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A family’s life changed forever

April 28, 2015

Acts 11: 1-18                         John 10: 1-10                         Monday 27 April 2015

The Church, soon after the Resurrection, the first Easter, is beginning to look to convert people to realise, and acknowledge and worship Jesus as the Messiah and as God. The Apostles and brothers in Judea heard that the pagans too had accepted the Word of God. Now, when the first Pope, Saint Peter, returns to Jerusalem and tells his fellow Jews (remember, the first Christians were Jews), he goes back and tells them about this fact that pagans are turning to Jesus Christ, they object to this; this cannot be right! Peter explains what happened: how he fell into a trance, had a vision, etc.

Now, does this still happen today? Let me tell you a story of something that happened in this Parish which I think is an astonishing story worth sharing. And the chap it applies to will not mind at all that you know his story.

You may recall that at the Easter Vigil we had a Chinese family received into the Church. Do you remember seeing them if you were there? The father, the head of the household, is called Chuan. He phoned me over a year earlier, in January 2014 to say that he wanted to become a Christian. I was immediately suspicious: I thought, ‘Hello, he wants his children to go to the Catholic school.’ (Is that cynical? Terrible!)

I went round to see him, and I was very surprised. And I was humbled. Chuan is a real Chinaman. He comes from mainland China. He was an atheist with no faith whatsoever. And I said, ‘In China, there are a lot of Bhuddists. Were you a Bhuddist or was there Bhuddist influence?’ No, not at all. Completely atheist.

Chuan has been in this country for ten years. Why would he want to become a Christian? Read today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles and you will see some of this coming through – it is still happening.

Chuan said, ‘You live in a lovely country and I have joined the National Trust, and I go round and look at these beautiful places; but there are certain places where there is something different happening….. and those are the churches: I have been in the churches, and there is something special happening. And I don’t know what it is, but I feel an urge to come and ask you to tell me about Christianity.’

Wow! He has had a vision, if you like. We hear this said don’t we: coming in to a Catholic church: the Real Presence….. there’s something there…. the history…. Prayers that have been offered up. It is a special place. He could feel it.

Chuan didn’t know how to pray, and I taught him. A week later I saw him again and I said, ‘Have you been praying?’ and he said, ‘Yes.’ And he had been having all sorts of visions, and seeing things – the stars, the wonder of the enormous universe created by God and the closeness of God. All these tremendous things – he didn’t understand what was happening. And when I got him a Chinese Bible from the Catholic Chinese community in London he devoured it, he loved it!

And last night I got a text from him saying that he wanted me and my wife Catherine, and Brian (the parish catechist who led him through to the Faith at Easter) and his wife Mary to come round to his house for a Chinese meal to celebrate because, he said, ‘You led me to Christianity and it has changed my life!’ Full of faith! These things we hear about in the Acts of the Apostles are still happening in our own times. It is happening in our Parish.

Normally, when you get people who want to become Catholics they have already got an inkling about our faith, sometimes some very muddled ideas. He had no idea!

And when I told him that he thought he was choosing to become a Christian, but actually it was the other way round – God had chosen him (again something that can slip off the tongue and sound very ‘religious’), he was astonished that God had chosen him, and delighted!

The second reading today is also associated with this. Jesus is saying basically ‘I am the head of the Church. The Church is the organisation on earth that links heaven and earth, and the Church is the ‘gateway to heaven’ (that is why traditionally St Peter meets us at the gates of heaven – he has the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven). It is the Church that is the route through to seeing the true face of God. Any other way… we you’re on dodgy ground. Guaranteed through the Church, hold true, hold faithfully to what the Church teaches (just as the Church holds faithfully to what it teaches, with the unchanging doctrines of the Church.)

This is the way to God, and it is what we happily profess as Catholics.

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