Can a Christian have ambitions?

May 31, 2008

I remembered one day, when I chatted with a friend of mine, and she asked whether it’s ok for us as Christians have ambitions? And I remembered this recently since I began to enter the working life. Is it wrong? Is it right? Can we have a better life without ambitions?

And I found what the Lord teaches just in the Mass readings for one of the weekdays last week. It’s again from James 🙂 You can read the whole 1st reading from James 3:13-18.

This is what James said about ambitions:

[14] But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.[15] This wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. [16] For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

It’s earthly St. James said, when we have this jealousy and selfish ambition.

This is from Oxford English Dictionary on the word ambition:

  1. The ardent (in early usage, inordinate) desire to rise to high position, or to attain rank, influence, distinction or other preferment.
  2. Ostentation, display of the outward tokens of position, as riches, dress; vain-glory, pomp. Obs.
  3. A strong or ardent desire of anything considered advantageous, honouring, or creditable. Const. of (rarely for) a thing, to be or do something.
  4. The object of strong desire or aspiration.
  5. Canvassing, personal solicitation of honours. (L. ambitio.) Obs.

If you read through those definitions, you can see that ambitions can have two directions, one is “self”, and the other one is “other” (cf. definitions 3 and 4).

James condemned all those selfish ambitions. It’s earthly, unspiritual, and devilish, he said (what a word: devilish). But if want to be true to the Gospel, we know what James said is true. These selfish ambitions go against the Gospel values. It is against the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. We can see what James said is true: there are disorder and every vile of practices. Can’t we see this in the world today?

This is why we are “troubled” when we ask this question. We know it is against our faith, and we know it is against who we truly are, a Christian, not of the world, but a pilgrim in this world.

Before I end, let me say another trap that is very subtle. Our human brain has the capacity to rationalize things. We have the tendency to look for selfish things and we say that is for our spouses, for our families, for the better of human society, so that we can give more the Lord, etc (of course there are people who have sincere desire to do good for others and for the Lord, I am not talking about this, we know which one is which). And hence, we rationalize our desire and say it is good because it is for others. I know this because this happens to me very often.

There is a true story of two men which I know. One of them said to the other, “I want to get more money so that I can give more the poor, I can build houses just like this and that person did”. The other man said, “I already have money from my work, and have been giving to the poor, you can do the same if you want to.”

And so let us pray for one another that we may live the Gospel truthfully as it is.

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Things coming out from our tongue, this must be wrong

May 31, 2008

One day on a bus to St. Mary’s church, I was chatting with my fiance about two things that I felt God is asking me to change: first is pride, second is my tongue.

Strangely that night, after I went back from prayer meeting and did my night prayer, I read this scripture passage from James 3:1-10. Since I was involved in a teaching ministry, the first line struck me quite hard:

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness.

I was stunned, and a bit scared to read further, but I know the Lord is trying to say something to me. Please do read the passage from the link above, if you have not. It’s a beautiful passage.

And then it moves on to speak about tongue:

[5] So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!
[6] And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell.
[7] For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind,
[8] but no human being can tame the tongue — a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
[9] With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God.
[10] From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so.

The last sentence linger in my mind for a few minutes, “My brethren, this ought not to be so”. How many times do we praise God with our tongue? But with this same tongue, we gossip, blame others, boast, lie (small or big, white or black), grumble, complain, and even curse sometimes.

What words that came from our tongue when we were at the office or at the school? What kind of things that shoot up when we chat with our friends, or colleague? What kind of words that we speak to our parents or spouses?

Are they praises? or are they curses?

With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God.

Are we aware that these things are sin? When we go to mass, do we confess it before the Lord? I find it interesting that when the prophet Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord, this is what happens:

[2] Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

[3] And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

[4] And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.

[5] And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

[6] Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar.

[7] And he touched my mouth, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.” (Isaiah 6)

I found it interesting that the first few words that Isaiah said is “Woe is me! for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Woe am I, for I know too that I am a man of unclean lips. I know how bad I am in controlling my tongue. I am aware that I sometimes hurt others with my words, I sometimes joked the Lord’s priest and not speak the Lord’s name with honor, I sometimes did not speak the truth. Woe am I.

But the Lord is slow to anger and full of compassion, just as the Lord touched Isaiah’s mouth and made it clean, and send him out, we too are made clean and send out.

This is what is happening in the mass, we have the chance to be forgiven, we have the chance to be purified. And by the Lord’s grace, and not on our own, we can praise the LORD, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD God of hosts”, and we can embrace him humbly in our mouth as we receive Holy Communion.

And, at the end of the mass, as the priest sends us out “to serve and love the Lord in each others”, we too are sent.

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” (Isaiah 6 : 8 )


Statistics for Church in Singapore

May 26, 2008

Last Catholic News presented the result of a survey done in Singapore catholic churches. You can find the news here.

Look at the age range where less people attend the mass at weekend. The lowest is for age range 20-39 years old.

They also tried to interview people asking the reasons for this suprising statistics. You can read it at this page.

What the Lord is asking of us?


How to read the bible through Allegory

May 14, 2008

There’s a wonderful article from CatholicCulture.org about How to read the bible. It continues Pope Benedict’s XVI criticism on interpreting scripture passages using historical criticsm method only without faith.

There’s a plenty of example of how the early church interpretes the scripture. It’s delightful to read. I felt one of the reasons many people simply go to historical criticism only without faith in interpreting the scripture is because it is easy. One does not need to have a deep relationship with the Lord to do it. One just need to be a scholar.

But to read with faith requires meditation, love, and relationship. This is hard for many in today’s world. But the Scripture is about this Love story of the Father made real in the Son, and revealed by the Holy Spirit. That’s why Pope Benedict urges the church to rediscover the beauty of Lectio Divina,  sacred reading.

You can google “lectio divina” to know further 🙂


Called for the new evangelization

May 13, 2008

After the Pentecost, the church preach the Gospel to every creature. Jesus, just before His ascension, promise this to the disciples

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Sama’ria and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 )

And indeed on the day of Pentecost, Peter preached to the people of every nation. On that day 3000 people converted and were baptized. They started to preach in Jerusalem and be God’s witnesses. In Acts chapter 8, we read that the people in Samaria received the word of God, and the Holy Spirit came upon them.

At the end of the weekdays mass reading before Pentecost Sunday, we read that Paul reached Rome, and the story closes the book of Acts,

And he lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him,
preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered.(Acts 28:30-31)

The book of Acts gives us a glimpse of the Evangelization from Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (which was symbolized by Rome).

In this age, God has poured again his spirit among his people, what is it for if not for a new evangelization?

Cardinal Paul Cordes speaks recently about the “movements” in the church

“Since the middle of the last century, he has brought men and women in movements and new [ecclesial] realities to awaken in the Church enthusiasm for evangelization, He has given them the grace to speak in a fascinated and fascinating way about Jesus Christ, to enthuse people about the following of Christ, to find in Jesus of Nazareth — just as he is proclaimed by the Church — the center of their very existences and the fount of a plentiful life.”

We are called for this new evangelization! In this age God has raised so many movements in the Church to be missionaries again to the world that the Gospel may be preached to the end of the world, starting from Jerusalem.

Fr. John Wong OFM, a parish priest in St. Mary, once gave a reflection and asked, “What is our Jerusalem? Could it be our family? What is our Samaria? Could it be our friends and colleagues? What is the end of the world that God asked us to go? Could it be a new mission field that is far away from home?”

I would like to share the concluding paragraph by Cardinal Paul Cordes, which resonates a lot in me, since I my self, have experienced this imprisonement of the “I”, and set free through people who evangelizes me.

“Despite aggressive secularization, which wants to bring all of us to the idolatry of the ‘I,’ they keep Christ as the star that guides their activities,” he said. “It’s not that they are ‘more perfect’ Christians. They are Christians like all of us. But they are special since God has prepared them better for the decisive challenge of today: the new evangelization.”

Let us pray that we may be his witnesses, not with our own strength, but with the Holy Spirit that is with us to the end of the ages.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Sama’ria and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 )


Modern Catholic Dictionary by Fr. John Hardon

May 12, 2008

I have just updated my online resources for Catholic websites on the net with a new link to “Modern Catholic Dictionary” by Fr. John Hardon. There is a search engine, so it’s much easier.  Though I found that it’s not that comprehensive, it helps me a lot.

You can find it at

http://oka.kurniawan.googlepages.com/teaching

and on the right links, click “Others”.


Benedict XVI: Let us rediscover the beauty of being baptized in the Holy Spirit

May 12, 2008

In his Sunday greetings, the pope urges us to rediscover the beauty of being baptized in the Holy Spirit!

Let us rediscover, dear brothers and sisters, the beauty of being baptized in the Holy Spirit; let us be aware again of our baptism and of our confirmation, sources of grace that are always present.
“Let us ask the Virgin Mary to obtain a renewed Pentecost for the Church again today, a Pentecost that will spread in everyone the joy of living and witnessing to the Gospel.”

You can read the full article here.

And if you want to read the Pope’s homily for Pentecost, you can find it in this page.