Sunday, November 19, 2017

Loving the world sans worldliness

THE secret is to see to it that our mind and heart are
always with God. We should not allow ourselves to be fully taken by
the charms and deceiving allurements of the world. We have to be
completely detached from it, which does not mean that we should hate
it. On the contrary, we have to be immersed in it as much as possible
and yet love it but in the way God loves it.
  
            That is the challenge! So the question to ask is: How does
God love it so we can also love it the way he does? We just cannot
rely on our ideas and ways of loving the world, because without God
that loving would be suspicious at best.

             We can enumerate a few relevant points. First of all, God
loves the world because he created it and endowed it with all the
qualities, both actual and potential, in order to serve us. That is
the purpose of the world. We in our turn should use the world the way
God wants us to use it. And this ultimately is to give glory to God.
  
            Let’s remember that as Creator, God has given everything
in the world its proper nature and laws whose purpose is nothing other
than to give glory to himself. We on our part can only use and develop
the world properly when we respect the nature and laws of everything
that is in it. More than that, we should try to discern how each thing
in the world becomes a living part of the abiding providence of God
over all of us.
  
            Let’s remember that God commanded us, first through our
first parents, that we should “subdue the earth,” which means we
develop it as much as we can. God does not want us to flee from the
world, or to consider it as essentially bad.
  
            In fact, we are asked to be always fruitful and productive
while using and developing the things of this world. This is how we,
as the masterpiece of God’s creation, can prove that we are giving
glory to God, or are truly loving him, repaying his love with love,
which in the end is the ultimate purpose of why are placed in this
world.
  
            This does not mean that there are no dangers in the world.
Precisely because of the sins of men and the wiles of the devil, there
are certain things in the world that can be extremely dangerous to us.
  
            St. John in his first letter went to the extent of saying
that “everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the
eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the
world.” (2,16)
  
            We cannot underestimate these powerful dangers. That’s why
we should do all to struggle against these elements in the world.
Doing battle against these things in the world is one clear way of
loving it, because we would then be purifying it of the effects of our
sins.
  
            Everyday we have to make a plan and strategy of how to
effectively handle this abiding predicament of ours. We should give
our all in developing the potentials of the world in all its aspects,
and at the same time purifying the world continually of the effects of
our sins.
  
            This is how we can love the world without being worldly!


Friday, November 17, 2017

Brainwashed or truth-fed?

WE need to learn to distinguish between the two and to
make the proper choice. Nowadays, with all the noise and constant
barrage of ideas, words, views, opinions, doctrines, etc., we get the
impression that we do not know anymore whether we are being
brainwashed or are really fed and nourished by the truth, and
everything that truth brings with it—charity, fairness, justice,
peace, joy, order…
   
            In the social media that includes not only written words
but also videos, we get to see fierce exchanges from different parties
with all sorts of ideologies and cultures and religions. Of course, we
strive to live in a democratic world where tolerance and diversity are
fostered, but we can wonder if we are actually fed by the truth or are
simply indoctrinated, conditioned and mind-controlled.
  
            I am reminded of what St. Paul once said. “For the time
will come,” he said, “when people will not put up with sound doctrine.
Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a
great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
(2 Tim 4,3)
   
            In other words, many people nowadays are not anymore
interested in really knowing and, much less, living the objective
universal truth about the world and us. They are more interested in
pursuing what they want to the extent that they now try to impose
their ideas and biases on others. There seems to be a systematic way
of brainwashing people.
  
            That is why there is so much nitpicking and fault-finding,
so much casuistic and polemical argumentation in the discussions. A
toxic atmosphere of contentiousness is generated where intrigues,
discord and division are sowed.
  
            This is not anymore happening solely in the world of
politics and business where a certain diversity of positions and
opinions is legitimate. It is now also happening in the world of faith
and beliefs where truths that are supposed to be objective and
universal are meant to keep us in unity, though not necessarily in
uniformity.
  
            The secret of knowing how to distinguish and of properly
choosing between being brainwashed and being truth-fed is simply by
being truly with God. After all, God is the Creator of the whole
universe. He is the author of reality in all its aspects, material
spiritual, natural and supernatural, temporal and eternal, etc.
  
            With him we can discern the truth that always goes
together with charity and all its complementary virtues. Let’s
remember that charity is the mother virtue, the one that gives all the
other virtues their true character as virtues.
   
            The truth in charity is also the one that will last
forever, that will bring us to our eternal destination with God in
heaven. It is what fully satisfies our dignity as image and likeness
of God, children of his.
  
            We need to be in vital union with God, something that is
always possible since God always makes himself available to us, in
order to be in the truth that goes together with charity. Otherwise,
there is no other way but to be brainwashed by certain false
ideologies and unsound doctrine.
  
            As St. Paul would put it, with God “we may be no longer
children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of
doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of
error...” (Eph 4,14) We need to dominate the world of public opinion,
not dominated by it. We need to be its master, not its slave.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Our earthly attractions

“WHEN I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men
to myself.” (Jn 12,32)
  
            With these words of Christ, we are given the fundamental
law that ought to rule all our attractions, desires and appetites here
on earth, whether they are big or small, strong or weak, of the
material kind or spiritual, banal or sublime.
   
            Unless all our earthly attractions follow this rule, or at
least are inspired and directed by these words, they will be leading
us along dangerous paths that sooner or later will end up in some
disaster.
  
            We have to see to it that it is Christ, and Christ on the
cross, who is the ultimate object of all our attractions, desires and
appetites. He should be the magnet. To be sure, this is not going to
spoil our human and earthly attractions, but would rather put them on
the right course. This is not going to dampen them, but would rather
purify and enhance them.
   
            Making Christ on the cross, Christ resurrected and
ascended into heaven, the constant and ultimate object of our
attractions, desires and appetites, will never undermine or compromise
our humanity. On the contrary, he will perfect our humanity as he
would redeem it from our sinfulness and reconcile us with our Creator
and Father.
  
            We obviously start our attractions, desires and appetites
from the level of the instincts, hormones, from the level of the
biological and the sensible and later on the intelligible. That’s
understandable. But we should not stop there.
  
            We have to train our attractions, desires and appetites to
be theological to be able to capture the spiritual and supernatural
dimensions that also rule our life. In fact, it is in these dimensions
that our true and proper perfection and fulfilment is attained.
  
            The theological aspect of our attractions, desires and
appetites should be given priority over all the other human aspects.
As said earlier, this theological aspect will not compromise the human
aspects, much less, do away with them.
  
            It will simply put them in their right places—purifying
them—considering both our dignity as persons, image and likeness of
God and children of his as well as our wounded condition here.
   
            This truth is dramatized in that episode of Christ
visiting the home of the sisters, Martha and Mary. (cfr Lk 10,38-42)
Martha was busy doing the chores of hospitality, but Mary simply sat
beside Christ’s feet and listened to him.
   
            When Martha complained to Christ that Mary was leaving her
to do all the serving, Christ corrected her. “Martha, Martha,” he
said, “you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of
only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be
taken from her.”
  
            We have to learn how to train our attractions, desires and
appetites to be theological, inspiring them by Christ crucified,
resurrected and ascended—that’s when he is lifted up from the earth—so
they can bring us to our proper human and Christian perfection.
  
            The start of this training will always be difficult and
uncomfortable. That’s simply because we are being asked to go beyond
the biological, physical, social, sensible and intelligible causes of
our attractions, desires and appetites.
  
            This is not to mention that we have to contend with the
effects of our weaknesses and sinfulness. But with God’s grace and our
all-out effort, we can actually manage. We should not be too worried
about our weaknesses and sinfulness.