Friday, September 30, 2016

Lessons Learned from Animal Courtship

In present society, the female does at times take the initiative in courtship but still  the male in the majority of cases continues to be the active one. Biologically the sperm of the male is unlimited in comparison to the ovum of the female.  So begins an article in the Kyeongyang magazine on the courtship ways of animals by a father of three children who works in a diocesan family ministry.

The male more than the female  is  concerned with competition and interested in his own world. Consequently, he  doesn't like to be compared with others. 

In the animal kingdom it is similar but examining the ways is of great interest.

The female hedgehog protects herself with her quills. The male is not deterred by the quills and when it mounts the female he is speared with the  quills and with the front paws caresses the female. The female desists from its guard-like stance and refrains from using her quills and they become a pair.

The Peacock shows off its beauty of its tail feathers and without them, the chances of finding a mate are greatly reduced. Prairie dogs win their mates by frequent jumping.  Scorpions dance before their mate. Crocodiles serenade their mate, barely audible, and in the spot you see bubbles rising. Male penguins prepare their nest and present a pebble to the female as their courtship present. The Red female  spider is much larger than the male and often is under the illusion that the male is her food. The male knowing this is willing to court the female. And he bravely undergoes death knowing that he is preparing  food for the new baby spiders.

The animal kingdom has given our writer much to think about as he continues his article and shows us what he has learned. Like the hedgehog has he  overcome the quills of his wife with understanding  and concern or instead  returned  his own quills. Like the Peacock has he been concerned with his appearance and been understanding for his wife's desire to look well.  Like the crocodile has he spent time serenading his  wife and going on a date. Like the penguin does he remember his wife with presents? 

He wants to be the first to approach, the first to console, the first to show love and to continue being a novice in his relationship with his wife. 

"Now, I will show you the way which surpasses all the others. If I speak with the human tongues and angelic as well, but do not have love. I am a noisy gong,a clanging cymbal" (Cor.13:1).

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Silence of the Press

Mass media's power in society is often underestimated.  In the medieval period, we had the three estates, in our society the fourth estate, when the words are used, refer to the mass media. The power of the mass media, both the positive and the negative are extensive: affecting our physical, emotional, psychological and the spiritual life.

The negative influence comes not only by slanting the news, emphasizing certain aspects of life out of proportion to reality, failing to report the news honestly, not taking into account the way news is reported, but also in failing to report news and ignoring what goes against the editorial policies of the news outlet.

Writing in the Catholic Times the head of a diocesan justice and peace committee mentions in his column on the Sewol Ferry tragedy this last point: failure to report on the demonstrations going on by the families of the victims is a form of censorship of the news by those who should be reporting the news.

Families of the  Sewol Ferry Tragedy  continue in the center of Seoul with their  fasting. (The Sewol Ferry sank on April 16, 2014, on route to Jeju Island with school children on their class trip. The ferry capsized  carrying 476 people mostly high school students). Families of the victims want to know the truth behind the sinking of the  ship and the reasons and feel this is not what is happening, consequently, the peaceful demonstrations~ shaving of their heads and fasting.

The families of the victims in the center of Seoul are trying to get the attention of the citizens but the mass media is keeping the citizens in the dark which makes the families feel like they are on an island in the middle of Seoul.

Two years and a half have passed since the sinking; serious gestures have been made to uncover the truth, punish the responsible, and work for a  more secure society but at the same time, the truth of what was involved has sunk to the bottom of the ocean with the silence of the mass media. 

The writer wants to see an openness of the press. "The information provided by the media is at the service of the common good. Society has a right to information based on truth, freedom, justice, and solidarity" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2494).

"Among the obstacles that hinder the full exercise of the right to objectivity in information, special attention must be given to the phenomenon of the news media being controlled by just a few people or groups. This has dangerous effects on the entire democratic system when this phenomenon is accompanied by ever closer ties between governmental activity and the financial and information establishments"  (Social  Gospel Compendium 414).

"In the world of the media, the intrinsic difficulties of communications are often exacerbated by ideology, the desire for profit and political control, rivalry and conflicts between groups, and other social evils" (Social Gospel Compendium 416).

He concludes the article by asking: Is the Church  free of blame from the way it reports the news and as Christians are we free in the way we receive  and accept the news?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Who is the Good Samaritan?

Recently in a Peace Weekly column, a university professor mentions the news item in which passengers in a taxi going to the airport for an overseas  golf trip, left the taxi when the driver on the trip lost consciousness and died. The passengers intent on making their flight took their golf bags and  left the taxi and the driver to  continue on to the  airport and their flight.

When this news was spread by the mass media the parliament proposed that the Good Samaritan  Law on the books be amended. When a person can be helped and help is not offered you are liable to punishment of one year in prison and a fine of about 3,000 dollars.  The intent of the law was to help form a more desirable society. An internet  survey showed  the majority of the citizens were in favor of the law.

The professor sees some problems with the law. First of all, it is against the principle of  proportionality. Quoting some lawyers he says it is excessive punishment. If there is not an immediate connection with a crime then there is not to be a penalty. This is contrary to  the principle of liability with fault. Many also see the tendency to legislate a  person's religious beliefs into law.

However, the professor's biggest problem is none of the above but sees it as a misunderstanding of the meaning of the parable in Luke's Gospel 10: 25-27. Jesus tells the teacher of the law that the main point of the law is to love your neighbor as yourself. The  teacher of the law questions: "Who is my neighbor?" Here  Jesus gives us the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Jesus is telling the teacher of the law not to ask who is the neighbor but you be the neighbor. The Good Samaritan teaching does not fit the case of those  going to the airport. The way the law can be understood is that you can penalize those who are not your neighbor. Those that treat you well become  your neighbor and the others are not. This is not the understanding of the parable of the Good Samaritan.

With this understanding of the parable are we   bettering society? In the parable of the Good Samaritan are the Levite and the priest, not our neighbor? And those going to the airport who weren't concerned with the taxi driver: are they not also our neighbor? We know how Jesus would answer.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Place of Workers in Society

"From the beginning, therefore, he is called to work. Work is one of the characteristics that distinguish man from the rest of creatures, whose activity for sustaining their lives cannot be called work. Only man is capable of work, and only man works, at the same time by work occupying his existence on earth. Thus work bears a particular mark of man and of humanity, the mark of a person operating within a community of persons. And this mark decides its interior characteristics; in a sense, it constitutes its very nature." These words begin the encyclical  'On Human Work' by  Pope John Paul II (1981) and introduce an article in Bible & Life on Labor by a Seoul priest.

If these words are true it is only right that all labor and laborers should in every place and time enjoy glory and respect. Is this the reality of what we see in society?  There has been a change but labor still is looked upon negatively. In Korea, it is not difficult to find persons who look upon labor as the punishment for losers. Hearing 'labor movement' and 'labor union' many tense up or are on their guard.

Why should this be the case? From childhood, that is the education received and as adults, this is what they have seen and heard. Labor is looked down upon and working  to better the situation is seen as a leftist interest. This should not be the case within the Nation or the Church.

In the Korean Constitution, we have the three rights spelled out: the right to organize, collective bargaining and collective action. Laborers have a right to organize a labor union, participate, the right to collectively bargain and the right to strike. This is a right the Nation has given to the worker-- an enormous right.

He lists some of the many encyclicals on labor: Rerum Novarum 1891 (On the condition of Labor), Quadragesimo Anno 1931 (After Forty Years), Laborem Exercens 1981 (On Human Work), and Centesimus Annus 1991 (The Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum). The Church has not only stressed the respect and rights due to the workers but listed the obstacles to this respect and rights.

What is the Church's record on following its own teaching? The writer wants us to ask those working in Church related facilities and he responds that not a small number are disappointed in what they see. For the most part transparent but no different in the pursuit of profits, giving the lowest wages, and in labor disputes similar to what we see in the world.

He concludes that the members of the Church have not yet digested the teaching and this we need to confess. "Where we stand is the way we see the landscape." He hopes this proverb doesn't describe the way we react to the Church's teaching. He feels that if the Church is not going to follow its teaching it should not get involved in work hiring others.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Concience the Voice of God

Often in surveys and questionnaires, Catholic responses are no different from the other segments of society. Since Catholics  live in society, it is not surprising  there  is  little difference in the way they think or act. This is not true of all but many Catholics, on family, marriage, and social problems are not influenced by their Catholicism.

Since we are all living in the same society the spirit of the times is always influencing us in many different ways. Expressing this strongly, the spirit of the  world confines us both in thought and action. 

Structures of society, systems, and laws have influenced us from the time we were children. We know many of our actions and thoughts are not  correct but are not able to overcome the structures and we become accustomed to going along. However, to be human we must continue to work against the structures that are not healthy.

A seminary professor in an article in the Catholic Times, wants us to think of the way society continues to influence us, not always correctly. We need to question societies' structures and direction. We are not dealing with something that is natural and absolute. Christians live in the world but we dream and work for the establishment of God's kind of world. We  work for the world that is more in harmony to the one that Christ showed us.

We are told in Mark 14:38: "Keep watch, and pray that you will not fall into temptation.The spirit is willing  but the flesh is weak." One who prays in the proper fashion can't help but be concerned with those who are hurting and the problems in society. 

The prophets of the Old Testament were sensitive to God's word and the wounds in society. Being sensitive to what was happening was a sign  that the prophets were listening to their consciences. Conscience is what God has put into our hearts and is where God speaks to us.

Whether a person believes or not, whether a Christian or not,  all have a conscience. However, if we hide the  conscience deep within ourselves and follow the flow in society we will not  hear God's voice.

There is always a need to form and examine our consciences:  having a sensitive conscience needs effort on our part. To be alert and awake is a way of having a sensitive conscience. The teaching of the Social Gospel helps us to form our consciences correctly, making us truly free persons.

The world is this way and I can't help it, is becoming a slave  and losing our freedom. Jesus  came to make us free. "It was for liberty that Christ freed us. So stand firm, and do not take on yourselves the yoke of slavery a second  time" (Gal. 5:1).

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

'Appropriate Technology' a New Way of Behaving

In the BibleLife magazine, there is a series of articles on 'Appropriate Technology' also called "Intermediate Technology"  which can be defined as a movement that wants to simplify life with the use of our hands in energy efficient, environmentally friendly, and locally controlled technology that is people-centered.

One of the world's best 'Go' (Chinese traditional board game) players lost to artificial intelligence is a reason for the feeling of heaviness of heart the writer feels about society. He introduces us to the German economist Dr.Ernst Schumacher whose book: Small is Beautiful. The book was a best seller and Schumacher  became a leader in the  'appropriate technology' movement.

A movement from the late 19th century based on the principles of Catholic social teaching was known as Distributism and even Schumacher was attracted to this understanding enough to become Catholic in his later years.

The articles want us to bring sweat to our brow and appreciate the sanctity of labor. We are told that we need to use our bodies and our minds. Our society is always dreaming of the more and bigger understanding of progress but we are introduced to working with created things with our hands continuing the work of creation in small ways.

The poverty that is chosen is not like the poverty  imposed by factors in society. One of the articles mentions that the writer's  understanding of poverty that Jesus speaks about is voluntary poverty.  It is freely detaching and lowering  oneself but also being filled. The example of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples is a good example of what he teaches.

Globalization as a standardization of what we do is not  the aim of 'Appropriate Technology'. We adapt what we do to the finances we have and the means at our disposal. The principle of subsidiarity carried out in our daily life-- (Subsidiarity:  problems  should be dealt with on the local level with the means available if possible before asking for help).

It is a simplification of life: conserving, sharing, exchanging and reusing. Inventing  new ways of doing something which is environmentally  and  people friendly.  Organic farming is just  one of the ways that more effort is demanded but also greater satisfaction and a healthier environment. 

Labor allows us to continue God's creation. Mass production structures have degraded the value of labor, mechanization and standardization have not appreciated the value of labor and subordinated it to capital. This return to the use of our hands and heads is acknowledging "God found it very good." There is some discomfort but joy comes from participating in creation.

The writer concludes that we can't continue living the way we have  without harm to our environment and  posterity. For temporary gain, we should not destroy  the definitive plan of creation God has given us. Working for the common good in everything that we do should be a primary value of life. This new way of thinking and acting demands more effort and is more uncomfortable but thinking of the future it brings joy.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Relationships And Happiness

A teacher with a  lot of experience in education shows the readers how difficult the life of a teacher is in primary and secondary school. In the article in the Kyeongyang Magazine she explains that many have the idea  that teachers have long vacations and  short school days: an easy life, but  this  is not the reality.

Teachers expend a lot of emotional energy besides the physical energy in their teaching. Standing up for six hours a day in front of a class is just one of the minor difficulties. Concern for the students extends to checking their Facebook pages and dealing with parents along with the daily class load. 

The last section of her article is on a talk given by Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED)  a nonprofit group that spreads  worthwhile ideas throughout the world and the writer brings to the attention of her readers: What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness. This is what teachers are wanting to do and she shows her readers what a teacher's task should be.

The study that is  being used began in 1938 and for this report went to 2015 and continues. The millennials were asked what were their goals in life: 80% said it was to get rich and 50% wanted to be famous.

The study followed two groups of men. One were students at Harvard when the study began and a group was from one of the poorest areas of Boston Mass, where many lived without cold and hot  running water. 

These individuals entered many different walks of life. They became factory workers, lawyers, bricklayers, doctors, some developed alcoholism, a few schizophrenia, some came from the bottom to the very top, and some went the other way. 

What did they learn during the study? It was very simple: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.

Those who were in good relationships within the family, friends and community were happier and healthier than those who did not have that relationship. Social connection is good for us and loneliness kills. Secondly, the quality and not the number of the relationships is important. The third lesson was that these relationships don't only protect the body and spirit but also the brain.

She concludes the article hoping that the parents will be conscious of the importance of relationship in maturity and see 'after service' as an important part of the formation of their children. Relationships once broken are very difficult to renew.