Posts Tagged ‘acceptance’

Morning Prayer for Saturday, September 29, 2018 — Keeping With God In a Painful, Suffering World

September 29, 2018

Earthquakes, tsunami, hunger, pain, disease, suffering are all around sometimes. How do we bear it? The way people have for centuries is the answer. We stay together, we pray and we seek God’s help and guidance.

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A woman reacts to the damage in Palu, Indonesia after the earthquake and tsunami, September 28, 2018. (Muhammad Rifki / AFP/Getty Images)

How do I get strength to be effective and to accept responsibility? By asking the Higher Power for the strength I need each day. It has been proved in countless lives that for every day I live, the necessary power shall be given me. I must face each challenge that comes to me during the day, sure that God will give me the strength to face it. For every task that is given me, there is also given me all the power necessary for the performance of that task. I do not need to hold back.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may accept every task as a challenge. I know I cannot wholly fail if God is with me.

From: “Twenty Four Hours a Day”


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Meditation of St. Francis of Assisi 

Morning Prayer for Friday, September 28, 2018 — Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems today

September 28, 2018

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We need to accept the difficulties and disciplines of life so as to fully share the common life of other people. Many things that we must accept in life are not to be taken so much as being necessary for us personally, as to be experienced in order that we may share in the sufferings and problems of humanity. We need sympathy and understanding. We must share many of the experiences of life, in order to understand and sympathize with others. Unless we have been through the same experiences, we cannot understand other people or their makeup well enough to be able to help them.

Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems today


Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may accept everything that comes my way as a part of life. I pray that I may make use of it in helping other people.



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From The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

28 SEPTEMBER, 2018, Friday, 25th Week, Ordinary Time



Like King Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, the preacher to the assembly of God, we find life a bewilderment and a mystery.  When we look at the world today, we cannot but be apprehensive about how society and life are changing.  Since the foundation of the world, no one has ever questioned the sexual identity of human beings as male and female.  No one had ever thought that marriage could be between two men or two women.  Now the world wants us to believe that there is an X gender as well.  Indeed, the foundations of society, founded on the bedrock of marriage and the family as we know it, are breaking down.

Not only that, the values of the different generations are also changing.  Those from the Pioneer and Merdeka generations came from very poor backgrounds. Through sheer hard work they built up Singapore to what it is today.  They valued hard work, sacrifice (for their children and future generations), fidelity in marriage and family.   The Y and Millennial generations were born at a time when Singapore had already achieved affluence.  They are raised by parents who are well educated, attend the best schools, everything is provided for, including domestic servants at their disposal, multiple holidays in a year, etc. Finance is not an issue.  All they want is meaning, purpose and fulfillment in life.  Born in the digital and technological age, they are technologically savvy and au fait with mass and social media.  Their world no longer comprises their little community or village or even the country, but the entire world.  Hence, they are very much more influenced by the values of the world than their own cultural values.

When we look at world events, we find that history is ever-changing.  Life remains a mystery.  Every age or era has to deal with the vicissitudes of life, the ups and downs, the rise and fall of empires, corporations and religions. Whether it is politics, culture or religion, we cannot escape the inevitable changing situation.  Even the Church has gone from a minority to a majority and now on its way to becoming a minority again.  The Church has had her fair share of glory, scandals, purification and renewal.  The truth is that we are not in control.  This is what Solomon was teaching his people.  Indeed, there is a time for everything, whether it is giving birth or dying, planting or uprooting, building or knocking down, tears or laughter, throwing or gathering, war or peace. 

We cannot truly control the events of history and our own.  But the world’s humanists think otherwise. They believe that reason, science and technology can change the world.  Perhaps, they can raise the standard of living and make the world a more luxurious place to live in, but technology cannot change the evil and selfish hearts of people.  It is in the heart that happiness, peace, joy and love are found; not in things, no matter how much we have of them.  In fact, because technology is blind, when used by people without wisdom, it has the power to destroy humanity, the family and the entire human race and the planet as well.

We must in humble adoration just surrender to God. As the author of Ecclesiastes reflected, “I contemplate the task that God gives mankind to labour at.  All that he does is apt for its time; but though he has permitted man to consider time in its wholeness, man cannot comprehend the work of God from beginning to end.”  St Paul also surrendered himself to God’s wisdom and plans. “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return?’  For from him and through him and to him are all things. Amen. (Rom 11:33-36)

This does not mean that we should cop out of the world.  Rather, we are called to cooperate with His divine plans for humanity, doing what we can and leaving the rest to Him.  We should not seek to take control of the world, of the destiny of our children and of society.  We should not be too disappointed because things are not going the way we think they should.  There is this deep desire in us to control and make things happen according to our ways.  However, the truth is that the wisdom and plan of God is beyond human grasping.  Isaiah says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  (Isa 55:8f)

The gospel clearly reiterates this truth.  After the profession of faith in Christ as the “Christ of God”, the Lord instructed the disciples, giving them “strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.  ‘The Son of Man’ he said ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’”  Why did Jesus forbid the apostles to reveal to others that He was the Christ of God?  This was because the Jews believed that the Messiah to come was a political and revolutionary messiah.  He would deliver the people their enemies, especially the Romans, in a triumphant and victorious battle.

Again, Jesus shattered their vain speculation on how the Messiah could establish the Kingdom of God.  He spoke of His imminent suffering, rejection, death and resurrection.  He repeated this twice to them saying, “‘Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.’  But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.”  (Lk 9:44f)  The way of God is through the suffering and death of His Son.  By dying, Jesus conquered hatred with love of sinners, death with life.  In putting death to death, we too have conquered the fear of death and we look forward to eternal life.  Jesus surrendered His life to the Father in faith at the cross, trusting that somehow the Father would bring His mission to fruition not in His way but in God’s way.

Indeed, the way to life, as Jesus tells us, is to carry our own cross daily.   Following the passion prophecy, the Lord invited His disciples to follow Him accordingly.  He said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” In other words, as the Preacher tells us, we simply have to do what we can, each in our own way.   We just do our best. We do not withdraw from life by giving up on the world or on God but we continue to do our part in making this world a better place according to our means and ability, leaving the rest to God, for He is in charge.

However, for this to happen, we must first confess in Christ as the Son of God. Unless our faith is founded on Christ, we will not have the courage to surrender in faith to God’s wisdom and divine providence.  If we could say with Peter that He is the Christ, then with the psalmist, we can confess confidently that God is our rock.  “Blessed be the Lord, my rock.  He is my love, my fortress; he is my stronghold, my saviour my shield, my place of refuge. Lord, what is man that you care for him, mortal man, that you keep him in mind; man, who is merely a breath whose life fades like a passing shadow?”  With God on our side, then we should not fear even when all odds are against us.  “Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.”  (Habakkuk 3:17f)

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

Morning Prayer for Tuesday, September 4, 2018 — Praying for Inner Peace

September 4, 2018

Calm my anxious spirit, Lord — Take away my needless worry. Allow me to become a better person each day. Relieve me of the need to solve the cruelty, injustice and wrongs of the world. Teach me humility, forgiveness and the joy of life again.

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Above: Protests in Russia

Meditation for the Day

Do not become encumbered by petty annoyances. Never respond to emotional upsets by emotional upset. Try to keep calm in all circumstances. Try not to fight back. Call on the grace of God to calm you when you feel like retaliating. Look to God for the inner strength to drop those resentments that drag you down. If you are burdened by annoyances, you will lose your inward peace and the spirit of God will be shut out. Try to keep peaceful within.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may do the things that make for peace. I pray that I may have a mission of conciliation.


See also:

Prayer For Inner Peace

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Morning Prayer For Friday, August 31, 2018 — Accepting Other Human Beings Just As They Are Gives Us Peace of Soul

August 31, 2018

“God, Please grant me a peaceful heart and soul. Allow me to accept that each and every human being is exactly the way you want them to be at this moment….”

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Acceptance is the answer to ALL of my problems today.

When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation- some fact of my life- unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake.

— From The Big Book of Alcoholic Anonymous


The Five Stages of of Grief and How Hillary Clinton is Hurting the Democratic Party

May 29, 2018

A Message from David Kessler

I was privileged to co-author two books with the legendary, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, as well as adapt her well-respected stages of dying for those in grief. As expected, the stages would present themselves differently in grief. In our book, On Grief and Grieving we present the adapted stages in the much needed area of grief. The stages have evolved since their introduction and have been very misunderstood over the past four decades. They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss as there is no typical loss.

The five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order. Our hope is that with these stages comes the knowledge of grief ‘s terrain, making us better equipped to cope with life and loss. At times, people in grief will often report more stages. Just remember your grief is an unique as you are.

Read a little about each of the Five Stages here:


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Hillary Clinton, wearing a coat in shirt sleve weather, Memorail Day, 2018.

As we are already amid the primaries for the midterm elections, it may be time for Democrats to seeks some serous help for and from Hillary Clinton. She seems stuck in the first stage of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ famous “Five Stages of Grief,” which is denial.

Any psychologist can tell you, denial for over a year, and a very public denial of the sort Hillary Clinton is displaying, helps no one. It is just a place to get stuck on the road to acceptance.

It is a cry for help.

A little introspection may be in order. If it’s too late for that: some guys in white coats can probably help.

Many psychologists can also tell you that people grieve over all sorts of things: lost jobs, lost dogs, even the death of a loved one.  In this case, Hillary’s “loved one” seems to be international acclaim — something she may have achieved from the White House. But now, after demonstrating an unusual and prolonged inability to “get it,” she may be more a candidate for psychiatric care than higher political office.

Meaning, after over a year of public mental illness, she may never be able to find any kind of acclaim at all. In fact, members of her own party are now praying she leaves the stage in order to actually help the Democratic Party.

We feel sorry for Hillary Clinton.

All she had to do was “Let Trump be Trump” and to show a few molecules of grace in defeat and she would almost certainly have gained followers. She may have had another shot at the top job. Or she might have been a “Kingmaker.”

Not she is just a loser. And a bad loser at that.

Members of both parties are now wondering about the mental health of America’s leaders.

If Hillary had only been graceful in defeat, the character defects of Donald Trump could have been the only show in town.

Peace and Freedom


Mark Bowden on How to Deal with North Korea

August 12, 2017

There are no good options. But some are worse than others.



The Atlantic

Thirty minutes. That’s about how long it would take a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launched from North Korea to reach Los Angeles. With the powers in Pyongyang working doggedly toward making this possible—building an ICBM and shrinking a nuke to fit on it—analysts now predict that Kim Jong Un will have the capability before Donald Trump completes one four-year term.

About which the president has tweeted, simply, “It won’t happen!”

Though given to reckless oaths, Trump is not in this case saying anything that departs significantly from the past half century of futile American policy toward North Korea. Preventing the Kim dynasty from having a nuclear device was an American priority long before Pyongyang exploded its first nuke, in 2006, during the administration of George W. Bush. The Kim regime detonated four more while Barack Obama was in the White House. In the more than four decades since Richard Nixon held office, the U.S. has tried to control North Korea by issuing threats, conducting military exercises, ratcheting up diplomatic sanctions, leaning on China, and most recently, it seems likely, committing cybersabotage.

For his part, Trump has also tweeted that North Korea is “looking for trouble” and that he intends to “solve the problem.” His administration has leaked plans for a “decapitation strike” that would target Kim, which seems like the very last thing a country ought to announce in advance.

None of which, we should all pray, will amount to much. Ignorant of the long history of the problem, Trump at least brings fresh eyes to it. But he is going to collide with the same harsh truth that has stymied all his recent predecessors: There are no good options for dealing with North Korea. Meanwhile, he is enthusiastically if unwittingly playing the role assigned to him by the comic-book-style foundation myth of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The myth holds that Korea and the Kim dynasty are one and the same. It is built almost entirely on the promise of standing up to a powerful and menacing foreign enemy. The more looming the threat—and Trump excels at looming—the better the narrative works for Kim Jong Un. Nukes are needed to repel this threat. They are the linchpin of North Korea’s defensive strategy, the single weapon standing between barbarian hordes and the glorious destiny of the Korean people—all of them, North and South. Kim is the great leader, heir to divinely inspired ancestors who descended from Mount Paektu with mystical, magical powers of leadership, vision, diplomatic savvy, and military genius. Like his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather Kim Il Sung before him, Kim is the anointed defender of all Koreans, who are the purest of all races. Even South Korea, the Republic of Korea, should be thankful for Kim because, if not for him, the United States would have invaded long ago.

Even failed tests move North Korea closer to its goal—possessing nuclear weapons capable of hitting U.S. cities.

This racist mythology and belief in the supernatural status of the Mount Paektu bloodline defines North Korea, and illustrates how unlikely it is that diplomatic pressure will ever persuade the present Dear Leader to back down. Right now the best hope for keeping the country from becoming an operational nuclear power rests, as it long has, with China, which may or may not have enough economic leverage to influence Kim’s policy making—and which also may not particularly want to do so, since having a friendly neighbor making trouble for Washington and Seoul serves Beijing’s interests nicely at times.

American sabotage has likely played a role in Pyongyang’s string of failed missile launches in recent years. According to David E. Sanger and William J. Broad of The New York Times, as the U.S. continued its covert cyberprogram last year, 88 percent of North Korea’s flight tests of its intermediate-range Musudan missiles ended in failure. Given that these missiles typically exploded, sometimes scattering in pieces into the sea, determining the precise cause—particularly for experts outside North Korea—is impossible. Failure is a big part of missile development, and missiles can blow up on their own for plenty of reasons, but the percentage of failures certainly suggests sabotage. The normal failure rate for developmental missile tests, according to The Times, is about 5 to 10 percent. It’s also possible that the sabotage program is not computer-related; it might, for instance, involve more old-fashioned techniques such as feeding faulty parts into the missiles’ supply chain. If sabotage of any kind is behind the failures, however, no one expects it to do more than slow progress. Even failed tests move Pyongyang closer to its announced goal: possessing nuclear weapons capable of hitting U.S. cities.

Kim’s regime may be evil and deluded, but it’s not stupid. It has made sure that the whole world knows its aims, and it has carried out public demonstrations of its progress, which double as a thumb in the eye of the U.S. and South Korea. The regime has also moved its medium-range No-dong and Scud missiles out of testing and into active service, putting on displays that show their reach—which now extends to South Korean port cities and military sites, as well as to the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, Japan. In mid-May, the regime successfully fired a missile that traveled, in a high arc, farther than one ever had before: 1,300 miles, into the Sea of Japan. Missile experts say it could have traveled 3,000 miles, well past American forces stationed in Guam, if the trajectory had been lower. Jeffrey Lewis, an arms-control expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, wrote in Foreign Policy in March:

North Korea’s military exercises leave little doubt that Pyongyang plans to use large numbers of nuclear weapons against U.S. forces throughout Japan and South Korea to blunt an invasion. In fact, the word that official North Korean statements use is “repel.” North Korean defectors have claimed that the country’s leaders hope that by inflicting mass casualties and destruction in the early days of a conflict, they can force the United States and South Korea to recoil from their invasion.
This isn’t new. This threat has been present for more than 20 years. “It is widely known inside North Korea that [the nation] has produced, deployed, and stockpiled two or three nuclear warheads and toxic material, such as over 5,000 tons of toxic gases,” Choi Ju-hwal, a North Korean colonel who defected, told a U.S. Senate subcommittee in 1997. “By having these weapons, the North is able to prevent itself from being slighted by such major powers as the United States, Russia, China, and Japan, and also they are able to gain the upper hand in political negotiations and talks with those superpowers.”

For years North Korea has had extensive batteries of conventional artillery—an estimated 8,000 big guns—just north of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), which is less than 40 miles from Seoul, South Korea’s capital, a metropolitan area of more than 25 million people. One high-ranking U.S. military officer who commanded forces in the Korean theater, now retired, told me he’d heard estimates that if a grid were laid across Seoul dividing it into three-square-foot blocks, these guns could, within hours, “pepper every single one.” This ability to rain ruin on the city is a potent existential threat to South Korea’s largest population center, its government, and its economic anchor. Shells could also deliver chemical and biological weapons. Adding nuclear ICBMs to this arsenal would put many more cities in the same position as Seoul. Nuclear-tipped ICBMs, according to Lewis, are the final piece of a defensive strategy “to keep Trump from doing anything regrettable after Kim Jong Un obliterates Seoul and Tokyo.”

To understand how the standoff between Pyongyang and the world became so dire, it helps to go back to the country’s founding.

How should the United States proceed?

What to do about North Korea has been an intractable problem for decades. Although shooting stopped in 1953, Pyongyang insists that the Korean War never ended. It maintains as an official policy goal the reunification of the Korean peninsula under the Kim dynasty.

As tensions flared in recent months, fanned by bluster from both Washington and Pyongyang, I talked with a number of national-security experts and military officers who have wrestled with the problem for years, and who have held responsibility to plan and prepare for real conflict. Among those I spoke with were former officials from the White House, the National Security Council, and the Pentagon; military officers who have commanded forces in the region; and academic experts.

From these conversations, I learned that the U.S. has four broad strategic options for dealing with North Korea and its burgeoning nuclear program.

1. Prevention: A crushing U.S. military strike to eliminate Pyongyang’s arsenals of mass destruction, take out its leadership, and destroy its military. It would end North Korea’s standoff with the United States and South Korea, as well as the Kim dynasty, once and for all.

2. Turning the screws: A limited conventional military attack—or more likely a continuing series of such attacks—using aerial and naval assets, and possibly including narrowly targeted Special Forces operations. These would have to be punishing enough to significantly damage North Korea’s capability—but small enough to avoid being perceived as the beginning of a preventive strike. The goal would be to leave Kim Jong Un in power, but force him to abandon his pursuit of nuclear ICBMs.

3. Decapitation: Removing Kim and his inner circle, most likely by assassination, and replacing the leadership with a more moderate regime willing to open North Korea to the rest of the world.

4. Acceptance: The hardest pill to swallow—acquiescing to Kim’s developing the weapons he wants, while continuing efforts to contain his ambition.

Let’s consider each option. All of them are bad.

1 | Prevention

An all-out attack on North Korea would succeed. The U.S. and South Korea are fully capable of defeating its military forces and toppling the Kim dynasty.

For sheer boldness and clarity, this is the option that would play best to President Trump’s base. (Some campaign posters for Trump boasted, finally someone with balls.) But to work, a preventive strike would require the most massive U.S. military attack since the first Korean War—a commitment of troops and resources far greater than any seen by most Americans and Koreans alive today.

What makes a decisive first strike attractive is the fact that Kim’s menace is growing. Whatever the ghastly toll in casualties a peninsular war would produce today, multiply it exponentially once Kim obtains nuclear ICBMs. Although North Korea already has a million-man army, chemical and biological weapons, and a number of nuclear bombs, its current striking range is strictly regional. A sudden hammer blow before Kim’s capabilities go global is precisely the kind of solution that might tempt Trump.

Being able to reach U.S. territory with a nuclear weapon—right now the only adversarial powers with that ability are Russia and China—would make North Korea, because of its volatility, the biggest direct threat to American security in the world. Trump’s assertion of “America First” would seem to provide a rationale for drastic action regardless of the consequences to South Koreans, Japanese, and other people in the area. By Trumpian logic, the cost of all-out war might be acceptable if the war remains on the other side of the world—a thought that ought to keep South Koreans and Japanese up at night. The definition of “acceptable losses” depends heavily on whose population is doing the dying.

The brightest hope of prevention is that it could be executed so swiftly and decisively that North Korea would not have time to respond. This is a fantasy.

An American first strike would likely trigger one of the worst mass killings in human history.
“When you’re discussing nuclear issues and the potential of a nuclear attack, even a 1 percent chance of failure has potentially catastrophically high costs,” Abe Denmark, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia under Barack Obama, told me in May. “You could get people who will give you General Buck Turgidson’s line from Dr. Strangelove,” he said, referring to the character played by George C. Scott in Stanley Kubrick’s classic film, who glibly acknowledges the millions of lives likely to be lost in a nuclear exchange by telling the president, “I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed.”

Kim’s arsenal is a tough target. “It’s not possible that you get 100 percent of it with high confidence, for a couple of reasons,” Michèle Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense in the Obama administration and currently the CEO of the Center for a New American Security, told me when we spoke this spring. “One reason is, I don’t believe anybody has perfect intelligence about where all the nuclear weapons are. Two, I think there is an expectation that, when they do ultimately deploy nuclear weapons, they will likely put them on mobile systems, which are harder to find, track, and target. Some may also be in hardened shelters or deep underground. So it’s a difficult target set—not something that could be destroyed in a single bolt-from-the-blue attack.”

North Korea is a forbidding, mountainous place, its terrain perfect for hiding and securing things. Ever since 1953, the country’s security and the survival of the Kim dynasty have relied on military stalemate. Resisting the American threat—surviving a first strike with the ability to respond—has been a cornerstone of the country’s military strategy for three generations.

And with only a few of its worst weapons, North Korea could, probably within hours, kill millions. This means an American first strike would likely trigger one of the worst mass killings in human history. In 2005, Sam Gardiner, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who specialized in conducting war games at the National War College, estimated that the use of sarin gas alone would produce 1 million casualties. Gardiner now says, in light of what we have learned from gas attacks on civilians in Syria, that the number would likely be three to five times greater. And today North Korea has an even wider array of chemical and biological weapons than it did 12 years ago—the recent assassination of Kim’s half brother, Kim Jong Nam, demonstrated the potency of at least one compound, the nerve agent VX. The Kim regime is believed to have biological weapons including anthrax, botulism, hemorrhagic fever, plague, smallpox, typhoid, and yellow fever. And it has missiles capable of reaching Tokyo, a metropolitan area of nearly 38 million. In other words, any effort to crush North Korea flirts not just with heavy losses, but with one of the greatest catastrophes in human history.

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Pyongyang, April 15, 2017: North Korean ballistic missiles pass through Kim Il Sung Square
during a military parade. In recent years, the rate at which the Kim regime has launched test missiles has increased. (STR / AFP / Getty)

Kim would bear the greatest share of responsibility for such a catastrophe, but for the U.S. to force his hand with a first strike, to do so without severe provocation or an immediate and dire threat, would be not only foolhardy but morally indefensible. That this decision now rests with Donald Trump, who has not shown abundant capacity for moral judgment, is not reassuring.

If mass civilian killings were not a factor—if the war were a military contest alone—South Korea by itself could defeat its northern cousin. It would be a lopsided fight. South Korea’s economy is the world’s 11th-largest, and in recent decades the country has competed with Saudi Arabia for the distinction of being the No. 1 arms buyer. And behind South Korea stands the formidable might of the U.S. military.

But lopsided does not necessarily mean easy. The combined air power would rapidly defeat North Korea’s air force, but would face ground-to-air missiles—a gantlet far more treacherous than anything American pilots have encountered since Vietnam. In the American method of modern war, which depends on control of the skies, a large number of aircraft are aloft over the battlefield at once—fighters, bombers, surveillance planes, drones, and flying command and control platforms. Maintaining this flying armada would require eliminating Pyongyang’s defenses.

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Locating and securing North Korea’s nuclear stockpiles and heavy weapons would take longer. Some years ago, Thomas McInerney, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and a Fox News military analyst who has been an outspoken advocate of a preventive strike, estimated with remarkable optimism that eliminating North Korea’s military threat would take 30 to 60 days.

But let’s suppose (unrealistically) that a preventive strike did take out every single one of Kim’s missiles and artillery batteries. That still leaves his huge, well-trained, and well-equipped army. A ground war against it would likely be more difficult than the first Korean War. In David Halberstam’s book The Coldest Winter, he described the memories of Herbert “Pappy” Miller, a sergeant with the First Cavalry Division, after a battle with North Korean troops near the village of Taejon in 1950:

No matter how well you fought, there were always more. Always. They would slip behind you, cut off your avenue of retreat, and then they would hit you on the flanks. They were superb at that, Miller thought. The first wave or two would come at you with rifles, and right behind them were soldiers without rifles ready to pick up the weapons of those who had fallen and keep coming. Against an army with that many men, everyone, he thought, needed an automatic weapon.

Today, American soldiers would all have automatic weapons—but so would the enemy. The North Koreans would not just make a frontal assault, either, the way they did in 1950. They are believed to have tunnels stretching under the DMZ and into South Korea. Special forces could be inserted almost anywhere in South Korea by tunnel, aircraft, boat, or the North Korean navy’s fleet of miniature submarines. They could wreak havoc on American and South Korean air operations and defenses, and might be able to smuggle a nuclear device to detonate under Seoul itself. And for those America Firsters who might view Asian losses as acceptable, consider that there are also some 30,000 Americans on the firing lines—and that even if those lives are deemed expendable, another immediate casualty of all-out war in Korea would likely be South Korea’s booming economy, whose collapse would be felt in markets all over the world.

So the cost of even a perfect first strike would be appalling. In 1969, long before Pyongyang had missiles or nukes, the risks were bad enough that Richard Nixon—hardly a man timid about using force—opted against retaliating after two North Korean aircraft shot down a U.S. spy plane, killing all 31 Americans on board.

Jim Walsh is a senior research associate at the MIT Security Studies Program and a board member of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. I talked with him this spring, as tensions between North Korea and the U.S. escalated. “I had a friend who just returned from Seoul, where he had a chance to talk with U.S. Forces Korea—uniformed military officers—and he asked them, ‘Do you have a capability to remove North Korea’s nuclear weapons?’ And the response was ‘Can we use nuclear weapons or not?’ ”

Putting aside the irony of using nuclear weapons to prevent the use of nuclear weapons, the answer Walsh got in that scenario was still: No guarantee.

“If we don’t get everything, then we have a really pissed-off adversary who possesses nuclear weapons who has just been attacked,” Walsh said. “It’s not clear even with nukes that you could get all the artillery. And if you did use nukes, is that something South Korea is going to sign up for? There’s three minutes’ flight time from just north of the DMZ to Seoul. Do you really want to be dropping nuclear weapons that close to our ally’s capital? Think of the radioactive fallout. If you don’t take out all the batteries, then you have thousands of munitions raining down on Seoul. So I don’t get how an all-out attack works.” Even if a U.S. president could get Americans to support such an attack, Walsh added, the South Koreans would likely object. “All the fighting is going to happen on Korean soil. So it seems to me the South Koreans should certainly have a say in this. I don’t see them signing off.”

Especially not now, with the election in May of Moon Jae-in as president. Moon is a liberal who has said he might be willing to reopen talks with Pyongyang and, far from endorsing aggressive action, has criticized the recent deployment around Seoul of America’s thaad (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missiles, which are designed to intercept incoming missiles.

These aren’t the only problems with a preventive strike. To be effective, it would depend on surprise, on delivering the maximum amount of force as quickly as possible—which would in turn require a significant buildup of U.S. forces in the region. At the start of the Iraq War, American warplanes flew about 800 sorties a day. An all-out attack on North Korea, a far more formidable military power than Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, would almost certainly require more. In order to resist a ground invasion of South Korea, the U.S. would need to bolster the assets currently in place. U.S. Special Forces would need to be positioned to go after crucial nuclear sites and missile platforms; ships would have to be stationed in the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea. It’s highly improbable that all of this could happen without attracting Pyongyang’s notice. One of the things North Korea is better at than its southern neighbor is spying; recruiting and running spies is much easier in a free society than in a totalitarian one.

But suppose, just for argument’s sake, that a preventive strike could work without any of the collateral damage I’ve been describing. Suppose that U.S. forces could be positioned secretly, and that President Moon were on board. Suppose, further, that Pyongyang’s nukes could be disabled swiftly, its artillery batteries completely silenced, its missile platforms flattened, its leadership taken out—all before a counterstrike of any consequence could be made. And suppose still further that North Korea’s enormous army could be rapidly defeated, and that friendly casualties would remain surprisingly low, and that South Korea’s economy would not be significantly hurt. And suppose yet further that China and Russia agreed to sit on the sidelines and watch their longtime ally fall. Then Kim Jong Un, with his bad haircut and his legion of note-taking, big-hat-wearing, kowtowing generals, would be gone. South Korea’s fear of invasion from the North, gone. The menace of the state’s using chemical and biological weapons, gone. The nuclear threat, gone.

Such a stunning outcome would be a mighty triumph indeed! It would be a truly awesome display of American power and know-how.

What would be left? North Korea, a country of more than 25 million people, would be adrift. Immediate humanitarian relief would be necessary to prevent starvation and disease. An interim government would have to be put in place. If Iraq was a hard country to occupy and rebuild, imagine a suddenly stateless North Korea, possibly irradiated and toxic, its economy and infrastructure in ruins. There could still be hidden stockpiles of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons scattered around the country, which would have to be found and secured before terrorists got to them. “Success,” in other words, would create the largest humanitarian crisis of modern times—Syria’s miseries would be a playground scuffle by comparison. Contemplating such a collapse in The Atlantic back in 2006, Robert D. Kaplan wrote that dealing with it “could present the world—meaning, really, the American military—with the greatest stabilization operation since the end of World War II.”

How long would it be before bands of armed fighters from Kim’s shattered army began taking charge, like Afghan warlords, in remote regions of the country? How long before they began targeting American occupation forces? Imagine China and South Korea beset by millions of desperate refugees. Would China sit still for a unified, American-allied Korea on its border? Having broken North Korea, the U.S. would own it for many, many years to come. Which would not be easy, or pretty.

The ensuing chaos and carnage and ongoing cost might just make America miss Kim Jong Un’s big-bellied strut.

Which brings us to the second option.

2 | Turning the Screws

What if the United States aimed to punish Pyongyang without provoking a full-on war—to leave Kim Jong Un in power and the North Korean state intact, but without a nuclear arsenal?

Given all the saber-rattling in Washington, but also the enormous downsides to a preventive strike, this middle route seems to be the most likely option that involves using force. The strategy would be to respond to the next North Korean affront—a nuclear test or missile launch or military attack—sharply enough to get Pyongyang’s full attention. The strike would have to set back the regime’s efforts significantly without looking like the start of an all-out, preventive war. If Kim responded with a counterattack, another, perhaps more devastating, American blow would follow. The hope is that this process might convince him that the U.S., as Trump has promised, will not allow him to succeed in developing a weapons program capable of threatening the American mainland.

This pattern of dealing with North Korea is an amped-up version of what Sydney A. Seiler, a North Korea expert who spent decades at the CIA, the National Security Council, and elsewhere, has called the “provocation cycle”: Pyongyang does something outrageous—such as its first successful nuclear test, in 2006—and then, having inflamed fears of war, offers to return to disarmament negotiations. When Pyongyang returned to talks in 2007, the Bush administration agreed to release illicit North Korean funds that had been frozen in Macau’s Banco Delta Asia bank—effectively rewarding Kim for his nuclear defiance.

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Baengnyeong Island, South Korea, April 24, 2010: A crane salvages the South Korean warship Cheonan, which sank following a mysterious explosion near the disputed sea border with North Korea, leaving 46 crew members dead. (Jin Sung-chul / AP)

The Obama administration attempted to break this cycle. When North Korea sank the South Korean warship Cheonan with a torpedo in 2010, killing 46 of the vessel’s 104 crew members, South Korea imposed a near-total trade embargo on the North—the most serious response short of a military strike—and refused to reenter disarmament talks without a formal apology. Obama pursued a policy of “strategic patience,” using no force but also offering no concessions to restore good feelings and in fact working through regional allies to further isolate and punish Pyongyang. By stepping out of the provocation/charm cycle, the hope was that North Korea would behave like a more responsible nation. It didn’t work, or hasn’t worked—some feel that the effects of economic sanctions have yet to fully play out. Conservatives, and Donald Trump, tend to regard “strategic patience” as a failure. So why not radically turn the screws? The way to stop someone from calling your bluff is to stop bluffing.

An opening salvo would likely hit important nuclear sites or missile launchers. Perhaps the most tempting and obvious target is the nuclear test site at Punggye-ri, which made news in April when satellite images looking for signs of an expected underground detonation instead found North Korean soldiers playing volleyball. Another major piece of the nuclear program is the reactor at Yongbyon, which produces plutonium. Hitting either site would do more than send a message; it would impede Kim’s bomb program (although North Korea already has stockpiles of plutonium). The strikes themselves would be risky—radioactive material might be released, which would certainly draw widespread (and justified) international condemnation. Targeting missile launchers would entail less risk, but would require a larger and more complex mission, given the number of launchers that would need to be destroyed and the defenses around them.

Choosing how and where to strike would be a delicate thing. If the U.S. went after all or most of North Korea’s launchers at once, it might look to Pyongyang like an all-out attack, and trigger an all-out response. Targeting too few would advertise a reluctance to fully engage, which would just invite further provocation.

Key to the limited strike is the pause that comes after. Kim and his generals would have time to think. Some analysts feel that, in this scenario, he would be unlikely to unleash a devastating attack on Seoul.

But the threat of Seoul’s destruction by North Korean artillery “really constrains people, and it’s really hard to combat,” says John Plumb, a Navy submarine officer who served as a director of defense policy and strategy for the National Security Council during the Obama administration. “If I were the Trump administration, I would be looking at the threat to incinerate Seoul and trying to figure out how real it is. Because to me, it’s become such a catchphrase, and it almost—it starts to lose credibility. Attacking Seoul, a civilian population center, is different from attacking a remote military outpost. It’s dicey, there’s no doubt about it.”

The problem with trying to turn the screws on Pyongyang is that once the shooting starts, containing it may be extremely difficult. Any limited strike would almost certainly start an escalating cycle of attack/counterattack. Owing to miscalculation or misunderstanding, it could readily devolve into the full-scale peninsular war described earlier. For the strategy to work, Pyongyang would have to recognize America’s intent from the outset—and that is not a given. The country has a hair-trigger sensitivity to threat, and has been anticipating a big American invasion for more than half a century. As Jim Walsh of MIT’s Security Studies Program points out, just because America might consider an action limited doesn’t guarantee North Korea will see it that way.

And once the violence begins, North Korea would have an advantage, in that its people have no say in the matter. The death and misery of North Koreans would just be one more chapter in decades of misrule. The effects of North Korean strikes in the free society to the south would be a far different thing. The introduction of thaad missiles earlier this year brought thousands of protesters into the streets, where they clashed with police. It would be much harder for Moon and Trump to stoically absorb punishment in any protracted test of wills. And North Korea would have more to lose by folding first. For Kim and his generals, the endgame would require abandoning the linchpin of their national-defense strategy.

Pyongyang is, if anything, inclined to exaggerate threat. According to a 2013 analysis by Scott A. Snyder, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, the regime “thrives on crisis and gains internal support from crisis situations.” Trump may believe it serves his purposes to be seen as dangerously erratic, but he is surrounded by relatively responsible military and congressional leaders and is presumably bound to act in concert with South Korea, which would be loath to act rashly. The American president can fulminate all he likes on Twitter, but he has constraints. Kim does not. His inner circle is regularly thinned by one-way trips to the firing range; lord help anyone who—forget about voicing an objection—fails to clap and cheer his pronouncements with enough enthusiasm. His power is absolute, and pugnacity is central to it. He may be one of the few people on Earth capable of out-blustering Trump. And he has repeatedly backed up his words with force, from the sinking of the Cheonan in 2010 to the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island that same year, in response to South Korean military exercises there. It takes far less than an actual military strike to set him off. Kim recently threatened to sink the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, which arrived in the region in April.

Sinking an aircraft carrier is hard. Kim’s forces would first have to find it, which, despite satellite technology, is not easy. Neither is hitting it, even for a very sophisticated military. But suppose North Korea did manage to find and attack an aircraft carrier. If tensions can be cranked this high just by sailing a carrier into Korean waters, imagine how fast things might escalate when actual shooting starts.

“If I am sitting in Pyongyang, and I think you are coming after me, I’ve got minutes to decide if this is an all-out attack, and if I wait, I lose,” Jim Walsh told me. “So it’s use nuclear weapons or lose them—which makes for an itchy trigger finger. The idea that the U.S. and South Korea are going to have a limited strike that the North Koreans are going to perceive as limited, and that they are willing to stand by and let happen, especially given the rhetorical context in which this has been playing out, complete with repeated, stupid statements about ‘decapitation’—I can’t see it happening.”

Even if Kim did perceive limited intent in a first strike, he would readily and correctly interpret the effort as an assault on his nuclear arsenal, and perhaps the initial steps on a road to regime change. Under those circumstances, with the fate of Seoul in the balance, which side would likely blink first?

Maybe Kim would. It’s possible. But given the nature of his regime and his own short history as Dear Leader, it would have to be considered a small chance. More likely is that a limited-intent first strike would slide quickly into exactly what it was designed to prevent.

3 | Decapitation

The third option has Hollywood appeal: Target Kim Jong Un himself and overthrow the dynasty.

South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo said earlier this year that his country was preparing a “special brigade” to remove the North’s wartime command structure. During military exercises in March, U.S. and South Korean troops took part in a rehearsal for a strike like this. That same month, the South Korean newspaper Korea JoongAng Daily reported that a U.S. Navy seal team had been deployed to train for just such a mission. In May, the North Korean government announced that it had foiled an assassination plot hatched by the CIA and South Korea’s National Intelligence Service.

The latter two claims have been officially denied, but decapitation is almost certainly being considered. The U.S.–South Korea war strategy, OPLAN 5015, portions of which have leaked to the South Korean press, calls for strikes targeting the country’s leaders. Any U.S. plot would be a breach of long-standing American policy—an executive order bans the assassination of foreign leaders. But such an order can be rewritten by whoever presides in the White House.

A former senior adviser to the White House on national security, who asked not to be named, told me recently: “Decapitation does seem to be a way to get out of this problem. If a new North Korean leader could arise who is willing to denuclearize and be somewhat of a normal actor, it might lead us out. But there are so many wild cards involved that I’ve been reluctant to endorse that approach so far.”

For a plot against Kim to succeed, it would most likely have to be initiated from inside Kim’s circle. It would be exceedingly difficult, even for a suicidal team of special operators, to get close enough to Kim to kill him, given the closed nature of the North Korean state and the security that surrounds him. Unless it came during a scheduled public appearance (when defenses would be on high alert), an aerial attack by cruise missile or drone would depend on accurate and timely intelligence regarding his whereabouts, something that only an insider could provide. Americans have successfully hunted down and killed al-Qaeda and Islamic State leaders with the aid of drones, which can conduct long-term, detailed surveillance and provide timely precision strikes. But the use of drones for these purposes depends on complete control of airspace. They are slow-moving and electronically noisy, so they are relatively easy to shoot down—and North Korea’s air defenses are robust.

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Pyongyang, April 15, 2017: Kim Jong Un arrives for a military parade marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of his grandfather Kim Il Sung. The Kim regime displayed a panoply of new missiles for the occasion—but the test-firing of a missile the next day failed, perhaps as a result of American sabotage. (STR / AFP / Getty)

If China were sufficiently fed up with its belligerent neighbor, however, it might be capable of recruiting conspirators in Pyongyang. Money or the promise of power might be enough to turn someone in Kim’s inner circle, where his practice of having people executed is bound to have sown ill will and a desire for revenge. But the tyrant’s menace cuts both ways. It would be a terribly risky undertaking for anyone involved.

The consequences could also be disastrous: Given the reverence accorded Kim, his sudden death might trigger an automatic military response. And what guarantees are there that his replacement wouldn’t be worse?

Without some sense of what would follow, in both the short and long term, decapitation would be a huge gamble. You don’t play dice with nukes.

4 | Acceptance

Unless Kim Jong Un is killed and replaced by someone better, or some miracle of diplomacy occurs, or some shattering peninsular conflict intervenes, North Korea will eventually build ICBMs armed with nuclear warheads. In the words of one retired senior U.S. military commander: “It’s a done deal.”

Acceptance is likely because there are no good military options where North Korea is concerned. As frightening as it is to contemplate a Kim regime that can successfully strike the United States, accepting such a scenario means living with things only slightly worse than they are right now.

Pyongyang has long had the means to all but level Seoul, and weapons capable of killing tens of thousands of Americans stationed in South Korea—far more than those killed by al-Qaeda on September 11, 2001, an atrocity that spurred the U.S. to invade two countries and led to 16 years of war. Right now North Korea has missiles that could reach Japan (and possibly Guam) with weapons of mass destruction. The world is already accustomed to dealing with a North Korea capable of sowing unthinkable mayhem.

Every option the United States has for dealing with North Korea is bad. But accepting it as a nuclear power may be the least bad.

Pyongyang has been constrained by the same logic that has stayed the use of nuclear arms for some 70 years. Their use would invite swift annihilation. In the Cold War this brake was called mad (mutual assured destruction). In this case the brake on North Korea would be simply ad: assured destruction, since any launch of a nuclear weapon would invite an annihilating response; even though its missiles might hit North America, it cannot destroy the United States.

There is already a close-to-even chance that, in the 30 minutes it would take a North Korean ICBM to reach the West Coast of the United States, the missile would be intercepted and destroyed. But the other way of looking at those odds is that such a missile would have a close-to-even chance of hitting an American city.

This is terrible to ponder, but Americans lived with a far, far greater threat for almost half a century. Throughout the Cold War, the U.S. faced the potential for complete destruction. I was one of the kids who performed civil-defense drills in the 1950s, ducking under my school desk while sirens wailed. During the Cuban missile crisis, the possibility seemed imminent enough that I plotted the fastest route from school to home. The threat of nuclear attack is a feature of the modern world, and one that has grown far less existential to Americans over time.

It is expensive to build an atom bomb, and very hard to build one small enough to ride in a missile. It is also hard to build an ICBM. But these are all old technologies. The know-how exists and is widespread. Preventing a terrorist group from acquiring such a weapon may be possible, but when a nation—whether North Korea or Iran or any other—commits itself to the goal, stopping it is virtually impossible. A deal to halt Iran’s nuclear program was doable only because that country has extensive trading and banking ties with other nations. The Kim regime’s isolation means that no country besides China can really apply meaningful economic pressure. Persuading a nation to abandon nuclear arms depends less on military strength than on the collective determination of the world, and a decision made by the nation in question.

What’s needed is the proper framework for disarmament—the right collection of incentives and disincentives to render the building of such a weapon a detriment and a waste—so the country decides that abandoning its pursuit of nukes is in its best interest.

It is hard to imagine Pyongyang making such a decision anytime soon, but creating a framework that renders that decision at least conceivable is the only sensible way forward. This is not a hopeless strategy. Over the years Pyongyang, in between its threats and provocations, has more than once dangled offers to freeze its nuclear progress. With the right inducements, Kim very well might decide to change direction. Or he might die. He’s an obese young man with bad habits, a family history of heart trouble, and a personal record of poor health. In such a system, things might change—for better or worse—overnight.

Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s new president, wants to steer his country away from confrontation with Pyongyang, and possibly open talks with Kim. This is likely to put him at odds with Donald Trump, but reduces the chances of the U.S. president doing something rash. China has also expressed more willingness to put pressure on Kim, although it has yet to act emphatically on this. And time might allow the working-out of a peaceful path to disarmament. Better to buy time than to risk mass death by provoking a military confrontation.

“I don’t think now is the time we should be substituting a policy of strategic haste for one of strategic patience—and I was a critic of strategic patience,” Jim Walsh said.

For all these reasons, acceptance is how the current crisis should and will most likely play out. No one is going to announce this policy. No president is going to openly acquiesce to Kim’s ownership of a nuclear-tipped ICBM, but just as George W. Bush quietly swallowed Pyongyang’s successful explosion of an atom bomb, and just as Barack Obama met North Korea’s subsequent nuclear tests and missile launches with strategic patience, Trump may well find himself living with something similar. If there were a tolerable alternative, it would long ago have been tried. Sabotage may continue to stall progress, but cannot stop it altogether. Draconian economic pressure, even with China’s help, is also unlikely to curb Pyongyang’s quest.

“The North Koreans have demonstrated a strong willingness to continue this program, regardless of the price, regardless of the isolation,” says Abe Denmark, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia under Obama. “To be frank, my sense is that their leadership really could not care less about the country’s economic situation or the living standards of their people. As long as they are making progress toward nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and they can stay in power, then they seem to be willing to pay that price.”

In short, North Korea is a problem with no solution … except time.

True, time works in favor of Kim getting what he wants. Every test, successful or not, brings him closer to building his prized weapons. When he has nuclear ICBMs, North Korea will have a more potent and lethal strike capability against the United States and its allies, but no chance of destroying America, or winning a war, and therefore no better chance of avoiding the inevitable consequence of launching a nuke: national suicide. Kim may end up trapped in the circular logic of his strategy. He seeks to avoid destruction by building a weapon that, if used, assures his destruction.

His regime thrives on crisis. Perhaps when he feels safe enough with his arsenal, he might turn to more-sensible goals, like building the North Korean economy, opening trade, and ending its decades of extreme isolation. All of these are the very things that create the framework needed for disarmament.

But acceptance, while the right choice, is yet another bad one. With such missiles, Kim might feel emboldened to move on South Korea. Would the U.S. sacrifice Los Angeles to save Seoul? The same calculation drove the U.K. and France to develop their own nuclear weapons during the Cold War. Trump has already suggested that South Korea and Japan might want to consider building nuclear programs. In this way, acceptance could lead to more nuclear-armed states and ever greater chances that one will use the weapons.

With his arsenal, Kim may well become an even more destabilizing force in the region. There is a good chance that he would try to negotiate from strength with Seoul and Washington, forging some kind of confederation with the South that leads to the removal of U.S. forces from the peninsula. If talks were to resume, Trump had better enter them with his eyes open, because Kim, who sees himself as the divinely inspired heir to leadership of all the Korean people, is not likely to be satisfied with only his half of the peninsula.

There is no sign of panic in Seoul. Writing for The New York Times from the city in April, Motoko Rich found residents busy with their normal lives, eating at restaurants, crowding in bars, and clogging some of the most congested highways in the world. In a poll taken before the May election, fewer than 10 percent of South Koreans rated the North Korean nuclear threat as their top concern.

“Since I have been living here for so long, I am not scared anymore,” said Gwon Hyuck-chae, an elderly barber in Munsan, about five miles from the DMZ. “Even if there was a war now, it would not give us enough time to flee. We would all just die in an instant.”

Although in late April Trump called Kim “a madman with nuclear weapons,” perhaps the most reassuring thing about pursuing the acceptance option is that Kim appears to be neither suicidal nor crazy. In the five and a half years since assuming power at age 27, he has acted with brutal efficiency to consolidate that power; the assassination of his half brother is only the most recent example. As tyrants go, he’s shown appalling natural ability. For a man who occupies a position both powerful and perilous, his moves have been nothing if not deliberate and even cruelly rational.

And as the latest head of a family that has ruled for three generations, one whose primary purpose has been to survive, as a young man with a lifetime of wealth and power before him, how likely is he to wake up one morning and set fire to his world?

Has this man found the secret of happiness? — Man’s Search for Meaning

July 21, 2017

Image result for vintage Rolls-Royce, photos

  • Mo Gawdat personally started many of the Google’s worldwide operations
  • He was a former stock market trader, and made ‘a ton of money’ in Dubai
  • His ‘life had ticked every box’ but he was still feeling miserable
  • Death of Mr Gawdat’s son, Ali, 21, made him realise an equation for happiness

One click — and I had bought a vintage Rolls-Royce. Another click — and I bought a second. Just like that. It might sound like something from your wildest dreams, but this was just an average evening for me. Successful, wealthy and at the pinnacle of my career, I had every luxury you could imagine.

A top executive at Google, I had personally started close to half of the company’s worldwide operations. And even before I made it big at Google, you could certainly say that I was at the top of the tree. A former stock market trader, I had made a ton of money while working in Dubai.

I had a huge house. My colleagues and friends were similarly rich and successful. And to top it all, I had married my university sweetheart and had two beautiful children. My life had ticked every box.

Formula: Mo Gawdat was a former stock market trader, and made 'a ton of money' in Dubai. His 'life had ticked every box' but he was still feeling miserable (file pic)

Formula: Mo Gawdat was a former stock market trader, and made ‘a ton of money’ in Dubai. His ‘life had ticked every box’ but he was still feeling miserable (file pic)

My Rolls-Royces soon arrived. Exquisitely engineered, they were as perfect as my own existence appeared. I looked at them for 20 minutes. Then I left them in the garage without even opening a car door — and returned to my unhappy thoughts.

Yes, that’s right. Despite attaining all the things the modern world tells us we need for happiness, I was profoundly miserable.

The bitter irony of my situation was deepened by the fact that one of my personal side projects was developing a scientific formula for happiness.

I wanted to find a ‘code’ that could be applied to deliver happiness every time. I spent thousands of hours trying to apply logic to the issue of happiness, in the hope of finding an algorithm to summarise how the brain processes joy and sadness. My son Ali, then a teenager, helped me, vetting many of my ideas.

Eventually, in 2010, young Ali and I came up with a formula: a few letters and mathematical symbols that I thought nailed the art of happiness.

Little did I imagine that the sudden death of my beloved boy when he was just 21 — an earth-shattering, pointless event — would show me what fleets of cars and algorithms never could: the true meaning of happiness and how to be content, every day.

My path to finding the meaning of happiness began with a vision of unimaginable catastrophe.

Machines bleeped, tubes wove their terrible path in and out of my boy’s body — and Ali lay there, unconscious in an intensive care unit. It was 2014, and my son had been rushed to hospital for the most routine of operations, an appendix removal.

Mo Gawdat (pictured) personally started many of the Google's worldwide operations

Mo Gawdat (pictured) personally started many of the Google’s worldwide operations

But something went wrong. A needle punctured a major artery and precious moments slipped by before the doctors realised the blunder.

Then a series of additional mistakes were made. The words ‘agony’ and ‘despair’ do not come even remotely close to how Ali’s mother and I felt at the moment we realised we were going to lose our precious son.

We stood helplessly by his bedside, and I kissed his forehead. He looked so handsome, even in that state — as peaceful as I’d ever seen him.

We’d endured the worst night of our lives, as Ali was hooked up to machines, his life hanging delicately in the balance. We were tormented by the thought he might be in pain as his organs failed one by one.

Then came the moment to say goodbye. And as we left the hospital, leaving our 21-year-old son behind, our minds collapsed as grief set in, and penetrated every cell in my body.

The pain was like a spear piercing my heart. There were countless hours of tears, guilt and anger about what had happened, as well as my fear about having to exist in a world I could no longer contemplate without my beloved son.

Ali was kind, clever, loving and in the prime of his life, and losing him unexpectedly to preventable human error seemed unbearably cruel. How was I going to cope?

My feelings were all the more painful because Ali was the one person I would ordinarily seek out for comfort when times were hard. But now he was gone. Nothing made sense.

Without my son to anchor me, my thoughts spiralled and became toxic. ‘That doctor murdered my son,’ I thought. Then: ‘What’s the point of living even a day without him?’.

I couldn’t stop wondering whether his death was somehow my fault. Could life be punishing me for something I’d inadvertently done? Was this a sort of karma for my success, for not realising how blessed my existence had been?

I spent excruciating days in this state, numb to the outside world. I was terrified of what might happen to my wife, my daughter — of what else this cruel life might take from me. How could I ever be happy again?

Someone suggested we pursue a medical negligence investigation and we were asked if an autopsy could be performed on Ali’s body. I asked my wife what she wanted to do. She paused, then uttered the words that saved us: ‘Will it bring Ali back?’

It was like a lighthouse cutting through the fog. Nothing we could do — nothing — would bring Ali back. Any thought beyond this simple truth was pointless.

It was the turning point I needed.

No doubt any parent reading this will wonder how I can say I am happy after I’ve lost a child. Of course, life today is nothing like what it was when Ali was alive. But I am happy, despite the tragedy of his death.

How? It’s thanks to Ali. Deep down, I knew if I’d asked him Ali would say, with the precocious wisdom he was blessed with, ‘I’ve already died, Papa. There is nothing you can do to change that, so make the best of it’.

In the purgatorial time after his death, I heard no other voice in my head but Ali’s repeating those sentences. So when a negative thought popped into my mind I asked myself: ‘What would Ali do or say in this situation?’ It became a healing process.

When I angrily thought, ‘That doctor murdered my son!’, I would hear Ali’s reply: ‘Is that true? What doctor wakes up in the morning and says: “Today is the day I’m going to kill someone”?’

I am happy, despite the tragedy of his death. How? It's thanks to Ali. Deep down, I knew if I'd asked him Ali would say, with the precocious wisdom he was blessed with, 'I've already died, Papa. There is nothing you can do to change that, so make the best of it'

I am happy, despite the tragedy of his death. How? It’s thanks to Ali. Deep down, I knew if I’d asked him Ali would say, with the precocious wisdom he was blessed with, ‘I’ve already died, Papa. There is nothing you can do to change that, so make the best of it’

To my despairing howl, ‘No one should die at such a young age,’ Ali would answer: ‘Is that true? Youngsters die by the thousands every hour of every day.’

As for the cry of all grieving parents, ‘This is the worst thing that could have happened!’, Ali’s voice echoed in my mind, saying: ‘Is that really true? I could have been diagnosed with a lingering cancer or drafted into the madness of war instead of leaving peacefully in my sleep.’

When I recriminated with myself, saying again and again, ‘I drove you to the hospital myself. I should have known better’, Ali would soothe me, saying: ‘Is that true? You did what you thought was right. You wanted me to recover. No one could have known this was going to be how things turned out.’

And to my most common thought of all, ‘I can’t bear this pain, it will torture me for years and years,’ Ali brought solace and clarity: ‘Is that really true? You will live, and time will pass. The days will be long, and the years will be short. Instead of thinking about the years to come, focus on now. Do the best you can. Make me proud.’

And so, 17 days after that terrible night, I began to write. I felt compelled to follow Ali’s advice and do something positive. Those writings eventually became a book, in which I sought to spread the true meaning of happiness — and it wasn’t to be found in flashy cars or expensive gadgets.

And as I wrote, it brought my mind back to that algorithm I’d created with Ali. Except now I finally understood the meaning of my equation for happiness.

Because, as I had found, the more successful I became, the more happiness seemed to elude me.

Each time I reached the next rung of the corporate ladder, there would always be another goal just out of reach. Yet I couldn’t stop myself working, striving to be better, wealthier, and ultimately, I hoped, happier.

I was driven by the misguided assumption that, sooner or later, all this effort would pay off and I’d find a pot of gold — happiness — at the end of my high-achievement rainbow. But it seemed like the more literal gold I accrued, the more miserable I became.

In the years where I worked myself into the ground in pursuit of more success, I was probably pushy and unpleasant — even at home. I spent too little time appreciating the remarkable woman I’d married and not enough time with my wonderful children or pausing to enjoy each day as it unfolded.

All the while I treated happiness as something I needed to succeed at, a puzzle that my rational brain needed to solve. I spent almost ten years investigating the mathematics behind happiness, and eventually developed an equation: a well-engineered model of happiness and how to sustain it.

Yet despite finding the ‘secret’ to happiness, I did nothing to implement this into my own life.

Then came Ali’s death — and my own moment of reckoning when I was forced to confront my secret equation head-on.

So what is the magic formula, I hear you ask. It’s H ≥ e – E. Or in other words: happiness is greater than or equal to the events of life, minus the expectations of life.

What I discovered was that, for most, happiness is the default setting. Children are born happy. But as we move through life, we grow out of that happy state.

As we strive for more, flashes of unhappiness appear every time life misses our expectations. The key to happiness, I concluded, lay in controlling the way we compare the events of our life with our expectations. It lay in being content with what we have in the present moment, rather than striving for the intangible ‘more’.

Until Ali’s death, I didn’t apply this discovery to my own life. But his departure forced my hand.

That’s not to say the pain of losing my son isn’t still very real. Indeed, it will never go away. Every time I remember Ali I weep.

But I have learned there’s a difference between pain and suffering. Pain is a mechanism the body uses to keep us alive — it protects us from further suffering. We learn from our pain.

Suffering, however, is not useful. It is a cycle where a thought causes more anguish through feelings of guilt. Pain should be enough of a motivation to improve your life.

And so, the minute I feel the pain of Ali’s death, which I feel every time I miss him, instead of self-flagellation and guilt, I think ‘What can I do about it? How can I make the world slightly better even though Ali is not in it?’. It has taught me that we are all in charge of our lives, our destiny and, ultimately, our happiness.

Because happiness really can be controlled. Anyone can be happy — even in the face of what appeared to be an unparalleled catastrophe like mine. Happiness is about filling your mind with beautiful memories, and finding reasons to be truly thankful, despite the pain life can bring.

And so sometimes I find it easier to think of Ali as a kind guest who was just visiting, but who brought light and happiness to our home.

The 21 years with him zoomed by, and if we’d had another 21 years together, they would have zoomed by just as fast. And even that wouldn’t have been enough.

So instead of thinking about losing him, I try to be grateful that we had him at all. I’ve changed my expectations. Rather than thinking that my son should never have died, I choose to be grateful for the times we had, rather than mourn the times we didn’t.

Happiness is not about what the world gives you — whether it’s a lottery win or the loss of a child — it’s about what you think about what the world gives you.

It’s not always easy, but it’s an exercise I run through many times a day. I think of it like going to the gym — I’m getting better at it all the time.

I’m glad to say I’ve helped many others, too; those who have found peace through mine and Ali’s discovery. One interview I did with Channel 4 has had 32 million hits and counting.

Yes, my heart aches. Yes, I want my son back by my side more than anything in the world. But I understand that I can’t have him — and so I have made the commitment and choose to be happy instead.


  • Solve For Happy by Mo Gawdat, Bluebird, £10.49 on Amazon

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, July 16, 2017 — “But shall do my will achieving the end for which you were sent.”

July 15, 2017

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 103

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Art by Greg Olsen

Reading 1 IS 55:10-11

Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

Responsorial Psalm PS 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14

R. (Lk 8:8) The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.
You have visited the land and watered it;
greatly have you enriched it.
God’s watercourses are filled;
you have prepared the grain.
R. The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.
Thus have you prepared the land: drenching its furrows,
breaking up its clods,
Softening it with showers,
blessing its yield.
R. The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.
You have crowned the year with your bounty,
and your paths overflow with a rich harvest;
The untilled meadows overflow with it,
and rejoicing clothes the hills.
R. The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.
The fields are garmented with flocks
and the valleys blanketed with grain.
They shout and sing for joy.
R. The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.

Reading 2 ROM 8:18-23

Brothers and sisters:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us.
For creation awaits with eager expectation
the revelation of the children of God;
for creation was made subject to futility,
not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it,
in hope that creation itself
would be set free from slavery to corruption
and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now;
and not only that, but we ourselves,
who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
we also groan within ourselves
as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower.
All who come to him will have life forever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel  MT 13:1-23

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

The disciples approached him and said,
“Why do you speak to them in parables?”
He said to them in reply,
“Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven
has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.
To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich;
from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because
they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. 
Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You shall indeed hear but not understand,
you shall indeed look but never see.
Gross is the heart of this people,
they will hardly hear with their ears,
they have closed their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their hearts and be converted,
and I heal them.

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see,
and your ears, because they hear.
Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

“Hear then the parable of the sower.
The seed sown on the path is the one
who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it,
and the evil one comes and steals away
what was sown in his heart.
The seed sown on rocky ground
is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.
But he has no root and lasts only for a time.
When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
he immediately falls away.
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word
and it bears no fruit.
But the seed sown on rich soil
is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

Or MT 13:1-9

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”


From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico


My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Today we can ask ourselves:  how do I receive the Word of God?  Jesus gives us a parable and an explanation in today’s Gospel, which comes from Saint Matthew.  There are people who don’t understand the word of the kingdom and the evil comes and steals away what was sown in the heart.  We can hope we are not in that group, but we might be.  The second group are those who hear the word and receive it immediately with joy but when difficulties come, these people immediately fall away.  Hopefully we are not like that either.  There are people who hear the word but then anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.  We might be like that but we can hope not.  We want to be like the last person mentioned:  a person who hears the word and understands it and who bears fruit!

The reality is that probably we belong to each of those various groups at various times.  Jesus is not telling us a parable to condemn us but to invite us to change our ways of living so that we can be more consistently in that last group:  hearing and responding to the word and bearing fruit in our lives.

We heard in the first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, that God’s word will accomplish the end for which it was sent.  This sounds as if it is automatic.  Rather than automatic, this word of God will continue to work on us for our whole life, seeking to draw us to the Lord.  What lacks is our cooperation.  We should not be surprised by that.  Instead, we must do our part to cooperate with the word:  begin the spiritual combat which means to fight all within us that is against the word.  Our Christian life is a life of combat against ourselves and against all the cultural values which are not in accord with the word of God.

The second reading today is from the Letter to the Romans and tells us that actually all of creation is groaning with the desire to be transformed into the new creation.  We ourselves have the first fruits of the Spirit within us, yet often we do not respond.  So we also groan with all creation, hoping and praying for the complete adoption as children God and the redemption of our bodies.

This second reading is clear:  we are redeemed body and soul.  So often today we find those who think that only our soul might be saved.  No!  Our Creed and our longstanding believe is that we are saved body and soul.  Again we have the challenge of spiritual combat both with our “soul” as well as with our “body.”  Not all that we want or desire is in accord with the will of the Lord.  We have to struggle, as does all creation, in order to let God conform us to His will.

Let us give thanks to the Lord for His teachings to us this day.  Let us continue to prepare our lives so that we may receive God’s word and respond to it.  Amen.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip


Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

16 JULY, 2017, Sunday, 15th Week, Ordinary Time


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISA 55:10-11ROM 8:18-23MT 13:1-23   ]

When we look at this world and our own lives, we cannot but share the same sentiments with St Paul that “from the beginning till now the entire creation … has been groaning in one great act of giving birth … and we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free.”  Indeed, when we look at this world, we cannot but experience the tension in this life.  On one hand, the outlook of the world appears to be so pessimistic.   On the other hand, again and again we are told that there is hope.

But then we are now faced with the scandal of the reality of the situation.  If the Word is truly effective, if Christ is truly our liberator and can restore us to the full “freedom and glory as the children of God”, then why is it that the world seems to be more or less the same?  Why is it that in spite of the fact that Christianity has been in the world for 2000 years, more than two thirds of the world do not believe in Him?  Why is it that in spite of our boasting of how the Good News has been at work in the world, there is still so much human atrocities committed in today’s supposedly civilized and graced world? 

These dilemmas which we are facing are not new.  Indeed, the gospel and the second reading reflect the same tensions the early Church experienced as well.  Today’s parable in the gospel expresses such a situation. The disciples must have experienced great difficulty and disappointment as to why their master, whom they regarded as the greatest teacher and prophet they had ever known, was not accepted by His own people.  On the contrary, He was accused of blasphemy and sorcery.  Very few had faith in Him and passed Him off as a mad teacher. During the time of the evangelist, the early Christians had to grapple with the rejection of Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophets by their fellow Jews.  The early Church was persecuted because of the proclamation of the Word.  Many suffered persecution from the Jews and the Romans.  They too would have asked,  “Could Christ and his Church withstand the threats from the world?”  

So like them, we need to find not only hope and encouragement in our struggles with the apparent success and failure in our Christian living and evangelization, but we need to understand how the grace of God works in our world.  Precisely, to those of us who feel that the world seems to be getting worse, or feel hopeless that still many have not accepted Christ, or fall into despair that even for those many who did accept Christ, their lives have not changed and they are still living sinful lives, then the parable of the Seed and the Sower is addressed to us.  For in truth, this parable was originally told by Jesus to give encouragement to His faint-hearted disciples. It was necessary for Jesus to assure them that the power of evil and the enemies of the kingdom of God cannot overwhelm the power and grace of God at work in the world.  To perceive this truth, we must reflect on the operation of the mystery of grace in this world.

Firstly, we must concede that the power of evil is strong.  We cannot take the influence of evil in the world lightly.  Indeed, every farmer knows that in some parts of his farm, his hard work and efforts would be wasted.  He is realistic enough to realize that not every seed he plants would germinate and bear fruit.  He has to contend with the birds, the rocks, the thorns and all the natural climatic conditions like drought, floods, storms and even earthquakes and typhoons.  All these are his enemies.  If that is so for the farmer, so it is for us as Christians.

We must learn to accept the fact that there is sin and evil in the world.  We must accept with humility that much of our life and work would be wasted due to sin and ignorance and pride. Quite often, because of our sins, we hurt ourselves.  At times, others suffer as a consequence of our mistakes and stupidities.  So we must not be discouraged because people reject the gospel and the message of Christ.  Nor must we be surprised that good people are killed in the process of working for God and for the service of others because they are perceived as a nuisance to those in power.  Nor should we feel hopeless simply because our loved ones, especially our spouse or children, are living sinful and godless lives, rejecting all our attempts to bring them back to God.  When there is the presence of sin and scandals in the Church, like priests and bishops falling into temptation, then we know that evil is powerful and a potent force in the world.

Secondly, today’s scripture readings want to assure us that even though evil is powerful, it is not evil that reigns but God.  God is stronger than evil and He will not fail to rule over the whole of creation.  In the mystery of God’s plan, God allows evil to be present in the world.  But evil will not destroy His divine plan for humankind.  That creation would be set free is a foregone conclusion.  Yes, the success of God’s work is guaranteed and thus there is no reason to be downhearted or despondent in the face of evil.  What is our basis for this hope?

Again the parable of the Sower tells us that in spite of all the obstacles the farmer encounters, he reaped a rich harvest, “some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”  So the word of God as prophesied by Isaiah is effective.  Just as God assured the Babylonian exiles that His Word would be redemptive, so too we Christians are assured that God’s plan for the world will be realized no matter what the force of evil might be in the world.  So our liberation is near and certain.  So real is our liberation that St Paul urges us that our hope should be founded on the fact that “all of us who possess the first fruits of the Spirit” should “groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free.”

In other words, when we look at our lives and our situation, we must admit that in the battle between evil and goodness, God will win.  We who have given ourselves to Jesus and His kingdom message totally will understand the power of His resurrection already working in our lives.  Those of us who have surrendered our lives to Jesus can testify the marvelous miracles He worked in us.  Indeed, although we have heard of so much evil in the world, we have heard even more testimonies of good news happening in the lives of people.  Again and again, we hear how God has worked miraculously in our lives; healing us physically, emotionally and spiritually; reconciling and uniting us in love and giving us hope and freedom.

Hence, it is clear that we must proclaim that His kingdom stands and grows forever.  Jesus Christ who has risen from the dead, our first-fruit, should give us the assurance that He now reigns forever over His Church and that the power of His Spirit will continue to guide the Church and us to His kingdom.  We can trust that God who has already done so much by raising Jesus from the dead will save us and finish the work of Christ in establishing the kingdom of God.  Thus, even if we feel that our work seems to be wasted; that our enemies would not listen to us; that others cannot grasp the truth which we share with them, that some continue to be beguiled by prosperity and overwhelmed by the cares of the world, discouraged by difficulties, our work will bear fruit.  Despite the ups and downs, all the hazards and losses, all the frustrations and failures, God’s rule advances and His harvest exceeds all expectations.  It is simply unimaginable.

The Good News of today’s liturgy is that when we accept these two truths of the temporal power of evil and the absolute power of grace, we are saved from despair.   For despair comes to us when we do not recognize the reality of the presence of evil and thus become surprised when it comes.  This happens quite often for those who are involved in the Church.  They become scandalized at the sins of church members.  They think that the Church is already a community of saints rather than that we are a community of sinners striving to become a community of saints.  We are a pilgrim Church and we are not yet canonized.  Sin permeates throughout humankind.  The truth is that such realities should not be surprising.  After all, even Jesus Himself had to suffer not only persecutions and misunderstandings, even from His own family members, but death as well.

Despair also results when we forget that God cannot be defeated.  But God has come to earth in Jesus and continues to rule over mankind in a new way in the Spirit since Pentecost.  He is in charge of the world and its destiny is within His control. In Jesus, especially in His victory over death, evil has not the last word, nor hatred, but love and grace.  For this reason we can say with St Paul, “what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us.”  So like the exiled Israelites in Babylonia, we can be confident that the Word of God will reap the harvest of life as He promised.  His power is even more certain than the natural cycles of life.

So as we look at ourselves, we have the same choice to make.  We can choose to fall into despair or surrender ourselves in faith to the awesome mysterious ways of God working in the world.  Yes, we can be pessimistic towards life by looking only at our sins and the sins of the world.  Surely we all have in our own ways wasted the opportunities of love, of life and of growth that God has given to us.   But a mature Christian is more realistic.  He is very much aware of his sinfulness and he acknowledges it.  Yet, he would not be tempted to despair.  He continues to hope in the grace of God and rely only on His love, trusting that God is merciful and His grace will triumph in the end.  Yes, a mature Christian has confidence that in spite of the presence of evil, God continues to be at work, slowly but surely, hidden at times but never absent in our lives and not just in creation.  So faith requires us to trust in His strength and in His love.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore



Prayer and Meditation for Friday, June 23, 2017 — “If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.”

June 22, 2017

Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Lectionary: 170

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Reading 1  DT 7:6-11

Moses said to the people:
“You are a people sacred to the LORD, your God;
he has chosen you from all the nations on the face of the earth
to be a people peculiarly his own.
It was not because you are the largest of all nations
that the LORD set his heart on you and chose you,
for you are really the smallest of all nations.
It was because the LORD loved you
and because of his fidelity to the oath he had sworn your fathers,
that he brought you out with his strong hand
from the place of slavery,
and ransomed you from the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.
Understand, then, that the LORD, your God, is God indeed,
the faithful God who keeps his merciful covenant
down to the thousandth generation
toward those who love him and keep his commandments,
but who repays with destruction a person who hates him;
he does not dally with such a one,
but makes them personally pay for it.
You shall therefore carefully observe the commandments,
the statutes and the decrees that I enjoin on you today.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 103:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 10

R. (cf. 17) The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and forget not all his benefits.
R. The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.
He pardons all your iniquities,
heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.
Merciful and gracious is the LORD,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
R. The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.

Reading 2  1 JN 4:7-16

Beloved, let us love one another,
because love is of God;
everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.
In this way the love of God was revealed to us:
God sent his only Son into the world
so that we might have life through him.
In this is love:
not that we have loved God, but that he loved us
and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also must love one another.
No one has ever seen God.
Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.

This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us,
that he has given us of his Spirit.
Moreover, we have seen and testify
that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world.
Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God remains in him and he in God.
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.

God is love, and whoever remains in love
remains in God and God in him.

AlleluiaMT 11:29AB

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Take my yoke upon you, says the Lord;
and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 11:25-30

At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to little ones.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Lectio Divina, From The Carmelites

Today we celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In the Gospel we will listen to the invitation of Jesus: “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart”. The Gospel shows the tenderness with which Jesus welcomes, accepts the little ones. He wanted the poor to find rest and peace in him.

The context of chapters 11 and 12 of Matthew. In this context is stressed and made evident the fact that the poor are the only ones to understand and to accept the wisdom of the Kingdom. Many people did not understand this preference of Jesus for the poor and the excluded.

a) John the Baptist, who looked at Jesus with the eyes of the past, had doubts (Mt 11, 1-15)

b) The people, who looked at Jesus with a purpose of their own interests, were not capable to understand him (Mt 11, 16-19).

c) The great cities around the lake, which listened to Jesus’ preaching and saw the miracles, did not want to open themselves to his message (Mt 11, 20-24).

d) The wise and the Doctors, who judged everything according to their own science, were not capable to understand the preaching of Jesus (Mt 11, 25).

e) Not even his relatives understood him (Mt 12, 46-50).

f) Only the little ones understood him and accepted the Good News of the Kingdom (Mt 11, 25-30).

g) The others want sacrifice, but Jesus wants mercy (Mt 12, 1-8).

h) The reaction against Jesus impels the Pharisees to want to kill him (Mt 12, 9-14).

i) They said that Jesus was Beelzebul (Mt 12, 22-32).

j) But Jesus did not draw back. He continues to assume the mission of Servant, as described in the prophecies (Mt 12, 15-21). This is why he was persecuted and condemned to death.

• Matthew 11, 25-26: Only the little ones understand and accept the Good News of the Kingdom. Jesus addresses a prayer to the Father: “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do!” The wise, the doctors of that time, had created a series of laws which they imposed upon the people in the name of God. They thought that God demanded this observance from the people. But the Law of love, brought by Jesus, said the contrary. What is important is not what we do for God, but rather what God, in his great love, does for us! People understood the words of Jesus and were filled with joy. The wise thought that Jesus was not right. They could not understand this teaching which modified the relationship of the people of God.

• Matthew 11, 27: The origin of the New Law: The Son knows the Father. Jesus, the Son, knows the Father. He knows what the Father wanted when, centuries before, he gave the Law to Moses. What the Father wants to tell us, he handed it to Jesus, and Jesus revealed it to the little ones, because they opened themselves to his message. Today, also, Jesus continues to teach many things to the poor and to the little ones. The wise and the intelligent do well if they become pupils of the little ones!

Matthew 11, 28-30: “Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest”. Jesus invites all those who are tired to find rest in him. These are the people who are tired under the weight of the impositions and the observances which the law of purity demanded. And he says: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart”. Many times this phrase has been manipulated to ask people to submit themselves, to be passive. What Jesus wants to say is the contrary. He asks people to leave aside the professors of religion of that time, to rest and to begin to learn from him, from Jesus, who is “gentle and humble of heart”. Jesus does not do like the Scribes who pride themselves of their own science, but he is like the people who live humiliated and exploited. Jesus, the new teacher, knows from experience what happens in the heart of the people and how much the people suffer.

The invitation of divine wisdom to all those who seek it. Jesus invites all those who are oppressed under the weight of the observance of the law to find rest in him, because he is gentle and humble of heart, capable of relieving and consoling the people who suffer, who feel tired and depressed (Mt 11, 25-30). In this invitation resound the beautiful words of Isaiah who consoled the people who lived in exile (Is 55, 1-3).


This invitation is bound to divine wisdom, which invites persons to the encounter with her (Ws 24, 19), saying: “her ways are filled with delight; her paths all lead to contentment” (Pr 3, 17). And he adds: “Wisdom brings up her own children and cares for those who seek her. Whoever loves her, loves life, those who seek her early will be filled with joy” (Si 4, 11-12). This invitation reveals a very important characteristic of the feminine face of God: tenderness and acceptance which consoles, which gives life to persons and leads them to feel well. Jesus is defence, the protection and the maternal womb which the Father offers to people who are tired (cfr. Is 66, 10-13).



Homily from the Abbot

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Our God is meek and humble of heart! Far too often our ideas of God are as a powerful force and as a force that is not very friendly to us. Yet the first reading today, from the Book of Zechariah, is clear that the king who will come to us, a just savior, is meek, riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass. This imagine is taken up on Palm Sunday when Jesus enters Jerusalem on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass. Everyone is exuberant and full of joy, but still thinking that this is a worldly kind of savior. Perhaps we also today want a savior who will come and free the world from wars, from strife, from murders, from injustices.

Actually, Jesus can do all of that: free the world from wars, from strife, from murders and from injustices. Yet Jesus only does it insofar as He changes the hearts of people. We still prefer magic where we don’t have to do the work. The salvation that Jesus brings is a salvation that insists on conversion of heart leading to conversion of action.

So Jesus tells us in the Gospel today, from Saint Matthew: Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for yourselves.

Truly the only rest we have in this life is in giving ourselves over completely to Jesus and to trying to follow Him, to walk in His ways. When we follow Jesus, we invite His Spirit to possess our souls. If we do not want the Spirit of Jesus, then we are not following Jesus at all. Inviting the Spirit to possess our souls implies that we will continue to struggle with evil and with all that is not of God in our lives. This struggle only ends with our death.

Honestly, if we want to follow the Lord, it is a difficult path and yet gives us rest because we know that we are on the right path. It is accepting sufferings that we know that we are sharing in the salvation of the world with Jesus. From the outside, we cannot always tell who is a follower of Jesus. Once we begin to speak to others, we hear from them the motivations of their lives and it becomes clear to us: this person is spend his or her life striving to follow the Lord!

Jesus Himself invites us today to come to Him, especially if we are laboring and burdened. Let us walk in the way of the Lord.





Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
23 JUNE, 2017, Friday, Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Dt 7:6-11; 1 Jn 4:7-16; Mt 11:25-30 ]

We have just celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi when we contemplated on Jesus giving Himself to us in His body and blood.  Following this feast, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.  This feast invites us to contemplate deeper into the heart of God.  The heart is always a symbol of love.  It is a symbol of passionate love.  In a world where there is so much selfishness, materialism, competition and desire for fame and power, there is a lack of graciousness and compassion in society.  Indeed, people today tend to care more about themselves, their success and enjoyment in life than repaying their gratitude to their parents, especially the elderly and the weak, Church and society.  It is about themselves first and foremost but not about others.

The Feast of the Sacred Heart brings to mind the heart of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus.  God’s love is not mere words or sentimentalism.   The love of God is personal and concrete.  St John tells us that “God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him.”  God was not just sympathetic to the sufferings of His people.  He did not save us from on high and sent His holy angels to help us.  He personally came down to be with us in our struggles, to identify with us and to show us the way to true freedom and fullness of life.  This happened when God became man in Jesus.  God pitched His tent among us, suffered with us so that no one can say He does not understand the pain of humanity.

Indeed, in Jesus, we see the heart of God beating for the marginalized and the poor.  In the first reading, God said to Moses, “If the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, it was not because you outnumbered other peoples: you were the least of all peoples. It was for love of you.”  This too was the same mission of Jesus.  When He began His mission, He made the prophecy of the Suffering Servant His own when He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.”  (Lk 4:18a)  Jesus’ preferential option is for the poor and the marginalized, the sinners and the outcasts of society.

Secondly, in Jesus, we see the heart of God beating for those who are suffering, oppressed and under bondage.  Our God is a compassionate God.  When He saw the Hebrews in slavery, He told Moses, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”  (Ex 3:7-8a)  Indeed, Jesus came to deliver us from our captivity to illnesses, sin and the Evil One.  “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” (Lk 4:18b)

Thirdly, in Jesus, we see the heart of God beating with graciousness that He would even choose us to be His people.  “You are a people consecrated to the Lord your God; it is you that the Lord our God has chosen to be his very own people out of all the peoples on the earth.”  Indeed, to think that we are worthy to be chosen by the Lord!  Yet in Christ Jesus, we have become adopted sons and daughters in God.  Jesus said, “You did not choose me but I chose you.” (Jn 15:16)  St Paul wrote, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption … we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”  (Rom 8:15-17)

Finally, in Jesus, we see the heart of God beating for us even unto death.  God did not spare Himself from giving Himself to us even though we are ungrateful to Him.  Paul wrote, “He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?”  (Rom 8:32)  Moses said, “It was for love of you and to keep the oath he swore to your fathers that the Lord brought you out with his mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”  God is true to Himself and faithful in love even unto death.  This is what St John wrote, “this is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.”   Indeed, in Jesus, the heart of God is manifested fully.

Have you contemplated on the heart of God sufficiently to be able to say with the apostles, “We ourselves saw and we testify that the Father sent his Son as saviour of the world.  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he in God.”?    Unless we come to realize the depth of His love for us in Christ Jesus, we will never know the sacrificial love of God for us.  Indeed, if many of us feel discouraged or hopeless or abandoned, it is because instead of focusing on the heart of God, we are focusing on our own pains.  Such an attitude will destroy us.  We become negative and inward looking.

The way out of our misery is to place our faith in God’s love.  This is what St John wrote, “We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves.”  In a similar vein, this is what the Lord is asking of us.  He said, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.”  Indeed, it is human to be always anxious about tomorrow, about our finance, our health, our children and our elderly.  We wonder how we can care for them and whether we will have sufficient means to look after them.  Even if we are financially sound, we worry about their career, their relationships and their well- being.  Worry will only cripple us.  Fear will make us live in anxiety each day.

Jesus invites us to come to His Father in total confidence.  He said, “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do.”  We must be like a child in faith.   If we are humble and trusting, the Lord will reveal to us the wise plan of His Father for us.  Those of us who trust in our own intellect and ingenuity and strength will not find rest.  But like little children, we must surrender our lives entirely to God and walk by faith, not by sight.

But we cannot put our trust in our Heavenly Father unless we develop the same intimacy Jesus has with His Father.  He said, “Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”  Jesus surrendered His life to the Father even when His mission appeared to have ended in failure on the cross.  He commended everything in faith to the Father that He would deliver Him, for He knew His Father is faithful.  This is what God Himself said, “Know then that the Lord your God is God indeed, the faithful God who is true to his covenant and his graciousness for a thousand generations towards those who love him and keep his commandments.” So too, unless we share the Abba relationship of Jesus with His Father, it would be difficult for us to entrust our lives to Him whom we do not know.  This is the reason why many Catholics lack faith in God because there is no personal relationship with the Father.

But our devotion to the Sacred Heart does not end here.  This devotion cannot make us inward-looking. The heart must be open to others.  Hence, Jesus tells us that if we want to find happiness in life, then “Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heat, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”  We must now take the yoke of Jesus upon ourselves.  It is the yoke of love and compassion.

Indeed, if we want to go beyond our pain and suffering, we must use our pain and disadvantages to reach out to others in compassion.  St John says, “let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.  Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love.”   This is the only way in which we can share in His spirit of love and mercy.  When we follow Jesus in reaching out to the sick, the elderly, the abandoned, and the wounded hearts, those forlorn and in despair, sinners and those rejected by society, we give them hope.  We must never think that we are too poor to give.  There is someone who is poorer than us.  Help the one who is poorer than you!

By so doing, we come to realize that we are all in solidarity in suffering as human beings.  We are all suffering, rich or poor, in our own ways.   No one is exempted from suffering.  Our task on earth is to support each other along this pilgrimage of life, to make this world a better place, to give encouragement and assistance to each other.  In healing others, we heal ourselves!  When we do that then the love of God will fill our hearts.  St John wrote, “God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.”  Most of all, in reaching out to others in love and compassion, we see the face of God and live. “No one has ever seen God; but as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us.  We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit.”

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

From Fr. Joseph Illo
Today we celebrate the external feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is properly celebrated on the Friday after the Sunday after Corpus Christi. The Church often celebrates beloved feasts more than once—we just can’t get enough of them! For example, we celebrate the Christmas and Easter Masses for eight days in succession, and the Church often permits us to celebrate a weekday feast again on the following Sunday.  As Mother Teresa was wont to say: “thoughtfulness is the beginning of great sanctity.” On the Feast of the Sacred Heart, we call to mind how our Lord thinks about us all the time; for example, in his thoughtfulness Jesus inspired the kitchen staff to keep the food lines open for us.
Blood and Water

The graces we receive daily from God’s thoughtfulness, however, come at a price, as we are reminded in the Gospel today. There is no love without suffering; no love without sacrifice. Jesus had been crucified, and his body hung lifeless from the Cross. A soldier thrust for his heart to make sure he was dead, and the lance drew a great flow of blood and water from his open side. St. John assures us that he saw this himself. Why would blood and water flow in abundance from a corpse? First, because Jesus, though dead, lives forever, and his heart never ceases to beat, his blood never ceases to flow for the people he loves. Second, the Church is born from Christ’s wounded heart as the sacraments of water and blood—Baptism and the Holy Eucharist—pour out upon the world. He will cleanse us with the grace-filled water flowing from his open side, and he will feed us with the blood flowing from his open heart. Christ’s heart is open to all men and women. It is never closed. St. Paul will often say, “open your hearts to me.” We open our hearts by enthroning the Sacred Heart in our lives. Families and individuals who have enthroned Christ the King in their homes have hearts like unto his, open hearts.They will look upon Him whom they have piercedOne of the kindest, most open-hearted prelates I have met is Raymond Cardinal Burke. Twelve priests had dinner with him at his rectory when he was Archbishop of St. Louis. He sat at the center of the table, showing kindness to every one of us. It was really like the Last Supper with Jesus. I met him again in Turin, in May 2010. The Shroud of Turin was exposed for a month during the Year for Priests and I was in the city for five days hearing confessions and visiting the Shroud myself. A few of us priests came to the early Mass on Sunday in front of the Shroud, and we found Cardinal Burke in the sacristy. He greeted us warmly, and then at Mass preached on the Sacred Heart (he has a deep devotion, and has spread that devotion to the Sacred Heart in his dioceses). I will never forget listening to his heartfelt witness to the love of Christ, to the blood of Christ, and seeing just 20 feet behind him the blood stains on the Shroud. “They will look upon him whom they have thrust through” (transfixerunt in Latin). Every Catholic church is to have an image of Christ crucified, Christ thrust through, Christ’s open heart, pouring out the sacraments of redemption upon the world. We long to look upon him whom we have thrust through. Let us renew our love for Christ by praying before the Crucifix—by placing a crucifix prominently in every room of our houses, and by enthroning the Sacred Heart in our homes. Deepening our love for him, we learn to love each other. Those who turn daily to the Sacred Heart of Jesus have opened hearts for one another.

Open Hearts

We live in a time of cultural decline. As those around us deny truth and mock goodness, and are tempted to close our hearts and hole up in protected Catholic enclaves. Certainly we must protect our children and our culture, but we must keep our hearts open to others, imitating Jesus. He opened his heart, knowing that men would misunderstand him, abuse him, and pierce him. We Christians, we Catholics, choose to become warmer, more charitable, more thoughtful, even as the world around us is growing colder, less caring, less reasonable, and more violent. We can do this only by devoting ourselves to Christ’s Sacred Heart, open and bleeding for the life of the world.