Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Our faith and our works


THERE is, of course, a close relation between our faith
and our works. As St. James said in his letter, “show me your faith
apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.”
(2,18)
   
            He said earlier that faith by itself, if it has no works,
is dead. It profits a man nothing if he says he has faith but has no
works. “Can his faith save him?,” he asked. “If a brother or sister is
ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go
in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving him the things needed
for the body, what does it profit?” So, faith if real will always be
shown in works.
  
            But we need to be clear about one thing in this
relationship. While there is a close relationship between our faith
and our works, they cannot be held equal and identical. Faith is faith
which is a supernatural gift. While our works are a product of our own
effort which can never be made supernatural unless done with faith or
with God’s grace.
  
            To think that we can achieve sanctity by faith alone is to
fall into an anomaly or a heresy called Gnosticism. While to consider
that sanctity can be attained through our human works alone without
the faith is to fall into the heresy of Pelagianism. These two
heresies have been recently denounced in that document of Pope
Francis, “Gaudete et exsultate.”

            Let us remember that there are abundant pieces of evidence
of people who think and say they are holy or saintly but their evil
works betray their fervent profession of their faith. And also, there
are people who do a lot of good works and yet they are not holy
because their works lead them to the sins of pride, vanity, greed and
the like.
  
            Yes, we should have as strong and deep a faith as possible
and it should be somehow verified by our works. Our faith should so
inspire and shape our life and everything in it, especially our works,
should show that faith.
  
            Our works, to be truly good and capable of sanctifying us,
should be sanctified first of all by our faith and the grace of God.
Without the latter, our works would only be apparently good and can
occasion many other dangers to us.
  
            We need to see to it that we take care of growing in our
faith and of making it affect, as in inspiring and shaping, all the
aspects of our life. We can never say we have enough faith. Our life
can never be made supernatural, nor can it be conformed to Christ who
is the pattern of our humanity, if it is not a life shaped by our
faith.
  
            Of course, our faith has to be translated into action and
into life itself. That is the role of our human works which are also
indispensable. For faith without works, as St. James again said, is
dead.
   
            We have to learn how to begin and end everything that we
do with God. This is what is meant in that liturgical prayer: “Ut
cuncta nostra oratio et operatio a te semper incipiat and per te
coepta finiatur,” that all our prayers and acts may always begin with
you (God) and through you are completed.
  
            This should be the normal way of behaving, for without
God, without faith, no matter how brilliant our acts may be according
to human standards, they simply will not bring us to our proper end.
In fact, they may even pose as a danger to us.

             This proper understanding of the relation between our
faith and our works has to be taught and spread far and wide, starting
with the family and the schools and in all other levels of our
society.


Monday, November 11, 2019

Celibacy, chastity, charity


“VOS estis lux mundi.” That’s Latin for “Your are the
light of the world,” words addressed by Christ to his disciples,
telling them how they ought to be. (cfr. Mt 5,14 ) Pope Francis used
these words as title to his Motu Proprio Apostolic Letter that deals
with how the Church officials should go about cases of clerical sexual
abuses, a screaming scandal in recent times. This was released on May
7, 2019.

            In that document, the dioceses are asked to propose a
system on how to report, investigate, judge and do other actions
pertinent to such delicate cases. I am sure that once this system is
put in place, there will be more transparency on the part of the
Church regarding these cases, and hopefully will lessen, if not
eliminate, these scandals.
  
            Of course, that wish may largely be considered as a pipe
dream. Man is man and whether one is a priest or layperson, a Pope or
a farmer, very honorable in stature or not, we should not forget that
we are all made of the same stuff. We have the same hormones and
libido running through our body, giving impulses and urges, etc.,
especially during one’s adolescent stage when things can get volcanic
in intensity.
  
            We may have impressive qualities, but let’s never forget
that we all have feet of clay. We have a treasure in vessels of clay.
The person who may look like an angel and a virgin during the day may
turn into a demon and a maniac in the night.
  
            We just have to be realistic about this condition of ours
and try our best to do something about it. There’s always hope. God is
always in control. Where sin has abounded, God’s grace has abounded
even more. (cfr. Rom 5,20)
  
            Yes, that’s all that we can do—just try and try, struggle
all the way like a good soldier. But we actually can do a lot in this
department. First, we have to understand that especially for priests
and bishops, celibacy is a matter of living chastity well, and
chastity in turn is a result of genuine love that comes from God, and
not from the urgings of the flesh, nor the many seductive
conditionings of the environment, etc.
  
            This basic equation should be imparted as early as
possible in everyone, starting in the family which is the first center
of formation for all of us, and especially when one starts his
priestly formation in the seminaries.
  
            Let’s hope that parents take this responsibility
seriously, especially these days when there are more challenges and
issues regarding human sexuality. Most likely, parents themselves also
need to be given the proper formation in this regard by the Church.
  
            The seminary formators and spiritual directors should
already be proven experts in this area and masters in the virtue of
priestly celibacy, chastity and love. Let’s hope that with their mere
presence and example, seminarians can already get inspired and feel
reinforced in their desire to live the virtue of chastity in celibacy,
a virtue that should spring out of genuine love.
  
            The formators and spiritual directors should really get to
know the seminarians thoroughly well, and give them the proper
guidance. They should try their best to win the confidence and
friendship of the seminarians so that a candid look into the
seminarians’ spiritual life, especially in the area of continence,
chastity and capacity for celibacy can be assessed properly.
  
            The formators and spiritual directors should know whether
there is genuine love for God and souls in the seminarians’ heart, or
at least know how to help them develop such love. They should know at
least the state in which these virtues are lived by the seminarians,
so that the proper guidance can be given.
  
            This is, of course, a delicate task to carry out, for
which a lot of spiritual and supernatural means have to be used
without neglecting the appropriate human means.


Sunday, November 10, 2019

Why do we suffer?


THE quick and short answer to that question is because we
are not with God, from whom all good things come. We prefer to be on
our own, even to make ourselves our own God. Of course, separated from
God, from whom, to repeat, all good things come, the only thing that
can happen to us is to suffer.
  
          Not only do we suffer, but we neither cannot help but also
die, which is a consequence of our sin, a contradiction to what being
with God, who is life eternal, would entitle us. With God, we can only
have joy, bliss and everything that is good. Without him, we can only
have the opposite.
   
          Suffering is not intended for us in the beginning, nor in
the end, in our final state of life in heaven. But we brought
suffering to ourselves by disobeying God, by daring to separate
ourselves from God. That’s why, we suffer now. We cannot avoid it
anymore.
  
          Remember that our first parents, still in the state of
original justice, did not know any suffering or pain. They were meant
to be immortal, to enjoy what is known as impassibility (the capacity
not to suffer any pain, even tiredness) and integrity, the state of
being in harmony with their own selves and with everything else.
  
          But all that was lost because they disobeyed God’s
commandment to them and preferred to do their own will. They preferred
to separate themselves from God, thinking that they can be their own
God. That was the seemingly irresistible temptation the devil, the
father of all lies, hoisted on them.
  
          But in spite of all that, God continues to love us. He is
such a father to us that even our sins and our stupidities would make
him love us some more. This he did by sending his Son to us to save
us. Let’s try to imagine what all this divine endeavor would involve.
  
          The Son had to become man to tackle the whole problem of our
sinfulness that unavoidably leads us to suffering and eventually to
death. We can just imagine the kind of “suffering” God had to undergo
to save us!
  
          In the words of St. Paul, the Son of God emptied himself to
become man, and he emptied himself further by suffering death for our
sake, and death on the cross. Let us try to go through his passion and
death to have a good idea of what Christ our redeemer had to undergo
to save us.
  
          The suffering and death of Christ which was the price, the
ransom for our redemption, is the paradigm we have to follow to heal
ourselves of our strong tendency to be by own selves alone, daring to
separate ourselves from God. Christ has converted suffering and death
into a means to our salvation.
   
          This time, our suffering as long as it is united to the
suffering of Christ, becomes the cure that heals us of our fundamental
infirmity to separate ourselves from God. Our suffering now can have a
redemptive value. It is something that we should welcome and even look
for. Without suffering, we cannot help but stay away from God.
  
          That is why not only do we suffer now, which is unavoidable,
but we also have to suffer, to look for it, because only through
suffering can we be reconciled with God, from whom we come and to whom
we belong in a most intimate way since God wants us to be his image
and likeness, to be children of his.
   
          We need to readjust our understanding of suffering to
conform it to how Christ wants our suffering to be. Every suffering we
experience in this life should be an invitation to “deny ourselves,”
to empty ourselves, so we can be with God, and in fact, be “another
Christ,” who is the pattern of our humanity, the savior of our damaged
humanity.