to love one another and be loved. Father God, as we celebrate 200 years of the Catholic faith in Singapore, I am reminded that I am who I am, only because of the people you have placed before me. Thank you for my grandparents, my parents and my predecessors who have ignited that little spark of faith in me. As the Church continues to grow in Singapore, I pray that you may grant us the grace of courage to respond with ‘Here I am’ in our vocation. Here I am to continue the work of Christ your son, here I am to love, and here I am to be loved – I come to follow you to shine for others.

Amen.

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