Posted October 07, 2015:
God Really Loves Me

by Joel Tan, a recent working guest.

How much God loves me! And how much Madonna House helped me to love God and neighbour far beyond what I had hoped for when I went there! But I didn’t know at first that that would happen.

The night I arrived what I was thinking was: what have I gotten myself into? Only one shower a week, sleeping in a dorm with people I had just met, and having to obey and put up with the way things were.

The rising time was another killer. The last time I had to get up that early every day was almost five years ago. Plus I was sceptical about what being in this place would do to me. But God is so good and generous with his graces; every day he unfailingly provided me the extra graces I needed.

Most days I worked at the farm. Work loaded upon work. Every day, I was almost certain that I would not make it through all those strenuous hours. Cleaning the cow barn, collecting the eggs, putting down bedding for the cows, and much more.

To make things worse, on the third day, when the van was leaving for the farm to go back to the main house, I got there late and almost got left behind. I had to chase the van to get on. This was definitely a first for me, and it was a learning experience.

Nevertheless, the people at the farm were such friendly and beautiful people. I was even given the honor of helping to make the ice cream for Mamie Legris’ funeral.

Once a year, every year, Mamie would buy ice cream for everybody at Madonna House. Now they were going to have some in her honor on her funeral day, and I was going to help carry on this tradition. This was such a meaningful experience for me.

One event that tugged firmly at my heart strings happened at Mamie’s wake service. Fr. Pat McNulty’s homily showed me how God almighty had penetrated the heart of a priest through a woman. I saw unconditional love that night—brotherly love, community love.

Through Fr. Pat’s testimony at the service, I felt as though I had somehow personally known Mamie Legris. How bravely she had walked through such darkness of soul and how much faith and trust she had in Jesus! My memory of that mountain of faith and love that Fr. Pat told us about that night sat in my heart for a long time afterwards.

While I was at Madonna House, I was privileged to attend a Byzantine liturgy, which was so beautiful—and the Byzantine Burial Service on Good Friday evening.

During that service, I felt that the Lord was again trying to tell me how much he loves me, even though I am a sinner. I felt how he accepts and embraces me as who I am, not for what I can do.

Our Blessed Mother brought me so far from my home in Singapore all the way to Canada, and she still had more to show me, more for me to experience in Madonna House.

This was my first Holy Week outside my own country, and the Holy Thursday and Easter meals were the best I’d ever had for those feasts. The lamb on Holy Thursday and the Russian Easter foods of koolitch and paska were delicious, and I ate way more than I should have.

I had never been so joyful and hopeful than I was this Easter. The excitement of everybody else rubbed off on me. The words "Christ is Risen," which were said and sung over and over, sank into me really deeply and left my heart in pure joy, the joy of knowing that God had saved my imperfect self.

Very early on Easter morning, I hiked with Fr. Zach and a few others up a hill to a lookout spot. When we reached the top, we waited with so much anticipation for the sun to rise. It was as if we were waiting for Christ himself to rise and rule supreme.

Then as the sun began to rise, a flash of joy and hope and peace overwhelmed my heart. Just knowing that Jesus Christ loves me so much and that he is up above in the sky shining so brightly saying to me, "Cry no more, my son. I have risen. I have defeated everything you fear or suffer from and I will wipe away your every tear."

The final sign that God showed me of his love for me happened just before I left Madonna House: the coming of spring. The snow melted, the river was starting to flow freely again, and the trees were budding, bringing forth new life. For me this was a sign of new beginning for me, a beautiful chance to start again.

The Lord had brought me to Madonna House in winter with all my imperfections, bondages, and sins, when it was cold and there was little sunshine, and now in spring, at Eastertime, he had brought forth in me a new resurrection.

I am so thankful I have been able to come here to die to myself and experience in such a beautiful way through the events and friendships forged here how the Lord is always true and faithful.

God loves me more than I will ever understand and wants me more that I’ll ever know.

Madonna House has truly been for me a home away from home, and it has been the breath of God’s life-giving Spirit to me.


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