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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Indeed, Life is a Pilgrimage...

“I am a stranger upon earth,” (Psalm 118:19)

 While we live in this life, we are so many pilgrims who wander up and down upon the earth, far from our country, which is Heaven, where the Lord awaits us, that we may rejoice forever in His glorious countenance. “While we are in the body,” writes the Apostle, “we are absent from the Lord.” If then we love God, we ought to have a continual desire to leave this place of exile by being separated from the body, that we may go and see Him. It was for this that St. Paul ever sighed as he said, “We are willing to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)

Before the common redemption of us, miserable sons of Adam, the way of approach to God was closed up, but Jesus Christ, by His death, has obtained for us the grace of having it in our power to become the sons (and daughters) of God and thus has opened to us the gates by which we can have access, as children, to our Father, Almighty God.

On this account, St. Paul says, “Now, therefore, you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints.” (Ephesians 2:19) Thus, so long as we are in the grace of God, we enjoy the citizenship of Paradise and belong to the family of God. St. Augustine says, “Nature, corrupted with sin, produces citizens of an earthly city; but grace, which frees our nature from sin, makes us citizens of a heavenly country and vessels of mercy.”

This fact coerced David to say, “I am a stranger on earth; hide not Thy commandments from me.” (Psalm 118:119) O Lord, I am a pilgrim upon this earth; teach me to keep Thy precepts, which are the road by which I may reach my country in Heaven. It is not wonderful that the wicked should wish to live forever in this world, for they justly fear that they shall pass from the pains of this life to the eternal and infinitely more terrible pains of Hell. But how can he who loves God and has a moral certainty that he is in the state of grace, desire to go on living in this vale of tears, in continual bitterness, in straits of conscience, in peril of perishing? How can he help sighing, to depart at once to unite himself with God in a blessed eternity, where there is no danger of his destroying himself?

Souls which love God cry out with David, “Woe is me, for my banishment is prolonged.” (Psalm 119:5) Therefore it is that the Saints have continually had this prayer upon their lips: “Thy kingdom come: quickly, O Lord, quickly carry us to Thy kingdom!” Let us make speed, then, as the Apostle exhorts us, to enter that kingdom where we shall find perfect peace and contentment: “Let us hasten to enter into that rest.” (Hebrews 4:11) Let us hasten, I say, with desire and not cease to walk onwards till we come to that blessed country which God prepares for them that love Him.

The Soul Sanctified“He that runs,” says St. John Chrysostom, “pays not heed to the spectators, but hasten on his course.” Therefore, the Saint argues, the longer our life has been, the more we should hasten with good works to win the palm. Thus, our one constant prayer for relief from the troubles and trials which we endure in this life ought to be this, “Thy kingdom come,” Lord: may Thy kingdom speedily come, where united eternally to Thee and loving Thee face-to-face with all our powers, we shall no longer know fear or danger of falling away. And when we find ourselves afflicted with the labors or dishonors of the world, let us comfort ourselves with the thought of the great reward which God prepares for those who suffer for the love of Him. “Rejoice in that day and be glad, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.” (Luke 6:23)

(meditation extracted from The Day Sanctified, 1873, republished as The Soul Sanctified)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010 Pearls

One of the most fascinating of all jewels…is the pearl. A pearl with all of its luster and beauty is worn during the hours of entertainment and enjoyment. We associate pearls with times of pleasure, but did you ever stop to consider how a cultured pearl is made…genuine, cultured pearls produced inside of an oyster. …consider how the making of a pearl contrasts strangely with its use.

No other jewel has such a fascinating story as a pearl. A pearl is a symbol of trouble that has been healed. If there has been no trouble, there would have been no pearl.

Scientists are in agreement that pearls are the product of pain. Sometimes the pain is caused by a microscopic worm and sometimes by a boring parasite. The shell of the oyster is chipped or pierced and a foreign object like a speck of sand gets inside. Immediately, all the resources of the tiny oyster rush to the spot when the breach was made. In that moment of danger, and only in that moment, the oyster discharges a secretion to close the breach and save its life. The speck of sand is covered by the secretion. The wound is healed, and a pearl is made.

Most of us have experienced what it means to be pierced and wounded by the troubles of life. Do we turn our troubles to triumph, or do they triumph over us? Suffering adds a maturing dimension to life.

At the famous Passion play at Oberammergau, Germany (, the characters in the play earn their livelihood as woodcarvers, carving statues of Biblical characters. ...At a woodcarver’s shop…there are …piles of ordinary blocks of wood. The woodcarver selects one, picks up a hatchet, and starts hacking away. The chips fly in every direction. Then he takes tools sharper then knives, and he cuts and carves until it seems as though he is cutting away a whole block of wood. If the block of wood were alive, it would kick and scream and say something like this, “Stop that at once! You are killing me!”

But out of the chopping and cutting, there finally emerges a St. Peter or a St. Paul or a St. John. Out of suffering and hardship comes character.

Suffering and suffering may weaken and even destroy some people’s relationship with God. While, on the other hand, trouble and suffering only deepen other’s relationship with God. Trouble has the possibility of greatness of the soul. It was a blinded John Milton who wrote Paradise Lost. It was an imprisoned John Bunyan who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. It was a deafened Beethoven who composed the immortal 9th Symphony and it was an imprisoned, persecuted Apostle Paul, “beaten with Roman rods, lashed with Roman whips”, who wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians (v3-4), “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.”

By the merciful grace of God for all his children, our troubles can be turned into triumph.

(extracted from a sermon by Bob Ralls, The United Methodist Church)

In nómine Patris et Fílii et Spíritus Sancti. Amen.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Becoming a Blessing to Others...

I remember my friends, in the rat-race (employment, they call it), who forcibly and painstakingly drag their feet to work each morning. It’s just that the office environment saps all the energy from them, reducing them to a mere piece of instrument, with no emotions, to be constantly exploited and abused by the powers that be; their superiors.

How can life be simple and quiet for them, when daily, these people are being mocked by the so-called “bosses” who professed themselves to be more “superior” than the rest (sadly, some of these bosses often term themselves so-called “religious´; part time, I’d say)? Isn’t this the dilemma many of us face daily? The paradox of life – need the money, must tolerate the cancer of the office.

When we are young sometime ago, we are taught by our parents, “Do good things. Don't do bad things.” We all know what this all means. But as many of us progress upwards in the rat-race world, we forget and get caught in the moment and choose unwisely. Instead of our lives being a blessing to others, we become a persecution to everyone else.

How simple and wonderful life can be if we could just remember this piece advice. Due to such forgetfulness or intent, many lives of our so-called subordinates may have taken a fatal twist, perhaps even families destroyed – simply due to our abusive exercise of powers delegated to us by virtue of the position and rank in office.

One wonders whether “bosses” can sleep well at night amidst their cancerous display of powers behind the camouflage of performance and profits – in the commercial world, they termed this as being “professional”. What is professionalism when we do not choose to see the goodness in others, do not want to be patient enough to bring out the best in others – do not play our part to make this world a little easier for others, a little better, lighten the burden…instead, many choose to play judge and condemn… How often do we keep going, on a daily basis, caught on the treadmill of deadlines without a hint of awareness of what is happening within or around us?

A great Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh (also a good friend of Thomas Merton) once said, "It is said that God has created man in his own image. But it may be that humankind has created God in the image of humankind." It is sad that humankind’s interpretation of God today has come to constitute the blatant abuse of power, material possessions, money, position, rank, status, injustice…and corruption.

At the end of the day, in all the simplicity and fragility of this short life, God is pure love and present in each one of our fellow human sister and brother. God is always present to us and in us. St Paul wrote in his First Letter to the Corinthians verse 13:7, “Love…bears all things…hopes all things, endures all things.”

I recall the words of Mother Teresa, the Blessed Catholic nun…

"People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway."

"I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things."

Therefore, whether one is an employee or a “boss” of this world, we are all part of the same human race and we must always remember and ponder in the quietness of our hearts, the simple wisdom, “Do good things. Don't do bad things.” Life then, can become a more meaningful journey and we, in turn, become a blessing to others; our fellow pilgrims.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Waves of Life...

"As soon as we are alone,...inner chaos opens up in us. This chaos can be so disturbing and so confusing that we can hardly wait to get busy again. Entering a private room and shutting the door, therefore, does not mean that we immediately shut out all our inner doubts, anxieties, fears, bad memories, unresolved conflicts, angry feelings and impulsive desires. On the contrary, when we have removed our outer distraction, we often find that our inner distraction manifest themselves to us in full force. We often use the outer distractions to shield ourselves from the interior noises. This makes the discipline of solitude all the more important."

— Henri J.M. Nouwen

In the quiet inner silence, we contemplate on the present and the truth of who we are will be revealed in time. This time of silence can either be voluntarily taken amidst all our busy-ness or forced upon us by some terminal disease or even death within the family or loved ones.

When we choose to carry and surf the wave of faith and hope, living life simply in the solitude of our hearts, always pondering on the present, being grateful for what we have, seeing the goodness in others - we will understand who we are in due time, we will know the purpose of our life and find strength to live it to the fullest; living it for God and radiating our light on others; making this world a little bit better - living a life that matters.

At the end of the day, when all is said and done, what is it that truly matters to us before we breathe our last? That is what must sustain us, this is what we must be living for in each present moment of our lives.

"Keeping a journal has taught me that there is not so much new in your life as you sometimes think. When you re-read your journal you find out that your latest discovery is something you already found out five years ago. Still, it is true that one penetrates deeper and deeper into the same ideas and the same experiences."

— Thomas Merton