Wednesday, March 20, 2019

We’re still being created


WE need to be clear about this fundamental truth about
ourselves. We are still being created by God. Our creation is still
ongoing. Our creation is still in the making. This time though, our
creation involves our cooperation.

            If we review the story of the creation of the world (cfr.
Gen 1,1-2,1), we will notice that God created everything before man in
a generic way—the heaven and the earth, light, darkness, land, sea,
animals, birds, etc. But when it came to the creation of man, God
became personal and entered into relation with man by giving them
instructions.

            With man, God had to make the garden of Eden for man to
cultivate it. Since it was not good for man to be alone, God created
woman to be his helper who is equal to him. They were told that they
can eat the fruits of all the trees in the garden except the ones of
the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

            This only shows that the creation of man is not yet
finished since man, being created in God’s image and likeness and
therefore has the capacity to know and to love, has to do his part of
cooperating with God’s creation of him.

            That stint in the garden of Eden was for man, i.e., Adam
and Eve, to do his part of his own creation. And we know what
happened. Our first parents failed, and so God who at first was angry
and punished them, started to undertake the re-creation through a very
complicated plan of redemption.

            That plan that involved patriarchs, prophets, a chosen
people, many holy men and women, finally had its culmination when the
very Son of God became man. The God-man, Jesus Christ, bore all our
sins and had to show us the way to redeem ourselves by following him
in his teachings and ultimately by suffering, dying and resurrecting
with him.

            Christ also founded the Church and instituted the
sacraments so that his presence and redemptive work can effectively
continue with us till the end of time, which is the end of our
creation.

            At our death and at the end of time, our creation is
supposed to be finished with each one of us receiving a new name that
only each of us would know. It’s a name that is distinctive and unique
to each one of us. This will be our definitive name for all eternity,
indicating the very personal relationship between God and us, the
Creator and the co-creator.

            This new and definitive name is referred to in the Book of
the Apocalypse where it says, “To him who conquers I will give some of
the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name
written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it.”
(2,17)

            It would be good if we are keenly aware of this truth of
our faith because this will give us the proper perspective, meaning
and direction of our life here on earth. At the moment, I am afraid a
great majority of the people, even among educated Catholics, are not
quite aware of this truth and are therefore not doing what they are
supposed to do to conform to this truth. Many are actually confused
and lost.

            It would be good if a catechesis be made on this
fundamental truth about ourselves and our earthly life. We are still
being created, and our creation by God involves our cooperation, given
the way we are as designed by God. We are God’s co-creator of our own
selves.

            We need to do our part, making use of everything we have
in this life to further this lifelong process of our creation. We have
to be responsible for the practical consequences and implications
contained in this fundamental truth about ourselves.


Monday, March 18, 2019

‘Et erat subditus illis’


THE Latin expression means “he was subject to them,” or
“he was obedient to them.” This is lifted from the gospel of St. Luke
(2,51) in that episode where the child Jesus was lost and then found
in the temple.
  
            In the concluding part of that episode, Mary, the mother,
asked the child, “Why did you do this to us?” To which the child Jesus
replied, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And
yet in spite of that reply, Mary took no offense and the child went
back home and was “subject to them,” referring to Christ subjecting
himself to Mary and Joseph.
  
            These passages of the gospel somehow show us how we can
integrate our dual duty of obeying first the will of God and that of
obeying our earthly authorities and subjecting ourselves to the many
temporal and human conditionings in our life.
  
            While Christ did nothing other than to do the will of his
Father in heaven (cfr. Jn 5,30; Jn 6,38), he also willed that he
subjected himself to human authorities and to the different
conditionings of any person at any given time and place. Thus, he also
paid his taxes (cfr. Mt 17,24-27), attended the synagogue (cfr. Lk
4,16), worked as a carpenter (cfr. Mk 6,3), etc.
  
            In theory, Christ, being God, should have been exempted
from all these, but as man, he has to live like any other man who is
always subject to some human authorities and to the conditionings in
the world.

             And when finally asked what to do when God’s authority and
the human authority appear to clash, Christ replied: “Render to Caesar
the things of Caesar, and to God the things of God.” (Mt 22,21)
  
            The lesson we can derive from this consideration is most
helpful especially to those who enter into some commitments—whether to
marriage or to a particular vocation and spirituality. A commitment
usually restricts or conditions a person to behave in a particular way
even if there are other legitimate ways of behaving in a given
situation.
  
            Thus, in the way of living the virtue of poverty, for
example, a Franciscan has to live it the Franciscan way, even if the
Dominican way of living it is also good but different from the
Franciscan way. Same with a person who is married as compared to an
unmarried one, and also with a lay person as compared to a consecrated
one. It is the same virtue but lived and expressed in different ways.
  
            Same with the practice of prayer. The ordinary person in
the middle of the world would have a different way of doing it
compared to how a contemplative nun would do it.
  
            There should be no comparing actually, and much less,
envying. A commitment is not so much a restriction or a conditioning
as an expression of a more fervent love and fidelity for God and for
everyone else. A commitment would only show how fervent one’s love is
that he chooses to confine himself to a particular way when many other
ways can also be availed of.
  
            This clarification is relevant these days because many
people are falling into some kind of wistful thinking, like “if I were
not married,” or “if I did not enter the priesthood,” or “if I did not
have this vocation or spirituality, I would have been more free,” etc.

              We need to follow Christ in living out our commitments
that would involve doing God’s will and our unavoidable subjection to
some earthly authorities and conditionings or concrete ways of doing
things. Let’s always remember that Christ “erat subditus illis,” he
subjected himself to his earthly parents and to the human
conditionings even if could be exempted from them.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Restraining our outrage


ANGER and outrage certainly have a place in our life. They
are natural reactions to events and situations that are truly
horrible. But we have to be most careful with them. They should not be
allowed to last long, and much less to dominate us for good.
  
            Christ himself showed anger when he discovered that the
temple area was turned into a market place. (cfr. Mt 21,12-13) But he
no doubt was a man of peace and meekness. He is referred as the Prince
of Peace (cfr.Is 9,6) and he taught that we be like him since he is
“meek and humble of heart.” (cfr. Mt 11,29)
  
            St. Paul told us to be wary of anger and outrage. “Be
angry, yet do not sin. Do not let the sun set upon your anger, and do
not give the devil a foothold.” (Eph 4,26-27)
  
            It is worthwhile to note the close connection between
getting angry and falling into the devil’s trap. We should therefore
be controlling of our anger and outrage. And that’s because anger and
outrage can easily turn into hatred which is already a sin.
  
            We have to remember that no matter how bad things are,
those who commit them or are involved in them are still our brothers
and sisters, are still children of God whom we have to love the way
God loves all of us, friend or foe.
  
            Yes, we have to hate the sin, but we should always love
the sinner, and help him to change his ways. That’s what real love is.
It is willing to suffer for the person who needs to be helped, to be
converted, to put in the right direction.
  
            Our problem is that we do not like to go through the
bother of helping sinners change their ways. We only want things or
situations that are comfortable, convenient, favorable to us. But that
is not what Christ has taught us.
  
            Christ told us not to follow the law of Talion—“eye for an
eye, tooth for a tooth.” Instead, he commanded us to love even our
enemies. In fact, we went on to say that we “bless them that curse
you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which
despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Mt 5,44)
   
            We will surely find this commandment hard if not
impossible to do, given our human condition. But with God’s grace, we
can. We just have to learn to adapt our ways to Christ’s ways.
  
            St. Peter, in his first letter, reiterated the same point.
“When they heaped abuses on him (Christ),” he said, “he did not
retaliate. When he suffered, he made no threats, but entrusted himself
to him who judges justly.” (2,23)
  
            Then St. Peter gave the reason for this behavior of
Christ: “He himself (Christ) bore our sins in his body on the tree, so
that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. ‘By his stripes
you are healed’…” (2,24)
  
            We have to be quick to assume this frame of mind when we
are offended by someone or something, or when we are made to suffer.
We have to be quick to unite our suffering to the suffering of Christ
so that our suffering would cease to be simply a negative thing, but
one that would have tremendous purifying and redemptive power.
  
            Yes, such attitude and behavior would appear like
stupidity according to human standards, but that is not so in God’s
eyes. Like St. Paul, we should just consider ourselves fools for
Christ, weak and dishonored for him. “When we are cursed, we bless.
When we are persecuted, we endure it. When slandered, we answer
kindly. We have become the scum of the earth.” (1 Cor 4,10-13)
  
            But remember that St. Paul also said: “The foolishness of
God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger
than man’s strength.” (1 Cor 1,25)