• Wartakanlah Injil kepada segala makhluk.
    Mrk 16:15

  • 你们往普天下去, 向一切受造物宣传福音
    谷 16:15

  • Everything is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit’s Grace.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • Segala sesuatu menjadi mungkin dalam kekuatan karunia Roh Kudus.
    St. Arnold Janssen

  • 我当传教士不是为主牺牲,而是上主给我的最大恩赐
    圣福若瑟神父

  • Với sức mạnh Ân Huệ của Chúa Thánh Thần, Mọi việc đều có thể được.
    St Arnoldus Janssen

  • Preach the Gospel to the whole creation./Anh em hãy đi khắp tứ phương thiên hạ, loan báo Tin Mừng cho mọi loài thọ tạo
    Mk 16:15

  • There are many different gifts, but it is always the same Spirit.
    1 Cor 12:4

  • And the Word became flesh and lived among us.
    Jn 1:14

  • Let the word of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you.
    Col 3:16

  • To proclaim the Good News is the first and greatest act of love of neighbour.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • 传扬天国福音是第一且最大的爱近人行动
    圣杨生•爱诺德神父

  • Có nhiều đặc sủng khác nhau, nhưng chỉ có một Thần Khí/
    1 Cor. 14:4

  • 圣言成了血肉,寄居在我们中间
    若 1:14

  • Ada rupa-rupa karunia, tetapi Roh satu
    1 Kor 12:4

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Tuesday, 29 August 2017 19:55

Transforming our lives - a reflection

 

Fr Anthony Le Duc SVD 150 LighterBy Fr Anthony Le Duc SVD

The scholar of religion Frederick Streng defines religion as the “means toward ultimate transformation.” Ultimate transformation, says Streng, “is a fundamental change from being caught up in the troubles of common existence (sin, ignorance) to living in such a way that one can cope at the deepest level with those troubles.” Self-transformation is not the exclusive agenda of religion since anything that we engage in with intention and purpose can lead to transformation physically, mentally and spiritually. However, it is religion that makes the goal of self-transformation its highest, if not the only, priority.

While one can agree that all religions set out to help the human person achieve ultimate transformation, the tools and methods that each religious system employs varies. Hinduism relies on various yoga practices that its adherents can choose depending on their own level of competency and spiritual maturity. Buddhism promotes meditation practices that lead one to the realisation of the true nature of things, which is usually called enlightenment. Christian transformation has to do with uniting ourselves to God through Christ in whom we can see the potential of humanity and what the highest human calling looks like.

Anthony Le Duc confession 150Not only are the means for transformation different, but the time scale for this purpose also varies. Indian religions teach that self-cultivation that leads to transformation is a day-to-day task in a person’s lifetime, but ultimate transformation that results in enlightenment and liberation from ignorance and suffering is a matter of many lifetimes, in fact millions of lifetimes. In mainland Southeast Asia where Theravada Buddhism is the religion of the vast majority of the population, the people understand that enlightenment and liberation is a very gradual process. Very few (even those in the monkhood) make it their immediate goal while almost all simply hope for a better rebirth either in this world or in heaven, where they can spend tens and even hundreds of thousands of years in happiness. The Buddhist’s heavenly tenure is not eternal, but a minimum of 60,000 years in comfort free from mundane suffering is more than enough for those who are struggling to live out their lives on earth.

We Catholic Christians also believe in gradual transformation, but unfortunately, we do not have millions of lifetimes to achieve the task. We have one lifetime, and sometimes a very short one at that. At death, we ultimately end up either in one of two places--heaven or hell. Unlike the Buddhist heaven, our heaven is eternal. True peace and happiness in heaven with God does not have an expiration date. Unfortunately, neither do torment and suffering when it comes to our belief about hell.

Some of us might feel a bit jealous of adherents of religions who believe in the concept of rebirth. They seem to have more opportunities, so much more in fact, than we do. Unlike them, we do not seem entitled to the do-overs because we get only one shot at heaven or hell. Although we might feel at a disadvantage because of our faith, it is this faith that we have committed ourselves to and need to do our best to live out in our lives.

A more reflective examination of our Catholic tradition, however, might help us to see a similarity between our tradition and the Buddhist tradition. We might not have millions of lifetimes to make spiritual progress like the Buddhists do, but the Catholic tradition does create plenty of opportunities for new starts and new “lifetimes”. And this is seen most clearly in the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation. Each time we come into the confessional room to confess our sins to the priest and receive forgiveness from God, it is a new beginning, a new lifetime to live out as best we can, a new opportunity to make progress, no matter how small, on our spiritual path. These mini-lifetimes of a few weeks or a few months that we are given are not meant for us to fall back on the same old ways and habits (even though in reality that is often the case), but to be an opportunity to advance towards self-perfection in the imitation of Christ who is like us in every way except sin. A way for us to legitimately get a new lease on life, get an entire new lifetime so to speak, is to make our way to the confessional room, where we can die to our sins and be reborn in the grace of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness.

Any lifetime, no matter how long or short, is meant to be lived to the fullest, achieving the purpose meant for it in the given situation. Through the events, challenges, and experiences that we encounter, we hope to draw lessons that help us make improvements for ourselves in the future. In the end, it may not be necessary to have millions of lifetimes to achieve true liberation and happiness, but it needs a life that is spent with intention and purpose with our eyes fixed on the final outcome that we would like to attain—true and eternal happiness in heaven with God.