Of Ocean Gems and Desert Flowers

“Full many a gem of purest ray serene The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear: Full many a flower is born to blush unseen And waste its sweetness on the desert air." This stanza describing a beautiful imagery is from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" written by the great American poet Thomas Gray. It is one of the poems we studied in high school English Literature. In this vast universe created by God there are numerous things of beauty other than gems lying at the bottom of the sea and are not seen by people, and beautiful flowers which bloom in the desert unseen and whose sweet smell is just wasted. Scripture says: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows h

Homecomings and Reunions

It has been ages since I attended a reunion of my high school (now a college) class. Many of my classmates have either passed away and the exact whereabouts of those still living are not easily known, despite the aid of social media. Many of us have gone away from the hometown, where our high school was, where we had dreamed our dreams and talked about them with our best friends. The pure distance of where we have settled down, some of us at the other side of the globe, and the hassles and physical demands involved in travel for weakened knees and aging bodies make it prohibitive to come and visit home, even if there are still some classmates to have a reunion with. For those who are still

We Will Also Be Transfigured

Last Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, the Church invited us to look at Jesus in the desert where he was tempted three times by the devil, and where Jesus emerged victorious. It is a picture of the humanity of Christ. This Sunday the Church presents to us a completely different picture of Jesus – one which shows His glory and splendor, and where God the Father announced Him as His dearly beloved Son, which thus proclaims His divinity. The gospel tells us that Jesus took three of his apostles, Peter, James and John, to a high mountain, which is commonly believed to be Mt. Tabor. (I believe many of you have gone to this mountain on your pilgrimage in the Holy Land.) Once on the top of the mo

"Thanatopsis"

One of the classic poems we learned in high school English Literature class is one by the great American poet, William Cullen Bryant, published in 1817. As the title sums it up, it is a poem about a view of death (Thanatos – death, opsis – view).* As such, it is good material to meditate on this Lent. The last stanza of the poem gives a picture of what one must undergo when that fateful time comes: that is, to join other people moving to a mysterious place where each one has a chamber reserved for him. There is an admonition that one must live his life in such a way that he can approach his grave like one who is just going to sleep at night and having good dreams. “So live, that when thy su

"He Might Be Christ"

Monsignor Nestor, who was pitching in for our pastor, recounted a story of how a man knocked at the parish office door to ask for monetary assistance due to a pressing need. The monsignor had earlier been made aware by the parish staff that it is not uncommon for dishonest people to come to the parish office pretending to have an urgent need. After talking to the person, the priest decided to give a little sum from his own pocket. The good monsignor told me that if the man was lying, that was his problem. But he helped anyway because he felt that man "might be Christ" and Christ said that whatever we do to our brethren we do it to Him. There are people who are obviously poor, but there are a

We Don't Have Unlimited Time

When St. Augustine was a young man, he had a wayward prayer: “Lord, make me chaste (sexually pure) – but not yet.” Luckily for him, he turned away from his sinful ways at the right time and eventually became a saint. However, many are not as lucky. Their lives end when they do not expect it: heart attacks, fatal accidents, drowning, fires, attacks from evil persons. Our own life is not within our control. Death is the end of everyone and the life of man quickly passes away like a shadow. "In a moment they die, and at midnight people are shaken and pass away, And the mighty are taken away without a hand." Job 34:20 Time waits for no man. The Stoics say that our every thought therefore should

Imitating Christ -- A Tall Order?

Someone commented on a previous blog ("Imitation") that although the idea of having a model in life is a good one, imitating Christ is a tall order. A tall order is a task that is very hard or even impossible to accomplish. In that sense imitating Christ is truly a tall order. Jesus also said: "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Mt 5:48) That is also a tall order. I think that in both cases, Jesus does not expect us to complete the perfection or the imitation we are asked to do. It is a matter of our trying to walk along the path, to go towards the direction of imitation and perfection He wants us to tread. It is thus a work in progress, of trying to develop greater conformity

"Imitating Christ and Despising All Vanities on Earth"

Book 1 Chapter 1 of the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a'Kempis HE WHO follows Me, walks not in darkness," says the Lord (John 8:12). By these words of Christ we are advised to imitate His life and habits, if we wish to be truly enlightened and free from all blindness of heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus Christ. The teaching of Christ is more excellent than all the advice of the saints, and he who has His spirit will find in it a hidden manna. Now, there are many who hear the Gospel often but care little for it because they have not the spirit of Christ. Yet whoever wishes to understand fully the words of Christ must try to pattern his whole life on that of

Imitation

In minor seminary, in a subject called "Poetry" we were taught how to write good prose and poetry (mostly prose). In a subject called "Rhetoric" we were taught how to write good mini-speeches and deliver them interestingly. The teacher gave us model paragraphs/pieces written by good writers and he asked us to write our own using the structure and development of the model paragraph or piece, but putting in our own ideas and content. The exercise was meant to develop in us good writing and speaking skills, making them part and parcel of us. The imitation technique is also used by other English writing teachers, I found out later. Imitation occurs also in other fields, like playing the viol

‘I Am on a Pilgrimage Towards Home’

First, it was Pope John Paul II who mumbled at his death bed: "Let me go to the house of the Father." He was declared a saint several years after his death. Now, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in a letter to an Italian newspaper which wanted to know how he is spending this last period of his life said: "I can only say that with the slow decline of my physical forces, interiorly, I am on a pilgrimage towards Home." Two men who have served God's people well. Two men with the same orientation on life: this one and the next. On what is Home. At the end of the day, at the end of our own earthly pilgrimage, we will go home . . . to the Father's home . . . if we have truly longed for it. # "For we kn