Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Living What We Believe

Misunderstandings of common sense phrases and ideas sometimes used in our daily conversations occur frequently, such as "God helps those who help themselves," or a similar expression "Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you" (Found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2834). This way of thinking has  a long  history in the West, as it does it in the East. It appears in the Chinese phrase:盡 (All)人(Person)事( Work) 待 (Await) 天 (Heaven)命 (Orders), meaning "Do all you can and wait for heaven." We see these words framed on the walls of many homes and places of business here in Korea.

In our Scriptures, we find in Thess. 3:18 "Anyone who will not work should not eat." And in Mark 9:23 "Everything is possible for the person who believes." All such expressions point to the fact that as humans  we do what is possible and then leave the rest to God. But many feel that prayer is sufficient, as if God will do all with his grace.

The misunderstanding of these expressions tends to appear when there is a misunderstanding of grace; grace also seeks to move our feet and body to accomplish what we pray for. Though all is grace, it requires some thought to understand what this means without denying what is being said by the statements quoted above. As Catholics we know that grace cooperates with nature. There are obviously circumstances where the phrase "All is grace" is used where it shouldn't be--as a put-down of the poor and weak--but the basic truth of the idea is imbedded in everything we do as Christians: to cooperate with the graces that are given.

Rev. Timothy Yu Gyoung-chon and Rev. Peter Chung Soon-taek O.C.D. were named auxiliary bishops of Seoul recently. Bishop-elect Yu in his book To the 21 century Believer, reviewed recently by the Catholic press, says "The concrete putting into practice what we believe is necessary if we want to see a change in the world. Without this engagement with the world, no matter how much we pray it will be only empty words." It is understood that he is talking about those who are able to do something and do nothing.

There is little justice in the world, mostly distrust and war which obviously is not the will of God. When we ignore the reality we see around us, as the bishop says, we are not living the life we have been called to live. He wants us to be aware of this calling that we have as Christians. Even though we might not see or experience injustice in our own lives, we are not free to ignore the call we have received to improve the world we live in.

The need to improve the world is not some new way of thinking, he reminds us, but the way Jesus lived during his time here on earth. We have all been called to put into practice what we believe and what we say, confessing by our actions what our hearts know about this God we need to experience.

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