At the end of November, 2011, my wife returned to Hong Kong to attend her niece’s wedding. While in Hong Kong, she visited many places, including the vicinity she used to frequent. Much to her surprise, she lost her way in the vicinity that she was once familiar with due to the rapid changes that have taken place in Hong Kong in the last two decades or so. Based on this experience, she wrote an article with a title ‘Labyrinth’ which has been published on Fr. Wan’s personal website as well as the parish weekly bulletin. Her article was written in Chinese and the following short paragraph is the English translation of an excerpt from her article:
‘Satan has been painstakingly struggling against God. Satan knows hurting the mankind whom God loves hurts Him most. So he created a culture accepted by everyone. This culture is a snare that has been calculated by Satan to trap us who have been oblivious of the danger.’
We may ask why the world that we call our home is in such great straits. Mankind has gone in the wrong directions for many centuries. Let us look at the following examples of these wrong directions.
The Israelites are a wandering people. They wandered in the desert for forty years after the Exodus; and again had wandered for about two thousand years before Israel was recognized by the United Nations as an independent country in 1948. Would they ever ask, “Has the Messiah already come? Were our forefathers mistaken? Who is this Jesus? Could Jesus be the Messiah promised by God? Did our forefathers kill the Son of God on the cross?”
The Muslims proclaim Allah as their god and Mohammed as their prophet. They do not admit that Jesus is the true light of the world and have put another man to replace Jesus. Mohammed has displaced the Son of God who came to this world to die on the cross for our salvation.
The United States of America was built upon religious principles but now her foundations have been shaken. Slavery began the problem. Human beings were reduced to cattle. Blood was shed in the Civil War. A seed of violence and evil was sown then. Today, the United States is awash in material goods that it cannot afford. It is drowning in a debt that it cannot pay. It is legal to kill the infants before they are born. Christian faith has been banned in many places. Mammon has become the false god for many Americans.
In Europe, many churches are now empty. The Europeans do not listen to the Pope’s wisdom anymore. The word ‘Christendom’ is used to refer to the oneness of the medieval Europe when the countries shared the same Catholic faith and practices. Today, however, Europe has become a secular union.
The Russian people had their deep religious traditions. However, the USSR government embraced an atheistic Communist system in the twentieth century. They taught their people what Karl Marx said, “Religion is the opium of the people.” Unfortunately, they spread this fallacy to the other Communist countries. A Ukrainian friend of mine who lived under the reign of the former USSR government told me she had been taught the Catholic faith privately and illegally by her grandmother. Later, a priest went to her home to baptize her secretly at the risk of being sent to jail.
The twenty-first century is the age of information. Mankind has been constantly exposed to different kinds of information. Unfortunately, most of the information that has bombarded us advocates the ‘Culture of Death’. Besides, mankind has not been able to cope with the rapid speed of technology. Furthermore, many people are too busy. Many people of this century always feel the need to communicate electronically with other people, and to receive information from all kinds of media. Young people today think they cannot survive without the gadgets to communicate with their peers. But many people don’t have time for God or don’t feel the need to communicate with God. Everything is quick. Everything is so quick that we have lost our sense of direction.
Slow down. Pause. Be still. We should ask ourselves, “Where am I going? What is the purpose of my life?” We should learn a good lesson from the Prophet Elijah who heard God’s voice in a small voice:
Then the Lord said, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord – but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake – but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire – but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering wind. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, “Elijah, why are you here?” (1 Kings 19:11 – 13)
We should step aside from all the hustle and bustle of our daily life that comes to us every day, and sit down and listen. Find some quiet time every day to pray. Find a few minutes every day to read the Bible. We will then hear God’s voice. He speaks to us quietly and peacefully. His voice will bring us peace and He will show us the right direction. And what is the right direction? A few centuries ago, St. Ignatius of Loyola pointed us to the right direction. He said, “Man was created to praise, reverence, and serve God and, by doing so, to save his soul – his entire self.”