Happy To Have Found The Narrow Path: Andrew J. Wong

I am grateful that, through the preaching of God’s living power, the Church has called me to begin a lifelong journey of faith—to help change my heart.

Together with an ecclesial community that meets to celebrate the sacraments and listen to God speaking, week in, week out, I am embracing a life that is slowly becoming centered on Christ. By this, I know the Church will get me ready for what Christ is calling all the faithful to be and to do for the young people who are leaving the Church.

 

Guide-LESS at the Beginning

This was not so in the beginning: my path was crooked, with no guide for the journey.

I did have a meeting with Christ in my early years: I suffered but overcame 4 years of being bullied in school. Through grace, I walked on the waters of indignity and despair to read English law in London and became a lawyer in Singapore and overseas.

Touched by those events in my youth, I searched for Christ and the community mentioned in the Epistles. I ended up serving 12 years in various ministries on this initial journey of faith.

There had been happy moments serving and doing occasional acts of charity—visiting those in prison and ministering to the sick. There were also many moments of wandering aimlessly, without follow-through or continuity necessary for my conversion. Worse still, I thought I was already a good Catholic and doing good deeds.

As I lacked discipline in my study of the bible, I attended talks by the Singapore Pastoral Institute, which provided some spiritual light for a brief spell. However, those à la carte lessons did not provide structure or a direction for me to become a follower of Christ.

I remained a Sunday Catholic during this initial journey. I would listen somewhat attentively during Mass on Sundays. Then, I unwittingly allowed myself to be catechised 24/7 by the world. Despite serving in Church, I led a duplicitous spiritual life—I used God to serve the demands of my heart and kidded myself about doing His will. For quite a while, I was alone on that journey.

 

Encountering the Neocatechumenal Way

Andrew beside the original Icon of the Way

I chanced upon the Neocatechumenal Way in 2003. Though lacking a grasp of the call to conversion in the initial catechesis, I somehow accepted the Church’s invitation to cross the threshold and entered the door of faith. This meant undertaking a serious faith journey, lived in communion with brothers and sisters called by the Lord, who have taken the same steps.

Like the blind man who needed healing in 2 steps, I got to listen to the catechesis again, repeatedly announced in many parishes throughout the years.

I get it now: Christ is truly risen, and He loves me as I am, with my spiritual defect and failures. There is no need now to look for a spiritual director, stimulating talks, or the latest bible programme. Instead, the Lord’s Church has come to look for me to systematically give its teachings at timely intervals for the past 18 years. The reasons for my belief in Christ are regularly examined, and the Church is leading me on a transformative journey of faith.

The Church has rubbed 2 teachings on my eyes: love one another as Jesus loved us (to the point of dying); by this love, they will know we are His disciples (Jn 13:34); be united, so the world may believe that the Father sent Jesus into our life (Jn 17:21).

My community is continually encouraged to allow this Word to become a reality and truth in what we do or say. Such signs of love and unity display the living presence of Christ today. In front of misunderstandings typically happening in any close-knit community, God’s Word helps me see Christ in the bickering brother or the stressed-up sister, and remain steadfast, avoid the spacious paths that many take, love in the utterly sacrificial way, by which Christ loved me. How else do I learn to accept my community, as Christ has done for me?

 

Being Catechised Continually

The Singapore contingent with Pope Francis in Rome at the 50th Anniversary of the Way in 2018

My wife left me at the start of my journey, and I suffered abandonment, grief, and depression. Thanks to God speaking to me; His Word encourages me to remain steadfast and not give up because easy options keep beckoning me.

My faith journey hasn’t been without stumbling. Truthfully, it’s not easy for me to love my enemies or conquer the 7 capital sins with my own strength. Hence, it’s a good thing the Church continually catechises me. She is also helping me to recognise what ails me at the core and roots because I am too blind and willful to surrender everything to allow the Holy Spirit to enter me. I realise now that eternal life begins when the Spirit of Christ lives in me, and I can do what Christ did without struggling on my own pitiful strength.

So, I shall continue to walk with my community and grow in my faith. It is my humble hope that the Lord will change my heart of stone. Thankfully, using sheer force of will did not work out for me, or I would be so full of myself.

 

Doing the Father’s Will

Much like the second son in the parable of the two sons (Matt 21:28-32) who hesitated to do the father’s will, I have since found myself answering the call to serve: first, taking care of the community for 13 years thus far; then in recent years, as one of the catechists to transmit the same catechesis that we have received and lived, always guided by our catechists; most recently as a companion to my 89-year-old father and 87-year-old mother, who started their extraordinary faith journey 5 years ago in the first community of Our Lady Queen of Peace.

A 2-by-2 door-to-door street evangelisation to announce the Easter Joy. Andrew’s mother (then 85 years old, in grey blouse) also participated in this street evangelisation.

My mother miraculously recovered from a paralysing stroke in 2016; then, she mysteriously declared, “I want to come and listen.” My father, on the other hand, was a lapsed Catholic. In prior years, he assiduously avoided receiving communion at Sunday Mass and even resisted the call to walk initially.

He has since welcomed the gifts of ongoing catechesis and the community. All 3 of us are ever thankful for the chance to listen together to God speaking to us. During the season of Easter, my parents have also gone from door to door to announce the Good News—that Christ is alive and wants to live in us.

Who else could have made this happen?

It’s not my place to characterise the above as a fruit of my journey of faith. The Lord is patently acting by helping me see and serve my parents in their old age and needs; after all, I’m the middle son. I know fully well how easy it is for me to fool myself and the Church. At any time, I’m free to excuse myself and turn my back on help from the Church—it’s always a thin line between the life in Christ and death in all that I must have or fulfill.

Andrew, together with the team of local catechists giving public catechesis in his parish, Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace

The hope I now cherish is God’s promise to send the Spirit of Jesus Christ to live in me. I am convinced the pastoral work of evangelisation that the Church is doing through the Way will prepare me to welcome the Word of God utterly. The Word that created heaven and earth is the same Word that brought forth life in barren and virgin wombs; this same Word also has the power to change my heart of stone.

Since the Neocatechumenal Way began in 1964, the Lord has changed many hearts and raised an army of evangelisers in 900 dioceses, spread over 130 countries. 2,000 over priests have found their vocations in these communities. More than 500 families with young children, together with single women and men, some from Singapore, have given their lives as missionaries. They have been sent everywhere, including many Asian countries, to give witness to the Good News in their lives.

Without a doubt, I’m a beneficiary of the Way – of the Good News – sown and growing inside me. Pope St. John Paul II is right: the Way is much needed for this generation. The New Evangelization is not only for those who have not heard of Christ, but it also comes searching for believers everywhere. Our Catholics are withering under the onslaught of secularisation. Too many have been seduced by the city that promises so much and delivers so little to so many.

My Prayer for the Catholic Church’s 200th anniversary

Christ is still faithful to His promises; the Holy Spirit is still acting today. I pray that the Eternal Father will continue to raise and send labourers into His harvest. May we all have eyes that perceive, ears that understand, and a heart that welcomes the Lord’s message for this generation.

A 2-by-2 evangelisation in Thailand: Andrew is in red, with his 2-by-2 partner, James (a father of 7 children) and local parishioners. This 2017 mission saw 44 members sent to Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia for 6 days, without money or phone, as close in spirit as possible to the Gospel instruction.

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