Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

Morning Prayer for Thursday, October 18, 2018 — Humility opens the door to compassion and service to others

October 18, 2018

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Not until you have failed can you learn true humility. Humility arises from a deep sense of gratitude to God for giving you the strength to rise above past failures. Humility is not inconsistent with self-respect. The true person has self-respect and the respect of others and yet is humble. The humble person is tolerant of others’ failings, and does not have a critical attitude toward the foibles of others. Humble people are hard on themselves and easy on others.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may be truly humble and yet have self-respect. I pray that I may see the good in myself as well as the bad.

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Related:

Humility is the Remedy for all our Miseries

Humility is the Remedy for all our Miseries.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

18 OCTOBER, 2018, Thursday, St Luke, Evangelist

STAYING FOCUSED UNDER TRIAL

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 TIMOTHY 4:10-17LUKE 10:1-4  ]

“The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit.”  But the Lord did not simply send them out without informing them of the challenges they would face in their mission.  Jesus never hid from His disciples the trials and sufferings of the apostolate.  He always spoke plainly to them about what it takes to be a disciple.  Earlier on, in the Beatitudes, He said to them, “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.”  (Lk 6:22f) Then, after the appointment of the Twelve and Peter’s declaration about Jesus, 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.”  (Lk 9:23f)

In sending out the 72 disciples, Jesus also warned them accordingly of the dangers ahead of them.  Right from the outset, He said, “Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”  Indeed, even with the good intentions of sharing the Good News, saving souls, healing hearts and empowering people, there will always be those who will oppose us because of jealousy, perceived threats to their vested interests, ego and pride.   Indeed, Paul wrote, “Alexander the coppersmith has done me a lot of harm; the Lord will repay him for what he has done. Be on your guard against him yourself; because he has been bitterly contesting everything that we say.”

Sometimes, we are abandoned in our mission.  Paul was disappointed by some of his collaborators when they left him in the lurch halfway in the mission, as Mark did initially.  But in a more disappointing case, he said, “Demas has deserted me for love of this life and gone to Thessalonika.”  Paul felt the sense of abandonment when he wrote, “Crescens has gone to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia; only Luke is with me.”  St Paul spoke of his many betrayals by those whom he worked with.  This is not surprising, even Jesus was betrayed by His apostles, some because of fear and others because of selfish reasons. What is worse is when we need their help most and they are not there to stand up for us.  This was what Paul felt when he wrote, “The first time I had to present my defences, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me.’”

Regardless, we should not allow such trials to distract us from our mission. We must remain focused on our mission.  This was what the Lord advised the disciples.  Salute no one on the road.”  In other words, do not be easily distracted and tempted by the world, be it glory or pleasure or even suffering.  For this reason, we should “stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you.”  We should remain contented with what we have.

We must keep in mind our mission of proclaiming the Good News to the poor, materially and spiritually poor.  Our task is to bring the gospel of peace.  Jesus reminds us, “Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you.”  We must be mediators of peace and be peacemakers.  This peace comes about when we help people to be reconciled with God and with each other through forgiveness.

Most of all, we must be those who come to heal the wounded, the sick and the troubled.  Jesus asked of us, “Cure those in it who are sick, and say, ‘The kingdom of God is very near to you.’”  Unless, we heal the broken hearted, it would be difficult for them to believe that God is near.  This was what the Lord took upon Himself when He started His ministry.  The manifesto was from Isaiah 61. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  (Isa 61:1fLk 4:18f)

Indeed, being peacemakers and healers of wounds are ways we “make known the glorious splendor of your reign” as the psalmist prayed.  “All your creatures shall thank you, O Lord, and your friends shall repeat their blessing.  They shall speak of the glory of your reign and declare your might, O God.  They make known to men your mighty deeds and the glorious splendor of your reign.  Yours is an everlasting kingdom; your rule lasts from age to age.”   The Kingdom of God is the reign of God’s love and mercy seen in the restoration of creation through the establishment of peace, justice and equality.

However, the call to proclaim the gospel is not for the weak and faint-hearted but the strong.  A weak faith cannot sustain us in the apostolate.  This is the challenge for many Catholics, especially those who are not well-formed in the faith and are not undergoing on-going formation spiritually and doctrinally but involved in Church ministry, particularly those who have just completed their RCIA or those who have just been renewed and returned to the Church. In the face of trials, misunderstanding or opposition, they become disillusioned and disheartened.  Instead of being strengthened in the faith through service in the apostolate, they become bitter and resentful.  They fail to realize that even whilst serving in the Church, there will be fellow Catholics and not just non-believers who will attack them and thwart their good deeds and intentions.  Instead of persevering, they give up not just on the Church but on God as well.

If we are to be like St Paul, we need to learn to depend on the Lord.  The psalmist assures us, “The Lord is just in all his ways and loving in all his deeds.  He is close to all who call him, who call on him from their hearts.”  We cannot depend on our own strength and efforts alone.  Rather, we must call out to God as Jesus did, going to the mountain and desert to pray in the early hours of the morning.  Without intimacy with the Lord and basking in His love and enlightened by His Word, we cannot find the courage and inspiration to continue the mission.  Only then can we remain focused and transcend our enemies. Like St Paul, we too must commend everything to the Lord as Christ Himself did when He prayed for His enemies on the cross.  So too St Paul made excuses for his enemies, for those who were weak, instead of holding grudges in his heart.  He wrote, “May they not be held accountable for it.”

That is why the Lord told the disciples, “Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals.” This is to remind them that the mission is not the work of human hands but the work of God. The Lord works through and in us.  This motif is repeated in the bible in many different ways.  When David fought with Goliath, he said, “that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”  (1 Sm 17:46f)  Total reliance and dependence on Him alone is the cause of our victory.  This was what St Paul felt when he wrote, “But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear.”  The Lord will never leave us completely alone.  The Lord encourages us that as far as possible, we should proclaim the gospel, never alone but with our brothers and sisters.  We must bear in mind that the Lord “sen(t) them out in pairs” to strengthen them in their mission.  Mission must be accomplished in communion with the Lord and His Church.  In this way, our mission would be fruitful.

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

http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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It’s Getting Harder to Talk About God

October 14, 2018

The decline in our spiritual vocabulary has many real-world consequences.

By Jonathan Merritt

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Mr. Merritt writes about the intersection of religion, culture and politics.

Credit Jeff Rogers

More than 70 percent of Americans identify as Christian, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to them. An overwhelming majority of people say that they don’t feel comfortable speaking about faith, most of the time.

During the Great Depression, the playwright Thornton Wilder remarked, “The revival in religion will be a rhetorical problem — new persuasive words for defaced or degraded ones.” Wilder knew that during times of rapid social change, God-talk is often difficult to muster.

We may have traded 1930s-level poverty and hunger for a resurgence in racism, sexism and environmental cataclysm, but our problems are no less serious — or spiritually disorienting. While many of our most visible leaders claim to be religious, their moral frameworks seem unrecognizable to masses of other believers. How do we speak about God in times like these when God is hard to spot?

As a student of American Christianity and the son of a prominent megachurch pastor, I’ve been sensing for some time that sacred speech and spiritual conversation are in decline. But this was only a hunch I had formed in response to anecdotal evidence and personal experience. I lacked the quantitative data needed to say for sure.

So last year, I enlisted the Barna Group, a social research firm focused on religion and public life, to conduct a survey of 1,000 American adults. This study revealed that most Americans — more than three-quarters, actually — do not often have spiritual or religious conversations.

More than one-fifth of respondents admit they have not had a spiritual conversation at all in the past year. Six in 10 say they had a spiritual conversation only on rare occasions — either “once or twice” (29 percent) or “several times” (29 percent) in the past year. A paltry 7 percent of Americans say they talk about spiritual matters regularly.

But here’s the real shocker: Practicing Christians who attend church regularly aren’t faring much better. A mere 13 percent had a spiritual conversation around once a week.

For those who practice Christianity, such trends are confounding. It is a religion that has always produced progeny through the combination of spiritual speech and good deeds. Nearly every New Testament author speaks about the power of spiritual speech, and Jesus final command to his disciples was to go into the world and spread his teachings. You cannot be a Christian in a vacuum.

And yet even someone like me who has spent his entire life using God-talk knows how hard it has become. Five years ago, I moved from the Bible Belt to New York City and ran headfirst into an unexpected language barrier. Sure, I could still speak English as well as I always had. But I could no longer “speak God.”

By this I mean that spiritual conversations, once a natural part of each day for me, suddenly became a struggle. Whether I spoke to a stranger or a friend, the exchange flowed freely so long as I stuck to small talk. But conversations stalled out the moment the subject turned spiritual.

Before relocating, I worked as a part-time minister at a suburban congregation outside of Atlanta. Before that, I had attended a Christian college and seminary. All my life, I used religious language daily in my home and community, rarely pausing to think about the meaning of my words. But I was not in Georgia anymore.

Whenever I used religious terms I considered common — like “gospel” and “saved” — my conversation partner often stopped me mid-thought to ask for a definition, please. I’d try to rephrase those words in ordinary vernacular, but I couldn’t seem to articulate their meanings. Some words, like “sin,” now felt so negative that they lodged in my throat. Others, like “grace,” I’d spoken so often that I no longer knew what they meant.

In New York — as in much of America, increasingly — religious fluency is not assumed. Work often takes precedence over worship, social lives are prioritized over spiritual disciplines and most people save their Sunday-best clothing for Monday through Friday. In pluralistic contexts, our neighbors don’t read from the same script or draw from a common spiritual vocabulary.

According to my survey, a range of internal conflicts is driving Americans from God-talk. Some said these types of conversations create tension or arguments (28 percent); others feel put off by how religion has been politicized (17 percent); others still report not wanting to appear religious (7 percent), sound weird (6 percent) or seem extremist (5 percent). Whatever the reason, for most of us in this majority-Christian nation, our conversations almost never address the spirituality we claim is important.

A deeper look reveals that the decline in sacred speech is not a recent trend, though we are only now becoming fully aware of it. By searching the Google Ngram corpus — a collection of millions of books, newspapers, webpages and speeches published between 1500 and 2008 — we can now determine the frequency of word usage over the centuries. This data shows that most religious and spiritual words have been declining in the English-speaking world since the early 20th century.

One might expect a meaty theological term like “salvation” to fade, but basic moral and religious words are also falling out of use. A study in The Journal of Positive Psychology analyzed 50 terms associated with moral virtue. Language about the virtues Christians call the fruit of the spirit — words like “love,” “patience,” “gentleness” and “faithfulness” — has become much rarer. Humility words, like “modesty,” fell by 52 percent. Compassion words, like “kindness,” dropped by 56 percent. Gratitude words, like “thankfulness,” declined by 49 percent.

 

A decline in religious language and a decrease in spiritual conversations does not necessarily mean that we are in crisis, of course. But when you combine the data about the decline in religious rhetoric with an emerging body of research that reveals how much our linguistic landscape both reflects and affects our views, it provides ample cause for alarm.

There is also a practical reason we need a revival in God-talk, specifically at this time in American history. Many people now avoid religious and spiritual language because they don’t like the way it has been used, misused and abused by others. But when people stop speaking God because they don’t like what these words have come to mean and the way they’ve been used, those who are causing the problem get to hog the microphone.

That toothy televangelist keeps using spiritual language to call for donations to buy a second jet. The politician keeps using spiritual language to push unjust legislation. The street preacher keeps using spiritual language to peddle the fear of a fiery hell. They can dominate the conversation because we’ve stopped speaking God. In our effort to avoid contributing to the problem, we can actually worsen it.

Christians in 21st-century America now face our own serious “rhetorical problem.” We must work together to revive sacred speech and rekindle confidence in the vocabulary of faith. If we cannot rise to this occasion, sacred speech will continue its rapid decline — and the worst among us will continue to define what the word “Christian” means.

Jonathan Merritt (@JonathanMerritt) is a contributing writer for The Atlantic and the author, most recently, of “Learning to Speak God From Scratch: Why Sacred Words Are Vanishing — And How We Can Revive Them.”

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page SR6 of the New York edition with the headline: We Need to Talk About God.

Paris plans to open city halls for homeless in winter

October 14, 2018

Paris’ mayor is planning to adapt part of the Hotel de Ville into a homeless shelter this winter. She is calling for all to chip in to provide a warm place for the estimated 3,000 people without a home of their own.

    
Homeless in Paris (Getty Images/AFP/G. Julien)

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo wants to open the capital’s city halls to the homeless during the winter.

Even the palatial Hotel de Ville, housing the local administration in the city center, will open up space for up to 100 homeless women to receive food and shelter, she said in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche newspaper on Sunday.

Read more: Germany: 150 percent rise in number of homeless since 2014

Two ornate rooms on the ground floor with columns, vaults and marble floors that are used as exhibition and reception areas will be converted instead to provide meals, beds and sanitary areas, she said.

Hidalgo called for a “general mobilization” to house an estimated 3,000 homeless people living on the frigid streets during the winter, adding that the city should lead by example.

“We must all roll up our sleeves. In particular, I invite companies that have unoccupied premises to make them available,” she told the paper.

Paris city hall (picture-alliance/imageBroker)Hotel de Ville

She intends to have 1,500 places for the homeless by the end of the year and hopes the state will take care of the other half.

Other places the city will utilize to house the homeless include vacant municipal buildings and spaces as well as district town halls. The mayor will also open small mobile shelters around the city.

Read more: Berlin and Beyond: Alcoholics, not so anonymous

In February, Paris conducted its first homeless census and found at least 3,000 people were sleeping on the streets.

The so-called Solidarity Night involved hundreds of volunteers and officials taking to the streets to count the number of homeless. The actual number of homeless is believed to be higher.

Hidalgo said another such census would be conducted in February.

https://www.dw.com/en/paris-plans-to-open-city-halls-for-homeless-in-winter/a-45879603

Morning Prayer for Thursday, October 11, 2018 — I pray that I may see something good in every person

October 11, 2018

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“The Good Samaritan,” by Walter Rane

“First be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift to God.” First I must get right with other people and then I can get right with God. If I hold resentment against someone, which I find it very difficult to overcome, I should try to put something else constructive into my mind. I should pray for the one against whom I hold the resentment. I should put that person in God’s hands and let God show him or her the way to live. “If a man say: ‘I love God’ and hateth his brother, he is a liar, for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may see something good in every person, even one I dislike, and that I may let God develop the good in that person.

From “Twenty Four Hours a Day”

Many Catholics Struggle to Keep the Faith

October 6, 2018

New wave of sexual-abuse allegations sparks soul-searching; ‘Our people still believe in God. But they don’t believe in us’

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Megan McCabe was born into a Catholic family, attended Catholic high school and college, and now teaches at a Catholic university. But the 32-year-old didn’t attend Mass for more than a month following the August release of a Pennsylvania grand-jury report documented more than 1,000 cases of sexual abuse by clergy in the state.

“I had a moment when I felt like this institution doesn’t have any goodness in it,” said Ms. McCabe, choking up as she spoke.

The sexual-abuse scandals that have rocked the church this year have left some of the country’s most devoted Catholics questioning how to reconcile their longtime faith with the realities of the institution they rely on to channel it. For them, decisions that were once a given—like whether to attend mass, send their kids to Catholic school or even have their children baptized—have suddenly become agonizing.

There were 74.3 million Catholics in the U.S. as of 2017, down from 81.6 million just two years earlier, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a nonprofit at Georgetown University. A Pew Research Center survey released this week found 72% of them approve of Pope Francis’ job performance job performance, the lowest of his pontificate and down 12 points since the start of the year. More than 60% of American Catholics think he is doing a fair or poor job handling the sexual-abuse issue.

“Our people still do believe in God,” Archbishop Thomas Wenski, of Miami, said to his priests last month. “But they don’t believe in us.”

Ms. McCabe was in high school outside Boston in 2002 when the broad extent of sexual abuse in the church was reported for the first time. Though polls show church attendance sharply dropped in the wake of the scandal, Ms. McCabe doesn’t remember talking about it much at school or at home. “I had no understanding of how bad things were,” she said.

Now, as a professor of religious studies at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., she is confronting the church’s history of abuse as an adult.

“It just hit me—the level of coverup,” she said of her reaction to the Pennsylvania report. “That’s what felt worse to me.”

She isn’t the only devout person in her family who has been struggling.

Her mother-in-law, Marybeth Brown, has been going to Catholic mass since she was a child, though she struggles to explain why she has continued amid the recent scandals. “It’s the only thing I’ve known in my entire life,” she said.

The 63-year-old remembers questioning what she should do when the priest at her Orange County, Calif., parish—where she had all four of her children baptized—was removed in 2001 amid allegations that he had affairs with adult women and abused teenage girls.

It was “a huge kick in the gut,” she said, but she stuck with the church.

Ms. Brown believed that after the 2002 crisis, church officials had addressed the problem. Recently, though, reports have emerged that clergy who helped cover up sexual abuse by priests in the past—or who had been accused of abuse themselves—remained in positions of power.

“I’m really disgusted,” said Ms. Brown. “This should not still be happening.”

She has tried to separate her faith in God from her disappointment with the church’s leadership.

“As far as my involvement and the feeling I used to get?” she said. “No. Now it’s more my sacrifice.”

Her priest, Father Brendan Mason, was a seminarian in Boston when the 2002 scandal broke and now leads the St. Edward the Confessor congregation in Dana Point, Calif. He said this year “is different.”

“Some people just want to move on—business as usual,” he said. “That’s not my sense from our parishioners. They want accountability.”

Not all Catholics are having crises of faith.

“The mediocre Catholics are the ones shying away from the church,” said Grace Ruiz, 46, after a recent service in Artesia, Calif., where a bishop addressed the scandal from the altar. “All these things don’t only happen to Catholics. They just highlight the Catholics.”

But many of the strongest reactions in churches have come from worshipers outraged by what they have learned about sexual abuse, or by how their leaders have responded.

The first Sunday after the Pennsylvania report was released, Mary Bradford—another lifelong Catholic whose husband converted to Catholicism before they married—walked out of her Annapolis, Md., church, angry that the priest asked parishioners to pray for the church before he mentioned the victims of sexual abuse.

The family has kept attending, but Ms. Bradford, 38, recently suggested to her husband that they look at other denominations.

“The message I’m receiving still seems to be, ‘How do we make sure everyone stays in the church?’ ” she said. “Part of me is like, geez, maybe the church needs to start over.”

https://www.wsj.com/articles/many-catholics-struggle-to-keep-the-faith-1538823600

Related here on Peace and Freedom:
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Morning Prayer for Tuesday, August 28, 2018 — “I offer myself to thee”

August 28, 2018

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Meditation for the Day

Happiness cannot be sought directly; it is a by-product of love and service. Service is a law of our being. With love in your heart, there is always some service to other people. A life of power and joy and satisfaction is built on love and service. Persons who hate or are selfish are going against the law of their own being. They are cutting themselves off from God and other people. Little acts of love and encouragement, of service and help, erase the rough places of life and help to make the path smooth. If we do these things, we cannot help having our share of happiness.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may give my share of love and service. I pray that I may not grow weary in my attempts to do the right thing.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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28 AUGUST, 2018, Tuesday, 21st Week, Ordinary Time

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 THESSALONIANS 2:1-314-17MATTHEW 23:23-26  ]

In the first reading, St Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “Stand firm, then, brothers, and keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”  On one hand, St Paul urged the early Christians to hold on to both the oral and written traditions that they had received from their leaders and the Christian community so that they could remain true to their faith.  It is for this reason, that the Church has many traditions that have been passed down over the centuries which we continue to keep them.

On the other hand, in the gospel, Jesus seems to discard the traditions of the Jews. He criticized them for upholding such traditions.  This is a similar situation when Catholics are accused of keeping the traditions that are not found in the scriptures.  We are often chided for keeping man-made traditions.  As Jesus said in the gospel, “You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” (Mk 7:8)  Is this true?  Jesus further added, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition!”  (Mk 7:9)  Surely this cannot not be the case of the Church!  On the contrary, we keep the traditions so that we can truly keep the commandment of God.

What is the crux of this divergence?  It is the failure to understand what Sacred Tradition is.  The latter refers to the transmission of the content of the gospel, that is, the salvific reality as mediated to us in Christ Jesus.  The gospel is of course neither just the written word nor the oral testimonies and practices of Christians over the ages, but it is the person of Jesus Christ.  Transmitting the gospel is more than just transmitting the Words of Jesus but to transmit the person of Jesus, His words and deeds, His entire being.  It is for this reason that St John wrote at the end of the gospel, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”  (Jn 20:30f) Through oral and written traditions, therefore, we transmit the entire person of our Lord.  This is what St Paul sought to do when he reminded the Christians to keep both the traditions taught to them by word or by mouth.

Secondly, it is a failure to make a distinction between Sacred Tradition and Sacred Traditions.  The first is singular and the second is plural.  When we refer to the traditions of the Church, we are not referring to the gospel, which belongs to Sacred Tradition.  Traditions are the means, whether through words, customs or practices by which we seek to express the Gospel, that is, the person of Jesus in our worship and our daily life.  Such traditions would include the various liturgical seasons of the Church, the numerous practices such as making the Sign of the Cross, fasting, abstinence from meat, devotions to the saints, pilgrimages, etc.  Such traditions are not compulsory or essential or intrinsic to the faith but are means to help Catholics to appreciate Jesus more in their life, experience Him and to grow in union with Him.

Thirdly, we must never forget that human beings cannot live without traditions.  We are human beings and we express ourselves through words, signs and practices.  Culture is the expression of the values of the community.  So, our faith in God would be expressed according to our cultural symbols of love, reverence and piety.  For the Easterners, we bow and kneel as a sign of respect whereas for the Westerners, they stand in attention.  Easterners use joss sticks whereas westerners use incense to express our prayers rising to God.  Every human institution including the different religions and Christian communities would have their own peculiar traditions.  Doing away with traditions is to make religion into an abstract reality.   As human beings, we need to express and experience our faith and love concretely through signs.

Fourthly, the Church always recognizes that there is a hierarchy of truth and values.  Whilst we must maintain that all revealed truths come from God and must be believed with the same faith, yet some doctrines are more central to the faith.   The core of our faith is faith in the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity.  The summary of the core beliefs of Catholic Faith is found in the Creed.  Thus, Second Vatican Council declares, “in Catholic doctrine there exists an order or a ‘hierarchy’ of truths, since they vary in their relation to the foundation of the Christian faith” (Decree on Ecumenism, 11).   This holds true as much for the dogmas of faith including her moral teaching.  What is important is to uphold those doctrines that lead us to a true knowledge of Christ.  St Paul was clear about the purpose of His preaching.  He said, “Through the Good News that we brought God called you so that you should share the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Consequently, Jesus was not against the Jewish customs as such.  Their customs were useful to help them keep the Mosaic Covenant.  They were means to help them to love God and to love their fellowmen.  Jesus made it clear that the heart of religion is “‘… the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  (Mk 12:29-31)  This is what the Lord meant when He said, “Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who pay your tithe of mint and dill and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law – justice, mercy, good faith!  These you should have practised, without neglecting the others.  You blind guides!  Straining out gnats and swallowing camels!”  Indeed, many of us argue and fight over the rubrics, the customs and practices that have been passed down to us and which we observe so meticulously but neglect the weightier things of faith which is love of God, mercy, justice and compassion for our fellowmen.  If our faith does not lead us to love God in our neighbours, then we have missed the whole point of faith.  St John wrote, “The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”  (1 Jn 4:21)

We must be careful that we do not merely perform the rituals or observe the letter of the laws, particularly the small traditions, the customs and practices and forget the more essential dimensions of our faith which is to love God and neighbour.  Whatever we do, we must be led to a deeper relationship with God.  Praying and reading the scriptures is to enable us to know Jesus better and to understand Christ from the perspective of Christians who through the ages have come to know Him.  The Scriptures are the content and summary of faith.  But the scriptures are dead unless it is interpreted by the Christian community for their times.  This is true also of customs and practices.  Unfortunately, many Catholics practice them without relating to the fundamental truth which is Jesus.  When customs and practices are detached from the ultimate goal of where we intend the customs to lead us, then we have missed the point all together.   We end up being superstitious, ritualistic and legalistic.

This same principle should be applied particularly in our relationships with not just other non-Catholic Christians but also with people of other faiths and even among ourselves.  According to the level of faith we share, we must proceed from what is essential and core to religion and then move further up to more specific beliefs before we can even come to a common agreement of customs and practices.  With non-Christian religions and even secularists and humanists, we must begin on the level of love, compassion, justice and charity.   When we are in agreement of these basic aspirations, then we can move on to share the basis of what drives us to live a life of integrity, justice and compassion.  This is where the question of religious motivations and beliefs could then be shared. To help others to understand how we believe in the Sacred, God or the Ultimate in life, it behooves us to learn to appreciate each other’s customs and practices which are meant to enhance our faith in God and our devotion to Him.   Indeed, at the end of the day, there is only one truth and that truth is authentic love of God and our fellowmen.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Enough of Crazy Rich Asians, how about some empathy and compassion crazy poor Hongkongers

August 25, 2018

Yonden Lhatoo says a big ‘bah humbug’ to the crass celebration of wealth behind the Hollywood blockbuster while the city can’t get a grip on grinding poverty and homelessness

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 August, 2018, 1:51pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 August, 2018, 1:51pm
 Crazy wealth disparity as film glorifies in the super-rich and ignores the plight of Asia’s impoverished. Photo: Warner Bros/Sam Tsang

On my way home from work late at night, I often walk through what passes as a public park in this concrete jungle of a city.

By Yonden Lhatoo

It’s essentially a cemented strip, separated from the main road by dusty trees and bushes blackened by soot from vehicle exhaust fumes. Several park benches sheltered by flimsy roofs line the strip, offering spartan refuge to a couple of homeless men who sleep there on a regular basis.

I can’t help noticing how the government has gone out of its way to make them feel unwelcome, putting up notices against street sleepers and taking it a mean-spirited step further by installing iron dividers on every bench, rendering those precious pieces of real estate physically impossible to recline on.

A ‘cardboard granny’ ekes out a living in North Point. Photo: Dickson Lee

And yet the street sleepers are there every night, nodding off while sitting upright between the iron dividers, or slumped over them in tortured slumber, bodies contorted in painful positions.

It’s a truly depressing sight in a city where the plight of the have-nots like these is magnified by contrasting, vulgar displays of wealth and privilege all around them – the park is also a magnet for dog owners walking, or wheeling in strollers, their freshly shampooed and manicured poodles.

All I hear these days is buzz about Crazy Rich Asians, the Hollywood blockbuster featuring a bunch of disgustingly wealthy people living over-privileged lives in Singapore. Photo: Handout

Speaking of homeless people and pets, I was struck by the double standards when a middle-aged man was jailed for four weeks earlier this month for leaving his Pomeranian in his car for hours while he was out delivering pizzas.

Everyone was outraged about the dog being abused but there was zero sympathy for the owner, who was living in his car and had basically left the pet “home” alone. Homelessness for humans takes a back seat to comfort for animals in this city.

A McRefugees sleeps at a 24-hour McDonald’s restaurant in Wan Chai. Photo: Sam Tsang

According to the government, the number of registered street sleepers has doubled to 1,127 over the past five years. Independent researchers and concern groups estimate there are twice as many.

Hundreds of them are “McSleepers” – people who spend their nights in 24-hour McDonald’s outlets – thanks to the fast food giant’s praiseworthy policy of open arms and tolerance that should put our welfare and housing authorities to shame.

Think about it: while our government is on a crusade to clear the homeless out of public places instead of taking truly bold action to tackle the causes of grinding poverty and insane property prices, McDonald’s is providing the immediate relief that nobody else could be bothered to.

From left: Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding and Constance Wu in a still from Crazy Rich Asians.

Hong Kong’s widening wealth gap, already worse than in countries such as South Korea, Japan, Britain and the United States, has become obscene.

When Oxfam reported that 82 per cent of the wealth generated on this planet last year went into the pockets of the richest 1 per cent while the poorest half of humanity got nothing, it also urged the government here to “increase public spending and create a human economy such that everyone – not just the fortunate few – can benefit”.

The entrance to a street sleepers’ shelter in Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong. It is located above a trash collection centre. Photo: Su Xinqi

I don’t see anyone doing anything about it, really. In fact all I hear these days is the buzz about Crazy Rich Asians , the Hollywood blockbuster featuring a bunch of disgustingly wealthy people living over-privileged lives in Singapore.

I get the whole thing about a movie with an all-Asian cast finally breaking the box office in an industry that usually prefers white actors in yellowface to portray people from this part of the world. But all this brouhaha about celebrating “Asian pride” is sickening, to say the least.

Crazy Rich Asians author Kevin Kwan arrives at the film’s premiere in Hollywood. Photo: AFP

Sorry, what exactly are ordinary Asians so proud and excited about here? That we can also boast of people who charter private jets and own islands? That over-the-top opulence enjoyed by a few among us is cause for the rest to celebrate?

With all due respect to the crazy rich Asians and their fans in this city, how about some empathy and compassion for crazy poor Hongkongers instead?

Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/community/article/2161325/enough-crazy-rich-asians-think-crazy-poor-hongkongers

Even with no priests, I need the Church, the laity, the Gospels, the commandments — “It’s the Laity, Stupid”

August 24, 2018

Even with no priests, I need the Church, the laity, the Gospels, the commandments and the hope for eternal life.

Image may contain: one or more people and closeup

Our current world encourages anger, outrage, retribution.

The Imitation of Christ calls us to something just the opposite.

That’s important for me to remember among the swirl of church scandal and all the talk. I don’t have to talk, or discuss or partake.

In fact, I am called to forgive and move forward.

Well past middle age, I met a priest walking, and we became daily companions, walking a few miles each morning.

One morning, as a we passed a church, but not his church, he said to me, “Why don’t you go, listen to the Word of God, and eat the Body of Christ.”

This was “Catholic re-awakening Number 1” for me.

That resulted in a decade of daily Mass and devoted service to the church.

The “walking Priest” has my eternal gratitude for pointing me in the right direction, without a lot of discussion, analyses or hoop-la.

Inside the church, the priests I found never met up to my expectations. Being human, I often hold others, especially priests, to a very high standard. A standard I probably could never attain myself, in fact.

We humans do that, I’m told.

Parishioners must have heard me “talking out of school” about the pastor a time or two, because a man named Eric approached me one day and invited me to dinner. In the middle of dinner, he blurted out, “So you come to church for the pastor, not for Jesus.”

Lesson Number 2: My job is to find and follow Jesus, using anything and everything and everybody that can help me.

Before long, I was ready to unburden myself of a lifetime of sins. I found a willing priest to hear my confession. In the middle of confessing some vague impropriety with a member of the opposite sex, the priest stood up, pointed at me and said, “THAT WAS MY GIRL.”

Lesson Number Three, for me is, “Priests are people too.”

And we all need to keep that lesson in mind as people struggle with the thoughts of criminal priest.

The bigger picture is this: I need the Church. Even though priests are people too, and some are criminal, I need the Eucharist and confession and the other sacraments. It’s O.K. by me if God doesn’t assign St. Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa to my parish to look after me.

And the final lesson I learned is this: there is magic and joy and compassion and fellowship and holiness among the laity of every kind of church everywhere.

Once I offered to drive a fellow parishioner home. The next day he had a stroke. So I went to the hospital on the off chance that I could be of some help. When this man, who I had only me once before, came out of a coma, he grabbed me and said, “You are my Simon of Cyrene.”

That assignment sounded like an edict from God to me. So I became, for the twinkling of an eye, Simon of Cyrene. I leaned to pray for the strength I needed to love and help and provide one of God’s greatest gifts to another: compassion. That gentleman’s name was Peter. We spent several years as companions and prayer partners. We learned together the ins and outs of spiritual life as well as the American medical system.

Peter has passed to his eternal reward. But before he left this earth he saved my life and my soul — just as if he dug a bullet out of my chest with a kitchen knife.

It turned out we didn’t need a priest at all.

So I encourage people to go to Church, to serve their fellow man and to keep their eyes and ears open for the Peter, the Matthew, the Mark or the John that God has sent for you.

He may not be a priest at all. Because the Church is all of us. And God is in charge.

Image result for simon of cyrene

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One Catholic’s Reaction to Criminal Priests

August 19, 2018

The laity is the key to my spiritual life, even though several priest have played important roles along the way.

Image may contain: one or more people and closeup

Well past middle age, I met a priest walking, and we became daily companions, walking a few miles each morning.

One morning, as a we passed a church, but not his church, he said to me, “Why don’t you go, listen to the Word of God, and eat the Body of Christ.”

This was “Catholic re-awakening Number 1” for me.

That resulted in a decade of daily Mass and devoted service to the church.

The “walking Priest” has my eternal gratitude for pointing me in the right direction, without a lot of discussion, analyses or hoop-la.

Inside the church, the priests I found never met up to my expectations. Being human, I often hold others, especially priests, to a very high standard. A standard I probably could never attain myself, in fact.

We humans do that, I’m told.

Parishioners must have heard me “talking out of school” about the pastor a time or two, because a man named Eric approached me one day and invited me to dinner. In the middle of dinner, he blurted out, “So you come to church for the pastor, not for Jesus.”

Lesson Number 2: My job is to find and follow Jesus, using anything and everything and everybody that can help me.

Before long, I was ready to unburden myself of a lifetime of sins. I found a willing priest to hear my confession. In the middle of confessing some vague impropriety with a member of the opposite sex, the priest stood up, pointed at me and said, “THAT WAS MY GIRL.”

Lesson Number Three, for me is, “Priests are people too.”

And we all need to keep that lesson in mind as people struggle with the thoughts of criminal priest.

The bigger picture is this: I need the Church. Even though priests are people too, and some are criminal, I need the Eucharist and confession and the other sacraments. It’s O.K. by me if God doesn’t assign St. Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa to my parish to look after me.

And the final lesson I learned is this: there is magic and joy and compassion and fellowship and holiness among the laity of every kind of church everywhere.

Once I offered to drive a fellow parishioner home. The next day he had a stroke. So I went to the hospital on the off chance that I could be of some help. When this man, who I had only me once before, came out of a coma, he grabbed me and said, “You are my Simon of Cyrene.”

That assignment sounded like an edict from God to me. So I became, for the twinkling of an eye, Simon of Cyrene. I leaned to pray for the strength I needed to love and help and provide one of God’s greatest gifts to another: compassion. That gentleman’s name was Peter. We spent several years as companions and prayer partners. We learned together the ins and outs of spiritual life as well as the American medical system.

Peter has passed to his eternal reward. But before he left this earth he saved my life and my soul — just as if he dug a bullet out of my chest with a kitchen knife.

It turned out we didn’t need a priest at all.

So I encourage people to go to Church, to serve their fellow man and to keep their eyes and ears open for the Peter, the Matthew, the Mark or the John that God has sent for you.

He may not be a priest at all. Because the Church is all of us. And God is in charge.

Image result for simon of cyrene