When we kneel before the tabernacle

October 31, 2010

Catholics often speaks a different language all together. They have these not-so-common words such as transubstantiation, Eucharist, canonization, etc.  One of them is tabernacle. It’s a little box that is usually placed on the altar with a little lamp besides it to host the Eucharistic bread, the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. When catholics enter the Church, and before they sit on the pew, they will kneel before the tabernacle. And that they did for a good reason.

The Mystery of God’s Solidarity

Tabernacle comes from a Hebrew word which means dwelling place. The first thing that came to my mind when I heard this word tabernacle, or when I kneel before the tabernacle, is a scripture verse from John.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. (John 1:14)

In John’s Gospel the Word refers to Jesus, who is God. In that verse we read, God became flesh, and  tabernacled (dwelt) among us. Whenever I look at the tabernacle, as I kneel down, I am amazed at this beautiful mystery. It’s a mystery of God who became flesh, became human, and chose to dwell among us.

In our society today, many people trying to tell us to associate with the higher class, because that can benefit us. How different it is with God! God chose to associate with the lowly. God even chose to become one of these lowly. The Creator chose to be a creation. The mystery of the Incarnation (God who became man) is shown in all its humility in that tabernacle. We kneel and worship the God who became one of us, and dwelt among us.

What should worry us then to face troubles in this life. If God is with us, who can be against us? If God now dwells among us, what should we fear of? The presence of God in the tabernacle reminds us of His ever faithful love. He never leaves us alone. He is faithful to his word,

I am with you always to the end of times. (Matthew 28:20)

When I am in the midst of turmoil, difficulties, and problems, I always run to him who is always with me. I love to sit before the tabernacled. I remember when I was in high school, my school bus will arrive pretty early, and I went to the school chapel, to sit in one of the corner, just being in the presence of God. Looking at the tabernacle reminds me of God ever faithful love and presence in my love.

To be a Tabernacle

There is another part that we need to consider when we look at the tabernacle. We are called to be one! Yes, we are called to be a tabernacle. Isn’t the scripture says, we are God’s Holy Dwelling (tabernacle)? Whenever I look at the tabernacle, as I kneel, I am reminded of my vocation as a Christian. And that is to be God’s dwelling place.

Who can be the best example of God’s tabernacle besides Mary, Mother of Jesus? God literally dwells inside her womb for nine months! She carried the Word who became flesh in her own flesh. We too are called to be that kind of tabernacle, where the Word of God became flesh in our flesh, and so we can bring God in our bodies.

I find no surprise when people venerate the saints. They carry God in their bodies. It is not the saints that amaze us,  it is the Divine. We cannot be attracted with anything but God. But we are called to be saints also.

How can we carry God? How can we be God’s dwelling place? Just as Mary who said yes to God to take control of her lives, so too we need surrender our lives to God. In our Baptism, we say yes to God just as Mary said yes to God. And just as the power of the Most High overshadowed her, so too in our Baptism, the Holy Spirit overshadowed us. God dwells among us, we are God’s Holy Temple, we are His tabernacle.

But Mary didn’t stop there. She carried the Word of God, pondered it, and cherished it in her heart. In her, the Word of God became flesh. We too are called to ponder and cherish the Word of God in our heart. Too often the treasure of the Word of God is left neglected in our lives. Too often the Word did not became flesh in our flesh. But we need to imitate Mary. We need to treasure the Word of God and live it! The early Christians did not have the privileges of reading the Word of God every day. They only heard the Word of God on Sundays. And yet they cherish it throughout the week and try to live the Word of God. We too need to rediscover the Word of God today! We spent too much time on tv, handphones, computer and games! How have we neglected the duty to cherish, ponder and live the Word of God today.

The Word of God must became flesh again in our bodies. And in that way, we truly become God bearers just as Mary was. We truly become the tabernacle. Just as two thousand years ago, people are longing and waiting for God to come to them, today, many people also need God to dwell among them. And he has chosen a dwelling place none other than you and me. That is why we kneel before the tabernacle, we venerate the mystery of our calling as God’s dwelling place. Yes, God is still with us, until the end of time.

 

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How to exercise real Poverty, although actually Rich

August 7, 2010

Taken from chapter 15 of Introduction of Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales.

THE painter Parrhasius drew an ingenious and imaginative representation of the 189Athenians, ascribing sundry opposite qualities to them, calling them at once capricious, irascible, unjust, inconstant, courteous, merciful, compassionate, haughty, vain-glorious, humble, boastful, and cowardly;—and for my part, dear daughter, I would fain see united in your heart both riches and poverty, a great care and a great contempt for temporal things.

Do you take much greater pains than is the wont of worldly men to make your riches useful and fruitful? Are not the gardeners of a prince more diligent in cultivating and beautifying the royal gardens than if they were their own? Wherefore? Surely because these gardens are the king’s, to whom his gardeners would fain render an acceptable service. My child, our possessions are not ours,—God has given them to us to cultivate, that we may make them fruitful and profitable in His Service, and so doing we shall please Him. And this we must do more earnestly than worldly men, for they look carefully after their property out of self-love, and we must work for the love of God. Now self-love is a restless, anxious, over-eager love, and so the work done on its behalf is troubled, vexatious, and unsatisfactory;—whereas the love of God is calm, peaceful, and tranquil, and so the work done for its sake, even in worldly things, is gentle, trustful, and quiet. Let us take such 190a quiet care to preserve, and even when practicable to increase, our temporal goods, according to the duties of our position,—this is acceptable to God for His Love’s Sake.

But beware that you be not deceived by self-love, for sometimes it counterfeits the Love of God so cleverly that you may mistake one for the other. To avoid this, and to prevent a due care for your temporal interests from degenerating into avarice, it is needful often to practise a real poverty amid the riches with which God has endowed you.

To this end always dispose of a part of your means by giving them heartily to the poor; you impoverish yourself by whatever you give away. It is true that God will restore it to you, not only in the next world, but in this, for nothing brings so much temporal prosperity as free almsgiving, but meanwhile, you are sensibly poorer for what you give. Truly that is a holy and rich poverty which results from almsgiving.

Love the poor and poverty,—this love will make you truly poor, since, as Holy Scripture says, we become like to that we love. 100100 “Their abominations were according as they loved.” Hosea ix. 10. Love makes lovers equal. “Who is weak and I am not weak?” 101101 2 Cor. xi. 29. says St. Paul? He might have said, Who is poor and I am not poor? for it was 191love which made him like to those he loved; and so, if you love the poor, you will indeed share their poverty, and be poor like them.

And if you love the poor, seek them out, take pleasure in bringing them to your home, and in going to theirs, talk freely with them, and be ready to meet them, whether in Church or elsewhere. Let your tongue be poor with them in converse, but let your hands be rich to distribute out of your abundance. Are you prepared to go yet further, my child? not to stop at being poor like the poor, but even poorer still? The servant is not so great as his lord; do you be the servant of the poor, tend their sickbed with your own hands, be their cook, their needlewoman. O my daughter, such servitude is more glorious than royalty! How touchingly S. Louis, one of the greatest of kings, fulfilled this duty; serving the poor in their own houses, and daily causing three to eat at his own table, often himself eating the remains of their food in his loving humility. In his frequent visits to the hospitals he would select those afflicted with the most loathsome diseases, ulcers, cancer, and the like; and these he would tend, kneeling down and bare-headed, beholding the Saviour of the world in them, and cherishing them with all the tenderness of a mother’s love. Saint Elizabeth of Hungary 192used to mix freely with the poor, and liked to dress in their homely garments amid her gay ladies. Surely these royal personages were poor amid their riches and rich in poverty.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. In the Day of Judgment the King of prince and peasant will say to them, “I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat, I was naked, and ye clothed Me; come, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” 102102 S. Matt. xxv. 34-36.

Everybody finds themselves sometimes deficient in what they need, and put to inconvenience. A guest whom we would fain receive honorably arrives, and we cannot entertain him as we would; we want our costly apparel in one place, and it all happens to be somewhere else: all the wine in our cellar suddenly turns sour: we find ourselves accidentally in some country place where everything is wanting, room, bed, food, attendance: in short, the richest people may easily be without something they want, and that is practically to suffer poverty. Accept such occurrences cheerfully, rejoice in them, bear them willingly.

Again, if you are impoverished much or little by unforeseen events, such as storm, flood, fire, drought, theft, or lawsuit; then is the real time 193to practise poverty, accepting the loss quietly, and adapting yourself patiently to your altered circumstances. Esau and Jacob both came to their father with hairy hands, 103103 Gen. xxvii. but the hair on Jacob’s hands did not grow from his skin, and could be torn off without pain; while that on Esau’s hands being the natural growth of his skin, he would have cried out and resisted if any one had torn it off. So if our possessions are very close to our heart, and storm or thief tear them away, we shall break forth in impatient murmurs and lamentations. But if we only cleave to them with that solicitude which God wills us to have, and not with our whole heart, we shall see them rent away without losing our sense of calmness. This is just the difference between the clothing of men and beasts; the beast’s clothing grows on its flesh, and man’s is only laid on so that it may be laid aside at will.


On Poverty of Spirit amid Riches

August 7, 2010

Taken from chapter 14 of Introduction to Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales.

“BLESSED are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God;” 9797 S. Matt. v. 3. and if so, woe be to the rich in spirit, for theirs must be the bitterness of hell. By rich in spirit I mean him whose riches engross his mind, or whose mind is buried in his riches. He is poor in spirit whose heart is not filled with the love of riches, whose mind is not set upon them. The halcyon builds its nest like a ball, and leaving but one little aperture in the upper part, launches it on the sea, so secure and impenetrable, that the waves carry it along without any water getting in, and it floats on the sea, superior, so to say, to the waves. And this, my child, is what your heart should be—open only to heaven, impenetrable to riches and earthly treasures. If you have them, keep your heart from attaching itself to them; let it maintain a higher level, and amidst riches be as though you had none,—superior to them. Do not let that mind which is the likeness of God cleave to mere earthly goods; let it always be raised above them, not sunk in them.

There is a wide difference between having poison and being poisoned. All apothecaries 186have poisons ready for special uses, but they are not consequently poisoned, because the poison is only in their shop, not in themselves; and so you may possess riches without being poisoned by them, so long as they are in your house or purse only, and not in your heart. It is the Christian’s privilege to be rich in material things, and poor in attachment to them, thereby having the use of riches in this world and the merit of poverty in the next.

Of a truth, my daughter, no one will ever own themselves to be avaricious;—every one denies this contemptible vice:—men excuse themselves on the plea of providing for their children, or plead the duty of prudent forethought:—they never have too much, there is always some good reason for accumulating more; and even the most avaricious of men not only do not own to being such, but sincerely believe that they are not; and that because avarice is as a strong fever which is all the less felt as it rages most fiercely. Moses saw that sacred fire which burnt the bush without consuming it, 9898 Exod. iii. 2. but the profane fire of avarice acts precisely the other way,—it consumes the miser, but without burning, for, amid its most intense heat, he believes himself to be deliciously cool, and imagines his insatiable thirst to be merely natural and right.187

If you long earnestly, anxiously, and persistently after what you do not possess, it is all very well to say that you do not wish to get it unfairly, but you are all the time guilty of avarice. He who longs eagerly and anxiously to drink, though it may be water only, thereby indicates that he is feverish. I hardly think we can say that it is lawful to wish lawfully to possess that which is another’s:—so doing we surely wish our own gain at the expense of that other? and he who possesses anything lawfully, surely has more right to possess it, than we to obtain it? Why should we desire that which is his? Even were the wish lawful, it is not charitable, for we should not like other men to desire what we possess, however lawfully. This was Ahab’s sin when he sought to acquire Naboth’s vineyard by lawful purchase, when Naboth lawfully desired to keep it himself;—he coveted it eagerly, continually, and anxiously, and so doing he displeased God. 9999 I Kings xxi.

Do not allow yourself to wish for that which is your neighbour’s until he wishes to part with it,—then his wish will altogether justify yours,—and I am quite willing that you should add to your means and possessions, provided it be not merely with strict justice, but kindly and charitably done. 188If you cleave closely to your possessions, and are cumbered with them, setting your heart and thoughts upon them, and restlessly anxious lest you should suffer loss, then, believe me, you are still somewhat feverish;—for fever patients drink the water we give them with an eagerness and satisfaction not common to those who are well.

It is not possible to take great pleasure in anything without becoming attached to it. If you lose property, and find yourself grievously afflicted at the loss, you may be sure that you were warmly attached to it;—there is no surer proof of affection for the thing lost than our sorrow at its loss.

Therefore, do not fix your longings on anything which you do not possess; do not let your heart rest in that which you have; do not grieve overmuch at the losses which may happen to you;—and then you may reasonably believe that although rich in fact, you are not so in affection, but that you are poor in spirit, and therefore blessed, for the Kingdom of Heaven is yours.


Say No to Theology of Prosperity

December 12, 2008

by Bishop Victor Hugo Palma Paul of Escuintla, Guatemala for the Synod on the Word of God (October 2008)

Despite their good will, many Christians today fall prey to a false reading of the Bible. Amongst many Christians, an authentic understanding of the Word of God has long been crippled by the sole reliance on Scripture alone and the rejection of Tradition, as advocated since the Protestant Reformation. In this vacuum, amidst our modern culture of materialism, consumerism, and individualism, elements foreign to Christianity have slowly and insidiously been introduced to encourage a false reading of the Bible.

In their fundamentalism, certain pseudo-Christian sects and groups endorse a ‘prosperity gospel’, which in itself is grounded upon a superficial and subjective view of the human individual as the only point of reference. This has led to the use and abuse of the Word of God to promote modern forms of idolatry – money, pleasure, goods, and freedoms are pursued as ends in themselves.

Especially in developing communities where material poverty is widespread, proponents of this ‘prosperity gospel’ sow the seeds of heresy by promoting a false God who appears to be rooted in the Bible but is otherwise anything but Christian. By condemning poverty as a ‘curse’ to be avoided and extolling riches as a ‘blessing’ to be pursued, the ‘prosperity gospel’ misreads and misrepresents the Word of God.

While the need to improve the lives of the poor necessitates the alleviation of poverty and the promotion of social justice, this does not justify the corruption of the Word of God to propagate a particular view of economic prosperity. To remain true to the Word of God, the reading of Scripture must be guided by Tradition to ground our encounter with the person of Jesus Christ, who points the way towards solidarity, conversion, and communion.

quoted from http://www.stmary.sg/images/Offices/AFFO/001 Kairos 07 Dec 08 S.pdf


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 )