"So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Ego

        The ego is an ugly thing.  It gets in the way as we journey toward God.  Again, it boils down to Us vs. God.  Therefore, the ego's gotta go.  And, with God's help, it can indeed vanish, liberating us.  God must increase and we decrease.  In fact, we should die completely to ourselves so that we become Christ-like.  Then we shall be free and see others and the world as he does.  

Unbeatable Bargain!

        From St. Bernadette: "If we receive Jesus with love and make sure that he dwells happily within us, he is bound to pay us rent."  I love this saying of hers.  Then I remember that Jesus also told his disciples that he's going to prepare a mansion in heaven for them.  Now, our life, compared to eternity, is practically of zero duration.  So, if we just let Jesus dwell in our heart for the few years of our short life, we get to live in his mansion later for all eternity ~ can you possibly think of a better bargain?  What a deal!  I am going to take it. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Beautiful Paradoxes

        Here are two beautiful paradoxes:
        (1) The more you acknowledge your own helplessness, the more God reaches down to help you.
        (2) The more you surrender to God, the more you become free.
       

Biggest Fool of the Universe

        If you want to be the biggest fool of the universe, that's easy.  All you need to do is to believe that God does not care about what you are doing or that you can get away by doing certain things.  In other words, the biggest fool is the one who thinks that he can fool God.  Naturally, he ends up fooling only himself.
        The smart person is the one who realizes that the God knows all things anyway, so you might as well let him in on all things.

God the Psychiatrist

        God is the greatest psychiatrist in the whole universe.  He knows and understands everything about us, our problems, our needs, our desires, etc.  After Holy Communion, I go before the Lord letting him see everything that's in my heart.  If there's something that bothers me, I simply open myself up to him without reservation (this may require some effort on my part as I search and reflect hard).  The Lord now will help me see deep down exactly what is bugging me.   It's like God holding up a mirror and I see the interior of my heart in it.  Often what we think the cause is is not necessarily the true one, for we are complicated creatures.  Once I see clearly what made me lose my peace, I become instantly relieved.  If healing is needed, the Lord will do just that then.  The resulting feeling is exhilaration.  Truly, self-understanding is the key to freedom of the heart.

Successful Self-Transformation

        The "secret" to transforming yourself successfully is really simple.  You might even say obvious.  It's letting the Lord do the work. Jesus told us that apart from him, we can do nothing.  This is absolutely true.  I am talking about doing things that truly give honor and glory to God. 
        When you receive the Holy Eucharist, you become mystically united with Jesus, who is the source of all the graces that can benefit you.  This is the time to "get greedy" and ask for all the graces he can possibly give you to make you holy.  If you are in good grace and really mean it, how can he refuse you, as he loves you so much?  If you strive to become holy on your own, you'll find it about as effective as making a New Year resolution stick.  But if you put your trust in God and let him do the work, everything becomes automatic over time.  The Holy Eucharist is the Lord himself, transforming you. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What Holds Us Back?

        Why is it difficult to surrender ourselves to God?  If God is love and loves us, why should we hesitate?  The answer is "fear."  It involves a basic struggle between letting God be our lord and retaining our role as master of our own life.  Many of us think that we can manage our lives and really don't need God.  God sees this and leaves us alone.  We also have many worldly goals to achieve, such as owning a fast car, making a lot more money, achieving great fame, etc.  If I let God into my life, does that mean that I will not be able to do any of these things anymore?  Worst yet, does it mean that I must now become a missionary in some poor country?  These are real concerns ~ that last thought was what I had once. Since we cannot serve two masters, it boils down to pitting myself against God.
        The reality is that once you have decided to let God into your life, all the fears become baseless.  God will either take your desires away or still let you enjoy the many good things, which came from him anyway, but in complete freedom.  You'll feel that the things in the world no longer shackle you.  How fast this transformation can proceed depends upon how much you let go in God.  The important thing is to take that first step.  Yes, you'll have nothing to lose, but all things to gain.   
        This is a good place to mention that letting God transform you can be a most exciting and rewarding experience.  We all feel good when we successfully complete some project in our life.  Now, consider transforming yourself into a more saintly person before God to be a project.  When God works on you and you actually see that you are becoming a better, holier person, you'll experience the satisfaction no other accomplished projects in this world can possibly give.  For this is transformation at the deepest level that involves your innermost self.  You'll be really happy with yourself because you are now a more beautiful person before the heavenly Father.   

       
   

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Heading Which Way?

        Imagine a horizontal line segment.  Let's label the left endpoint W, standing for the World; and the right endpoint G, standing for God.  A person at point W is one who belongs totally to the world.  He plays god, lives for himself only and even hates God.  To anyone at the other extreme, point G, God is all.  He lives for God alone and is ready to deny himself for doing his will.  He is in the world, but no longer of the world.  Mathematically speaking, this line segment is a set of points, and every one of us  inescapably occupies a point somewhere on this line.  As we move toward point G, we improve our standing before God.  The result (reward) is that we will experience more freedom, giving us peace and joy.  Only God alone can give us this freedom of the spirit. 
        By the way, the Holy Father Pope Benedict likens this journeying toward God to climbing a mountain.  Sometimes the path may be steep, but the higher you go, the better the view.  Naturally, when you reach the top (endpoint), you get to see the most magnificent view.
        If you approximately know where you are situated on this line segment, would you backslide toward point W, stay put (be just lukewarm), or move toward point G?  The wise and sensible choice should be obvious.  As long as you make your desire known to the Lord, he will draw you toward him so that you don't have to struggle on you own. 
        Last, once your journey starts, remember from Luke 9: "Whoever puts his hand to the plow but keeps looking back is unfit for the reign of God."  Happy plowing!        

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Into Deeper Union

        Almost two years ago, I started attending daily Mass early in the morning.  Now, I had been one who loved to stay up late at night and get up late in the morning.  This is a habit that many of us have and is extremely hard to change.  I started to go to Mass because I was seeking a deeper union with God.  Well, I received so much peace and joy from the Lord and the daily Mass became indispensable.  Naturally, I now go to bed and get up early every day.  With God's help, turning around was no sweat.  Yes, I really believe that with God, you can accomplish anything.  That is why we need him. 
        Receiving the Lord every day has been an overwhelming experience.  Who am I that the Lord should enter to dwell within?  Of course, if you are willing to open your heart to welcome him, he's always glad to accept your invitation.  Yes, the Lord seeks your heart.  Imagine becoming united with your creator, who is LOVE, physically and spiritually in such an intimate manner!  He is the source of all graces and he'll give them all to you for the asking.  What joy!  What love!  What a privilege!
        I'll try to share my experiences and the many thoughts and insights received.  For example, let me go back to the days when I was still searching.  There were moments in which I sensed briefly the reality of God when I was reading or thinking about him.  These moments lasted not even a split second.  After I became a Catholic, these moments of feeling God's presence came and went, but sometimes they lasted for a day or even over a week.  Now that I've achieved a much deeper union with the Lord, my awareness of his presence stays with me practically all the time.  I now see the world in a totally different light.     

The Pulsating Sun

        In Holy Land, our group went on the Sea of Galilee in a boat.  When we landed at the spot where the disciples found Jesus cooking and later asking Peter if he loves him three times, our priest read the relevant passage from the scripture.  As soon as he finished reading, Bob, the only person who fasted the night before by skipping the dinner at the hotel, pointed out to the rest of us that the sun was pulsating.  This was bright afternoon sun.  When I turned to look at the sun, it appeared like a big white host, with no glare that normally would hurt the eye.  Perhaps the pulsation signified a beating heart?  Again, God's timing was perfect and he knew exactly whom to choose to see this miracle first. 

Eucharistic Miracles

        In the Church, there are preserved a number of consecrated hosts that once bled.  I have a video that shows the one preserved in Venezuela actually on fire, taken by a pilgrim. 
        When I was on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, a Franciscan brother told our group just before Mass an incident what just happened in another church. A gunman entered that church, ordered the only person, an old nun, present at the time to get out and started shooting.  He shot at the various statues and finally put a bullet through the tabernacle.  After the crazy man left, the main concern were not the statues, but the consecrated hosts in the tabernacle.  (A host is the consecrated wafer of the Eucharist.)  After the tabernacle had been opened, not only the cup that held the hosts was intact, but also the bullet that pierced the tabernacle was nowhere to be found ~ it had vanished!  The Lord certainly knew how to take care of himself.
        On another pilgrimage, our group was visiting a beautiful chapel built by former drug addicts who were cured through prayer and physical labor.  We heard some testimonies first.  Then one priest present was asked to bless the Holy Eucharist.  So the priest brought out the cup filled with consecrated hosts from the tabernacle, turned around and started lifting the cup high for all to worship and adore.  At the precise moment the cup reached the highest point, we had an earthquake and the whole chapel shook for about two to three seconds.  It's an awesome moment I'll never forget.  It seemed that the Lord was telling us that He is indeed the Lord.
        Of course, nonbelievers can always say that this was just a coincidence.  Well, nothing in the world can happen without God's permission and the timing of God is always perfect.  Coincidences are all planned by God with him remaining anonymous.  

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Holy Spirit Effect

        Deep within you, the Holy Spirit dwells and its voice is loving and gentle.  If you don't pay attention, you can easily become "deaf".  That's why it's important to have solitude or some quiet time often so you can tune in. 
        The Holy Spirit sharpens your conscience.  When you sin and the Holy Spirit "operates" on you, you feel the most joyful pain.
        When you cry out to God from your heart (not just saying his name), it's the Holy Spirit prompting you.
        When you hear people use the Lord's name in vain, say bad things about him, or offend him in any other way, you feel the pain in your heart, and you know that the Holy Spirit is within you.
        Often the Holy Spirit deeply moves you on such occasions as when you read a certain Gospel passage, hear some hymn sung, or meditate on the passion of the Lord.
        When you really tune in with complete surrender, you feel the deep peace that surpasses all understanding in your heart.  Both daily anxieties and the fear of death vanish.
        You become detached from the world so that nothing in the world can enslave you anymore.  When good or bad things happen, you remain equally calm.
        Strength and great courage are also gifts given when you need them. 
        When you are in intimate union with the Holy Spirit, you see Jesus in everyone.  Judgment is now replaced with compassion, bringing freedom to your heart.
        Knowing that the Spirit is within you keeps you thoughts and words pure.
        When you have a troubled heart and you pray to the Holy Spirit, he will guide and console you.
        In sum, the Holy Spirit defends, supports, guides, comforts, and inspires you.               


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Holy Spirit Question

        The first two persons of the Holy Trinity, Father and Son, I could comprehend, but what about the Holy Spirit?  I was made to understand that the Spirit was already in me, but shouldn't I really feel something?  I was not sure about this ~ it's a question for the Lord.  Then He heard me.  At that time, the Charismatic Renewal within the Church was spreading around the world.  I was curious about it and asked a local priest to take me to a Charismatic Mass for leaders of the various prayer groups.  Not long after Mass began, I started to weep tears of joy.  This had never happened before and certainly not something I had expected or could have induced myself.  The tears flowed continuously the whole time and I felt that I was being cleansed ~ I knew then that the Holy Spirit had given me the gift of tears.
        I joined a charismatic prayer group and asked the entire group to pray over me for Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  This was basically expressing your willingness to surrender to the Holy Spirit for him to work through you.  You might say it's asking the Spirit to zap you.  The result in almost every case was that Jesus became alive in the Gospels and a terrific desire to know him followed.  Reading the scripture was such a joy and praying to God became spontaneous.  You see, when God is drawing you to him, everything becomes easy.  One person was freed from his addiction to watching sports on TV.  I myself experienced an exuberant bubbly feeling in my upper body, which unbelievably went on day and night non-stop for three and a half months!  The Lord continually filled my mind with spiritual thoughts and insights with no effort on my part.  I was active in the renewal for over four years.  Looking back, I can say that my growth in holiness in that period far exceeded the growth I experienced in all those previous decades.
        A footnote.  I came across the book Riding the Wind, written by Father George Montague.  He experienced the same exuberant feeling I had after his Baptism in the Holy Spirit.    

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Bible's Place

        The Bible is the inspired Word of God.  The Mass is solidly based upon the Scriptures.  This may be news to some: The Bible is basically a Catholic book.  The Bible as we know of it today did not exist in the beginning until the Church put together the books to give us the Bible in 397.  So it came from the Church and not the other way around.  And of course, there were no Bible Christians in those early centuries. 
        Jesus and the Bible itself never mentioned that we should depend upon the Bible alone.  The teachings of Jesus and his Apostles were handed down orally, forming the Tradition.  The Gospels are basically traditions that happened to have been committed to writing.  Remember that back then there were no printing presses to make many copies of any book available.  On top of that, most people were illiterate.  Even today, almost 20% of the world's population does not know how to read.
        In the Catholic Church, there are the Tradition, Scriptures, and Magisterium.  Scriptures back up Tradition, and Magisterium, being the teaching authority of the Church, makes sure that Scriptures are not subject to erroneous interpretation.  These three are like the three legs of a table, providing perfect balance, safeguarding God's revelations.
        A footnote:  A Jewish professor once said, "If you are interpreting the Scriptures for yourself, you're writing them." (I learned this from the story by Vivian Dudro in the book CHOSEN).

The Greatest Gift

        In the Catholic Church, when you take Holy Communion, you receive the true body and blood of our Lord.  Many Protestants believe that Jesus only meant symbolically when he said that the bread offered was his body and the drink, his blood.  But if you read the Gospels objectively, Jesus was serious when he said it each time.  If he really didn't mean it that way, it just doesn't sound right when he said it.  And by the way, his disciples wouldn't have walked away after they first heart it.
        If the consecrated bread and drink were merely symbols, then all Catholics have committed the sin of idolatry and are doomed.  Of course, this would include the Apostles, all the early disciples and fathers of the Church, all the great saints, and Mother Teresa too.  Since I have no doubt that they are all in heaven, then by simple logic they must not have committed the sin of idolatry.
        The Eucharist, the sacrament of Holy Communion, is the greatest gift the Lord has given us.  It is the Lord himself.  When I receive him, I become united with him, who is my creator.  Since he is the source of all graces, I can ask for all I need to become more like him.  More on that later.
        A footnote.  Apostolic succession is essential for the consecration to be valid.
           

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Arriving Home

        I looked up the priest at the Newman Center on the local university campus.  He was Fr. Fisher, who happened to be an ex-Presbyterian.  He gave me instructions for entering the Church.  In those days, there wasn't any formal program such as today's Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults that requires many months of attendance.  That just suited me fine, since I was ready.  After two weeks of receiving instructions, Fr. Fisher baptized me conditionally (since I had been baptized in the Presbyterian Church  before), heard my confession and gave me Holy Communion.  I was overwhelmed.  That day as I walked back out into the street, it's like walking into a brand new world.  The same trees, pavement, buildings, all looked fresh and new.  I had a small foretaste of heaven ~ a feeling I'll never forget.  Now the safe shelter which shielded me after I first received Christ several years ago turned into a beautiful cathedral or magnificent palace, you might say.  I was truly home for good.  

The Big Discovery

        I made some good friends outside my church and found out that they were all Catholics.  Now, I did not know much about Catholicism at the time.  By the way, the Mass did seem somewhat mysterious to me externally.  In fact, what little I had heard from other church members was all negative.  There was a Mrs. J at my church, who had just retired from her missionary post in China.  She was such a kind and endearing soul to all.  One day she got back from visiting someone at a hospital and looked extremely sad and disturbed.  It turned out that when she got to the hospital room, she saw that a Catholic priest was already there with the patient.  Now the question was if the patient would ever get to heaven. 
        Nevertheless, my Catholic friends all looked quite normal and happy.  Then could the Catholic Church, the largest church in the the world, be in error?  It so happened that at that time I was also beginning to question my Protestant faith.  The fact that there were numerous different denominations around the world bothered me.  Also, as a Protestant, whether you're a minister or lay person, you are free to marry and divorce any number of times.  It's hard to see that Jesus would be happy with these two facts.  Since I am the kind of person who always likes to find the answer to any question that's important, I decided to look into Catholicism. 
        I made up my mind not to talk to anyone about my investigation.  I was single then and had a lot of free time to myself.  The local public library housed an excellent collection of books on Catholicism, so I started borrowing books on the subject.  I read every weekend, even taking notes as I read.  The went on for over a year.  I read all those books that viciously attack the Catholic Church too, but somehow they did not affect me much because I sensed that these attacks could not have been prompted by the Holy Spirit.  The books that really helped me were the ones on early Church history.  I could see that the continuity was there and the beliefs and practices of the early Church had been preserved to this day in the Catholic Church.  The only conclusion I could come to was that the Catholic Church was indeed the church Jesus had come and established.  Like Christ himself, the Church, being his body, must be accepted (or rejected) totally, with no middle ground. 
        Here's some advice for those who seek the truth.  Your chances of success will greatly improve if, first, you start out with a completely open mind and secondly, go to the source(s) directly to get the facts.  Many who misunderstand the Catholic Church today have already made up their mind that the Church is wrong, thus never bothering to pick up a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to find out what the Church really teaches.  This is being close-minded.                            

Monday, September 28, 2009

Joining a Church

        I looked around and found the most popular church in the area, a Presbyterian Church.  It's membership was over 3,000 strong.  The pastor was known for his eloquent sermons, copies of which were always available for sale each Sunday.  The two assistant pastors were past All-American ball players.  There were lots of activities you could participate in.  Indeed, a happy church to belong to.  I was baptized there and even brought friends to join.  For two years, this was my world, not knowing that the journey had only begun.  God had a lot more in store for me.   

Why Christianity?

         Looking back, I see that I made the right decision.  Here off the top of my head, I am going to list a number of my reasons in random order.
        (1) In Christianity, God entered into our world as one of us so that we can relate to Him.  This unique feature distinguishes Christianity from all other religions in the world.
      (2) Jesus came and sacrificed himself in our place so that the gap between us sinners and God who is holy was bridged.  This is absolutely amazing if you think about it.
      (3) God is pure LOVE ~ not what humans would have expected.  This intangible quality also lead me to believe that there is a spiritual world in which God dwells, distinct from our physical world.
        (4) God is all powerful, yet he is humble and meek ~ another surprising feature.
     (5) It follows that Jesus is not just our Lord and God, but also our brother and servant.  Truly, the mark of an extraordinary God.    
        (6) The miracles Jesus performed as recorded in the Gospels are amazing feats.
        (7) His transfiguration on Mount Tabor is awesome.
        (8) He forgave sins!  Only God could do that.
       (9) He taught us to forgive even our enemies. Such is the immenseness of his  love.
        (10) It follows that he forgave all those who crucified him.
        (11) His rose from the dead ~ this alone is sufficient from me to believe.
       (12) He challenges us to love him above our own family and everything else.  This makes sense only if he is truly God.
        (13) He fulfilled over 300 prophecies given in the Old Testament.
       Jesus looms so large before us that we can not ignore him.  Either He is God or a phony, a liar, or a lunatic ~ there is just no middle ground.  He forces us to respond to his calling.  He makes us feel uncomfortable because we are sinners, yet he respects our free will.  My personal experience after I accepted him into my life confirms that He is indeed the true God.  I'll have a lot more to say about this later.              

Friday, September 25, 2009

Finding Christ

        Up to this point, I did not really understand the Christian message.  When I was still a kid, I got invited to a neighbor's house a couple of times when the family was holding a prayer service.  All I knew was that the adults had become  Christians.  I did not mind the seemingly-strange, loud, emotional praying I heard, because all the kids got to eat a lot of candies.
        After I entered graduate school, I met Harry who oversaw the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship ministry on campus.  Harry was different from all the other guys I knew.  He was always cheerful, dressed simply, and did not even own a watch.  I got to know him quite well.  He started to pray for me.  At the same time, I met other Christian students that showed their joyful faith.  The timing was right.  One day I decided to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior too.  I did this in my own apartment on my knees.  Then I called up my Christian friends and we got together to celebrate the occasion.  The belief at the time was that once you have accepted Jesus into your life, you are born again and saved forever.  Naturally, the emotional release felt was tremendous.  The feeling was that I had finally left the chaos of an unsettling, stormy life behind and entered a safe shelter.
        I'd like to point out that Harry was the one who basically brought me to Christ by being a good model.  Advice: If you hope to convert someone, never argue or ask pointedly if he or she has been saved.  Never exhibit a "holier-than-thou" attitude or proclaim self-righteousness.  Here is your chance to practice being humble.        

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Awakening

        Before I graduated from college, I came to believe that there must be a God.  Just look at the human eye.  How perfect its design and how wonderful its function!  It just couldn't have existed without a creator.  Then what keeps my heart beating?  A motor keeps running only when it's plugged into a power source.  Likewise, we are kept alive because of God.  Also, what keeps me breathing when I am alive?  Now my intuition or common sense started to kick in.  Of course, many other things around all pointed to the existence of God.  It made so much more sense to believe that there is a God than to believe otherwise.   This was the awakening, but how do I find him? 

Agnostic Years

        Many of us become agnostic or lose whatever faith we had as we go through high school and/or college.  The reasons are many.  We are young, so death couldn't be further from our minds.  There are just so many things we want to learn, experience, achieve and enjoy in life.  Studies occupy our time.  And of course, so many distractions, not the least among which are sexual thoughts and attractions.  In my own case, I also discovered the lure of science ~ it just seemed that science could explain everything, given the chance and sufficient time.  In other words, science
became my little god.  In general, scientists are divided into two camps: those who believe that there is no God and those who believe that there has to be a God.  So, in those years, I got by all right, even though deep down I could still sense that void there.
        By the way, I would like to mention that I decided to join the secret Rosicrucian Order, headquartered in San Jose, CA, hoping to learn some ancient wisdom.  After a couple of months I withdrew my membership, because the teachings just didn't mean much to me.  I also studied self-hypnotism to tell myself that I would always feel happy, but the effect usually lasted at most a couple of weeks each time.  What things we wouldn't try when we are lost?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Encounter with Buddhism

        I was influenced by Buddhism in my preteens since my grandparents were Buddhists.  After I caught a cold, I would pray to Buddha and actually got well a few days later.  I have never studied the religion seriously, so I'll just mention what I experienced in those early years. 
        It seems that the teachings of Buddhism today are no longer pure.  The concept of heaven and hell had been added.  I still remember vividly seeing a poster showing those who made it to heaven and those who ended up in hell.  There were eighteen floors of hell depicted, with tortures getting more severe each time you descend to a lower floor.  I remember that when I saw those scenes, I told myself to make sure that I don't end up on the bottom floor.  Looking back, I see that all this somewhat contradicts reincarnation.  Another book I saw lists the number of good or bad points attached to all the deeds.  As long as the good points outnumber the bad ones in the end, you are OK. 
        Anyway, a clear concept of God was absent.  And I didn't find Buddhism challenging me in any way.  In fact, belief in reincarnation bothered me.  If there is reincarnation, the number of living things in this world must be finite (a fixed number) ~ then how would you explain the multiplication of all kinds of creatures and forms of life going on?  Also, what's the point of it when you don't have any clue as to what you were and how you lived in your previous life?? 
        It also seemed that achieving nirvana through meditation is a rather nebulous process.  You could spend all your life attempting but never reaching the goal.  So Buddhism never took real hold of me.     

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Beginning

        I remember that when I was eight or nine, I started wondering if the universe was infinite or finite.  I would look into the sky and wonder if I would ever hit some kind of wall if I keep flying into space away from the earth.  If I did bump into a barrier, then what's on the other side of it?  Big question!  The concept of an infinite universe with no boundaries was something I couldn't imagine.  Today we know that there are hundreds of billions of galaxies with each containing billions of stars ~ all this is truly mind-boggling.  The questions that logically follow such wonderment would be:  "Where did we come from?", "Why are we here?", "What's the meaning of life?" and ultimately, "Is there a God?"  I am sure that everyone has these questions coming into their mind at one time or another.  It seems that there is this built-in curiosity or desire to find the "truth."  Anyway, that was the beginning of my search.  (Later, I realized that when we search for something to fulfill our life, we are basically looking for God, whether we know it or not.)