Concrete Love!

We are not allowed to fail in loving. We are made to love. Every learning, experience, study should deepen our knowledge and will to love. We will be judged on love. So, as the church is looking for new ways to spiritually re-awaken the faithful who are drunk with the wine of secularism and indifference, it is only if we teach them how to love concretely that they will be sobered up. Who but St. Therese is better fitted for that task since it was she who brought to light the idea of doing small things with incredible amount of love. Therese of Lisieux is the saint of love. Although all the saints became saints as a result of love, it is Therese who emphasized for us how to practice love. What is her understanding of charity?

She believed Jesus’ command at the Last Supper — love one another as I have loved you— constitutes the Magna Carta of our faith. How we live this reveals our identity.[1] She noticed that Jesus did not love his disciples for their natural qualities; they were poor uneducated fishermen while he was eternal wisdom. He loved them because he wanted them to enjoy the kingdom. We too must become students in the school of love and master every aspect of it in our striving to become true disciples. Thus, she discovered a new insight about charity. “True charity consists in bearing with the defects of others, in not being surprised at their weakness, but edified at their smallest virtues. Above all I know that charity must not remain shut up in the heart, for “No one lights a candle, and puts it in a hidden place”.”[2] That means we must be charitable not only to those who are dear to us, but also to all without distinction. Unlike the old law which commands us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, the new commandment given by Jesus urges us to love them as Jesus himself loves them i.e. more than ourselves.[3]img_0252

Marred by weaknesses and imperfections, unless Jesus loves in us, we cannot love others as Jesus loves us.[4] Thus grace becomes the epicenter of this commandment; grace empowers us to do what we would not otherwise be able to do on our own. So, frequent participation in the sacraments becomes crucial because they are the source of grace. As Aquinas shows, “the Sacraments are necessary for our salvation since it’s the only healing remedy against the disease of sin”.[5] Since we are living in the age of the new evangelization, if it is to be successful, practical love as developed by St. Therese and the celebration of the sacraments will have to go hand in hand.

Charity is concretized in how we approach every act. As she puts it, “it is not enough [to say we] love; we must prove it”.[6] That proof will happen under trials sometimes. The more united we are to Jesus the deeper we can love. So when we see defects in others, if we look at them with the eyes of love, we automatically see their virtues and good intentions.[7] She called that “small victories in the battlefield”. For example, in the convent where she lived, there was a sister who had the gift of displeasing Therese in her ways, words, and character. She could not stand her. She decides to practice charity toward her because “charity does not consist in feelings, but in works”;[8] she decided to do for that sister what she would do for the person she loved the most”.[9] So every time she meets her, she prays for her. When sister says something that was hurtful, instead of responding, Therese would smile most charmingly, or if she could, she’d change the conversation for as she sees it, “arguments don’t change hearts”.[10] If she could not resist the sister in her hurtful manner, she would run away like a coward to avoid sinning. She became victorious over that temptation through prayer, kindness, and virtuous cowardice. By preferring to see the sister as Jesus sees her, Therese knew she was pleasing Jesus for “just like an artist is pleased to receive praise for his work, the divine artist is pleased when we don’t stop at the exterior, but penetrate the inner sanctuary of his work where he dwells”.[11] Therese practiced that love so well, one day that sister asks Therese, “what attracts you so much toward me? Every time you look at me, you smile”. Success!

st-thereseCharity penetrates even the most hardened hearts; it heals even the most wounded; it soothes and frees the soul to focus on its natural inclination. Therese overcomes her temptations by mean of love. Charity changes mind and heart. It opens doors. She focused in growing in personal love, then that affects those around her drastically; love is irresistible; confronting the sister would create more friction and pain. Fraternal correction would only hurt her pride. How many today are wounded, broken, bruised, abused, and used because they don’t know how to love? Instead of detesting that sister, who gave her at first every chance to do so, she prefers to see Jesus hidden n the depths of her soul.[12] Would you like to change a bad coworker, neighbor, friend, unleash the power of love within you and participate in the sacraments very frequently, then wait to see marvel. How many people going to church regularly don’t know how best to live the truth? To be a Christian is the result of an encounter with the person of Jesus; that encounter should give a radical direction to our lives.

What am I talking about? Are there examples out there of that concrete love I am talking about? Maximilian Kolbe manifested that love at Auschwitz when he replaced father of three who was chosen to die. It is alive in St. Gianna Mollo’s daughter for whom she gave up her life. it is alive in those who strive to love the poor. we can touch in parents who sacrifice everything out of love for their family.

Lastly, charity is an interior disposition manifested externally. Performing many actions for others without interiorly disposed is not charity; in her words, “when charity has buried its roots deeply in the soul, it shows itself externally”.[13] So there can be charity in refusing to do for someone what cannot be done. It all depends of the disposition of the soul. Reform your soul. Convert.

This may sound obvious to many; that’s consoling; however there are many who don’t understand this fundamental calling of the Christian life, or how to live out their calling. A simple conversation with them reveals all this. That’s difficult to preach effectively morality, the cross, fasting, almsgivings, praying for one’s enemies, forgiveness etc. to people when they don’t get the basics. Unless they understand love is the basis of all these, unless they become love themselves, these will be a burden on them, and homilies will sound like blah blah blah.

The little way next be patient please

[1] Story of a soul, 219

[2] Story of a soul, 220

[3] Story of a soul, 220

[4] Story of a soul, 221

[5] ST III, 61, 1

[6] 225

[7] story of a soul, 221

[8] Story of a soul, 222

[9] ibid

[10] Story of a soul, 223

[11] Story of a soul, 222

[12] Story of a soul, 223

[13] story of a soul, 228

Love: The Cornerstone

Without a doubt, the foundation of the Christian life rests on love. All doctrines, all ecclesial laws, all spiritualties, all theologies aim at deepening the virtue of love. Without love, all efforts would miss the forest for the tree, or confound the stars for the sun, or prioritize means over end. Thats why love is always the unspoken attraction that brings two people together. St. Paul, powerful evangelizers that he was, understood the point of the Christian life profoundly. Thus, he wrote that even if we have all spiritual gifts and powers in the Christian community enabling us to occupy lofty position, if we don’t have love, it profits nothing. If we speak in tongues, they will cease; if we have knowledge, it will be done away. Love alone, the greatest of the spiritual gifts, will last (I Cor. 13:1-13). Love is the greatest equalizer in life.

imagesThis insight into the mystery of God encapsulates the call of every Christian. Love alone allows us to become godlike. From a Christian point of view, it is a noble task to be the mother Teresa of the poorest of the poor; it is praiseworthy to fight for justice like martin Luther king using nonviolence; it is ideal to convert a continent like the religious missionaries of the 16th to 18th centuries. However, unless charity constitutes the cornerstone of this endeavor, it does not leave an indelible mark in The Book of Life. All human inspiration must begin with charity and lead ultimately to greater charity. When she was seeking for her specific call (since she was already a Carmelite sister engaged to pray for priests) within the church, St. Therese of Lisieux discovered a pivotal and illuminating passage in the epistle of St. Paul that points her toward the epicenter of what it means to follow Christ.[1]

She went through a searching period. She felt that burning desire to do more in the church. It can be said that she was looking for her call within her call. At first, she wanted to be a warrior/martyr performing heroic deeds for Christ, guarding the pope, or going on crusade to defend the faith; she did not want just one type of martyrdom; she wanted to be flayed like St. Bartholomew, boiled in oil like St. John, tortured like St. Agnes and St. Cecilia, and guillotined like Joan of arc.[2] Then, she felt the vocation of the priest which would enable her to carry the living Christ in her hands and give him to thirsty souls; at the same time, she wanted the humility of St. Francis who did not feel worthy to receive the sublime dignity of the priesthood. As if the battle in her heart was not divisive enough, she felt the vocation of the apostles and the missionaries by which she would travel throughout the world to preach the glorious name of Christ.[3]

There are many who are reading this who felt like they are torn between many things in life or in the church. St. Therese can be a lamp within their feet. if you don’t know what God wants you to do with your life yet, you can never go wrong loving intensely. That’s enough to make you a saint, which is the goal of every life. As a faithful daughter of the church who wanted nothing but to do the will of God, she accepts that while they may be many spiritual gifts, not all can be doctors, martyrs, evangelists, priests etc. therefore, “I abase myself to the very depths of my nothingness, and raised myself so high I was able to reach myself”.[4] She then discovered something more excellent than all these wants. Without love, these desires don’t lead to God. In this discovery, her restless soul found solace.[5]

images-1Charity is the breadth, length, height, and depth of all vocations. The heart of the church burns with love, as she understands her. Love is the heart that pumps blood in the body of the church enabling her to function. It is love that makes the heart of the church beats. “If love ever becomes extinct, apostles would not preach the gospel, martyrs would refuse to shed their blood, and priests would become social workers. Love is everything because it encapsulates all vocation. In the midst of this discovery, she uproariously exclaimed “MY VOCATION IS LOVE; in the heart of the church, my mother, I shall be Love”.[6] Now, this discovery gives her the key to be the greatest in the church. The measure of her greatness will be the measure of her love. Let this be known, dear friends, what was true for St. Therese is true for all of us we are to be love. We will be as great as our love. As Aquinas famously puts it, “from love we came, by means of love, to become love, and to return to love”. No one but ourselves can stop us from becoming love and returning to love. We are each called to be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect. God is love, St. John the evangelist tells us. To be like him is to become enwrapped in love. Therefore, if you dream of the height, if you want to reach the mountaintop both in this life and the next, if you want to achieve something noble, worthwhile, if you want to shake the earth, unleash the power of love hidden within your heart. Genuine love is power.

How she lived her vocation to love marks the 20th century and continues to be unraveled in the 21st century. St. Pius IX did not hesitate as a result to dub her the greatest saint of the modern times. No small feats! St. John Paul II proclaimed a doctor of the church although she died at 24 and lived behind closed doors in her last 10 years on earth. The “Little Way” by which she lived her vocation to love is the most known and pursued spirituality right now. it is what inspired countless people to live holiness in an unprecedented way. That’s what inspired mother Teresa and her sisters to love the poorest of the poor so drastically.

I will explain the little way in the next post. Patience please!

[1] Story of a soul, 192

[2] Story of a soul, 193

[3] ibid 192

[4] ibid 194

[5] ibid 194

[6] ibid 194

Behold the Woman!

It is often said that behind every great man, there always is a great woman. This certainly has come true in Jesus and our Blessed Lady. Through grace and cooperation with God’s plan, she made him into what he had become for the world. Just like a woman is always crucial into what kind of person a child becomes, Mary was vital into what Christ became. Remember she was not a puppet in the hands of God; she freely chose to cooperate; no one forced her. As we celebrate the feast of her Assumption— the belief that she was taken body and soul into heaven without knowing any corruption— we owe her so much gratitude for allowing us to hope of salvation by giving us Jesus. I mean God did, but she cooperates. Is it not strange that in an era where Feminism is at its height The Blessed Lady is not on every lip, TV shows, books, movies, and arts as the greatest example of women’s power? If this movement got it right, she should be its vanguard.

M_AssumptionReflecting on what God had accomplished through her, it is concluded that she is the highest honor of our race. Why? No human beings can deem to be the bearer (mother) of God. No one occupies such a pivotal role in the liberation of a race as she did. No hero or heroine was that crucial in any cause. Our salvation begun as a result her fiat; we could speculate about what would have happened had she responded negatively, but all we know she did not. Because of her, heaven and earth, God and human had come together. By such occurrence, the human race that was galloping in the direction of hell makes a U-turn. The church never fails to honor her for playing such a powerful role. That’s why we dare call her Mediatrix, Co-Redemptoris of our salvation. That means she was the spark that started the whole fire though she probably did not foresee the consequences of her fiat. God could have done otherwise of course had he preferred it, but he did not and she cooperated with the divine plan. We can all learn from her exemplary life. Don’t we all want to do something heroic, magnificent, and extraordinary? Well, we can. Search for God’s plan and follow it intensely. Then be ready to be amazed.pier

She is such a powerful figure for all young men and women striving to be a “person of the Beatitudes”. She remained a virgin before (because she has not known Joseph yet), during (because she bore the child through the power of the Holy Spirit—that’s a miracle), and after (because both Joseph and her understood that what had happened set them apart for a special mission) giving birth to Christ. When promiscuity is so widespread, when clothes and body image are cut to show the power of our maleness and femaleness, when it is deemed “embarrassing” to preserve one’s virginity until marriage, she offers an alternative. Her voice goes out to all striving or doubting whether it is worth preserving themselves. She’s telling us a resounding yes; it worth it. The great pearl that you are was not made to be known by multiple partners or seen by all.

family2Moreover, as the greatest mother who had ever lived, she is a great model of what it means to be an excellent mother, and a teacher to all fathers. To all women, she teaches how to accompany a child as the child is trying to grow in wisdom and age. She let him be, and through that she discovered who he is—do whatever he tells you (John 2). To fathers, she teaches how to treat a child when things don’t go as planned. Finding him in the temple, notice how she did not yell at him, but rather she asked him a question— Son, why have you treated us this way (Luke 2:48)? Joseph stands there and observes how she does it. we men don’t handle things this way. Another lesson is that in our attempt to help those who need help in this journey, she is a great example of how best to do so— never in a nagging or imposing way. She teaches us that asking questions, attentive listening go a long way.

Mary Mother of God, teach us how to navigate this current!

Juxtaposing Amoris Laetitia and Cardinal Newman

It is often believed that doctrine and spirituality do not always go hand in hand. The former seems to care about maintaining the principles of the faith while the latter is concerned about the human person. In the apostolic exhortation Amoris Latitiae—the two seem to have juxtaposed beautifully; that’s almost an unprecedented move. It captures the attitude of our Lord who while he set forth a demanding ideal yet never failed to show compassion and closeness to the frailty of individuals. The way he treated the Samaritan woman and the woman caught in adultery are two illustrating examples.

Of course, the Church has always been aware of that attitude. John Paul II proposed the “law of gradualness” in the document Familiaris Consortium. It’s the understanding that the human person “knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by different stages of growth” (34). Just like a teacher would not teach his students Calculus until he goes through all the lower math levels, we should not impose the high idealism of the spiritual life until a person is ready to understand, interiorize, and embrace the full truth of Jesus’ teachings. It is prudent to gradually teach a person, accompany him/her until that person is in the position to fully carry out the objective demands of the law. We must say like St. Paul, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.” (1 Cor. 3:2). When will we know the person is ready to embrace the full teaching depends on the pastor’s relationship with the Holy Spirit who reveals the truth to his shepherd. Not black or white! What if the person is never ready? That’s a fair question.

UnknownThe church is in the business of reintegration not casting off. She is always ready to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart (Amoris Laetitia 296). So, if someone exhibits a way of life incompatible with the Christian ideal, that person needs to let the gospel penetrates his life so he can experience conversion. Pastors of souls are there to help through that process. that simply means there will be a lot of new beginnings and fall start. The church’s role is simple to patiently stand alongside each person as they keep on trying. Again, this is the first time a church document dealing with doctrine is juxtaposing doctrine and spiritual growth.

Remarkably, the document mentions that despite the struggles, a person can take part in the social service of the church like Knight of Columbus, Legion of Mary, St. Vincent de Paul, prayer meetings together with the discernment of the parish priest. That’s a way to avoid the person from feeling separated from the community. The goal is to help “people feel not an excommunicated member of the Church, but instead a living member” (299). It is important to understand that participation in the community does not always mean serving at the altar during the liturgy. I don’t think there has ever been any clearer statement on this issue until this. While no one was ever rejected, many did feel that way. The hope is that this clarification brings out some changes.

Now, in case of divorced and civilly remarried, “it is the responsibility of the church to help them understand the divine pedagogy of grace in their lives and assist them so they can reach the fullness of God’s plan for them” (Amoris Laetitia 297). Again, that’s when the law of gradualness comes handy. Pastors of souls must work with those living in an irregular marriage until they are fully integrated into the life of the Trinity. That means they must meet regularly with their pastor until they can find a solution that brings them fully into the flock of God. Currently, they are absolutely part of God’s flock, but not fully. Spiritual direction and instruction have as their ultimate goal to bring them fully into the church.

confessions-about-confessionWithout falling into casuistry, the document cleverly maintains that not all divorced and civilly remarried can be pigeonholed as one. There must be “a renewed encouragement to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases since the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases”. Therefore, priests have a duty to initiate a process of accompaniment and discernment in order to “guide the divorced and remarried to an awareness of their situation before God (300). A pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in “irregular” situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives (305).

The following cases cannot be treated in a general manner: A second union consolidated over time, with new children, proven fidelity, generous self giving, Christian commitment, a consciousness of its irregularity” must be treated atypically because it does not fit the general norm.

Or the case of someone who has made every effort to save her first marriage and was unjustly abandoned, and so entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing while subjectively certain in conscience that her previous and irreparably broken marriage had never been valid” deserves special attention.

Someone who has consistently failed in his obligations to the family cannot be seen as the same as the above.

The document throws light of factors at play when judging a case of divorced and civilly remarried. “ a person may know the rule full well, yet have great difficulty in understanding (notice it says understanding not accepting) “its inherent values”, or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.” This is an important point. It entails that a person may be living in an irregular situation yet possesses grace and charity. As Aquinas puts it, “someone may possess grace and charity, yet not be able to exercise any one of the virtues well” (ST I-II, 65, 3, ad2). This is very enlightening. That means because of the particular circumstances that surround a divorced and civilly remarried person, he/ she may not be as culpable as another person divorced and remarried couple (302). Again, not all cases can be put in the same basket. A negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about the culpability of the person involved. So responsibility with respect to certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases (302).

A logical question that follows from this unfamiliar teaching is: is this a departure from the mother doctrine as laid out in Familiaris Consortium, or is this part of hermeneutic of continuity? Put otherwise, is this a legitimate development of what Jesus said in Matthew 19:9 (whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.”), or a corruption of it?

That leads to what John Henry Newman, the great towering Anglican figure who converted to Catholicism, said n his work entitled On the Development of Christian Doctrine about the criteria for a doctrine to be developed genuinely. Chapter 5 is worth your time.

For a doctrine to be developed genuinely, it mus9c712f6115b426b6081d1f94edc217d9t preserve the essential form and structure of what came before it. It is genuine if it retains one and the same type, the same principles, the same organization; if its beginnings anticipate its subsequent phases, and its later phenomena protect and subserve its earlier; if it has a power of assimilation and revival, and a vigorous action from first to last. By the same token, butterfly can be seen as a genuinely development of caterpillar. While butterfly is not the same as a caterpillar, it preserves the essential form and structure of a caterpillar.

An authentic development illustrates, corroborates that from which it proceeds. A child is an illustration of the parents. Christianity is a legitimate development of Judaism.

An authentic development has the power to assimilate. While it takes what is best and sound for its own development, it rejects what does not square off with its future life. Doctrines and views as they relate to man are never placed in a void; they are found in the crowded world, and make way for themselves by interpenetration, and develop by absorption. They interpenetrate people and are absorbed according to the mode of the recipient. As recipients grow into deeper understanding and gain more experiences in life, their understanding of doctrines is bound to undergo deeper and expansive development.

So does Amoris Laetitia constitute a departure from Matthew 19:9? It would serve anyone interested in answering this question to take Cardinal Newman as a mentor and companion. He could save a great deal of embarrassment.

Nothing Yet All

Scholars have explained the human person as a phenomenon because he bore within himself the spiritual and the physical. Through our body, we reach down to the lower elements and are one with the animals and minerals; through our mind, we reach upwards to God and the angels.

jesus holding manWe know this is true instinctively; on one hand, we can enter into the depth of ourselves through silence and prayer, becoming as much like the angels as possible. On the other, we experience instincts and emotions that often get the better of us. as long as we are journey in this life, we struggle to strike a perfect balance between these two realities.

So, man is a mystery, a puzzle that generations have been trying to understand, but he still remains a depthless enigma incapable of being deciphered through and through; he is a paradox. He is simple yet complicated, straight yet crooked, lighted yet darkened, easy yet difficult. He often operates on the extreme; hence the need for direction. He can exalt himself as the absolute measure of all things or debases himself to the point of despair. Man needs help because he is split within himself. We tarnish the work of art that we are and destroy our inner beauty when we don’t control our divided self. We need God and that’s the truth. As Ecclesiastes shows and Blaise Pascal observes, “man without God is in total ignorance and inevitable misery.” The contrary is not true; God does not need us. we are completely contingent on him. What is man compared to God?

God could have left us in the lowliness of our choice, but like a mother who could not stop mothering, he intervenes. Why does he? After all, says Pascal, “what is man in nature? A nothing in relation to infinity, all in relation to nothing, a central point between nothing and all and infinitely far from understanding either….” our lives are less than a speck of dust lost among the solar system of the galaxies. Why does he have to intervene when live or die, it makes no difference? While we think we are the indispensable actor in the unfolding documentary of our lives, in God’s eyes, we don’t have to matter; we come, we live, we play, then we die. After a few years, no one remembers that we were here. While we think we are the most important, and our lives enfold before the camera of God, only one kind of things is recorded, those done for love. we are an empty show unless we marked our space through charity. Veni, Vidi, Vici we like to say! This is false unless God takes notice of us. We are great insofar as we get his attention.hqdefault

There’ s only one way to do that. Embrace love! That’s the only part that his camera records. We had better keep this in mind as we are developing new episodes for the documentary. That’s the very reason why he broke into the scene. He wanted to teach us how to love. When we finally grasp the profundity of this, we will go speechless. We may even have to say like job: “I have heard of you by words of mouth, but now my eye has seen you; therefore, I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

 

Saying Yes to Joy!!

What are you looking for?

Is there anything you’re looking forward to?

What drives you? What gets you out of bed on a daily basis?

What is one thing you’d do even if you wouldn’t get paid for?

If you have an answer to these questions, then you’re a happy joyful, full of life person.

If you don’t have an answer, if you’re actively looking for an answer, I’m glad you’re here. This talk should put you on the right path. It will at least point the right way.

This talk is entitled “the joy of saying yes”. Before we get to say yes, we need something or someone to say yes to.

To get you that point, you don’t have the luxury of simply going with the flow. You can’t simply do what you’re told without asking questions.

SteubenvilleEast_CPineo-21.jpg

point one—You can definitely not be indifferent.  Rev 3:15 I know your works.  You’re neither hot nor cold. Lukewarm. Indifferent.

Jesus alluded to this in Mt11:16-17— “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: We played the pipe for you and you did not dance. we sang a dirge and you did not mourn. When you live for nothing, even God gets tired of you. When you don’t care, what are we to do with you?”

When you live for something or someone, life becomes exciting. No fear. Bold. Joyful. Future is filled with adventure.

Look at the apostles. They started as frustrating fisherman or tax collector or simple men to boldly testify later “we mst obey God rather than men”. Jesus has been raised from the dead. That means something for everyone and we cannot not tell people about it.

If you want to experience joy, you have to make a choice. It’s a choice for joy happiness, abundant life.

Rev 3:20 behold, I stand knocking at the door

John 10:10- Jesus says: I have come to give you life and to give it abundantly.

Second point. John 1:35– what do you seek? Come and see. Be ready to be surprised by joy. When God calls, he gives you everything and takes nothing away. He does not make you less yourself. He allows you to be yourself and then some. stdas0374-1.jpg

Are you just surviving? You were made to thrive, to live life to the full. You were made to live in communion and deep intimate friendship with your creator. When that happens, you are completely happy.

Don’t you sometimes feels like something is missing? You have everything (job, car, career, good supporting family and friends, even money and popularity sometimes etc.) and yet something is missing?

If that ever happens to you, God is calling to Luke 14:10 come higher.

It’s when you come to what God is calling you to, that’s when you thrive. It’s when you ask God to help you discover what you were here for, that’s when you live life to its fullness.

It’s unthinkable that God created you for nothing.

In Jer. 29:11 the Lord says:  “I know the plans and thoughts  I have for you, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope”.

Are you thriving where you are? Would you do what you’re doing even if you don’t get paid? Does what you’re doing get you out of bed every morning thinking man I can’t wait to start…?

If the answer is no. You have an opportunity for a new beginning.

Third point: Isaiah 55:10 purpose. Everything has a purpose. Explain this.Isaiah_55-8.jpg

Now the million dollars question is this: how do you find your purpose? It’s much easier to find God’s plan for things, but how do we find out what God’s Plan for us?  not easy, but there is a way.

Sit before the Blessed Sacrament in the classroom of silence with phone off, and ask the One who created you to tell you what he created for. “Lord, what do you want me to do with my life?” Thats how I’ve found my purpose in life, and I am a person of joy consequently.

I can guarantee you he will answer. He loves you too much. He cares about you too much to ignore you. He wants you to thrive. There’s no thriving outside of his plan. That’s the beauty.

So stop looking for stuff in TV, iPhone, there’s no ‘App’ for Gods plan for your life. No one but he can reveal to you what he wants for you. So be still. Turn to the lord with your whole heart. And he will turn to you with his whole love.

The fourth point. Don’t say you’re too old or too young. Jeremiah was under 20 when called to give an unpatriotic message to Israel. Moses could not even speak when he was called to speak to the most powerful king of Egypt. St. John the evangelist was 16 when Jesus called him.

Therese of Lisieux was 21 when he discovered the little way. A genius way and simplified way to live the gospel.

St. Jean Marie Vianney was 33 when he was sent to one of the worst parish in France. He transformed the town and the parish to one of the holiest known part of the world.

Tiger Wood was 3 when he first broke 50 on a nine holes of golf.

Mozart was 5 when he wrote his first symphony.

Bill gates was 19 when he cofounded Microsoft.

Winston Churchill was 65 when he became Britain’s prime minister and picked a fight with Hitler. A much needed fight.

Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born.

Mary was 13 or 16 when she said ‘yes’ to become the bearer of the most important and greatest thing that has happened to our world.

Mother Teresa was 40 when he began the missionaries of charity. She is worth dwelling on. How did she begin? Silence in front the Blessed Sacrament. Then boom! Her calling becomes clear like a noonday sun. She discovered exactly what to do with her life. There was never a day she questioned that call.

There can be tough moment, but when God calls, nothing is too difficult. There’s nothing you cannot handle. No fear can restrain you.

Find what God is asking you to do. Then you will find joy. Lasting joy.

Empty Shell Without!

Man has a natural inclination for peace even if he is engaged in all sort of malfeasance. Man naturally needs a foundation to lay his head though he is soaring high like an eagle in the sky. Though most powerful, he needs a rescuer. Though he renders an account to no one, he needs truth, honesty, true freedom, and love; he needs someone or something to put him in touch with his inner life, his conscience. No one was yearning for these more than the character named ‘Unnamed’ in Alessandro Manzoni’s masterful work, The Betrothed. Although he had power, wealth and security, his life was empty until he was converted to Christ who offers the best way to live.

lllAfter the peasant and naïve girl Lucia was kidnapped, she fervently turned to our Blessed Lady for help. Being a merciful mother, she helps her not directly, but by changing the lion heart of her captor (the Unnamed) into a little lamb. That is the only reasonable explanation behind his tormenting heart once he accepted the task of kidnapping her. He gets angry with himself for accepting; a sort of remorse and disquiet settle in his heart; the memory of past crimes start to emerge.[1] This man is not an ordinary personality. He was like “the godfather” of his time. He is above the law, feared by all, judge and master of the affair of others, and notorious for the number of crimes.[2] His castle is a veritable hotbed of murderous crimes.[3] He is thought of as a strange, ferocious, legendary, and barbarous figure. The villagers are so afraid of him, they don’t ever dare use his name. so they call him the Unnamed (l’Innominato in Italian).[4] Yet, the moment Lucia claims that “God will forgive his multitude of sins for one act of mercy”[5], he was filled with hope and the desire to hear more. This can be seen as the encounter that sets him on the path to conversion. How was this possible other than by the powerful intercession of Our Blessed Mother giving birth to a dead soul? This good news is the rescuer he was looking for, though unknowingly.

bbbAn encounter with God is life-changing and ensues a better future. As pope Benedict puts it, “one who has hope lives differently [because he] has been granted the gift of a new life.[6] Before this encounter, the Unnamed was conscious of his great vigor and confidence, no thoughts of the future poisoned his memories of the past, the non-stop spectacle of violence, revenge, and murder used to fill him with pleasure; after the encounter now, the idea of judgment… has revisited him every often. A glimpse of Lucia’s cart fills him with inexplicable depression, horrifying feeling of loneliness, ceaseless terror, and a little voice inside of him does not cease crying: “yet I am”.[7] Hope of the mercy of God can transform the most wretched heart into the most docile one. Seeing Lucia only increased his torment, and her begging softens him and moves him to compassion. Consequently, he orders a woman to care for her, entertain her, and ensure that nothing harmful happens to her.[8] This is the most brutal of men, yet encountering Lucia is turning him into a “softy”. After seeing Lucia, his conscience does not stop speaking; he spends the whole night ruminating his past crimes; he even thinks of suicide; he longs to escape from his thoughts; he lies awake the whole night; He longs to hear further words of hope and comfort from Lucia.[9] “When the feeling of compassion overpowers a person, [the latter] loses his manhood until he follows through”, Manzoni believes.[10] So we see before he enjoys that newfound hope, he went through a sort of “dark night of the soul”. At the end of these dark nights, he is motivated by the hope of a future where he can undo the past insofar that’s possible, and embrace the beginning of a new life, which is precisely what conversion entails.

The encounter with the saintly cardinal Borromeo reinforces the Unnamed’s desire to embrace Christ. That’s the contagious power of holiness; that’s the arresting beauty of truly embracing the gospel. The cardinal’s dignified and majestic bearing, his serious and yet lively eyes, his magnificent simplicity of his purple robe, and his penetrating gaze help welcome the Unnamed with the utterance: “… I am most grateful to you for taking your admirable decision to come to me, …although there should have been many times… when I should have come to you.[11] Unsure whether the cardinal is truly familiar with his notorious exploits that he (the Unnamed) had performed, the latter is surprised that he is so well received—“Did you say you should have come to me. Do you know who I am”[12], he exclaims. The cardinal points out to the Unnamed that the obvious pleasure he feels at seeing him could only be inspired by the visit of a man whose reputation he knows too well.[13]

bbbThe cardinal suggests that this visit could only be good news that God has touched his heart. However, the Unnamed asserts that there cannot be good news when hell is raging in his heart. “Where is that God anyway”.[14] The cardinal confidently reminds him that God is near him, agitates his spirit, allures him, gives him a foretaste of the hope of tranquility and happiness, so if he so chooses he can find real peace.[15] Then the Unnamed was dubious whether or not God will welcome him back— “There is indeed something oppressing my heart…, what do you think God can do for me”.[16] The cardinal authoritatively and paternally reassures him of God’s ocean of mercy— “Who are you to think that your wretchedness… can outweigh God’s goodness”.[17] It is God who stirs him to seek him…. He does not rejoice that thousands abhor his actions… God will be glorified when he acknowledges his sins.[18] Hearing these good news, that iron fist, the strong, the unbroken, the brave that is the Unnamed breaks into weeping.[19] That’s a powerful sign the Unnamed had turned around and touched by Christ. After all, we know that God is a father who is always waiting for the return of his prodigal sons or daughters. The good shepherd did leave the 99 to seek out the one lost sheep. Everyone matters in God’s eyes. So as an instrument of God, the cardinal gives thanks to God, though unfaithful steward and neglectful shepherd that he is, he is found worthy to witness a so happy a miracle[20] i.e. the conversion of a most wretched soul.

mmmIn conclusion, in case we forget what the church does, this conversion is how the church relates to the world. She is a mother who never disowns her children regardless of how low they have fallen into sin. As long as they turn around and return home, her arms are wide open waiting to hug them. That’s what the church does for every sinner; he should seek them out. That’s what the new evangelization is about—seek the lost, and if she does not, when they return, her doors are always wide open. The sins of one sinner affect the whole. So when one sinner is converted, the whole benefits. The bigger the sinner the more beneficial it is for the common good. The whole benefits when one person decides to embrace a holy life. Although it is the task of the state to establish peace and security by means of power, conversion of heart is the most powerful way to establish peace and security. Only the church can establish it in such way. The cardinal had thus done well to receive the Unnamed with such open arm given the threat he was for society at large. He was saved and I suspect many of his household will also be saved with him.

[1] Alessandro Manzoni, , The Betrothed, transl. by Bruce Penman, Penguin Books, 1st publ in London, 1972, 369.

[2] Ibid 361

[3] ibid 363

[4] Ibid 364-6

[5] Ibid 386

[6] Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Spe Salvi, 2

[7] Ibid 370

[8] Ibid 379

[9] Ibid 395

[10] Ibid 392

[11] Ibid 414

[12] Ibid 415

[13] Ibid

[14] Ibid

[15] Ibid

[16] Ibid 415-6

[17] Ibid 416

[18] Ibid 416

[19] Ibid 417

[20] Ibid 417