DEALING WITH THE STORMS IN OUR LIVES

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Job 38:1, 8-11; Ps 106:23-26,28-32; 2 Cor 5:14-17; Mark 4:35-41

All of us have to go through the storms of life.  In the gospel, we read of the disciples who were battling the storm when they were in the boat.  The storm referred to in the gospel is not just our own personal trials in life but of the Church as well.  The boat that Jesus and the disciples were in is but a symbol of the primitive Church under siege during the apostolic time.   Today, as Catholics, individually or as Church, we are also under attack on all sides by detractors and those who are opposed to the gospel.  On top of all these, we also have to handle our own spiritual struggles as we deal with life’s challenges, whether at family, work, church or in our personal growth.

How do we deal with the storms of life?  Firstly, we are told that often storms are unpredictable, as was the case with the disciples in the gospel.  Quite often, we are not prepared for it.  Every day, there will be challenging situations to grapple with – bad news about our work or health or our loved ones.   Quite often, we feel helpless in dealing with the problems at hand.

Secondly, no matter how experienced we are, we might not be able to handle the storms.   Most of us can handle professional matters well but we fail miserably when it comes to our personal matters, especially in relationships.  Matters of the heart cannot be resolved by logic alone.   That is why top professionals who are very successful in their careers are the greatest failures in their personal and family life.

Thirdly, some storms in life cannot be explained away.  This was the case of Job in the first reading.  He was struggling through the belief in his days that sinners were punished, and therefore if one suffered, it was because of some personal sin he or she has committed.  But Job was a holy and just man.   He knew he was innocent and he could not accept the judgement of his friends and loved ones that he sinned against the Lord and was therefore punished.  In other words, he was confused at the justice or apparent injustice of God.  Indeed, many of us labour under this principle that the just will always be rewarded and the evil are punished.  Yet, often, we see evil people doing well in life and the good suffer.  The consequence is anger and disappointment at the lack of justice in God.

Fourthly, in our storms we often feel that God does not care.   He seems to be asleep, like a retired architect of the universe.  That was how the disciples felt.  “Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep.”  And so “they woke him and said to him, ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down!’”  Do you not care?  This is the question utmost in our minds when we are struggling in life.  If He does not care, then we take things into our own hands.  If we cannot rely on God, then we better rely on ourselves.   Why should we bother with such a God who does not care about our lives anyway?

But the truth is that He DOES care!  This is the centrality of today’s scripture readings.  He cares!  He loves us!  He is watching over us!   Even when we cannot see Him at work in our lives!  This is the testimony of millions who have been helped by God.  The psalmist testified, “Some sailed to the sea in ships to trade on the mighty waters.  These men have seen the Lord’s deeds, the wonders he does in the deep. For he spoke; he summoned the gale, tossing the waves of the sea up to heaven and back into the deep; their souls melted away in their distress.”

In truth, God is in charge of our lives.  He has power over nature and over us.  Even when we don’t understand how He is providing for us, we need to trust in His divine providence and wisdom.  This is the hard lesson that Job learnt from his trials.  He was challenging God with all his questions.  But instead of answering his questions, the Lord answered by asking him instead.  He said: “Who pent up the sea behind closed doors when it leapt tumultuous out of the womb, when I wrapped it in a robe of mist and made black clouds its swaddling bands; when I marked the bounds it was not to cross and made it fast with a bolted gate? Come thus far, I said, and no farther: here your proud waves shall break.”  If we cannot understand the natural order and the creative power of the universe and the plan of God, how can we understand the moral order and His divine providence for us all in this world?  In truth, we are ignorant!

For this reason, like Job in all humility, we must surrender everything to the Lord in faith.  He has His reasons that we do not know, at least not now.  All that is asked of us is to trust Him.  Let God be God. We need to be patient and cling to God’s assurance of love.  He will know when to help us.  With Christ, there will be calmness.  It seems that He does not care but He is in control.  “And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!’ And the wind dropped, and all was calm again.”  Indeed, all we need is faith in Him and in His love.  In the storms we cannot see because we are blinded by fears, anxieties and ignorance.   So only faith is needed to be able to see clearly and regain our confidence.  Once we have faith in Him, we will experience calmness in the storm.  This was what Jesus said to His perplexed disciples, “Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?”

This is perhaps, the most important question we need to answer, “How is it that you have no faith?” How do we find faith in Jesus? We need to search ourselves as the disciples did, “They were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.’”  Our faith is dependent on whether we know Jesus or not.  We can only trust those who we know.  Trust presupposes confidence in the person.  Ultimately, it boils down to this question:  Who is Jesus to us?  Is He truly God?  If He were not, then we have reason to continue to be fearful.  But if Jesus were God and He is the One steering our boat and our ship, then we should feel secure that we are in good hands.

Do we know who He is?  St Paul knew who Jesus was and hence he was not afraid of storms and persecutions.  He had encountered His gracious love and mercy.  He had seen how many times, the Lord rescued him from his enemies.  But that did not mean that he was spared the trials of being persecuted, whipped, imprisoned, hungry, cold and pain.  The Lord was with him and he was able to overcome and transcend all oppositions, including the hostility of his enemies.   His confidence rested on his personal experience of the undeserving love he received from Christ.  Thus, he wrote, “The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.”

Indeed, if we have experienced Christ’s love, then love destroys all fear.  St John tells us “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because he first loved us.” (1 Jn 4:15-20)  So long as we know He loves us, we can ride the storms of life. “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Rom 8:37-39)

And the truth is that Christ has died for us all!  “What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? “ (Rom 8:31f)  On this basis, we must judge all things from the perspective of God’s love for us in Christ.  This is what St Paul urges us, “From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.”  We are a new creation, therefore, we must not read situations from eyes of fear which blind us!  We must read with the eyes of Christ, of faith in His love.

With Christ, we can overcome all things, even death!  With Christ, God will once again speak to us through the storms.  “From the heart of the tempest the Lord gave Job his answer.”  We will discover how wonderful that God is that through the storms of life, we discover not just about ourselves but the beauty of this God.  So in all our trials, we must turn to the Lord in earnest prayer and we will be heard.  “Then they cried to the Lord in their need and he rescued them from their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper: all the waves of the sea were hushed. They rejoiced because of the calm and he led them to the haven they desired.” With the psalmist, we can then say, “They rejoiced because of the calm and he led them to the haven they desired. Let them thank the Lord for his love, for the wonders he does for men.”


Written by The Most Rev William Goh
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
© All Rights Reserved
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The Girl in the Scooter

Here’s one inspiring story.
While in the library (8th floor), I saw a lady riding a scooter. I thought she’s a staff. Later I realize that she’s a student.
Then I notice that she’s indeed crippled. The scooter was her tool of navigating the library.
Since the library is on the 6th floor, one option of getting there is elevator. So I am assuming that she used the elevator so her scooter can fit in. From time to time, a staff from the library would give her the books she need.
Honestly, it’s one moving scene and inspiring as well.
That despite her disability, it did not prevent her from pursuing her dreams in life.
It made me also realize that intelligence is not the ONLY factor.
We have legs that can walk to the library.
We have eyes that can read books.
We have hands that can help us write and take down notes.

It also helps to be sensitive at times.

The Lord could show us something that directly answers our concerns.

Like the scene in the library a while ago.

God bless. 🙂

The Ball and I

For me, Engineering mixes well with faith. Or engineering can be a way to strengthen one’s faith. It all started when I opened a book in Fluid Mechanics and see a picture similar to what is shown below. At first glance, what you see is what you get. A ball surrounded by a flowing fluid. But thanks be to God, looking to it on a deeper perspective yields something.

A fluid flowing (e.g. blowing air)  is like the problems of our life. The blow sometimes could be strong, just like our problems.

Now, imagine if we are standing in front of the ball. When the air blows stronger, who is hit first? It’s us.

Now if one will hide behind the ball, when the air blows stronger, the ball is hit and one can see that upon collision with the ball, the wind blows in different directions. The ball is like the Lord. 🙂

So when we are discouraged and overwhelmed with the trials life may bring, let’s ask ourselves: Where am I? Chances are, the answer is: we are in front of the ball instead of the ball being in front of us.

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Image is taken here.

Virtues

Copied from the Catechism of Catholic Church

I. THE HUMAN VIRTUES

1804 Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.

The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love.

The cardinal virtues

1805 Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called “cardinal”; all the others are grouped around them. They are: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. “If anyone loves righteousness, [Wisdom’s] labors are virtues; for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice, and courage.”64 These virtues are praised under other names in many passages of Scripture.

1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; “the prudent man looks where he is going.”65 “Keep sane and sober for your prayers.”66 Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle.67 It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

1807 Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the “virtue of religion.” Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”68 “Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”69

1808 Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. “The Lord is my strength and my song.”70 “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”71

1809 Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: “Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.”72 Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: “Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites.”73 In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.” We ought “to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world.”74

To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).75