Tag Archives: reflection

Reflection for Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul (June 29)

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First Reading
Acts of the Apostles 12:1-11
An angel rescues Peter from prison.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 34:2-9
The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.

Second Reading
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18
Lonely and awaiting death, Paul takes consolation from his life work for the Gospel.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 16:13-19
Peter is given the name “Rock” (Peter) by Jesus, is told that the Church of Christ will be built on him, and that he has charge of the keys to heaven.

Reflection
Veneration of the two great Apostles, Peter and Paul, has its roots in the very foundations of the Church. They are the solid rock on which the Church is built. They are at the origin of her faith and will forever remain her protectors and her guides. To them Rome owes her true greatness, for it was under God’s providential guidance that they were led to make the capital of the Empire, sanctified by their martyrdom, the centre of the Christian world whence should radiate the preaching of the Gospel.

St Peter suffered martyrdom under Nero, in AD 66 or 67. He was buried on the hill of the Vatican where recent excavations have revealed his tomb on the very site of the Basilica of St Peter.  St Paul was beheaded in the Via Ostia on the spot where now stands the basilica bearing his name. Down the centuries Christian people in their thousands have gone on pilgrimage to the tombs of these Apostles. In the second and third centuries, the Roman Church already stood pre-eminent by reason of her apostolicity, the infallible truth of her teaching and her two great figures, Sts Peter and Paul.

A partial indulgence may be gained today by anyone who makes devout use of a religious article blessed by any priest but “if the article of devotion has been blessed by the Sovereign Pontiff or by any Bishop, the faithful, using it, can also gain a plenary indulgence, provided they also make a profession of faith (e.g. the Apostles Creed), as long as the usual conditions are satisfied. – catholicculture.org

Christ Our Joy (John 15:11)

Starting in 2017, the Malaysian Church celebrates Catechetical Sunday on January 22 (or date nearest to it).  Below is a reflection by Fr Mark Michael of the Malaysian Commission for Catechetics.

CHRIST came to bring joy to all humanity and this is one of the keynote messages of Christianity and the recurring motif of the Gospels. Joy, like love, is at the heart of what it means to be Christian, and it testifies to the conviction that human life has an ultimate meaning revealed to us by God and guaranteed by His unfailing love. Jesus wants us to experience His joy and He reveals the path to the lasting joy that satisfies the deepest needs of the human heart. He instituted the Church to bring us to this plateau of delight. We need to take Him at His word when Jesus told His disciples, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11). The greatest honour we can give God is to be joyful because of the knowledge of His love.

Pope Paul VI wrote, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”  Catechesis is no longer perceived as the simple teaching of faith formulae, but is focused at the maturing of faith as a support to witnessing to it in the world. My primary concern about catechesis today is that we need to emphasise the joy, enthusiasm and hopefulness that our faith produces, by witnessing and living this truth in our words, our actions, our decision, our relationship and our entire being.

GK Chesterton, who states that joy, which was a small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian and that Christianity satisfies human’s ancestral instinct for being the right way up. GK Chesterton’s understanding would be seen as controversial and not all would agree with this claim of Christianity that affirms that joy is one of the “dominant thesis” of Christian faith.

A joy-filled Christian is one who, rather than endure life, has learned through faith, to treasure life and witnesses the kingdom of God. The Word of Jesus has produced its fruit. Those who believe in Him have the fullness of His joy (Jn 17:13). Joy is indeed a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22) and a characteristic mark of the Kingdom of God (Rom 14:17). The sacrament of Baptism fills the faithful with the joy of the Spirit (Acts 13:52), which makes the apostles sing praises even in their worst moments of persecution. Our joy depends more on the Spirit’s Presence in us. Joy is simply the Presence of the Holy Spirit. When the spirit of gladness permeates a person’s entire being, they are said to be joyful.

How do we catechise in a way that fosters learning of the heart? We are catechists in a community of various backgrounds, traditions and histories where there are expectations and pressures. We cannot be independent and cannot avoid the social structures beyond our Catholic religious structures. We will be constantly negotiating between those structures and our communities. The pastoral approach does not mean accommodation to current ways of thinking and behaving, but entails bringing the joy and the light of the truth to bear on contemporary situations in a manner that is convincing and sensitive to the questions of post-modern people. As the ministry of the Word, catechesis refers to a constellation of activities that promote, enhance and challenge believers toward more mature faith. “Christ our joy” could take many forms like:-

  1. The good example of living a gospel-inspired life
  2. Works of charity and mercy
  3. Morally appropriate language, action and attitudes.
  4. Genuine Christian faith, hope and charity
  5. A lifestyle characterised by prayers
  6. Celebration of the Sacraments and other acts of worship
  7. Genuine Christian humility
  8. Participation in the Christian community’s ministry
  9. Active participation in social justice events and causes.

Church leader reflects on Fatherhood and Mercy

fatherhoodMsgr Charles Pope reflects on fatherhood and mercy.  He writes in his blog:

Consider these seven observations:

I. The merciful father loves the mother of his children.

One of the most merciful things a father can do for his children is to love their mother with tender affection and gentle, protective support.  Children bond with their mother very closely, especially in their early years. They are reassured by seeing love, tenderness, and support shown to their mother.

In contrast, when children see their mother dishonoured or, even worse, abused by their father, they are easily struck with fear and a sense of dread.

How beautiful is this mercy of a father! It also helps his sons understand how to treat women, and helps his daughters understand how men should treat them.

 II. The merciful father attends to his own healing and maturity.

All of us have character defects and “issues” that affect others around us.  Some have anger issues; others are too fearful and non-assertive.  Some have problems with drinking; some with pornography.  Still others can be lazy or impatient.

A father can show mercy to his children by working on whatever ails him and thereby avoid inflicting frustration and pain on his children.  Scripture says, They made me keeper of vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept (Song 1:6).

It is a work of mercy for a father (and a mother, too) to work through his own issues and thereby spare his children pain.  There is an old saying, “If I get better, others get better too.” In doing this, not only are children spared pain, but they are better able to grow in virtue.

 III. The merciful father does not allow his career to eclipse his vocation.

Whatever career a man has, his vocation as husband and father is more important.  And while the two are not wholly separate (since a father provides for his family), there is far more to being a father than being a breadwinner.

Children need their father in their lives, not merely off in the distance sending money.  It is a great work of mercy for a father to cherish his children and to share in their lives.  It is a necessary component of their maturity for him to manifest the masculine genius of being human even as their mother manifests the feminine genius.

Children want their father’s support, encouragement, and approval.  A young man deeply needs his father’s model. He also needs his father’s affirmation as he grows into manhood.  There is perhaps no greater mercy than for a son to hear his father say, “I’m proud of you;  you’ve done well.”

A daughter delights in twirling her skirts and in being the apple of her father’s eye.  He models for her the love of a man who loves her for her own sake, without lust.  This can help her learn to distinguish love from lust and to develop the self-esteem that will help her to navigate the complex years of courtship and to discern a good husband.

A man who is more wedded to his career than to his family is too seldom around to have these crucial effects, which are far more precious than the extra money or additional possessions earned by long hours at the office.

Be careful, fathers.  Career can be big on the ego and it can easily ensnare you.  Home life may be less glamorous and less immediately rewarding in terms of money, but there is no greater satisfaction than to have raised your children well. The rewards will be enormous for both them and you.  And this is a very great mercy.

 IV. The merciful father is the spiritual leader of his home.

He establishes the structures of grace.  In our culture, too many men leave the spiritual and religious lives of their children to their mother.  But Scripture says, Fathers … bring up your children in the training and discipline of the Lord (Eph 6:4). This does not mean that the wife has no role, clearly she does.

A father is to be the spiritual leader in his home, sanctifying his family (see Eph 5:25-27).  He should be the first one up on Sunday morning, summoning his children to prepare for Holy Mass.  His wife should not have to drag him along to Mass.  He should read Bible stories to his children and explain their meaning.  He should teach them God’s law.  While his wife should share in this, the father ought to lead.

Surveys show that the highest predictor (by far) of children going on to practise the faith in adulthood is whether their father practises the faith.

A father should also seek to establish his household with the structures of grace.  He should live under obedience to God and insist that his children do likewise.  This makes for a home that, while not free of sin, makes it easier to live the Christian faith rather than more difficult.

All of this is a great mercy that a father extends to his children. Through his leadership, a father moulds his family into the beloved community where God’s justice and mercy are esteemed and exemplified.  By God’s grace this mercy reaches his children.

 V. The merciful father listens and teaches.

It is a beautiful work of mercy for a father to actively listen to his children and to give them his undivided attention whenever possible. It bestows on them a sense of dignity, because they see that what they say and think matters to their father.  And it reassures them that he cares for their welfare and what is happening in their lives.

After listening, a father should also respond and teach, giving his children guidance.  Too many children today are not being taught by their parents, especially regarding the critical moral issues of our day.  If parents do not teach their children, someone else will!  And that “someone” is not likely to be an individual with godly views.  More often it will be some pop-star, musician, or teen idol.  Perhaps it will be a gang leader or a rogue school buddy.  Maybe it will be the police officer or a judge in a legal proceeding.

Fathers, it is a great mercy to teach your children.  You have their best interests at heart.  You want what is truly good (not merely apparently good) for them.  Their lives will be much simpler and more productive if you insist that they do what is right from an early age.  Otherwise, hardships and painful lessons await them.  Show them mercy. Instruct them in the ways of the Lord.

Scripture says, Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).  He who raises a fool does so to his sorrow, And the father of a fool has no joy (Prov 17:21).  A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the mother who bore him (Prov 17:25).

When a father brings up his children in the discipline of the Lord, it is mercy not only to them, but to others as well!

 VI. The merciful father praises and punishes.

Children are delighted to get their father’s esteem and approval.  They love to be praised, especially when they believe they have done well.

A paradoxical form of mercy is for a father to punish his children.  The purpose of punishment is to allow the child to experience in a small way the consequences of his transgression so that he does not experience the full and more painful consequences later.  Scripture says,

My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son … For what children are not disciplined by their father? We have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it.  How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!  They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Heb 12:5-11).

And thus punishment, properly understood, is a great mercy, because it saves children from great woes later on.  Clearly, punishment cannot simply be a father venting his anger or exacting revenge.  Punishment is not for the benefit of the father; it is for his children’s sake.

 VII. The merciful father uses his authority and has his children’s long term interests in mind.

The cultural revolution of the late 1960s was not just about sexuality, drugs, and feminism; it also ushered in a wide-scale rejection of authority from which we are still reeling.  And it is not just that those under authority reject it, but that those who have authority have become reluctant to use it.  Too many clergy and too many parents do not make necessary decisions, enforce important policies, or punish when appropriate.  Too many who have lawful authority are more concerned with being popular; they do not want to risk being questioned or resisted.

Authority involves a lot of effort and brings with it a great deal of stress.  Many seek to avoid all this and thus those who need leadership and guidance often do not get it. Scripture says, And indeed if the trumpet gives an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? (1 Cor 4:18)

Whether they like to admit it or not, children need their father to be strong and to lead. And when he does this it is a great mercy.  It may not always be appreciated in the moment, but most children eventually recognise with gratitude the leadership of their parents, of their father.

Every leader needs to know that he will sometimes take some heat for his decisions, and he must be willing and courageous enough to make those decisions anyway.  A father must remember that he has to be more concerned with his children’s long-term interests than with their current, short-term happiness.  Their anger or discontent in the present moment will usually be replaced by gratitude and relief in the future.

A good father will mercifully hold the tension of the moment and keep his children’s best interests at heart.  He will serve their true good (not merely their apparent good) through the use of his authority and through his decisions on their behalf.  And this is a very great mercy! – blog.adw.org

Former CEO of 2002 WYD Fr Rosica reflects on WYD Cross

wyd cross

At the heart of every World Youth Day is a very simple, powerful, ancient Christian symbol: two large planks of wood, known as the World Youth Day Cross, that many have called the “Olympic Torch” of the huge Catholic festival of young people. The World Youth Day cross has many names: the Jubilee Cross, the Pilgrim Cross, the Youth Cross. In 1984, at the close of the 1983 Holy Year of the Redemption at the Vatican, Pope John Paul II entrusted to the young people of the world a simple, twelve-foot wooden Cross, asking them to carry it across the world as a sign of the love which the Lord Jesus has for humankind and “to proclaim to everyone that only in Christ who died and is risen is there salvation and redemption.” Since that day, carried by generous hands and loving hearts, the Cross has made a long, uninterrupted pilgrimage across the continents, to demonstrate, as Pope John Paul II had said, “the Cross walks with young people and young people walk with the Cross.”

The cross does not journey alone. Since 2003 it has been accompanied by an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a copy of the Icon of our Lady known as the ‘Salus Populi Romani’. The original from which this Icon has been copied is considered by some to be from the eighth century, and is housed in a chapel in the Basilica of St Mary Major in Rome. Pope John Paul II entrusted to the youth an icon of the Blessed Mother that would accompany the cross. “It will be a sign of Mary’s motherly presence close to young people who are called, like the Apostle John, to welcome her into their lives.”

The World Youth Day Cross and Icon speak to us of the two focal points of the message of Christianity: of the Cradle and of the Cross; of Christ who was born of Mary, and of Christ who was crucified for us; of Christmas and Good Friday; of the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery. The Icon and Cross, therefore, are potent symbols of the joy and suffering that we experience in our Christian pilgrimage.

The memories of the World Youth Day 2002 Cross Pilgrimage throughout Canada continue to stir many hearts and evoke wonderful memories many years after the great pilgrimage began in our land on 11 April 2001. The WYD Cross literally touched the three oceans that border Canada. It visited our cities, towns, and rural areas, inviting throngs of people into the streets for processions, prayers, all-night vigils, tears, and moments of reconciliation, healing, and peace.

Such expressions of popular piety had been absent for far too many years from the Canadian ecclesial landscape. In the midst of the carefully orchestrated pilgrimage throughout the 72 dioceses of Canada, the Cross took a detour in February 2002, which was not part of the normal World Youth Day preparations in previous host countries. A convoy of buses left Toronto early on a cold Sunday morning, accompanied by representatives of Canadian police, ambulance, and fire fighters, and set out with the WYD Cross in tow for 48 hours in New York City.

After a Sunday evening Mass in Manhattan’s St Patrick’s Cathedral and an early morning Mass with the Vatican’s Permanent Observer at the United Nations, we carried the cross to Ground Zero, into the “pit,” to pray for the victims of the September 11 tragedies at the World Trade Centre and elsewhere throughout the United States. The visit, which received international media coverage, was a sign of hope, consolation, solidarity, and peace to the people of America and the entire world, struggling to understand the evil, terror, violence, and death-dealing forces that humanity experienced on 11 September 2001.

The journey into Ground Zero was for us a very public act of defiance and courage. Six young people from the World Youth Day 2002 National Team carried the large cross up to the special platform built for the families of the victims of the World Trade Centre tragedy. While they processed with the cross, the rest of us sang the Taizé refrain: “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your Kingdom.” As the cross was placed in its metal stand at the edge of the huge crater where the twin towers once stood, the singing grew louder. It was an act of defiance because there, in a place that spoke loudly of destruction, devastation, terror, and death, we raised up a wooden cross – an instrument of death that has been transformed into the central life-giving symbol of the Christian faith. The significance of the action was lost on no one.

The Cross of Jesus Christ blessed and marked World Youth Day 2002 in an extraordinary fashion. Each catechetical site was graced by a replica of the World Youth Day Cross. It was present at each of the main ceremonies. It led our processions, called us to prayer and reflection, healed us, reconciled us, and touched our hearts. Its memory lingers among us several years later.

Who can ever forget the hauntingly beautiful images of the World Youth Day Cross leading over half a million people – mostly on their knees – in the Stations of the Cross on Friday evening, 26 July 2002: up Toronto’s majestic University Avenue, passing before its court houses, the American Consulate, Government Buildings, hospitals, the university, Provincial Parliament, and various museums? A principal street of a great city was transformed into a contemporary Via Dolorosa, while over a billion people watched the scenes of this modern-day passion play unfold via satellite and television.

During the closing Eucharistic celebration on Sunday, 28 July 2002, the Holy Father presented to young pilgrims in the crowd of more than 850,000 people gathered with him small wooden crosses, hand made by young people living in the poorest barrios of Bogotá and Medellín in Colombia. World Youth Day 2002 chose to have the crosses made in a land that has had its share of cross over the past years.

Because we follow a crucified Christ, we enter into solidarity with the world’s suffering masses. We experience the power and love of God through the vulnerable and suffering. The Cross teaches us that what could have remained hideous and beyond remembrance is transformed into beauty, hope, and a continuous call to heroic goodness.

At the conclusion of the closing Eucharistic liturgy, the elderly Pontiff told young people not to be afraid “to follow Christ on the royal road of the Cross! At difficult moments in the Church’s life, the pursuit of holiness becomes even more urgent.” He invited his young friends to “learn from that cross.”

When all the commotion and frenzied activity of World Youth Day was over, I was convinced that one of the lasting memories that would remain in our country was that simple, wooden Cross, which was such a huge blessing and source of consolation, healing, strength, and peace to the hundreds of thousands of people who embraced it, touched it, kissed it, learned from it, and allowed themselves to be touched by the awesome message and memory of the One who died upon it.

To celebrate the Triumph of the Cross is to acknowledge the full, cruciform achievement of Jesus’ career. Jesus asks us to courageously choose a life similar to his own. Suffering cannot be avoided nor ignored by those who follow Christ. Following Jesus implies suffering and a cross. The mark of the Messiah is to become the mark of his disciples.

Fr Rosica was National Director and CEO of World Youth Day 2002 in Canada.

What Some Critics of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ Are Missing

Amoris-Laetitia-cover-Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” has been accepted by most Catholics as a breath of fresh air. Its warm encouragement to families to place love at the center of their lives, its clear invitation to pastors to accompany Catholics in the “complexity” of their situations and its strong reminder that the church needs to recover an appreciation of the role of conscience have been welcomed by millions of Catholics as a sign that the church wants to meet them where they are.

But not by all Catholics. In a few quarters of the church it has not been received warmly at all. In fact, it was greeted with a vituperation that seemed to approach apoplexy.

Many critics were frustrated, alarmed and angered by the same thing. They claimed that Francis had muddied the clear moral waters of the church by elevating a concept that had landed St Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order to which the pope belongs, in jail: the notion that God can deal with people directly.

The way that this notion is framed in the document is primarily through the lens of “conscience.”

The role and primacy of conscience is an ancient Catholic tradition. St Thomas Aquinas famously said that he would rather go against church teaching than against his conscience. “Absolutely speaking” every variance with conscience, “whether right or erring, is always evil (Summa Theologiae). The Second Vatican Council wrote, “Conscience is man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths” (“Gaudium et Spes,” No 16).

But as most Catholics know, this must be a “formed conscience,” that is, one that knows and accepts the Gospels and church teaching, and is ready to put them into practice.

In that case, why was Pope Francis’ emphasis on conscience so alarming to critics? Why would a traditional teaching alarm so-called traditionalists?

Well, for the past few decades, the Catholic discourse on conscience has gone something like this: A person can make a good moral choice only with a formed conscience. (So far, so good.) But the sole test of a formed conscience is that it agrees with everything stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, with no exceptions, no questions asked and no need to discern how to apply those rules to one’s life. If one didn’t accept everything in the Catechism without question, then one did not have a formed conscience.

Thus church teaching was often presented as a black-and-white, one-size-fits-all, set of rules. As a result, the space for allowing God to help people apply church teaching to their lives, or the room for discernment according to the “complexities” of one’s situation, was essentially removed.

In essence, you didn’t need conscience any longer. You needed only the Catechism.

In one of the most important passages in the exhortation Francis reminds us that this is not the Catholic tradition:

Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a cer­tain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal (No. 303).

That is, conscience doesn’t simply say, “This is the rule.” Conscience helps us say, “This is what the rule means in my situation, and this is how it is to be applied.”

Now, this presumes something that may be even harder for some critics to appreciate, and something that got St Ignatius into hot water with the Inquisition: the idea, simply stated in the Spiritual Exercises, his manual for prayer, that the Creator can “deal immediately with the creature.”

That means that God deals with us directly, not only through the church, but one-on-one. God consoles us. God uplifts us. God invites us. God moves people’s hearts. And particularly in the decision-making process, God helps people.

Thus, it is not as simple as following a set of rules. Jesuit spirituality, in fact Christian spirituality, presumes that God will aid a person in making a good decision.

This idea landed St Ignatius in jail several times, mainly because those leading the Inquisition were terrified that this insight might mean a lessening of the influence of the Catholic Church. So Ignatius was forced to explain, many times, that the church, to which he had committed his life, was in no way sidelined. After all, he asked his Jesuits to bind themselves to the pope by a special vow of obedience, “with regard to mission.”

By the same token, he was resolute: God could deal with people directly. And people could deal with God directly. For he had seen it—in his own life and in the lives of others.

In many critiques of “Amoris Laetitia” I hear a dismissal or denigration of that idea. And some critiques strike me as dismissive indeed. As if God couldn’t possibly be active in that person’s life. As if the People of God couldn’t be counted on to appreciate, much less understand, what this meant. Thus, some of these critiques seem not only a dismissal of grace but a denigration of the faith lives of adult Catholics.

The key, then, to “Amoris Laetitia” is the belief that God is at work in people’s lives. This is what some critics of the document are either missing, downplaying or ignoring. Or they simply don’t believe it.

But I do.

In over 25 years as a Jesuit I have seen God powerfully at work in the lives of countless people—men and women, young and old, rich and poor. In fact, being a spiritual director (someone who talks to people about their prayer and their experience of God in their spiritual lives) is an enormous aid to faith, because you see God actively at work. You see God dealing “immediately” with people.

How does this manifest itself?

In a myriad of beautiful, surprising and profound ways—all depending on the person. In some people, God’s activity manifests as a sharp goad to one’s conscience, reminding them that what they are doing is wrong. In others, it is an irresistible invitation to a new way of life. In another it is a comforting feeling of consolation that follows making a good decision. In others it is a vivid feeling of closeness to to the divine that comes in the midst of a powerful prayer experience. These experiences are hard to sum up, for they are so many, and so varied. Emotions, desires, insights, memories, feelings—all these are the ways of God’s working through our hearts.

Each of these experiences I have learned to reverence. There is an old saying among retreat directors. Often when a retreat begins they’ll say, “I’m not the real spiritual director. The Holy Spirit is.” It is a sign of the importance that we place on the supreme holiness of God’s activity, whose voice “echoes” in the hearts of people.

So what many critics of “Amoris Laetitia” are missing is this: God deals with people directly. God moves them, consoles them, urges them. God helps them to understand the Gospels and church teaching as they relate to their lives. God helps them to make good decisions.

This truth needs not to be denigrated or mocked.

It needs to be reverenced. – James Martin sj, americanmagazine.org

What happens after Easter: Living the life of hope

reflectionWhen the dust settles after Easter, many return to their daily routine and leave Christianity aside. With commercialisation, many have forgotten what Easter is all about. Whatever the season of Easter means to people, the denouement of Easter is reached and then many forget the meaning of the day.

So what are we to do after the hype of Easter is over? Do we just go about doing the same things that we have been doing up to Easter? Or does the experience of Easter change us and shape our living, or does it at least refresh our standing commitment to our faith?

Jesus’s ministry on earth entailed a critique of the Roman occupation and the religious ruling powers, which oppressed and marginalised the poor, the outcast and women. Jesus challenged the unjust systems of his time: the cultural, religious, political systems, which maintained the status quo and legitimated those in power at the expense of the common people.  Again and again, he wiped away the carefully constructed cultural system that said who was in and who was not.

Today, unjust systems exist which allow the rich to become richer and make the poor only poorer. The season of Easter urges us to remember the poor and the marginalised of our society. The Easter message requires us to get out of our comfort zones and fight for the marginalised, the oppressed and the subordinated.

We should not forget that Jesus was born poor, lived poor and died poor. He was born to a young woman and there were many questions about who his father was. His parents went to Bethlehem for a Roman census, where he was born. Then the family had to flee for safety to Egypt as refugees. He was born in an occupied country to members of the occupied people. Jesus was a marginalised Jew who received a death warrant and escaped as a young baby. Jesus grew up poor and died rejected by his own community, his disciples and the religious and political authorities.

Jesus was an earthly man, connected to his Jewish roots and people. He preached to the Jewish condition of poverty and exploitation. He was looked down upon by many in the established religion. He was also looked down upon by those in political and economic power.

He challenged a corrupted central church arrangement. He challenged the Roman occupation. He drew the masses and upset the status quo. Accused of treason against the state, he was arrested and jailed. He went through two mock trials in one night. At the end he was condemned to die and to be killed. It was a painful and humiliating experience. He was tortured. Walking down the street with the cross to the place of his execution was a mockery. The powers placed him in a borrowed tomb, sealed it with a stone, stationed a guard and declared an end to his life and ministry.

But the story did not end there. God raised Jesus to new life, affirming his message and witness of justice and peace, life and love. Since that first Easter, people have followed Jesus, seeking to live as he lived, to love as he loved.

The Easter message of hope and love needs to prevail and continue long after we celebrate Easter. The message of working for social justice and equality needs to be proclaimed and lived. Long after the colored eggs are eaten, the message remains that, as followers of Jesus, we are freed to work for liberation and freedom, do justice and seek peace and wholeness in his name.

We look to the lives of Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, and Oscar Romero who worked for justice and freedom. They lived the Easter message of hope and resisting the ruling cultural, social, political and religious powers, which want to maintain the status quo.

As followers of Jesus, we too are freed to work for those who are marginalized and made voiceless due to racism, sexism, classism and other systems of privilege and disadvantage embedded within our social and political system. We are freed to speak out and work for justice on issues that would otherwise be ignored. We need to visit and remember those who unjustly sit in jails and prisons in our own country waiting for their trial and do not have the means to be set free on bail. We need to care for the battered women who seek safety in shelters in our own neighborhoods. We need to feed the homeless who live on our streets and clothe those who do not have enough. How will Jesus measure us? By what we have done to feed him, clothe him and visit him in prison when we meet him in the least of our sisters and brothers.

The Easter message does not end with the resurrection, but continues on as his followers, as we, live with the hope found in the message and life of Jesus. The message that lingers long after Easter is that we are called and invited to follow Jesus. We are freed to live the life of hope. May we do so the day after Easter and everyday. – Huffington Post

Why do we not forgive?

forgiveness1If forgiveness is so important, both to receive for the wrongs we have done as well as to give to others who have injured us, we must ask this question:  “Why do we not forgive?” Here are some reasons that may hinder us from forgiving:

EXTREME SENSITIVENESS

If we are ultra-sensitive to things that people may say about us or do to us, we can easily “exaggerate” the hurts that we feel that we suffer.  For example, a slight injury may be blown out of proportion and become a great offense. Or some injury that is more imagined than real can turn us with a hard heart against someone. Sometimes extreme sensitiveness can make us deal with hurts in very bizarre ways.

A story was told about a woman who was apparently very sensitive. She wrote a number of letters that she called her “after letters.”  In these letters she wrote to people she felt had hurt her by their words or deeds or thoughtlessness. She was going to put it in her will that after she died these letters would be mailed out to all the people she felt had offended her. In this way they would feel upset that they hurt this poor lady and now that she was gone there was no opportunity to express their apologies or seek reconciliation. If we want to find mercy, one of the best things to do is to throwaway all our “after letters” and deal with things that we find offensive as soon as possible.This way they will not be exaggerated in our minds and hearts.

LIVING IN THE PAST

Somewhat like the previous case of extreme sensitiveness are people who “brood” over past hurts.  In this way they keep those hurts very fresh and alive in their minds and hearts. When they speak about hurts that occurred 25 years ago, they make it sound as if they happened 25 minutes ago! People who always bring up the past in their arguments need to stop living in the past.  How can we do that?  First of all, make an effort to resolve past injuries by forgiving from the heart. Let these things go. How many families have brothers and sisters, or parents and children, who have remained divided for years and years because of things that happened when they were young children.  Walls of silence were built up because they couldn’t let go of the past!

Another thing we need to do is not to replay the “old tapes” in our minds by reviewing over and over again all the injustices and the hurts that others have done to us. That is a formula for bitterness and unhappiness. We all need to make our peace with the past, and forgiveness is a very important part of that process. Once we have made peace, accepting what has happened or forgiving those who have actually injured us, then we can let go of the past and live the present and the future with joy and happiness. The last thing we want to happen in our lives is to grow old being bitter over so many negative experiences in the past.

PRIDE

Many people refuse to forgive because of a false sense of pride. They feel that their “honor” has been offended and so they refuse to let go of the injury that was done to them. In the past, people would even resort to a duel to the death as a way of dealing with the injury done to their honor. The Church has always condemned duels because it results in both a homicide and a suicide. No one has the right to take the life of another nor do they have the right to expose their own life to an untimely death. The Christian way to resolve these differences is to grant forgiveness.

VENGEANCE

Vengeance, or the desire to get back at someone who has offended us, often follows from a false sense of pride. This desire to inflict hurt on someone who has hurt us easily arises spontaneously in a heart that is filled with bitterness.  One needs to learn to let go. Saint Paul gives this very important teaching to the ancient Romans in his letter to them: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for God’s wrath;  for it is written, ‘vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ Rather, ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink … ‘ Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.” (Rom. 12:17-21)

MERCY BRINGS THE BEAUTY OF NEW LIFE

Mercy can transform a person’s life.  Letting go of hurts, especially those that are long-standing, will set theheart free to receive God’s grace and peace. This applies not only to the one who forgives but even to the one who is forgiven. St Augustine said that it was St Stephen’s prayer to forgive those who were stoning him to death, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60) that won the grace of conversion for Saul of Tarsus to become the great Apostle St Paul. It was also the prayer of the dying St Maria Goretti, “Lord, forgive Alexander” that ultimately won the grace of conversion for Alexander Serenelli from a life of sin to a life of sanctity.

Our Lord shows the beauty of the effects of mercy in His teachings in the parables of mercy (ef. Luke 15:1-32)  of the lost sheep and the lost coin, and the parable of the prodigal son.   Similarly, as there is more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine sinners who did not need to repent; the same can be said of those who forgive that there is more joy in Heaven over one who forgives his brother or sister from his heart than over ninety-nine who did not need to forgive. – Fr Andrew Apostoli cfr @ papalencyclical.net

Reflection on the Year of the Monkey

The first day of the Lunar New Year 2016 falls on February 8.  Below is a reflection on the Year of the 1-10-Unze-Gold-Lunar-II-Affe-2016-Australien-Proof-Perth-Mint_1Monkey by Fr Stephen Chin, Sacred Heart Church Kuching.

The Monkey as a Symbol
The monkey is one of the symbolical animals corresponding to the ninth of the twelve terrestrial branches.  It is a symbol of ugliness and trickery.

Worshipping the Monkey
The monkey is worshipped to some extent by the Buddhists and Taoists of Folk Religions.  According to some opinions, in return for some supposed services rendered to the monk who went to India to obtain the Buddhist scriptures by the command of the Tang Emperor, the monkey was deified or was conferred the title of “The Great Sage equal to Heaven.”

The Power of the Monkey
1. The monkey is believed to have the general control over hobgoblins (mischievous spirits), witches and elves.
2. It is also believed that the monkey is able to bestow health, protection and success on humankind in one way or another by keeping away malicious evil spirits or goblins. Since some people often imagine that sickness or lack of success in study and trade is caused by witches and hobgoblins, the worship of the monkey is necessary in order to drive away or prevent the evil influence of the various evil spirits or powers.

Christian Reflection on the Monkey
The dark side of the monkey: Ugliness and trickery are not for us to emulate.  What is ugly?  Trickery is ugly.  Sin is ugly.  Evil is ugly.  The works of the devil and evil spirits are ugly.  Physical ugliness is not a problem nor a moral evil.  It is the spiritual ugliness embodied in sin that is terribly ugly and to be shunned by people of all faiths.

The bright side of the monkey: The sacred books or Buddhist Sacred Scriptures.  The monkey is associated with helping the one ordered by the emperor to get the sacred scriptures from Indian to China and is thereby honoured or deified by the emperor.

For us Christians, this reminds us of the messengers sent by God to give us the light of revelation, the word of God, written by people inspired by God, to be handed down for posterity to know and follow – the Sacred Scriptures contained in our Holy Bible.  We remember those in the past who helped in spreading the Word of God to others, to sanctify the hearts of people.  We also remember those who are now and will be spreading the Holy Word of God that can save us from our sins and give us eternal life.

The Holy Word of God can protect us from all evil influences, all superstitions, all evil spirits and devils.  the Holy Word of God bestows health to our souls, brings success to our undertakings or studies and every work be it trade or other works we are engaged in for the Holy Word of God enlightens our minds and hearts, gives peace to our hearts so that we remain holy and healthy in the Lord God, our heavenly King of the universe, for God is our Protector and His Word is infinitely powerful, active, dynamic and effective in sanctifying the hearts of all.

Conclusion: New Year Resolutions
In our new year resolutions:
1. Let us have no dealings with the evil one, the devil, portrayed by the dark side of the monkey before its ‘sanctification.’ Let us never turn to sin for happiness for it is ugly and harmful to us. Let us not turn to trickery to obtain what we want, that is, let us not do “any monkey business.”
2. Let us have recourse to God for protection, good health and success in our new year undertakings.
3. Let us have recourse to Holy Scriptures, the Holy Word of God. For the Holy Word of God is our guide, our light, our strength and our salvation.

May we turn to the Holy Word of God in season and out of season for our spiritual nourishment, at all times, for all the years of our life.

May the good Lord Jesus who came to reveal to us the Word of God and who came to save, protect, forgive, sanctify and serve us even unto death on the cross, bless everyone in the world, and all of us during the Lunar New Year of the Monkey and all the years to come.

Wishing you all a very happy and blessed New Year!

Dialogue and encounter with the peoples of Asia

representation-of-asia

On this vast continent which is home to a great variety of cultures, the Church is called to be versatile and creative in her witness to the Gospel through dialogue and openness to all. Dialogue, in fact, is an essential part of the mission of the Church in Asia (cf. Ecclesia in Asia, 29). But in undertaking the path of dialogue with individuals and cultures, what should be our point of departure and our fundamental point of reference, which guides us to our destination? Surely it is our own identity, our identity as Christians. We cannot engage in real dialogue unless we are conscious of our own identity. Nor can there be authentic dialogue unless we are capable of opening our minds and hearts, in empathy and sincere receptivity, to those with whom we speak. In other words, an attentiveness in which the Holy Spirit is our guide. If we are to speak freely, openly and fruitfully with others, we must be clear about who we are, what God has done for us, and what it is that he asks of us. Fearlessly, for fear is the enemy of this kind of openness.

The task of appropriating and expressing our identity does not always prove easy, however, since – being sinners – we will always be tempted by the spirit of the world, which shows itself in a variety of ways. I would like to point to three of these. One is the deceptive light of relativism, which obscures the splendor of truth. Here I am not speaking about relativism merely as a system of thought, but about that everyday practical relativism which almost imperceptibly saps our sense of identity.

A second way in which the world threatens the solidity of our Christian identity is superficiality, a tendency to toy with the latest fads, gadgets and distractions, rather than attending to the things that really matter (cf. Phil 1:10). In a culture which glorifies the ephemeral, and offers so many avenues of avoidance and escape, this can present a serious pastoral problem. Without a grounding in Christ, the truths by which we live our lives can gradually recede, the practice of the virtues can become formalistic, and dialogue can be reduced to a form of negotiation or an agreement to disagree. An agreement to disagree… so as not to make waves… This sort of superficiality does us great harm.

Then too, there is a third temptation: that of the apparent security to be found in hiding behind easy answers, ready formulas, rules and regulations.

Finally, together with a clear sense of our own Christian identity, authentic dialogue also demands a capacity for empathy. We are challenged to listen not only to the words which others speak, but to the unspoken communication of their experiences, their hopes and aspirations, their struggles and their deepest concerns. This capacity for empathy leads to a genuine encounter – we have to progress toward this culture of encounter – in which heart speaks to heart. […] – For full text on Pope Francis’ Evangelistic Intention for Feb 2016 @ www.apmej.net

2016 Peace Day Message: Overcome indifference and win peace

Referencing the theme of the message, the Holy Father then highlighted various forms of indifference in society. First, there is indifference to God, which in turn leads to indifference to one’s neighbour and subsequently to the environment.

Pope Francis also addressed what he referred to as an “indifference to mercy,” as seen with the Genesis account of Cain murdering his brother Abel. In contrast, God intervenes, the message reads: “He sees, hears, comes down, and delivers. God does not remain indifferent. He is attentive and He acts.”

“Mercy is the heart of God,” the Pope writes, and therefore must be the heart of all His children.

Pope Francis said we are called to “compassion, love, mercy and solidarity” in our relationships with one another. He added that “the conversion of our hearts” is needed for us to become “open to others in authentic solidarity.” The Pope called for the building of a culture of solidarity and mercy in order to overcome indifference.

This begins with families, which are the “first place where the values of love, fraternity, togetherness and sharing, concern and care for others are lived out and handed on.” He spoke also of the role of teachers, and communicators. The Pope added that communicators in particular should be “mindful” of how they obtain and disseminate information, saying their methods should always be “legally and morally admissible.”

Pope Francis went on to say that peace is the fruit of a culture of solidarity, mercy, and compassion.

It is also a sign of the Jubilee of Mercy, which began 8 Dec, in which all are called to recognize indifference, and “improve the world around us.”

The Holy Father said these efforts begin with our families, neighbours, and places of employment. They extend to civil society’s care for vulnerable persons, such as “prisoners, migrants, the unemployed, and the infirm.”

On the subject of migrants, the Pope asked that legislation on migration be reviewed, in a way that facilitates their integration into society, with special attention given to legal residency in order to avoid criminal behaviour.

Pope Francis appealed to national leaders to offer assistance to men and women suffering from lack of work, land, and lodging. – Vatican Radio

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