Feast of St.Luke
2 Timothy 4:10-17
A few years ago, I had the opportunity of visiting the Changi Museum in Singapore. It is near Changi Prison, a Prisoner of War site in WW2. Many of those who entered Changi only left to die on other projects such as the Burma-Thai railway. Changi is still a prison. The Changi Museum houses a memorial of the POW camp.
Two things struck me.
First, there are some written reflections from the actual prisoners. One was from David Marshall, a Jewish lawyer, who eventually became the first Chief Minister of independent Singapore.
Overwhelmed with the more than 50,000 POWs when Singapore surrendered, the Japanese marched the prisoners to Changi. The Japanese guards would beat the prisoners to keep them walking. Along the way, Chinese shopkeepers would give the prisoners food and water. The Japanese guards would beat the Chinese, but the Chinese defied the beatings to help the prisoners. David Marshall said he never forgot those acts of kindness in such terrible circumstances.
Secondly, the centrepiece of the Changi Museum is a recreation of the chapel that was a place of hope during the war. The actual chapel and its paintings still exist within the present walls, now part of an Air Base. This is a re-creation.
The story of the murals is an amazing story. It can be found here,
(Stanley Warren and the Changi Murals | Infopedia (nlb.gov.sg)) among other places.
The artist, Stanley Warren, was a sick and dying man. He first painted the Birth of Jesus, depicting those visiting the child Jesus as people from all walks of faith and life. The three wise men are shown as coming from three different continents.
Thinking he would die, he next painted the Ascension, as to bookend the life of Jesus on Earth.
He regained some health, and then painted the Last Supper, with its title , this is shared for “Many”. And the crucifixion has the title, “Father Forgive them, they know not what they do”. It was intended as an act of forgiveness for the Japanese. Jesus is portrayed with his eyes closed, so that he wouldn’t recognize the soldiers, and hold it against them.
The murals all depict a theme of Universality and the oneness of Humanity.
Four of his paintings depict events from the life of Jesus, the fifth does not. It is taken from our first reading today: Only Luke is With Me. This is Paul speaking towards the end of his life. He is facing execution, and he reflects on his life.
The painting itself has been half destroyed. The original had Luke writing his Gospels. The walls of the jail have been broken, to portray that even chains cannot constrain and hold the human spirit, and the Gospels. Only the title, and the broken walls, can now be seen
Yet there is a tinge of sadness; Only Luke is With Me.
Sadness, but not despair. Paul looks back on his life for Jesus with a sense of fidelity to his mission and gratitude for those who were faithful to him.
Almost alone, but not without hope.
Who have we stood with when all hope seemed lost? Who have we stayed with to the end, when others abandoned them? Who have we been faithful to, through it all, and maybe to the end?
Who has been that person to us, that we can say, Only Luke, or John, or Sarah, or Sophie, is with me.
Who will say of us, only they were with me?
Peter Gardiner is a Passionist priest, based at Marrickville, NSW. He is presently teaching English to children from low-income families at Teaching Volunteer at the School and Community Centre | Volunteer Building Cambodia