It is the first day of Chinese New Year (CNY) 2018.
Beautiful Chinese New Year decorations adorned the windows and the sides of the church. Shades of red added to the vibrancy and warmth of that familiar inner court where worship takes place.
Those familiar faces with their family members settling down comfortably in their favourite, usual pews. Occasionally, some heads turned, exchanging smiles, handshakes and warm wishes. Beautiful people of God.
The crowd was unexpectedly massive. The attendance for CNY thanksgiving Mass in this parish seems to increase every year. A very good sign indeed.
I nestled myself at the last row of the pew just behind the choir. Thank God I did not have to be "out-standing".
As I people-watched, my heart sank. This entire scene is way too familiar.
No, it is not a feeling of deja vu.
It was the very same scenario on New Year's Day thanksgiving Mass, 1 January 2018. The only difference is probably the colour red.
I have never felt so lonely. My family, like any other years - but I do not remember since when, prefer to stay at home and prepare food for relatives and visitors.
I totally understand my parents, wishing to give the best to our visitors. But just one hour, I remember telling my parents. It all boils down to your priority, I said. Of course, a prophet is never well received in his own household.
Or perhaps, the many hardships that befell my family beginning last year has dampened their spirits and jeopardised their belief in God. Or, could it be me? I must have been a very bad example in the practice of virtues. I believe that it is the latter, which lead to the former. Then shame on me for calling myself a "prophet"!
I used to be very proud of my family. My dad a warden cum extraordinary minister of the Holy Communion. My mom a warden. My brother an altar server. Myself... the busybody running here and there, helping in whichever area my help was needed right there and then. Although we did not have the practice of praying together at home, we still attended Mass together in the same parish church. I couldn't ask for more!
Today, everything changed when one trial after another hit the family. My parents resigned from the ministries and are now parish-hopping (attending different parish church every week). My brother... I do not even know if he even fulfills the Sunday obligations.
I am the only one who stays on in the parish; with one hand grabbing the thin rope that still holds my family together, while clinging on to God with the best of my ability with another. That fragile rope leaves my hand with blisters and cuts. I do not dare to make any move, albeit small, for one wrong move might just break the rope. On the other hand, I depend heavily on the strength drawn from daily Eucharist and prayer, praying that all the merits and blessings could be transferred to my family.
I really wish St Monica would just show herself in my dream and share with me how she managed to get through those difficult long years of praying for her wayward son, St Augustine.
My only hope is to see my family returning to God and seeking his will, amidst all these trials.
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of goodwill..." It is the most painful Gloria ever. Having to keep those tears inside the eyes while singing a hymn of gratitude with a very heavy-laden and wounded heart is far from being easy.
That uncertainty in front and having totally no control over the future is just scary. Despite the pain and the most uncertain future ahead, I choose to trust and depend on God every single day.
If you could feel the pain I am going through, kindly say a little prayer for me and my family, for I do not know how long these trials would last, and how much longer can I hold on!
What a way to begin the New Year. This might be just the beginning of many more hardships to come. It could also be a new challenge God has thrown my way. Whatever it will be, I pray that God's will be done, not mine.