Thursday, February 23, 2017

Suffering is loving

WE need to discover and appreciate the link between
suffering and loving. The two need not go against each other. In fact,
they have to go together if we want our suffering to be meaningful and
fruitful. And we have a way to do that.

            By uniting our suffering with the passion and death of
Christ on the cross, the vital link between suffering and loving is
established. The sting of suffering and death is removed, and the
guarantee of our resurrection and our victory over death, sin and all
forms of evil that cause us suffering is made.

            We just have to learn to be sport about our unavoidable
condition of suffering in this life and adapt the proper attitude and
reactions that should be inspired by our Christian faith. We have to
educate our senses, feelings and emotions according to the indications
of our faith and the recourse to the sacraments. By developing a life
of authentic piety, we can hack it.

            In this, we should follow the example of Christ described
in St. Peter’s first letter. That is why it is always worthwhile to
develop the habit of meditating on the passion and death of Christ so
we can have some clear ideas about the meaning, reason and purpose of
suffering.

            In that way, we would be properly motivated in our
suffering and would in fact look forward to it rather than run away
from it, just as Christ looked forward to his passion and death and
did not run away from it.

            “Christ also suffered for you,” St. Peter said, “leaving
you an example that you should follow in his steps. He committed no
sin. No guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not
revile in return. When he suffered, he did not threaten, but he
trusted to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body
on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By
his wounds you have been healed.” (2,21-24)

            If we would have the mind of Christ in our suffering, for
sure we can manage to have peace of mind and even joy, knowing that
our suffering will always produce some good fruits not only for us but
also for the others. We can manage to stay away from self-pity and
anxiety that can do a lot of harm on our mental health, not to mention
our spiritual health.

            It is important that we see in suffering the very act of
loving, because we convert suffering into an expression of our
obedience to the will of God who allows us to suffer. Let’s remember
that nothing happens in our life, including our suffering, that is not
at least allowed by God in his providence. And if he allowed it to
happen, it’s because there’s a greater good that can be derived from
it.

            Let us break loose from the fear of suffering. Rather, we
should feel privileged when some suffering comes for it is a clear
occasion for us to show our love for God and for others.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

God yes but religion no?

WE have to be clear about this. We cannot have God without
religion. They go together as far as we are concerned. Religion is
precisely our relationship with God. It’s an unavoidable thing,
whether we like it or not. It has its laws and requirements that flow
from God himself and that ought to be followed. Without religion, what
would God be to us?

            There are some people who profess that they believe in God
but not in religion. Perhaps what they mean is that they indeed
believe in God but do not want to be hampered by certain
“requirements” that religion demands from them. Or they do not want
what they call as “organized religion” with its doctrine and
practices.

            It’s like saying that they want a God that is according to
their own liking, their own designs, their own terms. They do not want
to be told what to do in their own so-called relation with God.

            Of course, they are quick to say that these “requirements”
are simply man-made, or are mere legalisms that really have nothing to
do with the essence of our relation with God. They seem to be the only
ones capable of knowing how their relation with God should be. No one
should intervene.

            Worse, they are quick to point out the many
inconsistencies that people who occupy positions in the Church and
those who call themselves as pious, holy and religious make, to
justify their rejection of their own idea of religion. They are
deflecting the issue, as if the mistakes and sins of these men and
women detract from the objective need for religion.

            This is unfortunate because such understanding of God and
religion is fatally flawed. While religion is personal in the sense
that it is unique to each individual, it is also personal in the sense
that it is by definition relational and subject to the laws of God and
the laws that the divinely founded Church stipulates.

            To be personal is not only to be a unique individual but
also to be related to God and to everybody else. A person is always a
religious and social being. That is how a person is wired, and in
these relations, there are universal God-given laws that need to be
followed.

            Of course, these laws are articulated in human terms and
therefore cannot fully capture the mysterious laws of God. That is why
they need to be updated, improved, polished, enriched, etc. as time
goes on. But they have to be followed just the same, unless it’s clear
that a particular law does not apply to a concrete situation of the
person.

            Some people say that they believe in God but they do not
want to do anything with the Church. But God without the Church is not
God. He would be a man-made god. The bishop-martyr St. Cyprian
expresses this truth well: “You cannot have God as your Father if you
do not have the Church as your mother.”


Monday, February 20, 2017

When the ego gets bruised

HOW would we know if we have a big ego? One way is to see
how we react when our ego get bruised, that is, when we are insulted,
mocked, ridiculed, humiliated, or when we commit mistakes, suffer
failures, get misunderstood, etc.

            If we happen to feel very bad because of these
occurrences, we already have some signs that indicate we have a big
ego. When we spend a lot of time lamenting and complaining about them,
brooding and ruing—that’s another sign we can have a big ego.

            It can mean that we do not want to suffer, as if suffering
has no purpose at all in this life. It can mean that our understanding
of our life and its purpose is very limited, and is almost exclusively
tied to good things only and nice feelings, victories and successes.

            It can mean that we are hooked to a very subtle anomaly
called perfectionism or triumphalism. The disorder of perfectionism
usually afflicts some so-called “good” and “pious” people, those who
are regarded as rightists and conservatives. They are usually seen as
being very strict and fastidious, but the truth is they often have a
scrupulous conscience that leads them to be narrow-minded and rigid in
their ways.

            They are prone to make rash judgments and end up bitter
and irritable. It would be no wonder that they feel isolated like an
island detached from the continent, and any show of sociability is
simply just that, a show, an act, a performance, devoid of the proper
substance and spirit.

            Another sign of a big ego is when we start calculating
what we have done to others who seem not to appreciate our good deeds
and in fact appear to be ungrateful and even hostile to us. In other
words, we keep some kind of scoring card, which means that our good
deeds are not actually done gratuitously. They go with a price.

            This is truly unfortunate because the patience and
endurance, which we so far may have gone through, have broken. We did
not make the full course. We did not go the distance.

            Still another sign is when we find it hard to forgive and
forget, and to move on. What is worse is when we have great urges to
make revenge. In other words, we are keeping grudges and resentment.
We wallow in bitterness and hatred.

            We should do all to fight against our tendency to develop
a big ego. And the way to do it is simply to identify ourselves more
and more with Christ who went through all the abominations of human
misdeeds and yet continues to love us, to forgive us and to be
magnanimous.

            It would be good if we are constantly meditating on the
example of Christ, especially on his passion and death, and to pray
for grace so we can manage to contain our egos and be truly humble. We
cannot deny that deep within us still lurks the ‘old man’ whose ego
just wants to grow and grow endlessly.