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

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.