Wednesday, August 31, 2016

God-and-others formula

THIS is the proper formula for our own development. To the extent that
we are always thinking of God and of others, finding ways to love and
serve them, we achieve our own fulfillment. That’s when we would be on
our way to our human and Christian maturity and perfection.

To be persons for God and for others is written in our nature. The
structure and features of our life, especially our intelligence and
will, all demand that we actually need to get out of our own selves,
otherwise we get short-circuited. This is what a person is. He is
always mindful and thoughtful of God and of others.

We need to be mindful because we have to know what’s going around us.
We should never be aloof and indifferent. We have to be aware not only
of things and events that are taking place, whether near or far, but
also and most especially of persons, starting with the one right
beside us.

We also need to be thoughtful. We should think ahead of how things are
developing and of what we can do to help shape its evolution. Life is
always a work in progress, and there are goals, the ultimate and the
subordinate, to reach. We should not get stuck with the here and now.

Our joy, our fulfillment is in God, and because of God, it’s also in
others, since loving God always passes through loving others. The
gospel tells us that. “The greatest commandment is to love God with
all your might... and the second greatest commandment is to love your
neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22,38-39)

We need to be prepared to do serious and constant battle against our
tendency also to get self-centered and self-absorbed. This, of course,
is a very likely possibility, easily and quickly verifiable around.
That’s because we actually contend with a great number of hostile or
negative elements.

In fact, to the extent that we always think of God and of others,
again finding ways of how to love and serve them, we manage to stay
away from temptation and sin, as well as to deal with our weaknesses.

We need to do everything to be able to follow this God-and-others
formula. This task is not going to be easy. But neither is it
impossible. We just have to see to it that all the elements that go
into the upbringing of children—parents, home, teachers, school,
etc.—are properly equipped to carry out this delicate responsibility.

So important is the need to have the families and the schools undergo
continuing formation to be able to cope with new and old challenges!
How to form children in virtues to make them more mature and able to
face life properly, how to help them make use of their time and
overcome their weakness—these should be their constant concern.

In school, while children understandably have to be given a protective
and controlled environment, they also need to be exposed to the
realities of life. It would be anomalous if they are quite good in
school but seem not to remain so at home, and especially outside.

We have to consider that nowadays the environment is saturated with a
culture that fosters frivolity, triviality and easy-going ways, averse
to any form of sacrifice, as if sacrifice is in itself bad. We have to
find ways of how to tackle this real threat to the proper development
of children.

There may be children who can be active, but active in a selfish
way—pursuing only their own goals, interests and concerns, and never
thinking in terms of God’s will and the common good. This is quite
common also.

We should not hesitate to introduce these realities to them. They are
not mere theories or abstract values. The reality and immediacy of
God’s will and the common good have to be shown to them as early as
possible, done through personal witnessing and timely pieces of advice
and reminders.

Therefore, a lot of catechesis is needed, something that of course has
to be done with a lot of naturalness, always respecting freedom, never
using coercion or pressures.

That’s why it is also important that warm human relations should be
fostered and kept. We have to stay away from simply imparting things
through lectures. Things have to be based on real friendship and
confidence.

We need to spend time and develop the true substance of friendship or
paternity or filiation, etc. In these, we cannot cheat for long. It’s
an investment worth making, for its dividends will always come, if not
here, then definitely in our eternal life.

Monday, August 29, 2016

We are all sinners called to be saints

TWO forces somehow do a lifelong battle in the minds and
hearts of all of us. The forces of good and evil, the spirit and the
flesh, the supernatural and the world, clash endlessly there.

            But if we have the right frame of mind, that is, grounded
on our faith in God, we know that such conflict can only produce a
greater good. Evil does not have the last say, to be sure, though it
will ceaselessly continue to try its luck.

            St. Paul expressed this reality when he said: “I see
another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and
bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”
(Rom 7,23)

            But then, he made a consoling conclusion from all this:
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7,24) Further
on, he said: “In everything God works for good with those who love
him…” (Rom 8,28)

            We should not be too surprised and worried about this fact
of life, because in spite of its truly disturbing character, Christ
has given us a way out of it. We just have to be sport and try our
best, with the help of God’s grace, to handle this lifelong
predicament well.

            Getting too worried about this does not help us any in
resolving it. It will only make things more complicated. It will just
give more foothold to the real enemies of our soul.

            We just have to learn how to suffer the inconveniences of
our weakness, temptations and sin itself. We should not be afraid to
get dirty, to be defeated sometimes, because as long as we don’t lose
our faith and hope in God, we can always bear and conquer all things.

            There is some kind of dialectical relation between good
and evil, grace and sin in our heart. All the evil and the sinfulness
that we can have can actually occasion our holiness. And the more
exposure, temptation and even experience of evil and sinfulness we can
have can occasion a greater level and a more tested kind of sanctity.

            Let’s be wary when we only develop a spirituality that
restricts itself to the practice of good things and yet is helpless
when faced with the ugliness and effects of sin and evil in oneself
and in the world.

            That would be a spirituality that is not realistic, that
chooses to ignore a salient if unwelcome aspect of our human condition
here on earth. It is prone to fall into self-righteousness, rash
judgments and fault-finding.

            It is also prone to the tricks of hypocrisy and deception
if only to cover the unavoidable inconsistencies in our spiritual and
moral life. It cannot help but drip of sanctimony, the caricature of
holiness. Besides, it tends to turn off people especially when its
flaws get widely known.

            We have to remember always our sinfulness, but also always
with faith. This will lead us to be humble, which is a basic and
indispensable virtue that helps us to tackle this condition properly.

            Humility leads us to always seek the presence of God, stay
away from occasions of sin, and combat temptations resolutely. It
helps us to develop a spiritual and supernatural outlook in life,
nourishing our faith, hope and charity, all these done discreetly.

            Humility makes us simple, transparent and docile to
elders. It prevents us from being reckless and imprudent as we get to
have a clear view of how weak we are.

            Humility convinces us that there’s no point doing
balancing acts with temptations. It teaches us the effective ways of
doing ascetical struggle, using prayers, sacrifices, sacraments and
other spiritual and human means.

            Humility leads us to develop an abiding sense of penance,
knowing how to be sorry for our sins, confessing them to priests to
ask for forgiveness, and to do continuing acts of penance and
atonement, through mortifications and works of mercy.

            Humility makes our conscience sensitive and delicate and
at the same time strong and more resistant to the lures of evil. It
checks on our tendency to succumb to what St. John refers to as
“concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes and the
pride of life.” (1 Jn 2,16)

            Humility practically makes us immune to the persuasive
logic of our sinfulness. The flesh, the world and the devil cannot
gainsay and contest the arguments of humility. This is how we attract
the power of God to dwell in us. We should do all to grow in this
virtue!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Human life is sacred

NOWADAYS, when the value of human life has been greatly
reduced, we need to recover its true worth by revisiting the pertinent
Christian doctrine about it.

            It cannot be denied that in many parts of the world, an
open anti-life culture is taking place and it’s slowly coming also
into our country. Abortion is legal in many countries. Euthanasia is
fast gaining ground. Summary and extra-judicial killings are getting
rampant. Of course, there is now a creeping wave of terrorism in many
places.

            We need to reaffirm the truth that human life, no matter
how deformed and depraved in its earthly condition, is always sacred,
because it’s a life that has a special and very intimate relation with
God, its creator.

            No one can just put it away on his own volition or that of
another or even of the state. It’s a life whose death can only come
properly by God’s will. This usually takes place through natural
causes—sickness, old age, etc.

            Though God can allow death to occur due to human volition,
such event is clearly against his will and would constitute a grave
sin. Our Christian faith also teaches that if some evil is allowed to
happen, it’s because a greater good can also be derived from it.

            We should be quick to discern God’s designs when some evil
takes place, so we avoid falling into a vicious cycle that sin usually
generates. In this, we should try not to be scandalized by evil, not
by affirming that evil is not evil but rather by acknowledging evil in
the context of God’s merciful and wise providence.

            From there, we can start to perceive the good God has in
mind for it. This effort may be aided by our legal and juridical
system, some conventional wisdom that we have accumulated through the
ages, etc. But we should also be aware that these elements are never
perfect.

            At best, they can lead us to divine wisdom but can never
replace it. In fact, the way things are now, we may have to do a lot
of purging, since many distortions if not errors insofar as the moral
law is concerned may already have contaminated these systems.

            Human life is sacred because it is always a life
intimately linked with the very life of God. And that’s because we
have been made the image and likeness of God, children of his, endowed
with faculties that would enable us, together with his grace, to enter
into the very life of God.

            Thus, the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic
Church teaches that “from its beginning human life involves the
creative action of God and it remains forever in a special
relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end.” (466)

            In another point of the Catechism, we are told that “of
all visible creatures only man is able to know and love his creator.
He is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own
sake.” (CCC 356) In other words, our life somehow reflects the life of
God.

            That is how each one of us is designed by God. The full
realization of that original design may be thwarted by the many
manifestations of our sinfulness. Just the same, in spite of such
condition, we also know that God became man to save us and has given
us all the means so we can be what we ought to be, according to God’s
providence.

            This brings us to the conclusion that human life is always
sacred no matter how sinful it is. God is so in love with man that he
cannot abandon him. He will do everything to bring him back to him
while respecting man’s freedom. That’s why in Christ, God is made to
die, which is the greatest proof of one’s love for another.

            We need to counter the attack on human life by spreading
this fundamental truth about us. That may sound quixotic, but with
faith in God’s powers and with our persistent effort, we know that the
good and the truth will always prevail.

            In this regard, St. Paul gave us a relevant piece of
advice: “Purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new paste, as you
are unleavened. For Christ our pasch is sacrificed.” (1 Cor 5,7)

            This will certainly take a lot of time, effort and
suffering. But we need to convince ourselves that this is all
worthwhile. We should pray, offer a lot of sacrifices, and do whatever
we can, individually or with others, to do a battle of love to uphold
that human life is sacred.