Jennifer Tan Hooi Peng is a 54-year-old Catholic who found her way back to the Church eight years ago. She lives in Penang with her husband and two children but currently she is in Ipoh with her elderly family members in this Covid-19 lockdown. She shares her journey back to the Lord in a series of articles. This is the second article, and first one is here.
By Jennifer Tan Hooi Peng JULY 7, 2021
I resumed attending Sunday masses at St Anne’s Minor Basilica sometime in July 2013 after 29 years of not attending regularly. I had lost my soul and inner peace at work after almost three months of doing things against my conscience but dared not resign without another job. Finally, I left without any job security, due to great difficulties in sleeping and eating. I also lost 11kgs.
I was not sure if going to church would help but I had nowhere else to turn. It was difficult initially because I could not follow the readings and gospels preached. However, when parish priest Monsignor Henry Rajoo gave his homily which lasted around five to 10 minutes, I understood the simple words and started practicing what the priest had told us to do the following week. When the teachings worked, I became highly attentive during homilies to ensure nothing was missed and did my utmost to apply what I learnt the following week.
These are only a few experiences I encountered in my first one-and-a-half years upon returning to Christ as a prodigal daughter.
• I found out that I did not have to make a big issue, defend, or retaliate if I was treated unfairly by people, as the truth in situations would emerge over time. (1 Peter 2:23 When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly – NRSV or Catholic Bible Newly Revised Standard Version)
• I discovered God will guide my thoughts and words when the time came and not to fear. I had to train a class of operator-level staff members on a Malaysian standard that I was unfamiliar with, which is Good Manufacturing Practices, and it was to be done fully in Malay. This was a first for me. After carefully preparing my teaching slides, I arrived at the venue to find there was no available projector. Despite this and miraculously, participants really enjoyed the teaching after we broke the group into teams and did a workshop competition using a completely different approach with just flip charts and paper! (Luke 12:23 For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.)
• I slowly learnt to trust God in all that I do. After losing my inner peace, I totally lacked confidence in my new job which started around two months after I left my former job. Yet, as the main speaker, the technical presentations God guided me during preparation and presentation were well received in three public seminars in the northern, southern, and central regions of Malaysia, including a presentation to food industry participants in Kedah upon the invitation by the Malaysian Ministry of Health. (Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.)
Tears would roll down my cheeks quietly during mass especially after Holy Communion and during hymns (regardless of which choir and whether they sang well or not). Years later, I discovered the tears were because the Holy Spirit touched me.
In all honesty, I still did not fully understand the readings, gospels, liturgy and I continued to crying during every single mass and this lasted for one and a half years. But it no longer mattered as the Eucharistic Christ was healing me gradually through Scriptures, Holy Communion, Hymns and provided the Word of God for me to obey and follow. Thank you, Jesus! Alleluia!
Hunger for Christ
Something was happening in my heart although I could not understand why. After some months, I found myself greatly desiring to attend mass on Sundays. When Thursdays or Fridays came, I would start getting impatient, hoping for Sunday to come soon so I could attend church. This was so astounding to me because, unlike before, I now needed mass and God’s words. The tears I cried during mass cleansed me and I would leave the church in peace, knowing that I have the teachings to practise during the week.
Today I know that God’s Word is GOD and His Body, the Holy Eucharist is in us when we partake of it to become one with HIM. I became so thirsty for Christ despite lapsing for nearly 30 years. Praise the Lord! It is never too late to return! Thank you, Jesus!
Instruments of God
For the first few years, Msgr Henry and St Anne’s parish became my “idols”, as I did not want any other priest except him and this church. Over time, I learnt to let go as I began to understand that it is God through the holy priests preaching and any church regardless of location, is the House of God. Our priests and the religious are instruments of God. Through them He is reaching us.
The Eucharistic Christ
It is indeed God fulfilling my every need and returning my lost soul in the Eucharistic Christ during mass. In time to come, I recognised the greatest difference before and after returning is peace in my heart. For the first time in my life, I was sleeping so soundly. God has been seeking me for a long time and my heart finally looked to Him for answers at the age of 46. Thank you, Jesus! Praise the Lord!
On April 10 this year, which is eight years since my journey back to Christ, an inner voice told me to increase my daily Bible reading instead of only reading the daily readings and gospels. This was affirmed/confirmed by God at the end of the month when my prayer group, the 11th Prayer Hour, encouraged the same. I have begun and am linking my return journey experiences with Bible passages where God has taken me until today. God is telling me that His Sacred Scriptures will help me find my way back to Him. Amen! Alleluia!