Sunday, September 24, 2017

The best security

WE worry about all kinds of security. And it’s all
understandable. We need them for some peace of mind. We want to have
security from physical harm, security in our job so that we can have
steady source of income, security in some unavoidable conditions like
old age, sickness, etc.
  
            We cannot overemphasize the effort we exert to attain as
much security as possible. And it’s good that we already some
significant structures to provide all these kinds of security.
  
            But we have to remember that the most fundamental and
indispensable security we can and should have is that of maximizing as
much as we can our faith, hope and charity in God and in others. This
is the kind of security that underwrites all the others. Whatever
happens, it’s in our faith, hope and charity that will bring us afloat
to our final and definitive destination.
  
            As St. Paul would put it, “I have learned, in whatever
state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to
abound. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of
facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in
him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4,11-13)
   
            Of course, this fundamental spiritual and supernatural
sense of security should never be made to undermine all the effort we
need to attain the necessary security in the temporal and worldly
sense.
  
            We have to guard ourselves from lapsing into some kind of
superstitious and fideist attitude that precisely relies exclusively
on one’s so-called faith without the corresponding human effort to put
that faith into practice. We qualify the word, faith, with
“so-called,” because a faith treated that way is no faith at all.
  
            This anomaly can happen just as much as that of the other
extreme, when we would just rely solely on our human powers without
any recourse to faith, hope and charity. Yes, it’s true that we should
try our best to be self-reliant, but our self-reliance should not come
at the expense of our absolute dependence on God.
  
            We need both. The perfect balance is when we can truly say
that we depend on God 100% and also depend on ourselves 100%. It’s not
a 50%-50% proposition, nor any combination that divides the 100%
ideal.
  
            Thus, both our spiritual and supernatural life, on one
hand, and our natural life of work and human ingenuity, on the other,
should be at their best state. Everything has to be done to achieve
that ideal.
  
            In the school where I work, this is the thrust I am
pushing with the help of all the other teachers and mentors. The
students have to be trained to be both spiritual and practical. And so
far, my experience has been that the students have a deep stock of
potentials in both the spiritual and the practical.
  
            If dealt with properly, the students correspond well to
the challenges not only in the school but most especially all the
challenges in life in general. They possess a deep sense of security
that is above the ups and downs of earthly life. No matter what
happens, they can afford to be at peace and to be certain of where
they are going.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Contented with what we have

WHILE we are always a work in progress, always moving on
and pursuing our dreams and aspirations, we should not forget that we
have to be contented and thankful with what we already have and
accomplished. Let’s count our blessings, and avoiding complacency,
let’s make use of what we have to get to our dreams and aspirations.
  
            Somehow this is the message of the gospel of the 25th
Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, which is about the parable of the
landowner hiring workers at different hours for the usual daily wage.
(Mt 20,1-16)
   
            The worker hired at the first hour compared himself with
the one hired at the last hour and thought that he would be given more
than what the last worker received, since he obviously worked longer
than the other.
  
            But the thing was that the wage was fixed and agreed upon
before the first-hour worker was taken in. He ended up complaining
against the magnanimity and generosity of the landowner who just
wanted to give the same amount to the workers who only worked for one
hour.
  
            We should refrain from comparing ourselves with others to
the point that we fall into envy and later fault God himself for not
giving us what we want. That would be a disaster!
  
            God has his reasons to apportion his graces and blessings
in different ways and amount to each one of us. Ours is simply to ask
for these graces and to make use of them as best as we can. We should
not waste time comparing what we have with what the others have
received from God.
  
            If ever we have to consider what the others have, it is
for the purpose of establishing how what we have can work in tandem
with what the others have. Since we always live in some form of
communion, we cannot help but work together with others, harmonizing
our different gifts for the good of all.
  
            And so, we have to slay envy everytime it makes us its
port of call. We have to let it know immediately that it is unwelcome.
And the way to do it is to go to Christ immediately, praying,
sacrificing, and reminding ourselves of Christ’s example and teaching.
  
            We need to remember that we are all brothers and sisters
in Christ, however we are placed and situated in life. Not everyone
can be bright, talented, successful, etc. Some have to do the menial
job, take care of the little things, be at the background.
  
            We should not feel inferior to anyone because we are all
children of God, equally loved by him although shown in different
ways. Everyone has the same dignity and vocation, though lived and
pursued in different ways.
  
            We have to love everyone as Christ has loved all of us,
without exception. He even told us to love our enemies. But given our
human weakness, we need to be more pro-active in living out what St.
Paul once advised: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but
with humility of mind regard one another as more important than
yourselves.” (Phil 2,3)
  
            It’s important that we understand this piece of Pauline
advice well and let’s be comforted by these words of his:

              “God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the
wise,” he says. “God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the
strong.” (1 Cor 1,27)
  
            In this regard, we have to be most careful in handling our
intentions. They play a strategic role in our life, for how and where
we direct them would determine whether we want to be with God and
simply be with our own selves.
  
        Our intentions express who and where in the end we want to
be. Do we choose God, or do we simply choose ourselves, or the world
in general? It’s actually a choice between good and evil.

           Even if we are not aware, or refuse to be aware, of this
choice, which is usually the case, the choice between God and us,
between good and evil, is always made with every human act we do.
   
            We need to realize then that we have to take utmost care
of our intention, making it as explicit as possible, and honing it to
get engaged with its proper and ultimate object who is God.

             We should try our best to shun being simply casual or
cavalier about this responsibility. We can easily play around with it,
since intentions are almost invariably hidden from public knowledge.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Trivializing the sacred

WE have to be most careful with this possibility which,
sad to say, is becoming a common occurrence. We have to distinguish
between the sacred and the mundane, and even if both categories come
from God, there however are distinctive qualities of each one that
should be respected and never confused.
   
            The sacred are those things that are related directly to
God—his words, his sacraments, his Church. We cannot treat them as if
we are simply handling ordinary, worldly things like our work, our
business, our politics, etc.
  
            With the sacred, all we have to do is utmost reverence,
putting all our faith in them, knowing that through natural and human
elements, we are touching the supernatural dimension of our life, we
are touching the very life of God.
  
            This reality should never be lost in our consciousness.
Whenever we get involved in the sacred, as when we attend Mass or go
to confession, or read the gospel, etc., we need to make many acts of
faith, hope and charity to be able to capture the wonderful reality of
being intimate with God.
  
            We have to be careful because nowadays, with all the
galloping pace of our earthly concerns and developments, we can easily
end up treating the sacred things as one more item to be attended to,
often with a cursory attitude.
  
            We need to put all our mind and heart, all our senses and
faculties into the celebration of these sacred things. Our whole
selves should be involved there. We have to be aware with the reality
of who we are dealing with in these sacred acts. We are not dealing
with people only, much less with things only. We are directly dealing
with God!
  
            It therefore stands to reason that before we get involved
in these sacred activities, we prepare ourselves properly. We have to
stir up our faith and devotion, priming our heart and mind to attune
themselves with the reality involved.
  
            That is why we need to spend time preparing ourselves
before the celebration of the liturgy, especially the Holy Mass. This
is especially so with priests. We, priests, have to spend some time in
prayer before celebrating the Mass to see to it that we are assuming
the very name and person of Christ who is both priest and victim, the
one who both offers and is offered.

            It raises some concern to note that some people have
complained about priests treating the Mass as if it’s just one more
item in their daily routine. They seem to see the Mass as one
bureaucratic activity of the priest. They even go to the extent of
saying that some priests have converted the Mass more into a show
rather than the sacrament of the passion and death of Christ.
  
            Of course, it goes without saying that many people have
also lost the sense of the sacred when they go to Mass. They go there
more to meet some social obligation and expectations. There’s
definitely a need for more catechesis regarding the Mass and the whole
issue about how to handle the sacred.
   
            Do we know how to make the sign of the cross, or a most
reverent genuflection before the Blessed Sacrament, for example?