Monday, January 15, 2018

Smoke and mirrors

IT’S the act of “obscuring or embellishing the truth of a
situation with misleading or irrelevant information.” This is now, sad
to say, a common phenomenon, especially in the press and in the social
media, with all kinds of bloggers and trolls dominating the
cyberspace.
  
            That is why we have a proliferation or, better said, an
infestation of the notorious “fake news.” There is now so much
contentiousness in the spreading of news items and in the exchanges of
opinions that we would not know anymore which one is true, fair and
with some basis.
  
            News-reporting nowadays is not anymore objective
news-reporting as it is now openly opinion-making, since biased,
selective slants and spins are clearly, if subtly, used in the
process.
  
            The worst area that is affected by smoke and mirrors
happen to be, to my mind, in the homilies at Mass, where instead of
the word of God being proclaimed, some man-made theories and opinions
are retailed.
  
            These past days, I have heard homilies that do not sound
anymore like homilies. A lot of trivias, stories, anecdotes and jokes
dominated the homilies, and instead of reinforcing the word of God,
they detract from it. The people remember, as their take-home message,
the trivias and the jokes and not anymore the word of God.
  
            This is unfortunate because this is clearly a misuse of
that liturgical part of the Mass. And that’s why from time to time,
the homilies stray into areas that instead of fostering love,
understanding and unity, they sow division and confusion. This happens
when the homilies assume a partisan political character.
   
            Not only that. Nowadays, the distinction between a homily
and eulogy is getting blurred. Instead of talking about Christ, the
homily dwells more on the deceased. Christ is relegated to the
background, if ever he is considered at all.
  
            The same during wedding Masses. Instead of talking about
the sanctity of marriage as taught by Christ, the focus is on the
couple—how they met, how they fell in love, etc. Nothing wrong to talk
about these things, but it should not be in the homily.
   
            The homily, of course, has to be relevant to certain
current issues. But it should be made clear that it is the teaching of
Christ that is expounded, not just some social, political or economic
theories and observations. Even in Masses of fiestas and memorials of
saints, it should be Christ who should be clearly proclaimed. The
saints play only a supporting role.
  
            There may not be bad intention involved here. In fact, a
lot of good intention can be presumed. But just the same, with good
intention, we can still do things wrongly.
  
            This, of course, is a big challenge to the homilists,
since it would require them to know the connection between God’s word
with the issues at hand. Yes, a certain sound theology is needed here,
one that effectively applies God’s word to these issues in a way that
these issues get inspired by God’s word.
  
            For this, the homilists need not be intelligent and
observant fellows, but true men of God, whose hearts are both with God
and with men, are both in heaven and on earth. They need to present
the living Christ to the people during the homily.
  
            They are not there to strut their stuff, to show off their
talents. They have to be no less than “alter Christus,” head of the
Church, not some performers or actors or scholars only.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Our great treasure in the Sto. Nino

WE really have to be most thankful that even up to now we
as a people still have a great devotion to the Sto. Nino. Instead of
waning through the years, this popular piety we have toward the Child
Jesus has grown.
  
            Yes, there are still things that should be made right and
purified, (I suppose we will never run out of them), but we cannot
deny that this devotion has helped us greatly in a world and in times
that are increasingly secularized and paganised. Think of the many
so-called liberal people in the world who have considered faith,
religion and piety as obsolete.

            Thanks to God the image of Christ as both a child and king
has truly so captured the Filipino heart (especially the Cebuano
heart) that whatever situation we may find ourselves in, whether good
or bad humanly speaking, we still keep our Christian faith and try our
best to live by it.
   
            Let’s hope that this devotion continues to develop and to
spread more widely, especially among the young ones who are most
vulnerable to the faith-killing and piety-numbing ways of the world
today. In this, we have to use both the human and supernatural means
of prayer and sacrifice, and to involve as many people and
institutions as possible.
  
            That the Sto. Nino is both child and king somehow reminds
us that we need to be like a child to attain our ultimate kingly goal
of human maturity and Christian perfection. As we grow older, more
exposed to the world and gaining a lot of experience, we need to be
more like a child, deepening and enriching our spiritual childhood in
Christ.
  
            Let’s always remember what Christ himself said: “Unless
you change and become like little children, you will never enter the
kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 18,3)

            Yes, children and heaven are almost synonymous to each
other. No wonder we feel like we are in heaven every time we see
children around. Every time a baby is born, we are very happy because
we somehow know that he just did not come out of his mother’s womb,
but rather from the very hands of God who created him before the
parents procreated him.
  
            In spite of the many limitations of children, what makes
them always desirable is their pure, innocent heart, incapable of
malice, ambition, pride and haughtiness. They are a source of many
other good things.

            Their heart is always trusting in the Lord always, just
like a little kid is always confident with his father. Faith and hope
easily grow and acquire strength when nurtured in a child's heart.
It's this attitude that leads them to go on and move on no matter
what, for life to them could only be an adventure of discoveries.

            It's this kind of heart that makes them transparent,
sincere and simple, not afraid to be known as they truly are. They may
still lack the subtlety of prudence and discretion, and be prone to
spontaneity, but they hardly mind these deficiencies.

            They are only interested in doing what they think is good
and enjoyable. Suggestions and corrections do not humiliate them.
Rather, they welcome these suggestions and corrections.

            Children are humble, teachable, flexible and docile. You
can tell them anything, and they always tend to believe and obey.
Attainments, achievements and successes do not spoil them. Neither do
difficulties, temptations and failures crush them and plunge them to
sadness or bitterness.

            They are easy to motivate, to be consoled, to be
optimistic. Falls and mistakes are easily forgotten. They only leave a
mark that becomes a source of precious lessons for them to learn. They
are quick to heal when wounded.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

When misunderstood and misjudged

WE should not be too surprised when we are misunderstood
and misjudged by others. There are a million reasons why these can
happen anytime, given the way we all are. But we should be ready to
react properly when these things happen to us. Truth is, if we know
how to, we can even take advantage of those occasions
  
            We have to be clear about the following point. That we get
misunderstood and misjudged by others does not give us the right to do
the same to them. That would be following the discredited law of
Talion. We should not respond to these situations simply on the
impulse of our gut reactions. It would just make things worse.
  
            We need to be calm and figure out what the most prudent
way to react is. Very often, we need to pause and pray, bring matters
in the presence of God, asking for his light and guidance. We have to
learn how to hold our horses. What we cannot understand and handle,
let’s leave them in the hands of God who knows what to do with
everything.
  
            In the meantime, let us console ourselves with the thought
that by being misunderstood and misjudged, we actually liken ourselves
to Christ who suffered the most extreme case of being misunderstood
and misjudged and who converted that predicament as our way of
salvation. With him, we also will have a way out of this predicament.
  
            That consideration would calm us down and help us avoid
experiencing unnecessary anguish and dangerous bitterness. It would
foster a spirit of sportsmanship such that setbacks like these would
only sharpen our desire to play better, so to speak, and not to waste
time brooding and entertaining bad thoughts and judgments.
  
            There will always be precious lessons for us to learn when
we are misunderstood and misjudged. Let’s never forget that if certain
bad things happen to us, it is because God at least allows them to
happen. And if they happen, it is because God wants to convey
something good, a saving message for us or that he wants us to derive
something beneficial to us.
   
            These occasions of being misunderstood and misjudged
actually give us precious insights about our weaknesses and the
weaknesses of others. They give a good picture of the fragile
condition that we all are in. But at the same time we would also know
that there is a way of handling this condition properly.
  
            We have to be quick to go to God asking for light. We
should avoid just getting stuck with our own devices. We are
completely helpless before certain mysterious things in our life. Only
in him can we have a good understanding of our situation, knowing why
God allows it to happen. Only in him can we repeat St. Paul’s words:
  
            “We are pressed on all sides, but not crushed; perplexed,
but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not
destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so
that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Cor
4,8-10)
  
            Let’s remember that as St. Paul said: “God works all
things together for the good of those who love him, who are called
according to his purpose.” (Rom 8,28) So, the crucial thing to be and
to do is to be with Christ and to follow his will, no matter what.
  
            This should be our reaction whenever we are misunderstood
and misjudged. This is not hard to do. We just have to practice it
more often, because as they say, “practice makes perfect.”