Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sexuality And Korean Culture

A priest writes an article in With Bible magazine, on seeing the body and sex in a new way. He begins the article with insights he gained from watching a popular TV show on the romantic life of the young. For many of the young romance means the sexual embrace, a very natural expression of love.

Talking about sex was taboo, consequently little was said about the meaning and value of sexuality. However, the change to openness has not been all positive but often cheapened and made light of sexuality. As one of the entertainers said it is a game. The increase of abortions and unmarried mothers is a result.

With the economic improvement of society, we had the movement towards birth control:  " Boy or girl, two only and raise them well" or "A daughter well raised is worth 10 sons." These and similar slogans have weakened the understanding of sex: the unity of the spouses and raising of children. Another influence was the mass media.

In Hollywood movies and foreign dramas, the meeting of male and female in short order are in bed together. This message was seen with disapproval by the elders but with the repetition of this type of meeting of the sexes, it was taken for granted. This is the way people live and without criticism, was accepted as a cultural norm, spreading quickly in society. "In this area, society and the mass media most of the time provide depersonalized, recreational and often pessimistic information." This was the opinion of the Pontifical Council for the Family (1995).

Twenty years later we see this situation in Korea. We have been overcome with the popular culture and now we are exporters to the rest of the world. 

Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae #22: 

 "We take this opportunity to address those who are engaged in education and all those whose right and duty it is to provide for the common good of human society. We would call their attention to the need to create an atmosphere favorable to the growth of chastity so that true liberty may prevail over license and the norms of the moral law may be fully safeguarded.
 Everything therefore in the modern means of social communication which arouses men's baser passions and encourages low moral standards, as well as every obscenity in the written word and every form of indecency on the stage and screen, should be condemned publicly and unanimously by all those who have at heart the advance of civilization and the safeguarding of the outstanding values of the human spirit. It is quite absurd to defend this kind of depravity in the name of art or culture or by pleading the liberty which may be allowed in this field by the public authorities."

What do parents need to do to block this influence from the mass media? First of all, it requires an interest on the part of parents. Society does not make this easy because of the need for both parents to work to educate the children. Nowadays with the smartphone, the children are accustomed to enjoying the new way of being part of the world. The structure of society needs to be changed.

Parents have not been educated as children in the area of sexuality which makes it difficult for parents to know what to do. They need to know what the children have been exposed to and spend time with them explaining the meaning of sexuality if not the mass media will be their teachers. The church also needs to been involved and continue speaking about the Christian meaning of sex and its value in our life.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Thomas the Doubter

A priest writing for a pastoral bulletin recalls a question he received from a schoolmate in the 5th year of elementary school: "I go to church every Sunday... how do we believe in a God we can't see?"

He was perplexed on how to answer but did respond: "We don't believe with our eyes but with our hearts."
The question was concerned with the physical his answer was spiritual.

After the Resurrection hearing the news Thomas said: "Until I have seen in his hands the print of the nails...and my hand in his side, I will not believe" (Jn.  20:25). These are the words of a man who wanted to die with Jesus when Jesus decided to go to Jerusalem. He showed great courage and faith. A desire to want to resolve one's doubts is a good thing. Doubt is often a way to a strong faith and maturity. A society filled with lies makes this necessary. 

In a scientific society, doubt is not allowed, everything needs to be tested and proved. 2+2=4 type of truth is desired: clarity and preciseness. Objective truth, is what we want, when not accepted makes you a fool. This is what is demanded in the society in which we live, religious faith is difficult to accept.

We can always choose not to believe. We can see the same thing and choose to believe or not believe. Truth is not always objective but depends on the subjective attitude of the one seeing. Love, justice, truth, conscience and the like are related to the transcendent which depends less on our understanding than the way one has lived and one's experiences in life.

In the Gospel of Luke, we have the journey to Emmaus where two disciples met Jesus on the road and didn't recognize him. He explained the words of the Scripture and when they arrived at their house they invited him in for the meal. During the meal Jesus at the table took the bread, said a blessing, broke it and gave each a piece, their eyes were opened and they recognized him and he vanished. Faith comes from hearing but is deepened by experience.

Life is made up not only of different views, and knowledge but experiences.  A person from the tropics can hear what we have to say about snow but it is not like experiencing snow. We can meet a person thru a friend but it is not like having the two meet and talk together.

The words of a novelist ring true:  "No one has seen God. However, those who love much are able to accept God." Since God is love, without love we are unable to receive him. Those who imitate this love will see God.

"Happy are those with a pure heart for they shall see God" (Matt 5:8).

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Marriage Premium

Since the number of divorces continue to climb, and the demands of family are life long  and getting more complicated we have the glorification of  the single life and cohabitation. Living alone, the money  and time can be spent as one pleases, sounds good does it not? Cohabitation brings no legal responsibility and easy to leave when one wants  freedom. Seems like a suitable alternative to marriage, right?

However, 99% of the world marry. Why do they choose such a difficult path? There was a time in the west when skepticism was in vogue about the structure of marriage but for the last 25 years many studies have shown that the benefits of marriage are much greater  than the burdens. The head of a Happiness Research Center writes his response in an article in Bible & Life magazine.

He mentions how in studies that have been made with those with same age, education and work place those who are married are from 10 to 40 percent better off in the money they make in comparison to those who are single, cohabiting or divorced, This is true in 14 countries of the OECD.

They are also healthier and live longer than those who remain single, cohabit or are divorced.They live about 10 years longer and look younger. One of the scholars who have studied the question attributes the living longer of the men to the scolding of the wife on smoking, drinking, computer use and concern over the health of the husband.  This is a reason for the longevity of the married men  compared to the single according to the researcher.

The benefits for the women is also great. In Japan and the Netherlands the longevity of the married is greater. In the developed countries the single, cohabiting and divorced are the victims of robbery, rape, fraud, sexual harassment at a far higher rate than the married.

Another researcher in the study of sexuality found that those who were married had a greater level of sexual satisfaction than the single and those cohabiting.  This came as a surprise to the researchers. The common understanding was that the married who had only one mate would get bored with the same person but the study showed something else.

The reason was that in reality one feels more at ease and knows what to expect and has greater trust with deeper bodily and mental interaction. Confidence, security, responsibility, maturity and in all the qualities that can be measured, the married have a higher rating then the unmarried and those cohabiting. They also rate lower in depression, and suicides: the  divorced are the highest, followed by the single and those cohabiting.

Since these are the benefits of married life couples need to overcome all the obstacles that arise to strengthen the marriage bond by getting help and using all the means available to overcome the conflicts that will arise in marriages. Marriage is a premium and needs the same amount of care as health and economics, and the happiness will increase.

Friday, April 21, 2017

You Only Live Once

New words continue to be coined and used. Korea imports a lot of new words from the west and a columnist  in the Peace Weekly introduces us to the word YOLO, an acronym  used by the young: "You Only Live Once."

The situation being what it is in Korea these days,very similar to other parts of the world, worrying about the future is considered counter productive and the need to find happiness here and now. It can be used as motivation for reckless behavior but also for personal development.

'We only live once so makes the most of it ' vs  "Many little  pickles makes a mickle" (many little things add up to a lot)-- The light even shines in a mouse hole-- The writer asks her readers were do they stand? Do they limit themselves to the happiness of  each day or prepare for the future by accepting the difficulties of the present?

YOLO is popular in Korea and has become the life style of many young people. Last year in September YOLO was added to the Oxford Dictionary as a new word.  Rarely used by the older generation it has great appeal to the young. The way the price of commodities are increasing, young people don't have the dreams of their elders and  easily accept YOLO  thinking. Living for the day with their interests, personal development and present happiness.   

In the Seoul diocese  on April 7th, 500 young people with the Cardinal took time to make the Stations of the Cross for over two hours. The cardinal invited the young people to prepare to walk the pilgrimage road that lays ahead. "You will be facing many unimaginable situations in life but you never should doubt the mercy of God that is always there." And added: "Our Blessed Mother will always be accompanying you on the journey."

YOLO is the word that was in the background and is always there to tempt the young people in a life style not suited for a follower of Jesus. The situation in which they live has taken their dreams away.

No matter the situation one should not give in to anger, frustration and helplessness but a need to have hope and love. When one believes someone is accompanying them on the road that they are taking, they will gain strength.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Third Anniversay of the Sewol Disaster

Easter 2017 was the third anniversary of the sinking of the Sewol Ferry and the connection brought many thoughts to mind. The raising of the ship has alleviated some pain associated with the tragedy. Efforts continue in finding the meaning to society from the sinking.

Editorials in the Catholic Weeklies and magazine articles return to the sinking and the meaning it has for Korean society. Sections of society, however, find the continuing talk about the tragedy repulsive and want it to stop: enough is enough. Contemplating the same event we have differences of opinion and yet it is necessary to determine for Catholics how much is based on who we are as Christians.

One editorial mentions the words of Pope Francis that the Church needs to speak out when we have injustices in society.We are moving from one way of living to another; labor pains accompany us as Christians and we need to decide what our responses will be. 

Countless rumors are associated with the sinking and many questions remain which the families of the victims  and many in society want answered. Lack of transparency and suspicion that a coverup has been at work has angered many in society.

The families of the victims and those who have not yet recovered the bodies of their loved ones are only searching for the truth and do not want revenge. Those who want to see vengeance are asked to turn it over to God.

The Ferry  sank in the muddy waters filled with greed and corruption. The weak are still the food for the strong and the strong have their way in society. No need to ask who are at fault for we are all in some way involved in the disaster. Material goods and their acquisition at any price is this not the reason for the catastrophe? This is not the way society should go.
Have we changed the direction of our lives after the tragedy?

A member of the bereaved families asked:  "Why has God given us this agony in losing our loved ones?"  Silence is not always an answer to agony. We are caught in the trap of our own greed and are distant from God, and fail to understand how we are all involved.

That is why those who have died should continue to remain in our thinking. Remembrance is Resurrection.
Resurrection is a new experience a new meeting with the one who died and rose again from the dead and who remains with us.

During this Easter Season we pray for the victims of the tragedy the families and those who are still looking for the bodies of their loved ones and we pray that the anger and questions that followed from the tragedy will in the near future be laid to rest.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Gift of Time: Its Master and not Slave

A college professor in a diocesan bulletin writes about a eureka moment. His digital watch stopped and was in a watch repair shop thinking it was the battery that was a problem and wanted it replaced. The store was filled with customers so while waiting, paged thru a magazine on the counter with examples of watches.

One of the watches that caught his attention had no second or minute hand. A  strange type of watch with only an hour hand. At first, he thought it was a stop watch, but no it was clearly a wrist watch.

Now he was open to creativity in the making of watches but what good was a watch with only an hour hand? It didn't make much sense to him. How does one measure time with only the hour hand?

Beside the picture of the watch, he saw an explanation of the watch and began to nod his head in approval of what he read. The reason for the watch was to get a general idea of time: seeing the position of the hour hand you would guess about the minutes.The watch was a movement against becoming a slave to time instead of its master.

Those who live needing to know the exact minute and second of their day should possess this watch. Those obsessed with exactitude need this kind of watch. They will be blessed with an abundance of leisure time. The watch does not measure time but imagines time. The habit we have grown to accept is to measure how much time we have before the end of some work, at what hour and minute we have to meet someone, often shackles us.

With this watch, we use the imagination to have a rough idea of when a certain person will come. We can meet at sunset or when the western sky is in color. This is not wasting time but a way of finding time that we have lost because of the way we have planned our days.

We have become the slaves of time, fear to lose it, and spend time wasting it. We have just so much time on this earth and spend too much of it with technological gimmicks and forget what is important.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Resurrected Life

Spring is always the endurance of winter and the flowering of the Resurrection. Life is the overcoming of adversity, reminding us of the Resurrection. Winter quickly disappeared and we have the fragrance of the spring flowers, preparing for the feast of the Resurrection.

Spring is heaven on earth. Flowers blending with all the other flowers give us great beauty and so it is with life that harmonizes with all of nature. No one is without problems yet in the spring regardless of age or sex we are bathed in the warmth of the sun and ready to bloom like the flowers.

These are the words of a poet writing in his column for the Catholic Peace Weekly. Life is in reality, a daily living of the Resurrection. Time quickly passes for all, each new day is a new beginning. Jesus is the key to the joy in our hearts. What blessedness it would be if our whole life would be like a day filled with Resurrection. Grace makes all life springlike. Grace  makes all the adversity bearable, and gives joy and motivates us to a life of obedience.

If Resurrection is life after death then facing death and overcoming it is a resurrection. Those with this experience know what resurrection means to them. He mentions in his own life when young he worked as a construction worker and fell four floors onto a tile foundation, nearly dying. He could have died but lived. He could have been paralyzed but he walked out of the hospital without difficulty.

He was baptized while in the hospital on Easter Sunday. There is no need, he says, to relate all the problems he had, only that he escaped death and was born again. He experienced great joy in the return to life.

From that moment forward he looked at life differently. It was no longer only one world but two worlds: no longer fearful of death. He saw everything thru the lens of a resurrected life. He was thankful for life and poetry began to gush out of him. Living the resurrected life he was filled with hope, courage, and joy, he was experiencing the joy of the resurrection.

"Joy of heaven comes from the heart of a child/ The true meaning of life/ Deeper are the words that come from the poet's pen/ Certain expression were impossible to make/ The heart of a child is a poet's heart/ // Exaggerated metaphors give light/  Words of God hidden in the heart of a poet// I see the mystery of the heavens meeting the earth/ The combining of a child's and a poet's heart/ With the fragrance of heart and soul/ The presence of the gracious God/"

It is a great grace to experience the resurrection while living. He has trust in God's grace that no matter what adversity will come, it will be a poem. God's love has been made clear in the Resurrection and has made this poet's journey one of love.