The Master Key

That you know wisdom and instruction, Understand words of insight, Receive instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity; That prudence may be given to the simple, Knowledge and discretion to the youth (Proverbs 1:2-4)

I have come to realize that the key that opens the door to success is discipline and commitment. I have discovered that no one can succeed in a praiseworthy manner without discipline.aaa

I believe I am here to do the small things I am doing with discipline and commitment. That’s what will make it extraordinary. That’s a breakthrough for me in the sense it never dawned on me that discipline and commitment occupied such an important seat at the parliament of the heart. Discipline and commitment are the one necessary power needed to conquer, convince, and lead. A new day is dawned today. This is nothing I did not know before, but I never saw as the master key that opens all doors. The goal is to become, in the words of Matthew Kelly, the best version of ourselves. But that will require us make a choice i.e. to be disciplined and committed. Aristotle agrees with that when he said that we are to strive for excellence- arête— the act of living up to one’s full potential. That’s what later philosopher urged us to cultivate, virtue— “A good habit of the mind, by which we live righteously, of which no one can make bad use, which God works in us….” (ST I-II, Q. 55, art 4).

Little-maximus-myers-Jesus-carrying-crossThat’s what St. Paul, probably after encountering Greek philosophy, asserts:” whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Phil. 4:8). If we are to always tell the truth, do the noble thing, be pure and lovely, we will have to cultivate discipline and commitment.

It takes a lot to be disciplined all the time. Find what you want to accomplish and commit to it. Practice makes perfect. Practice allows us to master an art until it become second nature to us.child

Think about it, all the historical figures given as an exemplar of life have employed discipline in their lives in order to accomplish extraordinary things. They made a choice—I am sure it has taken them time and grind to find the right one— and they commit to it and work at it with every fiber of their being. They give their whole life to it. Their name is written in the history book because they practice discipline. They listen well. They look for help and were committed to something. They believe in something to the point they would die for it. They had a dream. They make it a reality.

Take Itzhak Perlman for example, one of the gods of music, and Jewish composer who won 15 Grammy and 4 Emmy awards for his works. He is said to be a genius performer. How many hours did he practice per day before he was known? 9 hours. Before he became known was reduced to 4 hours of violin practice in the morning and 5 in the afternoon.

One day, he put an extraordinary performance at a concert in Vienna; afterward people came to greet and congratulate him. One member of the audience who was wowed by his performance said to him: “I would give my entire life to be as great as you are”. Perlman responds: “I have”. He has given up everything to follow this one dream. Today, he is on top of the world. How did he get to be so great? He found what he likes, committed to it, and stuck to it with discipline and commitment wholeheartedly.

Those Olympians we admire watching, do you think they get to be so good overnight or without commitment and discipline? Do you think they practiced only when they felt like it? Do you think they ever take the minimalist attitude i.e. “what is the least I can do to be an Olympic champion?” Was it easy for them to wake up every morning, eat the right food, and go to bed at a certain time regularly? When they go out there, did their body always cooperate? Yet, they keep the faith. They fight the fight. They pushed themselves to the maximum of the ability. They invest their heart, mind, and soul to achieve what they believe in. A few years later, they amaze us with their skills and their arts. They are now famous. They won the prize.Perseverance pays off. The reward is delicious.

Discipline and commitment are the mother of all other arts. On the heights besides the way, in the roads that lead to success they browse; beside the gate that leads to the top, they stand. At the entrance of our house, they beg to be given a place of refuge. In their bosom insight is found and strength resides. Look for their instruction and knowledge instead of wealth and goods. By them, kings reign and issue judgments. They who pursue them find enduring wealth and prosperity. Their fruits are better than gold. So in choosing discipline and commitment, we get everything else. Choose wisely!

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Letter to a Christian Nation

Unless the blood of the martyrs watered the garden of the Church, her plants could not bear good fruit. The faith of the martyrs is the cistern that irrigates the garden that feeds Christians. Their blood is the pillar upon which the Church is built. When I read St. Ignatius’ letter to the Romans, this understanding seems to have been how early Christians perceived themselves in relation to the young Church. They wholeheartedly believed that persecution presents an opportunity for Christianity to show her greatness. The Church was able to develop and transform the Roman society only because the early Christians lived radically the gospel. Unless the church of today is willing to jettison her privilege and power to follow Christ radically, governments will continue to violate her rights until she is completely suppressed. So, what we have seen lately is only the beginning. It is also a call to live the gospel sporadically, and to make a choice for or against Christ.

Ignatius_of_Antioch_2As St. Ignatius was approaching Rome on his way to martyrdom, he begs the Roman Christians to not try to interfere with his death because this was the only way to get to God (chapter 1, line 2). He understood that only by a tragic death— martyrdom— will the Church be recognized as the foundation of truth, something authentic, and source of salvation. Only when the Roman leaders start seeing that people are not afraid to death will they give credit to the faith.

They could not decipher the mystery of the truth of the Church unless blood is shed, something radical. She would be ‘a meaningless voice’ (1, 2) crying in the desert of the Roman Empire if no one were willing to be offered as an immolated lamb for her. It was that understanding that spurred St. Ignatius to step forward to defend this salvific truth with his own blood. While he was like an offered lamb, while there was an altar at hand (2, 2), the whole Christian community in Rome was like a choir singing the praise of Christ in the ears of the Roman authorities. Their voices echo to the furthest corners of the Roman Empire, and the authorities start paying attention to the Church, which will eventually become the official religion of the whole empire.

aaAre we comfortable with the way governments treat today as Christians? If we are, then nothing needs to be done. If we are not, then we need to start living the gospel drastically. That may mean not buying products from companies that oppose our Christians values. That may require that we don’t follow some inhuman laws although we may have to go to jail for that. We don’t even know if they accidentally make laws that contradict our Christian values, or if they merely think we are irrelevant. If the former, they should be able to easily correct it; if the latter, we must wake up. They test us and we don’t react strongly enough, and so they just keep hurting us. How far will they go? How much are we willing to accept? It is getting late Christians.

The Christians of Rome cooperate because they did not want to be the barricade that blocks St. Ignatius’ blood from watering the garden of the Church. They saw in his courageous act an opportunity for Christianity to assimilate herself with her suffering Lord. They rightly understood that he was “imitating the passion of his God” (6, 3). That imitation was not like monkey imitation. It satiates thirsting souls; it brings hope to the despairing, repose to those who know no peace; it delivers those who were held captive from the bondage of sins, and it leads to perfect joy– the joy of being counted worthy to be treated as our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. He knew what St. Francis eloquently says years later, “It is in dying that we are born to eternal life”. Thus, he says, “do not stand in my coming to life” (6, 3).aaa-Tertullian-church-Meetville-Quotes-239492

What do we learn from this letter? When the Church is in trouble, it is because her cistern is empty. When the church is challenged or under persecution, or seemingly becomes irrelevant, it is a call to live the gospel of Christ radically. She needs men and women to step forward to selflessly give themselves as the fertilizer that helps the flower of the Church to bourgeon without counting the cost. The willingness to die for the faith is a sine qua non condition for the Church to remain herself in the midst of this pervert and crooked generation.