Sunday, December 31, 2017

Seeing the Other as Other

What we dislike in others we dislike in ourselves and when we recognize this in ourselves the shock is great but our eyes are opened. A priest writing in the Catholic Digest tells his readers how this happened in his life.

His father was a diabetic and exteriorly looked healthy but the writer only remembers him lying in bed. He was bothered by his father's inability to get up and live a natural life. Was it from that time on he doesn't know but he always had a strong dislike for laziness. In his thinking, persons who wanted could do anything they set their mind to do.

His own life was busy with many things and he felt good about the life he was leading. He was busy with pastoral work, working with musical groups and with radio and saw no problems.

Last year, however, he was told on a visit to the hospital that he had to rest. He was diagnosed with hormonal imbalance. He was tired and his emotions were affected he was burnt out. His immunity was not functioning and looking at him nothing seemed out of order but even a few steps would tire him and he had to take a period of recuperation.

As soon as he began the whole body began to ache and he had to go to bed. For some time that was the only relief that he had. He even didn't want to get up to eat. When he decided to do some exercising it would last only for a few minutes before he was overcome with fatigue. His father's situation came back to him, people like his father are not lazy they are sick.                                                                                                      It was at this time that he began to go back in time and remind himself of the way his father would interact with him. He was always kind in his dealings with him not once does he remember his father losing his temper. He remembered his father taking him out to the ball field to play. Just as he was beginning to enjoy the play after about 30 minutes the father wanted to return to the house and he remembers hating his father for stopping the fun.  And now he found it difficult to exercise for 10 minutes. His father wasn't lazy but a father who loved his son and tried to overcome his body to be with his son. 

A few days earlier he receive a telephone call from a young man who everything he tried had failed and called him to complain. If this had happened in the past he would have told the young man give it all you have, it will be all right, but mentally he would think that he was just lazy. However this time he listened carefully to the young man and responded differently: "You have really worked hard. You have really tried to overcome your difficulties. Take a rest and try again" his tone had changed. The young man thanked him for the  consoling words. He put the telephone down and started to cry remembering the  times he could have been more understanding of his father.   

He resolved to respond to complaints he hears in the future in a different way from the past and understand the person who is speaking and his or her feelings and give them strength and encouragement. He had learned an important lesson. Isn't this a good way to begin our new Year?                              

Friday, December 29, 2017

Degradation of Sexuality

How does one form one's values on sex? In the past, it was easy to say from our reading. This was true when our culture was based on the printed word but is that true in our present society? Books and the written word no longer have the influence they once had after the appearance of TV, Internet, and Smartphones. We are in video culture and formed by it. The Catholic Peace Weekly has an article by an authority in the field who introduces the readers to a new way of seeing the issue.

What we pick up from the printed word is of a different order than what comes through a picture. Books bring to us the classical world of the humanities; video culture: movies, drama, musical videos, advertising, pornography is a medium that overwhelms. They introduce us to another way of seeing reality.

We all have experienced scenes from movies and TV dramas that remain with us and we even remember the dialogue. If you ask college women what is their ideal place to receive your first kiss 70% of them will answer under a street light as the snow descends and about half of the males will say in an alleyway or in a car. Why is there such a similarity in the responses? It's because that is what they have been exposed to in the visual media.

In movies and dramas, we see romantic love relationships repeatedly. What is understood by the young people is that it's very natural to have sex. In jest when they go on a  trip together they will say they are on an MT, membership training trip, meaning that they will end up at a motel for the evening. Dating means sex.

Do the young people only learn from movies and drama? Korea has the world's fastest connection speeds to the internet and is unrestricted. Korea is per capita the biggest user of pornography and a  producer of pornography. Attributed greatly to the efficiency of the internet connection and wifi capabilities of the  Korean cyberspace. The viewing of pornography according to the writer among the young is the highest in the world. Which is a sign that the future descent into sexual freedom will increase.

In Korea if within a month the couple have a sexual relation they will  continue together or else you have problems and breakup. This is not only true with the college-aged youth but even starting in middle school. In Korea, sex education in schools is mostly absent: condoms is the way they treat the problem.

Age for the first experience of sex continues to drop. In 2014  in an internet survey it was as low as 12 years-old. This is only surmised but he says our sex openness is further ahead than Europe or the United States. Even compared to a country like the Netherlands where the age was 18 and older. Does this not warrant concern for programs in our schools and societal interest with the issue?

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Equality of the Sexes Misunderstood

The voices shouting for equality are abundant, equality of men and women is at its height and when it comes to drinking alcoholic beverages there is no exception. Compared to the past we have an atmosphere that encourages women to drink more than ever before. Women appear in advertising frequently with mild soju (Korean vodka) suggesting that drinking is not the exclusive right of men. Women have become marketing targets for the alcohol industry says an alcoholic medical center chief in an article in the Catholic Times. 

Alcohol does not treat men and women both equally.  When women abuse alcohol her health both physical and mental is impaired much quicker than men. Progress to addiction is also noticeably faster. Many are the wives and mothers who fall into this quagmire.

Different than the treatment a man gets: a devoted wife staying by the side of her husband suffering from the husband's drunkenness and violence and helping in the recovery. Society shows little sympathy towards women even when they have made efforts to end their addiction. Prejudice sees their situation as a moral depravity, a loss of a women's status.

One of the most common diseases of women is the disorder from the use of alcohol and it's hard to know why treatment for the sick person is so difficult. She is often ignored and the object of stone-throwing when the suffering is not necessarily her fault.

Nonetheless, if you look closely at those who are treated as alcoholics you realize that miracles are many. You see hopelessness change to hope and see the miracle of healing. It is impressive to see the changes take place.

When treating withdrawal symptoms, taking the right medication, healing the wounds of the mind, one realizes their world deceived them. Desperation brought about by alcohol and the anger directed to others gradually disappears. In the process of recovery, anger towards the family can be sublimated to the comfort and help of each other.

Recently there are hospitals that provide women with specialized treatment and rehabilitation programs. In an open environment, women can be treated with respect and dignity. There are programs for women who find it difficult to return home as well as counseling programs for families.The disease of female alcoholism has been established and the way of recovery exists. The false comfort of alcohol needs to be discarded and genuine healing and spiritual recovery attained.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Why Christmas Brings Joy-- Merry Christmas

 "Pleasure Christmas" a priest writer in the Kyeongyang magazine begins his article on Christmas joy with these words he saw on a pilgrimage to Macao. The word 'Merry' of the Christmas greeting was translated as 'Pleasure' in Chinese. Something he had forgotten came back to him. Is Christmas really a time of Joy?

When he reflects on Christmas he realizes that for many it's the season of Christmas that brings joy and not Christmas itself. It's a holiday, a day free from work, and we have the festive signs along the streets, trees glittering with decorations, carols sung and year-end eating and drinking occasions: not the entrance of Jesus on the world stage.

Why doesn't Christmas gives us great joy? Why doesn't Jesus' coming into the world leave us with strong feelings? May it not be that we do not experience his saving presence? We don't see his saving works in the world we live. Even at the time of Christ the world did not change, one sees the death on the cross as we gaze on the crib. The shepherd did not become rich nor did the angels begin a fight against emperor Augustus.

2000 years later we see no reversal from what we have seen. Shepherds are still poor, many have to work while others sleep.The Augustuses of the world are still strong they are still comfortable and partake of the goods of others, eat and live well. The law is on their side. Rich, developed, welfare countries are many and yet the place of the poor is still difficult. Conditions are  still the same what reason is there to celebrate? What are we saved from?

What is salvation? (Scripture uses the word "salvation" mainly in the sense of liberation of humanity or of the individual from sin and its consequences).  We tend to think that the almighty God will take away all our difficulties. Just like the superhero does in the movies.That is not what we see in the Scriptures. We are told that the savior of the world is lying in a manger. This is the sign of the savior. Why so?

God did not want to save us with his strength. He doesn't want us to be passive onlookers but cooperators in his work. We are to be the subjects of  salvation. He has given us a little spark of fire to continue his work. Jesus didn't want to set the world afire on his own but with the little sparks he has given us. These sparks we keep alive, we need to protect them from the strong winds with our bodies, and set the world afire with their light. By doing this we are also saved.

As Christians, our task is to take on the mind of Jesus that was present in the crib. This would make the world warmer filled with more joy. Our task is to help the weak live more human and holy lives: this is saving and being saved.

This is the way Jesus saves. This is the way we will understand and have the joy of Christmas in our lives."I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be  shared by the whole people... and here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" (Luke 2: 20-12).

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Hope in Waiting

The Catholic Times' View from the Ark gives the readers a meditation on waiting by a seminary professor viewing the Advent wreath in front of the altar. Christmas is not far away and as he looks back over the past he doesn't see the good results of his efforts as much as the regret and self-reproach for the things not done.

Waiting is the language of hope but often hidden within is despair. The things for which he hopes often turn to despair. Khali Gibran in his book the Prophet has told us that happiness and sadness are often two sides of the same coin. When joyous, looking deep into our hearts we find that which gave us sorrow also gives us joy. When sorrowful we often weep for what was our delight.

Peace and freedom we desire is full of unfortunate contingencies, and we wait in the midst of anxiety and hope. It's because of hope that we can wait. But at the same time at the end of the waiting often comes frustrations, failures, discouragements which we have learned to expect. I might be afraid of losing my job, suddenly getting cancer, the approach of death. Poverty brought about by economic polarization, depression, loneliness by the breakup of families and human relations, talk of war, political corruption and dishonesty. These problems are with us this year as in the past.

Jesus came 2000 years ago but we don't have big changes. He lived here on earth and proclaimed Emanuel, God is with us. Jerusalem, the Holy Land, in conflict, a gunpowder storage house waiting to explode. But we still wait for Christmas.

We no longer hear the Christmas carols as we once did. Christmas is coldly manipulated as a time to consume but we wait for a warm Christmas. 

Christians don't  wait for gorgeous trees and decorated cribs but rather, despite the depressing situation of humankind, we believe that God will not forsake us. The suffering of the cross lives in our hearts as we wait for the  victory of Jesus when he comes again to proclaim the victory over sin and death.

The second coming of Jesus is not the fearful future of the apocalyptists but the hope we have of the kingdom here and now that we proclaim in the smile and touch of the small people of the earth who seek light in darkness, hope in despair and joy in sorrow. We hope to experience now the future joy of God's life.

We wait for a secure future with trepidation. Christians can't help but believe in the simple truth that darkness can not win over light; during this Advent it is the faith of the Christians to believe in waiting with hope.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Taming the Tongue

"Wild animals and birds, reptiles and fish can all be tamed by man and often are; but nobody can tame the tongue-it is a pest that will not keep still, full of deadly poison" (James 3:7). A columnist in the Catholic Times reminds us of the problems we have with the tongue.

Many times we use the tongue to utter empty words: "Let's eat together one of these days." This is one of the frequent empty phrases used in Korea. The columnist recalls the many times she has used these words with others. She resolved to use the words with those with whom she truly would like to eat with in the future.

When we borrow money from the bank we incur a debt and we have to repay, the same is true of the words we utter they are a debt we make to others. Sometimes we speak out without much thought and   when we do so we often hurt the other. 

We need to be careful in what we say but equally in what we hear. At times what we say frivolously is not taken frivolously. And when we agree to something and no response is evident it's like a messenger you send out who never returns. When this happens trust is lost. Words are often  the measure of trust between persons.

When people meet together there is always going to be gossip. Pope Francis said that if one doesn't participate in gossip they are saints. When we are present in such circumstances we are giving support and often feel uncomfortable. Especially when there has been little contact with the person talked about; gossip leaves an aftertaste which is not good since we are told to love the other.

She mentions the words of a Saint who recommended few words for those who love Jesus and patience in all things. And no need to give your opinion until asked.

Often we speak about a person's faults without reason, we bicker, nag, show off, break confidences, dominate the conversation and participate in  salacious talk and jokes. If we were to go deep into our conversations we find bad examples, excusing ourselves and fail to be transparent when we should be, idle talk and meddling in the affairs of others, and many other ways that we abuse the use of the tongue. 

"So is the tongue only a tiny part of the body, but it can set fire to a huge forest; the tongue is a flame like that. Among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a whole wicked world in itself; it infects the whole body; catching fire itself from hell, it sets fire to the whole wheel of creation"(James 3: 5). 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Place in Society Often Determines Our Thinking

In a bulletin for priests a retired priest reminisces on his life and two classmates. One classmate lived in a neighboring diocese and was involved in farming until his retirement. He was a leader in the movement for farmers and seeing the breakdown of farm life, sadness entered his life.

The other classmate was a rector of a technical school and involved in education for many years until retirement. Both of these men from their time in the seminary were close friends. During the military control of the government, they both spent short periods of time in prison.

Up to his middle fifties, the educator often visited his priest farmer friend in the country. One of them was living with the upper middle class and the other with the poor farmers. The way they looked at life began to change. In the beginning, their views of  society were similar but with the passage of time, they began to diverge in the way they saw the political world and they began to clash. One evening while eating they quarreled and the friendship ended.

They both were zealous in their way of life,no one can say who was right or wrong.The way of life they lived separated them from one another. It was no special problem they had but only the way they looked at life made conversation difficult for both of them and they didn't meet anymore. They both had heart problems and died at the age 72, both died within a year of each other.

Their many years of close friendship and prayers were not able to keep them in their friendship. A sign that the way we live is going to influence the way we see life and make judgments. Karl Marx, said something similar in his writing:  "It is not our thoughts that change us but the places where we live changes us." Another saying the priest quotes: "Employer and worker have little to talk about."

One bishop who went from Seoul to the country changed greatly. Living with the poor made him see things differently and take an interest in their issues. Once asked what made him change he answered that it was the people with whom he talked and ate that changed him.

We learn a great deal from our studies and what we read but these thoughts usually stay in our heads and hearts. To have these thoughts take flesh in our action is another big step which is not often made. We fool ourselves into thinking that these high values and ideals, make us different which can be another  form of pride. 

In his later years the writer's meeting with people has diminished and it is now mostly theory that he is living with. The kind of encounter present is not the deep kind, it's a business kind of contact not  dialogue about joys and suffering. He lives among many but alone.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Where are the Young People?

At the Mass for young people, there are more adults than young people. No, it's not that they are busy studying for exams but rather the community of faith is not reaching them; we are becoming a church of old people. A professor of humanities writing in the Kyeongyang magazine would like to know where they have gone.

Protestants are doing a better job relating to the young he says. At times the methods are not always without criticisms but they are closer to the young. Can Catholicism embrace the young?   

When he is out with his classmates drinking at a cafe` he notices some will take out their smartphone and furtively glance at it and he says, without doubt, they are looking at a picture of their grandchild. They are attracted more to their grandchildren than their own for they are no longer busy with raising a family and its concerns. However, each day 7 young people commit suicide. Is there any guarantee that these children in twenty years will not be one of them. This children's generation is the first that will not be living as well as their parents.

When Pople Francis came to Korea in 2014, one of the main reasons was to attend the Asian Youth Gathering. He was very close to them and spent time with them; after he left the writer feels embarrassed that the church has not continued this concern for the young. He feels that the present generation has forgotten them.

Our generation had a difficult time but we didn't have problems with finding work, getting married or bothered with thoughts of suicide. No matter how hard they try getting a job they are approaching an ironclad bastion. Instead of changing the structures they are getting worse. Wealth continues to increase and is distributed among the wealthy, injustice continues and few speak out.

Generally, Catholicism compared to Protestantism is passive and subdued. Here in Korea, however, the church continued to grow especially because the church stood up to the military take over of government. Ironically Korean Catholicism is much more progressive than Protestantism, how come?

The Church in Korea has been on the side of the weak in their struggle for justice. Catholicism became the spokesperson for workers, the marginated. They were ridiculed for it but continued and persons came to the door of the church. The Gospel message was always before them. Nowadays the young people are the ones who are marginated and weak and need persons to speak for them. The professor feels that the church has not been attentive to the plight of the young people and have limited their interest only to statistics and passive concern.

"I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will not walk in the dark; he will have the light of life" (Jn. 8:12). He finishes the article by wanting us to give the young people hope for the future and asks us to feel shame for what we have not done.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Human Rights and Mission

The Korean Catholic Church from 1982 has selected the second Sunday of Advent as Human Rights Sunday and the second week as Social Doctrine Week. This year is the 50th anniversary of the publication of the encyclical of Pope Paul VI on the Development of Peoples.
The message for the week is social renewal, peace, and interest in the socially disadvantaged. One  continually emphasized by the church. With these words, the editorial of the Catholic Times reminds the readers of the interest necessary to seek change in society.

With the help of many citizens, we have seen the beginning of a new government but the evils that have been accumalated will not be easily dislodged in a short period of time. But this is the time to begin. 

Renewal is the word most appropriate for what is necessary for society at present. Christians should be "people hungry and thirsting for what is right" (Matt. 5:6). With prayer and solidarity with others we work for the building up of God's kingdom here on earth.

The teaching on Peace by the Church is very clear. In a talk given at the Blue House in 2014, Pope Francis said we are faced with the: "perennial challenge of breaking down the walls of distrust and hatred by promoting a culture of reconciliation and solidarity."  Military competition, rivalry, criticism and military parades are useless in bringing about peace was the message. We must think deeply about what will bring peace to the peninsula.

The Justice and Peace Committee  stressed the need to be concerned with the care of the weak in society. A  first interest of the Church is to be with those who can't defend themselves: farmers, fishing populations, migrants, workers, against the abrogation of the law against abortions, and against the death penalty.  Christians have this mission of building a culture of life and working for the protection of these values.

This week is one in which parishioners should become familiar with the church's teaching on human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was approved by 48 votes, none opposed and eight abstaining. It was a big step that was made for the first time accepting fundamental human rights to be universally protected. The Church has made the declaration something that should be followed and made known.

Pope John 23rd in his Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris commends the  Universal Declaration of Human Rights not withstanding certain defects: "Nevertheless, we think the document should be considered a step in the right direction, an approach toward the establishment of a juridical and political ordering of the world community. It is a solemn recognition of the personal dignity of every human being; an assertion of everyone's right to be free to seek out the truth, to follow moral principles, to discharge the duties imposed by justice and to lead a fully human life. It also recognized other rights connected with these."

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wisdom Learned From Water

In the Catholic Peace Weekly, an article starts with a four-letter phrase in the writings of Lao-tzu,  Tao Te Ching: 上善若水 (highest good like water). Water never brings attention to itself and always seeks the lowest places and nourishes everything on the way. To live in this way is to be close to saintliness. Its opposite is to live contrary to right reason and rashly.

The writer lists two recent cases that make him appreciate the wisdom of the four words that begins his article. One case a person in a government post was arrested but shortly after with a change of judges the person arrested was released because there wasn't sufficient reason for the arrest. Many citizens questioned the difference in the way the law was read. Many in the legislature censured the judge.

The second case mentioned is the signatures of 200,000 citizens on the Blue House bulletin board, asking for the abrogation of the law against abortion. You have a highly contested issue: those who strongly feel you are killing a fetus and you have the others saying it's against the right a woman has over her body. A new aspect entered the picture when the Blue House representative of the people mentioned the problems with the issue.

All these events occurred naturally but it is not right for the legislative branch of government to censure the judicial or the executive to control the direction of legislation. Law, the compulsory code of the state is not different from the law of water. Western natural law thinking and ordinary law both seek the source of law in our natural life and in Asia the very word law  is an icon of water seeking harmony.

Our understanding of the law is that when we have a wrong law we follow procedures to revise or abolish the law. All the citizens have the right to express their opinion. However, on the principle of the separation of powers, the legislative, executive and judicial should not exceed the conduct that is given to them in their office. The democratic system collapses if the legislature disputes the interpretation of the law by the judiciary of if the executive forces their view on the legislature.

Man is an imperfect being and even if I am convinced I am right I may be wrong. The natural flow of water we should imitate, my self-righteousness does not produce good results. When we seek to achieve justice by force the results often destroy our common sense.

In 1919 lawmakers in the United States Congress passed a constitutional amendment that prohibited the production of alcoholic beverages in the United States. This made thousands of Americans outlaws until abolished in 1933. As a result the ban has remained synonymous with excessive reforms that have caused public dissatisfaction and social disruption: the result of abandoning the wisdom learned from water. The writer finishes the article by saying that fortunately, our Christians do not fall into this foolishness because they pray that "the will of the Father, not my will be done" (Luke 22:42).

Monday, December 11, 2017

Why are Hansen's Disease Patients Different?

In the Catholic Times, an article on Hansen's disease has the headline: Approaching those with Hansen's disease is still difficult. The journalist writes about the 29 cured with a history of Hansen's disease now living in a village as a family.They left the home for  the first time since birth for a three day trip to Jeju-do.

Before they left the priest in charge made reservations at a hotel. However, when they arrived they were told there was a mistake made and a group of young people on their school excursion trip were accepted and are sorry for the inconvenience.
They had to go to a pension they knew would accept them.

The group was elated with the joy of the trip to Jeju-do but the prejudice and discrimination were present in many different ways. At a restaurant when they ordered a pot stew dish the waiter wanted to know if the priest accompanying the group wanted a separate pot. He politely refused. Prejudice gives birth to discrimination and discrimination to prejudice and this has been the case for thousands of years.

Discrimination has been the attitude of world and the church for centuries. The church is partialy responsible for making the sufferers from this disease 'outsiders'.

 Leper was used but now after the Norwegian doctor, Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen (1841-1912) discovered the bacterium that causes the disease the name was changed.  

In the Old Testament, the disease was considered a penalty from heaven, a curse from God. This is seen often in the Old Testament. Leprosy is seen also in the New Testament but treated differently. Jesus touches lepers, breaking a tradition that was present for centuries. Jesus went to the homes of lepers but today after 2000 years, the priest asks: are we still living in the Old Testament times or New Testament times?

According to statistic, we have 10,402 Hansen's patients. Only 87 are positive and are being treated the other 99% have been cured. Many are living in homes for those with a history of Hansen's disease but 6,213  are living in their own homes. The average age is about 74 and in the near future, the disease  will disappear into history.

Within a year, less than 10 are diagnosed with the bacterium.The common opinion of the medical practitioners who work in the field, those taking medicine are cured and the danger of contagion is slight.

We have entered the stage where the disappearance of the disease is envisioned but an important step has still to be taken. We have persons cured of the disease who live separately from others and this is true within the church. Even if our intellects tell us and we want to come closer to them, we see believers whose body recoils when in their presence.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Born to be Loved

"You were born to be loved" is the title of an article in Bible & Life by a therapist of her own happiness research institute. She tells us the story of a mixed-blood child that she met some 5 years ago who was attending a kindergarten and was diagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). She was brought to her institute for counseling.

To the therapist, the 6-year-old child, Mini, was a normal healthy child with great curiosity and full of energy. She was the child of a Korean mother and  African American father who was found after birth and brought to a foundling home to be raised. She received much love but because of her skin color, curly hair and large eyes she was the attention of all who saw her and not always for the good. Mini's  reflex action was to defend herself and when she did cry out and make a fuss she was punished.

Since her appearance was different from the others she was an object of ridicule and harassed, when she defended herself she alone was punished. She suffered unfairly and cried a lot making for a difficult situation in which she was reacting in a scattered brain way and finally diagnosed with attention deficiency and given drugs to control her actions.

The therapist rather than medicine Mini needed to be treated warmly. During vacation time she went to the home of the therapist and away from the harassment at the foundling home. She was warmly received and radiated joy in all she did.

When the therapist was studying in the States a couple she knew came to Korea when Mini was in her home. The couple were attracted to Mini because of her behavior and energy. They wanted to adopt the child but because of the impression Korea has given to the  rest of the world, as an exporter of children, they made the regulations to adopt a Korean child difficult and for those within the country much easier. The American couple were over 45 years old, they were 47 and this was too old for foreigners but not for Koreans.

The therapist thought that as she would be entering her teens she would be dealing with many more conflicts and the therapist began to worry. On entering the 4th grade of elementary school the therapist thought of a great adventure: she would take Mini to the United States. Mini would meet many others with her features; better than words, to experience this would be important.

However, in entering the United States she was asked if she was the related to the child and from there on problems arose. She was questioned, missed her plane but finally did arrive at her destination. Mini  met many with her skin color who were enjoying life and she no longer saw herself as a person from out of space.  Meeting the couple from the States was also a help in Mini's development

On her return to Korea Mini found great confidence in herself and from a look of despondency was developing into a girl full of joy and charm, the therapist  ends the article with the words of the song: "You were born to be loved."

Thursday, December 7, 2017

"Let what you have said be done to me"

Last week the liturgical year began with the first Sunday of Advent. A time to sanctify our own temples waiting for the birth of Jesus. At this time in Korea, the church and the world are concerned about the abolition of the abortion law and those in opposition are geared up for a fight.  A religious sister writes in View from the Ark on the issue.

The Bioethics Committee of the Bishops has made clear the position of the Church. Despite the clarity of Christian opposition to abortion Christians are not agreed on the evil of abortion. More than half of the people in Korea think the law against abortion should be abolished. In a poll that was made by a survey of 516 men and women aged 19 and older nationwide 51.9% said the law against abortion should be abolished. 36.2% wanted the law continued and 11.9% didn't know. 59.9% of the women wanted the law abrogated and 30.1% wanted it continued.

"None of the women who had an abortion were ignorant of the sanctity of life. Of course I think that abortion should be reduced. Women suffer considerable stress and psychological distress because of abortions. The problem is that abortion is a crime. Because abortion is illegal women are punished and women's health is jeopardized."  These are the words of an activist wanting the repeal of the law.

There is a sharp confrontation between the right to life of the fetus and the right of self-determination of the woman. Sister does not think it is a matter of choosing or giving up either one of them. It is the state that is responsible for life and safety of the people. Care, protection, and respect for the weak and the marginalized lives that are innocent and unable to protect themselves are the common interest of the nation.

What is necessary now is not to have a change in the law but rather to find ways to strengthen the responsibility of the state and men. The church also should consider ways to provide more practical and concrete assistance to problems faced by women so they are allowed to cherish the lives of the unborn.

The church is now carrying out a prayer campaign to gain a million signature to oppose the abolition of the abortion laws. We need to participate in this prayer movement so we can find the will of God, the master of life in the culture of death that is so prevalent in our lives and consciousness.

During this season of Advent, we are waiting for the birth of Jesus and thinking of the Blessed Mother and her response to the angel. She was prepared to be God's servant. She overcame all her fears to participate in God's work of salvation. Her constant and strong trust should find a place in our hearts during this season.   

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Education of Monsters in Society

A professor in the Kyeongyang magazine brings to the attention of the readers the way we educate monsters. John Stuart Mills the economist and philosopher is paraphrased: "One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests."

In a world that praises those who abandoned their beliefs in order to make secular monetary gain is a present day reality and many are awed by those who follow their beliefs. However, those who follow their beliefs not infrequently bring fear and pain to those around them.

The professor then gives us a profile of Anders Behring Breivik, a mass murderer who killed 8 and injured many others in an  explosion in Oslo, Norway,  and going to an island where a youth labor group was meeting killed another 68. He was against multiculturalism that the labor party sympathized  with and helped. The professor asks the readers what prepared this young person to perpetrate this horrendous act and publicize it on SNS with the above quote from John Stuart Mills.

On Facebook, he made known to the world that he spent on self-study 14,500 hours on business adminstration and history and another 3,000 hours studying religion and finances, sufficient, he says on Facebook to get a master's degree in the subjects.

Of all the animals on the earth humans have the ability to think but at the same time are the cruelest.  When some judge another to have done something not liked we hear of cases where they kill and justify their acts.

Moreover, when justification is made as a group or on a social level, the result is beyond imagination. The Nazis were able to kill six million people in six years and  justify their actions at the collective level. Scholarly studies often fosters this ability to justify our actions.

We all understood that study and knowledge make us better persons. This was the way we looked at learning because in the past education was to cultivate our humanity and was consistent with our reason. Consequently, the more study the chances that such a person would have a well formed character and  moral sense was taken for granted.

However, scholarly study at present is not what it was years ago. Today study is to enable a person to logically systematize thoughts so as to convey ideas. To study a lot is to master the subject with no concern for the person's self-betterment and building of character. A person misunderstands dialogue as the ability to present his position, his or her efforts to elaborate their opinion is what is important and when not accepted they despair and often express hostility.

Korea's devotion to study is second to no other country in the world. The numbers that go on to college is high and the years spent in study continue to increase but at the same time horrible and shocking events continue to appear in society.There are many varied reasons but our educational system can't be excluded. 

Thoughts can help to destroy ourselves and others but also to sacrifice ourselves for others. From an early age, we need to educate to see the pain of others and want to help, this will make the world a different place in which to live. Otherwise, we will be producing 'philosophers' like Breivik who think what they do is for the betterment of humanity.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Happy New Year of Jubilee

Catholics living in Asia celebrate the New Year three times and today is the first of the three. Advent is the beginning of the church year, our first call to begin again, the second comes with the solar new year on Jan.1st and on Feb. 16, 2018  we celebrate the lunar new year which is the real New Year for most Asians.

In the Catholic Peace Weekly one of the writers in his column prepares the readers to make the most of the new year's beginning. From his own personal experience there is the crossing of two emotions. The feeling of gratitude for what was accomplished and on the other hand remorse and feeling of defiency for what could  have been. But with the new there is hope and a new resolution. Of course also some fear and worry but his hope will also be there in first place. Without which we will not be beginning a new year.

Looking back there is little that was accomplished as planned. Most of the problems were caused by himself rather than disrupted by unaviodable cirucumstance. In the family, with peers and in relationship with people the problems were self inflicted but at the same time much was worthwhile and for which he is thankful despite the hesitations and regrets.

Hope is embraced with the new start. It is not filled with anxiety for the future but a joy associated with the specific joy of the birth of the Savior. The new year does not begin with the birth of Jesus but with Advent to give us time to repent for our weaknesses and failures of the past year and prepare for the joy that Jesus has brought to us with his brith.

Moreover this new year begins with the Jubilee Year of the laity. What do we mean by the  Jubilee of the Laity? Is it not  the year in which the laity  with great joy live with the understanding of the meaning of Jubilee? We Christians are disciples of Jesus who are given the task like Jesus to proclaim the Lord's year of favor (Jubilee) Lk. 4:19. A time to liberate, become holy and spread the joy we have received.

For many these words are empty of meaning.The calling of the church is clear. Materialism, searching for pleasure, human rights abuses, contempt for life makes our society increasingly dark. We need to see beyond the darkness. Let's proclaim the Jubilee in all that we do during the year.

Pope Fancis in his visit to Korea in 2014  emphasized this in his call to the Korean laity. He wants the laity to approach first those who are in need of help, and  help them to live a decent life as human beings. The family, the basic unit of society, should be prepared  for this mission with its unity and mission.

Jubilee encourages us to start with courage, joy, hope and conviction it is the wellspring for our mission. We believe in God who is holy, merciful, and loving, the God of Jubilee.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Cooperators With God, Not Absolute Dominion

 In many parts of the world environmental activists and those who want to see economic progress are in opposition to each other. Both have ample reasons for their positions and the issue is not one that is easily dealt with.

An article in the Catholic Times presents the case for the environmentalist. A priest working in this field presents his thoughts for the readers in the View from the Ark. In  the year 2000 a large number of children requested the Seoul Administrative Court to suspend a reclamation project that was destroying a tidal flat for future generations.

Based on the Rio Declaration which refers to the environmental rights of future generations: natural resources do not belong to the present generation but are the common wealth of future generations. The court however dismissed the children's case for not being eligible plaintiffs. We do not have a sense of responsibility for future generations nor reflect on the burden we are placing on them.

Forty three children in the Philippines in 1990 won a lawsuit against the logging companies for the felling of trees in virgin forests that would mortgage the future of these children and future generations according to the Rio Declaration. Consequently, the government rescinded more than 70 permissions that were given.

At the time the universe was created one of the most popular theories is called the Big Bang, about 13.7 billion years ago. From nothing we have something. It is assumed that there was an impulse toward life from the first moment of the Big Bang. He quotes that God has prepared to meet us for 13.7 billion years.

Problems in the ecosystem of this  wonderful universe that God created have appeared. A great deal of time has passed from the creation of the world. From the the time of our industrialization, resources discovered and pollutants dispersed we have done more harm to the ecosystem than any time from the appearance of humans on earth. We have not done a good job as stewards.

Korea in the amount of greenhouse gases and carbon emissions is ranked 7th in the world and the climate change is something that is experienced in Korea. After Fukushima nuclear disaster and the understanding of the dangers of nuclear power and nuclear waste we are still talking about the increase of nuclear power plants. Knowing that publis opinion is still far from being convinced of the problems he laments the arogance and lack of wisdom that he sees.

In Laudatio Si Encyclical Letter Pope Francis stresses: "Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble, for 'instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature'. Humans don't have absolute dominion over the world we have to acknowledge this truth. We can't solve our problems only in our way but in God's way.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Brotherly Love And Peace On the Peninsula

A peace activist writing in a Catholic Times' column on Korean unification and reconciliation introduces the readers to a folktale all Koreans know. It's the story of two brothers: Nolbu and Heungbu. Their father left the family inheritance to both equally but the older brother kept it all and threw out his brother. The brother did not complain and accepted his life of poverty.

One day Heungbu saw a swallow on the ground with a broken leg and treated the bird so it could fly. The following spring the swallow returned with a seed. He planted the seed in the yard it became a big gourd. When he cut open the gourd all kinds of good things came out: gold and gems. He sold them and became wealthy.

This news reached his brother Nolbu who asked his brother how he became so wealthy so quickly. The brother explained what happened with the swallow. Nolbu went home and broke the leg of a swallow and waited until the following spring. He also was given a seed which he planted but this time all kinds of bad things came out and he lost all that he possessed.

The younger brother helped his older brother without his knowledge. In conclusion the older brother apologized for his greed and the younger brother shared his wealth with the brother and they lived happily ever after.

Do we have this type of opposites in real life resolving in this way? We don't find persons who are all good or all bad. Usually we cast our light on what we want to see and ignore what we don't want to see. We can bring to the fore the good or the bad.

Behind any conflict or fight there is another side that's developed over many years in the way participants grew up and were raised. What is the secret for a resolution? Is it to continue maintaining one's viewpoint or to consider the other viewpoint if one wants to see some resolution?

Brothers quarrel and go to their rooms and lock the door is this not what we experience in our world? Mother is in the kitchen preparing a delicious meal but anger blocks them from the enjoyment to their great loss.

Rather than have a third party do the knocking on the door when it is one of the brothers, elder or younger and they have a desire for understanding,   the opening of the heart, the knocking on the door is not a problem. This has a greater possibility of resolution than having a third party doing the knocking, where defensiveness and revenge often appear.

We are all weak deficient human beings. However, despite this we we make the effort with the strength and freedom we have and if we don't have the  strength we know it will be given to us and quietly go to the door and knock. "Let's resolve our problem",  these words gives us a hope for change.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Not Only Detoxification But Health

An arrow shot from a bow is meant to reach the target. What is the target for the treatment of alcohol addiction? The answer to this question is not as easy as one would think and the writer in an article in the Catholic Times explains why.

Probably most would answer that treatment for alcoholism is to stop drinking. However, those working with the addicted quickly find out that the patient is faced with many problems attributed to withdrawal. These symptoms are serious: anxiety, insomnia, irritability, and anger difficult to control. Pleasure and temporary relief of stress that alcohol supplied are followed by depression and helplessness.

Craving for alcohol, the mentality of the person is affected, he has a 'dry drunk', behaving like a drunk person, the mental faculties and emotions are distorted not able to satisfy the addiction. In the treatment process dealing with this pain, all disappears by giving in to the temptation and drinking.

Around half, according to statistics, after treatment return within a month, two-thirds go back to drink within a year. Recovery is not easy. After relapse, the situation is more serious, small and big conflicts, diseases and attempted suicides. The pain is real and the temptation to succumb is strong and not just an excuse on the part of the addicted one.

The brain which has enjoyed drinking regularly when the drinking stops the brain goes into an emergency state. The brain to overcome this abnormal state will take all the means available; we have distorted thinking and emotions, destroying any kind of spirituality.

Those who stay away from alcohol for at least two years over 80 % continue. After one or two years most of the brain's functions return and the way the person faces life changes.

He tells his readers about a man in his 80s who was addicted but went to see his doctor weekly and joined a group of alcoholics meeting regularly. The writer asked him why did he want to change at his age.

" I have been drinking for over 60 years. I worked hard and quite suddenly I felt an emptiness in life, I had nothing. I worked, made money and spent a lot of my time drinking with friends, I had little time to speak with my family. I didn't want my family to remember me only as a drunk who lived a worthless life.I stopped drinking, learned to play an instrument, started exercising, reading and returned to my religion. Most important I have been spending time with my family in conversation. They liked what they saw and praised and respect me for what I have done. I have begun living a meaningful life even if it's almost over."

A medical practitioner wishes the patient to enjoy healthy pleasures instead of those that come from using addictive substances. They desire patients to seek full communication with others instead of anger, have hope instead of being controlled by instinctive desires and live a dignified life as a human being. This is the ultimate goal for addicts to reach and not simple detoxification.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Surprising Oneself With the Possible

Writing in a diocesan bulletin a layman gives the readers an insight into his experience of doing something he never imagined possible and the results. He never paid much attention to what was happening within his church community. What happened outside his little world was of little concern and the choir of his parish was outside of his world. Musical knowledge was scant, a weak voice and no interest, but this past summer he became a member of the church choir.

The choir leader asked him to become a member. They were preparing for a public performance and seeing their zeal he joined with the proviso it would be for three months. He could barely read the score and didn't think he would be any help but an obstacle.  Only one of the songs that he would be practicing was in anyway familiar and he was given the tenor part.

At the first practice and for the following two weeks he didn't even once look at the score. Since he promised, he attended all the practices but continued wondering whether giving up wasn't the best course of action. However, as he continued strangely the tunes  of the music stayed  with him and he was humming the music. The devotion of the music director and president  impressed him greatly. He gave full attention to the choir and practice.

A big change came over him. He began practicing the score, doing what the director suggested at the last practice and practicing in his home, confidence came. The score stayed with him even after practice, and he  looked forward to the next practice.

They say that applause makes  elephants dance and so also the public performance made the choir dance. Everything went well and was appreciated by all. Able to be a help to the choir gave him a feeling of satisfaction.

The writer began to wonder about his judgments that he has made in life. He thought that he knew himself but  recognized that many of the choices he has made were not wise decisions. After the  choir experience  he realized that he had limited his area of activity with out reason by his preconceived wrong judgements and prejudices.

He doesn't know what the future holds in store but the areas in which he has little confidence will no longer be off limit. He will not avoid them as in the past.  He now looks forward to developing his potentials which have been hidden; he wants to regain control of himself and not be controlled by his self imposed unreasonable limitation. The summer experience with the choir made him see life in a different way.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Bigger Churches and More Christians

In the last half of the 20th century, industrialization and democratization of Korea brought about a great increase of the number of Catholics. From 3% of the population to over 10% growth  needing the building of new churches and 5 new seminaries. It was a growth  rarely seen in the church and a reason for pride.

A priest writing for other priests in a pastoral bulletin asks his readers: Do we have a better way of life from the increase of the number of crosses on church buildings and the number of Christians in Korea? Are we happier society for the increase? You ask 10 people and you get the same answer: No, is the very natural response  to the question: no ifs, ands and buts.

Jesus' came into the world  to reform it.   He gave his life for the cause and we his followers are given the same mission of making this world one according to his will. Why then since we have an increase of twice to three times what it was,  we so called Christians have not made any difference in the world we see? We perceive no sign of change. Rather with the passage of time why do we feel more anxious, tired and  unhappy? Let us suppose that  the majority of the population  joined us would there be change? Seeing the results of the increase we have experienced our answer  wouldn't be yes.  Why?

The writer feels we have forgotten the responsibility we have as Christians. Often is heard the structures of the church are vertical, clericalism is rampant. Few are the members of the clergy who have reflected long and deep on the situation and are  concerned with the situation. Tearing down buildings, extending present buildings and building new buildings is what is important. The building of churches and the increase of believers has little to do with the evangilization of the world.

We do not want to misunderstand what the work of the community of faith is. Church is here to work for the establishment of  God's kingdom. The Church is not the kingdom but a means to bring the kingdom here to the world. When we are only interested in extending the church and fail to spread the message of the Gospel and absorbed in security and our own growth we become a business enterprise.

He concludes the article by reminding the readers that when we only think of building up the church making it larger and forget the mission of the church we forget the shabby looking  Jesus who stood before the sign of  authority and power of Pilate. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Crisis Within The Church, Violence Our Self Portrait

In the present community of faith, we see two extreme ways the church is seen. They both see a crisis and are concerned. A priest writer in a Bulletin for priests begins his article with these words.

A so-called conservative school sees the situation with a martyr's attitude: they face a stark reality and proceed to analyze  the situation. After the Second Vatican Council, the church was contaminated with disbelief, worldliness, and liberalism. It's their task to return to the time before the Council as a loyal remnant in the church.

The other school predicts that if we continue in our present ways the church will decline and cease to exist. What is necessary is for the true Christian to throw off the aging and frustrating system the Church is trapped in and modernize, become efficient and get the applause of society.

In these two extremes, there is a common element in that both of them see the other as the cause of the problems the church faces. The two camps with their strong fortress mentality both predicting the downfall of the church have in their logic no place for love but only condemnation, no concern for the other but judgment. Within these two camps, we have a narrowness of thinking, self-inflicted pain and attitudes that give birth to despair and the soil for violence.

This attitude does recognize that the church is made up of human beings and is limited in what it's able to do. Both these camps are violent in their activities towards the good people who believe that the Church from the time of the Apostles is being led by God and his Spirit.

Sarcasm is adrift in the Church and our self-portrait. This attitude hurts us and defeats without finding hope in our Lord. Medard Kehl SJ, a German theologian, has thought deeply about the challenges that face the church in the modern world and fights against them in his book: Where is the Church Going?  He asks those with closed minds and self-inflicted pessimism with the following proposal. " To grow in hope is not to strive only for results by all means and give people all that they desire. What we are about is  to be faithful in living our faith without vacillation of any kind."  In other words: faith for a Christian is doing what we are asked as natural and wholeheartedly, without looking around to others and wanting to hear applause. This will make us free and relieve us of many burdens. We are not always looking for immediate results from our efforts but at the same don't surrender. Efficiency is not our most important value.

In a changing world, negative conclusions about the situation faced by the church or obsession with survival follow from a lack of faith and deep reflection on the meaning of church. With the deep reflection, we begin to understand our being internally, externally and the truth. We come to a deeper understanding of the reality we are experiencing and a deeper level of hope.

In Korea, the candlelight processions did bring about visibly the desire of many of the citizens for a new start. At this point in history with all the conflict within and outside the community of faith, we need to reflect more deeply on the reason for the existence of the Church, the world, humanity and the light will come.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Church Needs to Challenge The Culture

Human consciousness depends on education, tradition, culture and belief system but it is not fixed, changes take place, we have growth and integration. A seminary professor begins his article in View from the Ark with these words on the Church's place in society.

Change produces resistance. A human being is biologically programmed to avoid pain and rest comfortably. Emotional stability is necessary to resolve both physical and inner conflicts to adapt to changes in an environment. If these changes match the views of the individual, pain is accepted, if not persons are disturbed, and problems with depression and suicides often follow.

The church is no exception. Looking at the 2000 year history of the church it has been on a journey of cultural adaptation and indigenization. In the spirit and culture of the times, it tries to understand its beliefs and make known what it has received and finds its identity.

After the Resurrection of Jesus, the early church was waiting for the return of Jesus and the end, testifying to their faith by martyrdom. After becoming the State Church of Rome with its freedom and power it began to preach the Gospel to the pagans and with its power build the earthly kingdom. People were subdued in the name of Jesus with violence and wrong judgments made.

However, the Church has undergone many changes, renewed and reformed. According to the promise of Jesus, the Church has been guided by the Holy Spirit to defeat the power of evil and proclaim the Gospel throughout the world. The Catholic Church dressed in the robes of Western civilization settled in Korea but was resented by the nation. It gave the hope of the Resurrection to the people. Believers found a new family in the church and shared hope and comfort and often witnessed to hope by a martyr's death.

There is a saying that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, At first we think that the sum of the parts make up the whole but when the individuals are gathered and form a community they are affected by the surrounding environment that influences the community in ways that were not present in the beginning. This is called the 'emergent property' principle also experienced by the Church. The gift of the Spirit that each individual receives is small but the spirit in the community would be greater than that of the individuals. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the level of guidance we believe is at a higher level than the social organizations of society.   

Often the mass media, the spirit of the age, the bias in society gives the citizens false and distorted values and brings harm into society. In the Church, however, believers receive the fellowship of other believers through the teaching of the faith and when the community becomes one they help defend the church and grow beyond their personal gifts and to the universal good.

Many criticize the church for not being any different from any other organizations in society and rightly so for the church is meant to be different. Gerhard Lohfink a German theologian makes clear that what is needed today is a church that is a contrast to the society we have. We are not a church to be successful in the ways of the world using the ways of the world with authoritarian power but with the teachings of Jesus. The moment authority becomes power we are no different than the world. If we lose the cross we lose everything. Is this not the lesson we  learned from history?

Friday, November 17, 2017

Young Christian Workers

Many years ago, a priest writing for a clerical bulletin, recalls a trip he made for a wedding Mass. He hailed a taxi whose driver seeing the clerical garb greeted him warmly telling him he also was Catholic and recounted his change of heart in recent years.

He was baptized as a child but did not take it too seriously. Recently, however, it all changed and he found great joy and meaning in everything he did as a member of the JOC.

(Young Christian Workers, Jeunesse Ouvriere Chretienne in French) is a movement for young workers that began in France. The taxi driver was a member of this movement and his taxi became his altar where he offered up his daily work, greeting all graciously and supporting his family. He was living the lay apostolate as a taxi driver.

He mentions a women member of the JOC who left her office job to work in a factory. Pay was poor, the work difficult but she felt on a mission. She had more persons to show her love and concern. At Mass, she would associate with those who were in their work clothes and did much to increase the numbers in the JOC movement and give meaning to the life many were living. 

JOC was very active in most of the countries of the world but that is no longer the case. Society has changed and so has the membership in the movement. In Korea, it was very active but now there are just about 10 groups that are still meeting.

Young people are at the learning stage so we may ask how can they participate in the apostolate of the Church. Young peoples' world is different from that of the adults. They study, play and work together. A difficult place for adults to enter. Only the young can enter and influence the direction of life.The group meetings are not education from above with cramming but young people sharing with other young people about their lives.

Many of those who in adult age continue to work in the lay apostolate of the church have their beginnings in the JOC. They were formed in way that gave them confidence and a joy that comes with concern for others in making a better world,

In recent statistics that the priest has seen show that 50% percent of those asked feel that religion is not necessary for society. With the passage of time the numbers who have a negative feeling towards religion continue to rise, Many are the reasons for this but the bad example given by religious people is great.

More than one non-believing philosopher has mentioned that Christians work to increase their numbers but more than efforts to evangelize, living what they preached would be the best method of evangelization.