Thursday, 31 July 2008

My Thoughts on Today's Bible Reading

Interesting that Jesus saw good fish as fish meant to be eaten and bad fish the ones released back into the sea. I wonder if there's any meaning behind this...

Anyway, in both readings we see that the clay gets molded according to the potter's wishes and the fish gets chosen according to the angels' criteria. Neither the clay nor the fish has nay say in how it's molded or how they're chosen. In other words, God's will trumps all (I assume the criteria with which the angels pick and chose matches God's will for those that are sorted out). Luckily we have a God who is as loving as He is just, who reaches out to us as much as we yearn for Him.

What about the business of "the new and the old"? I believe it means that people who are wise in the ways of God know how to pick and choose between old traditions and new ways, to keep what is good and change what is not so good. Never forget though that God knows best, so always ask Him for the courage to change what must be changed, the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference between the two.

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Today we Catholics celebrate the memory of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Below is a little something on him taken from Wikipedia:

-
born in 1491 in the municipality of Azpeitia at the castle of Loyola in today's Basque province of Guip├║zcoa, Spain.
- the principal founder and first Superior General of the Society of Jesus
- active in fighting the Protestant Reformation and promoting the subsequent Counter-Reformation
- wrote Spiritual Exercises from 1522-1524, the publication is a simple set of meditations, prayers, and various other mental exercises
- opposed to the anti-Semitic attitudes that were common in Spain in his day
- died in Rome on July 31, 1556 after a long struggle with chronic stomach ailments
- beatified and then canonized to receive the title of Saint on March 12, 1622
- patron saint of Guip├║zcoa, Vizcaya (Biscay), as well as of the Society of Jesus

Bible Readings for Today (Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola)

Here are the readings for today Thu 31 July:

Jeremiah 18: 1-6
The Lord said to Jeremiah: “Go down at once to the potter’s house. I will speak to you further there.” So I went down to the potter’s house and found him working at his wheel. Now and then there would be something wrong with the pot he was molding from the clay with his hands. So he would rework the clay into another kind of pot as he saw fit.
Then the Lord said to me, “I, the Lord, say: ‘O nation of Israel, can I not deal with you as this potter deals with the clay? In my hands, you, O nation of Israel, are just like the clay in this potter’s hand.’

Matthew 13: 47-53
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was cast into the sea that caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, they pulled it ashore, sat down, and put the good fish into containers and threw the bad away. It will be this way at the end of the age. Angels will come and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. “Have you understood all these things?” They replied, “Yes.” Then he said to them, “Therefore every expert in the law who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his treasure what is new and old.” Now when Jesus finished these parables, he moved on from there.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Memorial of Peter Chrysologus, Bishop & Doctor

Today we Catholics celebrate the memory of Peter Chrysologus (Chrysologus means golden-worded). Here is a short blurb on his life (taken from Wikipedia):

- born in Imola (406 A.D.), same place as where he was ordained as a deacon
- appointed by Pope Sixtus III to be Bishop of Ravenna in 433 A.D.
- known for his short but inspired talks
- died in the year 450 or later
- declared a Doctor of the Church in 1729
- his feast day was inserted in the Roman Catholic calendar of saints for celebration on 30 July
- some quotable quotes:
"Anyone who wishes to frolic with the devil cannot rejoice with Christ."
"Brothers, let us be sinners by our own admission, so that with Christ's forgiveness we may be sinners no more."

My Thoughts on Today's Bible Readings

Here's my reflections on today's readings from Jeremiah:

I always wondered at how confident the Old Testament prophets were that the Lord was actually speaking to them, that what they're hearing wasn't a product of a too active imagination or evil spirits or whatever. I often doubt that the voices I hear or the inspirations I get comes from the Lord. Maybe I'm being too scrupulous. Maybe I should be (like Jeremiah) just joyful and happy at heart that I can hear the Lord in the 1st place.

Now Jeremiah did exactly what the Lord told him to (tell the people of Israel what their God says to them) but he was unhappy with the resulting manner in which his people treated him [Under the weight of your hand I sat alone / because you filled me with indignation / Why is my pain continuous / my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?]. Maybe he was expecting, if not to be adored, at least to be listened to with respect. So he complained to the Lord. How many of us are like him? Unhappy with our circumstances? Angry with the way people treat us for doing the right thing? Take your complaints to the Lord! That's what the prophets did. Even Jesus did so (remember His prayer in the garden of Gethsemane?)

So how did the Lord answer Jeremiah? Not with a lightning bolt. Not with fire and brimstone. But with a promise that He will protect Jeremiah "with a wall of brass". He will suffer along with Jeremiah as the people of Israel persecute him. And that's probably God's response to such prayers from us. He will help us through times of trouble, persecution and depression, and He will suffer along with us. After all, He did die for us and came back to life for us.

Bible Readings for Today (Wed of the 17th Week in Ordinary Time)

Here are the readings for today Wed 30 July:

Jeremiah 15: 10, 16-21
Oh, mother, how I regret that you ever gave birth to me! I am always starting arguments and quarrels with the people of this land. I have not lent money to anyone and I have not borrowed from anyone. Yet all of these people are treating me with contempt.

As your words came to me I drank them in, and they filled my heart with joy and happiness because I belong to you. I did not spend my time in the company of other people, laughing and having a good time. I stayed to myself because I felt obligated to you and because I was filled with anger at what they had done. Why must I continually suffer such painful anguish? Why must I endure the sting of their insults like an incurable wound? Will you let me down when I need you like a brook one goes to for water, but that cannot be relied on?” Because of this, the Lord said, “You must repent of such words and thoughts! If you do, I will restore you to the privilege of serving me. If you say what is worthwhile instead of what is worthless, I will again allow you to be my spokesman. They must become as you have been. You must not become like them. I will make you as strong as a wall to these people, a fortified wall of bronze. They will attack you, but they will not be able to overcome you. For I will be with you to rescue you and deliver you,” says the Lord. “I will deliver you from the power of the wicked. I will free you from the clutches of violent people.”

Matthew 13: 44-46
"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field, that a person found and hid. Then because of joy he went and sold all that he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he found a pearl of great value, he went out and sold everything he had and bought it."

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Belief-O-Matic™

Belief-O-Matic - A personality quiz about your religious and spiritual beliefs. Even if YOU don't know what faith you are, Belief-O-Matic™ knows. Answer 20 questions about your concept of God, the afterlife, human nature, and more, and Belief-O-Matic™ will tell you what religion (if any) you practice...or ought to consider practicing.
Interested? Check out the site: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/76/story_7665_1.html
I did the quiz years ago and found out that I was more mainstream Protestant than Catholic in my beliefs. Guess that have changed... :)

Promoting Adsense...

Here's two videos I downloaded from http://www.2createawebsite.com/money/google-adsense.html
I hope the owner don't mind... :) After all it's kinda like copycat-ing.






These two videos are created by Lisa Irby (you can read about her on http://www.2createawebsite.com/other/about.html) and they are about Google Adsense, an advertisement serving program run by Google where website owners can enroll in this program to enable on their websites text, image, and video advertisements which generate revenue on either a per-click or per-thousand-impressions basis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adsense).

On P. Z. Myers' desecration of the Eucharist

(Taken from Wikipedia, since I'm no storyteller...)
"In a talk show featuring Myers on Catholic Radio International, hosted by Jeff Gardner, Myers confirmed that he had been sent an unspecified number of consecrated hosts and said that he intended to “subject them to heinous cracker abuse.” When asked by Gardner to explain why he must do so, Myers said that Donohue of the Catholic League was insisting that he acknowledge the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. Gardner pointed out that Donohue had no authority to insist that anyone acknowledge the body of Christ in the Eucharist. When Gardner asked Myers who, having the Magisterial authority of the Catholic Church, had insisted that he recognize the Body of Christ in the Eucharist, Myers said that no one from the Catholic Church had contacted him. On July 24, PZ Myers, in his post, "The Great Desecration," wrote that he had pierced the "cracker" with a rusty nail and simply threw it in the trash together with old coffeegrounds and a banana peel. He added a few ripped-out pages of the Qur'an and The God Delusion, and included a photograph of these items in the garbage. He wrote that nothing must be held sacred and encouraged people to question everything."

Is this a big deal? Some atheist deciding that we Catholics are taking something too seriously and deciding to do something about it? At least he didn't kidnap Catholics and demand a miracle else he's start killing his hostages or something :)

But seriously, what is the big deal? I know we Catholics are supposed to revere the Eucharist but that doesn't mean any act against it will cause us to rise up like the Muslims when someone desecrates the Qu'ran or defames Prophet Muhammad. Atheism, however, IS a big deal, especially the religion-hating kind. In fact, hate in itself is a big deal because it colors one's perception- makes one focus on one's ideas of right and wrong to the exclusion of everybody's else. That's why people wrapped up in hate can do anything- they reason that since the world is against them/has hurt them in some way, they are perfectly within they rights to partake in revenge, no matter how extreme. We Catholics (and Christians too) are called to anti-hate (i.e. love). We love everybody no matter how they have wronged us or sinned. We are to love the saint and the sinner in the same manner. I believe this is why no Catholic priest or religious have said anything about the desecration yet. How is Dr Myers' act different from the many many wrongs done to us Catholics? How is it worse than Muslim terrorists targeting Catholic nuns in Iraq?

Harry Potter and the Promotion of Witchcraft

Do the HP books and movies promote witchcraft? IMHO they promote Christian themes far more than Wicca or witchcraft. Why do I say so? 'Cause magic in the HP books and movies are dealt with in a rather scientific manner- to achieve this effect you have to do this and that (utter or think of a specific word, raise your wand, etc.) There is nothing supernatural in the way these acts are portrayed (no summoning demons, no ritual sacrifices, etc.) In fact, the magic-using people of HP's world are pretty much irreligious- there is nothing in the books suggesting religious affiliation. Though there is mention of Christmas and saints, the way these are referred to are more cultural than religious (much in the same way secular Britishers would celebrate Christmas and talk of saints). In fact, the whole culture of HP's people reminds me of medieval Europeans- the superstitious way they treat Old Voldie aka Lord Voldermort, the way the whole Ministry is subverted yet no one peeps a protest, the us vs them way they treat the Muggles, and so on. I wonder how the US magic-using people would have dealt with Old Voldie...
The Christian themes in Book 7 are extremely obvious (from the Bible verses to the "death" and "resurrection" of Harry Potter). What's more, watered-down versions of these themes can be found throughout the whole series. Now (other than in book 7) admittedly these themes are no more obvious than the ones found in most fantasy novels, but the magic found in the HP books and movies are explored in similar ways as the way those novels explore magic. I mean, wizarding schools are quite ubiquitous in the genre, and so are spell-casting rituals. Rowling simply chose to make hers more witch-like.

My Ruminations

Referring to the daily reading taken from Luke 10: 38-42 (about Martha and Mary), here are some of my thoughts on the story:

Isn't the story a familiar one? One sister/relative/friend/colleague does all the work, while the other sits around. And don't we (almost automatically) sympathize with the working one, as if sitting around isn't "work"? 'Cause technically sitting is an action word, which means something is being done, and when something is being done the someone doing the something is working at it. (But I digress. Moving on.)
There is this assumption that the person working hard deserves acclamation and aid (this assumption is especially strong in that person's mind!) and thus has the right to expect others not working as hard as he/she to give aforementioned acclamation and aid. Thus to Martha whatever Mary is doing is of less importance compared to what she is doing, since Mary is just sitting around. What's more, Martha expects that her bustling around serving the Lord is of utmost importance, and the Lord should agree with her (note how she tells Him off for not instructing Mary to help her). Thus she reduced the Lord to the status of a honored guest, no different from any other VVIP. She failed to realize that the Lord was more interested in her attention rather than her service. After all, He came to serve, not to be served. He came to teach and save, not to be lavishly treated like the pharisees and scribes of His time.
Don't we all act like this sometimes? We feel that our hard work deserves something of equal value in return, and we force this assumption on those around us. So if we do not get our just rewards we react negatively. It is as if without that reward we would stop working (at least as hard as we have done before). Our service of God and His church should not be reward-oriented but love-oriented. We give because we love, and if we can't love then we don't give. We sacrifice our time and sweat for others, and if they don't appreciate our time and sweat we shrug it off. Most important of all, we check with God whether what we are doing is right with Him. Are we doing what He wants us to do? Just because an action seems right doesn't mean it is the right thing to do. Martha's bustling around is definitely right, but the right thing to do would have been sitting at Jesus' feet listening to Him. And never ever demand that God acknowledges our work in ways we deem proper.
There is a time for bustling around in service, and a time for sitting down quietly listening to God. Let us pray that He will give us the discernment to know when to do which.

Bible Readings For Today (Memorial of Saint Martha)

Here are the readings as of Tue 29 July:

Jeremiah 14: 17-22
Let my eyes stream with tears day and night, without rest,
Over the great destruction which overwhelms the virgin daughter of my people,
over her incurable wound.
If I walk out into the field, look! those slain by the sword;
If I enter the city, look! those consumed by hunger.
Even the prophet and the priest forage in a land they know not.
Have you cast Judah off completely?
Is Zion loathsome to you?
Why have you struck us a blow that cannot be healed?
We wait for peace, to no avail;
for a time of healing, but terror comes instead.
We recognize, O LORD, our wickedness, the guilt of our fathers;
that we have sinned against you.
For your name’s sake spurn us not, disgrace not the throne of your glory;
remember your covenant with us, and break it not.
Among the nations’ idols is there any that gives rain?
Or can the mere heavens send showers?
Is it not you alone, O LORD, our God, to whom we look?
You alone have done all these things.

John 11: 19-27
Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died]. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

Luke 10: 38-42
Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

How much are we saved by Jesus?

A few nights ago I shared with a group of friends that God (the Trinitarian one) has done most of the saving work and the rest is up to us. One of the friends had a problem with the word most. You see, I used that word because I believed that the rest of the work I mentioned above involved things like obeying God's laws, opening oneself to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, etc., which if not done invalidates God's saving plan on the individual basis. The above friend, however, saw it differently. He saw God's saving work as 100% complete, and all we had to do is to be a part of it.
As I reflected on what my friend said, I saw that he was right. Why?
1) God's plan does not work on fear, but love. You see, society 'saves' the individual by imposing on him / her a set of laws (expectations may be more accurate) and enforced them by causing aforementioned individual to fear the punishments resulting in breaking the laws. After all, society is an institution and thus (not being human) isn't capable of love or mercy, just affirmation and justice. I felt that this instilled in me a fear of punishments, as in to be punished means you have done something TERRIBLY WRONG. But God doesn't work that way. God gave us a set of laws (or expectations) to guide us, to show us where the boundaries are. And the punishments we receive fro breaking the boundaries are just consequences, nothing more- something to make us aware of something wrong (much like pain makes us aware of something wrong with our body). We won't be unsaved if we break God's laws- we just are in danger of going away from Him. Furthermore, God is merciful- in fact so merciful that you can commit the most heinous of crimes and yet be put right with Him by saying sorry (through prayer and/or Confession). That's all.
2) To say that we have to complete God's salvation for ourselves is to limit His power and to put the burden of salvation on ourselves. Think about it. How can we know what is necessary for us to be saved? We only know what it means to be saved, how to be saved, etc. because God reveals it to us. Not through our logic and knowledge of God, but through Jesus who told us about God's salvation. So if we had to complete God's work we would be lost. We would simply have no idea how to do so. We may have this idea or that idea, but how can we be 100% sure those ideas are correct? Besides, if God is all powerful, then He wouldn't let us spoil His plan to save us. He would instead have the plan prepared, do all the work, and tweak our circumstances so we are more willing to listen to Him, and, when we do, guide us into the plan through the spirit He put in us. Sure sounds like something only an all-powerful being can do, right? Sitting in the clouds somewhere and waiting for us to respond before doing anything (like Superman having to hear a cry for help before actually saving anyone) definitely isn't all-powerful.
So, the answer to the above question IMHO is 100%! Actually even more! God not only saves us but ensures we stay that way! And all we have to do is trust Him!

Daily Bible Verse

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