Avoiding False Promises

Have you ever asked someone for help, and the person you asked assuredly replied, “Sure, I’ll help.” As the days pass, that person never gets around to helping. You are afraid to ask again, because you do not want to be so pushy, especially towards someone who agreed to do you a favor. After waiting for even longer, you realize that the person is never going to help, or perhaps, he or she never did plan on helping in the first place, but simply said, “Sure. I’ll help,” not to disappoint you. The truth is, such a strategy is actually more disappointing than saying, “Sorry. I don’t have time, but maybe you could try asking so-and-so.” This is a far better approach than leaving someone hanging in the dark. Honesty is the best policy. Be direct. In the long run, it is better for both sides. I believe God also wants this, to be honest, especially to those who come to us for something. Keep it in mind, because it is bound to happen any time soon.

Reaching Out to God

In the Gospel of Mark, before healing the man with the withered hand, Jesus tells him to reach his hand outward. I find this to very symbolic for our spiritual lives with the Lord. When we are in distress, how often do we reach out to the Lord, seeking His help, healing, and protection? We often make God the last option rather than the first. If we are experiencing some kind of difficulty, let us reach out to God who will heal us.

The Danger of Addictions

God wants us to be free. He not only wants us to be free from sin, but also free to do the right thing and make the right choice. Freedom is a beautiful thing and has traditionally be valued greatly by many different peoples from around the world. There is something more immediately threatening to our freedom, however, than any dictator, and that is our own addictions. Addictions to drinking and smoking are the most obvious, but perhaps more prevalent ones in our modern society include addictions to always thinking one is right, lying to look good in front of others, littering in the streets, worrying, yelling, talking rather than listening, being negative, shopping, video games, surfing the internet, pornography, looking at oneself in the mirror each time a mirror is available, and numerous others. Believe it or not, these addictions harm our relationships with our family and friends, they harm our physical and mental health, and they prevent us from having a more intimate relationship with God. When we are free from addictions and free to make the right choices, we are more able to help those around us, including our family. friends, neighbors, community, environment, and coworkers. We are not focused simply on what we feel like doing, but doing what is right, even if it hurts and makes us look silly in front of others; and better yet, we have the control and power to follow God’s will, make virtuous sacrifices, and rise to the level of Sainthood if we weed out these addictions from our life.

I think the best way to start becoming free is to do a self-examination. Sit down and pray. Ask God to show you what areas of your life need improvement. Perhaps there are bad tendencies that you are addicted to that you do not even realize, such as talking about negative topics all the time or gossiping. It is most important to remove the worst addiction as soon as possible. Such include smoking, drugs, drinking, adultery, masturbation, stealing, and murder. Realize that if you have been addicted to such things for many years, it may take that many years to overcome them, and overcoming them is definitely possible, as human beings have free will. Pray. Fight. Don’t quit. You may lose battles, but with the help us Jesus, you will win the war.

After conquering those extremely serious addictions, start to work on the apparently smaller ones, such as worrying or not listening to what others are saying. Actively seek to remove these addictions by doing your part, such as reading about them, talking to family members about them, praying, going to Mass, going to Confession, exercising, eating healthy, and don’t forget, giving God time and allowing Him to work. His work is actually greater than anything you could possibly do, though he does ask for your participation.

Seek to remove addictions from your life in order to exercise that God-given free will bestowed upon you to do great things.

Being Single is a Blessing, Not an Illness

Chinese Valentine’s Day called “Qixi” (pronounced “Chee Shee”) just passed a day ago. It always strikes me how so many people believe that there is something downright wrong with being single. Being single is one of the most important times in the life of any person who is trying to dedicate his or her life for God. Now that I am married, I look at my single life playing a crucial role in setting the foundations for how I would conduct my married life. While I was single, I had a lot of free time and was able to do a lot of things that helped shape who I am today. I played a lot of sports and games. I prayed a lot and read a lot of spiritual material. I traveled to 8 countries outside the United States. Through these experiences, I acquired a vast wealth of knowledge and wisdom which I am now using to protect and nurture my family to be a strong, loving unit. I am thankful for the time I had to be single, because it gave me the opportunity to prepare well to live my vocation to the married life to the fullest. No one starts working without learning a few things about the job first. No one starts playing a sport without practicing the fundamentals and learning the rules. Everything requires preparation in order to do it well. For those called to be married, the single life is not the time to do whatever you feel like. It is a blessing from God and deserves to be treated as such. The single life is your time to learn, grow, and become stronger physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Do this, and after you get married, you will be grateful.

“Transcending all knowledge” / “Toda ciencia trascendiendo”

(from the poem “Stanzas concerning an ecstasy experienced in

high contemplation.”)

 

I entered into unknowing,

 and there I remained unknowing

transcending all knowledge

 

…He who truly arrives there

cuts free from himself;

all that he knew before

now seems worthless,

and his knowledge so soars

that he is left in unknowing

transcending all knowledge

 

…This knowledge in unknowing

is so overwhelming

that wise men disputing

can never overthrow it,

for their knowledge does not reach

to the understanding of not understanding,

transcending all knowledge.”

 

Often times, we trust too much in our own knowledge. We

become intellectual prideful because we think we know what is best for

ourselves and even what is best for the world. We think we have the answers

when in fact we do not. If we look back five years ago, we will see how much

our knowledge and beliefs have changed since then. The beliefs I have now I

would have deemed as false five years ago. Why, then, when I come to believe in

something, I become so arrogant as to say that I have no false beliefs within

me. Saint John of the Cross wants to get away from all of this and enter into

the contemplation of God, which is so far above human understanding that it

makes all knowledge of this world seem silly. There is a contradiction in all

of this. Normally, knowing is seen as better than not knowing. However, in this

case, we must enter into a place we do not know which is above all knowledge,

that is, the essence of God.

 

 

 

(del poema “Coplas

del mismo hechas sobre un éxtasis de harta contemplación.”)

 

 

Entréme donde no supe,

y quedéme no sabiendo,

toda ciencia trascendiendo

 

…El que allí

llega de vero

de sí mismo

desfallece;

cuanto sabía

primero

mucho bajo le

parece,

y su ciencia

tanto crece,

que se queda no

sabiendo,

toda ciencia trascendiendo

 

…Este saber no

sabiendo

es de tan alto

poder,

que los sabios

arguyendo

jamás le pueden vencer;

que no llega su

saber

a no entender

entendiendo,

toda ciencia trascendiendo.”

 

A menudo,

confiamos demasiado en nuestra propia inteligencia. Nos hacemos llenos de

orgullo intelectual porque creemos que sabemos lo que es lo mejor para nosotros

y aun lo que es lo mejor para el mundo. Creemos que tenemos las respuestas

cuando de hecho no. Si miramos hace cinco años, vemos cuanto ha cambiado nuestra

inteligencia y creencias desde entonces. Las creencias que tengo ahora las

habría considerado como falsas hace cinco años. ¿Por qué, entonces, cuando

venga a creer en algo, me pongo tan arrogante como decir que no tengo creencias

falsas dentro de mí? San Juan de la Cruz quiere salir de todo de esto y entrar

en la contemplación de Dios, la cual es tan lejos sobre comprensión humana que

hace que toda ciencia de este mundo parece tonta. Hay una contradicción en todo

de esto. Por lo general, saber es visto como mejor que no saber. Sin embargo,

en este caso, tenemos que entrar en un lugar que no conocemos lo cual es sobre

toda ciencia, es decir, la esencia de Dios.

“for I-don’t-know-what which is so gladly found” / “por un no sé qué que se halla por ventura”

(from the poem “A gloss [with a spiritual meaning]”)

 

Not for all of beauty

will I ever lose myself,

but for I-don’t-know-what

which is so gladly gained…

 

…I will never lose myself

for that which the senses

can take in here,

nor for all the mind can hold,

no matter how lofty,

nor for grace or beauty,

but only for I-don’t-know-what

which is so gladly found.”

 

 

When we become attached to that which is not God, we experience torment and anxiety. Saint John of the Cross emphasizes the importance of being attached to God alone. The good news is, God gives us created things to enjoy and use as means to reach Him. However, we must never be attached to these things but only God who John calls “I-don’t-know-what”. This is because God is different than created things. Creator and creation are not the same. We are quite familiar with created things by means of our senses. These things we know well. But God is different. He is above us and so we cannot know Him like we do created things. He is a mystery. The paradox is that we do not know what He is yet we can find Him anyway. He becomes a found mystery yet still a mystery. We must have the confidence that we will never lose ourselves for created things but only for God. We will never lose ourselves for knowledge, money, popularity, family, or beauty, “but only for I-don’t-know-what which is so gladly found”.

 

 

(del poema “Glosa ‘a lo divino’”)

 

Por toda la hermosura

nunca yo me perderé,

sino por un no sé qué

que se alcanza por ventura…

 

…Por lo que por el sentido

puede acá comprehenderse

y todo lo que entenderse,

aunque sea muy subido,

ni por gracia y hermosura

yo nunca me perderé,

sino por un no sé qué

que se halla por ventura.”

 

Cuando nos hagamos conjuntados con lo que no es Dios, experimentamos tormento y ansiedad. San Juan de la Cruz enfatiza la importancia de ser conjuntados con sólo Dios. Las buenas noticias son que Dios nos da cosas creadas para gozarse y usarse como medios para alcanzar a Él. Sin embargo, nunca tenemos que ser conjuntados con estas cosas sino sólo con Dios quien Juan llama “un no sé qué”. Esto es porque Dios es diferente que cosas creadas. Creador y creación no son iguales. Conocemos bien cosas creadas a través de nuestros sentidos. Estas cosas sabemos bien. Pero Dios es diferente. Él está sobre nosotros y así que no podemos conocer a Él como conocemos cosas creadas. Él es un misterio. La paradoja es que no sabemos qué es Dios pero de todos modos podemos hallar a Él. Él se hace un misterio hallado pero todavía un misterio. Tenemos que tener la confianza que nunca nos perderemos por cosas creadas sino por Dios. Nunca nos perderemos por ciencia, dinero, popularidad, familia, ni hermosura, “sino por un no sé qué que se halla por ventura.”

“with no other light or guide…” / “sin otra luz ni guía…”

(from the poem “The Dark Night”)

 

“with no other light or guide

than the one that burned in my heart.”

Often times, many of us are afraid to go out on an adventure. We are afraid to change the routine of our lives. We are comfortable living in what we are familiar with. Yet it is not so if we are to arrive at the knowledge and love of God. We have to take some sort of risk. Saint John of the Cross says in The Ascent of Mount Carmel: “To come to the knowledge you have not you must go by a way in which you know not.” Of course, when we first set out on our journey to God, everything feels great. That is because we are still comfortable with our surroundings. We are not too far from where we started. Yet as we move farther from our old selves and more towards God, our surroundings start to become unfamiliar. We can appear lost to others and even to ourselves. The more we journey towards God, the less we are attached to things that are not Him. That is why Saint John of the Cross says that we enter into a dark night. Yet we are not left in darkness forever. There is a light to guide us on the way. Saint John of the Cross says that there is only one light, and it is “the one that burned in my heart”. Even though the light is within John, he is not his own guide, because we cannot guide ourselves in a place we do not know. According to the common thought of what the heart is, that is, the place of love in a person, we can see that what guides us to God is the love that we have for God. Still, this is not us guiding ourselves to God by our own love. God is love. Therefore, God is the one who guides us to Himself.

 

 

(del poema “La noche oscura”)

 

“sin otra luz ni guía

sino la que en el corazón ardía”

A menudo, muchos de nosotros tenemos miedo de salir en una aventura. Tenemos miedo de cambiar la rutina de nuestras vidas. Estamos cómodos viviendo en lo que conocemos. Pero no es así si deseamos alcanzar el conocimiento y amor de Dios. Tenemos que tomar algún tipo de riesgo. San Juan de la Cruz dice en La Subida de Monte Carmelo: “Para venir a lo que no sabes has de ir por donde no sabes.” Claro, cuando ya empecemos nuestro viaje a Dios, todo se siente muy bueno. Eso es porque todavía estamos cómodos con nuestro ambiente. No estamos muy lejos de donde empezamos. Pero mientras nos movemos más lejos de nuestros mismos antiguos y más hacia Dios, nuestro ambiente empieza convertirse en algo desconocido. Nosotros podemos aparecer perdidos a los demás y aun a nosotros mismos. El mas viajamos hacia Dios, el menos somos adjuntados con cosas que no es Él. Por eso dice San Juan de la Cruz que entramos en una noche oscura. Pero no estamos dejados en las tinieblas para siempre. Hay una luz para guiarnos en el camino. San Juan de la Cruz dice que hay una sola luz, y es “la que en el corazón ardía”. Aunque la luz es dentro de Juan, él no es su propio guía, porque no podemos guiar a nosotros mismos en un lugar que no conocemos. Según el pensamiento común de lo que es el corazón, es decir, el lugar de amor en una persona, podemos ver que lo que nos guía a Dios es el amor que tenemos de Dios. Aún, esto no es nosotros guiárnosle a nosotros a Dios por nuestro propio amor. Dios es amor. Por lo tanto, Dios es el uno que le nos guía a Él mismo.

Keeping God in Our Schedule

 

When we keep God in our schedule, God keeps us in His schedule. To take a fixed amount of time out of everyday to pray is a good way to ensure that time is given directly to God alone without any other distractions. For example, my fiancée and I spend time every single day reading the Bible and praying the rosary together. These are just some examples of what you can do.

 

 

 

It is easy to find time for ourselves throughout the day. There are an infinite number of ways to entertain ourselves. Why is it so hard to give some of our time back to God? When we give time back to God, He rewards us. In my case, I have seen how taking time out of my schedule to focus solely on God has made my life better. Doing this together with my fiancée has improved our relationship as well. In addition, we also believe that our future children will be better off because of it.

 

 

 

How can we expect God to work in our lives if there is no room for Him? It is not that God is unable to help us. He can do all things. It is that we do not let ourselves be helped. If one does not take time out of each day to exercise, one will not become stronger. If one does not take time out of each day to study, one will not become smarter. It is the same with our relationship with God. If we do not take time out of our day to focus on Him, we will not become better people.

 

 

 

Perhaps, it is a process to get started into this routine of giving time to God. The best place to start is before bed. When everything has quieted down, and there is nothing left to do, silence is in the air, God is waiting there for you to talk to Him. If one does not know where to start, this is a good place.

 

 

 

From there, one can find times that work well. For example, one can say, “After breakfast, I will read the Bible everyday” or “When I get home from work, I will kneel down next to the couch and pray for five minutes.” Forming good habits such as these are important. Our lives are filled with habits and inclinations. We need to start creating good habits that will bring us directly closer to God. God will keep us in His schedule if we keep Him in ours. God is the most important person in our lives. Let us treat Him this way.

 

Catholicism in a Honduran Farm Village

For almost one year (from the summer of 2010 until the summer of 2011) I had the opportunity to live and work at a Catholic school in Honduras . During my stay in Honduras , I experienced Catholicism in many ways and on many occasions. Perhaps, my most memorable experience was Holy Week of 2011. I had originally planned to take a trip to different beaches and enjoy the vacation time. When a Catholic friend in Honduras who lived close-by my apartment heard about my plan, she scolded me for my indifferent behavior and told me I should be using Holy Week for God, not for some beach trip.
Once she offered me an alternative option, I immediately changed my mind. The alternative was to go on a mission in the mountains. It would be to a faraway place to preach the Gospel to people who do not get much of a chance to hear it. I decided to seize the opportunity, as it felt totally right in my heart.
Holy Week came, and I was very excited. I went with a team of four other missioners, three Hondurans and one Costa Rican, one Honduran was a young man and the rest of the people were young women. It took several hours riding on an old school bus and then in the back of a pickup truck down and up bumpy and rocky dirt roads. We finally arrived at the church and unloaded our bags.
The church was simple and small. The walls were covered with lime which brushed off onto one’s clothes if one were to rub up against it. Inside there were not too many decorations but just enough to keep the place looking beautiful and focused on God. I would like to call the place quaint.
This was the place in which our mission group did most of our work. We would have one session where we organized fun Catholic activities for children, another one afterwards for young people, and a final one in the evening for adults. I had the opportunity to give one talk to the young people and another to the adults. Everything was conducted in Spanish (which is why I always stress the importance of learning other languages to serve God).
The work inside the church building was only part of our mission. Our mornings were spent going door to door reading from the Bible, explaining the truths of God to people, and praying with the people we met. This was a very adventurous experience for me. Going door to door does not sound very adventurous, but allow me to explain what sort of homes these were.
The simplest way to describe the place where we were is by saying it was a farm village or spread-out town. It was not a typical town. Each house was usually a decent walk from the other. All the houses were very similar in that they were white, just like the church. They were very primitive-looking. Some houses had electricity, but not all. The men would work on the farms with the older boys while the women would cook and take care of the younger children. Many stoves were fueled by wood. Dogs, chickens, roosters, turkeys, cows, and horses were scattered about.
Many of the Catholic people in this place were very open to hearing the Word of God that we were preaching to them. They listened attentively and were interested in what we had to tell them. Some would even participate in our discussions. It is not surprising, either. These people are so far away from society that they rarely get any chance at all to hear the Word of God. They have no priest. A priest only comes once per year to celebrate Mass. They are happy with whatever they can get.
One interesting thing to note about these people is that they were extremely generous. Even though this place had less money than any other place I had been to, I remember eating up to six times in one day and being stuffed the entire day. This was because many of the people to whom we preached would want to reward us for our efforts and so gave us food. It would be impolite to refuse such an offer from someone who did not have much to give, so we accepted nearly every time.
One man, after I asked him where I could buy a machete, gave me his own with a handcrafted sheath. Machetes were carried by all farmers in this place and were not too cheap, so it was a big sacrifice for him to make, but he did it out of generosity and his faith in God. I prayed for him many times and you should, too.
The mission was a physically trying but rewarding experience. I had been to a place I had never thought existed but had been looking for my entire life. In the end, I was glad my friend gave me the push to go. I had experienced Catholicism in a Honduran farm village, and it was one of the best times of my life.