Dear Friends,

Mother Teresa once told a young reporter, “The spiritual poverty of the Western World is much greater than the physical poverty of our people.” Yet a malnourished soul can be a hidden blessing. Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount read, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and his rule (kingdom of heaven).” In the second installment of Part Three of the series, An Economy with Soul, I trace my journey of cultivating compassion, savoring a taste of “heaven on earth” and soul flourishing in the consumption-driven world.


An Economy with Soul (II)
《Continued from The Third World Poor - A Summer Series of Reflections (1)》
Always initiating, God invites the soul to dance. Human response to the stirring within is like casting a fishing line though uncertain of fish biting - a way of cooperating with God in soul formation.  The blind beggar outside of Jericho (Mark 10:46-52) shouted all the more in spite of being silenced; and Jesus stopped for him - a beautiful story of divine grace meeting up with human effort. Cultivating spiritual practice of compassionate service follows certain steps, just like a dance.
Withholding   My journey began with temper tantrum when prompted by God to serve lunch at a local women’s shelter some ten years ago. It was a season of life immersed in seminary studies, reading books and writing papers – a good life in the bubble. An invitation to dance felt more like an interruption of comfort and disruption of peace. Though I grudgingly complied, for months I felt like an irate teenager stomping out of the house, mumbling and grumbling. How embarrassing! The immature soul, in a withholding phase of the journey, had bought into the cultural lie of scarcity and insecurity - there is just not enough of everything to go around.  In hindsight, I have surprisingly discovered the more I serve, the more reserve I am graced by God, living with an attitude of plenitude. I experience a sense of freedom from needing things and of joy in sharing things. Most transforming of all is the giving away of oneself, responding to God’s call to serve globally besides locally.
Holding   As I respond more readily, Spirit’s movement in me changes from nudging to urging, ushering in the holding phase. Grace heaping upon grace, I notice a deepening passion and an expanding capacity to love. Holding is both a heartfelt and a mindful stance. Grasping the hands of the poor, I see them physically and emotionally; moreover, through their eyes I peek at their souls in the fullness of the present moment, allowing my heart to be softened by their pain in ways previously not awakened. Holding also means drawing a larger map of human family, inclusive of diverse age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, continent, race, faith tradition and religion, spacious enough to contain understanding of universal suffering as well as particular pain of an individual or group. Though I am called to provide acts of social charity up close and hands-on to the radically poor in the Third World, gradually I become increasingly aware of social justice or lack of in my peripheral vision.
Upholding   Crossing the threshold into the upholding phase, I realize how underdeveloped this part of me is, musing on what may be up God’s sleeve in the years to come. Meantime I merely look wide and far at social justice, expanding my understanding of the role social structures play and of the systematic nature of much of the injustice in the world. I am increasingly moved to uphold equality, peace, respect, equity, dignity, freedom and decency, grounded in imago Dei and Kingdom values, by identifying with the marginalized, exploited, disabled, disenfranchised and disadvantaged as well as standing in solidarity with courageous workers fighting for noble causes through governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGO).  With frequent travels and tours of service, indeed the world has become smaller geographically but my worldview ever bigger; and my heart warmer, desiring to love the world God so loves - a far cry from the days of withholding. What grace!
Beholding     Divine grace expands human capacity to love in surprising, even mystical, ways. The touchstone for such a transformative experience may be difficult to explain though not hard to notice. The progression of the steps so far is an expression of my life hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). The portal into that unseen reality is a beholding posture, often silently, in contemplative prayer, as well as a graced experience to love and be loved by God. Gazing is an intimate divine-human expression of desire or delight, by gazing at or upon God, which directs my heart towards God-consciousness and away from self-gazing. Such unselfing gives me freedom to see Jesus showing up in all forms of human brokenness and opens the cavernous soul to love. Being drawn by God and drawing close to people are two sides of the same coin. As I become his power point presentation, making the invisible God visible, my soul is coming home.
Human desire is hijacked by consumerism and the soul cut off from what it truly wants. As a beautiful ornamental porch light beams radiantly, our soul is like a house with nobody home. Yet at its deepest, human desire lives on the same address as God’s desire. This mutual desiring draws the soul towards ultimate fulfillment and wholeness, the way we were created and meant to be. Saint Augustine of Hippo, a fourth century Church Father, gave a prayerful voice to the homeless souls: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Homecoming is a cultural and personal transformation embodied in one spiritual life of both interior and exterior realities, exploding a powerful force in the quiet, often wordless, prayer of contemplation. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said it pointedly: “To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit. To learn contemplative prayer is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter.”  Indeed, in the wilderness of materialism, contemplation is a soul compass to compassion.

Ernest C. Yau                                                                  
August 15, 2017                                                           
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