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Friday, April 18, 2014

Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and the Last Supper

The readings for Holy Thursday cite two different acts of Jesus that evening before Gethsemane: the institution of the Eucharist, and the washing of his disciples' feet. The first is obviously important when you accept the Eucharist as a sacrament. The second is not so obvious, but praying about it, I can offer some thoughts. The obvious significance is two-fold: humility and service, but there seems to be more. In the opening verses, we are told that Jesus was aware that the hour had come: he was soon departing out of this world to the Father, and he who loved his own -- his disciples -- in this world would now show how perfect his love was. One translation says that "he loved them to the end." Here is Jesus preparing to leave, but his disciples would have a long way yet to walk this life, in this world. They have been prepared previously, washed and thus "clean all over" as he tells Peter who wanted to be washed all over. Jesus points out that only his feet now needs washing. Why? I think it's about the journey. Just as they need food to sustain them, they need to wash the dust and dirt off their feet. Getting them dirty is inevitable along the way, just as are the scars, wounds and even the corruption of the world that opposes Christ. We need to clean them up as soon as we're aware of them, and who better to notice than someone else, an objective party who can see what you cannot. This service is also part of communion. So, food for the journey in the Eucharist, and washing the dust off one another in the meantime. Jesus makes these provisions in his compassion because he knows we'll need them, and like a good parent, he prepares his children not only to do this for themselves but, more importantly, to do this for one another. To me, this means not only the receiving the Eucharist, but celebrating the Eucharist as a community, within which we can serve one another, such as in encouraging one another, instructing one another and providing spiritual direction: a one-on-one ministering in the interior life and apostolate. I am grateful to have a director, and hope to serve others likewise if they'll have me, but I don't know if I am ready yet.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Relativism: pulling the rug from under truth

At least that's what seems to be the case in this story about Sister Jane Laurel, OP. What happens when a Catholic nun, a highly qualified teacher of the faith, expounds on that faith as had been taught by the Church for ages? Apparently, with enough of the audience having picked and chosen which parts of the faith they subscribe to (read: relativism), there is an uproar. Why? Because it's every Catholic for himself or herself, apparently. They believe only what they want to believe, which is ridiculous in the Catholic faith.

Well done, Sister Jane and Bishop Jurgis. Fr. Z is right: if we are to be faithful to Christ, we are in for a fight. Since the problem is so much falsehood, it makes sense to wield the singular weapon of Truth. Sadly, it is an in-house fight to begin with, delaying the fight which should be taken out there instead.

Nabuchadnezzar: pride distorts us

If you refuse to worship it, you will be thrown into the fiery furnace; and where is the god who can save you from my power? An outsider will see how ludicrous this statement is. Yes, the king has immense power, but even then, he would know that he not a god -- until a certain insanity sets in. It is called pride. It is an insanity that brings about delusions of grandeur, and the danger is that it is built on falsehood, a distortion of one's assessment of self. These words infuriated King Nebuchadnezzar; his expression was very different now.. in other times, this king seemed reasonable enough, but injured pride, especially for one holding such a distorted self-estimation.. He throws a kingly tantrum. Such is pride. The scary thing is that, along with other virtues, we don't seem to instill humility in our children anymore. Being nice, yes. Humble, no? Humble is seen as backward and harmful, when in fact, being humble (based on truth) is being honest. And don't get me started on truthfulness...

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Nature and Grace

Book 2, Chapter 54 of The Imitation of Christ, contrasts sharply what it refers to as "nature" and grace. The former cannot be contrasted thus, as something oppositional to grace, if it was something that God created. As one of my favorite writers, Mark Shea, would point out, the human nature that God established from the beginning was good. The problem is sin, because it perverted humanity, so that sin makes us gravitate away from God. I would join Mark in saying that the sins we commit are not due to our human nature, for that which God created was entirely designed to cooperate with grace. It's the gaping wound to human nature that gets us, but let us never forget that God made us good to begin with. That is who we are meant to be.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Why study the Word?

Not for pride: "Never read the word so that you may appear learned and wise, but study for the mortification of your sins." (Imitation of Christ, Against Vain and Worldly Knowledge). It came to me that I can therefore study with more focus the Gospels, St. James and the other epistlles. It is rather shocking to find that I have been so remiss (mildly put) with flaws that escaped my notice entirely! A lot of mortification, but here I am and it is Lent!

Friday, March 07, 2014

The eternal character of happiness and our short-lived and vain pursuits

The Imitation of Christ says under "Man Must Not Be Immersed in Business" (paraphrased) that when one has obtained some pursuit, even one pursued with great enthusiasm, he/she would subsequently lose interest, since the affections towards the object of desire is not lasting. Perhaps it is in our nature, being finite beings, to flit from one thing to another. This is more true today than it ever was, in prosperous societies where people can afford a great many toys, games, and entertainments. But I note how frivolous it seems to jump at each new "thing"! What happens when no new thing can be found? What if the next new thing is unaffordable? The happiest seem to be those who find something with a lasting character: love, family, a home, a long and stable career. There is no flitting about this way or that. The less temporary the source or object of happiness, the greater the satisfaction, I think. That probably can't be found in a gadget or toy store! I know I have it in my family, much of whom shall simply outlive me, so that is where I should invest my pursuits. It is not a huge family, but counting extended family, my parish, and the entire people of God, that is a huge family. That I have them should fill me with contentment and gratitude!

Sunday, March 02, 2014

An excellent visit with familiy back in the Philippines

Yes it was. Even if we all caught a bug somewhere along the way (no idea if it's Australian, Chinese or Filipino). K2 (Kid#2) weathered it best with just some hoarseness (didn't stop his horsing around). K4 (you get the picture) and I ended up with high fevers, headaches and antibiotics (I'm finishing my third course now). The missus has just stopped coughing a month after we all started. We missed a few visits to places and friends as a result. Probably a third of our 25-day journey was ruined to a certain extent.

But it was a great visit. One of my older brothers came home with his family from overseas. We got together with our sisters and their families. I visited my youngest brother and his family. Cousins got together across my generation and my children's. And of course, shopping in the Philippines is always good.

But this, I think, was what I loved the most: my kids mingling with cousins their age or a few years older, and aunts, uncles, grandparents, grand-aunts, etc, who spoiled them silly. It's that sense of being part of something much bigger that makes these trips worth the cost. Human beings are social animals, we are told. More - better - than that, though, I think we're always members of a family.

Freddie Mercury sang "who wants to live forever?" in the movie, Highlander, many years ago. It's a haunting question for which the answer entirely depends, I think, in whether or not you are isolated or live within a family. Living alone forever is terrible to contemplate. Living forever with a large, boisterous, messy, always interesting and entertaining family is something I'd like to do. Luckily, I need not think of it wishfully. I already am. :-)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Morality, Character and Practice Makes Perfect

Fr. Robert Barron has a fantastic short video on Word on Fire (Youtube) where he talks about the results of our actions, in particular where it concerns sexuality. I can'r find the video now but it appears to be in print form in www.catholiceducation.org/articles/philosophy/ph0056.htm, an article reprinted at Catholiceducation.org. He cites JPII's Love and Responsibility as a reference when he describes the less obvious outcome of every act. Yes, there is usually the obvious consequence, you usually can't miss it. A good example might be an unintended pregnancy, but Fr. Barron discusses the subtle consequences in that video, which might be trivialized or simply get overlooked. That is the gradual undermining of one's character in every act that adds up in the end. Like a bad habit a professional athlete might pick up if not too careful, it pays to note how it can bring that person to ruin in the end.

I often warn my kids: "practice makes perfect." I think this is a good way to explain this gradual erosion of one's moral character. St. Josemaria Escriva notes the Psalmist's imagery of "little foxes" that destroy the vineyard, and that has taken on greater meaning for me when considering, if I'm totally honest with myself, how I backslide and veer off-course gradually if I'm not paying attention.

Things add up: what exactly am I piling up for myself? Practice makes perfect: what am I perfecting? One step at a time: where am I headed anyway? One day at a time; one act at a time: who am I becoming?

Fr. Barron hits the nail on the head when he points our the fallacy of saying to oneself "but deep down inside, I'm a good person." Each act changes who that person is, deep down inside.