Monday, December 11, 2017

Joy in suffering

THERE can be joy in suffering only if we identify
ourselves with Christ. With Christ, suffering becomes an act of
selfless love that can take on anything. Only in him can we find joy
and meaning in suffering. With him, suffering loses its purely
negative and painful character, and assumes the happy salvific
character.
  
            We need to process this truth of our faith thoroughly,
always asking for God’s grace and training all our powers and
faculties to adapt to this reality. That’s why Christ told us clearly
that if we want to follow him, we simply have to deny ourselves, carry
the cross and follow him. There’s no other formula, given our wounded
human condition.
  
            This self-denial and carrying of Christ’s cross will
enable us to see that suffering is obviously the consequence of all
our sins—ours and those of others. Embracing suffering the way Christ
embraced his cross unites our suffering with that of Christ.
  
            Our motive for it is like that of Christ. It’s the desire
to conquer that suffering and ultimately our death through his death
and resurrection. It’s obeying God’s will just like Christ obeyed his
Father’s will. “Not my will but yours be done.”
  
            Our reaction to any form of suffering in this life should
therefore be theological and ascetical. It should be guided and
inspired by faith. It should not just be physical or a natural affair.
It should reflect the spiritual and supernatural realities to which we
are all subject.
  
            Everyday let us find ways of deepening our understanding
and appreciation of this truth of our faith, and also of acquiring the
capacity to live it as fully as possible, until we can truly say that
we are finding joy in our suffering.
  
            Let us often meditate on the passion, death and
resurrection of Christ since it is from there that we can get the
proper inspiration on this matter.
  
            At least we can say that we complain less when some
suffering comes our way, or we don’t lose our peace, we are actually
game with any suffering, our reaction to it goes beyond the level of
the senses and feelings, etc. We get more and more convinced that
going through some suffering is doing a lot of good to us and to
everybody else.
  
            To train ourselves for this, we might have to actively
pursue a plan of what is called as active mortification. We make a
list of acts of self-denial and even of corporal mortification like
fasting, abstinence and the recourse to ascetical instruments like the
cilice and the discipline.
  
            We should be familiar with these instruments that were
very useful in ages past. They can be very useful and relevant now
given the temper of the times when we live in an environment where
self-indulgence is a mainstream practice. We need to recover the use
of these instruments since they are effective in curbing our tendency
to indulge ourselves.
  
            We have to overcome the apologetic attitude whenever this
topic is brought up. It’s not something to be feared or to be ashamed
about. It is actually part of the Good News that will bring us a lot
of joy.
  
            This truth of our faith should be discussed more often in
churches, families, schools and even offices and other workplaces.
From there, let’s hope that this truth gets to be considered seriously
in the bigger worlds of business, politics and international
relations.


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Inclusivity amid differences

THE secret, to be blunt, is to be Christ-like. That’s the
only way we can have an inclusive outlook in life in spite of our
unavoidable differences and conflicts in the areas of lifestyles,
cultures, ideologies, opinions, preferences and even in beliefs,
spiritualities and morals.
  
            This is the inclusivity of charity that goes together with
the exclusivity of truth. Working this combination out will always be,
of course, a work in progress, with prudence and fortitude playing an
important role in the process. Let’s just take it easy and be cool and
calm as we also seriously undertake the lifelong task of combining
this inclusivity of charity with the exclusivity of truth.
  
            We need to remember that we always have to contend with
our natural human limitations, not to mention the more subtle effects
and consequences of sin, ours and those of others. We should not be
too surprised and worried about this given condition in our life. We
just have to do something about it.
  
            One thing that we can be more aware of is that in the
proclamation of what is true, good and beautiful as taught to us by
our faith, we should pay special attention to the effort of how to
charitably deal with those who are hit by such proclamation or
evangelization, or who are not yet ready to live by what are
proclaimed.
  
            Let’s remember St. Paul’s words: “Charity does not delight
in evil but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Cor 13,6) Gloating over the
errors of others should never be done.
   
            We should find a way of proclaiming the truths of our
faith and morals without unnecessarily alienating people. Definitely,
we need to pray for grace to be able to do this, and to cultivate the
relevant virtues of prudence, tact, delicacy, compassion, etc.
  
            We should be quick to take advantage of whatever good is
present in any situation where evil dominates. This was what Christ
taught in the parable of the dishonest steward where the master
praised the steward, not for his dishonesty, but for his astuteness in
finding a way to be acceptable to others once his stewardship is
removed. (cfr. Lk 16,1-13)
  
            What we should try to avoid is to convert our
evangelization into some kind of a dumping session where our listeners
are left only with a take-it-or-leave it option. This attitude of
non-negotiability would unduly cut the dialogue that is necessary in
evangelization. It would discard the need for pastoral accompaniment
that follows the law of gradualness.



            It is blind and insensitive to the reality on the ground
and lives in a bubble of a doctrinaire, rigid, inflexible,
uncompromising. It often considers its own reading of things as the
only one that counts. All other views and interpretations would not
have any value at all.



            We have to realize that we should not stop at proclamation
alone. We need to continually be in touch with the people,
accompanying them in their journey toward our common goal, helping
them in discerning things and integrating them more into the
mainstream of the Church.



            This will require of us that we treat everyone as he or
she is and as he or she has to be. It’s not going to be an easy task,
but as long as we realize this guiding principle, pray and ask for
grace and light from God, and do our best, somehow we can manage to
move toward inclusivity amid our differences.


Friday, December 8, 2017

Year of the clergy and religious

AS part of the 9-year plan of preparation of the 5th
centennial of the Christianization of the Philippines in 2021, our
bishops have declared 2018 as Year of the Clergy and Consecrated
Persons.
  
            It’s a good year-long occasion to reflect and deepen our
understanding of the crucial role the clerics and consecrated persons
play in the lives of the people. Let’s hope that at the end of the
year, we could truly say there in a quantum leap in such understanding
and in our love, appreciation and support for the men and women who
dedicate themselves in a special way in the vineyard of the Lord.
  
            In that way, we can say that we are really readying
ourselves for this landmark event in the history of our country that
should fill us with great joy and thanksgiving, and a stronger resolve
to be more generous in our self-giving and fidelity.
  
            At the moment, there is already a lot of talk about
priests and religious to be truly “servant-leaders” who have to
mediate or act as a bridge between God and men. In the Archdiocese of
Cebu, for example, the monthly recollections for priests are themed
after this ideal.
  
            Let’s pray that the whole year will produce real fruits of
sanctity in these men and women, myself included, that go beyond
slogans, euphemisms and play-acting. Let’s pray that these men and
women, myself included, will truly assume the very mind and heart of
Christ, our Redeemer, to such an extent that like Christ they, we,
would be willing also to be crucified.
  
            We should be priests and religious through and through,
from head to toe, from outside to inside, and not just priests and
religious in name only, nor priest-politician, priest-sociologist,
etc. We should only be priests and religious who faithfully and
consistently show Christ to everyone, and who act out what Christ told
his apostles: “He who hears you hears me.” (Lk 10,16)
  
            And so we have to be clear that the only way we, priests,
can truly become “servant-leaders” is when everyone strives to
identify himself more and more with Christ, the priest, the
quintessence of a “servant-leader” who gave his all, including his
life, for the salvation of men.
  
            In this regard, it might be helpful to remember those
famous words of St. John the Baptist that expressed his attitude
toward his vocation. “He (Christ) must increase, but I must decrease.”
(Jn 3,30)
  
            It might be good to make a good inventory of the issues
relevant in making priests and religious true “servant-leaders.” The
continuing formation should be beefed up, and greater attention should
be given on how each priest and religious can be attended to
spiritually. Very often they are left on their own, practically like a
sheep in the midst of wolves and many have been eaten up.
  
            We need to look more into how each priest and religious
are living the crucial virtues of piety, poverty, obedience, chastity,
fraternity, etc. These are basic and need to be lived well before we
can be effective and credible in our ministry. These are no joking
matter. These are where the temptations are most insidious and devious
in the lives of priests and religious.
  
            May it be that we, priests and religious, deserve those
words spoken in the Book of Jeremiah: “I will give you shepherds after
my own heart, and they will shepherd you with knowledge and good
sense.” (3,15)
  
            Please pray for us, priests and religious. We need it badly!