Saturday, 15 February 2014

Fall In Love [Poem]

Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read,
whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

by: Pedro Arrupe, SJ

Friday, 7 February 2014

When Eve Wears a Miniskirt

The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me — she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.”
—Genesis 3:12

Some nights ago, I had an interesting conversation with a dear brother in Christ and St. Dominic. The conversation steered into the matter of keeping custody of the eyes. I was then reminded of an incident in the country a few years ago.

It was the controversy of miniskirt. A young lady was raped in a public transport, and the perpetrator blamed her for wearing a miniskirt. Many Muslim organisations agreed that it was the lady's fault; some, I read, even used the incident as an argument for promoting sharia law. Of course, the feminists did not accept: they argued that it was the man who could not guard his eyes, it was the man's fault for being lustful, and that women should be free to wear whatever they want. Indonesia, after all, is not an Islamic country.

We agree AND disagree with both parties, and here's why.

First, let me make it clear that a crime is a crime is a crime. Rape is a crime, a violation of one's dignity. The perpetrator was guilty of an utterly heinous crime against human dignity; this should not be debated. So yes, it was indeed his fault that he should submit to lustful desires. No, the rape victim wasn't guilty of that rape.

However — and I'm going to be really careful here — wearing a miniskirt or other immodest dresses does not appear to help with the situation either.

Generally speaking, men do have higher and/or stronger sex drive than women, thanks to their higher level of, and quicker response to, the hormone testosterone. [Read a comparative article here, and this journal here, if you're feeling scientific] But that's biology, and men are not only biology. They also have souls, intellect, and free will. Passions are supposed to submit to reason; that's called integrity, and it's a preternatural gift that got corrupted since the Fall of Adam. That's why you guys must learn —harder now — to exercise custody of the eyes. (Yes, you can do it. You are more than just a lump of good-looking cells.)

But what about us women? Well, if we truly think of men as our brothers, then we should help keep their fiery passions in check. Isn't woman called to be the helpmate of man? To be really blunt, many men nowadays do not know how to act like men because we do not act like ladies. A thing can become its true self only when it is contrasted with its stark opposite.

We influence each other; boys, especially, tend to have a childhood idol like a superhero, a historical figure, or his dad/grandfather, a "cool" person that inspires him to explore and develop his better side. Following that logic, then, a man has to be inspired by women, inspired enough to think that women are worthy to be courteous to, and enough to be the best man he can be.

How do we do it? First, by dressing modestly. Yes, modesty in fashion is a little vague and hard to describe. But Michelle Arnold has a well-written explanation on Blessed Virgin's Guide to Catholic Modesty, with sensitivity to different cultures and a reminder of the difference between imitation and mere mimicry. Simply stated, modesty is "keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity." (CCC #2522)

But more important than fashion is attitude. Modest clothing only works so far, we also have act modestly. Young women need to be aware that they have the power to help shape a guy to be a gentleman, or to seduce him into becoming a beast. The way we talk, dance, move, can either pronounce or disgrace our true beauty. Modest attitude complement modest clothing, and modest clothing can help us act accordingly. Remember that human is body AND soul, and we are called to integrity.

Lastly, let me close this post with a rather sharp saying from St. John Chrysostom:
"You carry your snare everywhere and spread your nets in all places. You allege that you never invited others to sin. You did not, indeed, by your words, but you have done so by your dress and your deportment, and much more effectively than you could by your voice. When you have made another sin in his heart, how can you be innocent? Tell me, whom does this world condemn? Whom do judges in court punish? Those who drink poison or those who prepare it and administer the fatal potion? You have prepared the abominable cup, you have given the death-dealing drink, and you are more criminal than are those who poison the body; you murder not the body, but the soul. And it is not to enemies that you do this, nor are you urged on by any imaginary necessity, nor provoked by injury, but out of foolish vanity and pride."


Image: "Original Sin", by Salvador Dali, 1941

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The Return of Life

"God did not make death, and He does not delight in the death of the living."—Wisdom 1:13

What would we be thinking when we find out something or someone is about to harm us?

A time of danger puts one in a fight-or-flight mode. If he is sure that he can still face that danger, he stays and tries to fight. When he feels that it is more prudent to flee, then he flees to secure himself. These two kinds of response towards danger are parts of the normal physiological system to ensure survival.

After danger has passed, we would usually feel relieved and joyful. But what if the end of danger means the end of our enemy? Are we going to feel joyful as well?

Absalom is King David's son from one of his many concubines. When Absalom rebelled against his father and planned to kill him, David chose to flee with his faithful men. Later, in his place of refuge, David gathered his army to fight back and thwart Absalom's revolt; even then, he still ordered his men to "deal gently" with Absalom.

Absalom met his death in a gruesome way: his head got stuck in a tree branch. And when he was hanging helplessly between heaven and earth, Joab and his soldiers stabbed Absalom with three spears and therefore killed him.

Did David rejoice because the person plotting to murder him was dead? Not at all! David actually grieved over the death of Absalom! Absalom did want to harm him, but he was still David's own son.

In the Old Testament, it is said that one of the signs of the Messianic era would be the resurrection of the dead. Jesus the Messiah fulfilled all the signs: not only He healed those sick in body and mind, He also banished the biggest pandemic of mankind, that is death.

Indeed, death was never part of God's plan. Death came unto the world as a consequence of sin, and sin is man's willed choice. God, in His infinite love, visited men to restore life. We are His children, and however rebellious and hateful we are towards Him, His ever-loving heart would be so torn if we are lost to death.

Just like David never willed the death of Absalom, our Heavenly Father also never wills the death of man. What is astonishing is that, often it is we who desire harm upon our own brothers, even upon our smallest and weakest brothers, the little unborn. Isn't all forms of life have their source in God? If God Himself is more than willing to raise the dead, then defending the dignity of life is quite a proper and a most natural thing to do.

Choose life, because our God is a living God.


Daily Reading for Sunday, 4 February 2014

First Reading — 2 Samuel 18:9-10, 14b, 24-25a, 30 - 19:3
Responsorial Psalm — Psalm 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Gospel Reading — Mark 5:21-43


Image: "Wisteria. Cookham.", Stanley Spencer, 1942

Sunday, 2 February 2014

The Number 40

In Biblical numerology, the number "40" symbolises a period of great transformation which hopefully would end in some form of fulfilment. For instance, the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty days before entering the Promised Land. Noah's flood persisted for forty days. Moses stood before God on the summit of Mount Sinai for forty days. Nineveh was given forty days to repent. Jesus fasted for forty days and ascended into Heaven forty days after His resurrection.

Today, once again we encounter the number "40": according to Jewish law, forty days after a baby boy is born, the parents have to present him to God (Lev 12:3-4). In medical science, this 40-day postpartum period is called the puerperium, a time when the mother's body slowly returns to its non-pregnant state, both anatomically and physiologically. The Jewish law, either by coincidence or not, attaches a symbolic meaning to this biological phenomenon: the requirement at the end of puerperal period to present a male newborn to the Temple accompanied with the offering of two turtledoves or two young pigeons, is a rite of purification for the mother.

What is the meaning of this transformation and purification for us? What is being changed, what is being purified?

Firstly, Jesus purified the Temple. Jesus came to fulfil the Old Testament; He perfected the offerings of the Old Rite such as lambs and bulls, because He is the spotless Lamb most pleasing to God. The New Rite's offering is the Son of God Himself, and only through this Victim can we embrace true reconciliation with our Creator, whom we now call Father.

Secondly, by purifying the Old Testament law, Jesus also transformed and purified ourselves to become worthy offerings for God. Truly, "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may once again bring righteous offerings to the Lord." (Malachi 3:3) Jesus emptied Himself and wore our humanity, so that we humans may share in His Divinity. Jesus made Himself one of us: He was born in a lowly place, He was subject to human love through Joseph and Mary, and He was even tempted just like we are, only He never sinned. His sacrifice then gave us the grace and strength to fight against the Evil One and to live in holiness.

Thirdly, Jesus changes our lives by becoming "the light of nations". As the True Light, He gives us knowledge about the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As the True Light, He reveals to us the reality of the Family of God—that is, the Holy Trinity—and God's great plan for humanity. And lastly, as the True Light, He also exposes our errors, or as Simeon put it, "the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed". Therefore, let us call an end to a life in darkness of reason and faith: let us approach that eternal Light so that we may be healed, liberated, and transformed into His likeness.

Praise God for the gift of 40 Days of Christmas! In His light, we can now walk in truth, in hope, and in love!


Daily Reading for Sunday, 2 February 2014

First Reading — Malachi 3:1-4
Responsorial Psalm — Psalm 24:7,8,9,10
Second Reading — Hebrews 2:14-18
Gospel Reading — Luke 2:22-40


Image: "Presentation of Jesus at the Temple", Simon Vouet