11 January, Tuesday — On Duality

Tuesday of Week 1 in Ordinary Time

1 Sam 1:9-20
Mk 1:21-28

…the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him.

The anniversary of my father’s death happened on 3 Jan. The shadow of his passing has coloured all my Christmases since. I often wonder what he would say about how I conduct our family holidays if he were still alive. I don’t think he would be very impressed, frankly. He would sniff out the falsehood, the showiness, the lack of prayer, the regression in my faith. I think he would quietly pray for me, try to advise me. He would say, “Can Daddy talk to you privately? Do you think such and such a thing is a good idea?”, which in Dad-speak meant that he was wholly appalled by it.

Yesterday we talked about the duality of living in a family with opposing values to our own, and the almost unbearable tension that comes with it. My father embraced Catholicism late in his adulthood. Before that, he was a Buddhist. I remember kneeling in prayer with him as a child, the smell of incense and jasmine, the bells, the joss sticks, the Sanskrit chanting. I also remember that upon his conversion, he struggled with reconciling his old practice of Buddhism with that of being a born-again Catholic. Towards the end of his life, as he grew more ill, he also drew closer to God. A lot closer. Often, he would say to me, “Daddy had spiritual warfare the other day”. I never understood what that meant, until I witnessed it for myself – the convulsions, the strange utterances, my mother’s frantic prayer of the Rosary, the Holy Water, the veins popping under his skin. I thought those things only happened in movies. He explained that a person’s soul needs to battle its way to God, and that I was not to be afraid, this was his soul doing it.

Christ ‘set us apart’ but kept us in this world, wheat amongst the chaff, basking in the same sun, drenched in the same rain. “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Despite the physical and spiritual struggle of being Catholic, my father held fast to God till the very end. I didn’t know it then, but I was witnessing him battling his way to God. He prayed often, read the Word diligently and at night, though he seemed to be sleeping, he would lie in bed meditating on the Word. My Mom and I used to joke amongst ourselves that Dad had outsourced all his earthly worries to the both of us, so he could focus on God. In hindsight, that was probably the case. But in so doing, my father made peace with the tension of being of this world but set apart, and his soul found its way back to God. Perhaps I too can draw on that same wisdom and find a more peaceful way to deal with that duality.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for those who live in multi-faith households, that they are able to master the difficult balance of being Catholic with being in this world.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Holy Spirit who guides our thoughts, our words, our intentions and our actions.

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