CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Pray as a human not a machine

HONG KONG (SE): “Some say security, some say comfort, some say love,” Catherine Cheung, from the St. Anne’s Meditation Group at Stanley, reflected in response to a question posed by the leader of the World Community for Christian Meditation, Father Laurence Freeman, at St. Francis of Assisi in Sham Shui Po on January 22.

The English Benedictine was in Hong Kong for a few days to spend time with the various meditation groups that have grown up in the city, mostly under the inspiration of the late Maryknoll priest, Father Sean Burke, who strongly maintained that daily meditation sessions are not a luxury, something extra added to our day.

He described them as being at the heart of how we view life and meet the challenges it presents to us. He used to quote Karl Rahner as saying, “The Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all.”

Cheung says that Father Freeman got her thinking when he asked, “Once we are born, we begin our journey of searching. Along the way, the question is what are we looking for?”

Father Freeman then pointed out that the next question is how, saying that in our modern day society it is all about possession.

Day in day out, we are surrounded by messages that we will be more secure and comfortable if we have this and that. Supposedly, the more we own, the more we feel secure, comfortable and satisfied, which will give us a better life.

The next question that Father Freeman asked he said reflects an irony, as in this materialistic world of everything in abundance, we still feel a hunger in the heart and are at a loss to figure out why so many people are still unhappy.

With all these doubts, a lot of us embark on another journey of search, a journey in spirituality, in the hope of finding something along the way or at the end.

Addressing the topic of Christian meditation: A practice of poverty of the spirit and the purity of the heart, Father Freeman told the 200 or so people gathered at the Franciscan church in Sham Shui Po, “We are not machines. We are not just here to make money, but until we know the work of silence, we are still living like a machine.”

He added we have often been taught that our happiness and security are measured by our prosperity and our success is measured by surpassing others in terms of possession and power.

But he warned that if we live for reward, competition and aggression alone, we will be living in fear with the anxiety of losing our possessions and power, so the peace of mind we seek can actually make us unhappy.

Father Freeman described Christian meditation as a way of dispossession, just being with God, not thinking, not talking.

“When we sit down for 20 minutes twice a day and say our sacred word—our mantra—in silence, we let go of our possessions, our anxiety, our thoughts and our wishes. In silence, we enter into the inner room of our heart. In solitude, we discover who we are. We get in touch in order to love, to know, to embrace ourselves in the work of silence,” he told the gathering.

He then turned to the Beatitudes, citing the first one, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

He said that poverty of spirit in our work and in our family allows us to experience our own uniqueness, as well as recognise our limitations. When we meditate, it is not about success, achievement, or making our country great by winning, because all human spirit is equal.

Many things in the bible challenge us and require careful and undistracted reflection, as although we have eyes, we may not see, have ears, but may not hear.

Our heart and our senses are clouded by our illusion, our fantasy and our delusion. When we meditate, we are no longer multi-tasking and in only serving one master with a pure heart we fulfill the prayer Let thy will be done.

In the moment that we are in God we will see God, fully present in everything and everyone. The purity of the heart clears away illusion, fantasy and delusion. When we meditate, it clears the window, so that the light can come in.

Father Freeman pointed out that as we move into the season of Lent, which is a season of giving, one of the best offerings that we can make is our time and our full attention.

When we give, we are making space in our hearts to receive what the Lord already wants to give us. Our giving is evidence of our effort to practice love, to love as he loves.

When the Lord sees your sincerity though your meagre efforts, he multiplies his gifts and expands our hearts to receive more.

As Father Freeman pointed out, “The Lord is one who always repays and he will give back to you sevenfold.”

Cheung said that Father Freeman’s message was clear. By taking time to meditate with discipline, the work of silence with the poverty of spirit and purity of heart, our mind will be re-made and our nature transformed, making our life more peaceful, more human and more alive.

“Be a human being, don’t be a machine,” was Father Freeman’s parting message.

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