Monday, June 18, 2018

Sharpening our prudence and detachment


WITH all the explosion of the many attractive, tempting
and riveting things we have today, we cannot deny that we really need
to sharpen our virtues of prudence and detachment, otherwise there is
no other way but to be swallowed by them and to get lost.

            Christ already warned us about this difficulty to resist
the allure of worldly things in a very graphic way when he said: “It
is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a
rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Mk 10,25)

            A rich man is precisely anyone whose heart is full of
worldly things, be it money, power, etc., while practically empty in
terms of love for God and for others. The duty to sharpen our prudence
and detachment in the midst of so many worldly allurements is now
becoming very serious and urgent.

            We just have to have clear guiding ideas of how to be
prudent and detached in the context of the rapid developments of the
world today. For sure, the most fundamental principle that we should
always remember and follow is that everything should be referred to
God before, during and after the use of these worldly things.

            Let’s never forget St. Paul’s clear advice as to what
motive we should have in our all our activities and affairs. “Whether
you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
(1 Cor 10,31)

            We should check ourselves often to see if indeed that is
the motive of all our thoughts, words and deeds. If we notice that we
are moved to do something, like using the internet, for example, just
to satisfy our curiosity, or just to acquire knowledge or anything
that can only show self-interest, then we need to rectify our
intentions.

            We should only be driven by the motive of giving glory to
God, which in concrete terms is translated into loving God and loving
everybody else, by knowing them better and serving them
wholeheartedly.

            To be sure, this is what is proper to us, and would lead
us to our human maturity and Christian perfection. Of course, to be
realistic, we cannot deny that we are often hounded by our weaknesses
and the many temptations around. And so it should be no surprise to us
that we need to do some struggling, some fighting.

            When we notice that there is no struggle involved, we
should have good reason to suspect that we are going the wrong way,
that we are clearly succumbing to our own weakness and the many
temptations around, and that we are actually harming if not destroying
ourselves.

            We should have constant awareness of the presence of God,
of his continuing interventions in our life, of his will and ways.
That’s the only way we can sharpen the virtues of prudence and
detachment. The ideal situation is that the use of the modern
technologies, for example, would make our knowledge and love for God
and others grow. If not, then they become nothing other than dangers.

            When we take God for granted, there is no other way but
for us to be at the mercy of our blind instincts and other bodily
impulses, and of the worldly trends that are insensitive to the
spiritual and supernatural character of our life.

            These days, it’s imperative that we teach everyone as
early as possible to refer everything to God. It would be good that
right in the family environment, the children are already taught how
to refer things to God.

            That would not comprise as an act of brain-washing, but
rather as a way of providing them with what everyone of us most
need—that is, to be with God.



Saturday, June 16, 2018

Freedom and responsibility


THESE are inseparable twins, like the two sides of a coin.
One cannot be without the other. To be truly free, one has to be
responsible. And to be truly responsible, one has to be free.

            And the more freedom one enjoys, the more responsibility
he should also exercise. And the new forms of freedom, especially
brought about now by our new technologies, should also be matched by
new forms of responsibility. We have to be more sensitive to this
issue.

            But we have to know what is involved in this unbreakable
relationship between freedom and responsibility. This is now a very
challenging task, since many people today are having all sorts of
ideas about what freedom is. And regarding responsibility, hardly any
attention is given to it, especially among the young.

            Very often, what we see is a kind of freedom that is
simply at the mercy of one’s likes and dislikes, or one’s moods and
physical, emotional and psychological condition, or the social,
political or cultural trends around, or merely man-made ideologies.

            We have to reiterate to everyone, in season and out of
season, the true nature and purpose of freedom and why it goes always
with responsibility. We cannot deny that there are now many forms of
what may be deemed as fake freedom and pseudo-responsibility.

            First, we need to understand that our freedom is not just
something that we generate ourselves. We have not created freedom. It
is given to us by our Creator who is definitely other than ourselves.
And it is subject to a law that is also given to it by our Creator. We
are never its lawgiver.

            With that in mind, we can readily understand why it is
said in the gospel that “man does not live by bread alone, but by
every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

            Christ echoed the same idea when he said: “If you remain
in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the
truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8,31)

            In short, God is the source of our freedom and the sense
of responsibility that corresponds to that freedom. Not only is he the
source. He is also its pattern, as personified in Christ and put into
effect in the Holy Spirit. He is also its purpose.

            Freedom is not just about the ability to do what we want
to do. Rather it is the power to do what we ought to do, as inscribed
in the will of God. It is this character of its “ought-ness” that
gives rise to the sense of responsibility that should always accompany
the exercise of true freedom.

            If we understand this, we will obviously realize how
important it is to know God’s will and ways, as expressed and shown in
the gospel, and the many other instrumentalities in the Church that
are meant to explain and transmit the living word of God.

            May we then realize and take to heart the duty to read and
meditate on the gospel and on the word of God, wherever it is found!
We have to encourage everyone, especially those close to us, to
develop the habit of gospel-reading and of continually studying the
doctrine of our faith, steadily incarnating the truths of our faith in
our lives.

            Of special and urgent interest today are the new forms of
freedom that we are afforded by the new technologies, and how these
new forms should be matched by new ways with which our responsibility
should be exercised.

            Otherwise, we cannot avoid from getting into the very
deceiving ways of fake freedom and pseudo-responsibility.



Friday, June 15, 2018

Life’s real business


LET’S see to it that we are always aware of life’s real
business, the only one thing necessary in life. (cfr Lk 10,42) We
should know how to cruise the ocean of life that many times can get
turbulent and threatening. Let’s try to avoid getting confused and
lost in the drama of life.

            That business is none other than the salvation of our
souls. Said in other words, it is about conforming ourselves to be
what God wants us to be—his image and likeness, his children in Christ
who is the pattern of our humanity and the redeemer of our damaged
humanity. It’s about loving God and others.

            This should be the constant context of all that we do here
on earth. All our work, the exercise of our freedom and creativity,
all the events and circumstances of our life, whether good or bad
according to our human standards, should be viewed in this context.
Short of this, we would just be going in circles in life if not expose
ourselves to all sorts of dangers and anomalies.

            This does not mean that we should only be thinking of our
eternal salvation by completely neglecting our earthly and temporal
duties. Not at all! In fact, our eternal salvation depends on how we
‘perform’ in our earthly concerns. We have to know how to make an
organic link between the here-and-now and the life beyond death.

            We need to remember that our life here on earth is
actually the testing ground for us if we too want what God wants us to
be. We have been made free and responsible by God, and he does not
want to impose that will of his on us. We have to correspond to it
freely and responsibly.

            That’s why we have been placed first here on earth and not
immediately in heaven where we, as God’s image and likeness, came from
and where we properly belong. It is for us to be tested.

            We should therefore avoid the two extremes of being too
other-worldly at the expense of our worldly affairs, on the one hand,
and on the other, of being too worldly at the expense of our eternal
destination. Of the latter, Christ said: “What does it profit a man if
he gains the whole world but loses his soul.” (Mk 8,36)

            We have to always think both in terms of time and eternity
that involves the material and spiritual aspects of our life. Our mind
and heart should be both in heaven and on earth, not one or the other.
This is always possible because of the spiritual character of our
nature and also because of God’s grace that is given to us abundantly.

            We have to know how Christ is present in all the events of
our life. Not only that. We also have to know what Christ is showing
or telling us in every moment. He is actually always intervening in
our life.

            This will require of us an abiding presence of God that is
supported by concrete acts of piety like mental prayer, gospel
reading, recourse to the sacraments, etc. We have to learn how to be
recollected and contemplative even while in the middle of our busy
active life.

            With Christ, everything would have meaning. Even our human
failures would acquire some saving value. Irrespective of how our life
runs, with Christ everything will always end with victory even if we
have to go through a lot of suffering.

            Christ already reassured us of this when he said: “In this
world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the
world.” (Jn 16,33) So let us just be game in this life as we go
through the business of cooperating in our own salvation and the whole
of mankind through all the events and circumstances of life here on
earth.