Monday, December 22, 2014

Returning to Nature

He was was born and lived in a little village surrounded by mountains, both in front and back, left and right. The sky was less visible than the mountains. He grew up without any toys for it was the mountains and fields that were his playground, nature was his plaything.

A diocesan priest writing for a bulletin for priests reflects on what this has meant for him. As a child his spiritual life was composed of going to the mission station Mass against his will. The 14 stations of the cross on the wall only made him fearful. The mountains also caused fear in his young heart but when he was hurt he would climb the mountains;  they received him graciously which gave him consolation and  peace, and for this feeling he was thankful. The mountains were like a father to him.  Even today when he prays the Our Father and says the words heaven he sees the mountains of his childhood.

There was talk of turning this village into a dam and at that time he was responsible for the justice and peace work in the diocese so he worked together with the citizens to revoke the plans. During this time he began to see the need for the Church to get involved in preserving our environment. The plan for the dam was cancelled and he began to study the theology of ecology.

Living in the city and growing accustomed to the life  he realized that he was becoming alienated from nature. The emptiness he was feeling was the estrangement from the natural, and dreamed of walking the earth and fingering it again as he did as a child. The chance came suddenly when he was given the work to  head the Catholic Farmers Association in the  diocese.

Since he was responsible for the work among the farmers he decided he would have to spend time getting acquainted with farming and spent a whole year full time farming. The association had an old school building that was used to educate farmers who were returning to the farms, and a school for ecology. Being again close to the mountains he remembered  his own dead father. He walked again the earth barefooted, it  felt so soft and comfortable. The work was hard but there was great satisfaction, and he regretted not having done this earlier.

The Free Trade Act has opened the market to all the countries which will bring hardships to the farmers. He feels strongly that this was a lack of responsibility on the part of the government and repercussions will follow in the life of the nation. He also sees this affecting our spiritual life. His work he sees as sacramental in being one with the old people, and helping them to continue on the farms.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

In the Pursuit of Happiness

Both Catholic papers had a review of the new book by the Cardinal Emeritus of Seoul, Cheong Jin-suk: In Pursuit of Happiness. Cardinal Cheong has published a new book  every year from the first  year of his ordination on  some aspects of spirituality. In the pursuit of happiness, it is necessary, he says to reflect each day on what we have done and  continue to ask ourselves daily the important questions about life. We need to ask ourselves how are we reacting with those with whom we are  living; we can't find happiness by ourselves.

The Cardinal seeks answers not only as an individual, but as a member of society and with a  universal dimension. Because we are human we can change. When we become mindful of God's Providence all changes.

He wants us to ask: Who are we? The first fundamental question and secondly:  Where are we going? The ultimate question about life. To stop with our parents is not sufficient when searching for why we are here, nor is it sufficient to see our end as returning to the earth. Before we die we have to find the answers to these questions.

We need to evaluate our lives, ascertain what are our values, educate our consciences, determine the  meaning of freedom, and the root of sin. This is the first step. Secondly, we search for the common good, remember solidarity of the earth family, the  need to communicate, basics of language and see our human life as a part of the extended family. The third section has to do with evolution and the place of God's providence

He sees the advance of science as a part God's providence and not as science opposed to theology. Creation did not begin with everything all complete but was to evolve in God's providence. When we consistently listen to the word of God and want to  understand the word, we begin to experience God.

When we work to live in harmony with God's Providence we find happiness. We are weaving daily a tapestry; depending on how we are relating with those around us, giving them hope and joy or inflicting sadness or pain, will determine the kind of tapestry that we will present to God, and will determine the success we have made of the gift of life.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cyber Culture

The Diocesan Bulletin has in  previous weeks addressed the culture in which the young people live.  Postmodernism and neoliberalism were explained and this week we have the culture of cyberspace in which the young people live. The Salesian Priest continues to explain the culture in which the young are living.

Cyber culture is the network that both the older and younger generations feel at home. Three distinctive features are listed.

1) A diverse culture: anonymous (at times dangerous elements appear),  and  continues to create  and allows one to express his own variety of desires.

2) Community culture: Each is able freely and equally to  enter the internet, one can communicate with those with the same likes, and establish or join a community, share  knowledge and exchange information.

3) A  culture that produces:  prosumer (a  blend  of producer and consumer) (the user of the internet) = the one producing and the consumer are both present. We are not only passively receiving but making  contents to appear on the site. There is a new kind of communication. 

What is this cyberspace culture in Korea? We have developed greatly in the multimedia field and continue to do so. Moreover, 94 percent of our young people are using the internet. Korea is number one  with high speed internet access. However, there are some misgivings about our situation, he admits.  

Some of the nearby Asian countries have developed  the knowledge, educational, and medical fields for the general  public. Korea on the other hand has developed the fun, and entertainment elements: music, literature, movies, art, media and pornography content. This he considers an embarrassment.  

He explains why this  was the case. 

1) We did not begin with an elite group but went directly to the general public. Korea because of the IMF period of financial difficulty, they were too much tied up working with the principles of capitalism.

2) Society, for security reasons, was repressed and controlled and the internet allowed many to express themselves freely and vent their frustrations.  

3) The technological properties of the internet:  globalization and creativity are open to the users of the internet. Productivity of the internet continues.  Fundamentally the control of the internet is difficult. We have given the technology of the internet and its business potential first consideration.This allowed us to ignore the soundness and the cultural aspects of the internet and consequently now see the inadequacy.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Learning from the Old to Prepare for the New

In the Catholic Times the Desk columnist  presents us with two Korean maxims which he wants us to reflect on  as we come to the end of our calendar year.  "Time to see the old year out and the new year in." And secondly: "Find a guide into tomorrow by taking lessons from the past." The second maxim we need to follow at all times, but fail to do so because of laziness. 

These two maxims he says should work together. The first one has to do with a government official who has been changed and a new one has arrived. When the new person comes there is a new environment that begins. But at the same time we remember to learn from the past so we wont make the same mistakes in the future. Whether it was failure or success, we learn from the past and with the new knowledge and understanding  we begin again. History becomes a way of learning for the future.  

With the new year we throw to the winds the hurts of the past. We don't want to tie ourselves to the frustrations and despair of the Sewol disaster. We learned from the disaster to guide us during the new year. The new allows us to say goodbye to the old, but we also learn from the old how to live in the new.

Pope Francis  approached the parents of the victims of the tragedy not because of some teaching of the Church, or some ideology or political position, but because they were hurting. He was showing mercy and concern. 

This mercy was shown in the  way the synod was recently conducted and the way next year the discussion on the family will continue. Pope Francis is following the method of changing what needs to be changed to be closer to the  teaching of the early Church and the apostles. The elements that do not serve the purpose he wants to discard and those that help us to be more Christ-like he wants to retain.

We Christians with the experience of baptism and the cross rid ourselves of worldly values, and recover the values of the Gospel. We work for our personal reformation in which we throw out the harmful, but also learn from the old to prepare for the new.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Accept the Waiting In Life

Life is the repetition of waiting, meeting and leave taking. We wait for the right mate, for our children and grand children. We wait for the subway to arrive, workers for lunch time, waiting for the telephone to ring. The farmer for the rain, the student for graduation and a job, and the one who bought a lottery ticket for the windfall. We wait with joy and anxiety in our hearts, with hope and expectation which fills the passage of time. With these words, in the Peace Weekly, a columnist reflects on the waiting for 'Advent' and for God.  

While in elementary school he remembers going to the streetcar station to wait for his mother. She was not in the first or second cars and continued to wait until late in the evening with all kinds of thoughts entering his mind. The waiting at the home would have been the same kind of waiting, and he doesn't remember why he went to the station. He was worried and when his mother finally arrived he was at peace and happy.  

While in college and waiting for the girl that became his wife he recalls the same feelings. During the day remembering the date with his fiance, the work became heavy, and the whole day was filled with expectation. When the promised hour for the  meeting had passed, and she was not there, the same complicated thoughts that he had as a child entered his mind. 

Even though we are waiting for the Lord, the waiting  for his mother and the girl that became his wife are not the same. The history of the Jewish people was a waiting of 4000 years for an 'Advent'. The Christian hope is a hope for all people, and we wait for the coming at the end of time. Come Lord Jesus: (Marana tha), the last words of the New Testament.

In the liturgy of the Mass we have two expression for this waiting. In the Nicene Creed: "We look for the resurrection of the  dead, and the life of the world to come." After the Our Father: "Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ."

We are all waiting for God in our own different ways. He mentions one of the most beloved novelists Choi In-ho (Peter) who died last year and according to his daughter who asked her father has the Lord come yet? Answered "No". This was repeated on three different days and on the last day, the day of his death he answered: “God is here. I saw him. Okay. Let’s go,” these were  Choi’s last words, according to his daughter Da-hye.

On our last day of life will this be the way we will be waiting for God. Will my last days waiting for the Lord be filled with irritation and regret? If the Lord does not come what will happen to me?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Peace is the Realization of Justice.

The new liturgical year has begun, and we are now waiting to begin another calendar year. Sadness was evident during a great part of the year, not only the loss of 304 victims in the Sewol tragedy but also many other incidents and a social environment that has left many of the citizens with a heavy heart.

The columnist on the opinion page of the Peace Weekly reminds us of the plight of the irregular- workers (working by contract and without a full time job). This situation is getting worse. The leaders in our society by their words and actions dishearten many in our society. Surprisingly, they  blame those who speak out against  injustices and  corruption as hurting the peace and security of the nation. The press and those enforcing the law are  protecting those who blame the ones speaking against the injustices of society. However, he asks, if those speaking out remained silenced would we have a  more peaceful society?

Many of the Documents of the Church we hear repeatedly that  peace is the realization of justice. Peace is not just the absence of war. Nor is it  maintaining a balance between two hostile forces. St. Augustine in the City of God spends time showing how it was the corruption in the Roman Empire that led to its downfall: lack of justice in the society. For Augustine justice was to give every person what was due. When this is not followed the persons should be punished.

God in creation has given us an abundance of resources, plenty for all to eat and live and when this is monopolized by a few we have an injustice. When we merely follow the supply and demand principle and allow the  growth of the irregular workers we are increasing the numbers who are being driven to live inhumanly, and what they should have is being taken away. St. Augustine in Book IV of the City of God cries out that a nation without justice is like a band of robbers.

We don't lose hope concerning our own situation says the columnist. We are never going to get the peace we want on this earth. Augustine accepts this as given. We call this  among Christians original sin. Once we forget this we will be faced with much anguish and frustration in life, but we continue working to search for the ideal and never give up, but the complete peace will only come in the here after.

For a Christian our strength comes from God. In John 14:27 Jesus says: "Peace is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you; I do not give it to you as the world gives peace. " He concludes the column my asking us to accept the peace we have received and  have the courage of love to make it present wherever we are.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Computers an Extension of our Minds

Computers are becoming our minds, and we are living without our heads. The religious sister in her weekly column in the Catholic Times wants us to consider why we are  becoming more intellectually lethargic. She recalls her trips on the fast trains, less time consumed but was more tired at the end; and wonders if this is because we are not following the natural rhythm of life.

In our technological advanced society, we are going at a faster rate than our bodies have been programed to function: riding in cars, cleaning the house, washing the clothes, all helped along with machines. Marshall McLuhan said: "we shape our tools and afterward tools shape us." According to McLuhan, machines are the extensions of the human body. 

She admits that when she sits down at the keyboard of the computer the thoughts come to her much faster than the way she used the pencil in the past. No need to look for information, knowledge, understanding, or remember it, for it is all in the computer, the computer has become part of our central nervous system.

Scholars have shown that many of our children are intellectually lazy, and there are some who lament the situation. Many students are non-rational,  fragmented, and haphazard in their search. All they need do is go to the computer and search, no need to  memorize. They read quickly but the time they have to concentrate is little, and they  find it difficult to overcome tediousness in their studies.

She quotes a poet who wrote: "I found that when I shut the book I left my head inside." She feels this is  all too  true for many of us. No time, but I wanted to do  something, and started reading a book, and when I closed the book I forgot all that I had read. The same is true with a search, after reading all is forgotten. The computer becomes our brains and making us lazy and stupid.

With a plethora of information we lose our desire to use our brains. We are under the impression we know it all, and can find anything we want with ease;  this paralyses the body and mind. When we search for knowledge and make it our own we are alive with the meaning, and with the joy that comes with the process, and we are filled with satisfaction. 

She finishes her column by reminded us that instead of trying to impetuously try to keep up with what is going on in the world, might it not be better not to know all, be slow and enjoy the lack of what we think we should have. We need the leisure to enjoy this lack. The multiplicity of the  equipment of the  digital world will continue to increase, when we try to keep up, precious time will be lost. Amid all the changes, should we not be concerned with what  does not change?