Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Pleasure Is Necessary

One takeaway from tonight's Moral Theology class...

We need to do things daily that give us pleasure. Now the word "pleasure" is very misunderstood and wrongly used in our secular world. Pleasure does not just equate feeling good. Pleasure = the resting of the soul, and since it is the RESTING of the soul, it has to be free from wrong pleasures, free from disproportionate dwelling in the pleasure (addictions) and being proportionate to the age and dignity of the person.

I would like to think of this as doing what gives me life. Wholesome pleasure. It takes at least self-awareness, prudence and honesty to know what gives me life and what does not. Smoking may make me feel good in the moment but it quite obviously is not life-giving. Jogging may not make me feel good in the moment because I feel the stings in my muscles but it gives me life and loosens up my stiff muscles, fills me with enough an adrenaline rush to supply the positive energy to do what I need to. Music gives me life though not all genres do. Being in nature gives me life; that somehow, when I am in oneness with this unspoilt creation, I quite naturally am uplifted, relaxed and at peace.

I love window shopping but if I were to do this for hours everyday, then it becomes life-draining because I would also recognise the other better things I can do with that time. Window shopping does not add value to my life. It just gives my eyes a treat since I love admiring things that are aesthetically pleasing and tasteful. On top of knowing what to do that is life-giving, I too need to be aware of the amount to fill my life with it so that it remains truly a time of rest for my soul.

With the kind of stresses we face in life today, we need all the more to give ourselves the disciplined time for pleasure. The problem is that we often don't know what truly gives us life and what does not. We misunderstand pleasure to be about feeling good. And end up doing things that do not actually give rest to our souls and end up feeling restless again very soon after. Dissatisfied very soon after we experience some satisfaction. A filling which finds us too quickly feeling empty again.

If we feel overwhelmed, restless, drained, low on energy emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and even physically... maybe it is time to have a break, have a kitkat... do something that gives us life, that truly lifts up our souls... and it can be as simple as savouring a small piece of chocolate melting away in your mouth, as deliberate as getting to the beach for a stroll or waking up early to catch the sunrise.

What is one thing you can do to give wholesome rest to your soul this week?

Friday, 23 May 2014

Rabbit Carrot Gun - Part II

The Mass readings this week seem to point me in the direction of living in uncertainties and which reinforces my Rabbit Carrot Gun learning journey takeaway - responding rather than effortising/initiating - some weeks back.

What struck me were the readings of how the apostles had to elect committees and appoint people to take on roles to see to the various needs that sprung up along the way as they founded the early Church. The focal point for me is "along the way".

It got me to realise more consciously that when Peter led the apostles as the first Pope of the Church, he, along with everyone else, did not know what in the world they were going to do, how in the world they were going to bring the good news to the ends of the earth. All they probably had was the great desire to do anything, go anywhere, be anyone for the Master they came to know, love and desire to serve.

They probably had no visions, no mission statements, no long term plans to work towards, no proposals and PowerPoint presentations of these proposals and projections. What was once informal meetings to remember Jesus has now become the Mass we participate in. No dreams of building churches, nor convents or seminaries, retreat houses. No idea how to even have such dreams that would be quite out of this world in those times. No idea what problems they would encounter, no backup plans, wet-weather plans... Nothing. Fumbling, stumbling, failing, making errors... How are we the Church we are today?

All of which points me back to "responding". A problem surfaced. They met, discerned, discussed, agreed and executed the solution. New needs sprung up. They elected suitable people according to their gifts to see to those needs. Every step of the way, when there seemed to be a new realisation, a new obstacle, a new situation, they responded as best as they could, without following any manuals for discernment, but always being opened to the Holy Spirit's promptings and guidance with docility, obedience and total self-giving. They responded, experienced new things, responded, experienced new things, ... growing, learning, maturing.

The Church is not what it is today because of a 2000 years proposal Peter or any of the apostles drew up and passed down one generation to the next. It is what it is because people have been responding with love and courage, faith and hope in the One who leads them as their Good Shepherd. The Church is not built upon the initiatives of Man but upon Man's generous responses to the initiatives of God - planted in hearts' desires, problematic situations, etc. And perhaps, this is the right relationship between God and Man - that we are merely followers of the One who leads and creates.

And the question for us in our time is...
What is God initiating in our lives? And what will our response be?

Sunday, 4 May 2014

My Heart's Desire

How do you know what your passions are...? Or what or who do you really like? The answers are found in what we cannot live without. By this, I don't mean to die without them but that being without, we just are not ourselves anymore. There is an emptiness, there is discomfort and a restlessness that cannot seem to be filled. 

I'm reminded of this today especially as I cannot hear as well the beautiful music coming from the player with my blocked ears, as I cannot sing what I want to express in song with my phlegm-filled throat, as I cannot savour food with my dysfunctional taste buds. Where my daily movements are highly restricted as I am confined to my bed and dreamland most of the time. I am reminded of how much music adds flavour to my life, how much I cannot do without it. 

But above this was a moment of being in front of St. Joseph's statue at church today, staring at him on this occasion of his feast day and allowing the moment to transport me into the history of the church. The invitation to sainthood that all of us are called to, the invitation to lead holy lives, God-focused lives. Beneath the yearnings to do the things I like to but cannot do now because of the infection, lies the greatest yearning of God Himself. A restlessness that makes all other restfulness restless. That nothing quite strikes a chord within me the way it does when I am one with Him. 

To be without Him, like Cleopas and the other disciple who were leaving Jerusalem in today's Gospel, comes the temptation to flee from His absence, if this is possible at all. The temptation to run away from the restlessness most tangible in what seems to be a waiting without a sure end. And there they were, walking away from the place in which all there was left was emptiness, a confrontational newness of His absence that forces them into a depressing unfamiliarity filled with confusion, disillusionment, fear and loss. 

And yet, Jesus caught up with them in their walking away, reminded them of the consolation they once enjoyed of having their hearts burn with the assuring presence of their Master, when their hearts were at rest, being one with Him. It was that fond familiarity as Jesus explained the scriptures and broke the bread that ignited their hearts again with the love and joy, the excitement and decisiveness to return to that very place they had already associated with hopeless waiting and despair. The fond familiarity that opened the heart to recognise what and who one truly loves and desires. And when the heart recognises this, our life course changes forever.

Who is that missing note that completes and makes full the chord in your heart?