Monday, June 16, 2014

Does Catholicism set for our lives a very high bar?

I have come across some articles written about reflections on religion by converts to Catholicism, and something that seems cut across many of them is the fact that in their journey into the faith, it had dawned on them that Catholicism does have a very stringent standard for life, and that sainthood is not a path for the faint-hearted.  Yet, despite knowing this, there is an undeniable pull or magnetism that draws the person into the faith, and it has nothing at all to do with the fact that some people may have a masochistic streak in them.  It has to do with the truth.

What is this truth?  Well, the fundamental tenets of our faith are in the Creed which we recite (hopefully with heartfelt enthusiasm, passion and awareness) each Sunday at Mass.  But these truths can become mere statements that we mouth if we do not take the effort to translate it into what it means for us and our daily living in this life.  When that all-important connection is not made, it can easily make one a mere nominal Catholic who exists instead of truly living life as life should be lived.

At the heart of our faith is a very amazing truth that once we truly get it, it should change the way we live our lives.  This is the fact that God has a great desire to see us living as God lives.  All the teachings of the Church that give us moral guidance and that set for us a very high ethical standard are actually guidelines that help us to make that often difficult and challenging choice for God and holiness.  That teachings of faith and morals which the Magisterium declares are infallible give it a divine revelation that ensures us that these hard truths (some of them) are not mere whimsical rules set up by humans who are sinners, but actually do come with the Holy Spirit’s guidance and direction.  Living as God lives – if you really think about it, there is no higher bar that can be set. 

Sure, one can will oneself to be loving, kind, considerate, patient, forgiving and even positively endure long suffering in life.  But what sets the Christian apart is that these are not just going to be acts that one manages to do with training and perhaps even good familial upbringing.  It comes from a far richer and deeper wellspring, which is the love of God who wants to share his love with us in the deepest way possible. 

But as you and I know, there are Catholics and there are Catholics.  There is a whole gamut of them.  Much as the Church prays that all Catholics will embrace the truth that they are baptized into with great fervor and ardor, there are many who seem to be ‘getting by’ with the barest of minimalism, which is the reason why there is the term ‘nominal Catholics’.  They come in all forms, and there are some characteristics that they share – they hardly talk about their faith with any pride, go to Mass with a dread (if at all), and cannot wait to bolt out of the Church once the distribution of Holy Communion is over.  Their outward and visible lives seem to be hardly testimonies of any semblance of the love of Christ and the world seems to be centered on them and what they are interested in. 

Do I sound judgmental?  Forgive me if I do, but that was not my point.  It was a caricature of how someone who hardly embraces the truth of the faith can end up living his or her life.

That God constantly invites us to live lives that are deep and significant and true should not be something that is news to any baptized Christian.  It struck me that the clearer we are about this in the introduction of the faith to unbaptized folk who are enquiring about our faith, and share with them right from the start that the Christian calling is one which invites them to live as God lives and love as God loves, it will set the ground right to impart any of the Church’s teachings later on.  But that would also mean that we have to walk the walk before talking the talk, and that our own lives must show that we dare to live deeply and not just superficially. 

We can only do that when we live in full awareness each moment that the bar for each of us has been set very high.  High enough to reach God.


  1. Haha frLuke though i would not like to commence with "thank you father" i still say thank you father for the upfront and forthrightness that "Christian calling is one which invites them (us) to live as God lives and love as God loves." Very often, to "catch" the fishes, we use baits of all sort, at times pushing or hiding Jesus and God the Father behind all kinds of facades to suit one's temperament. And this morning, i thought aloud, if Jesus, and/or God the Father, is not what we perceived Him to be, would we still go with Him. Silence.


  2. Looking at the photograph in your blog and having read the blog, I have this thought. I suppose for many great high jumpers, the attraction to go into this sport was after seeing the grace of the jump. Only when they were into this sport that they realized there was a regimental training to it all. By then, theses high jumpers had looked beyond the severity of the training and looked forward to achieving great heights with their jumps.
    Likewise, many converts embraced Catholicism so readily is because they have experienced the grace of Jesus, and the love of God first. It was never checking the boxes on the Ten Commandments and the many rules the Church has.
    I am one of these converts. Having witnessed God’s love and holiness among the RCIA sponsors has helped me looked beyond the “siongness” of being a Catholic. The teachings of the Church don’t seem hard anymore because of what “I Believe”. The bar may still be high but with God’s grace and love, I am sure I will soar over it one day.

  3. Following Jesus can be tough. I pull no punches when explaining this to the RCIA enquirers. It won’t be a bed of roses, for sure; at times it could even reduce you to tears.So why be Catholic in the first place?

    The answer is much too long to explain fully here, but suffice to say that if not Jesus, then, in the words of Simon Peter, “Lord, to whom are we to go?” He (and He alone) has the message of eternal life. No one comes to the father except through Jesus.

    So then, how do we attain such heights? Paradoxically, only by lowering ourselves. This really, is the challenge (for the ego is not so easily placated). Yes, the bar is high; but then “the Lord hears the cry of the poor” and so we are not left to fend for ourselves. Indeed, without God’s grace we could never reach Heaven.
    God Bless.

  4. “But what sets the Christian apart is....................................................... It comes from a far richer and deeper wellspring, which is the love of God who wants to share his love with us in the deepest way possible.”

    I cannot help but hear the echo of Jeremiah (31:3) - “I have loved you with an everlasting love;.................” when I read those lines in your post. It is Love that separates Christians apart from people of other faiths. The recent celebration of the feast of the Holy Trinity reminded us of the intimate love relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As He made us in His image and likeness -He has given us this godly desire, as a fore-taste, a glimpse of what is to come. So, it is this unending , unmerited and unconditional love that He promised to shower upon all who acknowledged Him as Lord that made us so ‘special’ that we would so willingly give up our “freedom” to be “chained” to – “Catholicism ......................a very stringent standard for life,...................................”

    We are told that in normal circumstances, human beings by nature, crave for intimacy and thus, one of the deepest human urge or hunger is ‘to know and to be known’. Though it is true that human intimacy has a physical, emotional and sexual aspect, it would seem that primarily it is more of a spiritual thing,................(how else to explain away the discontent -however slight-at the end of every chase or conquest?) It is a spiritual bonding or relationship because God has planted this need deeply in us and this perhaps explain why a “godly-intimacy” is not confined or limited to marriage but also to people of like spirit..................especially when there is the element of a “giving of oneself” in the relationship – truly following in Christ’s footsteps!

    God bless u, Fr.


  5. Dear Fr Luke

    Happy Anniversary on your priestly ordination today. The whole worshipping community at 6,30am mass at OLPS prayed for you this morning.

    God bless you always!

    OLPS parishioner

  6. Dearest Fr Luke,

    I often like to think of catholic teachings, the ‘unpopular’ ones, like that of eating vegetables. Very fibrous and needs a lot chewing. Many will find it hard to swallow and may spit it out; or often water it down, swallowing it entirely without chewing just because our parents/catechists told us it’s good for us.

    As a cradle catholic, I used to be one who would water it down, encouraged to do so when young and unable to “chew” and thus believed that’s the only way to it. Sad to say, some childhood friends are still watering it out of convenience, putting on hold to chew on the richness because they have no time, or worse, decide it’s not worth the effort and spit it all out.

    At times, it can seem “easier” to evangelise than to re-evangelise. The bar had always been set at the high level; it is those who gave up trying that can be the most hostile and challenging. They may yet to chew on the richness to grasp the TRUTH of why they are aiming for the bar in the first place, yet closed up and believed it a taunt set by a sad religion of disillusioned people.

    I had since learnt, from painful encounters that the best thing I can do is but to pray and fast for them.
    Indeed, the bar is set high, but we are never meant to climb or jump the heights by our own but with God’s strength. God will never be undone in generosity for whatever trying effort put in – for ourselves and others. God alone can change hearts of stone and God alone can levitate us high above the bar… if need be. ;)

    Thank You Fr Luke, in aiding us to reflect as well.
    Praying for you,
    & many thanksgiving for the blessing of your sacerdotal anniversary.

  7. Dear Fr Luke,

    Being a Catholic is never an easy task, let alone gearing ourselves towards the adoption of the Ten Commandments and The Beatitudes. We're struggling to cross the bar of "love your neighbour as yourself," just to name one.

    We're constantly reminded to love one another. What then is this thing called love? It's the energy of love that binds the universe together. Love is what breathes life into us and gives all living things this chance to be alive by our Creator.

    Our closed ones, friends and well-wishers often say that we must learn to love someone in our life. They say that we can never forget our first love or our last love but I believe there is no first or second or last love. There is only love and we love the people we are supposed to love when it is their time to show up in our lives.

    Even with such clear notion, the unexpected storm can burst forth with an all-consuming force, and spills out of our eyes in the form of tears. They just come and come and come... We cry from the heart. Our souls shiver in the presence of such a dreadful moment and we become just like the tears. Wet from the inside out, drifting away from our sanity, going with the pull of the gravity of our emotions.

    People love and get hurt, and heartbroken with many of them either fall into depression or turn toward avoidance by welcoming revengeful lust in their lives. They think that their lives are worth nothing, now that God bring forth the punishment. Yes it hurts and it hurts really bad when it happens, and yes it leaves its scars on our soul, but is that all that our loving someone gives us?

    Yet we cannot deny that every love that we experience is different and yet the same. Each love leaves you with something immortal, eternal and changes us in an unchangeable way. And we're challenged to forgive the person, the hurt and the sorrows.

    Yes, love is just like life. It has its ups and downs. Sorrows and pleasures. Hurt and healing. Learn we must to strip away the hurt and let that moment dance in our heart which made us feel complete—even if for a second. We're also reminded to get rid of the suffering and let the glorious light of love shine in our spirit.

    And as for the hurts and suffering—The Moment—which sounded so easy above, will take time! Our constant outlet and reminder is to let the tears wash it all away. Learn to cry like that. Learn to let that moment soothe our trembling heart. Learn to respect those healing tears—that holy water!

    Not an easy task yet we must learn the art of letting go.

    Our souls are like our bodies, constantly growing as we journey through our Christian faith. We can choose to bring awareness to soul growth and develop it in a desired direction - to deepen and understand God's teaching. At the summit of this raised bar, we may want to say to our souls, “I want to fill up my soul with patience, kindness, and love. I want to protect it from dwelling in unhappiness, negativity, or lack of peace. God, please grant me your grace of wisdom to clear this bar.”

    Our ultimate aim in life is to learn to love the people we don't like. It is this awareness that has the power to conceal within us the present of Christ teaching to the world. The practice in meditation, journaling, focused prayer, or simply taking a walk in nature can have a peaceful and calming moment with the Holy Spirit.

    If a baptized Catholic can experience the dilemma of loving our enemies, what more are our catechumens? Yes, the bar is raised but it is this constant change in ourselves that we need to adopt and put in place.

    May our compassionate Lord shower His mercy on us, and "One day, I will wipe away every tear from your eyes." Revelations 21 : 3-4

    Awesome, awesome thought-provoking reflection. Thank you.

    Happy Anniversary on your Priestly Ordination.

    May God Bless You.

    T. Dior