Archives for category: Sunday Reflection

Pride.

It was the first sin committed against God by Lucifer himself. It is most common stumbling block amongst the elite and powerful. Each and every one of us has been struck by pride in their lifetime, and for many, it’s the constant source of their woes.

It’s personally my biggest failing for as long as I can remember. I have been blessed to have been given not only a superior intellect, but an unerring passion for knowledge and wisdom. Naturally, if people were to argue about things they have less knowledge, desire, and perception about, I sometimes brush them off and let them know it. Like the rich men in the Letter of James, through my superior power I can throw my weight around. For the briefest moment, it’s sinfully gratifying. But it’s also absolutely soul crushing. I feel haunted by tyranny for a long time afterwards.

Furthermore, I’ve caught myself doing the exact same things that we heard the Apostles did in the Gospel of Mark. John the Theologian said,

‘Master, we saw someone who is not one of us driving out devils in your name, and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.’

Jesus then tells him and the other Apostles to leave them alone… before lecturing them. Some might construe this as evidence against a visible hierarchy such as the Catholic Church, where mere faith in Jesus makes you a legitimate follower, though such views fall into the trap of cherry-picking Bible quotes (the reality, I think, was that those casting devils out were the other disciples of Jesus, just not one of the Twelve. In fact, it seems to confirm a hierarchy even while Christ was alive). The gospel makes clear that we, as faithful Christians, should never prevent others from worshipping God. That’s not to say we should tolerate incorrect worship – Christ did not tolerate the Pharisees, for example – but if we come between Christ and his faithful, we are liable to sin. The remedy to obstruction, then, is humility and meekness.

“And from pride preserve your servant, never let it be my master. So shall I be above reproach, free from grave sin.”

Our Blessed Lord always taught us to be humble and meek, yet it seems contrary to human nature. And surely, to aspire to share in the divinity of the Holy Trinity is to aspire to share in glory and greatness? However, no one can deny that living in humility and meekness keeps our minds clear, hearts settled, and souls satisfied.

It’s one of the many ironies of life, and thus of the Christian faith, and perhaps a mystery in which we must reflect and pray for understanding.

Num 11:25-29, Ps 19:8,10,12-13,14, Jas 5:1-6, Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
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Today’s society promises you that true happiness is found only within you. It’s found in acting upon your own wants, wishes, lusts, and fetishes. The problem, however, is that human desires are whimsical. They’re here one day, and gone the next.

I remember when my desire to become a filmmaker solidified. About six years ago, I really wanted to go to UCLA Film School. For an international student, it was estimated to cost about $60,000 a year, so I prayed hard, and dreamed harder (yeah, prayer wasn’t the biggest thing for me back then). I even remember getting into an emotional argument with my parents about what I wanted to do after school, but I felt then that there was no better option than for me to go study in America and make it big in Hollywood, and never set foot in New Zealand again.

My prayers were never answered.

I’m quite lucky then, because right now, any career option that includes America is right at the bottom of my wish list. In fact, I’m very happy to be doing everything here in New Zealand, and don’t plan on doing business elsewhere any time soon.

Even though I’m happy, God’s Will comes above all. I’m not sure whether He desires me to work in New Zealand for the next ten months or the next ten years, but I hope He gives me the grace to happily accept whatever He asks of me.

“The wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it is also peaceable, kindly and considerate.”

Icon of James the Just, author of the Epistle of James.

The words from the Epistle of James tell us that faith in God is the essence of wisdom, of true knowledge. It’s what all human beings seek, even if we’re unaware of it. For faith in God is the desire for the Infinite, the Merciful, and the Charitable, and nothing else but God – through His Son, Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ – can quench this desire of every human being.

“Arrogant men are attacking me, bullies hounding me to death, no room in their thoughts for God.”

People will mock us for such an answer to truth of longing, but the non-believers themselves can provide no reasonable answer. In the 19th and 20th centuries, intellectual thinkers such as Immanuel Kant, Karl Marx, Friedrich Niestzsche, and Sigmund Freud, attempted to understand humanity irreverent of, in opposition towards, or even in absence of God. Their intellectual discussions were so far removed from the past, so bold in self-reference and self-assurance, that they were considered the pioneers of the broad Modernist movement. They thought that in removing themselves from the shackles of traditional discussion involving God, they would find liberating truth. Unfortunately for them, it did not take long for Post-Modernism to swoop down and cripple Modernism’s blatant misdirections.

“You want something and you lack it; so you kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force. It is because you do not pray that you do not receive.”

Is it so difficult for human beings to find true satisfaction? For Catholics, we know that Our Blessed Lord is the true desire of all men. But how do we allow ourselves to experience His Love for us?

“If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.”

If we want to be closer to God, we must be willing to completely submit ourselves to His Will. Christ even explains to his disciples the perfect submission: his humiliation, torture, and sentencing to death, not out of his own desire, but the desire to do what the Father asks of him. And as Jesus found true fulfillment in his redemptive suffering on the Cross, so too will we find fulfillment when we do what God wants us to do, even if it’s something our feeble hearts don’t desire at the time.

Please pray for me, that I continue to have the grace to do what the Lord asks, and I pray you too can help unleash his designs upon the world.

Wis 2:17-20, Ps 54: 3-4,5,6-8, Jas 3:16–4:3, Mk 9:30-37

It’s hard being Catholic. My fidelity to Christ’s message is severely tested every single day. The worst isn’t when others (implicitly) tell me I’m a crazy, out-of-touch psycho who needs to get a clue; the worst is that I sometimes find myself wondering the very same thing in the privacy of my own room.

Living in New Zealand that proudly wears its liberal views doesn’t help things. Neither does working in the entertainment industry, which throws itself into the arms of fraudulent hedonism. The two combined is like a vicious force multiplier against the call to holiness.

I’m guessing I’m not the only Catholic in the western world that feels that way. Sometimes you just want to give up, cave in, and collapse on the spot you’ve found yourself in. I mean, look: fame, money, fortune, women. It doesn’t sound too bad, so why do I want to suffer for something so strange? Without hard proof? It’s tiring. It’s a lost cause.

Apparently Elijah felt that way too. You see, Elijah was ready to give up on his pilgrimage to Horeb, the Holy Mountain of God.

“I have had enough. Take my life; I am
no better than my ancestors.”

But God had prepared for Elijah food and drink, and asked him to eat it. Elijah ate some and drank some, then went back to sleeping. God asked him a second time to eat and drink, so that he would have energy. Skeptical, Elijah finished it all. He was able to complete his journey. Previous to the Temple of Solomon, Horeb, also known as Mt. Sinai, was probably the holiest Jewish site (burning bush, Tablets of Stone, Ark of the Covenant), and thus the closest the faithful had gotten to God.

In John’s Gospel, Christ reveals the central mystery of the Catholic faith: the Holy Eucharist. The Jews thought Jesus at this point was crazy. He was commanding them to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood. He talked about being sent from Heaven, and yet everyone knew he was the carpenter’s boy.

“I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.”

It’s an absolutely bizarre concept to conventional wisdom. It’s outrageous to the pigheaded (as the Jews were at this point). But what did Elijah’s tale teach us? We should probably take God’s word in faith. He means to bring us closer to Him.

What’s a university student, construction worker, engineer, or accountant to do if he/she wants to live the Christian faith? Quite simply, to partake in The Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (read: Mass), including receiving Holy Communion. It is the cornerstone of our faith, and its most important Sacrament.

If there are still any unsure Elijahs out there, try out this simple trick: beam a wide, bright smile. Do it without being happy. Now give us your worst frown. Do it without being angry. Now smile again. Frown again. Smile. Frown. Notice how your mood changed along with your action, when it’s usually the other way around?

Go to Mass, receive Communion. Have a little faith in the Lord, and let your actions influence your spirit.

As St. Paul says, “follow Christ by loving as he loved you, giving himself up for us as an offering and a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God.”

1 Kings 19: 4-8, Ps 34:2-9, Eph 4:30–5:2, Jn 6:41-51

Title taken from Archbishop Gomez’s Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time.