Saturday, August 27, 2016

Unity Is Difficult


In theology we allow for criticism; our faith life is choosing correctly and living accordingly. We need to ask ourselves who is Jesus repeatedly. He was murdered and we have to ask ourselves the reason. A priest writing for a bulletin for priests begins his article with these thoughts. 

When he was a parish priest many years ago he was asked by a woman named Martha, in her forties, if he would baptize her granddaughter, and then hesitatingly said she gets a headache every time she hears his sermons and can't concentrate on what he says. The priest asked her what does she think when she sees the cross on the back wall. Why did Jesus die on the cross?

Many of the Catholics give him fruits, meat and liquor and he is very happy to receive them but he did not become a priest to sit in his easy chair and enjoy presents, but to be his disciple.  It would be wonderful to stay in the rectory and not be concerned with what is going on in the world but that is not the reason he is a priest.

He asked Martha if she ever read any of the books  of the Bible or any of the documents from the Second Vatican Council. "Father, I am in my forties when am I going to have time to read those books?" "Pope John XXIII when he  called the Second Vatican Council to bring change to the Church was in his eighties." Martha  with a sad expression on her face left.

Some years later the priest mentions that he was pastor of a parish in which Martha's niece was assigned as a religious sister. Both Martha and her husband had since died. The niece told him that she came from a wealthy family and her husband was a president of a bank which made her world very small and difficult to see beyond the walls she had built.

Martha was a good and devout Catholic he told the niece. However, in the Church today we have many Catholics who are disparaging priests for what they teach.  Korean Catholicism  has been basically a very unified and harmonious community of faith but the priest laments that we have laypeople who are breaking  this harmony and sadder still is that we have a few clerics who are joining them. He finishes the article with the words from Matthew 10:36. "A person's enemies will include members of his own family."

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Are Humility and Sincerity Considered Trite?

Writing in the View from the Ark of the Catholic Times, the columnist, a university professor, wants us to examine why Google the technology company would put humility and sincerity high on their list of qualifications for employment. 

This has always been considered  important in the history of thought but why would a modern-day very successful advanced company put it as a qualification for employment over so many other important qualities? He laments that in the past in Korea, humility and sincerity  were important qualities to inculcate in our students but in recent years has disappeared.

For Google, this talk is not about virtue for virtue's sake but a necessary quality for their employees to succeed. In interviews, they take for granted the qualifications they need for the job, but if a humble attitude is not perceived they will not be employed is what the columnist understands from what he has heard.

Humility in this perspective comes with knowledge and the faculty of being able to work with those who are less able than oneself, and to have the ability and capacity to learn from them. Without this capacity, they will not be able to communicate and work with others from the different parts of the world.

This is not brought up because Google is a giant in the competitive market but to show how important they consider the ability to work together with others and the need for us in our education programs and formation in the family and school to bring it back as important.

Are we  cultivating humble talent for the future? We are not. The quality of our  education is not bad we are doing what is considered correct and what needs to be done but forgetting the qualities of humility and sincerity.

This was always considered in the Church's teaching and we have been exposed to it over and over again, in the example of Christ. Difficult, however, to internalize the message. We tend to forget the place right under the light is darkest.

Trite as this sounds to our ears we have to reconsider our understanding of the matter. Since we have an international company such as Google who are looking for these qualities should we not evaluate our search for specifications for employment that we have stressed? We have ignored humility and sincerity.

These qualities are not merely  a grace of character but enable one to learn and grow with another. We have forgotten this truth, he concludes and allowed  competition be the vantage point from which we judge. Let us change the competitive viewpoint to one in excelling in humility and sincerity.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Words Can Both Heal and Wound

Throw a stone unwittingly and you may kill a frog. A proverb that reminds us that words, like stones, uttered carelessly can cause harm. A columnist in the Catholic Times gives us some thoughts on Korean unification. 

In Korean, he mentions the often repeated words in meetings with others: "Let us have a meal together some day." Refugees from North Korea in the South take these words literally. They are not merely polite  words of greeting but really mean what they say. Consequently, they ask themselves: "When will they notify me?  Why haven't they mentioned it yet? Are they making fun of me?"  In their imaginations, these kinds of thoughts keep returning. For a South Korean, it is merely a habit from courtesy, while for a North Korean a reason for anger and shame.

Another Korean proverb: With the right words we can pay back a debt of a thousand 'nyang'. With the right words, we are able to solve many problems and even the ones that seem impossible.

When drinking with friends we often propose a toast but the words we use in Korean, he mentions, are considered coming from a decadent society and makes the North Korean refugees feel uncomfortable. On one occasion sitting with a refugee from the North hearing the words it brought tears to his eyes. When asked why the tears: he answered he realizes he is a free person. The negativity of the words of the toast that the refugee was familiar with and the brainwashing that accompanied it, all disappeared like magic, because of the situation and the friend that was beside him.

Different is not another word for wrong. When the cultures are different one-way efforts are not going to bring results. Both parties with sincerity need to approach each other in their daily lives with actions that understand the differences, and the misunderstandings and work to change. 

Unification is not a topic we find easy to talk about and it becomes something we push off to the future but we have 30 thousand refugees from North Korea who are not to be pushed off to the future; the discord and divisions of our brothers and sisters and family should be acknowledged.  

Because we use the same language does not mean we are the same. We need to accept that they have a different culture and when we speak, to be careful  of their sensibilities.  He concludes with a need for prayer for the refugees and small efforts in bringing about a feeling of oneness among us which will be a work for the eventual unification of the country.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Crazy Talk--Stupidity


Is there anything that makes less sense than finding something  positive in weakness? In the WithBible magazine an article by a priest examines the issue and gives the readers some thoughts to reflect on and make their own.

In the New Testament. the word weakness (astheneia) as a verb and adjective appears 83 times and 44 are in the letters of St. Paul. Usually, the word is used to signify some bodily ailment but in Paul's writing it has a special theological meaning that becomes a theme in his writing. This understanding of the word weakness is seen  clearly in First Corinthians chapters one and two and Second Corinthians ten to thirteen; the reason  St. Paul is called the apostle of weakness.

The Cross either makes this clear for some or hides it from others. Words, he says, are of little use: “Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know” (Lao-tzu). And yet no matter how difficult and crazy it sounds the need is there to speak. We are strong when weak for God's power is active in us.

In our worldly common sense: knowledge is power. He gives us the example of the Oriental and Asian Studies Research Center where this was on the wall at the entrance of their building in London, England. Back in 1916, England felt they were not keeping abreast on the knowledge of the Orient (Asia) which they needed to administer their colonies and began the study of Asia-- (Orientalism). Knowledge was power and a help in managing their colonies.The Irony is that even at present, those from Asia often go to Europe to learn more about Asia.

The reality is that knowledge of another enables one to control the other and to efficiently get results. Information is needed on those we want to control. We call these places Intelligence Agencies. In our daily use of words: 'wisdom', knowledge, information all go to make for power: control, management, and rule. In a word, it is to increase the power of the those possessing it, and they become the center from which all goes out.

There is, however, another wisdom and power which we call God's foolishness and powerlessness. This is concern for the other, going out to the other, being for the other. It is not to gain power for it is seen as an obstacle: not to become strong but weak, to be vulnerable. In the eyes of the world this is crazy talk and stupidity.

Paul found the cross: the foolishness of God was wiser and God's weakness  stronger than our own wisdom and power. He concludes the article with two questions: When there is love between two persons,  there is going to be one loving more than the other,  who is the weaker? We say that God is love, in God's love for us who is the weaker?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Bigger Is Not Always Better

A seminary professor, during the rainy season, found some snails on campus. Happy he was to see them and marveled for they carry around their shells on their backs. Gives one much to think about, he writes: slow, small, and weak but always carrying around their house and place of refuge.

What would happen he wonders if the whirlpool like shell kept growing, it would no longer be a home and refuge but a burden and would restrict movement. The snail would have to learn to overcome the problems that came with the oversized shell.

In the Catholic Times, the professor compares the wisdom of the snail to the not so wise situation of society which keeps increasing our shell. Growth, development, prosperity, progress and the like  are the mottoes under which we labor and as with the snail, the bigger the shell becomes the less comfort and more of a burden. Economic development and a flourishing  market are not always benefiting the majority of the citizens. Not infrequently the burden of the so-called prosperity rests with poor citizens.

The situation with energy is similar to  that of the economy. In comparison to other countries, our use and production of electricity are not small. We continue to supply the needs of the country and even if we grant that we need more there is no need to build nuclear power plants but we have other alternate ways of producing what is necessary. Nuclear power plants will be more for the use in the metropolitan areas of the country and the burden again falls on the small people. Do we need to be burdened with the dangers and concerns that come with nuclear power?

Similarly, we are dealing with THAAD: Terminal High Altitude Area Defense- anti-ballistic missile system. [At present there is much talk pro and con on the placement of this system in Korea]  The government feels that this is a deterrent for the nuclear missiles of the North. We have lived without it, and doubtful we will have peace with it. At the present, we have enough firepower to reduce the whole country to ashes.  

There  is no guarantee that the money spent will bring peace and security. The money spent is taken away from the poor of the country. We are making the life of the poor poorer. We have to start looking at the shell that we are making and ask is it helping us or becoming more of a burden?  Is it making us freer or confining us? Is it an obstacle? To solve these problems we have to become more involved and a better democracy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

And God Abides in Him

On the opinion page of the Peace Weekly a research professor on women's issues reminds us of the differences between pride and self-esteem. [pride and self-esteem-- depending on how used, in the article, pride is considered as negative and self-esteem as positive.] 

According to a psychologist that she quotes: pride is when you desire to show your superiority and self-esteem is to  respect  oneself. We have a real difference in meaning. Self-regard is to be aware and accepting of oneself.

One psychotherapist  is quoted on self-esteem: when a person accomplishes what he wants and has a feeling of satisfaction to which is added joy this is a natural result of self-esteem. Secondly, a person with this attitude is not concerned about the evaluation of another and is comfortable in expressing one's own opinion. When faced with difficult situations she is able to endure it and changes to overcome problems efficiently. Thirdly, when doing something wrong  he or she is quickly able to acknowledge the wrong, correct it and continue on a good relationship with others."

Those with a low self-esteem show  behavior opposite to the above. One is not able to determine what must be done, and not able to efficiently perform what is required and consequently is followed by excuses. When it is accomplished he feels good and when not it is other people's fault or the situation. If one has power: he will use it with those he is working and strong hand them to hide his weakness.

In all areas of life we see this lack of self-esteem appear and see how it is hidden by unreasonable behavior. Often it is abetted by the educated and those who fear for their own position in society and without hesitation get rid of their consciences.

Self-esteem is not a Catholic way of looking at the situation which is here described but a secular approach to the subject. As people of faith, a feeling of self-worth is necessary but it comes from the love God has for us. He made us, loves us and wants us to live in him now and for all eternity.

To believe this is more than sufficient to see our worth and the worth of all others. In Catholic thought: God is love and embraces all of us with love, but we have the freedom to refuse love, which prevents us from growing in love and hurts ourselves. God's love makes us lovable.

In Pope Benedict's encyclical letter: 'God is Love' his first words tell us what to expect. “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 Jn 4:16). The Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny...We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us."

"In these words, the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life." Is this not the primary reason for the dignity and self worth that we should have as human beings and Christians?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Gossip an Obstacle to Sanctity

Speaking behind a person's back is an expression easily understood. Korean has a number of these phrases--some considered slang. 

On the opinion page of the Peace Weekly, a columnist gives us his understanding of backbiting, gossip. Usually saying unsavory things about others. As people of faith, it is  confessional matter, an enemy of the virtuous life.

The columnist quotes the words of Pope Francis at a morning Mass:  "If you are capable of not speaking badly of someone, you are on the path to becoming a saint," These words startled the columnist and considers it a ban on gossiping. In his own life, few are the days that he has not participated in gossiping and feels embarrassed.

He feels this kind of talk arises from a feeling of inferiority or jealousy. More readily seen with the weak rather than the strong. There is a strange kind of pleasure that comes when we attempt to take down another, who appears better than oneself; it makes us feel superior. It's an attempt to hide our  frustration and shame. When truth and justice are at stake we should honestly be open and say what we think when our logic and moral position is not clear we lean towards gossiping. A sign of failure, those who don't shrink before authority will not resort to gossip.

Gossip is a sign of helplessness. We sacrifice those at a distance to gain a feeling of intimacy with those close to us.  A  pleading for comfort and a pathetic way to try to cover over the hurt to our spirit. Often, he says, it is a way of allaying our problems  by blaming others for our own involvement.

Gossip is our enemy, it hurts us and  others in the community; it's like a fog that spreads and destroys  harmony and peace. Rare is the positive talk in gossip. Pope Francis returns often to the topic of gossip in his talks: "Gossiping is like terrorism...who throws a bomb and runs away, destroying: with their tongue and not making peace...Every day I get the urge to say something that sows discord and division... Bite your tongue!"

He concludes the column with the experience of many of the politicians using blunt and unreasonable language and finding fault. However, one day he was faced with the fact that this blunt language was not gossip, but saying what they felt in their heart.  He felt he was not in the right to criticize them. Gossip and blunt talk both lack virtue but if we are to choose--gossip is worse.

In the English Parliament, they address each other by the title 'Honourable Member'  he would like us to address each other with this same attitude and if we tend to hesitate it may mean the words we utter may not be as honest as we believe. He wants us to dream of being saints, which will allow us to retire at night with a clean conscience.