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.