Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Emptying Our Minds for Happiness

Today she spent time looking up at the heavens not because she had nothing to do, but because she was restless and uneasy. She had the habit of looking up at the heavens when happy or sad, but today the sky was filled with gray clouds making her heart all the heavier. These are the words of a woman writing in a diocesan bulletin; many of us at times have the same feeling  and look for ways to find  peace.

There is in one part of her heart, she writes, a scar that  gently pierced her self-respect.  Her body and spirit both are uncomfortable with what is happening. She is doing her best to get rid of the feeling of uneasiness. All her efforts did not help and she remained restless and she knew she was looking for some joy in her life. She was looking for something that would change her and the wise  words of a famous Buddhist  monk who wrote about the life of  'non-possession' came to mind.

"An empty mind is the absence of worldly desire.This emptiness  is  what it was originally.When the mind is filled it is not the original mind.When it is empty, we hear vibrations.Vibrations are needed for the freshness and vitality of life"

 She doesn't understand deeply  the words of the monk, but she knows that she has too much of the self-harboring inside. This is what is dirtying her spirit and makes her despondent. When she is  fighting with her self-respect,  she feels she is getting smaller  and is meeting obstacles on her way to God,making her feel shabby and embarrassed.
She is working to bring about a change in the way she thinks and wants to clean out her mind. The hope for change makes for a lightness of heart and energy to continue.From the many fairy tales, she has heard she knows that happiness comes with getting rid of what we think is important and is not. The paradox of losing to gain, of dying to live, of losing ourselves to find ourselves. With  this  change in the person we see appearance of  joy and freedom. 

When we are in control and allow thoughts to enter there is no problem, but when the mind is not trained and allows negative thoughts, we will often be overcome.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Searching for the Light

'Return of the light' is the word used for the end of the Second World War and Korea's freedom from the Japanese. This year was the 70th anniversary, and we still have many of the  problems with us from the end of the war. The columnist in the Catholic Times reminds us of the situation.

The comfort women are dying, and we are not closer to a solution or an agreement over compensation. We still need a solution on those who were pro-Japanese Koreans during the war, distortion of history, claims on the Dokdo Island, and similar issues still pending. The end of the war brought joy but also sadness over the division of the country. We have the North Limit Line, political and military problems that remain.  

For a Christian, Jesus is the light. At the Paschal liturgy we sing Jesus is our light, but to receive this light we are told  we have to face our faults and scars. The light is always shining on the darkness.  We can't just concentrate on the darkness of the Japanese occupation, but we need to see the darkness in ourselves.

At the end of the war, Korea's provisional government  in exile was not recognized, which did not help solve the problems with compensation, land and the pro-Japanese groups in Korea. The decisions were made by foreign powers, and the problems were stitched over, leaving much in darkness. 

Koreans shed much blood but when it came to the armistice agreement, we were missing from the negotiations, there were many mistakes and one was the North Limit Line decision; this decision on the military line on the sea was not made. It was made later without the presence of the two parties. North Korea at that time did not have a maritime military force, and did not express disapproval, which has been a point of controversy.

In solving problems in the social area, we use the three steps: observe, judge and act. On this 70th anniversary of the armistice we should not interpret history for our benefit. We have to see the pain that we are experiencing presently (observe). We don't want to face this with division and war but overcome it with the light of Christ (judge). We don't want to  go around in circles with the judgements of the world but (act) in the way Jesus would. When we see  reality as it is we have what is necessary to act correctly.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Growth in Spirituality

Scriptures and the Magisterium are the lifeblood of our spiritual development. A professor at the Catholic University in the field of spirituality shows us the reason we need rational knowledge of Christian spirituality. The object of spirituality is revelation and personal experience. Spirituality in its development from the beginning to end is not a subjective study but a rational attempt to understand systematically  what is involved. The study is mainly one for theologians  but the layperson  also has the need to approach the study of spirituality to help in its development.

However, in visiting a Catholic book store and looking over the books in the spirituality section, many books deal with the authors' meditation on their personal emotional experiences of spirituality. Obviously reading these kinds of books is better than not reading any at all, but there is the danger that we come away thinking spirituality is all about emotions and sentiment.

One who is interested in a healthy spirituality needs to be familiar with the Scriptures. Not only have the  writers being inspired by the Holy Spirit but  the Church guarantees the contents of the Scriptures for our growth in spirituality. In the Old Testament, we have the stories of God's workers in their journeys, and in the Psalms, prayers that bring us closer to God. The New Testament gives us the teaching of Jesus and how this teaching was applied in the daily lives of the Apostle.

We also need to give ear to the teaching of the Church. In the beginning, we had the Creed and its teaching was central but with time the Church began  to teach us with its documents and especially in these times of rapid change in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. In a person's religious experience, there are few things that should be remembered. In the 2000 years of church history, there have been many spiritual giants. They have passed on to others their experience of the spiritual life but also theologians have used their words and looked at them in an objective manner giving great help to the readers.

Individual personal experiences of the spiritual life are important in the development of spirituality. But when they are too subjective there is a danger of distortion. Necessary is to have a spiritual director to give an objective evaluation of what has transpired. God has made us all different, and we have different ways of growing spiritually, which is a great help in understanding the possibilities that we have.

In the development of a theology of spirituality, we see the tendency of using the human sciences.  In the past we have seen certain saints use help from the sciences in their teaching and writing; however, it must be remembered that this knowledge from the human sciences can't replace spirituality. They help  to see what is going on in an objective way in the spiritual life of an individual.

What happens in the spiritual life is an individual work, but it has to be looked at objectively if it is to be of help to others and oneself. The professor concludes the column by recommending that the readers spend time with a rational explanation of the spiritual life even though it may be a little difficult at the beginning, this academic approach systematically done will be of great help to the individual.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Disordered Individualism=Selfishness

The speed of change is accelerating. Rationalism and Individualism have entered our culture from the West, and brought changes. Many of our traditions have become dead letters so writes a seminary professor in the Kyeongyang Magazine  under the title of temptation.

We are looking  for happiness and leaving aside the rules and regulations that were passed on to us. With the economic betterment and without serious worry about eating and what to wear we are searching for a better quality  of life  which means money and  pleasure. The moral code also becomes  centered on self. Pope Francis mentioned individualism  as a  danger both within and outside the Church.

However, when we talk of individualism, we need  to distinguish  it from selfishness. Individualism has been given great help by the  teaching of  Christianity.  Our individuality,  happiness  and freedom  are values that can't  be replaced. When we are ignored and looked down upon, not treated as persons  and used, we know the sadness that it engenders. In the Gospels,  we see how Jesus related with those who were hurt, the poor, the suffering, those who lost hope they were all  made in the image of God, his  temple, and  received God's love.

A wrong understanding of this individuality is something quite different. When you forget the dignity of others and only see your own dignity, and treat others as tools to aggrandize yourself, we have a distortion of the individual. The same way we look upon ourselves; we need to look upon others and the community otherwise we have a disordered individualism and fall into selfishness and egotism,

In spiritual words when one is only concerned with his own salvation and  forgets  others and not concerned with the needs of the world this is not what Christianity is all about.  Nor is it on the other hand, concerned only with  present needs or blessing.

How do we overcome this disordered individualism?  To believe is  to answer the call  we have received, to give answer to  God's word, his will, which requires   forgetting ourselves. We also have to remember that we are called to be evangelizers and this is not only to increase the numbers of Christians but to expand God's kingdom, which is filled by the love of God. With  this love, we interact with others and the world. "If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples" (John 13:35).

Friday, August 28, 2015

Humans no Longer Center of Society

What is the best way to stop smoking?  Catholic Times' column on human rights answers: stop.  It sounds non-sensical  but the more you think about it the more sense it makes. There is no other way.

One is not able to control himself and drinks too much liquor. Next day, he suffers a hangover, and  vows not  to drink. However, relating with  people in society, he again grabs the glass.  One enters the confessional deciding not to sin, leaves the  confessional with a new resolve but because of that person or situation, it couldn't be helped, and sins again. 

Problems in society are the same. We are moved to fix the barn after we lose the horse. We  vote  and find that  nothing changes and  are sorry for voting the way we did but next time we vote the same way. The  leaders of society promote  competition  in society  and put the academics in positions to continue more of the same, and  we become a cog of a wheel in an unfeeling society looking only for efficiency.

We find ourselves on a treadmill-- a vicious circle, and there is only one way out-- to stop going around in circles. When no action follows and we just  complain and  get upset there will be no change. In a standardized  society, where competition is stressed  and  we look only for efficiency and humans are no longer at the center we have a disordered society; we have to refuse to be a cog. This choice will  alienate us from the majority, be pointed out by society and even suffer  financial difficulties.

More than my desire the common good, not an easy choice to make but it's the example that  Jesus gave us. Without that choice nothing changes. We have to free ourselves from the treadmill we are on.

Pope  Paul VI in  Evangelii Nuntiandi   reminds us: "It is often said nowadays that the present century thirsts for authenticity. Especially in regard to young people it is said that they have a horror of the artificial or false and that they are searching above all for truth and honesty.

"These 'signs of the times' should find us vigilant. Either tacitly or aloud- but always forcefully- we are being asked: Do you really believe what you are proclaiming? Do you live what you believe? Do you really preach what you live? The witness of life has become more than ever an essential condition for real effectiveness in preaching. Precisely because of this we are, to a certain extent, responsible for the progress of the Gospel that we proclaim" (#77).

In conclusion, the columnist wants us to realize that we are on this earth to change the world. That is our mission and where we will find joy, and as Christians  that means freeing ourselves from the  treadmill we are on. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Life in God

Vacare Deo ( to be free for God) a Latin expression,  is the title of the column: View from the Ark, in the Catholic Times. A monk of the Benedictine Order wants us to reflect on what is meant by this injunction form the past. We need  holy leisure and we have less of it with our  busy life.

The monastery at this time of the year gets many visitors for retreats both individual and group retreats. The word retreat in both Korean and English means to leave the busy life and retreat to a place of quiet to spend time with God.  Adults and children both are busy  with TV, smart phones, they have  little time to think.

Why is everybody so  busy? Is it not that one feels uncomfortable in doing nothing?  Fear that we will fall behind others in our money orientated society is one of the reasons for the busyness. We are caught in the trap of competition.  What are the results?  We see it in the indexes for  the present and future: in the present suicides, and in the future the birth rate. The first is our present reality, and the second a sign for the future.

Life is becoming difficult.  We have a word for the three things to avoid: no romance, no marriage and no children.The feeling of pain from frustration and loss is great. We do not know where we are going but we are running to get there.

We need to stop and look around and begin again. We need to find the meaning for rest--a long breath-- a breathing in and out and realizing the simplicity of life. Our breathing will move us on to see the simplicity of our lives. Stopping means to rest,  moving from the complicated to the simple, from the non-essential to the essential  from the external to the internal,

Where is the Christian to find this rest?  It is not only the wealthy that can enjoy rest: often they are the busiest.  We do not find rest only in nature or in a monastery. Rest is not an external place but in ourselves, where we give God the chance to work within us. God is always working within us but we are too busy to reflect about  his presence or interested.

The founder of  L'Arch Jean Vanier  has these words of wisdom: "We don't realize the spring  we have in us. We know the intelligence in us and what we can  make-- emotions, craving and impulses  but the warm spring that gives us life, and the  God who  gives us his love we don't know." 

Prayer is what makes this presence felt, when we say we are too busy to pray what we mean is we don't want to  pray. Our whole existence is  present in God. When we are living a troublesome life and  are fatigued  God enters and gives us relief and leads us to rest, and the result is that our whole existence is in God.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

'Sweat Does Not Lie'

Hard work beats talent when the talented doesn't work-- seems to be the majority opinion. We see this expressed in a multitude of ways; put simply, without sweat little is achieved, talent or not. Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.

A comedian writing in his column in the Peace Weekly uses the Korean phrase: 'sweat does not lie', and tells us what he has learned about effort and results. He has always liked the meaning of the phrase 'sweat does not lie'. As a child it meant little but when he began playing sports, it began to make sense. As a child after playing and sweating he would come into the house and take a refreshing shower. However, with sports you always have the win and lose divide, and one's goal is to win.

When in high school, he became interested in Hapgido (Korean self-defense martial art) and spent all his time outside of school, working out in the gym. He did achieve the silver medal in the National Hapgido tournament for his efforts.

His spirits were high. He began to have goals which he tried to reach, which developed into a habit. To reach the target he had to sweat, and this became his ironclad rule of life.

In college, his major was computer science, and  he wanted to master the use of the computer but where  did the sweat come into play with the computer? You sat down and used the fingers on a keyboard, there was no sweat involved. However, when he struck the keys, they were struck to  sweat. He gave his best to the study and did feel drops of sweat on his back.

There are many kinds of sweat: the kind one experiences in sports, the sweat from eating hot foods, and the kind of sweat when you need to go to the toilet and none are in sight.

After military service, he began working as a gag-man--a stand-up comedian. During this period, there were many times he experienced cold sweat. Going on the stage he trembled and was overcome with fear. When given lines to memorize before going on the stage by his elders, he was petrified. 

Gradually, these feeling began to disappear. Often he would come down from the stage and forget what he said during the performance. He is thankful for the experience; the cold sweat disappeared, and with the communication with his  audience during his performances he now sweats.

With acquaintances, he reminds them to sweat. He tells them not to lean on family or college classmates but give themselves to the work at hand, and learn to sweat and not look for recognition but learn to satisfy oneself.