Browsed by
Tag: English

To Love the Law

To Love the Law

6th Sunday of Easter [B]

May 9, 2021

John 15:9-17

Jesus gave His disciples the new commandment: to love one another as Jesus has loved them. The question may be raised: why another law? The Bible possesses a lot of laws and regulations. In the Old Testament alone, they are hundreds of regulations that are still effective for the Jews until now. The Church also has many laws concerning different aspects of Christian people from how to properly participate in the Eucharist to how to elect a pope. Aside from the Bible and the Church, we have many other laws to follow.

No wonder that often we see laws and regulations as burdens on our shoulder and restrictions to our freedom. For some, obedience to the law is sign of weakness, and breaking the rules is an achievement. However, if we investigate a bigger perspective and delve into the purpose of law, we shall discover that laws are not horrendous as it may seem. At least, there are three purposes of law.

Firstly, the law helps us to grow. The commandments may be restrictive, but they form and educate us. Just try to imagine that in a soccer game, there is no regulation on ‘hand ball’. Consequently, players will not only touch the ball, but keep it to themselves. It ceases to be a soccer game! With this simple and basic rule, players are ‘forced’ to use their feet to control the ball. This pushes players to train hard to master the skills, and hopefully turn to be world-class players. As children, we are trained to be punctual by following schedule, both in homes and schools. This simple rule does not mean to restrict our children, but to teach a disciple as well as to learn the value of time.

Secondly, the law saves us. The commandments may limit our movements, but they are for our safety. Just try to imagine that in a soccer game, a hard tackle is not a violation. Players will start punching and kicking one another, and it’s a matter of seconds before a riot begins. It ceases to be a soccer game! With this rule, players will be mindful of the harm they can cause, and yet, they can continue enjoying the game because no one is injured or hurt.

These two elements of law are also present in the commandment of love. The law of love forms us to be more loving persons. The real love is tough, even to love someone who are dear to us. It is hard to forgive, even our close friends. it is difficult to make daily sacrifices for our children and family members. It is not easy to be patient with people we serve in the community or the Church. Yet, if we choose to keep the commandment, we grow to be a more loving person. Love turns to be our second nature and we love spontaneously. If God is love, then we become God-like each day.

The law of love saves us. St. John of the Cross once said, “in the twilight of our lives, God will not judge us on our earthly possessions and human successes, but on how well we have loved.” Heaven is where the perfect love is, and to achieve that perfection, we need to build it gradually here on earth. The more we obey the commandment, the more loving we are, the more the heaven opens for us. Love saves us for the eternal bliss.

Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

Three Ways to Remain in Christ

Three Ways to Remain in Christ

Three Ways to Remain in Christ

Fifth Sunday of Easter [B]
May 2, 2021
John 15:1-8

Jesus said, “Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me [John 15:4].” To remain in Jesus is not just an option but a necessity to bear fruits of eternal life.

The question is how we are going to remain in Jesus? We can do at least three ways. Firstly, we need to remain in His Word. Jesus said, “You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. [John 15:3].” How can we remain in Jesus if we do not know Him? How can we know Him if we do not read His stories and teachings in the Bible? That is why St. Jerome famously said, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” Often, we, Catholics, are accused of not reading the Bible enough. While the accusation might be false, the invitation to read and reflect on the Bible remains true. Reading Scripture may be challenging, but it has its precious rewards.

Secondly, we remain in Him through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him [John 6:56].” We face a difficult time because of the pandemic, and many people are deprived of the Holy communion. None can replace the sacramental union with Christ in the Eucharist. As a priest, I am saddened by the situation, but at the same time, I am glad because ‘absence makes the heart grows fonder.’ Often, I see some of the faithful shed their tears when they receive the Body of Christ after a long absence. The pandemic forces us to reflect more profound on the meaning of the Eucharist in our lives. Sometimes, we need to learn from the saints. Bl. Alexandrina da Costa of Portugal consumed nothing but the Holy Eucharist for 13 years until her death. The bread of life truly nourishes the soul, and when the soul is healthy, the body will manifest this vigour.

Thirdly, we remain in Christ by staying in the Church. Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches, and because of one vine, all the branches are closely interconnected. One branch does not live for the sake of itself but the entire plant. One healthy branch can contribute to the wellbeing of the whole ecosystem, and at the same time, another branch may require more nutrients and support from other parts of the plant. This is why I will encourage people to be part of a community and be active in the local Church. The Church has extremely diverse communities within her. There are groups based on age. There are communities based on spiritual traditions and devotions. While it is true that being part of a community may be difficult sometimes, it also provides the opportunity to grow and love.

These are three ways that we may remain in Jesus, and Jesus remains in us. We continue to grow and bear fruits for the glory of God.

Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

The Good and Holy Shepherd

The Good and Holy Shepherd

Fourth Sunday of Easter [B]
April 25, 2021
John 10:11-18

The fourth Sunday of Easter is commonly known as the Good Shepherd Sunday. The reason is that every year, the Church always chooses the Gospel from John, especially chapter 10 [year A: John 10:1-10; year B: John 10:11-18; year C: John 10:27-30]. In this chapter, Jesus introduces His identity as the Good Shepherd. This Sunday is also famously called the Vocations Sunday. In 1964, Pope Paul VI established the World Day of Prayer for Vocations on the fourth Sunday of Easter. Why ‘Vocations Sunday’? The word ‘vocation’ comes from the Latin word, ‘vocare’ that means ‘to call’. In the same Gospel, Jesus says that the shepherd ‘calls’ his sheep by name and they hear his voice [see John 10:3-4].

Often, we associate vocation with the vocation to the priesthood or religious life, become a priest, or become a religious sister. However, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does not only call a few sheep to follow Him, but the entire flock. Jesus invites everyone to follow Him, and thus, everyone has a vocation.

Generally, in the Church, we have the clergy and the laity. The clergies are those who received the sacrament of Holy Orders or ordination. Under this group are the deacons, priests, and bishops. Meanwhile, those who do not receive the ordination are the laity. Under this distinction, we have married people and those who remain single for the Lord. There is also a special category, that is people with vows. Traditionally, we have three vows or promise to God, the vow of obedience, the vow of chastity and the vow of poverty. Christians who professed vows usually belong to communities [technically called institutes of consecrated life] like the Order of Preachers, the Society of Jesus, and many others. When a laywoman professes vows, she becomes a religious sister of a specific community like Sr. Maria, OP. When a priest has vows, he is called a religious priest, like Fr. Joseph, OFM. A priest who does not profess vows and attached to a diocese is called a diocesan priest. Indeed, these categories are oversimplified and fail to do justice to many other forms of lives within the Catholic Church. The point is that the Good Shepherd is calling all of us to follow and to be with Him. It is a universal call to holiness.

Yet, what is holiness? Does it mean when a man is ordained to be a priest, he is automatically holy? Is wearing a religious habit a sign of holiness? Is constant prayer and piety manifestation of holy persons? If holiness is following and becoming one with the Good Shepherd, then to be holy is to live and act like the Good Shepherd Himself. What, then, is the main character of the Good Shepherd? Jesus tells us, “The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep [John 10:15].” The Good Shepherd is ‘Good’ because His love is radical and sacrificial.

To be holy is to love radically and sacrificially, and true love is performed every day in every way possible. Holiness is when a man works hard every day for his family. Holiness is a mother who cares for her baby and ready to lose her sleep every night. St. Theresa of Avila used to say, “Know that if you are in the kitchen, God walks among the pots and pans.”

Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

The Glorious Body

The Glorious Body

Third Sunday of Easter [B]

April 18, 2021

Luke 24:35-48

Miracles are rare occurrences, but some are even rarer and more precious than others. Miraculous healings are exceptional but coming back to life after death is even extraordinary. However, there is one miracle that is wholly unique and incomparable: resurrection. Yet, what makes resurrection different from other miracles?

Resurrection presupposes death or permanent separation between body dan soul. Thus, resurrection is the reunion of body and soul. Our Gospel today informs us that Jesus showed His disciples His body as well as His wounds. He wanted to show them that what disciples experienced in the upper room was not an illusion or fantasy. They did not see a ghost or disembodied spirit. What they encountered was a living human body.

Moreover, the wounds prove that the resurrected body of Christ is the same as the crucified body. He was not an imposter! Jesus even asked for food and ate the baked fish. He acted just like an ordinary living person, and the disciples should not be afraid anymore but believe.

However, Jesus’ resurrection is fundamentally different from what happened to Lazarus [see John 11]. Lazarus was dead, but Jesus raised him from the dead, but Lazarus would eventually face death once more. What happened to Lazarus is usually called ‘resuscitation.’ Meanwhile, Jesus was raised from the dead and will die no more. The resurrected Christ will no longer experience death because He received no ordinary body. His body was a glorious one. It is the same body that Jesus received from Virgin Mary, the same body that walked in Galilee, the same body that preached to the disciples, and the same body that was tortured, crucified, and buried in the tomb. Yet, the divine power has transformed this body.

What makes this glorified body unique? Firstly, this body is immortal. Secondly, it is no longer experiencing suffering like pain, sickness, or aging. Thirdly, the body will not be subjected to the laws of nature and freed from the limitation of time and space. This explains why Jesus was able to enter the locked upper room [see CCC 645]. Fourthly, the body can change its appearance. This explains why the disciples often did not recognize the risen Lord. Resurrection does not only about the reunion between the soul and the body but about the body glorified and sanctified for eternal life.

The reality about the resurrection amplifies the fundamental truth about our bodies. The Book of Genesis narrated that God created the physical world as something good. Human persons, including their bodies, were blessed, and called ‘very good.’ God plans that His magnificent creation will not go to waste in death and decay. He wills that this amazing and blessed body continue to exist for eternity and become part of His marvelous heaven.

From this realization, do we prepare our bodies for heaven? Do we abuse our bodies with unhealthy lifestyles? Do we use our bodies to honor God in prayer and good works? Do we destroy our body, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, with vices and addictions? Do we offer our bodies as a living and pleasing sacrifice to God?

Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

Doubt and Faith

Doubt and Faith

Second Sunday of Easter [B] – Divine Mercy Sunday
April 11, 2021
John 20:19-31

Thomas, one of Jesus’ apostles, was celebratedly called ‘the doubter.’ His skeptical attitude sprang when he was absent from the Sunday’s gathering, and he missed the most important event that took place on Sunday: Jesus’ resurrection. From here, we can learn an important lesson: do not be absent on Sunday’s mass!
Being skeptical or doubtful is part of our human nature. In fact, a certain level of skepticism is healthy and necessary. When we encounter unusual claims or information, we do not immediately trust them and put a certain skeptical distance. The doubt invites us to investigate and verify the veracity of the claim. When all reasonable doubts are removed, we can be sure of the truth.
Specific claims indeed must not be accepted at face value and be verified. If a man is accused of stealing, he has the right to the legal proceedings, and based on the evidence, the competent judge will pronounce the verdict. Not only in the court of law, fields of science also have rigorous methods to prove a hypothesis. The Church also adopts the same attitude. When the Church receives a claim that a person has seen the Lord or the Blessed Virgin Mary, she will investigate it. Is the person having a mental problem or simply hallucinating? Is the evil spirit involved? Is the private revelation going against the Church’s teachings? After clearing the reasonable doubts, the Church shall declare her position on the claim.
Going back to Thomas, at first, Thomas’ doubt seemed to be a reasonable one since he heard a spectacular claim from his brothers. As a Jew, Thomas may believe in the resurrection of the dead, but this would take place at the end of time. Jesus’ resurrection was unexpected. Thus, Thomas demanded proof, and it was given. However, if we see Jesus’ words to Thomas, “…do not be unbelieving [Gr. apistis] but believe [John 20:27].” Jesus pointed out that what happened to Thomas was not a simple and honest doubt but willful disbelief. While genuine doubt can be removed through reliable processes to achieve an objective truth, belief, on the other hand, is a free decision to accept that specific claim to be true. The problem is that what one believes does not always correspond to the objective truth.
Thus, when someone already decided to accept a particular claim as his subjective truth, he will not give up on the claim, however erroneous it is. Ideally, our belief corresponds to the objective reality. St. Thomas Aquinas puts it that the truth is the correspondence between the mind and reality.
After Jesus showed Thomas His wounds as evidence of His resurrection, Jesus moved to the next and most crucial step. He asked Thomas to believe. Thomas eventually accepted the truth of resurrection as his own. Jesus is indeed Lord and God, but only when Thomas received the truth as his own, could he say, ‘my Lord and my God.’
One way or another, we may reflect Thomas. We may learn the Catholic faith’s truth since we are young, but do we honestly believe them? We may confess Jesus is our God, but do we trust Him in times of trials and difficulties? We may say that God has redeemed us, but do we live more like the redeemed people?

Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP