A Key component of a PhD student

designaphd

Good morning design nerds!

I recently got a question: “what do you think about me doing a PhD?”
Then, I reply them “how patient are you?”

You may think that all research students are genius-born, and this often known as the key component of doing a PhD. Yes, some research students are incredibly genius, and I categorise them as a “born-academic“. Unfortunately, I am not in that category, but I am doing a PhD.

How?

I just sacrificed pretty much everything in my life – my favourite hobby was watching movies and animations, and I used to be a social butterfly.

Why? 

I personally found that doing a PhD is necessary for my future plan and career. I probably did not even start a PhD, if I just want to add “Dr” in front of my name – if you are planning, please don’t.

I mean….the key component of doing a…

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THE CONCLUSION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: EX 40:16-21, 34-38; MT 13:47-53

Today’s scripture readings provide us with two apparently different conclusions.  The first reading from the Book of Exodus concludes with the installation of the tabernacle.  It would henceforth be in this place that God would specially meet His people.  It would be at the Tabernacle that His presence would be felt strongly.  “The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because of the cloud that rested on it and because of the glory of the Lord that filled the tabernacle.”  It would also be the way the Lord would guide His people for the rest of the journey through the desert.  “At every stage of their journey, whenever the cloud rose from the tabernacle the sons of Israel would resume their march.  If the cloud did not rise, they waited and would not march until it did.”

In the gospel too, we have another conclusion to the parables of the Kingdom of God.  In the structure of St Matthew’s gospel, chapter 5-7, we have the Sermon on the Mount which presents the perfect ideal of the Kingdom of God.  Chapters 8-10 concretize the kingdom of God in the miracles performed by Jesus, and chapters 11-13 expound on the hidden nature of the kingdom by means of parables.  Appropriately, the end sums up the message of judgment illustrated in the parable of the dragnet, where the good would then be separated from the bad.  After judgment, those not found worthy of the kingdom would be cast “into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”

At first glance, perhaps, we do not see the close connection between these two endings.  Yet, both are very much related to the presence and the reign of God.  The presence of God that filled the Tabernacle was a local presence in a place.  The reign of God that Jesus preached in the New Covenant is not located in a place but in the hearts of all men and women.  Whenever God reigns in our hearts, there God is present.  There will be joy and freedom for those who live under the New Law of the Kingdom, because we have God ruling our lives.  Unlike the Law of the Old Covenant, the New Law as summed up by the Sermon on the Mount goes beyond the Mosaic Law.  It spells out the true spirit of the laws given to us.

In a real sense therefore, the kingdom of God is already present in different degrees in us whenever we open ourselves to the grace of the Kingdom.  So the expectation of the kingdom cannot be relegated to the end of time.  Rather, at every moment of our lives, we are either rejecting the life of the kingdom or living under the Spirit of the Kingdom.  When we see the end of the kingdom in this perspective then the final judgment is not something to be feared but to be longed for.  If we find ourselves fearful of the judgment as portrayed in today’s gospel, it is because we tend to interpret the parable of the final judgment literally, as if we are appearing before God to be judged, like in a human court, and then after receiving our due sentence, sent to hell or to heaven.  Rather, the parable must be understood as a vehicle to make us realize that the decision for the fullness of life here and now will have an impact on our final decision.

From this perspective, the final judgment is not something to be feared. Rather, the judgment must be seen as the permanent establishment of the reign of God in our lives where there will be no more pain or sorrow.  With His reign, there will be peace, joy and love forever.  Where could this place be if not in the heart of God Himself?  Heaven, a state of eternal bliss and joy and love should be where we all hope to arrive.  Death is not a punishment but the passage to new life and the fullness of life.

For this reason, the psalmist declares, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God!  My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Blessed they who dwell in your house! Continually they praise you. I had rather one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. I had rather lie at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”  We all have had a taste of this state of heaven, of living in the Tabernacle of God when we come before His presence in prayer, in intimacy and especially when we receive Him in the most Holy Eucharist. To dwell in the presence of God gives us a joy and a peace that no human being can give us.

But the fact remains that sin and God are incompatible, like light and darkness.  You cannot have God and Satan.  If we desire to come to the Lord, we need to purify ourselves in all sincerity.  Of course, we know that perfection is not something within our will, but it depends on the grace of God.  What is important is that we cooperate with His grace as much as we can.  When we fail, we simply have to turn to our merciful God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, trusting in His mercy and coming to realization that our sins hurt God as much as ourselves and the people around us.  So there is no reason to fear judgment because we know that God’s judgment will be tampered by mercy and forgiveness.  Of course this does not mean that we become presumptuous of His mercy and continue to sin without a real desire for repentance.  Without a contrite heart, we would then be consciously rejecting the kingdom of God, which is quite different from one who desires to live the kingdom life but on account of his weakness and ignorance fall into sin.

So what would our conclusion be like? Have you considered your conclusion at the end of your life?  Is it going to be one of liberation, joy and satisfaction, knowing that you have lived your life to the fullest with a clear conscience before God and man?  Would you be able to say with St Paul, “As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”  (2 Tim 4:6-8)

St Paul could look forward to the fullness of the coming of God’s kingdom only because he had chosen to be with the Lord every day and every moment of his life.  He was always living in the presence of God, in His dwelling place, whether he was awake or asleep, at work or at rest, in prayer or with people.  We too can already have a share in this kingdom life to come when we live in full consciousness of His presence and love in a life of service, charity, forgiveness and compassion.  This is what the Lord is asking of us.

Just as God was with His people at every stage of their journey by making His presence felt in the Tabernacle, signified by a cloud and fire, so too, we must allow His presence to guide us.  At every stage of our life, we must rest and ponder the direction we are taking, like the people of God during the Exodus.  We read that “if the cloud did not rise, they waited and would not march until it did.  For the cloud of the Lord rested on the tabernacle by day, and a fire shone within the cloud by night, for all the House of Israel to see.  And so it was for every stage of their journey.”

So too, Jesus urges us to respond rightly at every moment when He advised us, “Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.”  We must learn from our mistakes, from our past, whilst working towards the future.  From the storeroom, that is, the past and the present, we must maximize the lessons from our failures and the good we have done. From the storeroom of our history and our faith, let us, whilst appreciating and valuing the past, also be receptive to the new ways the Lord wants to work in our lives.  Forgetting our past will hurt us as much as living in the past, and forgetting the grace of the present moment coming our way will hinder us from allowing the future to take its full effect in our lives.  By bringing the past, the present and the future together in Christ, we will gradually make progress in the life of the kingdom.  As the author of Hebrews tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb 13:8)


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

JOY AS THE INTERNAL DRIVER AND LOVE IS THE ENGINE OF MISSION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: EX 34:29-35; MT 13:44-46

When we look around us, we find that many of us are lacking passion in whatever we do, be it in our work, relationship or in Church ministry.  How is that so?  How could we have started on something so passionately, as in a project or even in an intimate relationship, but now no longer have that fire, that enthusiasm that got us started in the first place.  We have fallen into routine, mediocrity and become lackadaisical.

The root of it all is a lack of love in us.  When the passion of love is lost, joy is absent.  When there is no joy in doing what we are doing, everything becomes an obligation, a commitment we try to live up to for fear of breaking our promises. So like the religious leaders and the contemporaries of Jesus, we are satisfied with an external performance of our duties and fulfilling our responsibilities. We become calculative with our time, our involvement and ministry activities.  Married couples live like intimate strangers, not feeling, sharing or caring for each other.  They behave more like business partners looking after the family inc.  Parents give the impression to their children that they are a nuisance and a burden to them, restraining their movements and activities and even hampering their career.

Clearly, for such people there is no joy.  When joy is taken out of work and ministry, then it becomes drudgery.  Such activities are no longer empowering or uplifting.  These sentiments are just the reverse of that of the man who found a hidden treasure in the field and the merchant who found the pearl in today’s parables.  They were so filled with indescribable joy and enthusiasm when they found their pearl of life.  They were cognizant of the value of what they found in relation to whatever they possessed.  Hence, they were even ready to give up everything for the treasure they perceived will make them fulfilled and happy in life.

Without doubt, joy is the clear sign that we are passionate in what we are doing; and joy is what pulls us to continue to do what we are doing.  But where does joy come from?  Is joy sufficient to sustain us in our ministry, work and relationship?  Is joy always the cause of our passion?  One can be passionate and yet not find true joy.  Why?

When we observe closely those who are passionate in their work and ministry, many also do not find true joy and happiness.  What they find is only apparent joy.  Why is this so?  The truth is that we can be passionate for many reasons, even for selfish or at least less noble motives.   We can be passionate about something because we are ambitious, trying to achieve a goal so that we feel good about ourselves and before others.  We might be diligent, meticulous, and responsible; giving our whole being to whatever we do, merely to earn some credit and laurels for our crown.  For such people, joy is found almost always at the end, rather than in the process, since they look forward only to the reward and forget that joy is found in the course of giving ourselves entirely to what we find meaningful to do. Even then, such joy is only temporary.  Very soon, when the emotions fade and the celebration is over, one returns to emptiness and loneliness.

Joy is also incomplete if our passion is derived from our interest in something.  It could be a hobby or anything that occupies our mind and heart, e.g. gardening, art, music, pets, etc.  Such joy is never complete even though it gives lots of satisfaction, because it is focused on self.  Hobbies are self-fulfilling in that they are more for one’s pleasure than giving joy to others.  Of course, it could also be used to give pleasure to others.  If that is the primary motive, then it becomes a service of love and we move to another level of joy, namely, love of others, which includes animals as well.

If we contend with merely working for success, achievements and finding pleasure in life, we will not go very far in experiencing true and lasting joy.  So we must move to another level of joy, which is love and relationship.  Compared to worldly and human pursuits, human love brings us closer to what true joy is all about.  Love and union are but a prelude to absolute and pure joy.  It is a prelude only because human love is finite, limited and egoistic, even whilst it seeks to be altruistic.  Still, for human beings, this would be the highest level of joy that one can attain.  Indeed, many of us have experienced the joy of love in relationship, the joy of union, of being in the arms of someone who loves us.  Such joy cannot be purchased with silver or gold.  It is simply a given and simply received as a gift. Unfortunately, human love is so fragile and it can be lost anytime due to infidelity, misunderstanding, temptations and death.  When that happens, joy ceases.

That being the case, where can true and lasting joy be found? This joy can only be found in God alone. That was what happened to Moses.  He encountered the face of God.  The consequence of that meeting resulted in his face being radiantly white. Moses’ face was radiating and exuding joy. This is the joy that Jesus speaks about in the parables of the treasure and the pearl.

So if we want to have true, absolute, ultimate and lasting joy, it has to be a joy that comes from encountering God, or having God reign in our hearts.  Only this kind of joy will be enduring, like that of Moses who was always radiant whenever he met the Lord.

It is therefore necessary to search our hearts and ask the true nature of our joy.   As Jesus remarked, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt 6:21)  So what is your treasure and pearl?  Is it your ambition, your pet project or your loved ones?  If your joy is based on these alone, you have made them your absolute treasure, which is tantamount to giving them the status of God.  Then you would have committed idolatry, the former of self and the latter of things and creatures.  What is not absolute cannot last!  Real and lasting joy comes from finding the absolute treasure.

This ultimate treasure can only be God alone and no other! That was what St Paul realized at the end of a long search for joy and fulfillment.  He thought his status, his academic and religious credentials; his religious works, could give him security and joy, until he met Christ.  Indeed, St Paul found everything else as dung, compared to knowing the love and power of the Lord in His passion, death and resurrection.

Truly, the greatest joy is in the love of the Lord.  This has always been the sentiment of all the saints.  The great mystic, Blessed Angela of Foligno realized that although she had renounced everything, there was still something she did not do, and hence did not experience fullness of joy, which was to desire God and God alone.  She wanted God but also other things.  When she grasped this, she cried out, “I Want God!” And God Answered Her: “I shall fulfill your wish.”  At that moment, her soul was united with God and she was in perfect joy, experiencing total freedom from all things that restrained her from the fullness of joy and love.  To desire God is to desire the Kingdom of God!

How then can we find this amazing and transcendental joy?  The first way is by pure grace alone, as in the case of St Paul’s conversion.  His conversion is exemplary of the parable of the man who found the treasure hidden in the field.  So, too, there are many conversion stories of people who have been transformed by the grace of God.  The more radical and unexpected the encounter with God’s presence and healing grace, the greater is the transformation. This could be considered the mystical stage of spirituality.

The second way of encountering God is by the ordinary way, namely, through ascetical means of struggling to be faithful to our prayer life, study, penance and mortifications. This approach requires human cooperation and effort.  This does not mean that grace is excluded.  It only means that we need to strive and show our sincerity in desiring God before He shows His face to us.  What we do ascetically is but to prepare the way for grace to show itself. This, then, is the way of contemplation on the face of Christ as exhorted by Pope John Paul II in his apostolic letter “Novo Millennio Ineunte”.

Consequently, we must pray for the grace to meet the Lord and encounter Him deeply, if we are to be filled with joy, a joy that would lead us to spread this joy to others.  That is why, to love God above all things does not mean that we cannot love other creatures or created things.  On the contrary, we will love them even more, but not for them as such, but for the love of God and from the love of God.  Everything we do now is for others, not for ourselves; and not even primarily for them but for the love of God so that God might be glorified, known and love.

Once we discover this joy, we must make a decision to choose Christ as the only joy of our life.  Choosing Him is a decision that we have to make.  We only need to say “Yes” to Him and He will reign in us and the kingdom is ours.

Finally, for those of us who have found the Lord and had a God-experience in Jesus, we need to return to this Christ-experience again and again. Forgetting this experience will lead us to mediocrity, indifference and lukewarmness.  That was what Moses did.  We read that again and again, he would return to meet the Lord so that he could pass his orders to his people. We, too, must relive this experience, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist when we “do this in memory” of Him.  Otherwise, we fall into the same pitfall of those who have received the grace to encounter Christ but through neglect and tepidity, become worse than before their conversion.  Let us bear in mind the warning of Jesus, “But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”


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

EFFECTIVE PRAYER AND INTERCESSORY PRAYERS

SCRIPTURE READINGS:  1 Kings 18: 42b-45a; Ps 14:1, 2-3, 4; Gal 4: 4-7; Jn 19:25 – 27

We are living in challenging times.  Institutions, religious values and cultural practices and traditions are called into question.  The institution of marriage and family is being redefined.  Divorce and remarriage is accepted as not contrary to the gospel.  Abortion, euthanasia and stem cells research involving embryos are accepted forms of killing or destruction of life.  Surrogate motherhood and test-tube babies on the other hand are promoted to help couples to have children.  Among the Christian communions and within the Catholic Communion, the values of the gospel are compromised to fit the needs of the modern world.  Instead of humanity trying to be faithful to the values taught by Christ, we are attempting to manipulate the gospel to suit our needs.

Like Elijah, more than ever, we are called to preserve the purity of the gospel.  This was the context of today’s first reading.  The prophet Elijah was known to be a zealous prophet in keeping the faith of Israel uncontaminated.  He was a true prophet and servant of God in defending the true God of Israel.  Just earlier on, he confronted King Ahab and the false prophets.  He even went to the extent of killing the false prophets in obedience to Moses’ command as death sentence was imposed on those who apostatized.  Indeed, Elijah demonstrated his utter devotion and loyalty to God.  It showed his deep concern and protective love for his fellow Israelites who were being led astray by the false prophets.

What principal weapons did he use to purify the nation of Israel?   What can we learn from Elijah?  How do we preserve the purity of our faith and the health of society? 

Firstly, Elijah did not use weapons or force but the power of faith in God.  The secret of his courage in confronting the King and exposing the false prophets at Mount Carmel was his faith in God.  He had total confidence in Yahweh whom he believed would vindicate him.  True enough, the Lord allowed a severe drought in Israel at the command of Elijah.  And, unlike the false prophets who could not command their gods to consume their sacrifices, the Lord had the holocaust burn at Elijah’s command, even though it was deliberately drenched with water.  Finally, Elijah prayed for the rain to come and it became a storm.

Secondly, from Elijah, we learn that this faith in God must be expressed by fervent and persistent prayer.  His confidence in God’s power and fidelity was seen in the brevity and simplicity of his prayer.  He did not utter long and complicated prayers.  Elijah believed and his prayer was heard.  He never doubted the fidelity of God to his prayers.  His prayer was not only, fervent but it was also persistent.  “Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel and bowed down to the earth, putting his face between his knees.”  Elijah persevered in prayer, a prayer that was complete and total, symbolized by the seven times before the prayer was answered.  Even though Elijah received his prophetic word that God would send the rain, he persevered in prayer until the rains came.  (1 Kg 18:41-45)   If we want our prayers to be heard, we, too, should not give up too easily.  We must pray till it is given, search until we find and knock till the door is open.  (cf Mk 7:7)

Fourthly, he prayed with expectant faith that God would manifest His power.   Indeed, God manifested His power in response to his sincere prayer.   He sent fire to consume the sacrifice thereby showing Himself to be a living God and vindicating him as God’s prophet.   Through his persistent prayer, the rains came, symbolizing the renewed blessings of God for the nation.  We need to pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit and a spiritual renewal in the Church.  This is what the New Evangelization is inviting us to.  We should pray also for a God-encounter so that we too will know that our God is a living God who is not only to be believed but one who acts in our lives. Without an experience of His love in our lives and His mighty power, the world which believes only in science and technology, in empirical and experimental sciences, would not come to have faith in our God.

However, it is not enough to pray rightly.  The way and attitude in prayer is no less important than the motives and the life of the pray-er.   Elijah did not pray for himself.  He interceded for the people of Israel because of his sincere desire to reveal God’s grace to them so that they would repent and turn their hearts back to God.  He asked for God’s grace to deal with the false prophets and Baalism and Asherah, the pagan gods.   He was not seeking for his glory and honour but the restoration of God’s hour and glory.  Indeed, this is what the Lord asks of us when He taught us the Lord’s Prayer, to pray thus, “Holy be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done!”

Besides having the right motives, we need to live a holy and righteous life.  St James reminds us that the prayer of the righteous man works wonders.  After saying, “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed”, he added, “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” (James 5:16f)   It is important that we keep ourselves pure and holy if we were to be effective in the lives of others.  Righteousness comes from faith in Christ who justifies us.  But it also means that having been justified and reconciled with the Lord, we need to continue living a righteous, holy and God-fearing life in obedience to His commandments.  The psalmist underscores this necessity for a righteous life in prayer when he says, “Lord who shall be admitted to your tent and dwell on your holy mountain?  He who walks without fault.  He who acts with justice and speaks the truth from his heart.”

Without putting on the mind of Christ, we will not be able to always ask according to His holy will.  And the Lord will give us what we ask provided we ask with the mind of Christ.  This is an indispensable condition if we want to receive what we ask.  St John wrote, “Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” (1 Jn 3:21f)

Hence, to pray according to His perfect will as the Lord asks of us in the Lord’s Prayer and as He did in the garden of Gethsemane, we must pray that we are not in the will or in the way of God because of our self-centered motives.  Like Elijah, we need to give our undivided attention to the Lord.  Just as he challenged the people earlier on to make a definitive choice between worshipping Baal or Yahweh, we too must with undivided heart render complete devotion to God.  Elijah, regardless of how he was taunted and ridiculed by the prophets of Baal and threatened by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, he remained committed to the Lord to purify Israel from corruption and false compromises.  We, too, if we want our prayers to be heard must have undivided loyalty to God.

Within this context of prayer and the faith of Elijah and his spiritual warfare against the false prophets at Mount Carmel, we can now better appreciate why our Carmelite sisters are doing what they are doing.  Following the tradition of the spirituality of Elijah, they too seek to live a life of purity through penance and mortification in the monastery.  Through their sacrifices and self-denial, they unite themselves with the sufferings of Jesus on the cross so that they can do the will of God.  At the same time, this house is known as a house of prayer and, especially, a house for intercession.  The primary task of the sisters is to offer their whole life, not just at prayer but in their whole being, for the conversion of sinners and the petitions of the local church and the universal church and the world.  Their prayers, like Elijah’s, are effective because they are prayed with a purity of heart, with fervor, sincerity, persistence and most of all, with faith.   Indeed, we have much to thank our sisters for being our great intercessors.  We know that their prayers are effective because of their holiness of life and their faith.

Finally, we also take inspiration from Mary, our Lady of Mount Carmel in seeking to follow the spirituality of the Carmelite sisters.  The response in the responsorial psalm says, “Draw us after you, Virgin Mary; we shall follow in your footsteps.”  Indeed, let us follow Mary’s footsteps in doing the will of God and glorifying Him in our lives in obedience to His will.  She reminds us at Cana in Galilee, to do whatever He tells us if we want our prayers to be answered.  So through Mary, let us live out our sonship in Christ by living our lives not as slaves to the Law or to sin but truly as adopted sons and daughters in Christ, sharing in His life.  In this way, our prayers would be heard for we pray not just with the confidence as sons and daughters of God but with the same mind of Christ

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

SEEING EVERYTHING FROM GOD’S PERSPECTIVE


SCRIPTURE READINGS: GN 44:18-21.23-29; 45:1-5; MT 10:7-15

Regret is one of the most regretful words in life!  Sometimes when unpleasant things happen to us, we feel sorry for ourselves, indignant against those we feel are causing us to suffer and even resentful towards God.  At other times, we recognize that the sufferings we are going through or the sufferings we have wrought upon others, especially our loved ones, are due to our folly because of poor judgment or human weaknesses. We regret deeply and wish it were otherwise. In such instances, awareness of our sins and failure towards our loved ones or those under our charge can make us discouraged.  We cannot forgive ourselves.  We replay again and again all the incidents of the past in our minds.  We feel that we are a failure in life.  We believe that they will never forgive us.  Neither would God forgive us for the crimes nor the sins we have committed, the immense pain and suffering we have caused to our spouse, children, siblings or friends.  In a word, we cannot forgive ourselves.  Deep inside us, we feel rotten and hate ourselves for being such kind of person.

But Joseph did not.  He did not mope and curse God for the sufferings he went through.  He did not harbor bitterness against his brothers for their jealousy and the attempt to kill him.  He did not blame them for the immense sufferings, physically and emotionally, that he had to go through, being separated from his father, knowing how much his father would be suffering; and the humble pies he had to eat when he was a slave to the Egyptians before he rose up from among the ranks.  Anyone who went through what he did would have given up on life, on people and of course on God!  Indeed, many of us who have been disappointed and felt betrayed by our parents because of infidelity, our siblings because of jealousy, our friends because of selfishness, our colleagues because of competition, are never able to love again.  We harbor great bitterness and rancor against them.  Some children would not even want to speak to their parents for breaking up the family.  Some of us would even take revenge and become venomous in our attack against those who have hurt us.

How is it that Joseph did not react negatively to the unpleasant events and trials in his life? 

Firstly, he was humble and able to acknowledge his faults; he did not blame his failures on others.  He had the right attitude towards himself and those who had hurt him.  On hindsight he must have realized that the cause of the predicament he got himself into was also partially due to his own fault.  He was the one who bad- mouthed his brothers, provoked jealousy among his brothers by boasting of his father’s predilection for him, showing off the robe the father made for him and most of all, blatantly arrogant in telling his brothers of his dream that one day, all of them would have to bow down to him and serve him.  (cf Gen  37:1-12)  What about us? Do we admit our own faults and our fair share of the cause of the problem?  The truth is that when we assign all blame to the party that supposedly hurt us and refuse to admit our share of the problem, we feel more aggrieved than we should.

Secondly, he trusted in the Lord.  Joseph did not simply focus on his sufferings and misfortunes or direct his hatred against his enemies.  Instead, he sought to look at the situation in the light of God’s divine plan.  He told his brothers, “But now, do not grieve, do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here, since God sent me before you to preserve your lives.”  He knew that nothing happens by chance, only by divine providence.  How wonderful and liberating for one who is able to recognize the hand of God in everything that happens to him or her. Do you trust God sufficiently to believe that everything is in His hands and that nothing can overcome you so long as you love Him and surrender your life to Him? We find peace and freedom only if we align ourselves with His divine will, which simply means accepting everything that comes from Him and using all our mistakes and failures, success and joys for our growth in maturity and authentic love.

Hence, today, even when we have sinned, we must not condemn ourselves too much.  We all make mistakes in life.  No one learns without making mistakes.  It is part and parcel of being members of the fallen race where we have lost our preternatural gifts, namely, integrity, infused knowledge, fear of pain and death.  So we sin through both ignorance and selfishness that spring from our desire to preserve our lives. This was the case of Joseph’s brothers.  Among the brothers, Judah had many reasons to reproach himself.  He could not deny that he had plotted with his brothers to get rid of Joseph.  The only mitigation for his crime was that he did try to persuade them not to kill him. Still, he was an accomplice because he proposed to sell him and keep the money for themselves.  That was perhaps the most regrettable action of his life when he saw how much his father grieved over Joseph.  He could never forgive himself for breaking the heart of his beloved father.  We can be sure that this event must have come back to haunt him and his brothers for as long as Joseph was not found.

But what is more important is that he was repentant.  This time he did not allow the grace of God to pass by him in vain.  When given another chance to make good his repentant heart, he was ready to assume full responsibility for his brother Benjamin.  He spoke up courageously for him and even offered himself to take his place as a slave when his brother was framed for a crime of stealing.  Indeed, we have much to learn from Judah.  It is not enough to be repentant or have sentiments of regrets and sorrow.  We must cooperate with the redemption of God by active repentance, which entails expressing our contrition by action.  Of course, no matter what we do, we can never repay the hurts that we have caused others.  But we can soothe their pain by our acts of love, which is balm to their souls.  For those of us who are the injured party, we can imitate Joseph’s forgiveness. He foreshadowed Jesus’ forgiveness of His enemies at the cross.

How could he be so generous in forgiving? As we have said, he saw everything from God’s perspective.  He saw his innocent suffering in the context of redemptive suffering for all.  Hence, he was not resentful but grateful for all that had happened in his life. Freely he received God’s love; freely he gave to his brothers in return.  Truly, if only we are conscious of what the Lord has given to us and the many blessings we have received from Him, then we would not begrudge forgiveness to others.  All blessings given to us are for-giving!

If this is not sufficient to convince us that we are to forgive and repair relationships with concrete actions, let us at least be like Joseph and Judah who were conscious of their own failings that led to the crime.  If only we are conscious of our own sins, selfishness, harshness in treating others, and how God still forgives us, tolerates and loves us, then we would be more generous to those who have hurt us.

Yes, this is what Jesus is asking of us in the gospel.  He wants us to heal and to reconcile.  “Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘As you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils.’” Proclamation of the kingdom must be done not only with words but with actions.  Miracles are proof that the Kingdom of God is really here.  We are here to liberate every person from the devil.

Finally, if after forgiving and loving them, the aggrieved party still refuses to forgive us, there is nothing much we can do except to persevere in prayer for them and continue to love them all the same.   We cannot force them to forgive us, or to receive our forgiveness, since love cannot be imposed. They would have to make the decision to respond. That explains why Jesus gave this advice, “Whatever town or village you go into, ask for someone trustworthy and stay with him until you leave.  As you enter his house, salute it, and if the house deserves it, let your peace descend upon it; if it does not, let your peace come back to you.  And if anyone does not welcome you or listen to what you have to say, as you walk out of the house or town shake the dust from your feet.”  Blessed are those who are open to receiving forgiveness and those who forgive!  Otherwise, there is a warning from Jesus, the failure to forgive or accept forgiveness would result in bitterness and a living hell.  “I tell you solemnly, on the day of Judgement it will not go as hard with the land of Sodom and Gomorrah as with that town.”   The choice is yours!  Be set free by setting others free.


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

Pope Francis: Evangelize with the Gospel of Joy

From: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-evangelize-with-the-gospel-of-joy

(Vatican Radio) In his homily during the “Mass for the Evangelization of Peoples,” celebrated in Quito’s Parque Bicentenario (Bicentennial Park), Pope Francis focused on the theme of unity and independence. The Holy Father spoke of Jesus’ cry for unity at the Last Supper, and Latin America’s cry for independence which is commemorated in the Park where the Liturgy took place. “I would like to see these two cries joined together,” he said, “under the beautiful challenge of evangelization.” He continued, “We evangelize not with grand words, or complicated concepts, but with ‘the joy of the Gospel’.”

The full text of Pope Francis’ prepared homily for the Mass for the Evangelization of Peoples can be found below:

Mass for the Evangelization of Peoples

Quito, Parque Bicentenario
Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The word of God calls us to live in unity, that the world may believe.

I think of those hushed words of Jesus during the Last Supper as more of a shout, a cry rising up from this Mass which we are celebrating in Bicentennial Park. The bicentennial which this Park commemorates was that of Latin America’s cry for independence. It was a cry which arose from being conscious of a lack of freedom, of exploitation and despoliation, of being “subject to the passing whims of the powers that be” (Evangelii Gaudium, 213).

I would like to see these two cries joined together, under the beautiful challenge of evangelization. We evangelize not with grand words, or complicated concepts, but with “the joy of the Gospel”, which “fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. For those who ac­cept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness” (ibid., 1). We who are gathered here at table with Jesus are ourselves a cry, a shout born of the conviction that his presence leads us to unity, “pointing to a horizon of beauty and inviting others to a delicious banquet” (ibid., 15).

“Father, may they be one… so that the world may believe”. This was Jesus’ prayer as he raised his eyes to heaven. This petition arose in a context of mission: “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world”. At that moment, the Lord was experiencing in his own flesh the worst of this world, a world he nonetheless loved dearly. Knowing full well its intrigues, its falsity and its betrayals, he did not turn away, he did not complain. We too encounter daily a world torn apart by wars and violence. It would be facile to think that division and hatred only concern struggles between countries or groups in society. Rather, they are a manifestation of that “widespread individualism” which divides us and sets us against one another (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 99), that legacy of sin lurking in the heart of human beings, which causes so much suffering in society and all of creation. But is it precisely this troubled world into which Jesus sends us. We must not respond with nonchalance, or complain we do not have the resources to do the job, or that the problems are too big. Instead, we must respond by taking up the cry of Jesus and accepting the grace and challenge of being builders of unity.

There was no shortage of conviction or strength in that cry for freedom which arose a little more than two hundred years ago. But history tells us that it only made headway once personal differences were set aside, together with the desire for power and the inability to appreciate other movements of liberation which were different yet not thereby opposed.

Evangelization can be a way to unite our hopes, concerns, ideals and even utopian visions. We believe this and we make it our cry. I have already said that, “in our world, especially in some countries, different forms of war and conflict are re-emerging, yet we Christians remain steadfast in our intention to respect others, to heal wounds, to build bridges, to strengthen relationships and to ‘bear one an­other’s burdens’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 67). The desire for unity involves the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, the conviction that we have an immense treasure to share, one which grows stronger from being shared, and becomes ever more sensitive to the needs of others (cf. ibid., 9). Hence the need to work for inclusivity at every level, to avoid forms of selfishness, to build communication and dialogue, to encourage collaboration. We need to give our hearts to our companions along the way, without suspicion or distrust. “Trusting others is an art, and peace is an art” (ibid., 244). Our unity can hardly shine forth if spiritual worldliness makes us feud among ourselves in a futile quest for power, prestige, pleasure or economic security.

Such unity is already an act of mission, “that the world may believe”. Evangelization does not consist in proselytizing, but in attracting by our witness those who are far off, in humbly drawing near to those who feel distant from God and the Church, those who are fearful or indifferent, and saying to them: “The Lord, with great respect and love, is also calling you to be a part of his people” (Evangelii Gaudium, 113).

The Church’s mission as sacrament of salvation also has to do with her identity as a pilgrim people called to embrace all the nations of the earth. The more intense the communion between us, the more effective our mission becomes (cf. John Paul II, Pastores Gregis, 22). Becoming a missionary Church requires constantly fostering communion, since mission does not have to do with outreach alone… We also need to be missionaries within the Church, showing that she is “a mother who reaches out, a welcoming home, a constant school of missionary communion” (Aparecida Document, 370).

Jesus’ prayer can be realized because he has consecrated us. “For their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth”. The spiritual life of an evangelizer is born of this profound truth, which should not be confused with a few comforting religious exercises. Jesus consecrates us so that we can encounter him personally. And this encounter leads us in turn to encounter others, to become involved with our world and to develop a passion for evangelization (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 78).

Intimacy with God, in itself incomprehensible, is revealed by images which speak to us of communion, communication, self-giving and love. For that reason, the unity to which Jesus calls us is not uniformity, but rather a “multifaceted and inviting harmony” (Evangelii Gaudium, 117). The wealth of our differences, our diversity which becomes unity whenever we commemorate Holy Thursday, makes us wary of all totalitarian, ideological or sectarian schemes. Nor is this unity something we can fashion as we will, setting conditions, choosing who can belong and who cannot. Jesus prays that we will all become part of a great family in which God is our Father and all of us are brothers and sisters. This is not about having the same tastes, the same concerns, the same gifts. We are brothers and sisters because God created us out of love and destined us, purely of his own initiative, to be his sons and daughters (cf. Eph 1:5). We are brothers and sisters because “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying “Abba! Father!” (Gal 4:6). We are brothers and sisters because, justified by the blood of Christ Jesus (cf. Rom 5:9), we have passed from death to life and been made “coheirs” of the promise (cf. Gal 3:26-29; Rom 8:17). That is the salvation which God makes possible for us, and which the Church proclaims with joy: to be part of the divine “we”.

Our cry, in this place linked to the original cry for freedom in this country, echoes that of Saint Paul: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). It is a cry every bit as urgent and pressing as was the cry for independence. It is similarly thrilling in its ardor. May each of you be a witness to a fraternal communion which shines forth in our world!

How beautiful it would be if all could admire how much we care for one another, how we encourage and help each other. Giving of ourselves establishes an interpersonal relationship; we do not give “things” but our very selves. In any act of giving, we give ourselves. “Giving of oneself” means letting all the power of that love which is God’s Holy Spirit take root in our lives, opening our hearts to his creative power. When we give of ourselves, we discover our true identity as children of God in the image of the Father and, like him, givers of life; we discover that we are brothers and sisters of Jesus, to whom we bear witness. This is what it means to evangelize; this is the new revolution – for our faith is always revolutionary –, this is our deepest and most enduring cry.