Communion antiphon was taken from John 8.12: "Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life, says the Lord." Through my experience, I know that I no longer walk in darkness. Through my simple eyes, I see that following Jesus will lead me straight to heaven. I defy anyone to show me that following Jesus is wrong, if you are not the problem.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
Communion experience this morning. I always remember the story of the woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind Jesus, with great faith touched the tassel on his cloak, and was immediately healed (read Luke 8). As I received the Holy Eucharist, I knew that the Lord was going to immediately heal my soul too. A healed soul is a spiritually-healthy soul, even more desirable than having a healthy body.
BBC News has an article online this morning on the science of long life. Almost everyone wishes to remain eternally young if possible. We think that a stress-free existence should prolong life, then one study done by the University of California at Riverside shows that the opposite is true. In fact, it says that a little worry is a good thing! Go figure. A Dr. Gary Small, director of the University of California Longevity Center in Los Angeles, concludes that the idea is to stay engaged, to stay involved, to enjoy your life, but when your time comes, to accept that and not be afraid of it. This seems like sensible advice, although that last part may be easier said than done if you don't have any faith in God. At any rate, I feel blessed because how long I live concerns the Lord and not me; in the meantime I live in peace, stress- and worry-free.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
After posting more than 2,500 times, perhaps I should write a book summarizing what the Lord has taught me. This thought did surface in my mind, but it must get a clear go-ahead from him. If I do get going, the book could be titled How to Achieve Union with God (not creative enough), God Wants You! (remember those Uncle-Sam-Wants-You posters? ~ but it doesn't seem quite appropriate here), What God Can Do for Us, or something else. So far that last title is closest to what I want to tell. We can do a lot of things on our own, but that is not good enough. We let God fully into our lives and he starts making living a holy life easy. He finally takes away all our struggles, completing our transformation in him. Only he can draw us into full union with him, thereby obtaining his own request "So be perfect, just as your Heavenly Father is perfect." In the whole process, the Holy Eucharist plays the essential role.
Communion experience. Receiving the Lord in the Holy Eucharist is such a great honor that no honor of the world can compare with it. It means that I have been specifically chosen by God. I can receive what is deemed by the whole world to be the greatest possible honor and it will only serve to boost my own ego. But receiving Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament makes me forget all about myself and appreciate only his love. Again, the contrast between what the Lord gives and what the world gives makes the right choice crystal clear.
First reading at Mass came from Hebrews 10. Paul quoted from Jeremiah what the Lord said in making the new covenant with the house of Israel: "Their sins and their evildoing I will remember no more." When we are in love with God, the journey of following him becomes extremely beautiful because in the presence of our beloved, we forget all our troubles, problems, and even our sins. It is true that lovers in love with each other become mutually forgetful of everything else.
When Jesus draws us, we feel his love and his peace. We experience complete freedom because he is always gentle with us, never holding us against our will. On the other hand, when Satan lures us and succeeds in trapping us, we will experience great emotional turmoil and feel chained and shackled. If it's a deep sin we fall into, it would be virtually impossible to free ourselves without asking for God's help. Both God and Satan can be attractive, but their intentions couldn't be further apart from each other. Stick with God always, for he loves you always.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Today's readings at Mass were all about doing God's will. In the Gospel reading from Mark 3, Jesus told the crowd, "Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister..." I believe that people do not like to hear about doing God's will because they have many misconceptions such as "doing God's will is for saints only," "doing God's will is not fun," "doing God's will must be boring," "doing God's will restricts my freedom." The fact is that doing God's will is a beautiful feeling; it brings you peace and freedom of the heart; it brings you close to God; and now you know, you become brother or sister to Jesus.
Two weeks ago, French opponents of gay marriage and adoption staged one of the biggest demonstrations the country had seen in years. Some 340,000 people, according to police, marched through central Paris to oppose a government bill that's going to go before the National Assembly. The spokeswoman of this broad-based "citizens" movement states that her arguments are not directed at gay people, but at the proposed law, as framed. She says, "If what was on offer were a law that further enshrined rights for gay couples, that enriched their unions, and got rid of the discrimination and injustices that undoubtedly still exist ~ then I would support it." However, the opponents of gay marriage are aware that their chances of blocking France's law are small at best. Both "Catholic" countries Spain and Portugal have recently adopted gay marriage.
If we do believe that marriage is the exclusive union between a man and a woman and that it is instituted by God, then how do we fare as a nation? In the last half century or so, thanks much to the celebrities, living together as an unmarried couple has become so common and widespread that it's now an accepted lifestyle ~ marriage is already mocked! Most people look upon marriage as an experiment that has nothing to do with God. As for married couples, the statement "50% of all marriages in America end in divorce" is roughly correct. (In reality, the divorce rates all across the globe have been rising rapidly.) If morally we are in such bad shape, how effective can we be in telling others that same-sex marriage is wrong?
This brings me to the fundamental point. All disorderliness and moral chaos are caused by godlessness. God is our creator and if we get into trouble because we fall away from him, then he is the one who can restore order and peace if we go to him asking for help. Again, the same conclusion I drew in my post "How to Convert the World" of two days ago applies: "Our only hope is to live a holy life by seeking union with God and be completely obedient to his will, whatever it may be."
Monday, January 28, 2013
I have started reading the Gospel of John again. Chapter 1, verses 2-4: "The Word was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race."
I am living in this world because my physical body dwells in this physical world. Spiritually, I am living in Jesus. My physical body will die one day, but I shall live on forever in the Lord. While in him, he "insulates" me from the world, shielding me from all evil. In him, I conquer the world, since he has conquered it. This is being free in the world and not of it.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
We just had our national March for Life. Today on EWTN, I watched some of the recorded events held in Washington, D.C. I felt great sorrow when I realized that when an unborn child is aborted, you squash all its hope of ever breathing the fresh air, seeing the natural beauties, learning new knowledge, enjoying family life and friends, contributing to making this world a better one... Jesus said clearly that "whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me." Certainly the unborn quality to be the least brothers of the Lord!
But I experienced joy too in watching the March. I was moved to tears when I heard the message from the Holy Father read publicly. Then I noticed how young the average marcher in the crowd looked ~ the hope is bright for the future. Nothing is impossible with God.
In today's Gospel reading from Luke 1, Jesus, in a synagogue in Nazareth on the sabbath day, stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, "Today his Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." The whole scene was so live to me that after I received the Holy Eucharist, I knew that Jesus is the Messiah, the living true God and he is all I need. He is not just God...he's a most personal God at that. In him I have complete security, eternal life...whatever my heart desires. He is the one in whom I can totally let myself go.
Peter Kreeft, the popular author and writer, once asked: "Why did twelve fishermen convert the world, and why are half a billion Christians unable to repeat the feat?" The answer ~ it is because those twelve were united and willing to die for Christ while present-day Christians are so fractured, so weakened by the secular world, and so unwilling to live faithfully. Without unity and strength, the Christians will have a hard time ahead fighting any battle. Our only hope is to live a holy life by seeking union with God and be completely obedient to his will, whatever it may be.
Friday, January 25, 2013
Today is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle. As you know, Paul was zealously persecuting the Christians, binding and delivering them to prison. Then on his journey to Damascus to round up even more Christians for punishment, a great light from the sky suddenly shone around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" Paul replied, "Who are you, sir?" And the voice said, "I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting." We see that Jesus did not ask "Why are you persecuting my Church?" or "Why are you persecuting my followers?" Instead, he asked, "Why are you persecuting me?"
What I learn here is that everything we do affects the Lord himself.
Today I am especially conscious of the fact that I am a unique being God has created and that I am made aware that I am I. The leads me to seeing that I alone am responsible for what I do and that my sins are all committed through my own fault (as we admit each time reciting the Penitential Act during Mass). Basically, each one of us stands alone in this world through Judgment Day. Then I see that we needn't stand alone because we can totally lean upon our creator, our loving Father, the Lord. Instantly, all the gloom is displaced by joy and peace.
1 John 2.11 reads: "Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness blinded his eyes." What's interesting is that John said that the darkness "blinded" the eyes. I thought about it and saw that he's right. Since God is light, when we have God, we see clearly what is good and what is evil ~ so the light of God is not blinding at all; in fact, it lights our way. As for the one who walks in darkness, he doesn't see good from evil and is therefore like a blind person. When you don't see the light of God, you are indeed blind.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Today is the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. First part of the Responsorial Psalm (#40) reads:
Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to your obedience you gave me.
Burnt offerings or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, "Behold, I come."
The Response reads: Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I do see that to do the Lord's will does not mean that I do not ask for anything for myself anymore. He may even want me to sacrifice in a certain way or offer him certain things. Doing his will simply covers (governs) how I am going to live, pray, and serve him. In short, doing the Lord's will is to do only what he tells me to do, and that could be anything.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
[It you do not believe that there is life after death, you may skip reading the following.] It is true that we in the world seek pleasure, fun, entertainment, recreation...so that we can have a good time, forget our troubles and be happy. The desire is inherent in us. I see that all the temporal happiness we seek are for the moment only. For example, you go on a week's cruise ~ after the week, the enjoyment is just memory. Personally, I don't see how such passing happiness can be truly satisfying. To me, only unending (permanent) happiness is meaningful. If I know in advance that I won't be happy in the next life, then I don't think I can truly feel happy in this life anymore. On the other hand, if I know that I'll be happy for all eternity, then whether I am happy or not in this life becomes rather unimportant. Last, if we are only concerned about being happy in this life, we can easily forget planning for our eternal future ~ this then would be a huge oversight.
God loves us with the greatest possible love and his mercy is infinite. So it should be easy for us to get to heaven. All we need to do is to obey him. If we follow Jesus' commandment "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind," we love God to the extreme. With extremists on both sides "working towards" the same goal, success is assured.
I sound like an old man when I muse on life, but I am old. When you are young and healthy, you don't think about the frailty of life and that is unfortunate. Just a few days ago, we prayed at Mass for one husband who suffered a massive heart attack in his 50's. As you age, you hear more frequently that someone you knew has passed away. Only the Lord knows how long each of us will live. Life is frail also in the sense that it is unpredictable. Holding onto God is only and sure way of securing ourselves for all eternity. It's really a no-brainer.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Today is the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. Forty years ago today, the Roe vs. Wade decision was passed by the US Supreme Court and abortion was ruled a fundamental right. The Knights of Columbus has planted fifty-five crosses on our church lot, symbolizing the fifty-five million abortions that have been performed since the day of that decision. I have posted against abortion in the past a number of times. On this memorial day, I just want to ask: How dare we ask God to bless this nation when we as a nation are still committing this horrendous sin against him? (By the way, Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff Roe in the lawsuit, had turned pro-life in 1994 and been received into the Catholic Church in 1998.)
Before morning Mass started, I had time to see that I must in the overall scheme of things set my lifetime goal first and then let all my thoughts, my words, and my actions henceforth manifest that goal. And that goal should be loving God with all my heart, with all my strength, with all my soul, and with all my mind.
Right now I have a problem with the wall oven at home. After spending time and money on repairs, the problem remains. How should I deal with it? I recall Jesus' counsel to love our enemies, and human enemies have got to be even more annoying than oven problems and such. Therefore, I should "love" my oven problem too, meaning that I should not let it affect me. Another helpful thought: What if today is my last day on earth? Basically, detachment from the world is the answer, and only loving and trusting in God can get me there.
Monday, January 21, 2013
For most of us who search for God, we start out with a head journey. That is, we read about the Lord, ask questions, etc., until we are more of less convinced that we should believe. Then the heart takes over. In my own conversion story told at the beginning of this blog, I read about Catholicism for over a year before I decided to join the Church. I have seen many whose search journey remained a head one and they never found God. As we fall in love with God more and more, our journey transforms more and more into a heart one. Only when we journey with all of our heart will union with God be within our reach.
I am one of the parishioners in the ministry of visiting homebound elders. Recently, I visited a lady already placed under hospice care. It wasn't a scheduled day of visit, but somehow I felt drawn to go see her. I had a chance to share with her the joy of knowing Jesus and how much he loves us for about half an hour, with her daughter also present. She passed away not very long afterwards. Then I got a call from a friend asking for her mother, also under hospice care, to receive the last rites. I informed my pastor at the next morning Mass and she was taken care of right after Mass. Four days later, she also passed away. What I want to say is that when the Lord calls, even if it's about doing something quite small, we must get going. The small things can be critical and are often very much remembered and/or appreciated by others, in my two cases, the two daughters. When Jesus called those to be his disciples, they dropped everything right away and followed. Every call from the Lord is important ~ it is a call to bring others to him so that they may have eternal life.
It's easier to detach yourself from the world than from yourself. For example, I went to a gym very early this morning to exercise a little bit and found the best parking place right in front of the entrance. It was about 5:30 a.m. Apparently, someone who got there when the gym opened at 4:30 a.m. had just finished exercising and left. When I was leaving about 40 minutes later, another car was arriving and it looked like it's going to take my parking space for sure. As I was about to look in the rear view mirror to see if that's happening, I stopped because I detected that my curiosity was in part prompted by my self-interest in knowing that I gave that person my space. Perhaps I was nitpicking, but I do know that anyone who is completely detached from himself does not look back on himself anymore.
Sunday, January 20, 2013
In the wake of the recent shooting incident at an elementary school in Connecticut in which 20 children and six adults were killed, our government is trying to pass some stricter gun-control laws and pro-gun activists have started staging rallies across the nation. Of course, if there are no more weapons in the world, and that should include guns, rifles, bombs, rockets...even knives and baseball bats, the world would be a safer place. But my point is that controlling weapons and not changing the human hearts will not stop violence. And banning guns and rifles and still letting abortion continue has to be a big joke.
When I was an avid photographer, capturing the desired image was extremely important to me. There was great excitement involved because you could come up with some great shots and with luck might even become well-known. But now, I experience even much greater satisfaction in communing with the Lord in private. No one needs to know about it and there is no desire to leave a trace in this world. In other worlds, I am free, no longer chasing after the passing world. The more we give up the world and ourselves, the greater our rewards will be in heaven. But I am not doing it for the reward either...I am doing it for the joy of following Christ (actually, it's all his doing).
As Catholics we learn to offer up our sufferings to God for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for sins committed against him. But for me there is one cross that's especially heavy to bear, and that is the pain I feel when I see other Catholics unknowingly hurting the Lord in various ways. Even after I offer up my pain, the cross does not seem to get any lighter because I see hurting continuing. I rather prefer that I be hurt alone and not the Lord. Then I see that when Jesus asked us to take up the cross and follow after him, he clearly meant all crosses. Also, I realize that if I truly trust in him, no cross is too big to offer up. I feel better.
Saturday, January 19, 2013
I finished reading Fr. Groeschel's Travelers Along the Way, The Men and Women Who Shaped My Life. I got a glimpse of how those 30+ man and women lived their lives. It made me see that a good question to ask ourselves is: "How do I really want to live my life?" We should not go on living without answering this question first because knowing the answer can save us a lot of life's time. Knowing how we want to live can make our living truly meaningful.
In today's Gospel reading from Mark 2, when some Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" The Pharisees were being judgmental again. Jesus told us not to judge others. He is right because every single one of us is a sinner and God alone is our judge. Yes, there is only one qualified to be the judge in all of heaven and earth.
In today's first reading at Mass from Hebrews 4, Paul wrote: "The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account." If you don't feel it that way, then you don't really know the Lord yet.
Today I see life as living on top of a precipice. If you strongly believe in God, then he has a strong cord tied around you to keep you safe. If your faith is weak, then the corresponding cord will be weak too. If you don't have any faith, then one careless slip and you fall off the cliff, heading straight toward the bottom, much like what happens to Wile E. Coyote sometimes when he fails to catch up with The Road Runner in one of their cartoon shorts.
Friday, January 18, 2013
This echoes the post "Power of God's Love" two days ago. When we are fully occupied with or immersed in God, we forget all other things: our past, our enemies, our pains...you name it. You've heard the phrase "Ignorance is bliss." Now we can say that "Forgetfulness in God is bliss" and this is an even better bliss.
In today's Gospel reading from Mark 2, it's the familiar story of the paralytic being lowered through the roof to get to Jesus; his faith resulted in being healed by the Lord. We can unequivocally state that the more we lean upon Jesus, the more he's going to prop us up. Like Newton's law of action-reaction in physics, this is a law of spirituality.
At church before Mass started this morning, I knew I was going to meet my most beloved, then I realized that he's already dwelling in me, and I felt great joy. I had experienced the crushing weight of sin in the past, but now everything about the Lord, including the crosses he gives me from time to time, was uplifting.
In past posts, I pointed out some of the things that to me mark Christianity as the truth. Here's another feature that came to my mind this morning.
Our God is demanding in that we must love him more than anything else, yet he is not demanding in the sense that he has given each one of us a free will to exercise. Thus faith is made fully meaningful. Imagine that you have a tyrannical god who lords it over you or a god or gods who don't challenge you much, making it easy for you to accept or ignore as is the case in some religion ~ neither would be satisfying to me.
In one of the stories in Fr. Groeschel book Travelers Along the Way, he mentions a Sister Mary who quoted something by memory from St. Teresa of Avila. Apparently St. Teresa's brother had been in serious trouble with the law. In desperation the saint prayed: "Dear Lord, if I were You and he were Your brother, I would see to it that he was saved." It would be hard to argue with that.
I also pray for the salvation of various, specific individuals, some of whom may not be that holy, but I love them and have no problem forgiving them. So I reason (and realize) that the Lord is infinitely more merciful than I, and if I am willing to forgive them, certainly he'd be even more willing to do so. Creative pleading?
I've started reading my third book by Fr. Benedict Groeschel titled Travelers Along the Way, in which he wrote about 30+ men and women who shaped his life. One of them was none other than Mother Teresa. Fr. Groeschel was at the time the liaison between Mother and the New York archdiocese in which some houses were opened for her Missionaries of Charity. Once when Fr. Groeschel felt discouraged that he couldn't handle what he was told to do well enough and thought of resigning his post, Mother Teresa asked him pointedly why he thought God had chosen him to be a priest. Father had trouble coming up with a right answer and Mother Teresa looked at him and said, "You are chosen because of the humility of God. God chooses the weakest and the poorest, the most inappropriate persons to use." She followed up with what Fr. Groeschel considered to be extremely revealing, something he would never forget: "I pray that my place will be taken by the most unattractive and ungifted of all the sisters. Then everyone will know that this is not our work but God's work. Don't ever forget that you are chosen by the humility of God." [I hope that Fr. Groeschel wouldn't mind my quoting these sayings directly from his book.]
It's true that the Holy Mother appeared to the poor and uneducated rather than the strong, rich, wise or gifted. And Jesus called a bunch of fishermen, not any learned scholars, to follow him. The lesson here is that when we are called to serve the Lord in whatever way, we should realize that God has chosen us, no matter how inadequate we might feel. It's an honor and the Lord knows exactly what he is doing.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
In today's Gospel reading from Mark 1 at morning Mass, Jesus, moved with pity, touched a leper and made him clean. Then he said to him, "See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed." The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
The lesson here is that we can be so much like the healed leper, getting carried away by something exciting happening to us and forget all about obeying God's will ~ we must listen to God first and obey without thinking about anything else. To do God's will, we must ignore our own will.
The Church teaches that if we are in a state of mortal (serious) sin, then we risk losing our souls. This makes perfect sense. I dare say that practically all of the nations in the world are in the state of mortal sin ~ look at the suicide bombings, killing of innocent civilians, genocides, assassination of political enemies, legalization of abortion, and many others. The nations are definitely risking losing their souls. Only repentance and returning to God can save them. Since only believers pray to God, they bear the responsibility of praying for the world. Therefore, pray hard to the Lord for his mercy.
You can love God or fear God. We should fear him because he is our ultimate judge, but I choose to concentrate on loving him as St. Therese of Lisieux did. Both logic and common sense tell me that if I do this, then I really don't need to be concerned about anything else, including being judged by him. It also simplifies things, perfectly suiting someone simpleminded like me. If you truly love God, you don't care what he's going to do with you ~ what else can Love do besides loving you? The Lord wipes out all my worries ~ how can you not love him?
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
I am half way through reading Fr. Groeschel's A Still, Small Voice, A Practical Guide on Reported Revelations. I found out that even saints had misinterpreted or recorded wrongly the revelations they had received, to the point of contradicting the teachings of the Church in one case. Therefore, I am not going to pay much attention to any private apparitions, visions, etc., especially those the Church has not officially approved yet. I already know the sure way, that is, to focus upon Jesus alone who has revealed to us all we need to know and to follow the public teachings of his Church.
If you love God, open yourself wide to let his love completely fill your heart to overflowing. This sweet love will heal and delight your soul such that besides the Lord, every problem in your life will seem insignificant to the point of being forgettable. This is one reward you can reap in this life.
I start to think about the love of God for us. This love is so pure and selfless that in theory, it's not possible for us to love to that degree. Therefore, it is unique with God and strictly speaking, "love" should mean the love of God or God and nothing else.
To anyone who is aware that he is in a sinful state he should not be in:
Know that we live in a pretty much secular, hedonistic society populated mostly by other like sinners. Without proper guidance, the rampant, materialistic and immoral influences around us start to shape us the moment we are born. Now imagine that you enter a world of saints filled with love for God, chances are you'll grow up to be a holy person too. But despite the condition of the society or the world, the hope is ever present. Jesus can take away our sins and make us holy if we let him. Just repent and believe that he is your Savior and you are on your way. This is how accessible and amazing our God is ~ always loving us!
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
At church before Mass began this morning, I came to see that it's so easy for us to form opinions of others whether we know them well or not. The danger here is that what we have perceived or observed may not be the truth, especially after the story has been transmitted through others. God is the only one who knows what's in the heart of a person. His command for us not to judge anyone is most wise because we can turn out to be wrong. Let's leave the judging to God and see all others as his loved ones who may turn out to be good.
I have asked the Lord to change me, shape me, mold me ~ and I do not feel any difference until a test comes along. What would normally get me excited, alarmed, or distressed now finds me remaining cool and calm, and I know that he has worked on me. Basically, when I am anchored in God, nothing can upset my equilibrium anymore.
Monday, January 14, 2013
Without God, you try to manage your own life and you get bogged down by earthly affairs, never feeling free or at peace.
With God, you place all your trust in him and are extricated from all worldly concerns, knowing now fully what you are doing and where you are heading. Freedom and peace are no longer strangers in your life.
In today's Gospel from Mark 1 at Mass, we heard that Jesus, passing by the Sea of Galilee, saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fisherman. Jesus said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." They left their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat.
Although we cannot hear the physical voice of the Lord today; nevertheless, you can be sure that he still calls us through other means. It's the same voice that speaks directly to the heart. Anytime the Lord calls us, he is calling us to live with him for all eternity! Our only right response is to follow him without reservation.
You know that (1) you and God are best friends and you have no sins to worry about, or (2) you are deeply in love with God who loves you, or (3) you're in union with God. [By the same token, the worst possible feeling is knowing that you are in a sinful state and you are afraid to face God ~ this is being extremely unrealistic.]
When I see or hear something beautiful, I think of God because he is beautiful. When I see or hear something sad, I think of God because he suffered for me. When I feel happy, I think of God because he is the source of all my joy. When I feel sorrowful, I turn to God because he will console me. When I am not occupied with anything, I feel his very presence within me.
When people ask a friend of mine how old he is, he always answered, "I am ageless." He is not kidding ~ he is serious and speaks the truth as he loves Jesus. The Lord promised that whoever believed in him would never die. This is saying that if I remain with him, then I'll be with him forever since he lives forever.
Sunday, January 13, 2013
Fr. Benedict Groeschel, whom I love and respect, unwisely made some controversial comments last year related to the sexual abuse of children by priests and a lot of people out there used the opportunity to degrade him and the Church. A gay, former Catholic priest criticized him on Huffington Post. From most of the comments on his article I read, I could tell that there were lots of people who disliked or even hated the Church. Again, I believe that they never knew the Church and/or Jesus. Judging others without looking at yourself is always the easiest thing to do. If Christ were here today, they would most likely be turned off by what he tells them too.
The Christians have themselves to blame for not taking stands when morality started eroding. If you go back half a century or so, very few unmarried couples practiced living together. Then abortion got legalized. Over the years various Christian churches have softened their stands on many moral issues, causing further disunity (Satan must love it!) Even though the majority of this country still claims to believe that God exists, they live just as nonbelievers. Today hedonism is the dominant way of our life and atheism continues to rise. We reap what we sow.
I feel a lot of pain today because I know that God is feeling it too. The BBC News earlier reported that hundreds of thousands of protesters rallied against gay marriage in Paris despite one newspaper poll showing that 56% of the people supported gay marriage. In Italy four topless female activists staged a protest in St. Peter's Square in favor of gay rights. The Church is against the sin and not the sinner. Even in the case of suicide bombers killing innocent people, God's love for the perpetrators never diminishes. The mission of the Church is to save souls, yet she is perceived as being nonprogressive and suppressive. This misunderstanding is causing the present sharp division.
Saturday, January 12, 2013
It is St. Augustine who wrote: "O God, Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee." Then once we find God, our hearts start to yearn for him because our God is infinite ~ infinitely beautiful, infinitely lovely, infinitely attractive. We realize that the desire for God can be limitless and we won't be completely satisfied until we are in heaven. That's how God has made us.
After morning Mass, there was a brief exposition of the Blessed Sacrament prior to a scheduled mini-retreat. It hit me that what I was looking at on my knees was the Lord! He was not distant ~ in fact, he just entered union with me a while ago. It's hard to get over the extraordinary love and unbelievable humility of my God which I realized!
In both Matthew and Mark, Jesus said, "Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Indeed, if we live for Jesus alone and forget all about living for ourselves, we will experience perfect freedom. Therefore, let's worship the Lord, love him, adore him, glorify him, trust in him, follow him, obey him alone.
The Gospel reading at Mass this morning came from John 3. Both John the Baptist and Jesus were baptizing at different locations and John was informed that everyone was going to Jesus. John answered, "I said that I am not the Christ, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease." What I learn here is that I must rejoice, never feel jealous, if God is being served and glorified by others. How gratifying it would be if everyone else loves God more than I do! One who truly loves God does not know jealousy.
I hear so often from people that they are so stressed out in their work or because of problems within their own family. I feel bad for them, but I feel worse that they do not know or believe that God can truly take care of their problems or give them peace despite of the existence of problems. It's a sad reality that God, the most loving and powerful one, does not have the trust of his children. See problems as perfect invitations for us to turn to him for help. He's the one who deserves to be given a chance first. Don't wait until you are on your deathbed to turn to him because you may not get that chance.
Friday, January 11, 2013
Today's Communion experience. As the bread and wine were consecrated, I was particularly struck by the tenderness and the lovingness of the Lord in calling me to his supper. After I received him, I urgently begged for mercy on my unworthy soul. Yet at the same time, I felt that with him, I was already a winner!
"Waiting for God" was once a regular TV show on PBS. It's a series imported from England, showing the comic side of life of a bunch of old folks living in a retirement mansion. I mention this because the title applies to living the Christian life. Personally, I see living for God as basically remaining passive before God, letting him love us ~ more specifically, waiting for him to lead us in our spiritual journey every step of the way. This calls for great humility before the Lord. Today's Gospel reading from Luke 5 at Mass illustrates this attitude. A leper saw Jesus, fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, "Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean." Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, "I will do it. Be made clean." The leper's humble attitude brought forth the touching response from the Lord.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
This is what I learned from the Lord today. It's easy to get zealous about wanting to glorify God in some way, but he made me see that I must not think about what I can do or gauge my spiritual progress by looking at what I have accomplished. No, no, no ~ he wants me to take every step following him, as the Holy Spirit leads. Sometimes nothing seems to happen, but it's the abiding in him that he desires. I am to remain in step with the Holy Spirit at all times, no matter where he is taking me to. This is the way he wants me to keep peace within me.
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
In today's Gospel reading from Mark 6 at Mass, Jesus walked on the sea toward his disciples in a boat. When they saw him, they thought it was a ghost and cried out, for they were terrified. Then at once Jesus spoke with them, "Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!" I know that Jesus said "do not be afraid" on numerous other occasions, so we should take it to heart. Indeed, with him with us at all times, there is truly nothing to be afraid of. Even if we lose our life, we'll be in heaven with him.
At Mass, I also became aware of the horrible state of our world. There are just so many tragic events happening everywhere every moment you feel that your prayers can't even keep pace with the rate at which they're taking place. Using Isaiah's description: We are a people walking in darkness and dwelling in a land of deep gloom. Today's Communion antiphon was 1 John 1.2: "That life which was with the Father became visible, and he appeared to us." Why don't we turn to Christ? Is it because we are so sinful that we are afraid of the shining light? The need for us to love God is so great and urgent now that I feel the door will not stay open long! We need to repent without delay and go directly to Christ to seek safe refuge in him.
Before Mass began this morning, I was made aware of how much God had given us. He had gone as far as he could, sacrificing himself on the cross on our behalf, whereas we do not even listen to him most of the time and when we do, our effort is often so very feeble ~ it's just not fair! The very least we could do is to submit ourselves totally to him.
I see people who run races, ride bicycles, or lift weights in a competitive event push themselves to the very limit, risking injuries, striving to do a little better than before. By contrast I see that in loving God, you have the exact opposites. First, you remain passive instead of pushing yourself hard, so as to let God do the work. Second, there is no limit to reach because God can draw you to him as far as he wants. Last, there is no risk of injuries of any kind. In fact, the closer you're drawn to God, the safer you are from all evil.
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Today's Communion experience. I felt great satisfaction and deep fulfillment. Receiving the Holy Eucharist is letting God enter me, fill me, take care of me, empower me, and work his will through me. It is a miracle!
[Interesting to read from part of St. Ignatius of Antioch's letter to the Romans which Fr. Groeschel included at the end of his chapter on the saint (see my last post) what Ignatius said about the Holy Eucharist: "I take no delight in corruptible food or in the pleasure of this life. I want the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was David's seed, and for drink I want his blood, the sign of his imperishable love."]
Many of you probably know about the Franciscan friar Fr. Benedict Groeschel. I first saw him on EWTN TV. I love and respect him for his love for God and the Church, and I value his opinions on numerous issues as well as his spiritual insights. Even though he has been a prolific author, it is the first time that I am reading his book The Saints in My Life. The first saint he talks about is St. Ignatius of Antioch, one of the early Church Fathers, who died a martyr around A.D. 108. He was a truly fearless Christian who lived for Christ alone. Never did he ever stop urging all to trust and abandon themselves in God. After I finished reading the short chapter on this saint, I realized how weak the faiths of our generations are! I feel prompted to examine ourselves with these questions: (1) How much do we believe in God? (2) How much do we live for Christ? (3) How much are we detached from the world? The correct answer to each question should be 100%. So how much do we fall short?
Last thought. If you do not know Jesus or his Church yet, I urge you to read the writings of the Church Fathers, the earliest of whom personally knew the Apostles.
Monday, January 7, 2013
This is the first thought I had before Mass this morning. The Holy Eucharist is the vehicle for achieving union with God. The mercy of God is great because of his humility, as shown by his sending his own Son to become one of us and to die in our place. If we are to be united with God, we must be likewise humble. Now, to receive the Holy Eucharist with great humility, we can actually become like God ~ this is absolutely awe-inspiring! For a moment I had trouble believing that this could be true.
Sunday, January 6, 2013
Today's Communion experience. I felt that Jesus was pure enjoyment, more enjoyable than all the best vacations I could possibly take. I just wanted to jealously guard this treasure in me. [Of course, this treasure can be anyone's if that person loves him enough.]
Some Catholics in business try to hide the fact that they are Catholic for fear that it may turn some of their customers off and lose them. In Matthew 7, Jesus said, "As you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you." Again, in Matthew 10, he said, "Whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father." Fair enough. Then obviously, if we are ashamed of letting others know that we follow Christ, he will be ashamed of us later. True Christians are always proud of their faith and live their lives fearlessly in the Lord.
Saturday, January 5, 2013
Today's Communion verse at Mass was Matthew 19.29: "Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or father of mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life." This provocative saying brings to mind what Jesus said in John 6, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you." This hard saying shocked even his disciples and as a result, many of them stopped following him.
Of course, if you believe that Jesus is the Lord, then all his sayings make perfect sense. In my case, I have already received a hundred times more in this life (just for the peace and freedom the world cannot give alone) and am looking forward to inheriting the next part.
Today is the Memorial of St. John Neumann, Bishop. The Gospel reading came from John 1. Jesus found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." Then Philip found Nathanael and brought him to see Jesus. After Nathanael found out that Jesus saw him under the fig tree even before Philip called him, Nathanael responded, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."
Looking back, I remember the day I decided to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior, the day I entered the Catholic Church receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist for the first time, the day I got baptized by the Holy Spirit in the Charismatic Renewal within the Church, and the day I surrendered to the Lord seeking union with him. These were all defining moments, marking the high points in my life. Each successive move drew me closer to God. And of course, the critically important question of eternal life got all settled. A life-changing journey to God has to be the greatest journey you can possibly take.
Friday, January 4, 2013
In today's Gospel reading from John 1 at Mass, we read how Andrew and his brother Simon Peter came to follow Jesus. John the Baptist was standing with two of his disciples, and as Jesus walked by, he said, "Behold, the Lamb of God." The two heard it and followed Jesus. They stayed with him that day. One of the two was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Andrew then found his brother Simon and told him, "We have found the Messiah," and brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas," which is translated Peter.
We do not have Jesus to follow physically, but we can follow him spiritually and get as close to him as Andrew and Peter. It's the same Lord for all eternity, so the gap in time is absolutely immaterial.
Today is the Memorial of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Religious. She was not a martyr like many other saints who suffered death for Christ's sake. Then I thought that we could be living martyrs too. As long as we are willing to live for Christ alone, we should be willing to die for him. Whether we actually meet physical death or not, it's the willingness that counts. If our old self has already died with Christ and is now a new creature in him, we should be ready to live as martyrs.
Thursday, January 3, 2013
We live in a materialistic society. Our strong attachment to material things easily turns us into slaves. You might say that we become possessed with our possessions. In the parable of the rich man Jesus told in Luke 12, God said to the man, "You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have stored up, to whom will they belong?" Of course, God owns everything in the first place and nothing can really be considered to be ours. To think otherwise is to rob God of what belongs to him. We are now not just fools, but also robbers!
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Humility has to be the most outstanding virtue among all the virtues. A person with humility thinks nothing of himself, yet receiving full attention from the Lord. A person with humility is secure in the Lord and safe from all evil. Without humility, one will not find God. With humility, he will be shown the doorway to heaven. And it is also the prerequisite for attaining union with God. Look to Jesus, the supreme model of this great virtue.
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
There are all kinds of geniuses around. Kit Armstrong, whom you can watch on YouTube, studied piano with Alfred Brendel. At nine, he already performed Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 24. He playing of Bach, Beethoven, and Schubert is most impressive, besides also being a composer and studying higher mathematics. He is definitely a genius. Most of us may be talented, but are not in that category. Then I realize that we do not need any special talent in loving God ~ all we need is an open, willing heart. So why not become a genius in loving God? Furthermore, we also build up treasure in heaven at the same time. Think about it.
The Teens Defending Life puts out a short, quite powerful pro-life video on YouTube. As usual, you find some outrageous, extreme comments there too. One commented, "god is a lie so removing a fetus that has no understanding of anything in the outside world will not hurt it ... if my mother didnt want me then so be it better to be dead than unwanted by your own mother , also who will look afte the millions of babys if they were all born , not you thats for sure". This is exactly the the way written. I looked up the uploader's background and found out that at least he seems to be still a teenager. Another comment later from a different person was so sickening that I can not even make myself read it again. Jesus, heave mercy on us!
Anyway, the word "lie" in the first comment got me thinking. God never lies, period. Satan is the big liar and he's got so many others fooled and they all start to lie or talk nonsense. Souls are at stake ~ it's our fight for the eternal survival of all. So, let's join together to fight this critical battle by using all the time we have left in this life to love and serve the Lord to the best of our ability. This is my New Year's call.
You've heard the Chinese proverb "Every great journey begins with a single step." Nothing is said about the completion of the journey. I have a better one: "Every great journey can be completed with God's help." And there is no greater journey than seeking union with God! The end of this journey may seem so far away as to be unreachable, but anything big to us is nothing to God. Give him the permission and he can get you there fast ~ it's his drawing that does all the work. So my good news for the New Year to all is that to become a saint for God's glory is within the reach of every single one of us, you and me.
It is officially 2013...a little closer to Jesus' Second Coming. Will the world ever be ready for it? I just hope that the answer is not a no.
My resolution for the New Year is let Jesus continue to work on me. Due to decades of living basically a self-centered life, to be thoroughly cleansed of all the residuals of old ways, habits, conditioned responses, etc. takes time. For example, when someone needs the Lord's help and asks me to pray for him or her, I would gladly oblige. Even though I sincerely hope that the prayer will be answered for the sake of the one who requests it, I also detect the thought that I so hope so that the person may think that I am close to God. This realization "horrifies" me, because once I start praying, how effective I am should not be of my concern anymore. Checking just to see how many more people have looked at my blog is another example. If I truly leave all matters in God's hands, then that number should not be of my concern either.
It comes down to trusting in the Lord by focusing upon him alone and forgetting totally about oneself. Only such trust leads to complete freedom.