Friday, September 21, 2018

Let’s be cheerful givers


THIS is what St. Paul encourages to do and to be. His
words: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever
sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he
has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God
loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor 9,7)

            If with faith we believe in these words of St. Paul, then
we would know what to do and how to be so as to draw more love for us
from God. It is to sow goodness everywhere bountifully. It is to be
generous even to a heroic degree, doing it with utmost freedom. It is
to be a cheerful giver.

            This is self-giving at its best mode. This is how we ought
to love God and everybody else. It is to give not only things but our
own selves without measure, for as St. Francis de Sales would put it,
“The measure of love is to love without measure.”

            We should not be afraid to be generous, especially with
God, because God cannot be outdone in generosity. The more we give
ourselves to him, the more we will receive also from him. Whatever
loss we seem to suffer because of loving is actually regained a
hundredfold.

            Let’s take note of the following gospel passages that
reassure us of how we can gain much more than what we seem to lose in
loving:

-“Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sister or father or
mother or children or father or mother or children or farms of My
name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal
life.” (Mt 19,29)

            -“Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but
whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mk
8,35)

          -“If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to
the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow
me.”(Mt 19,21)

            It would be good if we examine our attitude and
dispositions when we give something, if not our own selves, to God and
to others. The ideal we should try to reach is to give ourselves
unconditionally, without calculation, without strings attached.

            This does not mean that we do so without prudence. In the
words of St. Paul cited above, we are told that “each one must give as
he has decided in his heart.” So, it is not a matter of giving without
thinking, without weighing things, without considering certain needs
in our life.

            Prudence should not be understood as some limitation of
our generosity. Rather, it should be understood as precisely enhancing
our generosity given our human condition. Let us always remember that
Christ always respects the way we are, giving due consideration to our
human needs.

            But to determine how to be generous with prudence is,
obviously, not an easy thing to do. It is very easy for us to
rationalize and justify our egoism and selfishness. And we also can
easily mask our self-interest as generosity. We have to bring this
point to our prayer. We may even have to consult others to enlighten
us. But we just have to do it.

            To be sure, being a truly cheerful giver will give us a
good measure of peace and satisfaction despite the sacrifices
involved. It may happen that the option we take in order to be a
cheerful giver would be considered bad and even foolish according to
human standards. But let’s take comfort in the truth that in the end,
it is God who will judge us, not us.

            In this, let’s take comfort in St. Paul’s reassuring
words: “We are pressed on all sides, but not crushed. Perplexed, but
not in despair. Persecuted, but not forsaken. Struck down, but not
destroyed.” (2 Cor 4,8-9)


Thursday, September 20, 2018

To be truly Christ-like


KNOWING that as a human person we are patterned after
Christ, we should aim at making ourselves more and more like him. This
should be our constant daily concern. All our other concerns in this
life, no matter how important and urgent they may be, should be
subordinated to this primordial one.

            To be sure, this fundamental desire does not undermine our
humanity. If anything at all, it will only bring us to our human
perfection. We should not be afraid to give priority to this desire,
for it can only put all our other plans and ambitions in their proper
order.

            To be truly Christ-like would, of course, require that we
know Christ through and through. This will certainly ask of us that
we, at least, read and meditate on the gospel regularly, for it is
where we can find Christ. As St. Jerome famously said: “Ignorance of
the Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” We have to make it a daily
habit to read, study and meditate on the Bible. With our new
technologies, this should not be difficult to do.

            To be truly Christ-like would, of course, be an endless
affair. We can never say we are definitively Christ-like, since we can
never exhaust the richness of Christian life no matter how much effort
we exert. We just have to try and try. At least, everyday we should be
able to say that we are becoming more and more like Christ in a
specific aspect.

            Definitely, if we want to be truly Christ-like, we should
be full of goodness and love. We should reach out to everybody, no
matter how difficult that would be or how undeserving the others may
be of our care and attention. Like Christ, we have to be willing to
empty ourselves so as to identify ourselves with everybody. We have to
fan into a bursting fire this desire to serve others.

            Like Christ, we have to assume the attitude of wanting to
serve everybody and not to be served. We have to be wary of our
tendency to fall easily to a sense of self-importance or conceit. Like
Christ, we have to be willing to “wash and kiss the feet” of
everybody.

            Like Christ, we have to love our enemies, and to bear the
burden of everybody, willing to replicate in our life the very passion
and death of Christ, so that we too can join him in his resurrection.
We should be willing to offer mercy to everyone as well as to ask for
pardon for our own sins.

            We also have to understand that our identification with
Christ can be achieved sacramentally. Aside from baptism and
confirmation, let us see to it that we regularly go to confession and
receive Christ in the Eucharist.

            Like Christ, we have to pray constantly, keeping an
abiding conversation with our Father God. We have to learn how to pray
in all situations and circumstances of our life, be it happy or sad,
light or heavy.

            Like Christ, we have to have a sharp hunger for souls. The
apostolic dimension of our life should be considered essential and
indispensable. Wherever we are, whatever be our situation, the
apostolic concern should always be in our mind and heart. We should
always be praying for souls and thinking of how we can help them get
back to God.

            Like Christ, we have to offer everything in our life to
God. We have to learn to give up everything for God, to live true
detachment from earthly things even as we continue to use them. We
have to reach that point that we are willing to offer our life to God,
unafraid of death and all the suffering that goes with dying. All
these to a heroic degree!



Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Some indices of personal growth


NO matter how imperfect and non-conclusive, it is always
helpful that priests, or anybody who has the duty to take care of
others, like parents and teachers, avail of some measurements or
indices that can show if there is progress and development in the
personal life of the those under their care.

            These indices will help them to be very effective in their
work, which means that they are truly helping those under their care.
Besides, these indices would allow them to discover more areas that
need to be looked into in their effort to guide souls. They can serve
as leading and directing guide to discover the more specific needs of
the people.

            Obviously, priests, and the others similarly situated,
should have a clear plan of formation for those under their care.
Depending on the concrete conditions of the parties involved, this
plan of formation may include doctrine classes, periods of
recollection and retreat, personal chats and mentoring, administering
of the sacraments, especially confession and the Holy Mass, etc.

            This plan of formation should cover the different aspects
of personal growth toward maturity. These can be in the human,
doctrinal, spiritual, apostolic and professional aspects. The
different virtues have to be explained well. Same with the doctrine of
our faith. The art of praying, making sacrifices, waging spiritual
struggle have to be taught. Concern for others has to instilled. Love
for study and work has to be instilled.

            These activities in this plan of formation should be
adapted to the level of the persons involved. We have to avoid being
too theoretical or the other extreme of being too practical in these
means of formation. And they have to be delivered in such a way that
those who receive them would really appreciate them. As much as
possible, the priests and others should show consistency between what
they preach and what they do.

            With this plan of formation taken care of, the priests and
the others similarly entrusted with the duty to take care of people
have to see to it that some progress and development can be observed
in the life of those they are giving guidance.

            For me, with the students that I am taking care of, I look
first of all if there is an improvement in the way they take care of
their appearance and their relation with others, that is, if they are
cultivating social skills which in some concrete terms means they do
less bullying and are learning to be more refined in their speech.

            I also look into how they are overcoming their shyness,
especially in approaching the sacraments of confession and the Holy
Mass. If they come to see me for some chat and spiritual direction and
eventually to open up his personal life and have a confession, I would
know that the student is improving spiritually.

            When they invite their friends to see me also, then I know
that they are developing an apostolic spirit. And when their grades
improve, I also would know that they are acquiring the proper
discipline of studying.

            I also look into their classrooms and see if they are
clean and orderly, the lights and fans turned off when these rooms are
empty. I also try to see if the noise they create are in proportion to
the specific circumstance they are in at a given moment.

            It is a matter of accompanying them, motivating them and
opening to them new horizons, new goals to reach. In this regard, it
is important that we win their friendship and confidence.

            Of course, they can commit mistakes and offenses against
school policies anytime. And when these happen, it is important that
they realize that they will always be understood even if some
appropriate penalties would be given.