Category Archives: Religion

Why we do what we do: Values in Action

Speech @ SPVA Flag Ceremony

Yesterday, a friend, Kenji, came to me and asked, “what are your core values?”

I answered, “integrity, authenticity, family, faith/religion, wisdom/learning, and influence.”

That time, his mind was cluttered, therefore he further inquired, “how do you know these are your values?”

My simple reply was, “values are the things important to us.”

My dear friends, what are the things important to you? There are your values. Values are the ball-bearings of our actions. Our decisions are grounded in our values and belief systems. To put it simply, the choices we take and the decisions we make are propelled by our values.

As an example, if my value is honesty, I will never cheat in the exams because my values say, cheating is dishonest. If I value my family, I will never do anything to disobey and disrespect my parents – because after all, they are important to me.

So I say, we do what we do because it is propelled by our values.

Kenji’s inquiry didn’t stop there. He wanted to know how he can form his own value system.

There’s the rub. Students and friends, I have a good news – that is, values can be learned. Here, I want to show the connection between habits, values, and virtues.

Habits are formed through repetition of a similar act. Then these habits that are formed through the repetition of a similar act would reveal a deeper meaning aside from the act itself. That deeper meaning is what we call values. When one no longer sees the act itself but the reason and purpose behind its performance, then one has already placed a value on the specific act.

So, again, I ask you, “what are important to you?” Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Therefore today, I direct you to a contemplation – to an examination of your values.

Is discipline your value? Then you must be behaving in the class. Is honesty your value? Then you must be honest in the exams. Is obedience your value? Then you must obey your teachers and parents alike.

And finally, is the Eucharist, or the Mass, valuable to you?

If so, there must be a multitude of SPVA Students flocking in the church every Sunday knowing that it is not only an obligation as Catholics to celebrate the Mass but rather an understanding that it is a deeper encounter with the Lord Jesus Himself.

My wish for you all is that you make the Eucharist and all heavenly things a value in your life.

Thank you and have a wonderful day!


God Works in Ways We Expect the Least

It’s just amazing how God works in ways we don’t expect. I was talking to a friend over the phone last night. Before our almost two hours of conversation ended, it’s just so fantastic how the topic drew about religion and stuffs. I usually talk about religion and spirituality, with the special exception with friends of different religion I’m in. I just don’t intend having arguments because of our difference in faith. But last night was unlike any other. Having mutual respect for each other’s opinions and regarding each other’s beliefs as honorable, despite us having to defend (thus explain) each other’s faith, everything turned out well.

At the top of it all, we realized that being a “Christian” transcends any religion. Our deep relation with the Lord, emanating with our love of neighbor, is what truly matters.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!


7 Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary

I. The prophecy of Simeon

II. The Flight to Egypt

III. Loss of Child Jesus for 3 days, later found in His Father’s House

IV. Witnessing Jesus carry his Cross

V. The Crucifixion of Jesus

VI. Taking Jesus Down from the Cross

VII. The Burial of Jesus


Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children. Eighteen!

In order merely to keep food on the table for this big family, the father and head of the household, a goldsmith by profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore he could find in the neighbourhood.

Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of Albrecht Durer the Elder’s children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the Academy.

After many long discussions at night in their crowded bed, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by labouring in the mines.

They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg.

Praying Hands

This is Albert Durer’s Hands painted by his brother Albrecht Durer

Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht’s etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.

When the young artist returned to his village, the Durer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate Albrecht’s triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honoured position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfil his ambition. His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.”

All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated, over and over, “No …no …no …no.”

Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, “No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look … look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother … for me it is too late.”

More than 450 years have passed. By now, Albrecht Durer’s hundreds of masterful portraits, pen and silver point sketches, water-colours, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world, but the odds are great that you, like most people, are familiar with only one of Albrecht Durer’s works. More than merely being familiar with it, you very well may have a reproduction hanging in your home or office.

One day, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Durer painstakingly drew his brother’s abused hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply “Hands,” but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love “The Praying Hands.”

The next time you see a copy of that touching creation, take a second look. Let it be your reminder, if you still need one, that no one – no one – – ever makes it alone!

Pope explains what the opening lines of the Apocalypse can teach us about prayer

The Pope made a short visit to the Vatican to lead Wednesday’s general audience. With roughly 7,000 people in attendance, the Pope talked about the opening lines of the Apocalypse, by explaining the power of prayer. Benedict XVI said  prayer is much more than just words and requests, but rather it’s a way to speak with God and to listen to Him. After the general audience, the Pope returned to his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“Today we consider the theme of prayer as found at the start of the Book of Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse.  In some ways, it is a difficult book, but it contains many riches.  Even the opening verses of the Book contain a great deal: they tell us that prayer means, above all, listening to the God who speaks to us.

Today, amid the din of so many useless words, many people have lost the habit of listening, even to God’s word.  The opening lines of the Apocalypse teach us that prayer is not just more words, asking God to grant our various needs, but rather it must begin as praise to God for his love, and for his gift of Jesus Christ, who has brought us strength, hope and salvation.

We are to welcome Jesus into our lives, to proclaim our “Yes!” to Christ and to nourish and deepen our Christian living.  Constant prayer will reveal to us the meaning of God’s presence in our lives and in history.  Prayer with others, liturgical prayer in particular, will deepen our awareness of the crucified and risen Jesus in our midst.  Thus, the more we know, love and follow Christ, the more we will want to meet him in prayer, for he is the peace, hope and strength of our lives.

I am pleased to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present today, including those from England, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, and the United States.  I am especially pleased to welcome the group of Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit as well as the young men and women of the Focolare Movement who have been participating in this year’s Genfest in Budapest.  Dear young people, you have taken to heart Christ’s call to promote unity in the human family by courageously building bridges.

I therefore encourage you: be strong in your Catholic faith; and let the simple joy, the pure love, and the profound peace that come from the encounter with Jesus Christ make you radiant witnesses of the Good News before the young people of your own lands.  God bless all of you abundantly!”




Tradition, Tradition

What does the term Tradition really mean? Is it opposed to the Bible? The sola scriptura principle of the Protestant Reformation assumed it was — here we examine this assumption in the light of a few key scriptures.

One of the great battle cries of the Protestant Reformation was “sola scriptura!” Many thought that the Catholic Church had cluttered up the simple Christian faith by adding all sorts of practices, customs and doctrines over the centuries. They thought the Church in their day was guilty of exactly the same Pharisaical obsession with traditions condemned by Jesus in this Sunday’s gospel (Mark 7:1-23). The solution, it seemed, was simple. Let’s purify the Church by ditching all these traditions and keeping the Bible alone.

But if we read this portion of the Bible closely, the Lord is not telling us that tradition is a dirty word. His apostle Paul, in fact, tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 to “hold fast to the traditions you received from us, either by our word or by letter.”

“Tradition” simply means something that is handed or passed on from one person to another, one generation to another. One question to ask when examining any particular “tradition” is where it came from. Its value depends on its origin. Did it come from Jesus? His apostles? Some pious believers who lived centuries later? The traditions Paul passed down were divine (from the Lord) and apostolic traditions, like the meaning and importance of the Eucharist (1 Corinthians 11:23-34) or the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus (I Cor 15:3-11) and so were of the utmost importance.

The traditions of the Pharisees were quite a different matter. They were not of themselves evil. But they were pious customs of human origin passed down to support the living out of the law.Unfortunately, the Pharisees were incapable of distinguishing divine law from its human support system. Worse than that, they actually used pious customs as loopholes to help them get around the difficult demands of the Torah.

If you get your Bible out and read the full text of Mark chapter 7, you’ll get a clearer picture of this.Everyone knows that when God gave Moses and the Israelites the 10 commandments, he meant business. The fourth commandment, “honor your father and mother,” means not just that young kids ought to do what their parents tell them, but that adult children should provide for the financial needs of aging parents, assuring they live out their declining years in honor and dignity. But the Pharisees found a religious custom that absolved them from this weighty responsibility. They “dedicated” their money to God and thereby “sheltered” it, making it unavailable for parental support.

It’s not the tradition that’s the problem here, but the deviousness of the human heart that will use piety as an excuse to evade the obligations of true religion, which include, our second reading tells us, looking after orphans and widows and presumably elderly relatives in their distress (James 1:27).

And this is exactly Jesus’ point in this Sunday’s gospel. The kinds of foods we eat don’t make us spiritually impure. No, it is the foul things that come out of the deep recesses of the human heart, wounded by original sin, that separate us from God and each other and lead to all the misery in this world.

The Pharisees thought they’d purify Israel through dietary laws and religious customs.Protestant Reformers of the 16th century thought they could purify the church by leaving behind ecclesiastical traditions and customs. History has proven both endeavors to be futile.

The answer is simple. Let’s just commit ourselves to radical obedience to God’s Word. Let’s admit our need, our sinfulness, our tendency to make excuses, and humbly, genuinely lay open our lives and hearts before God’s word and listen. As Moses tells us in Deuteronomy (4:1-8) and James tells us in his letter, let’s do more than listen. Let’s really hear and obey. Let’s give ourselves no wiggle room, but act on God’s word, regardless of how much it may cost us.

by: Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio

Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

“Blessed are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

2nd Responsory, Office of Readings, Friday, Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

What profundity graces the second of a two week read of Jeremiah. This 22nd week continues a review of God’s love for the chosen people as well as affirms the church as the people of God –the followers and body of God’s self in Christ Jesus. Also continued this week, the Jeremiah / Jesus parallels focus a context for each of the second readings. Perhaps a quote from Leo the Great from this week’s Saturday second reading summarizes this entire week:

“The earth that is promised to the meek and which will be given to the gentle for their possession is none other than the bodies of the saints. Through the merit of their humility their bodies will be transformed by a joyous resurrection and clothed in the glory of immortality.”

In this quote the week’s Jeremiah / Jesus parallel(s), the humility theme, the physical suffering, the restoration and renewal of the physical (place and body), each and all, depict incarnation of the covenant’s realization –in the case of the saints, its triumph!

Sunday. Augustine exhorts, “Let us then follow Christ’s paths which he has revealed to us, above all the path of humility, which he himself has become for us.” One can’t help but hear the words from Jeremiah, “…a trusting lamb led to the slaughter…” and apply them to Jesus. The clearly revealed path is Jesus, resurrected; and so for believers, the Church as the body of Christ.

Monday. From the Imitation of Christ we are reminded how to respond to God’s word: “listened to in silence and received with all humility and great affection.” This response is completely divergent from the reaction of Jeremiah’s and Jesus’ contemporaries to their announcements of the word of God. For their faithfulness, they are scourged –beaten back and down, punished for ‘causing’ great trouble.

Tuesday. Again from the Imitation of Christ we hear, “those who do all of the talking amount to nothing; they fail with their din of words, but the truth of the Lord endures for ever.” Here in the emphasis, Jesus resurrected, the body of Christ and thus the community of saints (faithful humility) who comprise Church. These people often find themselves like Jeremiah and Jesus; “all the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me…”

Wednesday. Yet, Origen confirms our approach this week: “…the temple and the body of Jesus can be seen in a single perspective as a type of the Church.” His words follow the Jeremiah reading describing how the crowd reacts to Jeremiah, “You must be put to death!” They make this capital demand for his saying the city would be destroyed –lost like at Shiloh, the first city of the ark (the place and sign, of God’s presence, favor and grace with Israel), repeating the historical and intolerable humiliation of Israel’s first defeat. Jeremiah’s words may as well speak for Jesus as the Lamb of God, with, “if you put me to death, it is innocent blood you bring on yourselves.” They bring humiliation of themselves relative to Jeremiah even as these words for Christians take on not only the saving ritual gesture of Passover but its ultimate triumphal realization! The Church, the ones who follow Jesus’ path of humility, which is humiliation only in the eyes of those who will not see, is the City of God, the people washed in his innocent blood who witness God’s presence, favor and grace in the world –from the beginning, now and will forever!

Thursday. Leo the Great makes clear the distinction between poverty and humility: “… the kingdom of heaven is to be given to those distinguished by their humility of soul rather than by their lack of worldly goods.” The kingdom of God is what Jeremiah means we he prophesizes the word of God: “…plans to give you a future full of hope… I will listen to you… you will find me… you will find me with you … and I will change your lot.” These words promise a new relationship with the Lord, they extrapolate Isaiah’s, Emmanuel, as well as provide Christians with an entrée to God’s presence most especially in what seems to be absence –Jeremiah’s and Jesus (and other saints too) seeming abandonment. The blessed poor in spirit are the sharers of the new covenant.

Friday. Leo the Great speaks of the church as those restored to health –the once lame leap for joy now! Through, with and in the way of humility (faith), the once-crippled-by-hubris (as if the law could be fully and totally ‘kept’ –a reckoning like Paul’s, a way of life leading to frustrated, lonely exhaustion) are renewed, refreshed, in a word (hear the fullest connotation of the word rather than focus on its modern narrow sexualized sense), virgin, again. Here, covenant as humble faith, is readiness and openness to life and living and loving which Jeremiah proclaims, “O virgin Israel!” This is ultimate new-ness!

Saturday. Leo the Great explains this newness by defining what mourning and meekness really mean in God’s reign, “…he who does wrong is more to be lamented than he who suffers it…” (and cf. the quote at the beginning of this piece). The ‘new’ in new covenant means human intelligence and will power are changed –not God’s relationship with us. With humility we receive a new heart1 –until Jesus we existed without heart– in sin, employing our intelligence and will power to deadly separateness (the obscure Jeremiah “seed” lines refer to ‘farmers’ and ‘ranchers’ –recall Cane and Abel and the first sin of fratricide –both tasks at the service of feeding humans yet perpetually at odds with each other at the same time over what is essential to each). Too, Jeremiah’s reference (“unripe grapes… teeth set on edge”) to sons incurring the consequences of their fathers’ actions is a lifting up of personal responsibility, while for Christians these words applied to Jesus’ demise fulfills and simultaneously reverses the passage. The Father’s actions raise Jesus and all humanity to heavenly Eucharistic consequences!

Nothing is as it seems or more profoundly perhaps, everything is as it seems when human intelligence and will power embrace humility as the path to communion. This blessed covenant makes all new and restores truth; meaning; presence, favor and grace, so each and every human heart will know –the practical recognition of God in every action and situation, a life attitude2– God, all in all!

How does humility inform your day to day response to God’s call to new life
–do you find the seemingly contrary reconciled through, with and in forgiveness and/or appreciation?

FACTOID The longest OT quote in the NT is Heb 8:8-12. It reinterprets, the Jeremiah 31:31-34 which is the only time “new covenant” is used in the OT. Also, the Jeremiah quote is reinterpreted in the NT at Luke 22:20 and 1 Cor 11:25.3

1 cf. H.W. Wolff, Anthropology of the Ole Testament, Phl, 1974, 46 ff.
2 Guy P. Couturier, C.S.C, Jeremiah, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary; pp. 290, (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1990).
3 Couturier, ibid; p. 289.

Easter from Bjorn Amundsen on Vimeo.

Royal Noble Consort Suk of the Choi Clan

Just finished watching the final episode of Dong Yi [동이]..
What i learned about the life of the Royal Noble Consort Suk of the Choi clan [숙빈최씨] is that:

“a man will be bright/radiant, and successful when he has great intentions and great heart.”

A Student’s Prayer — St. Thomas Aquinas

Creator of all things,
true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all being,
graciously let a ray of your light penetrate
the darkness of my understanding.

Take from me the double darkness
in which I have been born,
an obscurity of sin and ignorance.

Give me a keen understanding,
a retentive memory, and
the ability to grasp things
correctly and fundamentally.

Grant me the talent
of being exact in my explanations
and the ability to express myself
with thoroughness and charm.

Point out the beginning,
direct the progress,
and help in the completion.

I ask this through Christ our Lord.