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Respect for Life

to do

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Desire to be happy 

Do you want to be happy?   Doesn’t everyone desires to be happy? Have you ever met anyone who wishes to be sad? Nobody wants to be unhappy.  Even those who inflict pain to themselves such as  in extreme cases of suicide,  are looking for something that they feel is good such as to escape  an intolerable life.  Some try to find happiness through material wealth and success, having a good family life and relationships, recognition from peers, and a better health in order to be happy.

Paradox              

But there is a paradox:  our craving for happiness clashes with life’s temporariness and limits. Yet, human beings have the faculty for truth and goodness which cannot be   fully fulfilled by anything finite or limited. Even our ability to love is not exhausted by the reality of the world. Thus, the human aspiration for happiness also includes the desire to live forever—to be immortal.  By faith and reason we can accept as true and recognize that immortality as part of Christian truth.

Only an unbounded and eternal good could assure our yearning to be happy. The knowledge of God and of the immortality of the soul make life meaningful, Without God and immortality human life may be futile.  The most crucial questions for humans are the existence of God and immortality of the soul.

Knowledge and existence of God

By reason alone, man cannot know God.  The Holy Scripture states that “no one has at any time seen God” (1 John 4:12).  So how do we know God exists?   We know from what we see in the world the certainty and the wonders of creation, of life, laws and harmony, and the universe. The understanding of God’s creation allows us to comprehend that God is greater than the world, infinitely intelligent, wise, powerful and good.


Is God a myth?  An idea made by man to explain events not yet explained by science?  

The more we know the world; it becomes clearer to us that the world does not hold the basis for its own existence.  Let’s look at this: Christian faith assures us the fallacy of atheism. It is also logically inconsistent.  No one will be capable to show the non-existence of God. If we have relativism, it could not be possible to speak of an objective good and evil. Good may be deduced to something pleasurable and evil reduced to suffering. The danger is that it would lead us to selfishness and the struggle against everyone else. Without God, the very notion of human rights would have no meaning.  The Holy Scriptures says, “Only the fool says in his heart, there is no God” (Ps 14, 1).

Natural virtues, human perfection and the knowledge of God

Man is born and, in a sense, makes himself.  We can decide our path of life through our action. Through repetition of good acts, we obtain virtues which perfect us. For example, we can strive to be more loyal, more sincere, and more hardworking.  If one practices loyalty the result is that it makes that person more secure and stable. His words will have value and his commitments will be firmer. Loyalty could be reflected in his faithfulness to his family and friends and to his professional and social duties.

Virtues are acquired through sacrifice. It could be said of all human virtues.  Hardiness, resistance to pain, effort, fatigue, and difficulty require numerous little steps and efforts so as to keep away from sliding into a more comfortable condition.  Sincerity demands the continuous rejection of little lies, exaggeration and deceit.  Industriousness, the habit of work which is constant and well done, also requires frequent repetition of acts in order to take root and grow. Same goes with boldness which is needed in order to carry out great tasks and in overcoming small mindedness and timidity.

We ought to strive to be virtuous. An upright person is more in control of himself, freer to seek the truth in an honest way, and more courageous to commit himself for the truth. A virtuous person is someone who is better able to know and to recognize God, rather than someone who is disloyal, weak, false, lazy, or cowardly, and who will only be skilful in reasoning shrewdly like a fox.

Ultimate Purpose of Life is to Glorify God

All the things in the world manifest God’s supremacy and goodness (dominion and mercy).  They offer him glory.    At the end the day, the ultimate purpose of human life is to glorify God. This is consistent with man’s happiness and perfection since only the “infinite truth and good” can absolutely satisfy the mind and heart.  The secret to happiness is that in every action, for it to be perfect and for many to be happy in it, man must seek the glory of God.  This does not contradict the importance of the things of this world; on the contrary, it bestows on them their higher value: that of being the way whereby man gains knowledge and loves—is unified to-the Supreme Good and as a result becomes happy.

 

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Today, the  world witnessed the royal and sacred wedding of   Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton.  It was a happy moment for the couple and for those who were glued on their televisions to watch the royal wedding. The wedding of the century was religious, restrained, and sensitive to the needs of the times.

In this day of secularism, it was heartening to see a royal couple exchange their marriage vows in front of God and the community in holy matrimony.  Christians believe in the sacredness of marriage, which God himself instituted.  Billions of people from different religious backgrounds and nationalities were honored to be part of their solemn marriage vows.

In the wedding prayer the couple composed, the key message of  self-giving and generosity to the poor is a Christian example. ‎”God, our Father, we thank you for our family, the love we share and the joy of our marriage… keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life…strengthened by our union, help us to serve and comfort those who suffer.”

We also heard  the Right Reverend  Honourable Dr. Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London,  urging  us “to set the world on fire by being who God meant us to be”  as exemplified by St. Catherine of Siena whose feast both theCatholic and Anglican Churches commemorate today.

Rev. Chartres pointed out that every wedding is a royal wedding and that every bride and groom are kings and queens in their own right in creating new life on earth.  He added that in marriage we are to make our spouse our ‘work of art’ while at the same time not placing on them a burden of expectation that only relationship with God can carry.

The Reverend reminded William and Catherine that they have chosen to be married in the sight of a generous God who  gave Himself through the person of Jesus Christ as a testament of love. In the same spirit of t God,  Rev. Chartres said that “husband and wife are to give themselves to each another”.

Read the full sermon:

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day it is today. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves.

‘Many are full of fear for the future of the prospects of our world but the message of the celebrations in this country and far beyond its shores is the right one – this is a joyful day! It is good that people in every continent are able to share in these celebrations because this is, as every wedding day should be, a day of hope.

In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and the groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future.‘William and Catherine, you have chosen to be married in the sight of a generous God who so loved the world that he gave himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ. And in the Spirit of this generous God, husband and wife are to give themselves to each another.’

‘A spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this; the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.

‘It is of course very hard to wean ourselves away from self-centredness. And people can dream of doing such a thing but the hope should be fulfilled it is necessary a solemn decision that, whatever the difficulties, we are committed to the way of generous love.

‘You have both made your decision today – “I will” – and by making this new relationship, you have aligned yourselves with what we believe is the way in which life is spiritually evolving, and which will lead to a creative future for the human race.

‘We stand looking forward to a century which is full of promise and full of peril. Human beings are confronting the question of how to use wisely a power that has been given to us through the discoveries of the last century. We shall not be converted to the promise of the future by more knowledge, but rather by an increase of loving wisdom and reverence, for life, for the earth and for one another.

‘Marriage should transform, as husband and wife make one another their work of art. It is possible to transform as long as we do not harbour ambitions to reform our partner. There must be no coercion if the Spirit is to flow; each must give the other space and freedom.

Chaucer, the London poet, sums it up in a pithy phrase:

‘“Whan maistrie [mastery] comth, the God of Love anon,
Beteth his wynges, and farewell, he is gon.”

‘As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive, we need mutual forgiveness, to thrive.

‘As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light. This leads to a family life which offers the best conditions in which the next generation can practise and exchange those gifts which can overcome fear and division and incubate the coming world of the Spirit, whose fruits are love and joy and peace.

‘I pray that all of us present and the many millions watching this ceremony and sharing in your joy today, will do everything in our power to support and uphold you in your new life. And I pray that God will bless you in the way of life that you have chosen, that way which is expressed in the prayer that you have composed together in preparation for this day:

‘God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage.

‘In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy.

‘Strengthened by our union help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.    


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Jesus working as a carpenter

Seeking Holiness through Work

In the story of creation, God created man in the garden of Eden to “till it and to keep it” (Gen 2, 15).  Reflecting on God’s plan for us, he gave man the role of a worker and a custodian. God meant man to work as a source of happiness. Work only became difficult as a result of original sin: “In the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread” (Gen. 3, 19)

Work therefore has a significant meaning for Christians. Have you asked yourself what Christ did before he began his ministry in his 30s? His  foster father St. Joseph was a carpenter or an artisan and so we could imagine that Christ himself worked as an  artisan for the greater part of his life.   Christ, as perfect man and perfect God, must have worked diligently and took care of the smallest details of woodwork to make it perfect.

As a custodian, work is good for man and a  way to cooperate with God by transforming new things out of God’s creation.  Let’s think of inventions that humans have made in recorded history: architecture, art,  explorations in science and  technology.

Higher Purpose of Work

We have an obligation to work.  As St. Paul said: “if any man will not work, neither let him eat”. (2 Thess. 3, 10)  We usually work as a means to acquire material wealth, well-being, and to have a sense of purpose.  We are known as individuals for the profession or labour we do.

The nobility of work depends on its purpose. The more noble the purpose, the more noble work becomes. One makes work more noble if its aims are not only for self-interest but  for the benefit of others. For instance, work  that is good for  society or for the service of humanity.

A more significant purpose of work is when we do it for the glory of God. We can look at the purpose of work as a means to our holiness. We have to realize that our God-given talents ought to be used for His greater glory. We use our work, our profession, our daily toil to become holy.

To become holy or to strive to be a Saint does not mean that we have to be living in a monastery or convent away from the rough and tumble of life.  We can become saints by leading our  life exactly where God has placed us.  We can be students, carpenters, professors, doctors, lawyers and still lead holy lives by sanctifying our work.

Work as Prayer

The motto of the Benedictines is “ora et labora” or prayer and work. St. Benedict, the father of western monasticism lived outside of the world. However, such life differs from what we live in today’s world. We as lay Christian work in the world.

In the 20th century, St. Josemaria Escriva, the saint of ordinary work, tried to put work to its proper worth by suggesting that work could be a form of prayer. He said  that:  “your work too must become a personal prayer, that it must become a real conversation with Our Father in heaven. If you seek sanctity in and through your work, you will necessarily have to strive to turn it into personal prayer. You cannot allow your cares and concerns to become impersonal and routine, because if you were to do so, the divine incentive that inspires your daily tasks will straightaway wither and die.”(Friends of God, 64)

Men and women from all walks of life could  aspire for holiness in the midst of the world.   An ordinary citizen  could lead a full Christian life without changing  his normal day to day life, his work and profession, his hopes  and dreams.

St. Josemaria added that:  “In God’s service there are no unimportant posts: all are of great importance. The importance of the post depends on the spiritual level reached by the person filling it.”(The Forge, 618).

Study as a Form of Prayer

“An hour of study, for a modern apostle, is an hour of prayer”. (The Way, 335)

“One has to study — to gain the world and conquer it for God. Then we can raise the level of our efforts: we can try to turn the work we do into an encounter with the Lord and the foundation to support those who will follow our way in the future. In this way, study will become prayer”.(Furrow, 526)

Reflection:

Have I offered my work and study to God, however ordinary they may be by doing it well, with simplicity and love?

Have I used my God given talents for the good of others?

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Ash Wednesday for Children

Image by mtsofan via Flickr

To start the Lenten season on Ash Wednesday, I have decided to create a new blog titled Reflective Moments.  The blog will contain personal reflections on my study of faith and reason which I would like to share with family and friends.

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