Monday, July 16, 2018

A God-favoring algorithm and matrix


 IF only to be able to talk in the same wavelength as the
young ones who are usually techies, I thought of familiarizing myself
with some digital terms that would somehow capture the things I wanted
to tell them. And I discovered at least two terms that seem to serve
the purpose.
  
            One is the term, algorithm, which in the digital world
means “the set of ‘rules’ a search engine may use to determine the
relevance of a webpage, and therefore its search engine ranking.”
  
            In other words, if we are a search engine, like Google,
and we want to search for a particular product, we should come up with
some formula such that we can get the relevant particular webpages in
their proper ranking, with the first one as being the most relevant
for our needs.
  
            The other term is matrix, which again in the digital world
means “a vast sea of computing resources that can be visualized by the
user, is accessible at many levels, and is lit up more intensely in
the areas of greatest activity.”
   
            With all the many and complex information, data and things
being fed into our brain because of the new technologies, we need to
have some means to be more keenly discerning as to which ones have
priority over the others so we do not get confused and lost and can
still maintain a good sense of direction and purpose.
  
            Knowing how to formulate an algorithm that is useful to us
and to learn how to cruise in the very complex matrix of data is
certainly an important and even an indispensable skill that we now
need to acquire.
  
            And we should make sure that in all the activities and
operations we now do in our cyberworld, we should always give God the
highest priority so as to avoid getting lost in that intoxicating
environment.
  
            Yes, God has to be given the highest priority for after
all he is the Creator of the whole universe, including our digital
culture, the author of what is real, the ultimate standard of what is
true, good and beautiful.
  
            We should be wary of the strong possibility of being
seduced by some worldly values that, while having their legitimate
place in the sun, can only lead us to a lot of dangers when not
inspired, rooted and directed towards God.

             We should never forget what Christ once said: “For what
does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own
soul.” (Mk 8,36) Let us always remember that we are meant to be with
God from whom we came and to whom we belong in a way that is so
intimate as to enter into a living communion with him.
   
            We cannot deny that the new technologies can hijack our
sense of religion, our love-characterized relation with God and with
everybody else, such that we end up not only indifferent to God and to
others but also hostile to him and to everybody else.
  
            It’s true that we have to be immersed in the things of the
world, since they in fact are the means for us to enter heaven to be
with God in our definitive state of life. But we should be properly
immersed in them.

              And that means that while we are immersed in the things of
the world, we should also be immersed in God. In fact, the more
immersed we are in the world, the more immersed we should also be in
God. Otherwise, there is no other way but to get lost.
  
            We need to devise an algorithm that will always lead us to
God regardless of what we are doing in the world. We also need to know
how to handle the matrix of information, data and other resources so
that we would always be led to God.


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Travesty of the truth


THE expression appears in the Acts of the Apostles. St.
Paul warned the elders of the church of Ephesus to be very watchful
because “when I have gone, fierce wolves will invade you and will have
no mercy on the flock.” (cfr 20,28-38)
  
            And he continued by saying that “even from your own ranks
there will be men coming forward with a travesty of the truth on their
lips to induce the disciples to follow them.”

             These words acquire immediate relevance as we see them
turn to reality especially nowadays when the perversion and distortion
of the truth that comes from God is done not by those who are openly
against God, the Church, or religion itself, but by those who appear
to be for God, for the Church and religion in general.
  
            That is why Pope Francis in his latest Apostolic
Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and be glad) is also
warning us today of some fake forms of holiness that manage to beguile
many faithful. He cited two main ones: Gnosticism and Pelagianism.

            Of Gnosticism, he said that it is “a purely subjective
faith whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas
and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten, but
which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and
feelings.” (36)
  
            He said that Gnosticism is a distortion of the truth about
what holiness is because “a person’s perfection is measured not by the
information or knowledge he possesses, but by the depth of his
charity.” (37)
  
            “Gnostics do not understand this,” he said, “because they
judge others based on their ability to understand the complexity of
certain doctrines. They think of the intellect as separate from the
flesh, and thus become incapable of touching Christ’s suffering flesh
in others, locked up as they are in an encyclopedia of abstractions.
In the end, by disembodying the mystery, they prefer ‘a God without
Christ, a Christ without the Church, a Church without her people.’”
  
            In other words, Gnostics are those who may be
knowledgeable about the faith or may have some special religious
experiences that are often flaunted, but whose deeds and behavior are
inconsistent for they are devoid of true charity. Their knowledge and
special experiences are more for themselves and not at the service of
God and others.
  
            Pelagianism, on the other hand, is the belief that
holiness can be achieved mainly if not exclusively through man’s
effort alone, with hardly any help of divine grace. It clearly goes
against what St. Paul said that everything, especially holiness
itself, “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows
mercy.” (Rom 9,16)
  
            Not that human will and exertion are irrelevant in the
pursuit of holiness and everything that is good and proper to us. They
are, in fact, indispensable, but only as means, as evidence and
consequence of the working of God’s grace and his mercy.
  
            The Pelagians are those who may be doing a lot of
practices of piety—they can do a lot of prayers and novenas, can be
active in church activities, join religious processions and other
forms of popular piety, etc.—but still fail to be with God, to be
consistent in charity in their life.
  
            Their practices of piety are more a matter of performance,
and not as a means to be with God and to be truly God-like as we are
meant to be. A Pelagian spirituality often insists on the performance
of these practices of piety without checking if indeed these practices
lead one to God.

             We have to be wary of these travesties, perversions and
distortions of the truth about sanctity. They can be marketed by those
inside the church who actually are wolves in sheep’s clothing or
devils dressed as angels of light.


Saturday, July 14, 2018

The mainstream, the peripheral, the marginalized


WE all know that we ought to love everyone, since we all
belong to one human family, created by God to be his people meant to
share his life in heaven and while here on earth. But given our human
condition, this love has to be expressed in different ways since all
of us find ourselves in different conditions and circumstances.
  
            Though ideally, we consider ourselves as one family, the
reality is that differences and even conflicts will always be with us.
There are differences that can be considered as natural, but there are
also those which are unnatural since they are consequences of our sins
and mistakes.
  
            This is where we have to learn how to handle this
phenomenon such that in spite of our differences and conflicts, we
manage to love one another. We have to see to it that our love is
universal and that despite our differences and conflicts, we manage to
build and reinforce our unity, making it as organic as possible.

             This is where we can consider the fact that in any given
society, there are those who we regard as belonging to the mainstream,
and those who are in the peripheral, and also those, given our human
weaknesses, end up being marginalized, edged out due to some cases of
injustice, neglect, etc.
  
            The Holy Father has been talking a lot about reaching out
to the peripheries. It’s a call worth echoing always, because we
cannot deny that we have the strong tendency to be so short-sighted
and narrow-minded that we attend only to our needs and those of our
immediate circle of relatives and friends.
  
            But it’s a call that should not be done at the expense of
neglecting the attention and love due to those in the mainstream and
those who are immediately close to us. That’s because only when we
give love and attention to those in the mainstream and close to us
would we be properly trained and enabled to reach out to those in the
peripheries and the margins.

             We just should make sure, however, that our attention to
those in the mainstream and close to us does not stop there, but
should motivate us to extend and expand our concern to others until we
reach the peripheries and the marginalized and beyond. If our love is
genuine, that is the dynamics it would take.
  
            We have to steadily know and love others more and more.
This is a task that should not stop. In spite of the many things that
we may already know and that may show the enormity of our love, there
will always be new things to know, new insights to learn, new issues
to tackle. There will always be new demands on our love for others.
  
            Everyday we have to be aware of these new things and be
ready to face and resolve them. Though striking us as overwhelming,
these can easily be handled as long as we are with Christ, constantly
dialoguing with him, asking for help, for light, for strength. It
would be as if we are in an exciting adventure, with a lot of suspense
and excitement, but somehow assured that everything will just turn out
right.
  
            With our new technologies and, thanks to God, the many
initiatives and living testimonies of people about how they reach out
to others, this responsibility of growing in our love to reach out to
the peripheries and the marginalized is immensely facilitated.
  
            Everyday we should make new conquests in this regard. Are
we reaching out to more and more people? Are we approaching that ideal
described by St. Paul that we have to be all things to all men? Are we
progressing in the love shown to us by Christ, a love that knows no
measure?