Thursday, December 30, 2010

God is not dead!

NOT only not dead. Nor is he simply alive and kicking. He is actually intervening in our lives every step and moment of the way. This is the fundamental truth we need to disinter from the graveyard of our memory.

He is at the very core of our being. He is in everything that exists around us. As St. Augustine once said, while to know where he is may be difficult, it is even more difficult to know where he is not. He is in the air, in the light, in the darkness, and both outside and inside us. He is everywhere!

While he is infinitely supernatural to us, a hard reality worsened by our human condition weakened and damaged by sin, there is always in us a flicker of a divine longing, precisely because a link vitally exists between Creator and a creature made in his image and likeness and adopted as a child of his.

No matter how broken that vital link may be, we can still manage to see glimpses of God’s presence and power, his wisdom, his goodness and providence in the most unexpected circumstances of our lives. Our consciences, no matter how torn, cannot totally muffle God’s guiding voice for us.

The mystery of God that is made more mysterious by our sinfulness should not be a hindrance in our belief in God’s existence. If ever, that liability could and should be turned into an asset, and later on, hopefully a capital we can use to feed our continuing awareness of God’s presence.

That mystery should not stop us from dealing with God. On the contrary! It should spur us to ever look for him, believing in what Christ told us that it is in asking that we shall be given, in seeking that we shall find, in knocking that the door shall be opened to us.

It’s our choice to make, of whether to live by faith, a divine gift that binds us with God, or by our own reasoning, our own estimations and devices. Let’s hope that we know what to choose, and not be confused by some problems, difficulties and failures.

The other day, a friend theorized that perhaps it’s not good to be very serious about religion. He said that a number of supposedly good and holy men turned out to be monsters. They personified the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

He mentioned not only a string of very embarrassing scandals involving priests in many countries found to have molested children. He pointed to the most painful discovery that a founder of a religious group known for religious conservatism and orthodoxy was later discovered to have committed ugly crimes.

He fathered children by different women, and worse molested his own son. Could God really exist with these anomalies in high and holy places, he asked. Are we not just making things up?

The observation is truly a painful fact and we cannot deny it. But once I heard it, my thoughts turned to the gospel truth of Jesus choosing among his disciples one who would betray him, and Christ is supposed to be God who knows everything.

It’s a mystery that defies the most elevated level of our human logic. I know that God respects and lets himself to play along with the twists and turns of human freedom. I also know that we can be most vulnerable to the most heinous kind of crimes when we let ourselves be spoiled by God’s precious gifts to us.

But why should such things happen? Could not the almighty God, in whom nothing is impossible, not prevent it? The Catechism answers this question by saying that:

“God can sometimes seem to be absent and incapable of stopping evil. But in the most mysterious way God the Father has revealed his almighty power in the voluntary humiliation and Resurrection of his Son, by which he conquered evil.” (272)

It’s still a mystery. But then again, the mystery, if handled with humble faith, actually helps us to see God and to feel and experience is constant interventions in our life.

It’s with faith that we can get glimpses of God in the simplest events of our lives. It’s the kind of faith that asks, that seeks, that knocks. Not the kind that simply waits for miracles, since miracles happen only when we go to Christ begging and confessing that we are nothing without him.

Let’s believe then, so we can see God. Let’s not get entangled with our reasonings.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

St. Digerati

WE have to be familiar with this linguistic figure called “portmanteau.” It’s a word that combines two or three words, and that, of course, compresses the meaning of each term into one powerful concept.

An example of recent coinage is the word “digerati.” It’s a combination of “digital” and “literati,” and refers to a person who is not only a digital native, one born into a digital culture and familiar with its ways, but is also an expert in the digital technology who’s in the forefront of its speedy development.

The concept therefore can iconize the current state of world development that should be properly known, mastered and made to serve our true, objective needs. More bluntly, it evokes the status of today’s world that has to be evangelized, spiritualized and made to serve our ultimate supernatural goal.

That’s why a person who is a digerati should strive also to be a St. Digerati, just as anybody else in whatever profession and in whatever stage or level of expertise is expected to be a saint, since sanctity is for everyone.

This is the challenge we are facing these days as we enter a new year. We can expect not only an increase in the pace of development especially in the technical field, but also major and drastic shifts in balance of power and influence in the fields of world politics and the economy.

Becoming clearer with each passing day is the realization that the up-to-now dominant countries of North America and Europe are sinking in their economic status and are slowly but steadily replaced by an emerging Asian power called China.

It now looks like the flaws of the American and Europeans systems, long hidden by a clever play of politics and economics, are now exposed to be potentially fatal. The mentality of privilege and entitlements has been eroding their culture and is now threatening to deliver a death-blow to them.

This suspenseful phenomenon obviously has far-reaching consequences and countless implications that as of now we may not even be aware of. We have to be quick to learn the lessons of these developments, and be ready for the expected big changes.

We need to closely monitor the developments, identifying the good openings and the dangers as promptly as possible, and without getting distracted from the moral standards that should be upheld and defended, and the spiritual and supernatural goals that should be pursued.

The requirements of religion should be applied on these developments. We should never get contented with satisfying merely political, economic and social criteria. We have to go all the way to meet the demands of our true dignity as persons with moral, spiritual and supernatural dimensions.

Ignoring these demands of religion would be tackling the issues inadequately. We have to wake up from this predicament that has been demonizing us for so long.

The present disturbing turn of events seems to surface this long-ostracized truth about our duty to consistently live religion in our world affairs and human concerns.

We seem to be told that the gap between the spiritual and the material, between faith and reason, between the sacred and the mundane, etc., should now be bridged and blended properly, without destroying or corrupting the nature of each category.

We are now being asked to go further than our usual way of considering, understanding and resolving the issues. We have been reducing things in a way that has gone beyond the valid goal of simplifying things.

We have been falling into simplism, a dangerous process that avoids the most crucial element in human development. This has been responsible for the decadence of once thriving cultures in world history.

The fall of past great civilizations like Greece, Rome, Persia, Egypt, etc., was due ultimately to their inability to grapple with the objective moral and spiritual requirements of man. This explains the various shifts of power in history.

They just got contented with political plays and economic programs, thinking that these would be enough to keep them in power and to grow to higher levels of greatness.

If there was any appeal to religion in their bid for greatness, it was always a false one since their notion of religion was man-made, and not God-given. They were just playing around with tricks and gimmicks, and later on with force and intimidation. Obviously these would not make things last.

Some people may think these views are exaggerated and baseless. But it cannot be denied that we now have serious reasons to give these considerations some serious attention.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas and plasticity

CHRISTMAS somehow reminds me about plasticity, because Christmas is about God adapting himself to the condition and ways of men, and plasticity is precisely about adaptability.

God becomes man, all the way to being conceived, born and to go through the whole range of human development, so that God can truly identify himself with us with the view of giving us, men, a way to identify ourselves with Him. What is ours becomes his, so that what is his can become ours.

This is because we have been made in his image and likeness, and adopted to be children of his, who with his grace are meant not only to belong to him, but also to take part in the very life itself of God. That’s who we really are!

Thus, we need to purify, clarify and widen our understanding of plasticity, since it’s a notion that seems to get stranded in the negative side only, as in, it simply means hypocrisy, pretension, what is fake and a bogus.

Of course, we use many objects made of plastic, and we have no problem about that. In fact, we are happy about it. But again, it seems we are happy about it only when it is applied to objects, but not to us, as persons.

That state of affairs is actually an issue to be resolved. We, as persons and especially as children of God who have to try our best to be another Christ, if not Christ himself (alter Christus, ipse Christus), have the power of plasticity which we have to use.

Obviously, it can be misused and, in fact, has been abused and misused. That’s why, that word seems to be stuck in the mire of its abuse. But it need not be so. In fact, it should not be so. Plasticity is part of our human nature that has to be used, and used properly, of course.

Plasticity refers to our capacity to adapt to any situation and circumstance, to any person and event. Ultimately, it lets us adapt to the highest calling of our being, which is to participate in the supernatural life of God.

It involves the power to be flexible, to be, as St. Paul once said, “all things to all men, to be able to save all.” (1 Cor 9,22). Plasticity entails the interplay of our bodily and material dimension as it impacts with our intelligence and will, our memory and imagination, our emotions and psychological condition.

Those in theater and in the arts make use of plasticity a lot, since they have to reinvent themselves many times to adapt themselves to the roles they are given to play.

In the world of professional work, business and politics, plasticity is used so as to be able to flow with the times, to read and discern the changing needs and circumstances, and to tackle them adequately.

In the art of rhetoric, plasticity is very much in demand since those involved need to know how to adapt to the character, the emotional state and the thinking and reasoning of their audience so as to be persuasive.

For this, they need to be able to read minds, if not the very soul of their audience, and to lengthen and widen their capacity to adjust to each character. If, for example, one is able to distinguish between the Cebuano character and the Boholano character and to adjust to each, then he has greater plasticity.

The greatest use of plasticity is in the demands of charity, for in this regard we are asked not only to love in general, but to love everybody including our enemies, and to love all the way, even to death.

Plasticity is needed because in the end we have to adjust to the will of God to the point that like Christ, we can repeat to ourselves that we do nothing other to do the will of God our Father.

Obviously, we need to develop our plasticity. And this involves a lot of things. What is first needed is to ask for the grace of God, since nothing happens properly without that grace. And from there, an endless list of exercises have to be done to make is grow.

Thus, if we are always aware of this need, we can grow old and rickety, but at least in our mind and heart which influence our bodily state, we will always remain agile, young and vibrant.

When we see the “belen,” let’s try thinking about the requirements of plasticity as shown by Christ, God-become-man!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Let Christmas cure our conceits

I WAS struck by a beautiful painting of the Christmas scene that managed to blend the simplicity, poverty and joy at the birth of the Child Jesus in Bethlehem. Though the whole work looked dark, there was a quiet, even solemn luminosity infused into it.

Angelic traces could also be discerned in the sky. Somehow you could hear a spring of happy music flowing in that painting. It can inspire you to pray, enjoying a stillness that makes you hear words from eternity. I felt my heart stolen. And for that alone, the artist deserves to be roundly congratulated.

But what really caught my attention was that the painting was framed in gold. It was as if we are told this is where our true treasure is. What our Lord is showing in his birth is truly the very core and heart of what love is supposed to be. It’s love in its purest form.

Imagine God becoming man, the King and Creator of the Universe humbling himself to the depth of the human condition, and reduced to a helpless infant lying on a manger, of all places, and wrapped in swaddling clothes! He lowers himself to raise us up.

He who comes to save us is telling us as clearly as possible how we ought to be to share his dignity, and to merit the fruit of his redemptive work. It’s in being simple and humble, in truly living the poverty of spirit that will always make us look for God and never be satisfied with any human and earthly good. It enables us to love.

This is the law that should govern our life, and everything in it—our thoughts, desires, words and deeds. This is the secret that should be announced to the whole world, the key to our happiness that should be replicated endlessly and made available to all.

That is why, the Christmas spirit can heal our almost automatic and abiding tendency to fall into conceit, that kind of pride that is so mercilessly persistent in clinging and spoiling our human condition.

It’s what fills us with our own selves, instead of God and others as indicated by Christ himself: “You shall love God with all your might, all your strength… and your neighbor as yourself.”

St. Paul a number of times warned us about being wise in our own conceits. This is what conceit does—it tricks and deceives us, making us think that we can be wiser than God by simply using our reason and ignoring, if not dumping our faith.

It leads us to be haughty and arrogant, always thinking that we are better than others or that they always owe you something. It leads us to despise others, to lord it over them, to mistreat them, considering them simply as tools and occasions for our selfish ends.

It leads us to be wily, but actually brings us to the grip of envy, jealousy, over-sensitiveness, moodiness, irritability, anger, hatred. It inflates us with a feeling of superiority that cannot bear comparison with others. It concocts a fantasy world of self-sufficiency for ourselves, a painfully comical situation that we can fall into.

It teaches us the art and skills of hypocrisy, pretension and betrayal, until we consider a lie to be the truth. It deftly takes cover behind a mask of goodness and even of holiness. It makes us self-righteous.

It flaunts its appeals to truth, justice, freedom, beauty and other values, corrupting them in the process by using them for one’s selfish purposes rather than for God and the good of others.

We have to be wary of the factors and conditions that can make conceit germinate in our heart. These can be the tendency to pamper ourselves and others, especially the children, with all sorts of amenities, privileges, entitlements, comfort, not saying enough to the demands of our flesh.

When an atmosphere of laziness, idleness, day-dreaming, etc., hovers in the house, we have to realize we have a problem that needs to be solved promptly. Otherwise, we are in for a big mess in our life.

We have to look closely at the example of God becoming a child born in the poorest of the poor conditions. With earnest prayers and effort, with the help of the sacraments and of Christ´s saving doctrine, let´s start to imitate Christ in spirit and in truth.

That´s how we can cure our own conceits, the constant and common danger in our life. That´s how we can clean ourselves, others and the world.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A continent of faith

THAT’S how I feel Cebu is to me and I thank God profusely for it! It may just be a small land mass in a 7100-island archipelago, but, boy, what tremendous continent of faith and piety its people from walks of life have!

Now that we are in the final sprint for Christmas with dawn Masses in all the parishes, it’s truly heartwarming to see the churches converted into stadiums of worship, the roads into rivers of families and friends heading toward the Eucharistic celebration.

This phenomenon, this awesome show of popular piety is repeated many times a year. You see it during Holy Week, the Santo Nino feast with the holding of the Sinulog, All Souls’ Day, and the different fiestas. Of course, the celebration of Christmas tops it all.

But even on ordinary days, you can see people filling the church, attending Mass, going to Confession, or simply praying. They may come in different shapes and forms and in a very wide range of situations, but the faith and piety are palpable.

There may be defects in that faith and piety, but at the core and in their raw state, they are pure and pristine. I know that how to take care of these divine gifts is a tough challenge to our Church leaders. Let’s pray that we, the clergy, are up to that challenge.

My personal contacts with the people have rewarded me with moving testimonies of faith, hope and charity that many times have moved me to tears. At times, I have to be the one to reassure them when they are gripped with difficulties. But most of the times, I am the one enriched by their virtues that are fiercely put to test.

Just the other day, someone close to me, a Cebuano businessman with his wife and children, broke the sad news that one of his pawnshops in Manila was robbed by the so-called “imburnal gang.”

The big-time thieves dug a tunnel under his shop, opened the floor, cut the alarm system, and amazingly managed to open the vault, and of course, carted everything inside away.

When I asked him how much he lost, he refused to give a figure, if only to soften the pain for a while. But what moved me most was when he said, “Father, you win some and you lose some, but life has to go on.”

And with that, he told me also of the many blessings he had received, blessings that cannot be put in monetary terms. He just put aside the deep cut of injustice given to him, together with the accompanying pains—reassuring his family, dealing with the police who were asking for money, the angry clients, etc. He said he was willing to face all these consequences.

That faith and goodness of spirit simply floored me. But I actually see this kind of faith even in my daily conversations with all kinds of people—students, parents, professionals, politicians, etc. For me, this is a great privilege for which I cannot thank God enough.

That’s why when I get somehow entangled with the sophistries of some so-called smart and clever people who question the faith, the Church, the sacraments, and who use every chance to attack religion, I just go back to my experiences of the faith and piety of the Cebuanos, and I feel reassured.

Good will always triumph, if not now then later. But, of course, that conviction should not be a cover for complacency. We all need to struggle, to grow to moral and spiritual maturity. It’s an endless, lifelong affair that should be given utmost attention.

I’m happy that our seminaries, for example, are filling up with young hopefuls who, in spite of the deteriorating environment around, manage to sense a call to the priesthood. Let’s hope that their formators truly guide them.

Truth is we need a lot of hands to work in the vineyard of the Lord. “The harvest indeed is great but the laborers are few.” (Mt 9,37) And we need good priests, holy, learned and willing to give their all up to death in the service of souls.

Someone told me that some Cebuano seminarians are volunteering and are now part of dioceses abroad. That’s good. It’s a clear sign of God’s favor. But we continue to need a lot in Cebu.

Let’s all pray for good priests, because as one saint said, a priest does not go to heaven or hell alone. He brings with him a lot. That’s just how it is, given the way we are.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Distilling the real fuel for development

IT´S now getting clear that with all the developments taking place in the world today, we need to give due attention to our interior, spiritual needs, and not to get entangled and held hostage by the fuss and buzz in the external, material world that now seems to be proliferating, sucking us to its sinkhole.

This can easily happen when gripped by worldly affairs, we fail to think properly, reflect, meditate and pray. This is shown when we fall into forms of activism, when we feel harassed and our life seems to proceed on its own guided only by instincts and passing thoughts and fancies.

We are not saying that to be busy with work or to be immersed in the things of the world is wrong. What is wrong is when these activities are made to compete with our need to take care of our spiritual life—our need to study and strike a continuing conversation with God.

Obviously, the consequences of this anomaly can only be dangerous. With our interior life neglected, we tend to get objectified, depersonalized, alienated from our own selves, from others and from God. And the freefall to graver irregularities begins.

The conflicts, wars, the drift to making a culture of death and sin, with all these legalizations of same-sex union, contraception, abortion, divorce, clearly indicate we have been distancing ourselves from the ultimate source of truth, goodness and love for quite a while already. We seem now to be depending on our own ideas and devices.

We are not purely material beings. In fact, it is our spiritual nature that gives us life, stability, meaning and direction. We need to be wary of our tendency to detach our material side from our spiritual. And this is not a condition that concerns us only individually, or only a few of us. It concerns all of us, and we need to help one another to be true to it always.

The gospel tells us that man does not live by earthly material values alone. We need to be with our God, our Creator and Father. ¨Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word of God.¨ (Lk 4,4) Besides, it was made clear that we ought to adore God alone, and him only shall we serve, and not any other master.

This truth is reiterated when our Lord said: ¨What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul. Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul.¨ (Mt 16,26)

The deeper problem we have now seems to be that we are losing the sense of the spiritual, the conviction that we have a spiritual soul, and not just a vegetative or animal soul that happens to be rational.

Rationality now seems to belong to the sphere of matter and not of the spirit. This is what today´s worldlings—the atheists, agnostics, deists, etc.--are claiming in effect. They want to confine it to worldly and material values.

Thus, rationality is now widely exercised and lived in the context of practicality and of what gives relative advantage to a person. Absolute, eternal truths and life after our death here as befits a spiritual being are thrown out of the window. It is a rationality that is averse to the idea of worshipping God.

If we are to follow this line of thinking, we will see sooner or later that we will end up in an abyss to perdition. Our rationality just cannot remain engaged with material and worldly objects. Unless deliberately frustrated, it will always go to the spiritual and eventually the supernatural world of God.

As to how to be prudent in our behavior in this world of ours now when we seem to be agitated to go material and worldly only at the expense of our interior and spiritual needs, we should strive to correct our human tendencies and train ourselves to focus always on God and because of God, on others, since for us to love God is also to love others.

We need to remind ourselves that we need to love, the love that should only be a participation of the love of God for us, and not any other foolish kinds of love, of which we are fond of inventing. This is the fuel for our genuine human development, individually and socially.

A Church document says: ¨Only love is capable of radically transforming the relationships that men maintain among themselves.¨ It is what leads us to true justice and development.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Responsive governance

IT was wonderful to talk about responsive governance to a group of concerned citizens who are organizing themselves into some kind of multi-sectoral watchdog. This is a good and most welcome development. My earnest prayer is for the initiative to take wing and really fly high in their objectives.

With our world getting complicated, we truly need more participation from everyone in seeing to it that all aspects and levels of our society, be it in government, business or the private sector, run properly as they should be.

Such participation can facilitate the monitoring of events and developments in the different areas of our society, the voicing out of concerns and issues that need to be attended to especially by our public officials, and the animating and revitalizing of the whole society in general.

We cannot deny that there are big problems around, not to mention the challenges that normally go with the flow of time and development. And in a sense these are all but understandable given our human condition. But obviously, we have to do something about them, and not just let them be.

Since our ideas of what is good for us can be varied and sometimes conflicting, it is important that everyone tries his best to ground himself as firmly as possible on his relationship with God. After all, God is the source, foundation and end of our life. He is also our true light, the energy and our ultimate salvation.

Thus, I made it clear to the audience that they have to go beyond their good intentions that may be formed from a certain sense of civic duty, or from some ideological or political thought. These, of course, are necessary, but they would be hanging in the air if not based on God.

We have to dissipate the widespread bias, inspired by the Enlightenment mentality that reason alone without faith, man alone without God, could lead to us to truth, justice, development and prosperity. This is a myth needing to be burst.

In this RH bill brouhaha, this bias and myth are playing their best part, and unfortunately captivating many people. It’s a bias that systematically excludes God and morality in the deliberation of its merits. It just gets contented with practicality, convenience and whatever reason unaided by faith can come out.

And so we need to be clear about our position toward faith and the Church in general. If by trying to have an “informed choice” or a so-called more complete approach and more rational and realistic understanding of an issue, we remove faith and religion from the considerations, then we have a big problem.

For our concerned citizens to be effective in their desire to promote a culture of responsive governance in our public offices, they need to be grounded on God, otherwise we would just be embarking on an adventure to nowhere.

If one does not have faith, then he should lay the cards on the table from the start, and we will take it from there. Those with faith should not be afraid nor ashamed nor inhibited to also show their faith foundations. And let the discussion and dialogue begin. The meeting ground is, of course, reason, but faith always uses reason.

It is hoped that the many advocacy groups that are trying to cultivate this culture of responsive governance be guided by respect for one another in spite of sharp differences and conflicts of opinions and views. They should try always to be positive and constructive in their efforts, not simply concentrating on fault-finding.

They have to find ways of monitoring developments, good and bad, in our society, and create channels of continuing dialogue with those in government, Church and everyone else. The appropriate structures and mechanisms should be developed and put in place.

Extreme prudence, the prudence of the spirit and not of the flesh and of the world should be practiced. This will require a lot of study, hearing all the parties concerned in a given issue, as well as consultations, planning out the best strategies that meet the demands of truth, justice and charity.

By all means, bitter zeal, that over-eagerness to work for justice and truth but violating the requirements of charity, should be avoided.

We also have to be wary of the many traps and tricks of political and ideological partisanship. We have to see to it that we maintain the required independence needed to be truly objective and fair in our efforts. Let’s look closely at whatever strings attached some supporters may put as conditions.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Let’s be born again this Christmas

CHRISTMAS doesn’t seem to be complete without a Christmas party in school. And so we planned one which took place recently but which was threatened after weeks of preparation by a strong, driving rain in the morning.

It was held in our gym, and many of the decorations got blown away by the wind. The place was wet. The organist for the Mass texted he could not make it, and so we had to contend with a Mass without music. With how we are, that means a lot.

Many students with their families, for it was also a Family Day, came late. But arrive they did just the same! That was the more amazing part of it all—to see the human spirit grapple with the last minute test that attempted to deliver a sudden-death blow to the whole affair, and won. The victory could hardly be more meaningful.

On my way to school with the Picanto, I had to practically wade through the road turned a river of angry water, trying to control my temper and exerting heroic efforts just to pray and leave things in the hands of God.

I saw many of the students with their families walking or simply stuck in a certain place. In a while, I discovered my little car could fit in 8 passengers. And my conscience demanded I had to make several trips back and forth to ferry the stranded to school.

And so we started the Mass 15 minutes late, with few people in attendance. Soon enough, thank God, the rain stopped, the sun reappeared and with it, more families. The place began to assume the festive mood.

After the Mass, we had a consecration of the families to the Holy Family of Nazareth. And then the program, long prepared by the students, began. The main feature was a dance showdown among the freshmen,

This is one of the luxuries I allow myself to get—watch students dance and spend time chatting with their mothers and fathers and siblings and friends. This is also a time for me to be updated with what is now the craze of the young, since I don’t have time for TV shows anymore and I automatically avoid entertainment pages in the papers or in the web.

This is where I realized more deeply that times have really changed. Though I’m quite abreast with news worldwide, I seem to have missed a lot of developments in the nearer, more local scene.

The young boys danced vigorously, jumping and tumbling and twirling and climbing. The choreography was fast-paced, the music a blur of 20 songs, it must have been, mixed into one routine.

It made me thinking how different today’s generation is from mine. Obviously, during my time, we hardly had TV, we contented ourselves mostly with radio. Now, the boys are into Facebook, Twitter and jejemon lingo. They are the hehehe crowd who don’t seem to take things seriously.

They seem to be invincibly confident of themselves, knowing how to pose before a camera and come out somehow photogenic, and quite skillful with the use of modern gadgets. If you do not know about DOTA and MMORPG and emos, then you are not in that generation. It’s time to update.

This is the challenge we have now—how to humanize, spiritualize and Christianize this growing sector of the youth. This, plus many other challenges we have, especially in the area of culture and faith war, new socio-economic and political phenomena that need to be understood and mastered.

Christmas is, of course, the birth of Christ our Savior. To save us, God goes all the way in adapting himself to us so we can go back to Him, to whom we truly belong. Our Lord continues to adapt himself to us in every age, culture and circumstance.

Since we are co-redeemers with Him because of who and what we are, we too need to continually adapt ourselves to new developments in our world today.

This, to me, is the meaning of Christmas. It is asking us to be born again in Christ and take on the challenges of today’s world, knowing how to infuse the Christian spirit into our earthly affairs.

We have to shake off as soon as possible the rust of complacency that can easily attack us. While there are eternal, unchanging things in our life, because of our freedom there are also many and, in fact, endlessly changing things in our life. Only in Christ can we cope with the challenges.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Making our love abiding

IN fact, we have to make our love eternal, not just abiding. This is how love should be and would be if it manages to run its full course. And thus the task we have at hand is to give all our mind, heart and strength for the attainment of such love, since the road to that goal is filled with snares and dangers.

Abiding and eternal love can only be a fruit of grace, of the love God himself so willingly and abundantly shares with us. It is the love mentioned in Christ’s new commandment that perfects all the other commandments God has given us, that we “love one another as I have loved you.”

We have to be wary of the poor and deadly imitations, the shallow and weak ones that fail to root themselves on the proper foundation of love and to tend to their proper goal.

They often ambush, spoil and frustrate the first and natural stirrings of love we always have. Infatuations, attractions based on the flesh and the allurements of the world have to be immediately identified and avoided, if they cannot be purified and repaired.

We have to teach everyone the full range of love that usually starts with what is called “eros,” loving someone because you can get something from him/her, then “filia”, loving someone because you share with him/her some things, then the most perfect, “agape,” loving someone out of pure self-giving, without expecting any return.

We have to teach everyone that such love of “agape” can only take place when our love is nothing less than a participation in the love of God. For this, we need to follow the teaching and the very example and life of Christ.

So how do we do this, how do we put this in motion, since I think we already have enough of the theories, principles and doctrine related to this matter?

My conversations with students and others have strengthened my belief that we need to teach everyone how to focus their mind and heart on God and others. The implication is that everyone should be alerted that when our thoughts and feelings just revolve around ourselves, we actually have a problem.

Many people fail to realize this. And that should not surprise us. Our own natural limitations and weaknesses, the temptations inside and around us, can be such that they become part of our culture, of our system, and grip us like a vise to think only of ourselves instead of God and others.

One young fellow once told me he prefers to be by himself, just thinking about anything that happens to cross his mind. This is actually a common phenomenon, and we have to make people see this is a poisonous situation.

We have to warn everyone of this mainstream predicament, convincing them in ways accessible to their understanding and appreciation. And from there, we have find ways of how to train people to truly fall in love, the love that is genuine.

We have to tell them to reach out to others always, and not to wait for opportunities to come, or for the ideal conditions to take place. Loving is a matter of the will, of simply wanting to be nice, to be affectionate, to be helpful, to be concerned, to understand, to forgive and make excuses and allowances for others’ defects, etc.

For this to happen, we should not depend only on our physical or emotional conditions, nor on the so-called ideal cultural or social openings to come. Many times, we have to make sacrifices, to deny ourselves of comfort, convenience, preferences.

We have to understand that sacrifice is the touchstone of love. It is what consummates love, what purifies it and expands our heart to fit everyone in any condition. Loving always involves sacrifice since it is about self-giving, adapting oneself to the others, identifying oneself with them, including our enemies.

That’s why, Christ commanded us to love our enemies, “to do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you.” (Mt 5,44) This Christian standard will obviously require a lot of effort and sacrifice from us. So, we have to be willing to give that effort and sacrifice.

This is Christian love, the source and goal of our love. It is a very powerful love described to us by St. Paul in this way: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful…Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Saturday, December 4, 2010

They don’t listen to God anymore!

WE have to say it as it is, calling a spade a spade. It may not be that politically correct. But then again, if the drift to secularism and Godlessness is just getting too obvious and strong, who cares?

A recent news item says that a majority of our town mayors are for the RH bill. The reason given is that they want the people to have an “informed choice” about family planning and population control methods.

Obviously, the news item sprang from a survey. Surveys are now the modern oracles of what is supposed to be right and wrong in society and in man in general. But God knows how these surveys are designed to arrive at a desired result!

Just look at the financiers, just look at the questions, etc. You have to be especially dumb not to know where the questionnaires are meant to head. In short, many of our surveys are nothing less than tools of black propaganda, of disinformation.

But the more serious issue here is also the quite clear reality that many of our public officials are not anymore listening to God. They are simply listening to themselves, perhaps making some kind of consensus and compromise among themselves, and with the people also. But God hardly has any place.

I’m sure the assertion will raise a howl of protest and questions. What is listening to God anyway? What does it involve? Who can say one is listening to God or not? Why does God have to be dragged into our government affairs?

In the discussion of many social issues, like the RH bill, faith is often set aside, since it is considered as anti-reason, anti-human, not politically or socially correct, a nuisance to the deliberations, etc. But how can we say we are tackling the issues adequately when faith is a priori discredited?


Truth is religion has become a meaningless affair to many people, especially those occupying positions of power and influence in our society. It has been reduced to a formalistic activity, a social custom still practiced more to meet social expectations rather than a matter of belief and conviction.

Many are still stung by the supposedly Enlightenment bias which pits reason with faith and gives no place to faith in human affairs.

If there’s still some regard to God, it is just to make God a mere idol, a pious ornamental statue that does not hear nor talk. That he is a living God who intervenes in our life all the time, who directs and governs us with his providence is lost on many people.

The proof of this is that any of our public officials refuse to tackle the moral dimension of the RH bill. Its morality is considered above their pay grade. They’re contented simply with the practical and convenient aspects of some of its parts. They obviously are happy that such bill will entitle them to some funds. The worst case is when they consider morality simply as a function of practicality and convenience.

And yet they dare to say that it is for giving the people an “informed choice” that they support the bill. How can it be an “informed choice” if they systematically avoid the moral angle as defined by the Church?

Obviously, what they can do is to arrogate to themselves the right to make a moral assessment of the RH bill by ignoring the voice of the Church. This has been done in many other countries, those that are precisely suffering from secularist tendencies. They just ignore God and go on with their agenda.

They will spare no effort to destroy the organic connection between God, Christ and the Church. And with some help of theologian-dissenters, they will propose the idea of conscience as the lone way where one can hear the voice of God, detaching conscience from its inherent need for Church magisterium.

There is now little doubt that some of our public officials are embarking on a path that sooner or later will end up attacking the Church, our Christian faith and culture. We have to be ready for this eventuality. Our public officials can pose as a potential threat to the Church and our Christian way of life.

We need to voice it out, loud and clear, that listening to God, heeding the indications of our faith, the requirements of morality as taught now by the Church, is an indispensable element in any discussion of public issues. Ignoring it will just make our reasoning get into a dangerous adventure.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Corporal mortification

WE need to be familiar with this concept. In fact, we need to plunge deep into its reality. Corporal mortification, or mortification of the flesh, is necessary at all times. It is urgently needed at this time.

We have to retire, better still, kill and bury that prejudice of considering corporal mortification as a thing of the past, as an obsolete instrument, a sign of immaturity, a threat to one’s health, whether physical, emotional or psychological, etc.

We need it because we cannot deny the fact that in spite of our best intentions and very holy desires, our body follows a law different and debasing to our human dignity as persons and as children of God.

We need to discipline our body to bring it back to its lost original state of integrity. It has to recover its harmony with the soul and with the law of God. It ought to be full of love and truth, and not just drifting in an uncharted adventure of dangerous possibilities. This is what corporal mortification aims to do and attain.

Consider St. Paul’s most eloquent lament relevant to this point: “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.” (Rom 7,23)

These words explain why in spite of our good intentions and efforts, we at times find ourselves face to face with our own enemy, our own flesh, whose stirring we often find ourselves at a loss how to quell.

We can look good and holy, heroic and saintly even, but we cannot deny the fact that our flesh can knock us down to our own shame faster than Pacquiao. The attacks can come anytime, but especially in our most vulnerable moments as in our rest and relaxation, and in our sleep.

Especially for those working in the vineyard of the Lord, corporal mortification assumes a particular importance, since they suffer a certain vulnerability not found in other occupations.

That’s why St. Paul said: “I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Cor 9,27)

If we are not careful, the attacks of the flesh can come even in our most sublime moments, as when we are praying and participating in holy liturgical acts. We are an easy target, a sitting duck to the lust and concupiscence embedded mainly in our flesh.

Let’s remember that our own body can used by the devil himself to tempt us with the most severe and subtle temptation. It can go to the extent of mocking us. It is our worst traitor and rebel.

I remember what St. Josemaria Escriva wrote in his book, The Way: “To defend his purity, St Francis of Assisi rolled in the snow, St. Benedict threw himself into a thorn bush, St. Bernard plunged into an icy pond… You… what have you done?” (143)

Indeed, we have to ask ourselves whether realize that corporal mortification is a regular ingredient in our daily life. We should not fool ourselves. In our spiritual life, we need corporal mortification like we need oxygen.

Our body, weakened by original sin and now immersed and constantly titillated by an environment of temptations and sin, can’t help but fall for the language of pleasure irrespective of whether such pleasure is good or not.

Our body just wants pleasure, and thus it tends to look always for comfort, convenience and any form of privilege and entitlement. It wants to be spoiled always. Our body is addicted to pleasure. Pleasure is its be-all and end-all.

We need to constantly submit our body to a regimen of discipline. It’s like a little child that cannot be left alone. It should always be guarded. And like a bull, it has to be fenced or tied. We should not be deceived by our body’s charming, sometimes hard-to-resist arguments rationalizing its intemperate desires.

There are many forms of corporal mortification. The usual and traditional ones are fasting and abstinence, not only from food and drinks, but from anything that gives us excessive pleasure like TV, internet, etc.

Let’s not look down on those old forms that have been found effective for ages and for different kinds of people, like sleeping on the floor, observing strict diet, taking cold shower, hiking to and from work, wearing spiked chain around the thigh, whipping oneself with a discipline, etc.

Let’s keep some instruments of corporal mortification, just like we often keep a bottle of vitamins for our physical well-being.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Misinformation and disinformation

IT’S good to know the distinction between the two. Misinformation is any false or incorrect information. It may just be an honest mistake or at worst a simple lie. There’s already an intention to deceive, an attempt to make someone believe something that is not true, but in a very limited way.

Its more popular equivalents are false or misleading information, bum steer, gossip and false rumor. It has a restrictive context, and unless it finds a good opportunity, it is often transmitted under cover and not in the open.

Disinformation is another animal. It takes misinformation to another level, often to the extreme. Disinformation, of course, is based on a misinformation or a lie that is pursued and elaborated with the intention to deceive not only an individual or a few people, but masses of people.

Disinformation is meant to confuse rivals or perceived enemies, or to influence public opinion. Played big and in the open, it can distort the truth further than what misinformation does. It is driven with an agenda to inflict deep and widespread deception on the people. Its other name is black propaganda.

Unlike the usual propaganda and the big lie techniques designed to draw emotional support, disinformation is meant to manipulate the people at the intellectual level by discrediting a piece of information or by supporting wrong conclusions. Its appeal is more irresistible, its lie almost invincible.

It uses a massive machinery, well-funded and well-oiled, and with an army of moles, sleepers and crawlers in different strategic places doing the spade work daily, all orchestrated by a mastermind who is often hidden.

Just consider the ugly revelations the current Wikileaks that are dragging big names to shame! There one gets an idea of the range and scope of the intelligence and spying systems secretly put to work to do other aspects of disinformation—political, military, commercial, etc.

In this recent controversy about Pope Benedict’s comments on condom use, these concepts come to mind. What is involved is not only misinformation, but a shameless, blatant disinformation carried out by big international institutions with the help of large parts of the media world like the AP.

How else can you conclude when at the start of the rage, the Vatican already made explanations about what the Holy Father meant? Yet, despite these clarifications, agencies like the UN, officials like PNoy and his DOH men, and a good number of mediamen continued crowing their wrong conclusions.

This is not anymore about finding the truth and trying to be objective. This is already marketing an ideology and falling into the subjective trap. Not news reporting, but editorializing. It’s not even fair advertisement. It is pure and simple black propaganda.

Wrong views were echoed and re-echoed “ad nauseam,” reminiscent of the evil ways of Nazi Germany’s Goebbels during World War II, except that in this case we are not in an open, declared state of war.

There is a clear attack on the Catholic Church, on her faith and doctrine, and the corresponding culture these build. There’s a systematic effort to discredit all these especially by sensationalizing the usual human anomalies that can actually occur anywhere else also.

They make a big fuss about clerical sexual misconduct, as if this kind of misconduct does not happen everywhere else, and even condoned. They seem to understand their own kind, but not when these things happen in some parts of the Church.

Worse, I don’t think we can expect any gesture of apology from them. Even when they are caught “in delicto flagrante” lying and doing this disinformation campaign, they don’t seem to acknowledge their mistake.

To put it bluntly, what we have here is a devil’s game. The devil is the father of lies. He can’t help but lie. It’s in his DNA. And the lying has developed into sophisticated levels.

Obviously to counteract this disinformation, the truth has to be brought to the open, no matter how complicated such process involves. Truth in its fullness should be understood as truth that goes together with charity. And charity always involves sacrifice, the cross, understanding, forgiveness, etc.

We need to go through all these requirements to resolve not only the issue of the papal comments on condom, but also all other widely coordinated efforts at disinformation aimed at undermining the Church.

I hope the popular piety surrounding Advent’s “simbang gabi” and Christmas itself will offer the golden opportunity to bring the Christian truth with charity to confront any effort at discrediting the Church and our Christian culture.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Brave witnesses to faith needed

JUST had another round of confirmation in school. This is becoming a yearly affair. Every time a new batch of students comes to our technical school, I soon discover that a great majority of them have not yet received the sacrament.

Catechesis and the other aspects of the preparation are soon given. The day is set, and when it finally comes, there’s always that palpable air of joy and thanksgiving. And the yearning that what was received, like a seed, would fall on good ground, start to germinate, grow and bear fruit.

I guess there are a host of reasons why this phenomenon seems not only true in our school but also in many others. Many Catholics, individuals and families, are still unclear about the importance of the sacrament of confirmation. Ignorance and confusion prevail.

These, plus a string of other social and cultural factors like poverty and the distorted notion of humility that leads people to think confirmation is not anymore that necessary, can explain this sad reality to a certain extent.

There’s a crying need to make this sacrament more known, appreciated and received by the people. And, of course, a greater need for it to be lived as it should. This is the challenge we, both priests and laity, are facing today.

Our Catechism tells us that confirmation “brings an increase and deepening of the baptismal grace, it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation…, it unites us more firmly to Christ, it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us, it renders our bond with the Church more perfect, it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action…” (1303)

In short, confirmation makes us more like Christ, the very model and pattern of humanity. We need to be “alter Christus, ipse Christus” (another Christ, Christ himself), with the desire of acquiring nothing less than the very mind, will and heart of Christ himself.

This is no exaggeration, a gratuitous, baseless claim. This is God’s will, and for this purpose he has given us everything so we can attain it. But obviously, we need to do our part.

By the very nature of things, God cannot impose his goodness on us. Like him, we are free and are governed by love. If we have to be another Christ, it’s because we want to, and not just because he wants us to.

Confirmation should make us brave and abiding witnesses to our faith. We have to understand that our faith in Christ should always be with us, in our thoughts, judgments and reasoning, in our words and actions, in the different fields of human endeavor, etc.

We have to correct the error of thinking there are instances in our life where only reason and our other human faculties should be used. Faith would have no place in them. This is wrong.

This attitude is usually present in the fields of business, politics, entertainment, etc. It becomes the underlying mind frame when discussing socio-cultural issues until it becomes the governing principle in our whole moral life.

In fact, there are now well-defined and systematic ideologies that not only confine the faith as a purely private matter, but also deny it altogether. And we are not referring anymore to the socialist and communist ideologies. Rabid forms of liberalism are now preaching this kind of doctrine.

The recent controversy, for example, about the Pope’s recent comments on the condoms has shown that these ideologies are not anymore affecting many Western decadent countries, but also our own land as well.

It’s amazing that in spite of the abundant clarifications, many officials, agencies, institutions, and a good part of the media still persist in pursuing and elaborating the lie that the Church has changed her stand on the condoms. There practically was a binge in spreading the misinformation.

It’s in this kind of world now that we urgently need witnesses to our Christian faith who are not only competent and brave but also charitable. We have to be witnesses who in the end judge, speak and do things at the very instance of the Holy Spirit.

This is what the sacrament of confirmation enables us to do, a divine power that we need to be conscious of, develop and use all the time. It makes us nothing less than true witnesses of Christ, and not just good in explaining doctrine that obviously are also necessary.

Let’s pray that the implications of the sacrament of confirmation are not lost on us.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dense and/or malicious?

WHAT a spin it was!

For a while I was frozen in disbelief as I read newspaper headlines and commentaries of what the Pope said recently about condoms. Who would not be dismayed when you read titles like, “Church has changed her position on condoms”?

There were more disconcerting takes. UN officials welcomed the Church’s change of heart. Palace told bishops should now soften their stand on the RH bill given the Pope’s statement on condoms.

Lagman, the main RH bill proponent, and the Damasonians were practically dancing in the streets. Some clerics now lawyering for the bill must be excited.

I could not believe that some officials who are supposed to have some IQ and the media would bother to publish this clear case of misinformation, since the clarification on the part of the Vatican was readily available.

It was again another field day for sensationalism. Virtually a bar room type of atmosphere, complete with the carousing and the drunkenness, with practically the whole international community as the stage.

The Pope’s words were twisted. Commentators just selected a part and blew it up according to their own agenda. They were actually expressing their own mind, not the Pope’s.

Where have we fallen into? I can’t help but think that those responsible for transmitting this piece of misinformation must be dense and/or plainly malicious. Sorry, I don’t have many other possibilities.

To make things worse, I wonder if we can expect any note of apology from any of the protagonists. What is most likely is to play the blaming game. And most likely the blame would mainly fall on the Pope for making such statement.

But the Pope did right in clarifying that matter about the condoms. What he was actually saying was that condoms as contraceptives are always wrong, are always sinful.

Yet in spite of that sinfulness, one can still distinguish shades of mitigating circumstances. The “justification” of the use of the condom arises from this—that it can prevent graver harm, that it can be a sign of a beginning conversion, etc.

Just the same, its use as a contraceptive in spite of those mitigating circumstances is already wrong. Obviously, when the condom is used as a balloon for decoration or toy, its use is not anymore sinful. It’s now moral.

So the Pope is trying to be nuanced in his approach to a moral situation. Who says the Pope and the Church in general are just dogmatic, so black and white as not to admit shades? I would say, the Pope was trying to take us a step further than our current state of understanding about condom use.

The reasoning behind the Pope’s argument echoes the one used by our Lord himself when he talked about the unjust steward, found in Luke 16. Our Lord praised the dishonest steward for his cleverness in arranging things when he, the steward, would eventually be kicked out of his employment.

So, our Lord, even in the midst of an over-all sin, managed to see bright spots in that cleverness. The parable concluded by saying, “The master commended the dishonest steward for his prudence. For the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.” (Lk 16,8)

As our Lord said, we need to be innocent as doves but also shrewd as serpents. We have to be very prudent and discerning, without allowing that prudence to spoil the goodness of our heart. It’s not easy, but it can be done, with God’s grace and our efforts.

This quality is necessary these days, when we know that some people and even some leaders in politics, business, etc., can be playing the devil’s games. Recently, for example, we were pleasantly surprised to hear former US President Clinton sort of giving a positive comment on our big population.

Without saying that he is playing the devil’s game, we are of course happy to hear what he said, though we should not forget what he is known for. He is good in playing games, and so we just have to decipher what game he is playing this time.

If in the end, it’s found that he is being honest, then well and good. If not, then we have to act accordingly. We should try to avoid being taken for a ride, being sweet talked to. We are living in dangerous times. We need to be familiar, for example, with the reality behind the expression, “wag the dog.”

But prudence should allow us to see the silver lining in the world’s dark clouds.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Discriminating but not discriminatory

THAT’S how we can describe the character of Christian faith as it impacts on our business and politics.

It is strictly discriminating in the sense that it wants us to get into the very substance of Christianity in our daily activities and earthly affairs.

It’s not interested only in the externals, the gravy, the patina. It wants the real thing, where our business and politics can truly become an encounter with Christ, an occasion to grow in holiness.

But it is never discriminatory, since it is open to all possibilities our human freedom can bring about. It has the capacity to bear whatever burden these possibilities can impose on us.

It can sustain positions contrary to it. Persecutions against it do not kill it. It will just resurrect in another way. Christ showed this by preferring to die rather than forcing people to follow him.

As St. Paul says it, for those who love God and therefore have faith in him, all things, even the seemingly bad things, will always work out for the good. This is how Christian faith works. It has focus, but it is open to anything. It upholds the truth in freedom, even if that freedom is badly used by the people.

We have to say this because lately in many places the idea seems to be rampant that in our business and politics we should just set aside our Christian faith, since that would only lead us to a limited view of things. It’s would not be open to positions contrary to it.

This was clearly said with regard to the RH issue. Many people, even the educated class and our leading politicians and other people of influence, expressed this view. They accuse the Church and, in effect, the Christian faith of being intolerant to those who don’t agree with her.

Better use reason alone, they said, and forget faith. Reason makes things more practical, convenient and open to all possibilities. Reason is more tolerant. Faith is intolerant.

Not at all! The Christian faith is open to anything, even to things that are in direct contradiction to it. It always respects the freedom of man. While the truth about the RH issue as coming from the Church and therefore of Christ is upheld, care is always taken that such position always respects freedom and is pursued in charity.

There might be some forcefulness involved, but it is the forcefulness of the truth itself, especially as that truth has to contend with contrary views. I suppose, everyone understands that. Any exchange of views always entails persuasive forces.

The Christian faith as spelled out by the Church magisterium is not afraid of being scrutinized by reason. In fact, faith welcomes it, since in our human condition, that faith always makes use of reason.

Faith has nothing to hide. It needs reason for it to be more understood and translated into more human and accessible terms. That’s why faith needs reason.

It is just hoped that reason also recognizes its need for faith. In fact, again in our human condition, faith and reason ought to go together, helping each other in deepening one’s knowledge.

Reason without faith is vulnerable to just spin in circles, until it loses steam and can slide to skepticism, cynicism, or worse, to chaos and anarchy. Even if one’s reason can have rich immanent activity, in the end it will need a point of reference that simply cannot just be the material world. It needs to transcend to the world of faith.

This is a reality that needs to be highlighted, since many of us, especially our leaders, do not realize it. We tend to pursue our knowing and doing guided by reason alone, with faith regarded at best as a decoration alone, not essential, just optional.

And thus, we need to develop the appropriate attitudes and skills to make this reality our own, not just a theory. We should aim at making this faith-and-reason approach the most ordinary thing we do.

At the moment, we can see a split where there should be unity—either relying solely on reason (rationalism), or the other way around, relying mainly on faith (fideism).

This, of course, will require a lot of effort. Nothing less than a paradigm shift, a drastic change of mind and heart is demanded. But it is worth all the effort, time and money.

The change can start anywhere: in churches, seminaries, schools and universities, families, and in the different fields of human affairs—business, politics, culture, etc.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The proper context of tolerance

NOW that we are more or less forced to live tolerance, given the multiplying kinds, classes, types of people, cultures, lifestyles, mentalities, etc., etc., we should be clear about the real character of this trait that seems to be urgently needed.

For sure, tolerance just cannot be taken to mean anything goes, and to simply be passive to things in general. That would be a perfect formula for chaos, a free fall to decadence and perdition, both personal and social.

We should avoid falling into the trap of regarding tolerance as indifference and passivity, permissiveness, promiscuity and a long list of isms—relativism, isolationism, quietism, etc.

Tolerance cannot but be an integral and living part of charity. As such, it has a very active character. If it involves patience, waiting and suffering, it is because it is in its nature to understand, to be compassionate and forgiving.

It just cannot be a function of practicality and convenience, or of worldly calculation and the so-called prudence of the flesh. It just cannot be a matter of being politically correct.

That would be inhuman, not to mention, unchristian, since it would lack the proper foundation and source of its life, meaning and direction. It could not rise above being a plain trick, gimmick, and pretension. Sooner or later, we would realize we are just fooling ourselves.

Its passive side is always infused by the active spirit of self-giving that goes all the way, which is what charity is all about. It’s love in action, a love that knows no measure. Its passive side is never a sign of helplessness and fatalism. It is always taken up by the forcefulness and designs of love.

It’s love that enables us to waive certain rights, to suspend judgment, to bear the faults and burden of others. As an old song says it, it enables us to smile even if our heart is aching. But it has a clear idea of how things should end. Yes, it can be open to things, but it has focus.

That’s because, love makes us strong, and the strong can bear the weak. Not the other way around. The weak, the one without love, cannot bear the strong. Tolerance, properly understood, is always a sign of strength, not of weakness.

In the Christian culture, tolerance as an expression of charity is brought to its maximum level when one is willing, like Christ, to die rather than violate love. And that death is not a defeat, but rather a triumph. In that context, death has not conquered the person. It is the person that has conquered death.

Having said all that, we also have to remember that charity always goes with the truth. Tolerance, being a part of charity, should not compromise this aspect of charity.

For Christian believers, the union of charity and truth can only be seen and achieved in Christ. We just have to try our best to have a living relationship with a living Christ, not a theoretical or hypothetical Christ. Our tolerance has to be lived in this context, and in no other.

This living union with Christ involves many things. In fact, everything. We have to learn to pray, know his life and words, his doctrine. We have to develop virtues. We have to see the organic connection between God, Christ, Church, bishops, etc., and live according to that economy.

And so, we have to be ready also to uphold and defend, to fight and die for the truth in Christ. Charity has that intriguing character of being at once both strict and lenient, intolerant and tolerant, just and merciful.

So, in this regard, we have to be wary of the continuing and subtle attacks on truth and charity and even on tolerance waged by some elements. Recently, I learned of some Hollywood movies that tend to deconstruct the nature of family, of marriage. We have to be ready to do a battle of love and truth with this trend.

Locally, we have the RH issue that is trying to masquerade as a human right, or women’s right to their body, or as an expression of freedom of choice. Then, there’s that campaign to deodorize the gay culture.

While we have to be understanding with everyone, we always have to uphold the truth about our sexuality and gender. I don’t mind having gays around. There’s always space for them. But if they do nothing other than purr like pussy cats in heat, and convert the world into a theater of their antics, (fill in the blank).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Quantitative easing has dubious effects

WE obviously have to try our best to broaden and deepen our culture all our life. While we may have a concrete field of specialization, we should not forget that we need to connect with everyone else. Thus, we need to know them as best we could, including their interests, concerns, challenges, everything…

As priest, I normally stick to things spiritual and moral, but that does not prevent me from learning things about economics, business, politics, arts, etc. I know that things spiritual and moral are played out in these fields of human affairs. So, I need to have at least some working knowledge of this earthly culture.

Like everybody else, I certainly have to know how to blend them well. There are rules to follow, deriving mainly from the position one occupies in society. But everyone needs to contribute to the common good, giving what is peculiar to him so that the common culture be enriched.

Besides, with the way the world is developing these days, it’s getting clear that the way to go is to cultivate an interdisciplinary approach to knowing and learning. And so, we just have to plunge into this path of interactive methods, now facilitated by our developing networking services. This is our world now!

Having said all that, I just would like to voice out my concern at what is happening in the big and high places in developed countries where officials are talking about the so-called “quantitative easing,” (QE) now being touted to solve the deepening and widening economic crisis worldwide.

From what I could understand about it, it involves pumping money into the economy in the hope of jump-starting it into a productive frenzy of activity. It seems money would be created “ex nihilo,” from nothing, just to trigger productivity.

While there is some wisdom to that idea, I feel that its effectiveness would depend on a number of factors. Obviously, simply giving out money does not automatically produce good economic results. Otherwise, we would have done this thing long time ago.

Economists and other social leaders point to the following requirements for QE to work: sound governance, sound economic policies, sound monetary policies, sound commercial policies, etc. The list is endless.

As we can see, there are many conditions before QE can achieve its goal. What does all this tell us? That our world economic crisis just cannot be solved solely by economic remedies. There is a lot more that is needed than just talking about QE, which happens to be Obama’s main problem solver.

You can print all the money you want and throw them away to the people from a helicopter. But if the people would not know how to use them, how to make them productive, you would just be multiplying problems.

That seems to be the sentiment of the American people who booted out many of Obama’s people in Congress in the midterm elections. They seem to say that the US is heading in the wrong direction. Time to change course.

This sentiment seems to be shared also by a good number of leaders from other countries. In Obama’s recent trip to India and other Asian countries, the message given to him was unmistakable.

It must be understood that whatever benefit and advantage QE gives, it is meant only to solve a small part of the crisis, one meant only for an emergency situation that has to be resolved as quickly as possible. If that fails, then death naturally comes, and we just have to accept the unavoidable fact.

But beyond QE’s economic wisdom, what we should realize more deeply is that our economic predicament has deeper spiritual and moral causes. When people are spoiled with entitlements and have developed a complacent mind-frame, QE would not be effective. There has to be a spiritual and moral overhaul.

We have to tackle the bull by the horn. Our leaders should not just be competent politically, economically, etc., but should also be adept in the spiritual and moral considerations. They would be fatally handicapped if this fundamental requirement is not meant.

Enough with the myth that the world’s problems can be just be handled by merely playing politics and business. The crisis we are having now is a painful rousing from our blindness. It is actually showing us the way we ought to take.

Instead of casting aspersions on each other because of our respective roles as clergy and lay, let’s work together to attain not only our temporal common good but the eternal one as well.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

New evangelization

POPE Benedict XVI has just established a new office tasked to undertake what is called as a new evangelization especially in some parts of the world that had deep Christian roots before, but are now terribly suffering under the plague of secularization.

This is the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization. In the Pope’s words, it is meant to tackle “a grave crisis in the sense of the Christian faith and the role of the Church,” and “to find the right means to repropose the perennial truth of the Gospel.”

He said that previously staunch Catholic countries in Europe and North America were facing “the eclipse of a sense of God.” In another occasion, he noted that many people now regard God at best as a mere theory or a hypothesis, not a living being.

I agree with this observation completely. All around us is the unmistakable sign that people consider God more as an alien than a Creator, Father and Lover, who shares his life, and everything in it like his knowledge and love, with us.

This, to me, is an interesting development to us, since this new evangelization, I believe, should not only be done in these Western developed countries that are now also facing a severe economic crisis, but also in our country.

Though vaunted, to a certain degree true, for its Catholicism, our country is actually suffering also from a certain crisis of faith, since much of the outward expressions of piety and religiosity do not really have a firm foundation on a living faith.

In short, much of it is mere noise and show without real religious substance. We may have a vibrant popular piety in many places, but it is something that needs to be purified, enriched and made to be grounded on the real McCoy, and not just forms.

Of course, we should be thankful that we still have these forms of religiosity. Our long history of Catholic life, in spite of some dark spots, has yielded lasting fruits of spiritual life.

But we should never be complacent and think that everything is all right. There’s a lot of superstition still attending many of our religious practices, and even outright doctrinal errors proliferating around.

Given the global interconnectivity we have at present, we should not fail to realize that some of the disturbing developments in the rich but decadent Western countries can now easily enter our shores. Just think of the current RH issue and the whole range of the contraceptive mentality.

We need to look closely into the training programs given in seminaries and other centers of learning. There are things that need to be changed drastically. Let’s see to it that a wholistic formation is truly given, covering the human, religious-doctrinal, spiritual and pastoral aspects.

A more fine-tuned evangelization should be given to the young and the different sectors of society. The youth are bombarded today with messages and images that undermine their spiritual life.

Thus, we can see a runaway trend toward delinquency and other youthful anomalies. The Facebook entries can give us a jolting reality check on this phenomenon. We have to find ways to cope with this worrying development.

Evangelization should aim at imparting nothing less than the real and living Christ to everyone. In one Church document, it is described as “not limited to instruction about God who lives in inaccessible light…

“In hearing the Word, the actual encounter with God himself calls to the heart of man and demands a decision which is not arrived at solely through intellectual knowledge but which requires conversion of heart…”

We have to understand that only when there is real conversion of heart can our recognition of Christ and our identification with him take place. Otherwise, we will just be playing games.

“The Gospel preached by the Church is not just a message but a divine and life-giving experience for those who believe, hear, receive and obey the message,” that same document affirms.

The clergy and the others directly involved in this task should understand that this it requires from them nothing less than true integrity where the message and the messenger, while distinct, become one in an existential, dynamic way.

It is not an exaggeration nor an act of presumption to say that they should have the mind of God, since in the first place that is actually meant for us.

It’s only then that the evangelization becomes credible and acceptable to the people. The preaching should be lived, the words always need to be given witness first by the preacher.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Participative

THIS is the now buzzword, at least, in the US, and I hope it also becomes so in our country. In our social and political life, the system of people’s active participation in the direction of things should be put in place, regularly updated and adapted to changing circumstances.

This is what the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church says about this need: “Every democracy must be participative. This means that the different subjects of civil community at every level must be informed, listened to, and involved in the exercise of the carried-out functions.” (190)

Therefore, everything has to be done to correct attitudes and practices that hinder this property of a democratic state such as ours. They are many and, worse, very tricky and difficult. In the first place, we tend to deny we have these inadequate attitudes and wrong practices.

These deficiencies can be so embedded in our culture and social life that they have become normal to us. Even in the last barangay elections, I was appalled to see the same massive vote-buying and corrupting of the youth through the SK. But I think some stirring, shaking up and purifying need to be done.

We have to understand that even if our culture can be considered already rich and very uniquely Filipino, it has to grow with the times and face the new challenges. Otherwise it will die and rot, or at least produce toxin that’s bad to all of us.

In the US now, there is the upsurge of the so-called Tea Party, a kind of spontaneous reaction of a big part of the populace who think the Obama government is putting the dangerous liberalism-and-socialism ideology to the extreme.

Their efforts have yielded big gains in the last elections, kicking out a number of Democrats and putting into their Congress a big majority of Republicans who are at least more attentive to their sentiments.

Poor Obama is now a lame duck only after two years of office. A listing ship, he will face a grueling and bruising remainder of his presidency. The other object of their wrath, the brash Pelosi, is now dethroned from her speakership.

Both seem sad, but not sorry at all for their agenda that was roundly rejected by the people. But at least for now, they have to bow to the will of the people.

We have to hone our own participative skills in our social and political life. We already have had a number of tools and instruments for this purpose. To mention a few, we had the People Power, rallies and demonstrations, various initiatives in good governance and monitoring of officials’ performance.

We also have the Namfrel, the C-Cimpel, the Dilaab, etc. The list is long, thanks be to God, but it needs to grow more not only in number but also in depth and effectiveness. The more initiatives, the better.

First of all, there is the basic need for grounding every effort in this regard on the proper spirituality, one that regards our social and political action as an integral part also of the over-all effort to sanctify oneself and others.

It should be a spirituality that respects the autonomy of politics and fosters freedom and variety of views and positions. But it should be dead serious in developing our politics with charity, orienting it always for the common good and for God’s glory. Yes, God and politics have to be put together.

It cannot be any other way. If the animating spirit of these initiatives is reduced to some partisan views or to an ideology, I don’t think we can go very far. We have to be very wary of the many conditionings that clip the wings of our participative duties, like indifference, discouragement, self-pity, passivity, fatalism, etc.

At the same time, any effort to spiritualize and Christianize our politics should not diminish the need for rigor in attending to the many objective requirements of politics.

We have to check the competence of our officials, and find ways to monitor their performance. We have to devise a system of reading as accurately and promptly as possible the problems of the people, and of starting the process of attending to them. Criteria for judgment should be refined.

For all this, everyone is encouraged to do his part. We cannot rely only on the media. The quality of our politics can only reflect the quality of the people involved in it—that’s us. A good and indispensable tool is the social doctrine of the Church that offers us tremendous light.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Be consistent to your faith

WE have to appeal to everyone, especially to our politicians and everybody else who occupy positions of leadership and influence in society, to please be consistent to your faith.

Faith is not something to show off only when one is in church and in religious activities. It has to be lived all the time regardless of whether one is engaged in business or in politics or in sports or in the arts, etc.

It can not be treated like a hat or a coat that we wear outside but take off when we are inside the house, or in Congress, or in work or party. When our Catholic congressmen tackle, for example, the RH Bill, they just cannot say they have to set their faith aside because they are doing only secular things. That’s foul!

True, they have to consider with as much scientific rigor as possible the different human angles and natural aspects of the issue—social, political, economic, cultural, practical, etc. But all these should be infused by faith.

Without faith, these considerations would lose their proper bearing and stability. They would be vulnerable to changing conditionings and will ultimately do harm to us.

We obviously have to live our faith with naturalness, without attracting undue attention and without allowing it, as much as possible, to hamper our normal daily activities. But we have to understand that faith has to be lived always. We should try to avoid having gaps of faith in our day.

Faith is actually the soul of our knowledge, what gives life, guidance and direction to our reasoning. We have to be wary when we tend to detach our intelligence from our faith. That would leave our intelligence out in the cold, neglected and abandoned to survive on its own.

Faith is actually a necessity for our reason. The latter cannot go far without the former. Reason would be violating its own nature if it dares to go on its own, since it knows that it always needs an outside object to start it to act. The autonomy of reason never means it is separated from faith, or worse, incompatible and hostile to faith.

Though reason has an immanent activity, it always needs to be fed by things outside it. Otherwise, it will grind to a halt or worse, drown in its own unpurified, unrenewed waste.

And reason just cannot stop at depending on sensible and intelligible objects for it to work. It has to go all the way. Sooner or later reason will reach the limits of the material world, then enters into the world of ideas, and if it’s true to itself, it will realize it is in the threshold of the spiritual and supernatural universe. It cannot escape but reach the point of transcendence.

So our reason just can stop at the human and natural sciences, nor in our philosophies and ideologies. Without suspending its operation, it has to allow itself to be taken up by the wings of faith.

That’s because to cruise in the transcendent levels, reason needs faith. That is to say, we need to make an act of faith, which is an act of the will that kind of forces our reason to go on in spite of its inadequacy to tackle the truths and mysteries involved in the spiritual and supernatural world.

We actually make acts of faith one way or another, even in our most ordinary activities and situations. This is because our reason cannot cope with all the things presented to it for consideration. Nor can it go deep enough in the knowledge of even the most ordinary things in our life.

Thus, faith is to be lived not just when we tackle purely spiritual topics and issues, abstract and abstruse, but also in our day-to-day mundane concerns. For even the most ordinary things possess mysterious realities. In them can always be found God himself. And for that, reason is not enough. Faith is needed.

Faith never diminishes what is truly human in us. Rather, it enhances our humanity, it purifies it, elevates it to its spiritual and supernatural goal, and brings it to its most profound and sublime level.

We, and especially our leaders, have to learn how to be at home with faith, skilful enough to animate every human activity we do in the different fields of our life, be it business or politics or the arts, etc.

We have to break the barrier that prevents us from allowing our faith to animate all our affairs.

Monday, November 8, 2010

We are in a state of war

I WAS happy to be invited to say Mass for a group of couples attending a week-end seminar entitled, Beyond I do. I found the initiative laudable, and encouraged the group to spread their message farther and farther. This is what we need today, I told them.

Today´s couples have to learn to strengthen their love amid the confusing flow of developments. They need to be flexible, creative, persevering, resourceful and skillful to read the signs of the times, and to anticipate both the good and bad developments and to act accordingly.

We cannot deny the fact that many basic human values, not to mention, the Christian ones, are under heavy and severe attack. Human love and sexuality, life itself, marriage and family are now absorbing all sorts of systematic barrage from powerful quarters with tons of money and an armory of influence and ideology.

There are just too many boys and girls, for example, who usually in their teens are already victims of a cursed or sick love (¨ulipon sa gugmang gi-atay,¨ in our dialect), because of infatuation and of a clear lack of understanding of the true nature and meaning of love. They are actually crying for help, even if they resent it. And they have to be helped, first by the parents.

Locally also, we are forced to worry about the RH bill, a totally useless proposal that if made into law would not change much what is actually taking place now insofar as family planning and population control practices of the people are concerned.

It brags that it gives couples a right of choice to do whatever they want to do with their family, as if they don’t have that choice even now. What it adds is for the government to spend precious resources over something better left to the disposition of the couples involved.

It also pressures employers to favor contraceptives, and worse, in its original and raw version, it prohibits people from even talking against RH. When I saw that, I could not help but gulp in disbelief. Where did the proponents of this bill leave their common sense, I automatically said to myself.

In other places, worse things are happening. I just learned, for example, that at the UNESCO, efforts are now made to teach sex education even to children as young as five. In its draft guidelines, it tells instructors not to teach morality as there is no right nor wrong when discussing values.

It claims that that from birth to age two, children may ¨experience genital pleasure¨ and by age three may engage in ´sex play.´ Parents are to provide anatomically correct dolls for young children to play with and to be supportive of masturbation. It now seems the m-word is part of everyday language and daily routine.

In the US at present, moves are now taken by the Obama government that tend to undermine the proper independence and autonomy of Catholic schools. It´s also doing what are tantamount to threats to religious freedom. These issues may seem remote and too big for us, ordinary mortals, in the Philippines, but mind you, they can have grave effects worldwide.

We need to be ready for these disturbing developments. We should not forget that in our spiritual world, we are always in a state of war. Our heart is always a battleground between the forces of good and evil. We cannot afford to be naive.

Parents, for example, have to be better prepared to face the challenge occasioned by our every-growing technologies. The world of their little children, through Facebook, for example, has suddenly become bigger and more complicated. Children now need a different way of guidance appropriate to the new circumstances. And parents have to provide this.

What is basic and indispensable is that whatever advances, changes and transformations there may be in the outside world, parents should see to it that they maintain close personal relationship with their children, one where they can still manage to enter into their children´s minds and hearts.

This will always require time and talent on the part of parents to nurture a continuing love and affection for their children, since this is the only way to get into their children´s lives. Parents need to be properly grounded on the right doctrine, quick to distinguish the genuine one from the false if popular one. They need to develop virtues and skills like how to enter into a meaningful talk with their children.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Peace through war

WE need to understand this very well. To have peace in each one of us and later in the world, the kind that abides and lasts, and that leads to the everlasting peace in heaven, we need to wage war here on earth, a constant war that goes on until death.

This is part of our human condition. Our weakened, wounded nature requires it, not to mention, the objective reality that we have enemies all around us. Our Catechism tells us of the seven capital sins with which we have to contend all throughout our life. They are: pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony and sloth.

These capital sins are embedded in us. No use denying them. We have to acknowledge their existence and learn how to deal with them.

Besides, St. Paul also tells us about the formidable spiritual enemies around us. ¨For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.¨ (Eph 6,12) How true!

What makes things worse is that these enemies are invisible, and more than grappling with them in an arena or a battlefield, we do our combat inside us, in our mind and heart, in our senses and emotions and imagination, etc. It´s a spiritual warfare that requires the appropriate strategies and armory.

It would be extremely na├»ve of us if we don´t realize this, and therefore not prepared and equipped for this dark reality of our earthly life. First, we need to realize this fact, and help others to be properly warned and armed. We have to know these enemies of ours very well, for how else can we handle them effectively if we don´t know them?

While it´s true that we have to do all this with a lot of naturalness, it also would be funny if we understand by naturalness the excuse for letting our guards down. Vigilance and even spiritual espionage and intelligence work have to be done always.

In fact, all the art and skills of warfare have to be applied, knowing that it is a living and growing science as well. While old things and experiences are always valuable, there will always be new things to be learned. The war fronts always change, shift and vary, and we just have to know how to be flexible with them.

That´s why it is important that we don´t get deceived by the apparent peace that exists around us. We have to be wary with our tendency to be complacent, to be up in the air, clueless about the real score of our life. We have to learn how to be discerning, how to read the signs of the times, since many things are taking place both inside and outside us. We should always be on the alert mode.

St. Augustine once described the complexity of our human condition. ¨Man is a great deep, Lord¨ he said. ¨You number his very hairs and they are not lost in your sight. But the hairs of his head are easier to number than his affections and the movements of his heart.¨ Our heart can go right and left anytime.

And outside us, powerful spiritual enemies are always at work. We need to be familiar with both the visible waves and the invisible air of erroneous and dangerous ideas and programs that are put to play in the fields of business, politics, sports and entertainment, education and culture, etc.

We should quit thinking of these things as too abstract or academic that hardly have any impact on our lives. They are as real as germs and viruses, those microbes that cause great havoc in our lives. This is not being paranoid. This is being realistic.

Thus, while we always have to blend with the times, we should not forget to develop always, in the spiritual and moral sense, the survival skills of a savage in the forest and of the slum dweller, as well as the discerning powers of one immersed in the hypnotizing environment of culture, power, wealth, fame, that we also can find ourselves in.

We have to learn how to be tough while being gentle always, strict and demanding while being compassionate, driven but charitable. Are we skillful in prayer, in offering sacrifices, in plotting our spiritual strategies for our sanctification and that of the others and of the world--all done with naturalness and discretion?