Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Driven but sober

WITH all the technological advances we now have, we cannot deny the fact that we are always tempted to try them, spending precious time and exploring the plethora of possibilities with them. The urge to “carpe diem” gets ever stronger, often milking us dry of our creative juices, etc.

This is a good development, of course, but only if we are prepared for it, adequately equipped and clear as to their ultimate purpose. Otherwise, we would just be blown and swept away by the storm of novelties and curiosities they offer.

Thus, while they help us to be more driven in life, they also ask us, nay, require us to be properly grounded. A certain kind of sobriety is needed, since our tendency to be intoxicated is now always teased and provoked.

The other day, someone told me how concerned he was since his high school daughter already has more than a thousand friends on Facebook, most of them male admirers, and they come not only from the city and the province, but also from the rest of the country and even outside.

That’s a new problem that is asking for new ways of how to be prompt and effective in dispensing parental guidance, while observing the requirements of prudence and understanding for the young one involved. New house rules have to be made to adapt to the new situation.

I told him to regulate the time his daughter spends on the Internet, and to see to it that she studies and prays and that family gatherings, like eating together, having after-meal get-togethers, going to Mass together, etc. should be fostered.

Besides, frequent direct personal chats should be encouraged between parents and children so that criteria, suggestions and corrections can be made punctually.

I myself have to be careful not to spend too much time on the Internet. Now that I have more than 600 friends on Facebook and growing, I have to see to it that I have a clear idea what to do and how much time I can spend every time I open my account.

My friends are all sorts, from high and low, but mostly young male students from the school where I work, with their expected load of pranks and mischiefs that I have to learn to bear with a grain of salt. But the apostolic possibilities far outweigh the negative elements.

Still, there is always a need to be careful and sober, since the pull of distractions can be both strong and subtle. It’s a daily struggle that has to be contextualized in one’s interior life itself. It could not be anything less.

It’s this interior or spiritual life that enables one to see things from the point of view of God, and not just from any human point of view, cultural, social or economic. Sadly, this reality is often ignored by many people. There’s a need to restore its crucial role it plays in our lives.

So I always recommend that one submits himself to a clear plan of life that includes practices of piety distributed all throughout the day that would help him keep a lively spiritual life and a working supernatural outlook.

This lifestyle obviously requires sobriety, that effective self-control that involves knowing how to deal with our impulses and urges that need to be rationalized and later infused by faith and charity.

To achieve this, a certain detachment from persons and things is needed. It allows us to see things more objectively and calmly. It lets us make proper judgments of persons, things and events.

This does not mean that we develop a kind of serious and dour image. Sobriety is lived in naturalness, and therefore it can have its cheerful and tender moments that should be more dominant than its dry side.

Sobriety involves the skill of waiting and preparing. The best example of this is God himself. In his plan of redemption, he had to wait for years and had to send all sorts of patriarchs and prophets to prepare the people for salvation.

When Christ the Redeemer finally came, he also had to wait and pray a lot. In all the big events of his earthly life, he would always precede them with long periods of prayer and fasting. He did not immediately jump into action.

We need to understand the wisdom of this lifestyle. Thus, in our driven world, we need to be firmly moored in our effective love for God and others. Otherwise, we become easy prey to the tricks of the flesh and the world.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Higher sense of purpose needed

NOW that we are enjoying a flowering of technological development, we need to realize more deeply that the quantum leap in that area calls for a matching quantum leap in our sense of purpose. Otherwise we would get what is tantamount to an overdose.

I think such assertion is commonsensical. Yet we ignore it, mainly because the so-called overdose is not so much painful as it is euphoric. The danger is not immediately felt and seen. It can hide behind many rationalizations and justifications. The overdose assumes the character of a sweet poison.

Many times in my chats with young fellows in the front lines of this warp-speed technological progress, I get the impression that there seems to be endless possibilities of usages and advantages that the electronic world is now offering us.

More inventions and innovations are made. Just recently, in fact, I have been invited to a talk on blogging and on other programs like Tiddlywiki that provides tremendous and very practical facilities for taking notes.

I’m at the moment just discovering the wonders of the Facebook and struggling, dummy and unteachable as I am, to cope with its many possibilities. And here comes other programs knocking at the door for me to consider. I’m not sure anymore whether I’m simplifying my life or complicating it. Anyway, we’ll see…

Thing is we need to have a higher sense of purpose to truly make use of these technological marvels. I’m afraid that without this clear sense of purpose, more elevated than the usual practical level, we would end up wallowing more deeply in our own world, increasingly insensitive to the ultimate dimension of our life, which is spiritual, moral and supernatural.

In fact, this wallowing phenomenon is what we are seeing these days in the electronic world. What begins as humanly valid practical uses sooner or later deteriorates into inhuman, sinful modes if not animated properly by spiritual and moral values.

There are now a lot of inanities circulated around electronically. Subtle and even open forms of human moral anomalies like vanity, envy, sensuality, greed, egoism, etc., are having a field day in this arena.

These dangers can start with people, especially the young one, to waste a lot of time and to express and cultivate their youthful weaknesses with nuclear dynamics.

I remember reading an article about the Google CEO warning that young people should be allowed to change their names after some time because they would already have compromised their future with the irresponsible things they have posted on the net. Their cyber past would just be too hot to handle.

I have even seen in the web wanton displays of poor taste and impropriety on the part of some Church and spiritual leaders, as in priests and bishops, as they frolic in the beach with companions that can only raise eyebrows, engorging themselves in parties, and other forms of frivolity. There seems be no concern of avoiding possible scandals.

More dangers are still in store. Those who are more intellectually gifted or more business-minded ply their trades in pursuit of purely human gains that may lead them to be materially richer but spiritually poorer. The bargain is utterly unfair, but it’s resorted to with gusto.

Of course, Godless ideologies would not be long in coming. They in fact are now proliferating, giving the impression they are the mainstream in our world today.

We should not just stand by in the face of these developments taking place right before our eyes. We need to at least encourage everyone to use these new powers with a greater sense of responsibility, hooking them to a higher sense of purpose.

And this is none other than to use them for the ultimate purpose of our life here on earth. This is where religion as to come in, where our relation with God has to come in. This most important aspect should not be ostracized.

Some great effort is definitely needed here, since first of all, we have to break that deep-seated prejudice against religion when we engage in our earthly, mundane affairs. If we ever talk about religion, we seem to confine it only inside churches and places like those, but not in our secular concerns.

Our sense of naturalness seems to be twisted at the root, since it seems to be incompatible with anything spiritual and supernatural. We need to correct this irregularity, without going to the extreme of behaving in some strange, unnatural way.

A higher sense of purpose can help us do this.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Working on our attitude

IT’S unfortunate that the word “attitude” has fallen into disrepute. Nowadays when you hear that someone has an attitude, it means he has a bad temper, or has an evil way of looking at things, etc. It has become a catch-all for everything that can be negative in a person.

I am sure it’s one of those sweeping, thoughtless generalizations that sometimes happen when we seem dominated by a certain kind of event. It’s a case of branding and stereotyping, similar to the Colgate of old to refer to toothpaste, etc.

But attitude is something we cannot avoid. It’s part of our system, of our being persons who think and choose, who certainly have a sense of how things are and ought to be. It can refer to our dispositions toward everything in life. It’s the more permanent fruit of how we correspond to our consciences.

In fact, we need to see to it that our attitudes are taken care of. They should be properly cultivated, equipped and oriented. They should not be just left alone to develop by themselves, driven mainly by shallow considerations—emotions and passions, fads and fashions, all sorts of social conditionings, etc.

In these times with so many challenges, difficulties and other tricky elements, we have to see to it that our attitudes are well established. They are precisely those very intimate, internal principles, the basic expression and language of our heart that need to be guided and protected.

It’s our attitude that determines how we behave before different situations, issues, challenges, etc. It tells us when to be calm or agitated, patient or impatient, gentle or assertive, etc.

For Christian believers, the standard, of course, is Jesus Christ, who said he is “the way, the truth and the life” for us. He is in fact who and what we ought to be, the very pattern of our humanity, our source and end.

Let’s hope that we can be more aware of this need, and skilled to handle our duty toward it. We cannot deny the patent fact that many suffer from serious attitudinal problems, all crying for help. Objectively, that is, and not quite subjectively, since many may not realize they have such problems.

There’s a lot of apathy and indifference towards others. If not that, then there’s a lot of rash judgments and invasive critical thoughts towards them. Many just coast along in life, drifting without a clear sense of purpose. All of these indicate neglect and malformation in the care of our attitudes.

With the rise of technological progress, for example, we can see that while there is marked improvement in the quality of life for some, there’s also the downside that many misuse or abuse this development

The phenomenon of the social media, like the Facebook and the Twitter, is a case in point. While these electronic facilities expedite our communications, the problem now is what to communicate. Many people do not realize that the rise of technology is also calling for a rise in our sense of purpose.

Obviously, if we just keep ourselves at the level of greeting and communicating trivia, it will not be long before we deteriorate into gossiping and quarrelling over petty things.

Or we lapse into being just a passive observer, mainly wasting time. And what time we can waste just reading the postings there! Or we simply stop using them, which is quite a waste of resources given the many golden opportunities these technological advances can give us.

We need to have a clearer and higher sense of purpose to match the quantum leap of advantages these electronic devices provide us. Otherwise, we end up spoiled by them, confused and swallowed by their intoxicating properties, and later, enslaved by them. I don’t think this is just theory. It’s a very likely possibility.

We need to develop programs to address this urgent and widespread need. Technology has not only accelerated our pace of life. It also has increased our challenges, this time, more subtle and yet no less important and crucial. We have to help one another in discerning things and equipping ourselves with the proper attitudes.

This task can actually be pioneered by anyone. But most likely the best setting would be the families and the schools that are continually monitoring the developments around.

Parents and teachers should get together to plot out relevant strategies, always getting guidance from the Church and other moral authorities and experts. But the main focus should be the instilling of the proper attitudes in everyone.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Legislative activism

FORMS of activism have definitely multiplied in trickier, more sinister ways these past years. The original form is obviously when a person just acts without much thinking. Even common sense is neglected, and the result can only be trouble.

Such attitude, unfortunately, can be infectious, taking advantage of people’s weaknesses, ignorance and confusion, and thus can be so generalized as to become part of a society’s culture, with structures to perpetuate it.

And thus, we can have such anomalies as workaholism or professionalitis, where action, work and profession become the be-all and end-all of life. They set aside time for prayer, family life and our other responsibilities.

But the root cause of activism is when we detach ourselves from our objective source of wisdom and truth, and this is nothing other than God. This sadly is becoming prevalent because of the increasingly secularized environment we are having these days.

Instead we depend on our own ideas, mesmerized by their borrowed brilliance and buoyed by our own pride and vanity. In short, we make ourselves our own God. This irregularity is reinforced by a badly understood doctrine of the separation of Church and state that many of us are suffering.

According to this understanding, the Church cannot say anything on state affairs. In a worse case, religion or anything that has to do with faith is automatically banned from making any influence on a country’s political life. And yet all sorts of ideologies are made to hold sway over the people

With this frame of mind, we start to create a bubble, we start to live in a cocoon. Reality becomes man-made. We follow a logic that while accompanied by reason, is ultimately based on hot air. This is where we can talk about an activism that is driven by ideologies founded on reason alone without God.

Its allure derives from the immediate practicality it gives, the instant, short-term advantages and benefits it produces. But it’s notoriously shallow and short-sighted, and worse, it tends to be dressed in deceptive devices to attract attention.

Thus, in the recent past, we had this disturbing phenomenon of street rallies, where noise replaced thinking, slogans substituted arguments, and ideologies attacked faith and our faith-derived culture.

Its falsehood and inherent infirmity obviously cannot keep the craze long. In time, all the shouting and marching petered out. It had no genuine soul. It cannot go far in its dream.

And so, other forms of activism had been resorted. Lately, we had been “regaled” for a while by the news that an American judge did what was tantamount to a judicial activism. That’s when he overturned the results of a plebiscite that banned same-sex marriage in California.

In his view, there was no sufficient reason to ban gay unions. He had the pluck to insinuate that there was more than enough reason homosexual marriages were ok, were constitutional, if not were moral and natural.

It’s good that a court stopped his decision, at least for a while, from being implemented. We have to be ready for this kind of activism that tries to usurp the right of the majority of the people to be heard in their beliefs.

In our own country, we have another disturbing phenomenon that is emerging. We can call it legislative activism, because it involves lawmakers, our congressmen and congresswomen, who now want to redefine marriage according to ideological lines.

This time, they want marriage not to be a lifelong commitment but a renewable affair after every few years. This is really a wild idea that only shows what’s inside their mind and heart.

Marriage, by definition, is a lifelong commitment, because it involves everything of the parties concerned. We, as persons and especially if we are aware that we receive grace from God through the sacrament of marriage, are capable of such commitment.

I’m sure the proponents want to solve some screaming marital and family problems, but the proposed solution can open a Pandora’s box of many other worse problems. With such attitude, where the nature and sanctity of marriage are eroded, people would have more reason not to take it seriously.

Besides, the proposal to legalize “renewable” marriage goes with another on divorce. Actually these two are twin bastard children of a man-made understanding of marriage.

We have to understand that the nature of marriage is given to us by God, written in nature, and for us to find, discover and live. It’s not for us to fabricate nor to revise. We need to go back to this basic truth about marriage.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Open-minded but focused

IN today’s world, we need to have this combination of traits. We need to be tolerant to the ever growing variety and plurality of ideas, lifestyles and cultures. At the same time, we should avoid getting lost and be clear of where we are heading.

Our usual problem is that we tend toward the opposite—we are intolerant and inflexible to the different elements cropping up in our society, as well as vague and clueless as to what our goals are. The result can only be disaster.

This predicament is part of our human condition that is now writ large, stretched to dramatic proportions, because of the continuing breaking into new frontiers of human knowledge and experience driven by our powerful technologies.

We are at once spiritual and corporeal, individual and social, in time and in eternity, local and global, with our own human nature but also with a supernatural goal. We need to be aware of these dimensions, know their implications and learn to be skilled in handling and integrating them together.

The very first thing to do is to be anchored on God, our Creator and Father, who is the source of all the good things we ought to have. This is a serious statement, not just a pious one, meant to decorate or deodorize our condition. God is what stabilizes us, gives us the right focus even as we get exposed to all sorts of predicaments.

God gives us the absolute truths about our existence as well as the guide in cruising the tricky waters of our modern world.

We have to overcome that childish attitude many of us have toward God, consisting of regarding God mainly in a sentimental, emotional way, quite hollow and not supported by doctrine and truth of our faith, and much less, by virtues and a vibrant spiritual and moral life.

We have to understand that without this indispensable condition, we would just be launching ourselves into empty space, perhaps regaled by the many alluring things we can meet there, but obviously lost. Worse, we can be taken advantage of by the lawless forces there.

It is actually with God that we can manage to be both open-minded and focused, know how to dance with the different tunes along the way without losing the ultimate song of our life.

Remember some words of St. Paul that show how with God he can do all things and how he can adapt himself to all kinds of conditions such that he can be all things to all men. Here they are:

¨I know both how to be brought low and how to abound, both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all these things in him who strengthens me.¨ (Phil 4,12-13)

“To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I became all things to all men, that I might save all.¨ (1 Cor 9,22)

It´s when we are with God and involved in the concerns of God over us that we can easily adapt to any situation and can actually do all things. This is obviously no easy thing to achieve, but neither is it impossible.

We just have to learn to have a vital contact with God by praying, offering sacrifices, learning the doctrine of our faith, developing virtues and waging an abiding ascetical struggle, availing of the sacraments, etc. All these comprise the way to be with God.

Again, our usual problem is that all our affirmations of our faith largely remain the level of intentions. They are not translated into action, into a lifelong program that assures us that we can be with God whatever the situation we find ourselves in.

If we are truly with God, then we would know how to take on any situation without getting lost or distracted, able to live the requirements of truth and charity. We would know how to be flexible, creative and inventive to reach our true goal.

We can have the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit, for example, that at these times are keenly felt to be necessary. These, as our Catechism tells us, are ¨permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.¨ (1830)

These gifts are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. These are what enable us to know when to be patient and impatient, to be tolerant and intolerant, to move and to stop, etc.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tact, discretion, naturalness

THESE virtues, it seems, are now emerging to be in great demand these days, especially in the sphere of social media where more and more people are realizing how tricky and treacherous the waters can be in that ocean.

The advent of Facebook and Twitter has surfaced another great challenge to all of us, one that should be understood well, tamed and dominated, and then used in a way proper to our dignity as persons, social beings, and ultimately children of God.

At the moment, there is still that pervading sense of curiosity, fascination and novelty that these electronic facilities cause in us, and without being adequately prepared as to how to use them, we plunge into them, not knowing exactly where they are going to lead us.

It’s an intoxicating condition that leaves behind all kinds of effects, from the amusing to the absurd, from the pleasant to the painful, from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the informative to the frivolous, etc.

While these electronic facilities give us wonderful benefits—imagine, you get in touch with long lost friends, classmates in grade school, and relatives, etc.—we also need to be wary of their many, more subtle dangers that lurk behind their advantages.

For one, we can waste a lot of time there, tempted to let down our guard and expose ourselves to all sorts of dangerous possibilities, prodded to be so tongue-loose as to be gossipy and petty, and a long etcetera.

This is not being paranoid. This is rather being prudent, discerning, forewarned and prepared since this avenue of human communication also has a stiff price that we should be ready to pay.

This concern should not be taken as a wet blanket. Rather, it should be stimulus to acquire the necessary attitude and skills, virtues and competencies, we need to be a master and not a slave of these technologies.

We have to realize that they can be good and can help us to be better for those who are basically good, and bad and can become worse for those whose intentions and ways are not clear. With them, the improvement or deterioration can go at accelerating speed.

Of course, the usual tension, if not open conflict, between the forces of good and evil continue to play out, with greater drama and suspense, in this new wide arena of human experience. We have to learn how to play the game well, with a clear game plan in mind.

Thus, we need to learn the ways of tact, discretion and naturalness. These put reason and good taste at least in our exchanges. These may already be a lot, but actually a lot more are needed.

For these virtues to flower, we need to have clear criteria, good conscience, skills in delicacy, sense of timing, abiding interest in others. A good grounding on the ultimate truths about ourselves which we get from our faith and beliefs should be constantly pursued.

Otherwise, we would just be left with our subjective opinions, relying more on the shifting trends of fashion and the social, cultural and political conditions. We would easily fall into the trap of relativism, where nothing absolute is kept other than one´s own views.

Our conscience, which is where we are supposed to hear the voice of God, should be in tiptop form. This takes place when we always manage to pray always, to be in the presence of God, to purify our intentions and fill our mind and heart with good things for God and the others.

Also, we need to cultivate a continuing interest in others, always trying to understand them, to know why they speak and act the way they do and empathize with them.

This way, even if they may be wrong in something, we would know how to approach them. Also, even if we can not help but clash because of differences in character, temperament, views, culture, age, etc.. we would know how to handle the situation.

For sure, there are times, when we really have to clash because of fundamental differences in faith and beliefs and the morals that flow from them. In this case, we should not be afraid to collide, but doing it as charitably as we can.

We have to know which things are of absolute value that should not be compromised, and which of relative value that can be relinquished or dispensed with. Toward this end, we obviously need ongoing formation. We have to be wary of the tendency to be complacent in this regard.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Culture of adoration

WE need to cultivate this culture. I mean, to cultivate it with a sense of urgency, of having to make up for lost time. We have been remiss of this fundamental aspect of our life, and look at what we are having now. We are increasingly estranged from God.

Adoration is the primal attitude we ought to have, if we want to remain faithful and true to our identity not only as God’s creatures but also as God’s children. This is what our Catechism affirms—

“Adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his Creator. It exalts the greatness of the Lord who made us and the almighty power of the Savior who sets us free from evil.” (CCC 2628)

In short, an abiding attitude of adoration, regardless of what we may doing at a given moment, makes us always united to God and converts all our activities into God’s work and not just our own.

Adoration is our way of entering into a life with God, which is what our life is all about. It’s a shared life, not just our own life. Thus, failing in that duty, we have no other possibility but to miss the boat, regardless of our brilliant performances in our earthly life.

Adoration is never an idle activity, completely useless and irrelevant especially to our very active life now. As the Catechism says, “Human life finds its unity in the adoration of the one God. The commandment to worship the Lord alone integrates man and saves him from an endless disintegration.” (2114)

It sharpens our concern for others, rather than separate us from them. “One cannot adore God without loving all men, his creatures.” (650) More, “the worship of the one God sets man free from turning in on himself, from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the world.” (2097)

Our predicament is that we have been so wrapped up in ourselves that we have all but forgotten God and the duty we have to develop that relationship. It’s a self-absorption that is continually maintained through our worldly affairs.

Any reference of God likely falls along formalistic lines. There’s hardly any strand of truth to it. It’s just but a show.

This is, of course, unfortunate since without this fundamental attitude in place, our whole life would be handicapped, if not compromised. And the freefall to separation, alienation and then to hostility against God and everything about him, begins.

We need God’s grace for this to happen. But we can always assume that that grace is always given, and in abundance, since God has done everything, all the way to sending his Son who became man and ultimately died on the cross, to redeem us. He is unstinting of his grace.

The problem area is our own correspondence to that grace. For us to reciprocate to this boundless goodness of God, we need to be humble, and that is very difficult to do. Pride is our permanent enemy that we carry within ourselves. So the fight against it in all its forms, especially the subtle ones, should be relentless.

Again, this is what the Catechism says about the need to be humble to be able to adore—“To adore God is to acknowledge, in respect and absolute submission, the nothingness of the creature who would not exist but for God. To adore God is to praise and exalt him and to humble oneself…” (2097)

We need to pause and check ourselves to see if this humility is still functioning in our life. There are indications that it is going extinct, what with all the drive for purely worldly objectives. We have to reverse this rush to madness.

We have to find time to reflect and be recollected, to enter into some indescribable communion with God which is always possible, what with all the sacraments and his word and his Church made available to us.

I suggest that we spend some time, not really a lot, getting into a purely adoration mode, perhaps in front of the Blessed Sacrament in a church or adoration chapel. This can truly recover our true spiritual bearing.

Try meditating beautiful prayers and hymns, like the Adoro te devote of St. Thomas Aquinas, dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament. The lines just spring from a heart full of faith and love—

“Adoro te devote / latens Deitas… Hidden here before me, Lord, I worship you… / Seeing, touching, tasting, these are all deceived / Only through the hearing can it be believed…

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bigotry or insanity?

THE issue is not immediately relevant to us, but though it is Californian or American, it has treacherous global implications that can affect us sooner or later. And so we just have to make some comments on it as it is evolving at the moment.

I am of the opinion that we need to react now to avoid this complicated development to reach our shores. We cannot deny that its dangerous seeds are already sown in our society. It is part of the culture of death that the late Pope John Paul warned us about.

I’m referring to a recent decision of an American judge to overturn the so-called Proposition 8 that bans same-sex unions in California. This proposition was put to a plebiscite before, and it won.

In fact, in all the 31 states where this issue was put to a vote, no state voted for “gay marriage.” Every single one of them reaffirmed the true nature of marriage.

Now, a judge wants to strike down the state law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. In a brazen act of judicial activism, he is redefining marriage based on an ideological reasoning.

In his argument, he said that the “ability to marry” is a fundamental right that cannot be denied to gays and lesbians. This is diametrically opposed to historical evidence where societies have always made some restrictions to this “ability to marry.”

As in, one may not marry your own sibling, nor marry several spouses at the same time, etc.

There are many valid reasons why marriage has to be regulated. Foremost among those should be the obvious natural truth that marriage is meant for couples to have children, and this can only happen between a man and a woman.

The nature of marriage does not depend on the subjective feelings and preferences of the parties involved. It has an objective, absolute and universal basis.

Of course, in real life, this objective basis may not be fully appreciated by different people in different cultures and circumstances. But there has always been a consensus that it has to be between a man and a woman. Same-sex unions have largely been seen as abnormal.

Several pro-same-sex union commentators were quick to declare that with this judge’s ruling, bigotry has been smashed, obviously referring to the Christian understanding of marriage.

One noted that the judge’s decision faulted Proposition 8 banning gay marriages for violating the rule on due process and equal protection under law. I consider these claims as alibis.

For sure, everyone is entitled to his opinion. I prefer to see the whole development not as bigotry on the part of those who are not in favor of same-sex unions, but as a step toward legal insanity.

Insanity is never a matter of a lack of reason. An insane person thinks and reasons a lot, except that his logic is detached from reality.

And when a legal system confines itself solely within reason, of the social type more than the metaphysical, and fails to anchor itself on an ultimate source of truth, as in faith and beliefs, then it is likely to lapse into legal insanity.

Its understanding of due process and equal protection under the law, while formally commendable, will suffer a basic infirmity that can easily be manipulated by ideologues pursuing some private agenda.

This has happened many times in many places and in different episodes of history. We have to be wary of these tendencies that come as a result when the moral and spiritual foundations of a society weaken.

We need to be discerning of the dangerous trends our current world, especially involving the more developed but decadent countries. We have to be quick to read the signs of the times, and ready to wage a battle of love and truth to correct emerging anomalies.

An abominable danger we should all be careful about is when our legal system makes itself an absolute source of its own power, authority and wisdom. We become the most pitiable creatures in the universe when we allow this disorder to reign over us.

When law and justice have no deeper foundations than our own understanding of things, our own preferences, our own historical, cultural and social conditionings, with no recognition of a higher source of wisdom, then we truly would be in profound trouble.

This is legal positivism, pure and simple, a very funny if most painful predicament, where we can have very sophisticated laws, thoroughly developed and elaborated, but resting ultimately on a vacuum.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Going beyond human limits

A MOST interesting passage in St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians is very relevant to us given, on the one hand, our limitations, mistakes, failures and sins, and on the other, our exacting spiritual and supernatural goals that require heroic efforts.

It’s the following: “Strength is made perfect in weakness. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the strength of Christ may dwell in me. Wherefore I am satisfied, for Christ’s sake, with infirmities, with insults, with hardships, with persecutions, with distresses. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (9-10)

Of course, we need to understand this truth very well, which is of a highly spiritual and supernatural nature, and spread it as widely as possible, since many of us can be wallowing in the cesspool of difficulties and led to the brink of despair, with no idea of how to get out of it.

We have to slowly but surely explain not only the wisdom but also the practicability of this truth. We need to empower ourselves with this wonderful reality that’s actually very accessible if only we know how.

The secret, for sure, is to have faith, the kind that can truly move mountains. It’s a gift God gives to us to which we should also learn how to correspond.

It’s a gift that has clear doctrinal substance found in the gospel and authoritatively taught by the Church as well as elaborated in Christian tradition and in Christian philosophy and theology.

That task is to go through the relevant doctrine, letting it sink deeper into our consciousness and flower in attitudes, habits and virtues. We need to receive a continuing influx of the doctrinal impulses to facilitate the work of grace in us.

There are many gospel passages containing Christ’s words and example that reinforce our faith in this truth. That Christ gives preferential treatment to those who are ill, weak and broken, that he gives rest to those who are over-overburdened, etc., are reassurances we are dealing here with reality, not fantasy.

His words articulating the beatitudes—Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, who are meek, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, are merciful, etc., indicate how our lowliness and weakness can be the path to our salvation. They contradict the usual tendencies of our overly human wisdom.

These values and lifestyles that spring from them can be seen in the lives of Christ, the apostles, the saints and many holy men and women through the years and even of today.

A quick look at their lives reveals a certain kind of invincibility that they enjoyed in spite of or because of their weaknesses. Christ achieved the redemption of humanity through his death on the cross. St. Paul has a beautiful description of this reality:

“Though he was by nature God, Jesus did not consider being equal to God a thing to be clung to, but emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave and being made like unto men. And appearing in the form of man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even to death on a cross.” (Phil 2,6-8)

St. Paul himself boasted of his difficulties and suffering. He was imprisoned, scourged, exposed to death, etc., saying that “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that concern my weakness.” (2 Cor 11,30)

Fact is there are many people around us who go through this divine logic in their hour of weakness and suffering. If we humbly accept our limitations and mistakes, we would find it easier to go Christ, to ask for forgiveness and help.

Besides, such attitude of itself attracts divine attention. A psalm expresses this truth this way: “The Lord is near to those who are of contrite heart. He will save the humble of spirit. Many are the afflictions of the just. But out of them all will the Lord deliver them.” (34,18)

It’s always with a humble and contrite heart that enables us to receive God’s grace. It’s with this heart that converts weakness into strength, and fans the fire of spiritual growth.

We have to be wary of our tendency to seek purely human means to tackle our various predicaments. We cannot rely solely on a lucky strike of our natural endowments of intelligence and character, nor of things like pills and potions, physical exercises, diets or psychological conditionings.

While these elements are always useful, they would be nothing but sources of danger without the support of our spiritual and supernatural source of strength.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mirroring the holy

IT´S good that many people nowadays are concerned about ecology. That´s an improvement in sensibility. Time was when the average guy paid no attention to ecological matters. Times have definitely changed, for the better.

Let´s do everything to develop this care for the environment to its maximum potential, increasing our scientific knowledge about our world, purifying it of false data that often are presented as gospel truths, and cultivating the corresponding attitudes and skills.

We have to always sharpen our ability to properly manage our surroundings, ever thoughtful of how things are developing and helping everybody else to cultivate the right attitude. In this area, things can be very challenging. But they are not impossible.

Perhaps, what can still make things perk up is to expand that ecological sense to include not only climatic and environmental concerns, but also and more importantly, moral and spiritual interests.

This part of ecology, let´s remind ourselves, is in fact the most crucial since it goes direct to the very heart of our human development. In this regard, we have to be most eager to attain the skill to be able to mirror to everyone around us what is genuinely true, good and beautiful.

This can be summarized as the ability to mirror the holy, sanctity being the tally of all these qualities. We create the most ideal environment when our mind and heart reflect God´s goodness whatever may be the views, positions and situations we may have in life.

We have to remember that our mind and heart have God as their proper, ultimate object, and because of God, also the others. Our minds and hearts should be filled with thoughts and desires to please God and the others. This is how we mirror the holy and create a good environment fit for all of us as children of God.
We would be misusing if not abusing these spiitual powers of ours if we engage them with something else, especially with our own interests and concerns alone. Besides, such misuse would most likely lead to painful divisions.

We should not get lost in our differences and conflicts with respect to our temporal or earthly affairs. While these differences and conflicts cannot be avoided, we can always manage to be good and understanding to one another. This is of course possible only if we manage to refer things to God.

Of course, we have to do all this with naturalness and discretion, avoiding attracting unnecessary attention and creating inhuman ways and lifestyles. Just the same, we should not shy from this constant effort to emit goodness everywhere.

Christ himself knew how to show his divinity, among others, through the miracles he performed. But amazing as the miracles were, he tried to be discreet about them by telling the persons involved not to announce the miracles to the public but rather to report to the priests. Of course, we know that many of these people went out announcing the miracles to all.

In spite of being misunderstood, Christ kept his goodwill to all, resorting to his righteous anger only when he had to declare what was morally wrong with the people´s behavior.

The example of St. Paul can also shed light as to how we ought to mirror the holy. He reached the point of saying that the people, we, should be followers of him as he was a follower of Christ. (cfr 1 Cor 11,1)

In another occasion, he boldly told the Thessalonians that he was giving them a pattern for them to imitate. (2 Thes, 3,9). He was not ashamed to put himself the model for everyone to follow.

There´s a need to cultivate this attitude. Sad to say, many succumb to the false sense of humility of not wanting to be a model of holiness for the others. And yet, irony of ironies, many crave to be an idol to the others insofar as good looks or fashion or sport accomplishments are concerned. In these areas, they can be very daring and shameless.

With all the confusing elements of our modern world, we have to convince ourselves that we need to mirror the holy, that such responsibility is not only possible but also practicable, complete with the sense of modesty we would like to have in fulfilling it.

In a business meeting, for example, where some contentious issues would be discussed, the duty to mirror the holy can mean having a firm grip on the emotions so that the discussion can stick to the essential aspects without getting stranded in the hot incidentals.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Our body is for love

I WAS happy to learn that recently a national congress on the theology of the body, the first of its kind, was organized in the US. This, I believe, has crucial importance to all of us—for our life and for forming the right attitude toward our body and everything material in our life.

It is my opinion that something like this has to reach our shores. We need it urgently. The deformation of our attitude toward this aspect of our life is massive and deep.

For years now, I think that there has been a growing misunderstanding of the role of our body and the material world in general in our life. The error may not be the result of deliberate effort, but rather of a certain inertia generated from an incomplete knowledge of the material world.

This is actually a common phenomenon in our life. If we fail to be continually vigilant, if we fail to detect deviations from their beginnings, we can end up in time with monstrous mistakes that started with something good and correct.

Our attitude toward the body and the material world, I am afraid, has suffered a dangerous mutation, a radical reversal of God’s designs for them. We seem to be falling into two extremes.

One is to consider the body as completely evil, as when the distinction between the body and the soul becomes exaggerated that they by nature become hostile to each other. This mindset is prevalent among those who may be regarded as too spiritual in their life.

The other extreme, the more common one, is to consider the body as completely good, with no more need for spiritual animation and direction. This is the case of a variety of people—the hedonists, the naturalists, etc.

While there is a distinction between the body and the soul, between the material and the spiritual realities of our life, we should not forget that both make up our nature. They cannot and should not be separated.

Our Catechism teaches that: “The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual…The human body shares in the dignity of the ‘image of God’…

“Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world…He is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.”

It is important that all of us acquire a proper understanding of the world of our flesh and the whole material reality. We have to be quick to recognize their original goodness, since they all come from God, as well as the distortions that came and continue to come as a result of our sins.

What is crucial is that we know how to enter our body and the material world into the dynamics of divine love that is supposed to characterize our life here on earth and, of course, beyond.

The theology of the body, ably systematized by the late Pope John Paul II based on what is revealed in the Gospel and developed in Church tradition, etc., will show how the body has been designed by God for this purpose.

It takes into consideration our body’s original state of goodness and its fallen, wounded nature after sin for which the pathways for its redemption were given to us by Christ.

Here we will see how the language of divine love for our body necessarily involves the character of gift, which is actually a sacrifice that involves self-denial and the whole reality of the cross as dramatized by Christ himself.

The theology of the body definitely deserves to be taught as widely as possible, given the current situation where there seems to be a rush toward a body cult without the animation of faith and charity. It’s pure unredeemed flesh in all its raging wildness and lawlessness!

On the one hand, there’s a lot of vanity and arrogance, the so-called concupiscence of the flesh. On the other, we can have a spirituality that knows next to nothing about the entire reality of our flesh—a disembodied spirituality.

We should all recognize the indispensable role played by Christ’s cross, the whole scope of the spirit of sacrifice, that puts our flesh in its proper place—in profound humility and “extravagant” desire to love the way Christ loves us.

We should always feel the edge of the cross so that our body behaves as it should!