Friday, September 11, 2020

“Without you, Lord…”

LET’S count the endless sad possibilities we can fall into
if we dare to simply be by ourselves instead of being with God always.
This obsession of saying, “Without you…” need not only be expressed
when thinking of missing a loved one or of being rejected by a
beloved. The most appropriate object of such expression is when it is
directed to God himself. Such gesture would certainly elicit the best
results for us!

            Without you, Lord, the only thing possible for us is to
revert to nothing, and even less than nothing. You are everything to
us, Lord. You are actually at the very core of our being. May this
fundamental truth be seared indelibly in our mind and heart. May we be
always conscious of it and moved to act on it properly.

            Without you, Lord, the only thing we can think of would
only be ourselves. And who are we? Are we not your creatures, your
most beloved creatures whom you have created to be you image and
likeness, meant to share in your very own life? How can we dare to
think only of ourselves?

            But yes, Lord, help us to always feel a yearning for you.
Make us long for you with a passion, much like what is expressed in
Psalm 41: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants
for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

            Free us, Lord, from being deceived by our own selves, by
our own ideas and desires. No matter how fantastic they may appear in
the eyes of men, if they are not inspired by you, Lord, we actually
know that they are dangerous. Help us to overcome our tendency for
self-indulgence and strengthen in us the desire for you.

            We know that you, Lord, have given us a certain freedom
and autonomy in our actions. But help us to realize always that our
freedom and autonomy are your gifts, are your ways of resembling us to
yourself, of allowing us to share in your life.

            We should do nothing without referring our freedom and
autonomy to you. Make us feel the need to offer everything we do to
you, and to thank you always for whatever comes out of our free human
acts.

            Make us realize more deeply and constantly that our human
acts are supposed to be a participation of your continuing providence
over all your creation. We should never think that there are things
that we do where you are not involved, Lord. Yes, even in our business
and politics and in all our temporal affairs, you are there.
  
            Without you, Lord, the only thing we can do is to sin.
Without you, we would have no resistance to temptation, no way to
handle properly our human weaknesses and the different predicaments we
will  encounter in our earthly life. Without you, we will never know
how everything in our life, including the bad things, can work out for
the good. We would easily be held hostage by fears, doubts, sadness,
etc.

            Without you, Lord, we will never know how to love as we
ought. We would simply be trapped in our version of love that at best
can never be true love, since true love can only come from you!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The means and the end

SOMETIME ago, I wrote an article about the close
relationship between faith and works, citing that famous passage from
the Letter of St. James: “Show me your faith apart from your works,
and I by my works will show you my faith.” (2,18)

            And yet, in spite of that closeness, we have to
acknowledge that the two are not identical. Faith is a supernatural
gift, while our works are a product of our effort. Faith can be lived
even without works as in the case of a baby recently baptized. He
already has received the gift, which by its nature is gratuitous, but
the baby is yet incapable of expressing it into deeds.

            It is important to acknowledge this distinction because in
our effort to pursue a goal, an objective or an end, we of course have
to use the appropriate means. We just cannot think of simply achieving
an end without the proper means. But again we should not make the
means and the end identical.

            In the first place, to reach an end, we may use different
means according to the peculiar circumstances of the persons involved.
With that alone, we can already see that the means and the end should
not be held identical.

            Truth is we can hardly say that the end can only be
achieved by a certain means, although in some exceptional cases that
may be so. But in general, the end or goal can be achieved by
different means.

            Besides, just like the gift of faith received by the baby
without expressing it in deeds yet, the end or objective may already
be given to us in a gratuitous way without us working for it through
some means. In this case, we can see that the means are not necessary
to achieve an end. The means and the end cannot be held identical.

            This distinction between the means and the end is
important as we consider the value of our fidelity to our vocation,
commitment, spirituality, mission, etc. We definitely have to use the
appropriate means, unless we are given some extraordinary gifts from
God that would exempt us from using any means and effort. But we can
imagine that that case must be very special and exceptional.

            Then we also have to realize that the appropriate means to
achieve an end may differ and vary according to the circumstances of
the persons involved. What works with one person may not work with
another. So, it would not be proper to impose a rigid set of means to
be done in a rigidly specific way to reach an end.

            There may be a general set of means to be offered to
achieve an end, but everyone has to understand that this set can be
lived in different ways according the specific conditions of the
persons involved.

            We know that the circumstances and conditions of persons
can change, and therefore the way they avail and use the means can
also vary. We should not give the impression that only some specific
means should be used and that they have to be used in a specific way.

            What is most important is that everyone is keenly aware of
the end to be achieved, and we should just let everyone feel
completely free to use whatever means he thinks is appropriate for
achieving the end, and the way those means are availed of.


Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Open, tolerant, patient

IT’S painful to learn that even now, despite the progress
we have in the area of culture, knowledge and technology, we still can
witness massive cases of primitive misunderstanding and barbaric
brutality in some parts of the world.

            In the US, for example, this brutality is shown in the
many violent protests, rioting, looting, burning, etc, because of some
political and cultural issues.

            We need to make a big, loud and worldwide call for
openness, tolerance and patience among ourselves, starting always with
prayers and sacrifice before we think of whatever solutions may be
needed for this problem.

            Yes, we have to learn how to coexist peacefully in spite
of and even because of our unavoidable differences and conflicts. We
should learn to make our differences, conflicts, mistakes, failures,
offenses, etc. an occasion to love each other more and more. They are
actually privileged occasions for us to broaden and extend our
capacity to love, and to know the more subtle aspects and dimensions
of love.

            And love means we need to be open to one another,
accepting each one the way he is, including his defects, weaknesses,
mistakes, failures, not in the sense of approving what’s wrong with
them, but rather because they are first and last our own brothers and
sisters whom we need to love regardless of whatever.

            Anyway, what usually also happens is that what we consider
as wrong in others are actually just matters of opinion, preferences
and tastes. They are not actually wrong and bad in themselves. They
are just different from ours.

            And so we just have to learn to be open-minded,
respectful, tolerant even as we try to expound our own opinions,
preferences and taste too.    And even when we think that what’s wrong
in others are not simply matters of opinion and taste but of things
essential, we still need to be open, tolerant and patient in an
appropriate manner.

             In this, we have to follow closely the example of Christ
himself who bore all the sins of men just to save us. He is the
standard, the pattern and the power in our effort to be open, tolerant
and patient with everybody else.

            Of course, this is possible only when we have faith in
God’s word and try to conform our ways to God’s ways. But we can start
learning these indispensable traits by pursuing them in our
unavoidable daily encounters and conflicts with others.

            For example, when we express our political opinions or
views related to anything social or cultural or even religious, we
should try our best to be respectful with one another.

            Even in our sharpest disagreements, we should see to it
that we remain courteous, civil and friendly. We should learn how to
disagree agreeably, without poisoning the air around.

            To be avoided at all costs are inflammatory language,
insults, ad hominems, all kinds of fallacies, sarcasm, ironies, etc.
These do not advance our dialogues and exchanges.

            We should see to it that we have a good grip of our
emotions, our temper, our tongue, and much more, our hand. Rather,
let’s follow what St. Peter once said:

            “If you are a speaker, speak in words which seem to come
from God…so that in everything God may receive the glory…” (1 Pt
4,10-11)