by Nicholas Goh
At this juncture in my life, being from a business school and working in OYP while most of my friends are working in the world enabled me to view faith with the lens of an economist. Specifically, about capital and how each one of us has many different kinds of capital. There is social capital, (wealth) capital, but today I’ll be coining a new term – spiritual capital.
I got this idea because everyone is telling me to network and build connections so I can do well in the future, but at the same time a priest said in a homily that only when the rainy days come you will realise who your true friends are. My parents are telling me to quickly find a job otherwise I will lose competitiveness and be far behind my peers in climbing the career ladder, but at the same time Jesus is telling me to sell all my possessions, take up my cross and follow Him. What a paradox our Christian lives are.
I occasionally complain that my time at OYP is ‘wasted’, making a pittance when I could have been earning many times more in the working world, to which my friends reply, “But you’re earning heaven dollars!” Ironically, even though people say that, it’s just so difficult to make that decision to earn heaven dollars instead of earth dollars, to build spiritual capital instead of other kinds of capital, especially when doing a cost-benefit analysis or opportunity cost calculation.
For the strength to choose to make heaven dollars and intern at OYP, I have to attribute it to FIDES. Perhaps through those years in community in SMU – despite my faith taking a back seat, God inevitably had the opportunity to give me a desire, a want in me to be richer spiritually. Without a community, my faith journey wouldn’t have even started since I was totally closed off to Jesus coming into my life and was rearranging everything in my precious house where there was no room for Him.
But like all goods, an initial taste led to curiosity and to a desire for more. Without the initial spiritual capital that FIDES provided, many doors wouldn’t have been opened. I wouldn’t have heard about the Awaken retreat, I wouldn’t have made the friends that are now in Living Ark and I wouldn’t even have come into contact with OYP or the oppurtunity to have 6 months there. All it took was a spark to get a fire going.
Looking at others who used to have a community but lost it down the road somehow, and eventually got choked by the snares and cares of the world, led me to believe that faith has a depreciating effect. For example, let’s say there are 5 levels of faith. Thus, a community helps to bring our faith to higher levels – though seldom a level higher than the average of the community. Then, if we get cut off, or we stop going, our faith starts depreciating like any kind of capital – not coming into contact with the people who are your social capital will cause it to depreciate over time. But if we get to a higher level, faith becomes more of a personal affair and the depreciation still continues but not so quickly. Because Jesus becomes more important and we go to mass on our own, do spiritual reading on our own and say our prayers regularly.
Nicholas (above in orange) serving during the recent Combined University Retreat
Coming back to spiritual capital, it’s about building relationships that matter, it’s about befriending someone for their benefit and not for ourselves. It’s loving. I still have many friendships that are either mutually beneficial or solely beneficial to myself, where I think: “What can this person do for me?’ Something like what John F. Kennedy said, “Think not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Jesus says, “Think not what others can do for you, but what you can do for others.” More spiritual capital means I have more people whom I love, more people whom I can share life with and have meaningful relationships. I guess we all know what a meaningful relationship or conversation is. It’s when we feel alive sharing with someone, instead of wanting to get away as soon as possible.
Spiritual capital is also building a relationship with Jesus by means of prayer, spiritual reading, mass attendance, devotions and more. It’s where we have opportunities to grow closer to Him and love Him more and more. Sometimes these might be easy, sometimes tough, but that’s true about everything in life – like the bell curve. Sometimes we do much work with little effort but sometimes we do little work with much effort. Sometimes we find it so easy to get on our knees and worship our Lord in the most unlikely of places, and then sometimes even when the Blessed Sacrament is in our face we’re thinking of our next meal instead. I always believe though that every time we make the investment in Jesus and we spend some time praying and reading scripture, we get back a hundred, thousand-fold. Even if we don’t feel anything tangible.
Therefore, I conclude that my time at OYP was not a waste of my time but an investment for a lifetime. I remember what a priest once said: ‘That our job is being a child of God, but we still need something to pay our bills.’ I hope that everyone can put in the effort to build spiritual capital and not merely focus on our other forms of capital. Maya Angelou said, “Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” We are an option to our companies, an option to our some of our friends, but a priority to Jesus who died for our salvation. I hope I always make the right investment, to invest in Jesus, because He invested everything for my sake.