Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Judging fairly

IN one of the Lenten weekday readings, we have been
reminded that we have to judge fairly. From the Book of Leviticus, we
read: “You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment. Show
neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty, but judge
your fellow men justly.” (19,15)
  
            It again just shows us that we actually are made to judge,
but to judge fairly. Judging is an unavoidable and indispensable
operation of our intellect that is meant to know people and things in
general.
  
            So, we just have to learn to judge fairly, because that
Christian injunction not to judge people refers more to when we judge
people rashly or unfairly. It does not mean that we should not judge
at all, because that would be impossible and directly goes against our
God-given nature.
  
            To judge people fairly, we need to see to it that charity
always prevails. And this can begin by always thinking well of
everyone. The reason for this is simply the fact that we are all
children of God. We are all object of his divine love that goes all
the way to saving us from our sin by God becoming man and that
God-man, Jesus Christ, accomplishing our redemption by bearing all our
sins on the cross.
  
            This attitude of thinking well of others, including those
who we do not know and even those who commit mistakes, who offend us,
who consider themselves in human terms as our enemies…this attitude of
thinking well of them should serve as the constant default page in our
life. However the situation and our relations with others are, we
should just think well of them.
  
            This will require some effort, of course. In fact, a whole
gamut of virtues is needed. We have to learn how to be patient, how to
handle our emotions especially when we are contradicted, rejected or
offended, how to disagree with others while keeping charity always
alive, etc.

            In this, we have to see to it that we don’t lose our grip
on the eternal truths about ourselves so we don’t get lost in the
unavoidable drama in life, and fall at the mercy of our passions and
human and worldly forces.
  
            That’s why we need to pray always, to be in touch with God
always, asking for his grace and continually developing the virtues.
We have to learn how to settle differences and correct mistakes and
injustices always in the context of charity. Charity will always
include justice. Without charity, justice cannot be lived.
  
            To be sure, it’s when we abidingly think well of the
others, irrespective of the situation, that we can manage to see
things more objectively and judge, decide and act more fairly.
  
            Yes, we will experience suffering. This should not be
surprising, given the condition that we all are in. But if suffered
with and in Christ, that suffering will always do us good, maturing
and purifying us, leading us to a deeper understanding of things and
to better cope with the many mysteries of life.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Lessons from St. Joseph

I AM sure that the first ones to be most happy at the
celebration of the Solemnity of St. Joseph are our Lord, Christ Jesus,
and his mother, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. And we, of course, join
them in this family celebration that is done liturgically in the whole
Church.

             Both are, of course, far more superior than this simple
carpenter, but they happen to receive the most direct, the most
delicate, and yet the most effective and affectionate service from
him.
  
            Mary needed a husband to legitimize before the eyes of the
people the fact that she was going to have a child. And Christ, of
course, needed a human father for the human side of his divine mission
here on earth. Joseph filled the bill perfectly. In heaven, there must
be some grand festivity in honor of this great simple man.
  
            Both Christ and Mary must be eager to tell us that we can
learn a lot from St. Joseph. It is very likely that they want us to
imitate Joseph’s simplicity and docility. When he thought of
separating from Mary because she was found to be with child before
they were married, he immediately changed his mind when he was told in
a dream the real score of Mary’s pregnancy.
  
            And when someone was in a rampage to kill toddlers that
would include the child Jesus, he immediately acted to flee into Egypt
when he was told, again in a dream, what he had to do. He just obeyed
without raising any question.
  
            Joseph just did very ordinary things that any husband and
father would do. And yet through these ordinary things he carried out
an important and indispensable role in the whole work of man’s
redemption by Christ.
  
            The lesson we can get here is that all our duties and
responsibilities of our state in life, whether we are married or
single, father, mother, son, daughter, worker, etc., are a way to
cooperate in God’s continuing and redemptive providence over us. We
need to appreciate more deeply the significance of our ordinary duties
which we often take for granted.
  
            And this is all because we are all children of God, and as
such, our life is always a life with God. Everyone of us has a
vocation that gives meaning and purpose, color and direction to our
whole life.
  
            Whether we are prominent in society or just an ordinary
guy, each one of us is called by God, i.e., is given a vocation and
has a mission to carry out in this life. We have to be aware of this
basic truth about ourselves and be most discerning as to what specific
vocation God is giving us.
  
            In the case of St. Joseph, he was called, almost from
nowhere, to be the husband of Mary and the foster father of Christ. It
would look as if he was just asked to play a cameo role, some kind of
a prop to complete the scene in a given play. And yet he did it very,
very well. 

            If we would just be faithful to our vocation, no matter
how small or hidden it is, we would be carrying out an important part
of God’s providence!


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Confession heals us interiorly

 WE need to restore the true face of confession whose
public image is getting very distorted. This is unfortunate because
confession actually plays an indispensable role in a believer’s life.
It’s where Christian life is recovered, or at least strengthened.

             Of course, confession has to be understood as a doctrine
of faith. One misses the truth right at the source if he considers it
as just one more practice, religious but mainly social, its nature
determined more by its practical aspects than by that it was
instituted by Christ and taught and promoted by the Church.

             This is actually our main problem these days. Many
believers have a watered down attitude toward faith and religion, and
of course toward the Church and the sacraments. They rely more on
their reason rather than of faith to lead them in their Christian
life. They believe and they follow only when they understand things
and see them useful in some way. Faith is subordinated to our reason.

             Again, we have to take our faith seriously and live it as
consistently as possible. We don’t flaunt it when it is politically
correct, and junk it when it is inconvenient. And this seriousness in
our faith should also be shown in our attitude toward confession.
  
            As sacrament, confession is not just a human institution.
Though it uses human instruments, it is Christ to whom one approaches
and from whom one asks and obtains forgiveness in confession.
  
            Though it takes only a few minutes, the truth is that the
whole drama of Christ assuming our sins, dying to them and rising from
them, victorious over sin and death, and expressing the most exquisite
version of love in his mercy for us,  takes place there.
  
            This is what happens in confession if understood and done
well. We need to expand our mind and heart to accommodate this
tremendous reality of confession as taught to us by our Christian
faith.
  
            If we today pride ourselves of having gone nuclear, of
having covered a vast area of worldly knowledge, then we should do
something similar with respect to truths of faith. We cannot remain in
the kindergarten level in our appreciation and practice of confession,
for example.
  
            Of course, all parties should do their best here. The
priests and the penitents should play their respective parts well.
Pope Emeritus Benedict once said that confession is where that
intimate and life-changing “dialogue of salvation” transpires.
  
            Priests should realize that as confessors they lend their
faculties to Christ who is the one who forgives sins. They should be
truly identified with him, effectively and affectively. Thus,
they—we—should be competent and truly holy, because only in this way
can we dispense God’s mercy and effect inner healing in the penitents.
  
            This is, of course, a very dynamic, never-ending effort,
with its ups and downs, twists and turns. But as long as there is
determined effort to be faithful to Christ, the sacrament can be done
as it should be in spite of our defects and miseries.
  
            Hearing confessions is a very privileged moment for any
priest. That’s where he enters into the inmost part of a person, that
part where one is supposed to face Christ to ask for the most
important thing in life—God’s mercy. We can need many and endless
things, but in the end what we most need is none other than God’s
mercy.
  
            Priests should do their part really well. They have to
know how to be at one and the same time a father, a friend, a judge
and doctor. They must know how to advise as well as to handle the many
intricacies of the internal forum.