EDante, AIT Home, January 2021
2020 is an extraordinary year that may be remembered as the most traumatic year of our generation. As early as January, Taal volcano overwhelmed the sky in Metro Manila and nearby provinces with ashes and lava causing suspension of flights, schools, and businesses. Moonyeen and I were just stepping out of the campus of the St Paul College, Pasig City where a Couples for Christ leaders conference was held when the news about the eruption broke out. The following day our scheduled flight to Mindanao was cancelled forcing us to look for alternative mode of travel. We took a 24-hour journey via a ship from Manila to Cebu.
In February, news about the corona virus outbreak in China came out and travel restrictions were introduced in many countries especially travelers from China, Japan, Republic of Korea and Singapore. In March, the UN office in Bangkok was closed and staff were asked to work from home initially for three weeks. Within a few weeks, cases of corona virus surged in many parts of the world, particularly in Europe and North America. Our son Kent just managed to return home to Bangkok from Vancouver the day when Thailand shut down its borders.
But God forewarned us that the pandemic was not short term. Through a message from True Life in God received by Vassula on 13 March, God said: “summon the people and tell them: without repenting and truthfulness in your prayer this evil will last longer than you think, turn to Me, your God and repent; a sincere and universal prayer will reach Me.” Indeed, at that time, nobody anticipated that the pandemic would continue. Despite all measures, the virus has spread in all corners of the world and the number of infections surged exponentially. By year end, 12,000 people were dying each day.
The Lord asked us to repent and pray. Repentance demands a complete change of heart and a change in one’s way of life. To change is difficult; but not to change is fatal. In His goodness, the Lord permitted the pandemic to happen. He has stopped the world. He has ceased our travel, sports, gambling, entertainment, businesses, shopping, holidays, and many other activities. He has removed our busyness and forced us to stay home. He has given us more time for family and ourselves. He allowed trials and suffering. He has done all these out of love and for one sole purpose, to save us from eternal death.
Listen to the words of the Lord to one of His followers: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered and anxious about so many things, but only one thing is necessary.” (Luke 10:42). That one thing is to know, love and serve God. We were made for that purpose. To love God with all our hearts, all our minds and all our strength is the greatest of all the commandments. If we no longer fulfil that purpose, we will no longer reach our destination, which is heaven with God. Therefore, we repent by giving God his rightful place in our hearts.
We must therefore bravely free our hearts from all matters that deprive the presence of God. We should not be afraid to knock down those that are unnecessary but keep only those that are essentials. We should examine each affection, desire and passion against the word of God. We should assess our actions and how we spend our time and use our resources against the justice of God. We need to demolish many things unnecessary and give more space for God to reign in our hearts.
About 2000 years ago, God sounded a call for repentance through his prophet John the Baptist. That call preceded the beginning of the mission of Jesus. It was a signal of Jesus great coming into the world. John the Baptist proclaimed: “The time has come, the Kingdom of God is at hand, Repent and believe the Good News”. Once again, God sounded a call for repentance amid the present pandemic. He signaled the time of the second coming of Jesus. The bible warns us to be ready because the exact timing of his second coming is not known by men (Luke 12:40; Matthew 25:13). It also tells us that there will be many signs. This current pandemic is one of these signs.
Jesus sends this message for us through True Life in God: "...now the time is near, the time of My Return, that is ever so imminent; little do you know generation, that soon, very soon, My Light will be seen in the sky; trembling with fear will grip those who disdained Me; cheers of joy will rise from all those who never stopped loving Me... after that Sign the world will never be the same". The Lord is indeed coming again. Just as in the old days, we must prepare to meet Him with our repentance and prayers.
EDante, AIT Home, 25 December 2019
This reflection draws from the visit of Pope Francis to Thailand in November 2019. My family were among the 70,000 excited crowd gathered in a stadium in Bangkok on 21 November to receive the Pope and attend mass with him. Expectations of heavy traffic, endless queue and scorching weather turned into amazement. We easily reached the venue, got through the entrance into our seats within minutes and were blessed with surprisingly bearable warm weather. The Pope riding in his “Pope Mobile” passed by waving his hands just four meters away and blessed us with divine joy and peace. Everything that happened that wonderful afternoon was extraordinary and something that will be remembered for the rest of our lives.
Following the event, we met an Indonesian friend, Andrian, in a gas station on our way back home. He, together with his family, was also in the stadium with the Pope. He told us an incredible story of their encounter with Pope Francis at St Louis Hospital in the morning that day. He said he and wife Lily wanted to get the blessing of the Pope for their 10-year-old son who needs special care due to some paralysis. This issue started from birth, yet the couple decided, possibly against the doctor’s advice, to keep the baby knowing the great sacrifices they must endure for his care.
He recalled his miraculous escape from traffic congestion to get to St Louis Hospital. They were led somehow to a small Soi (street) they didn’t know that brought them to the very gate of the venue. They found a spot among many other disabled and sick children waiting for the Pope. Suddenly, the most unexpected happened, they saw the Pope who suddenly got off from his vehicle and rushed towards them giving the most wonderful miracle and blessing of all – a kiss to their son. They were so touched to the bottom of their hearts.
About a month after, we met Andrian and Lily at a fellowship following the Sunday mass at St Gabriel church in Sapan Mai. I spoke with Lily who was carrying her special son. She recalled their experience with the Pope and showed me some photos. Lily told of another miracle that day with the Pope. She felt a new warmth from his son’s body after the kiss from the Pope. It appears that some form of healing has occurred.
I was so moved by their experience and reflected on God’s mercy and compassion to those who suffer for the love of God and for His commandments. It reminded me of the words of Jesus I read earlier “..[many] have gone far apart from Me, when they encounter My Cross they get terrified from it; have I not taught you that My Cross and I are linked and inseparable?” (True Life in God). In scripture, Jesus says the same thing: “If you want to be my disciple, carry your cross”. Indeed, the Christian mystery of suffering is a paradox. While suffering may look like a destructive force that breaks us down, it is in spiritual truth a way towards joy and peace with God. It is a pathway to heaven and an integral part of Christian life. This is an important truth for all of us who are afraid to suffer, who run away easily from any minor inconveniences and trials, and who breaks God’s command of love and fidelity to avoid the crosses of life.
The birth of Christ is a commencement of a life of suffering of the Holy Family. From the first journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary following the leading of the Spirit embarked into a great risk from robbers along the road and uncertainties about a place to stay. At that time, there were no more relatives living in Bethlehem due to persecutions in that place against the descendants of David. They feared they may not provide a comfortable place for the birth of Jesus who is the King of Kings and the Almighty God. After the birth of Christ, they were told to remain in Bethlehem according to the prophecy that the Messiah must come from the place of David. They obeyed and stayed with some help from the locals until about a year when an Angel told Joseph to take Jesus and His mother to Egypt to escape from Herod’s wrath. Thanks to the gifts from the wise men, Joseph was able to procure a donkey and bought some provisions for the long, arduous and risky journey. As refugees in a foreign land, the Holy Family bore hardships, poverty, persecutions and uncertainties for over three years until it was time to return to Nazareth. Arriving in Nazareth, they found their small house, abandoned for about four years, in ruins and needed much repair to be livable. Such was the beginning of their life of suffering which culminated in the cross at Golgotha.
As we celebrate the day of the birth of Christ, let us pray for those who suffer great trials and difficulties in life, especially the sick, disabled, orphaned, refugees, abandoned, separated, unloved and prisoners. We pray for courage and perseverance and for God’s grace to allow them to endure life sufferings. Let us also pray for ourselves that we may have the courage to face our own crosses and see them in a different light, a pathway to heaven and divine life. May God bless us all!
EDante, AIT home 25 December 2018
The evening of 15 December was the highlight of the annual AIT Catholic Community Christmas caroling. It was the time to visit Prof Karl Weber and celebrate Christmas with him together with his household members and about 40 special guests, mostly retired expats from Germany and other parts of Europe. We were asked to fetch Father Joe Maier who lives in the slums of Klong Toey on our way to Prof Weber’s residence.
Father Joe just returned to Bangkok from the US and was still recovering from the long flight. Being 79 years old, he went to visit his remaining family members while he is still able to travel. As he emerged from the entrance of his Mercy Centre building we saw a weak and ageing Father Joe in his casual white shirt and dark pants. Seeing us in our colorful Christmas carol attire, he stopped to ask if he looked okay and we all assured him that he is fine. While in the car, he sighed wearily about the political crisis that heavily polarizes people in the US into pro or against the current administration. But more so, about how Americans turned Christmas celebration into a purely secular and commercial holiday season. People no longer tell about God and the birth of Christ and nor use the Holy Name of Christ in their greetings.
The truth is that the whole world is making Christmas celebration less Christian. We treat Christmas as a holiday of leisure and consumption, in marked contrast to the true spirit of Christmas. We gave more importance to decorating Christmas trees, exchanging gifts, eating the best food, shopping expensive goods and partying with families and friends. Christmas cards no longer bear the name of Christ. They read “Season’s greetings”, “Holiday season”, “Year-end celebration”, "Happy holidays", etc. because people started to believe that the Holy Name of Jesus is offensive to other religions.
Through the messages contained in the book True Life in God, Jesus expresses his sadness about the way we come to celebrate Christmas these days:
“Today I come with peace-terms and a Message of Love, but the peace I am offering is blasphemed by the earth, and the Love I am giving them is mocked and jeered in this Eve of My Birth. Mankind is celebrating these days without My Holy Name. My Holy Name has been abolished and they take the day of My birth as a great holiday of leisure, worshiping idols. Satan has entered into the hearts of My Children, finding them weak and asleep. I have warned the world…” (True Life in God).
It is good that God still addresses us as “My Children” although we no longer treat Him as our Father. But God is good and is always good. He has warned us through many natural disasters that happened and those that are yet to come. He wanted to draw our full attention to the true meaning of Christmas and the good it is offering us. The truth is that Christmas is about healing of our soul. We know of our body well and how to make it healthy and strong and able to make us look good and allow us to travel around and do our work without disruption. Sickness of the body brings all sorts of problems, not only physical not also mentally and emotionally and affects relationships, income and overall state of happiness. We want to keep healthy to the extent possible. It is therefore to no surprise that we see a marked expansion of health products and services worldwide.
But where do we go when the soul is diseased, broken and poisoned? Do we even know the condition of our soul? Man is both body and soul. The body will have its end when we die but the soul does not die, it continues to live in eternity. The soul is diseased when it is deprived of its true origin, God. When one lives without the true faith, or in complete rejection of God, the soul is broken. The soul is poisoned when it is laden with sins. The Church teaches about the seven deadly sins of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. They are called deadly because they can “kill” the spiritual part of the soul. The soul of a sinner is filled with guilt that reproaches and causes nightmares at sleep. It is devoid of sanctifying grace that gives faith, hope and love. When a sinner reaches old age, his soul suffers in agony, remorse and terror as God gradually reveals its true condition. On the same book True Life in God, Jesus explains this truth:
“When the hour of Darkness comes, I will show you your insides; I will turn your soul inside out and when you will see your soul as black as coal, not only will you experience a distress like never before, but you will beat your breast with agony that your own darkness is far worse than the darkness surrounding you. I will make human life scarcer than ever before; then when My wrath will be appeased, I will set My Throne in each one of you and together with one voice and one heart and one language you will praise Me, the Lamb” (True Life in God).
What Christ is offering us at Christmas is healing of soul and through that healing an inner peace and tranquility. It is the forgiveness of sins and removal of guilt that he offers so that the soul is alive and active again. Jesus can take a soul back to the freshness of a child’s soul when through penance the sinner washes, detoxicates, cures and recomposes his poor soul. Forgiveness and healing is found in no one else except through the name of Jesus. For there is no other name under heaven given to mankind (Acts 4:12). Only if we fully appreciate the meaning and significance of what healing of souls mean and what it can bring to our lives, there is no logical explanation why we should run away from Christ at Christmas and turn Christmas into something vain and useless. When the resurrected Jesus appeared to His apostles he made his peace offering to us very clear: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
Father Joe was truly relieved to be back to Bangkok where he can see Christmas being lived in Christ and with Christ. He said he was grateful for the religious freedom given by the Thai people. He was happy to join the Christmas carol at Prof Karl Weber’s together with his beloved children of the AIT Catholic Community. On the eve of Christ’s birth, while saying the Christmas mass at AIT, Father Joe astonished us by telling that his greatest joy and honour in life is with the AIT Catholic Community. Father Joe has been our priest for more than 40 years, yet he is well-known globally for his charity work towards children and communities in the slums of Bangkok, for which he had received many international and national recognition, and had written several books. More information about his work is available from the website https://www.mercycentre.org/.
So on this Christmas day, may you seek healing and forgiveness from Jesus through the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist and be filled with peace and joy that comes from Jesus and may your family and work be blessed now and for the coming new year.
EDante, AIT home 26 December 2017
Daniel in the lion’s den is one of the old testament bible stories I loved so much when I was young. The story tells how Daniel, a Jew slave, was promoted to high office in Babylon by king Darius, but jealous rivals tricked Darius into issuing a decree which condemned Daniel to death (Daniel 6). Against his will, king Darius ordered Daniel to be cast into the lion’s den hoping that Daniel’s God would save him. The next day the king hastened to find Daniel alive giving him immense joy. Because of Daniel's holiness and faith, God gave him the gift of “understanding of all visions and dreams” (Daniel 1:17) and revealed to him the high prophecies of Christ and of the Antichrist, which are a key to present and future times. Daniel lived around 500 years before the birth of Christ.
The most significant of Daniel’s prophecies is the “seventy weeks” period for establishing the time of the birth of Jesus. This prophecy opens with these words; “Seventy weeks have been declared for your people and your holy city…” (Daniel 9:24). The word “weeks” is a translation from a Hebrew word “shayuim” which means “sevens”. It is like the English word “dozen”, which refers to a dozen of anything. The word “weeks” in Daniel’s prophecy also refers to a seven of anything. Therefore, the “seventy weeks” is understood as seventy sevens of years, i.e. 70 x 7 years, which is equal to 490 years. This is the period given to establish the year of the birth of Christ from the time when the rebuilding of Jerusalem was announced (Daniel 9:25). This prophecy was well understood by the Jews in the old testament times and even during the time of Christ’s birth.
Knowing Daniel’s prophecy very well, the Jews had anticipated the time of the coming of the Messiah. This is evidenced in the Gospels. For instance, Luke observes that “the people were filled with expectations, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. For this, John adamantly answered them, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming, I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals” (Luke 3:15-16). In the same Gospel, Luke tells of a man called Simeon who received a revelation from the Holy Spirit that he should not die before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord (Luke 2:25-26).
Maria Valtorta’s Poem of Man-God further reveals that the Jews had anticipated the coming of the Messiah. From that book, an interesting question is asked by the child Mary when she was a little less than three years old to her old mother Anne: “How long will it be before we have the Emmanuel?” For this, Anne responds: “About thirty years, my darling.” In the same book, Gamaliel is seen speaking with fellow Pharisees and their followers about the coming of the Messiah according to Daniel's prophecy. He states that the Messiah must had already been born, because the seventy prophesied weeks, from the time the decree of the reconstruction of the Temple was issued, expired some ten years before that time. Fellow Pharisees objected strongly believing that the Messiah, known as the Prince of Peace, would come only when Israel is free from the slavery of the Roman Empire. The boy Jesus at twelve years old interrupted the conflict and confirmed that Gamaliel was right. What follows was a heated discussion between the child Jesus and the group of Pharisees that we read in Luke 2:46, "Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions."
Later in the same book, it is shown that the time of birth came much earlier than anticipated owing to the prayers of Mary asking God for the grace of sending the Messiah sooner. How can God respond to such prayer? Can God make wrong the prophecy made several hundred years ago? Because of the prayer of Mary and perhaps of other just people as well, God indeed shortened the prophetic period of seventy weeks, while keeping the number of years (490 years) unchanged. This was possible by taking the measure of the prophetic time according to the course of the moon, not of the sun. A lunar year has 11 days less than a solar year. Mary’s prayer hastened the birth of Christ by 11 days for each of the prophetic year. This amounts to a total of 5,390 days or about 15 years over the period of 490 years. Mary therefore waited for only 15 years, and not 30 years according to the original idea of the prophecy of Daniel, to become the Mother of Jesus at the age of 17 or 18 years old.
As we celebrate Christmas, let us thank God for listening to the prayers of His people by sending Jesus to the world sooner. Let us also thank Mary for offering herself to God as a virgin to bring Jesus to the world. The child Mary herself explains that being a virgin means one does not want to know human love, but only the love of God. It means that one has no other thought but for the Lord. It means to remain children in the flesh and angels in the heart. It means that one has no eyes but to look at God, and ears to listen to Him, and a mouth to praise Him, hands to offer oneself as a victim, feet to follow Him fast, and a heart and a life to be given to Him. Mary did all these to obtain the grace of God for saving His people.
EDante, 4 June 2017 Pentecost Sunday, AIT home
God first wants intimacy
Let me begin this reflection with a story. A long time ago, there was a young prince who was looking for a lovely girl to marry. One day, as he drove from his palace to a nearby city, he had to pass through a rather poor area. He happened to see out of the window a beautiful young girl. He was attracted to her immediately. So he made several trips to the poor area over the next couple of days in order to see the girl from his car. Soon he began to feel that he was in love. But now he had a problem. How should he proceed to introduce himself? He thought he could order her to the palace and then propose marriage. But no, he felt he would not want to overwhelm the girl by his authority and power. He thought he could arrive at her door in his royal robe and with a bow ask her hand. No, it won’t work he thought. He wanted the girl to accept him for love. He thought he could pretend to be an ordinary boy and try to gain her interest. After he proposed, he could reveal his real self. But still, he felt that it would still be too dramatic.
Finally, he said he would give up his princely role and move into her neighborhood. There he would take up work as a carpenter. During his work in the day and during his time off in the evening, he would get acquainted with the people, begin to share their interests and concerns, begin to talk their language. And in due time, should fortune be with him, he would make her acquaintance in a natural way. And should she come to love him, as he had already come to love her, then he would ask for her hand. Like any other fairy tale the story ended when the two got married and lived together forever.
This is what God is trying to do with us. We know God as the great creator of the universe and humanity, as having great power and majesty and as one who reigns in heaven and earth. But few people realized that God is a great and persistent lover. Just like the above story, He is in love with us. Poor and wretched as we are, He emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave, and appearing in the form of man He humbled himself (Phil 2:6-8) to meet us on our own poverty that we might respond freely to His love.
This wonderful truth is celebrated in the famous Christian song: “Jesus, lover of my soul, Jesus, I will never let You go, You've taken me from the miry clay, You've set my feet upon the rock. And now I know, I love you, I need you, though my world may fall, I'll never let You go, My Saviour, My closest Friend.” God is a lover and a friend. God loves us and He wants our love. But it had to be free and voluntary love. He could have ordered us to love Him but that would not be voluntary. He could have appeared to us in his princely glory, but he does not want to force us to obey. He wanted to win our love without overwhelming us by the magnificence of His divinity.
Being a great Lover, the Lord always speaks of love to His beloved. His loving words and deeds are recorded in the bible. In fact, the entire bible can be summed up with just one word, i.e. Love. He also speaks love through prophets and mystics. My favourite loving words from God were spoken through St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople (349-407):
“I your father, I your spouse, I your home, I your nurse, I your root, I your foundation. Whatever you want, I will be. You will lack nothing. I will labor for you. For I came to serve and not to be served. I will be your friend and your host, your head and your brother, your sister and your mother. I will be everything. Only be intimate with Me! I will be poor for you, errant for you, on the Cross for you, in the Tomb for you. Above I plead the Father for your sake, on earth I became intercessor to the Father for your sake. You are everything for Me, brother, co-heir, friend and member. What more do you want?”
Even today, God continues to speak of His love. From the book True Life in God, the heavenly Father sings His love hymn for us: “I desired us to be united forever; you needing Me, loving Me and bound forever to Me and I bound to you; I who created you…and I who was first to lay eyes on you; I who filled you with My Spirit willed it; I will care for you; I will soothe you if in pain; I will cover you with My blessings; I will provide what you lack; I am Infinite Wealth; you need not fear with Me, I am He who holds the earth's foundations; leave Me free to do with you whatsoever I want; I am so happy having you near Me, you so frail and weak, for I know that your heart will let Me do as I please with you; fear not, for I am your Heavenly Father, and I love you beyond any human understanding; I am Yahweh and if you have not heard afore, I am telling you now, that I am known to be Faithful and My word stands secure; you must learn how I feel, how I work and how My love enkindles hearts; how else would you be able to tell My beloved children? I want you to be intimate with Me.”
God first wants intimacy. He wants to be near and close with us much more than we have ever desire it. Our soul experienced the desire for God at its first encounter with Him at its creation. This encounter made a deep impression upon our spirit and caused an inner and lifelong desire for God. Therefore, it is a human need to seek and believe in God, much more than the need to eat and drink. However, man does not recognize this need so he ends up looking at something else with the hope of satisfying the need of his soul. Man experiences this feeling of restlessness and often asking himself what exactly it is I am looking for in life. St Augustine expresses this restlessness beautifully in his famous words: “My heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee. My heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee”.
Today the Holy Spirit is speaking to us everywhere, inviting all us to respond to God’s love and call for intimacy. Intimacy is the key to the knowledge of God. It is the time of grace. God’s call is manifested powerfully in our time through the spiritual renewal movement within the church. It places an emphasis on intimacy with God and expressing the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Through this spiritual movement, communities and prayer groups have been formed. Members have experienced a new life within them and committed to practice a Christ-centred life. We have the proof that God still loves us and that He has sent His Holy Spirit powerfully in our time to say to us: “Come.”
We must respond
We must submit ourselves to Him. We have to open the door of our heart to grace and without any hesitation, fall in our Father’s Arms. We must allow God to reveal himself fully in us through an intimate and loving relationship. But how, you may wonder? It is not possible because we are sinners, you may object? The key is this: “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Past is past, we can’t change it. But we can decide what we want to do in future. To sin no more requires a total change. In the church terminology, it is called repentance which comes from the Greek word Metanoia. It means a transformative change of heart and suggests change of mind and reformation of lives.
The first critical step in repentance is the recognition of sin. Oftentimes we do not see our sins. Thus, we walk about life as if we are fine but actually we are on the path to hell. Let us learn a lesson from the life of Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. Apart from his betrayal, the New Testament offers very little information about Judas. However, a tiny reference of him is found in John 12:6: “He said this (referring to Judas), not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.”
The betrayal and eventual suicide was Judas’ greatest sin, but even before it happened he had sinned while in close proximity with Jesus for three years, witnessing many miracles to prove Jesus’ divine origin and listening to His powerful words that penetrate the hearts of many people in his time. While these were happening, Judas, in the middle of the night, when he thought he was all alone, stole money from the donations intended for the poor. But he was never alone. His fellow apostle, John, understood that Jesus knows everything (1 John 3:20). God knows what lies in the darkness (Daniel 2:22). Nothing can escape from God’s eyes.
Judas’ story teaches us to guard against small, gradual failing that gain strength and power in our lives and that could open the door to more deadly sins. His story is also a great reminder that appearances can be deceiving. Remember what Jesus said: "Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? ’Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness"(Mt 7: 22-23).
We need God to reveal to us the condition of our heart our sins whether through the scriptures, homilies, prophets and our own consciences through divine inspiration. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our sin in the sense He convinces us of our sin. Once we recognize our sin through grace, we must cooperate with the Holy Spirit to repent by confessing our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Confession is essential because our sin affects the entire church. Sin is not a private matter. If one member suffers, all suffer together (1 Corinthians 12:26). Jesus has given the apostles and passed on through those ordained priests to absolve or forgive our sin through the Sacrament of Reconciliation by his command: "Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retain" (John 20:23). This rite removes the space of sin in our soul and fills it with grace, the Holy Spirit Himself. It also anoints those weak areas of our soul with new strength to resist temptation. It makes a person no longer a sinner. Our intimate union with the Holy Spirit is deepened every time we see our sin, repent and confess. To refuse to repent is to refuse the Holy Spirit’s entrance.
Finally, the resolution not to sin again is necessary. It is an ongoing lifelong process to avoid sin at all costs. This is exactly where Jesus is leading us: to avoid sin and to live in an unceasing life of prayer. It is a precondition to an intimate and loving relationship with God. What are sins? Capital sins are pride, anger, lust, envy, gluttony, greed and idleness. There are sins against the commandments. Sins do not just happen and are not accident, they are willed. It is important to have nothing to do with them. Let us imitate St. Catherine of Genoa who after experiencing the horror of sins exclaimed: “No more world for me! No more sin!” To resolve not to sin again is a grace to be prayed for daily. Therefore, as we celebrate Pentecost Sunday today, let us pray: “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth”.
EDante, AIT Home, 11 June 2016
My late father-in-law is truly a great man. He epitomized a tender father, a loving husband, a wise adviser, and a devout Catholic. A few years before he passed away, a serious heart attack brought him into a near death experience. He recalled a brief moment of separation between body and soul. With the eye of his soul, he saw his laid body in an intense emergency room amidst doctors and nurses attending it. He felt an awesome peace of mind and relief from physical pain until his soul reunited again with his body.
An American colleague told a similar experience. While working as a Peace Corps volunteer in the South of Thailand, he got severely hit by a motorcycle. Bones were broken and a lot of blood lost. He immediately lost consciousness and entered into a similar experience when his soul saw his broken body on the road and felt no bodily pain. It was a brief moment of separation and then as soon as the soul reunited with the body, for which he regretted very much, he suffered the pain. Stories like these ones abound and they provoke an examination of the true nature of man.
In recent times, the body of man has been studied extensively, thanks to the advances in science and medicine. But the soul is much less understood, or totally rejected. Many people treat the soul as belonging to religion and playing no role in modern secular world. In the early centuries, the subject of the soul was well studied. Marsilio Ficino, a famous philosopher of the early Italian Renaissance, once asked: does not a man abuse the soul by not devoting himself to its study?
Provoked by this question, I tried to capture in this piece the truth and insights about the soul that I had discovered through study, reflection and prayer. I truly believe that the truth and knowledge of God falls like rain from the sky. One just needs to get out in the open to get wet. The longer one stays in the open, the more one becomes saturated with the word of God. This echoes Isaiah's exhortation that just as from the heaven the rain comes down so shall the word of God be until it achieve the end for which it is sent (Isaiah 55:10-11).
The soul is the true principle of life. In the beginning, God breath into the nostrils of Adam the breath of life, and Adam became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). Animals and plants also have souls because they are living beings, but quite different from human souls. The key distinction is that human souls are gifted with the spirit of God, but they (animals and plants) are not. Our souls are therefore rational and spiritual giving us superior intelligence and moral senses. St. Paul refers to both soul and spirit of man (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The spiritual nature of our souls makes it immortal, while animal souls become extinct upon death of the body. So the answer to the question, do dogs go to heaven, is absolutely no.
The soul is the true nobility of man. It is the more superior part of man that belongs to God, the most pure Spirit. Because of his spiritual soul, man is eternal, powerful and holy. The nobility of man can’t be degraded even by a slightest degree because of race, color, nationality, culture, economic and social status. The poorest man is as valuable to God as the richest man in the world. The old beggar living in the filthiest slum belongs to God as much as the king in his golden throne. In the eyes of God, all men are equal in worth and dignity. As God is a King, all men are royalty. This is an incredible truth to behold.
The soul is immaterial and incorporeal. It has no material or physical form. It can’t be grasped nor seen. But it exists. And it is possible to perceive it. When a man in a crowded train offers his seat to an unknown person, one can say that his act of charity is his soul. When a man forgives his wicked neighbor, consider that his forgiveness is his soul. When a son gives up his bad habits, out of love for his suffering mother, know that his sacrificial love is his soul. When a wise man comforts a confused person, you can say that his wisdom is his soul. When a sinful person repents, the triune God together with all heavenly beings rejoice in seeing his reviving soul. A soul therefore can be seen in everything that differentiates man from animals.
The soul is immortal. It is created by God and destined to return to Him in heaven. In the book True Life in God, Jesus explained that our soul had seen God in a fraction of a second, the very moment of our creation. Referring to that message, Sr Anne Woods in her book "Invitation to be one with Christ" expressed beautifully this encounter: "It is this flash of the vision of the Father which was first seen at the instant of our creation that struck the spark of divine love in us and created a deep impression upon our spirit that it caused an inner desire to return into the Father's embrace. That single touch of His, as He created our souls, is that resonance that sends us into the lifelong and headlong dash and thirst to find and possess Him the Infinite Holy One. It is this once only, captivating moment of our creation that send us crying through life, "Father! Where are You?".
According to the dictations of Jesus given to Maria Valtorta (Poem of Man-God), the soul is infused into the body when the baby is being formed inside the womb of the mother. The body plus the spiritual soul makes up a man, created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27) and the destiny of this man is heaven. The spiritual soul does not die, but the body does. To this effect, St. Matthew urged his followers to have courage against people who can kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul (Matthew 10:28). If it is preserved, the soul becomes perfect like its Creator and reaches its abode in heaven to reunite with God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7). If sins overwhelm it, the soul suffers eternal punishment in hell.
The soul is made to long for and love God. Solomon, known for his wisdom, expresses such longing in poetic language "I sought him whom my soul loves" (Song of songs 3:1). Such yearning is more essential than the need to breathe. Even those who says he does not believe in God, does believe. His innate yearning for God and for an understanding of the meaning of his existence can be expressed in believing in something else, perhaps in his own ego, science, sports, money and power. If a man didn’t receive the truth about God or perhaps chose to reject them, his yearning soul and believing mind would find alternative belief systems or even invent something else. As a subsequent to this, there are roughly 4,200 faith or belief systems in the world, according to some estimates. But only the true God and true religion can fulfill such longing. In its absence, the soul suffers because it longs for God, the True God, from Whom it comes, and it hungers for God. That is why it always calls on his body to endeavor to approach the true God.
The soul is made to be formed and perfected, “as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The soul is exactly the same in its origin and nature for all men. But they differ in its formation and accordingly to the perfection reached before death of the body. In the book Poem of Man-God, Jesus outlines three phases of the soul: “The first is creation. The second is a new creation. The third is perfection. The first is common to all men. The second is peculiar to just people who through their will elevate their souls to a more complete revival, joining their good deeds to the perfection of God's work, whereby their souls are spiritually more perfect and form a connection link between the first and third ones. The third is peculiar to the blessed souls, or saints, if you prefer so, who have exceeded by a thousand degrees the initial stage of their souls, a stage suitable to man, and have transformed them into something suitable to rest in God”. With the help of God and cooperation of man’s will, a soul needs to be carried higher and higher on the three steps.
The soul in grace possessing love, and by possessing love it possesses God. In scripture (John 14:13), Jesus said that "If anyone loves Me he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make Our home with him”? The soul in grace therefore possesses knowledge, science, wisdom and light. Anyone who wanted to know God and to understand certain things in life can speak to his soul and ask for spiritual truths. These conversation between man and his soul filled the silence of prisons, the silence of cells, the silence of hermitages, the silence of the rooms of holy sick people. Such conversations were the consolation of prisoners awaiting martyrdom, of cloistered monks and nuns searching for the truth, of hermits longing for an advanced knowledge of God, of sick people in bearing, nay, in loving their crosses (Poem of Man-God)..
In April 2012, Moonyeen and I visited Assisi of Italy, the hometown of St. Francis. Francis founded the Franciscan religious order in 1208 and is one of the most venerated religious figures in Catholic history. His life, work and words are inscribed everywhere in Assisi's medieval castles, churches, amphitheaters and piazzas (town squares). But what captured my soul the most were the words, not of St. Francis, but of his disciple, St Clare, inscribed on the walls of the Basilica of Saint Clare that say: “He who feeds the birds of the heavens and clothes the lilies of the field will not fail you in either food or clothing; Ever since I have known the grace of our lord Jesus Christ no suffering had been bothersome no penance too severe no infirmity has been hard”. With these powerful words, one can perceive the maturity and perfection of soul by its absolute trust and submission to God’s will.
father of countless children