Who are you, Lord and who am I?

I caught myself asking these questions more frequently these last few years. Be it accompanying someone in his or her spiritual journey, be it studying for my Masters in Dogmatics in Rome, be it during a personal crisis which happens every now and then.

I remember as a kid or even just before entering the Franciscan order, I had thoughts that priests and Religious have already “made” it and have gotten it all in order; they appear so holy and wise. Key word here is “appear”. And now that I am a Religious priest, I often ponder how I may have “appeared” likewise to others but am not authentically so.

Talking about appearance, some have remarked that I still seem fresh out of seminary and the Franciscan formation process. But in reality, I had just celebrated my 10th anniversary of my solemn profession on the feast of St Anthony of Padua, June 13, which means that 10 years ago, I had vowed publicly to live in obedience, without anything of my own, and in chastity, for the rest of my life, together with my community, serving and building God’s kingdom.

I was blessed to celebrate this 10th anniversary in Padua itself, “blessed” because I did not purposely plan a trip there, but because it was a necessary transit stop for a trip.

Being in a state of gratitude and in a city of graces, I was moved to make a re-dedication of my life to the Lord while in the Basilica of St Anthony. After receiving communion, I knelt at the side chapel nearest to me, to make this re-dedication of my life. I basically told the Lord that I will accept whatever is asked of me at the chapter to be held next year (a chapter is the meeting of Religious where decisions are made, and also when new ministries are allocated), and I asked the Lord for the strength and grace to fulfill that ministry.

On a more serious note, it was a significant God-incidence. I had vowed to consecrate my life 10 years back, and I was in formation for seven years prior to making this consecration, which means that I have been trying to follow in the footsteps of St Francis for the past 17 years.

Fr Derrick Yap (second from left) seen here with fellow priests in Rome (from left): Frs Samuel Lim, Jovita Ho,

Joseph Zhang and Jeffrey Tan.

Where am I at this point of my life? Where am I in my relationship with God? Although I have re-dedicated my life in Padua, am I really authentic in this re-dedication? Is it mere lip service or had I meant it? I really don’t know.

Which is why after I had made that re-dedication, I added that petition for grace and strength. Because I know that every time I let the Lord lead, He sure does.

But oftentimes I find myself asking if I am following the ‘right’ Lord, if I still want to ‘invest’ my faith in following this Lord and who am I in the first place to follow the Lord? And that brings us back to the questions posed at the beginning… who are you, Lord and who am I?

Till this point, I realise that these two questions are very much intertwined. Only when I know who God is (as much as He reveals himself to me, either through Scripture, doctrines or through personal experiences and reflection), then will I know who I am, who I am called to be and who I am in relation to others.

So, who is God to me? In a few words, I would say that God is the one who loved me into being and through his humble and self-sacrificing love, redeemed and saved me through His Son, Jesus Christ. And to purify and illumine me, Christ has freely and constantly gifted His Holy Spirit.

I am called to open my arms to received this embrace of love, to receive this infusion of grace, mercy and power. And thus loved, to love in the same way, those whom the Lord has sent into my life, especially those who give me the most grief, pain and anxiety.

This last point is indeed a terrible challenge and admittedly, has been the cause of many a crisis in my life. But touch my heart, I acknowledge that I have experienced even more powerfully, the Lord’s presence and consolation in my life. And when the next crisis comes, it gives me the ability to walk ‘through the valley of darkness’ with just enough faith to take the next step, and the next, and the next, till I fall into God’s reassuring arms again.

My prayer is that I may always desire the Lord and faithfully walk towards Him and dare to allow Him to purify and illumine me, so that I can be led to closer union with Him.

My prayer is that I may always desire the Lord and faithfully walk towards Him and dare to allow Him to purify and illumine me, so that I can be led to closer union with Him. It is also my prayer that I may journey with others who desire the same thing.

Some friars reckon that I may take up the role of formator (accompanying Franciscan students), and others “prophesised” that I may take up a role at our new Franciscan Spirituality Centre (journeying with souls desiring to deepen their spiritual lives). As I intimated earlier, I will leave everything in God’s hand and allow Him to lead me through this passage of life, till at last, He leads me back to Himself.

Friar Derrick Yap, OFM
This story was first published on The Catholic News.
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