Tag Archives: Faithfulness

Christian Discipleship

How do we become a Disciple of Christ? This is one of the greatest questions to ask.

Leonard Porter’s rendition of Jesus taking up His cross for the Stations of the Cross commissioned by the Church of Christ the King in New Vernon, New Jersey.

Firstly, the etymology of the word ‘Disciple’ referred to the people who used to study under great Rabbis and Teachers in the past. Thus, the essence of Discipleship means, ‘to become like the Master’.

Secondly, a Disciple of Christ requires one to be interiorly conformed to the Father’s Will. To be like Christ. How though? Answer: A RELATIONSHIP. The most fundamental criteria which everything rests on. If we think about it, being in a real relationship always entitles one to RIGHTS and RESPONSIBILITY.

1) RIGHTS: Being in a relationship with Christ gives one rights. Yes, we can ‘appeal’ to God to help us whenever we need Him. And we should all the time.

2) RESPONSIBILITY: Being in a relationship with Christ also requires us to grow responsibly. If not, why bother at all? For example, we must pray, mortify ourselves, go for mass and confession, etc. Again, not just exteriorly, but interiorly. Being truly present in heart, mind and soul.

3) CONSISTENCY: Inevitably, a Disciple of Christ must have consistency. This word is derived from the Biblical Word ‘Faithfulness’ or ‘Steadfastness’. A Faithful Disciple will always consistently persevere.

Back to the concept of a Relationship: Ultimately, when we say we want to be a Disciple of Christ, we are telling God, “We honor Your Holy Covenant.”

We are to be obedient to ALL the commandments and teachings of Jesus, not cherry-pick them. Only then, would we ‘remain in His love’, as He commanded us.

Do you still want to be a Disciple of Christ? If yes, are you cooperating with His Grace to grow responsibly and consistently?

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Originally posted on Instagram.

Sell Everything

I began my discernment journey 11 years ago with these two words that kept coming up in prayer, but I wasn’t sure what it really meant.

Months later, I attended a Vocation Discernment Retreat, hoping for God to give me an affirmation that I wasn’t called to the priesthood, so that I could get a confirmation on marrying the girl of my dreams then. But God instead revealed a path that immediately gripped my heart with excitement and joy, even amidst the pain of knowing I would have to leave the one I love with all my heart. I then realized: God was asking me to sell my dreams of marriage, for a higher calling to the priesthood.

Many years later while in my 6th year of seminary formation, I went through a vocation crisis. I was experiencing desolation in prayer, unworthiness in sin, and even an attraction towards someone. I thought God changed His mind, and I was close to calling it quits. That’s when I learnt that just as love is more than a feeling, but a choice, so too is my vocation dependent not just on my feelings, but on a choice to remain faithful regardless of how I was feeling. At this stage, I was asked to sell my need for spiritual consolations.

Recently, after having completed my seminary formation and waiting for my ordination, I went through another round of crisis, feeling frustrated and disappointed with things that seemed to obstruct what I wanted to do in my eventual priesthood. It wasn’t till someone challenged me if I had fully given up my life to Christ that I realize I had placed so much emphasis on my priesthood as the pearl of great price, that I hadn’t really fully given my life to Him who ought to be my pearl of great price. This time, God was asking me to sell my attachment to the vocation of priesthood in order to more fully give my life to Him and really do whatever He tells me. And when I did, all desolation was removed, and I felt immense peace once again.

For now I’ve learnt, that seeking one’s vocation is not about the WHAT, but about WHO am I giving my life entirely to, so that I do whatever He tells me to, even if it means SELLING EVERYTHING.

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Originally posted on Instagram.

Not A Game of Chance: What Marriage is Really All About

“Yeah, I’m getting divorced too,” one of my co-workers replied to my boss the other day. The two ladies then exchanged stories about their horrible husbands and that “awful institution” called “marriage.”

Both of their husbands cheated on them, and both of them dealt with aID-100210227 multitude of other issues with their husbands that only served to add to the pain of their failed marriages. It was awful to hear what they went through, and I don’t blame them for feeling hurt by the whole experience.

“There’s so much of that out there!” my boss exclaimed. “I know one of my girlfriends who is cheating on her husband and I know a couple of other people where both of them are cheating. I guess you’re lucky if it doesn’t happen to you.”

Then my boss looked over at me and, knowing I’m engaged, said “sorry, but I never want to get married again.”

“No,” I wanted to say, “I’m sorry.”

But I didn’t get it out. I was too busy sorting through all of the reactions in my own head. I ended up remaining silent for the entire conversation because somehow I didn’t think that these women would understand.

I didn’t think they’d understand that if I said, “my fiancé and I are never going to have that issue” that my statement would be one of fact and confidence, not one of blind love and young bravado.

I didn’t think they’d understand what I mean if I said “marriage isn’t just a luck of the draw. It doesn’t work like a lottery.” Because, to them, it does, while for me, I know that it doesn’t.

Marriage isn’t a drawing of the straws, where if your spouse cheats on you, well, “sorry, you just drew the short straw. There’s nothing you could have done to prevent it!” It’s not an institution where if you are a strong, happy, and healthy couple you’re just “the lucky ones.” It’s not an institution where the fates decide who “wins” and who “loses.” It’s not a promise you enter into like buying a lottery ticket – someone will win the jackpot while most people just buy empty tickets.

Yet this is how our society has been trained to see marriage. This approach to marriage has so infiltrated our society that people refuse to believe that there should be anything like “marriage prep,” because how do you prep yourself for a game of chance? There’s no way of making yourself any luckier, so why are you bothering to work on it? Our society has abandoned the idea that marriage is something you work on, and even more so, it has forgotten, and thus doesn’t understand, that marriage is a calling.

It is a foreign concept that one would be able to say with complete confidence “my spouse will never cheat on me.” And yet, I can say that. I can say that because I have a faith and a God who stand behind me in that statement. And I can say that because the love my fiancé and I share is not human, it is divine.

We love each other because we love God and we have discovered that in loving one another, we get to love God more fully. Moreover, the love that we have for one another is divine in origin. God gave it to us at our baptism and it had a full 15-20ish years to grow and mature so that when we met, it blossomed.

That makes us blessed, but it does not make us lucky. We both worked hard on ourselves and on making God the center of our world before we even knew the other existed. In doing so, we returned to God the gift He gave us in that first sacrament. We returned to Him our hearts, and with them we returned to the Creator the divine love placed in our hearts for one another.

God knows how to nourish our hearts and souls better than anyone. In nourishing our hearts, He nourished the love that grew in them for each other so that when we met, my soul immediately knew who my fiancé was. (And it only took me a couple of months to catch up with what my soul knew at first sight!)

We have a faith that can make these promises. Promises of faithfulness, love, commitment. Our faith allows us to make these promises because He who gave us love was faithful in His love until the end. He who originated love in our hearts died for us out of that same love. We as Catholics are granted the same strength of faithfulness to the end when we return our love to the one who is love.

When we participate in making our love a sacrament, when we make a way for God’s grace to enter the world every day, when we demonstrate outwardly our inner devotion, we can say with full knowledge and confidence that we are not in a game of luck. We are in an institution of work and prayer, and we can rest assured that our success rests squarely on the shoulders of our prayerful work and the support of a God who made the universe.

Blessed Pope John Paul II is famous for his line: “man finds himself only in true gift of self.” If we only receive what we give away, then we must strive every day to give our hearts and our love back to Christ.

Giving a gift back doesn’t take luck. It takes work.

Exulting in Monotony

For those of us in the cold-weather states, and even for many of you in the traditionally warm-weather areas of the United States, this winter has been especially bad. Waking up in the morning to bone-chilling cold and a nice gray color to the skies at all times is at best disheartening and at worst devastating. The human heart longs for hope, for joy, for light; sometimes the winter makes it difficult to find those things.

That, I think, is where we most need to rely on God’s faithfulness. In the dreariness of a cold winter morning, when getting out of bed seems like the most difficult task in the world (maybe that’s just me, but I don’t think it is), we ought to remember God’s constant love and care for His creation. Venture, if you will, into the mind of G.K. Chesterton with me for a moment:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

This Chesterton quote, from his book Orthodoxy, where he is as brilliant as ever, is for me a light when the dreariness of winter has set in. We wait for Spring to come as if it is a necessity that it eventually will; maybe God does not. We hope for sunshine as if it is a random occurence of nature when the sun comes out; for God it may not be random. When we experience the dead of winter, we feel as though life has almost ended, and yet it seems that God may just be waiting with the anticipation and joy of a child, prepared to say “do it again” and bring new life out of the death of winter.

If you’re like me, winter is fun for a while. Snow can be cool, the cold isn’t that big of a deal, and Christmas is especially exciting. Then, if you’re also like me, the novelty of winter wears off after a while and it begins to drag on as we simply wait for it to be over. Every time the snow falls, we wonder when it will finally be over. Maybe – just maybe – our Father in heaven is looking down at the snowfall every time with the joy of a child, never tiring of the beauty of snow and never losing the novelty we had the first time we experience a fresh coat of snow. There is a good chance that every time we bundle up to go out into the frigid temperatures the Lord is not asking us just to get through, but to embrace life as an adventure as we might have when we are a child, “for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

Understand that I, like many of you, am excited for the days when winter fades into spring and I can be out playing golf. I simply think, though, that my Heavenly Father and yours might be asking me to savor every moment with the innocence of a child and to thank Him for each new day as if it was my first.

Pope Paul VI’s Playlist

In an attempt to stay plugged in to American culture while I live overseas for 16 months, I have regularly acquainted myself with the Billboard Top 40.

Not surprisingly, in reflecting on the love proposed by Humanae Vitae, the concept of faithfulness is glaringly absent from mainstream media and culture.  Not that freedom, totality, and fruitfulness are overwhelmingly present either, but out of the top 40 singles in the U.S. right now, there are maybe 5 songs that even mention any intention of monogamy.  Why the lack of commitment?  Probably the same reason my guitar skills plateaued 15 years ago: commitment and discipline are harder than immediate gratification.  Why practice scales when all I need are “three chords and the truth”, right? (Or so said country singer and song writer Harlan Howard.)

Faithfulness, a gift of self to one person forever, without rescinding and re-gifting, is unpopular because it generally has very little immediate payoff and it requires basically everything from you.  Forever.  And let’s face it, when immersed in a self-perpetuating market of immediately breakable and obsolete products, it can be difficult to see why we should view relationships any differently than we do our culture of disposable products.

After all, if Beyonce is right, and people are replaceable “in a minute” (“Irreplaceable” sat at #1 for ten weeks in its day), then where does JPII’s idea that we are all “unique and unrepeatable” fit in?  The foot in the door is the fact that, beneath all our scrambling to “find new ways to fall apart” (Fun.’s “We Are Young“, currently #15) and become “wide awake”(Katy Perry at #2) to the apparent futility of relationships, we’re actually just putting bandages on the wounds that are a direct result from trying to live contrary to our created nature. Life becomes an endless chug-fest of Pepto-Bismol because of a 3-meal-a-day McDonald’s habit or daily blister care because you bought too-small shoes on the clearance rack.

If JPII and PVI are right, then each of us bears an intrinsic desire for faithfulness and we should be able to infuse healing and understanding into our culture by speaking to the illness, not merely the symptoms.  What would that speech sound like?  In some cursory ways, it would look like Jason Mraz’s current hit “I won’t give up” (chillin’ at #23), with statements like “I’m giving you all my love” and “I don’t wanna be someone who walks away so easily” and, yes, “I won’t give up”.  On a slightly deeper level, this would sound like a resounding “YES”–fiat–an answer to the cries for fidelity found in Kelly Clarkson’s “Dark Side“(#40 in the UK):

“Will you stay/ Even if it hurts/ Even if I try to push you out/ Will you return?/ And remind me who I really am/ Please remind me who I really am.”

Later in the song, she pleads:

“Don’t run away/ Don’t run away/ Just tell me that you will stay/ Promise me you will stay”

Picture this: you, Jesus’ wounded and terrified Bride, kneeling next to Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, echoing the same words, pleading with Him not to run away; and, because real love is always faithful, He stays.  He takes the whips, thorns, splinters, nails, and tomb out of love.  It is in Christ’s choice to be faithful and to never leave or forsake, that we may see the deepest root of the illness we’re facing: we’ve forgotten–or haven’t been told–whose beloved we really, truly are.

The fraudulent love that media and mediocrity seeks may tell us who we should be (even offering us helpful “Steps to Keep Your Partner Happy and Satisfied!” suggestions) but these are always merely conjecture and bravado.  The culture of lust says you’re only worthwhile as long as your desirable attributes last, which JPII tells us, “casts a permanent shadow over the relationship”; those lies shake people to their core with doubts as to their own dignity and worth.

So, instead of enjoying “She Likes Me For Me“(Blessed Union of Soul’s #8 hit in 1999), we now get “Somebody That I Used to Know“(Gotye at #6).  All the while our Groom quietly and resolutely reveals to us who we are through His unwavering faithfulness.  His true love says to each of us, “I created no one else like you and you are forever worthy of my life and death.”

It is love of this high nature that we are called to; we have in our hands as Christians the responsibility to inform each soul that they are “someone willed by the Creator ‘for his own sake'” and that they are “unique and unrepeatable, someone chosen by eternal Love” (Theology of the Body lectures, 15:4).

In marriage, we have the opportunity to freely and totally give ourselves to a singular someone, who cannot be rivaled, thereby proclaiming the faithfulness of God to the world .  This fidelity can be glimpsed in Journey’s “Faithfully”, Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up”, and yes, even in Bieber’s new “As Long As You Love Me” (#30, UK).  This, however, does not fully seize upon the highest, deepest, and truest degree of love in the Eucharist and our Lord’s words: given up for you, shed for you.

For you.

It is in His eternal sacrifice, ever-available to us, that we see our real worth, for He deems us worthy of His flesh and blood at each Mass, regardless of our estimation of ourselves.

Brothers and sisters, may we as bearers of the Good News, fix our eyes on Him and begin to harmonize His truest of love songs in our every breath and by our every action.  He taught us the melody very clearly when He said, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34). Get plenty of rest, treat your vocal cords well, and work on breathing from the diaphragm, because we have quite the concert to give.  As one great conductor wrote in his most famous encyclical Humanae Vitae, “…fidelity…can sometimes be difficult, but is always possible, always noble… [and] is a source of profound and lasting happiness.”

Take a deep breath.  The curtain is rising.