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.
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.
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.
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.
(from the poem “Stanzas concerning an ecstasy experienced in
“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
mucho bajo le
y su ciencia
que se queda no
toda ciencia trascendiendo…
…Este saber no
es de tan alto
que los sabios
jamás le pueden vencer;
que no llega su
a no entender
toda ciencia trascendiendo.”
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.
(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.”
(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.
 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one — I am talking like a madman — with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.
 Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.
 Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea;
 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren;
 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches.
 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed for ever, knows that I do not lie.
 At Damascus, the governor under King Ar’etas guarded the city of Damascus in order to seize me,
 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped his hands.