Year of Youth 2018

“Two in love can make it…”

Last edited 12th July 2018

“Two in love can make it…”

"L is for the way you look at me

O is for the only one I see

V is very, very extraordinary

E is even more than anyone that you adore...."

L-O-V-E by Nat King Cole. Interesting way to start a blog piece with a song from an era long ago. But growing up I always secretly adored the lines of this song. I'm not sure why. I mean… I didn't grow up in the 1950's nor did I ever frequently listen to the tunes of that era. But as an adolescent and might I add self-proclaimed connoisseur of all things musical (which just to make it clear excludes absolutely everything, besides the rap genre), I found myself strangely listening to this song often, and continually into my young adult life.

But what’s the significance of this song to me? Why have the lyrics stuck for so long? And goodness, why can’t I get to the point of this blog faster?

…beats me?

But God has a funny way of sending a message.

Much like the parable of the mustard seed which indeed is smaller than all seeds. But when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs, and becomes a tree…”. Sometimes even the seemingly small and insignificant things such as a song, can silently grow, and leave you astounded by the beauty of a profound moment. A profound moment when you realise that that little thing has grown into a tree and that tree was always there. You just failed to notice it.

This is one of my mustard seed moments, and how that seed to tree realisation was revealed to me.

Years pass from my first encounter with the song, and I am now a young man in my early twenties. I found myself flying across the world to an event called World Youth Day. This year it was to be held in the ‘City of Mercy’: Krakow, Poland. A pilgrimage across the world. One I stumbled upon by accident and funded on a whim purely out of sheer kindness and charity from my brother.

“Sweet!” I thought. “Well I don't really want to go and partake in heaps Holy activities and such...But...Europe for the first time...and for free too! Why not?! I get to check out a new country, eat some European food, drink some Polish vodka, two weeks holiday away from university. Perfect!” As you can see I was definitely not one for heavy discernment, nor did I go for the purpose of pilgrimage.

However, as the pilgrimage went on I found myself surrounded by a sea of faithful youth, actually partaking in holy festivities and enjoying it, and experiencing some of the most profound moments of my life. Ones, might I add, that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

One of these moments was an encounter so profound it was the first time I cried like a baby. I mean, full-fledged fetal position type crying. The moment occurred at one of the initial Australian gatherings at the kick-off of festivities in Poland. The venue was at full capacity, and the hype and anticipation around World Youth Day about to finally begin swelled the air. I remember one of the Bishops addressing the crowd announcing there was Adoration and Confession beside the venue. Immediately, I felt a call to go.

Amidst the hype, the dancing, and cheering, I felt drawn to turn away from it all and put myself in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, in reverent silence. As an extrovert, this went against every grain of my being. I'm always down for a party! But I remember an overwhelming feeling of guilt and shame overtake me. This feeling so strong pulled and tugged me away from where I wanted to be, to where I needed to be.

Prior to this moment I must admit, I was no JP2, and not even close to being a good practicing Catholic. At the most, I would say I was lukewarm and stale of heart. Sure, I attended Mass every Sunday, and yes, I prayed (not a lot - just before bed to be honest), and sure people thought of me as a Jesus man... but in all honesty, I was going through the motion. Following the roots of my upbringing to follow the faith diligently. I went through a time of half-believing that God loves me unconditionally, that I was set aside for something greater, that He has a plan for me. In all honesty, God to me became a figment, a statue on Sundays that I would stare at during church. God to me became a 'thing' in the sky, an idea that "Yeah, maybe He's around. Yeah, He probably exists. But I'm sure He has better things to do than look out for me." God to me became... an afterthought.

Because of this, I hadn’t been to Confession in years, and I was living a worldly life without regrets or remorse. I was a boy in the world, and a boy of the world. Conforming to societal norms of hazy weekends, drinking to the point that vomiting was the goal, chasing girls and treating them like objects for my own pleasure, lying with a smile on my face to my parents to maintain a good image, and so on. I felt so poorly about His existence that His rules didn't apply to me, that ultimately He didn't even exist to me. That whatever I felt like doing, I could. As I said, without hesitation, without remorse. I lived in my own self-utilitarian belief that by following the world and the masses, it makes me "happy". But as I sat there, in front of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament... all I could feel was Christ staring at me. Only me. In a room filled to the brim… His attention was just on me. Pathetically, I couldn’t look back at Him. I continued to look down and away in guilt. I started to weep.

"False!" I thought to myself. "You idiot! Look at the life you’ve been living. You unworthy swine. Happy? My ass. You're a sad little boy. Waste of air. You hypocrite. You weak and lowly creature, you don't deserve to even grovel here."

This reflection repeatedly dawned on me. The life I’d been living, and how far away from Christ I had been. After what felt like at least 50 years in front of Jesus, crying and sobbing like a boy who had lost his parents in a shopping mall, I felt called to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. It's funny that I unconsciously chose that prayer, because that's exactly what I sought: Mercy.

Two times through the chaplet and reciting the words "... have mercy on us and on the whole world" and "Jesus, I trust in you," I sobbed and cried. That’s when the guilt, shame, and remorse started stirring something in me...

It was the desire to finally go to Confession, to finally make amends with my God, the one who loves unconditionally, and the one who continues to love me regardless of who I am. To seek forgiveness. To seek Him. All the years far apart from Him, finally overwhelmed me and pushed me back to Him. To the one I longed for.

After speaking to the priest, and not going into too much detail, I was lucky enough to receiving absolution, and did my penance. I remember laying on the grass... A monsoon of feelings consumed me. But not the ones that flooded my heart only moments ago. Nope. What swamped me was joy, real happiness, feeling light, forgiveness, and the strongest of all: loved.

Here’s the kicker.

One song came to my head.

You guessed it.

As it played in my head, "L is for the way you look at me, O is for the only one I see….”. I came upon a new meaning in those lyrics.

L is for the way you look at me: Jesus never stopped looking at and after me. He never changed his loving gaze toward me. Unwavering. Unlimited. I realised this only in that moment. Awaken by this moment of his loving perpetual gaze upon me.

O is for the only one I see: He is omnipotent. Yet He is always individually with us. Meeting us personally. Meeting us where we are. In that profound moment, it was just me and Him. Personal. Intimate. Even amidst the crowds.

V is very, very extraordinary: The moment overwhelmed me in a way I never imagined. It took me on a pilgrimage across the world, to a foreign land, surrounded by strangers to encounter Him. It was also extraordinary that I was blessed to be in this position, to be able to experience Him in one of the most extraordinary events known to date - World Youth Day.

E is even more than you adore: If you think you love your pet, if you love your favourite sporting team, or even your own mother. The love you and I have, and all we can give, pales in comparison to the never-ending ocean deep reserve of love God has for us. It’s infinite.

And there it is.

This is just one of the realisations I had during my pilgrimage, but it was one of the most memorable. I felt unworthy of His love, but He doesn't judge. His love is endless and isn't reserved for those who are the well-practiced in the faith. I can’t say I’m a model Catholic after this event. We all continue to struggle, each with our own hardships and challenges. But if I’ve learnt anything from my encounter, it’s that God and His love is available to everyone. No matter where you are, He will meet you there. He will extend His hand and call you back to Him, time and time again.

As for me, now I'm more aware of how distant I’ve been from Him. I try my best to meet Him in prayer, to meet Him in the sacraments. That way, I'm never too far away. And if I do stray, I'm grateful for moments like these, as it reminds me in a very real and surreal way, that God loves me and He waits for me patiently, never abandoning, and never withholding His love back from me.

This was one of my mustard seed to tree realisation moments. I pray that this acts as an instrument to inspire you to keep pushing forward in whatever challenges you face, and to remind you in case you forget that God is love... and like the song concludes...

"... Love was made for me and you".
By day, Bernard is an exercise physiologist and by night, he's a laksa enthusiast. He enjoys paying money to lift and push things, hearty laughter, good beer, and secretly likes pineapple on his pizza. A wannabe adventure man, he finds himself closest to God in the mountains.

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