Sunday, February 27, 2011

Creation revisited

WE are now a world of extremely increasing fluidity. We are now a dizzying, warp-speed flux of intergenerational and intercultural tension. The latest and random sign, as far as I am concerned, is that we have such phenomenon as Justin Bieber, a piece of boy whose singing prowess has mesmerized the kids, which I understand but cannot explain why.

There are far more serious cases of gaps and divides among different age groups, social classes, etc., elsewhere. Niches are multiplying with such velocity and classification that, frankly, I believe we are losing our sense of unity and solidarity among ourselves.

It seems that now we are left on our own with hardly any sense of common good that we should all pursue together. That maybe an exaggerated statement. Yes, we can have an idea of common good, but it´s an idea that is increasingly individualistic.

And that´s the reason why I think it is necessary to revisit basic truths about ourselves. Among these fundamentals is that we are creatures. We did not come to exist simply on our own, in a spontaenous way, from nowhere. We have been created, and there is a Creator, who is God.

Alas, this truth about our creation, while supported by science, is more a truth of faith than of pure human reasoning. This only shows that our life and existence embrace not only the material dimension, but also the spiritual and, in fact, the supernatural dimension. Our human sciences and reason cannot enter this level without the help of faith.

It is our Christian faith that teaches us that everything is created by God. Everything comes from him and belongs to him. Everything has been created out of love, that is, to share in the goodness of God. This is a crucial truth because, as a corollary, we need to develop the awareness that everything we are, have and do has to be related to God.

Also, that creation means there´s an order, law and purpose in everything. Things just don´t happen without a meaning, even if we have to factor in our human freedom that can go anywhere.

God´s creation of the whole universe, including us especially, is not a one-shot deal, but ends with the creatures starting to exist. It´s an ongoing, never-ending affair between God and the creatures, because what is involved in existence itself. For as long as something exists, God is always in that creature, shaping it according to the nature given it.

In our case, since we have been made in the image and likeness of God, and thus, we are persons not just something, creatures who can think and will and love, God deals with us not in an automatic way like he does with purely material creatures, but rather respecting the way we are, with our intelligence and free will.

We are supposed to correspond knowingly and willingly to God´s love for us, to his will and plans. This is how we ought to behave with God. We just cannot ignore him, nor consider him as an optional item in our life. There is a certain necessity for us to deal with him, but a necessity that is infused thoroughly with freedom and love, because we want to.

We have to arrive at that conviction, and not remain just floating around and drifting wherever the wind of passion and fashion may blow us. We have to deepen and strengthen our knowledge about the truth of our creation so we can act properly on its endless consequences.

Away with the attitude that this concern about the truth of our creation affects only a few. It affects all. It has an abiding relevance. It can never fall obsolete. In fact, we need everyday to renew our appreciation of this truth. Let´s be wary of the ideological spins distorting the truth of our creation.

Thus, discussion about this truth, especially mining its practical implications, should not be confined to specialized journals. It should be done openly, making use of the media, so that the media also can be a real tool for true human development. Otherwise, the media will just be swallowed up by prosaic, shallow realities, a danger the media faces today.

Another valuable insight is that since we are intelligent and free beings, we are therefore a moral creature capable of both good and bad things. Thus, the moral evil in this world is not outside of God´s original design for us. It´s part, and God knows how to handle it, but always with our cooperation.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The apostles and our faith

CHRISTIAN faith is first of all a divine, supernatural gift that comes to us with God’s grace. But since it is meant for us, then it is adapted to our human condition. In fact, it also has to be humanized, to be freely taken up by us to be our own, and cared for, developed and cultivated just like anything else in our life.

And so as a divine and human affair, it is at once spiritual and moral, eternal and historical, complete and yet needing to grow, mystical and down-to-earth. We need to learn how to cruise in this kind of fluidity that characterizes our faith. We need to take up the challenge, and develop the appropriate attitudes and skills.

This is not an easy thing to do. But neither is it impossible. It’s good that precisely because of our faith, we know that the Church itself guides us on how to take care of our faith. We are not just on our own, left to our own devices. As our Catechism says, “No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone.” (166)

And within the Church, we can find not only the Pope, the bishops and priests, who preach the faith to us, but also an array of experts in the different fields that can help us understand and live our faith better. Let´s be more aware of this reality and take advantage of it.

Part of that human and historical aspect of our faith is that it has to be apostolic. That simply means that our Christian faith has to abide by the faith of the apostles, who were the direct witnesses and first recipients of Christ’s teaching.

More than that, the apostles proved to have the right understanding of faith, as can be gleaned in that gospel episode when our Lord asked his apostles who do people think the Son of Man was.

Let’s reprise the dialogue. From Matthew 16, we have this dramatic scene, “And you,” Jesus asked the apostles, “who do you say that I am?” “You are the Messiah,” Simon Peter answered, “the Son of the living God!”

Jesus replied, “Blest are you, Simon son of John! No mere man has revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. I for my part declare to you, you are ‘Rock,’ and on this rock I will build my church, and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it.

“I will entrust to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatever you declare loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

It’s good that we bring to the secular press some words of the gospel, because the secular world which focuses more on our mundane, earthly and temporal affairs is always in need of God and his word.

We have to distinguish between the secular and the secularized. The latter thinks God has no place in the secular world of business, politics, etc. It considers the world as totally on its own, to be governed entirely by men with no reference to God at all. This is dangerous to us.

If we look closely at the words of the gospel quoted above, we can see that Peter’s affirmation of who Christ was, was a fruit of grace. “No mere man has revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” The faith of Peter is the faith given by God and correctly received and affirmed by Peter.

This is the faith that is shared with the apostles and transmitted to the successors of Peter and the apostles, namely, the Popes and the bishops. This is the faith of the Church. Our personal faith has to embody the faith of the Church. Again we need to be aware of this, and the practical consequences that flow from it.

We have to study the doctrine now taught by the Church, making it flesh of our flesh so that our faith does not remain ideas and words alone but turned into life itself. We have to understand that the doctrine of our faith has the capacity to infuse in us the life of God. Let´s allow it to effect its real purpose in life.

So, we should not remain hearers only of the doctrine, but doers also, always looking first at the example of the apostles who, being very simple people, became great men and saints precisely because of their faith!

Monday, February 21, 2011

God, sincerity and hypocrisy

IT’S about time we review this crucial relationship between God and our capacity to stick to the truth or to distort it.

Nowadays, with the plethora of data and information, we have to remind ourselves constantly that truthfulness is not a matter of simply conforming these data and pieces of information to our own designs. We need to process these raw data to leaven them with the love of God and submit them to God’s will.

To put it bluntly, we can only be in the truth when we are with God. Outside of him, let’s wish ourselves sheer luck, because the most likely thing to happen is to slip from the truth. It´s like chasing the wind. For all the excitement and advantages a Godless pursuit of truth gives, everything will just turn out to be vanity.

And so, prayer is a must. It’s what vitally, existentially unites us with God. Without it, we will just be on our own, an easy prey to our own weaknesses, let alone, the temptations around.

Very vulnerable to the temptation to distort the truth and to fall into the tricks of hypocrisy and pretension are persons endowed and favored with all sorts of talents, intelligence, position, power and who may already have attained a good level of sanctity. That’s because their situation attracts all sorts of temptations.

We have to be more aware of this phenomenon and able to handle it. Even Christ himself was tempted by the devil to deviate from his Father’s will. And the devil employed the subtlest of tricks, even quoting Scripture, to bend Christ to the devil’s will. The devil will always reserve the worst strategy to those who dare to get close to God.

Thus, those of us who try our best to follow God should not be surprised when the most “irresistible” temptations come to us not only from time to time, but even persistently. We somehow should expect this thing to happen, and be ready for it.

Cases of the most rotten clerical abuses that have emerged in recent years only lend credence to this assertion. Even among the apostles, one betrayed Christ, because in the end he was not sincere. He pursued his own game plan, not God’s will.

Let’s remember that the devil can appear to us as an angel of light. We need to be extremely discerning, a skill that is first of all a fruit of grace, then honed up by a consistent personal effort to deal with God, and to avail of all the means, like spiritual direction and confession, to put us firmly within the sphere of truth.

We should avoid giving an inch to the temptation to be insincere, because that inch in no time becomes a foot, and from there it can only grow cancerous unless drastically stopped. We really need to be savagely and brutally sincere with God, with ourselves and with others.

For this, a lot of sacrifice is needed, a lot of effort to grapple with our pride is a must. I am moved to read in the gospel about that father of the boy possessed by the deaf and dumb devil. When Christ asked him whether he had faith, he readily cried out, “I believe, Lord, but help my unbelief.” (Mk 9)

The father of the possessed boy knew he had faith, but that faith needed to grow more, for which he confessed his inability. It’s a predicament that can easily be ours, since it is common. Faith is a dynamic thing. It needs to grow. Our problem is that at a certain point we tend to say, enough.

We should always acknowledge our limitations, weakness, faults and mistakes. Recognizing them is the first step in the journey to reach the truth about ourselves and about others.

May we never be proud as to turn a blind eye to the negative elements in our life. We would lose the chance to ask for forgiveness and for grace, and to spur us to action. Sincerity requires action. It just cannot be a kind of blissful idleness in the thought we are not doing anything wrong. To be sincere always involves struggle, battle, warfare.

Let´s learn to be identify the things we need to give up in order to identify ourselves more and more with Christ, the very foundation and measure of truth and reality.

Sincerity in the end and always is a religious affair, and not just a personal, social or political concern. We need to realize this deeply.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

We need some forcefulness

NOT violence, not obsession, but a certain forcefulness that helps us to grow properly and care for one another. That´s what we need. This is clear in our human and natural conditions, both in our personal and social aspects. And if we have to consider our ultimate supernatural goal, then this forcefulness becomes even more necessary.

Remember that gospel parable about a man who invited guests to a banquet. Those invited did not come, and made all sorts of excuses. So the man asked his servants to invite ¨the poor and maimed and blind and lame.¨ And when there was still space, the man asked his servants to go to the highways and hedges and to compel people to come in. (cfr Lk 14, 15-24)

This is the famous parable where the Latin expression ¨compelle intrare¨ is used. Literally it means, compel them to enter. The other parallel parables softened it to ¨call them to come in¨ or ¨invite them in.” But we cannot deny that after being rebuffed by the original invited guests, the man had to use certain forcefulness to fill up his well-prepared banquet.

This is an image of how eager our Lord wants us to be with him. He uses a certain forefulness that obviously will also respect the way we are, with our intelligence and free will. We are persons not objects nor animals.

When God wants us to be with him, he wants that we also have to want to be with him. This is the language of love. Love and freedom have their innate forcefulness.

We actually cannot avoid using some forcefulness. Even with our own selves, we have to use it, because if not then we would be totally dominated by our laziness, softness, fear, doubts. Right at the start of the day, when we have to get up, we have to use force, and that little daily task can require heroic efforts, both mental and physical.

It´s true that as we age, our physical strength can wane, but not the power of the mind nor of the will. In these latter two faculties, which are our spiritual powers, there´s no such thing as aging, unless we entirely submit them to the law of our physical life. Especially with the grace of God, they can go on gaining scope and depth.

So in theory, because of our spiritual nature, we can go on living. This is the natural basis for our immortality, that capacity to continue living even after our death. But since we are a unity of body and soul, of something material and spiritual, we always experience a certain tension within ourselves which we try to bear by using some forcefulness.

Besides, with our weakened condition because of sin, ours and those of others, plus the historical accumulation of sin´s effects, we have no choice but to use forcefulness if only to survive as a person and as a child of God.

Thus, our Lord told us, ¨From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force.¨ (Mt 11,12) Ergo, we really have to train ourselves to be strong and fit for life´s continuing struggle as we journey toward heaven.

Then there´s that social or apostolic duty we also have that needs forcefulness. We have to continually remind ourselves that we are responsible for one another. We came to life because of our parents. We grow and develop because of the help we get from others. We cannot avoid being with others. Then we realize we also have to do things for others.

But our responsibility toward others should not stay only in the level of our physical and natural needs. It goes all the way to helping others in their spiritual needs. We have to pound this truth more hardly into our head, since our tendency is to take the easy route and languish in the material and shallow aspects.

For this, we have to be strong-willed and patient as well as flexible. We cannot afford to be easily affected by the usual and understandable difficulties when dealing with others, especially those who are close to us.

Everyday, we need to grow in fortitude, exercising our mind and will to do whatever is needed to reach our ultimate goal. There´s obviously a learning curve to go through, but let´s be undaunted.

In a way, we have to echo the line that in love as in war, all is fair. We have to be single-minded and determined!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Low road to freedom, rights, etc.

I’VE said it many times before that I’m already tired commenting on issues like population control, birth control and family planning that are now rehashed by the term reproductive health (RH), and even more lately, by the deodorized term, responsible parenthood.

To me, the right and wrong of these issues, their good and bad points insofar as their morality is concerned are quite clear. But since, some people continue in their bullheadedness to blur the line, I just have to drag myself to life again to contribute to the debate with some clarifications.

Thus, reactions of feminist groups on the recent statement of the bishops about the RH Bill have roused me again to some action. A letter by a feminist spokesperson a few days ago just managed to do just that.

As usual, the letter tries hard to sound nice, reasonable and fair. But it cannot hide for long the venom that inspired it. In the end, it said that with or without the bishops, the feminists will win this revolution about their so-called rights and freedom to do whatever they want to do with their bodies in so far as RH is concerned.

What pride and arrogance! I was expecting that, of course, from the start of their letter. The wild feminist obstinacy unfortunately continues. And the main reason is that they see things differently.

For them, bishops can only meddle in issues like the RH Bill. If they have their way, they gag the bishops to silence. They have branded the bishops as nothing less than ‘moralists,’ a term they love to hate. Worse, it’s a given that since bishops are men, they cannot fully understand women’s concerns.

That’s because in their worldview, things should just have to depend on what is popular, practical, convenient, political, social, economic, cultural, personal, or simply what they want to prefer, feminist or macho-leaning, etc. Out with the faith and morals, out with Church interventions.

They like to paint themselves as democratic, and this is how they show it. They don’t listen to the bishops, they refuse to tackle what the bishops have to offer, and that can only distinctively be considerations of faith and morals.

The bishops have no other interest, although what they offer obviously have many human implications and consequences, political, economic, social, etc. Their voice simply tries to convey the voice of God, insofar as God’s will impacts on our human affairs.

If these feminists, who like to brand themselves also as Christians, try to study their Christian faith, they will realize that the authority of the bishops comes from Christ through the apostles and their successors.

I wonder what authority these feminists have. Obviously, they will claim theirs comes from the people. But the power of the people to hand some authority to certain leaders, where does it come from?

Alas, this, I think, is the real problem we have. Many of us have practically lost our faith. Many of us have ceased to be believers of God and have turned to be self-believers.

Instead of the doctrines of our faith, many of us now rely more on our human reasons and estimations of what is good and true. Many of us prefer to be guided by our personal opinions and human consensus, rather than what God and his Church teach us.

Thus, many of us like polls and surveys. These instruments of human views and preferences are now made to replace God’s will, a good part of which is clearly elucidated, as in the Ten Commandments, and many others. One has to be maliciously blind and deaf not to know clearly at least a part of God’s will.

Our freedom and rights are gifts from God. They are not our inventions. They come from God and are meant for God and for our true good. God is their law and substance.

Our freedom and rights are meant to guide us live in love, truth and real justice, even if they, given our weakened human condition, involve suffering. They can only be lived properly if lived in God, and not just by our own estimations of what is good and fair.

What is needed, I think, is a real conversion of heart. And for this, a lot of prayers and sacrifices are needed. We can talk a little, try to offer reasons and arguments, but in the end, we know that conversion is an effect of grace. This is what we should ask God. Let’s hope we can rest from this useless wrangling.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Let’s go Trinitarian

WITH the trend to go increasingly technological that brings with it the increasingly esoteric jargon, I wonder if we can also go increasingly theological that brings it with its own load of increasingly special concepts and language.

I feel that both aspects of our life deserve our attention, since they are actually important, relevant and even crucial. We just have to undertake the appropriate plan of sharing the intricacies of these fields more widely.

This current rapid flow of developments is breeding so many changes in people that it is now said that we are altering our understanding of what generation is. Today, generation is not anymore a matter of one’s age, because even in the same age group, there could be many generations of people.

Besides, given this technology-determining trend of our society today, a generation can include very disparate variety of people in terms of age, background and orientation. Thus, one time I was amused to see a very techie 80-year-old priest feeling at home with teeners with spiked hair, and even speaking in jejemon.

A generation is now any group of people more or less made homogeneous by the level of technological access and knowledge that they possess. It’s a phenomenon that has its good aspects, but definitely also has negative and dangerous tendencies.

In the first place, we still do not know how this phenomenon will develop. There are now many things to consider and learn—the technologies continually pour out new programs--before we can make any intelligent projection of how things will be.

Still, we should not forget that even if we are experiencing a warp-speed kind of changes and developments, we as men continue to be the same, our human nature has a core that does not change.

We need to strengthen that core, or to keep it intact, since as men we, with our intelligence and freedom, are also capable of deforming our own nature. So we need to constantly remind ourselves about basic, indispensable truths about us that we have to promote and protect.

Among these fundamental truths are that we have been created by God in his image and likeness and that with his grace we are made to participate in his very own life.

We are not meant to live by ourselves alone. The purpose and meaning of our life lies in God, not in our own selves. And so we have to see to it that we don’t get detached from God even as we immerse ourselves in the exhilarating world of our own creativity.

Since the life of God is Trinitarian, we need to know how to deal even while here on earth, even while pursuing our exciting earthly affairs, with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This will guarantee that whatever we do here would redound to our authentic good, that they are done with God and for God, and not just for ourselves.

In fact, our life should somehow reflect the Trinitarian character of divine life. God, though absolutely simple and one, is triune. That’s because even though he is one, he is not alone nor idle.

With his eternal dynamic life of knowing and loving, he generates within himself an eternal kind of spiral of relationship of Father, he who knows, the Son, the self-knowledge of God, and the Holy Spirit, the love between the Father and the Son.

These are persons who are consubstantial with each other, that is, each one of them is the fullness of God, and not just a part of God. They cannot be separated from one another. In the very one God, there’s one person who knows, another one who is known, and a third one who is the love. All these acting in eternity, and all at once.

For our life to reflect this Trinitarian life, we need to follow the teaching and example of Christ, the Son of God who became man who revealed to us this mystery of the Blessed Trinity.

Like him, we have to do no other than the will of the Father, and to do it in the Holy Spirit for it to acquire its ultimate eternal value proper to us. This is how our life and all our activities and concerns should be developed.

Perhaps as a guiding formula, we can use the expression: “By the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.” Such motto would also give us ideas of how to deal with each person of the Blessed Trinity, and really live Trinitarian daily, as we ought.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sacrifice, sacrifice

THIS is practically the essence of our life. If it has to have meaning, if it has to reach its perfection, if it has to keep on going strong, our life has to be driven with the motive that it is a sacrifice, an offering, an act of self-giving.

Our life needs to be related to God and to others. It should avoid getting stuck with its own self. That situation would be toxic to our life, even if that would be sweet, as it often is at least for a while. Our life needs God and others to fill it up. It just cannot feed on itself.

For this, we need to cultivate the necessary attitudes, skills and virtues. Are we always praying, relating ourselves to God and to others? Do we see God and souls in the things that we handle, in the varying situations that we find ourselves in?

This is the big challenge we have today. How do we manage to be with God in the middle of our concerns and activities? The answer may well be in developing the lifestyle and mentality of sacrifice.

A lifestyle of sacrifice is what Christ, who is the way, the life and the truth for us, has shown and taught us. It is what is proper to us. From the beginning of time, starting with Adam and Eve, this idea of sacrifice was already inculcated

Our problem is that often our lifestyle and culture are patterned after the tenets of self-indulgence. We may not even be aware of it. We can think that because we have to continually react to our needs and those of the family, we are already making some sacrifice. But the truth is, the moment these needs are somehow satisfied, we readily forget about making sacrifice and self-indulgence takes over.

This self-indulgence can easily come to us because of our weakened, wounded nature that leads us to think that by simply caring for ourselves we would be happy. Our flesh follows this law that has gone astray and been detached from its true foundation. The flesh simply wants pleasure, comfort, convenience, etc. It is blind to the spirit and to the supernatural realities.

That is why we see many people gripped in the vise of hedonism, materialism, commercialism, etc. Sex, food and drinks are where many meet their waterloo. Some have gone to worse things as in drugs and all kinds of addiction. The more clever ones may manage for a while to hide their shenanigans, but truth will out sooner or later.

Many of the youth today are easily held captive by the seemingly irresistible allurements of modern technologies and what they produce—video music, games, etc.—that lead them to neglect many duties, even their basic needs of eating and resting.

We have to do everything to put in place this culture of sacrifice, reassuring everyone that this is actually not only respectful of our nature but rather what enhances our nature, what enriches it and disposes it to enter into the spiritual and supernatural realities to which we are actually called.

In this, we have to do a lot of clarification, because many myths, superstitions and hardened bad habits are preventing many people to understand the true significance of sacrifice in our life. Obviously, this lifestyle of sacrifice has to be developed with naturalness, and even with elegance.

A sacrificial attitude does not necessarily mean having a face contorted in anguish. It can have a cheerful and calm visage. In fact, it should have, as exemplified by Christ himself who went through the sacrifice of his own life in sober and dignified manner.

This attitude should permeate all aspects of life, including our fun, sports and entertainment. A professional singer, a rocker, once told me that whenever he makes an effort to offer this performance to God, trying to be aware of God’s presence, he manages to attain a certain serenity and dominion such that his stage fright disappears and his delivery becomes excellent.

This sacrificial attitude actually gives us a lot of human benefits, let alone, the spiritual ones. It clears our minds, calms our souls, increases our inner strength, cultivates self-dominion. It, of course, identifies us more with Christ on the cross, and thus prepares us for our resurrection, since if we die with him, we will also rise with him.

May every table we happen to use be like an altar where we do our offering of our work and of our own selves to God and to others!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Our life should be liturgical

MANY of us may not be aware of this need yet, much less, are doing something to live it consistently. But our Christian life has to be liturgical, since if Christian life is life with God, then it has to be liturgical since liturgy is where the living Christ offers himself to be with us.

The whole Christ, the Son of God, who became man, born of the Virgin Mary, who taught and made miracles, who suffered, died and was buried, and resurrected on the third day, and ascended into heaven, etc., is there in the liturgy, especially in the sacrament of Holy Eucharist.

He did not become man, shared our human nature and condition except sin, and redeemed us with his death and resurrection, only to have all these events swallowed up in the past. His redemptive work has eternal value, is always in the present. In a sense, with the liturgy we become contemporaries with Christ.

We are not left with a symbol only of Christ in the liturgy. That’s because the sacramental signs used in the liturgy, especially the Eucharistic species, are no ordinary signs that simply point to another reality. In the sacraments, the signs themselves, the matter and form that comprise them, are Christ and his grace.

In the liturgy, man is united with God, time with eternity, earth with heaven. It is the best union we can have with God on earth. In a sense, with it we enter into the most perfect dimension of our life, into the fullest scope of reality. Obviously, we need to be aware of this nature of the liturgy, so we would know how to act and live in it.

The liturgy is a Christ-given reality in our world. It’s not invented by men although it has been entrusted to the Church that is also made up by men with their faults and mistakes.

That is one of our modern tragedies. In spite of our powerful gadgets that facilitate our knowledge of things, our knowledge of the liturgy remains primitive, and often skeptical and contrary to the faith.

But in the liturgy, Christ remains alive and ever intervening in our lives. His work of redemption continues up to now in all its integrity. It did not end with his death, nor reduced to some kind of memory refreshed by rites and rituals.

Christ instituted the sacraments and founded the Church so that his redemptive work continues applying the merits of the offering of his own life so we may have life eternal, the one meant for us.

“I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world,” (Mt 28,20) and “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever,” (Jn 6,51) are some words of Christ that give basis to the nature and character of the liturgy.

The liturgy is not just another level of life and reality. It is meant to suffuse our entire natural life, to connect us to our ultimate source of life and reality. Thus, it is not an escape from reality, or a kind of break or time-out. It is meant to be the very soul of our life and reality itself.

This obviously is a tremendous reality that can overwhelm our human condition. But with God´s grace which never stops pouring on us, plus our own efforts, this reality can be ours, not only in the mind, but also in the flesh.

A lot of catechesis on this truth is needed. A lot of role-modelling too, that effectively blends both the natural and supernatural, the human and divine dimensions of this ideal. This can be done, because this is God´s will in the first place. What´s needed is our abiding, albeit evolving cooperation.

This is no quixotic dream. We actually do not have to do strange and very extraordinary feats. This liturgical life need not be confined only to some special people in some special circumstances. This can be done, in fact, it should be done by everyone.

Obviously a lot of clarifications have to be done. Perhaps as a starter, we can study more deeply the true nature and character of the liturgy and begin to savor its practical consequences.

For example, we have learn to love going to Mass and to make our whole day a kind of organic extension of the Mass, converting whatever tables we work on as an altar for the offering of ourselves. We need to have this mindset.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

RH Bill again!

I´M afraid this is an old dog that refuses to die. For all its pretensions of goodness, practicality, realism, etc., The RH Bill just cannot stand on its own if its morals are to be considered. Because of that, it has lost all its claims for validity. It simply swells with toxic ethos.

I´m happy the bishops have roundly repudiated it in a recent statement, and are planning some street action all over the country to convey a loud and strong message to our public officials who seem to be playing deaf and dumb.

It´s correct that where questions of faith and morals are put to the test, especially in the ridiculous way these are played out in our local political arena, the Church hierarchy should be in the forefront to clarify and to put things in order. All of these should be based on prayers and sacrifice, and the transmission of the relevant doctrine.

They have to do everything, in spite of their limited resources, to do this. Pain and suffering, the cross of Christ that can come in many forms, actually do not hinder things. They actually serve to guarantee the success of a divine mission. So they should not be afraid of the amount of blood, sweat and tears involved.

Of course, together with them should be the laity who share the responsibility of defending these truths of faith and morals. In fact, given the nature of their status in the Church, they should be more prominent in the streets and other forums where these matters are discussed. They don´t play a secondary role. Theirs is as important as that of the clergy.

So it´s a welcome development for me to hear groups of concerned citizens who are actively organizing and promoting various protest actions against this notorious bill, even without direct prodding from the clergy. This is a sign of Christian maturity. I hope this trend continues.

For a long period of time, this bill has been talked about, dissected, analyzed, etc., etc. A lot of dialogue has taken place. And everytime it´s done, the proponents always cannot defend their position in the moral aspect without redefining morality itself.

They can ooze with a plethora of practical reasons. And their strongest point seems to be, ¨what do we do with the poor that are growing in number?¨ Well, if they are truly consistent with their position, I suppose they will end up proposing that we kill the poor, the weak, the old, and other ¨useless¨ citizenry.

The most likely reason why they stop short of that radical, extreme measure is that many of the RH Bill proponents are there mainly for the money. In fact, that view has been expressed a number of times in several encounters with politicians and officials.

There´s a powerful bloc behind all this move, and it seems to gather unlikely partners from both the political right and left who coincide in addressing this so-called problem by practical means that ignore the indispensable moral requirement.

While we should give everyone the benefit of the doubt and accord respect to all, we neither can be naïve to the reality that more than human, as in devious, forces can be at work here. We have to be extra wary of this possibility. Pieces of evidence seem to be emerging.

They have developed a powerful and attractive ideology, again catering to the more practical and shallow aspects of the issues. They have organized themselves quite well, growing in leaps and bounds in many parts of the world, and have generated a massive warchest.

They have established a formidable network of leaders and workers, and continue to proselytize among the prominent sectors of society. They have even won over some religious leaders. They have employed tremendous means like polls and surveys, knowing that while these can give them favorable results, these cannot make what is inherently immoral moral.

So, what´s wrong with the RH Bill? In plain language, it promotes a contraceptive lifestyle that destroys the family and debases the true nature and meaning of human sexuality.

The world´s leading scientific experts have also claimed that artificial contraceptives kill children since many of them do not prevent fertilization. They simply prevent implantation. They also injure women´s health since the pill, for example, causes cancer, as well as stroke, and increases the risk of heart attacks.

Condoms have been found to promote, not stop, the spread of AIDS. Economists also claim the RH Bill is based on wrong economics. We need to expose the myths.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Keeping up with reality

THAT may sound strange to us now, what with all the technologies that give us an abundance of data and information and enable us to cruise in cyberspace in an instant to be practically everywhere in the world.

But unless our grasp of reality is based on God, all this worldly knowledge and wisdom will come to nothing, and can even pose as a danger to us. God is the source of reality. Nothing is real unless it is related to God.

At best, what we would have are sensible and intelligible realities—already exciting and engaging in themselves—but if not related to God, they would lack roots and ultimate purpose, and most likely would just be converted into human tools if not toys used for purely human, natural if not material objectives.

We would have a very partial and poor view of things that often give rise to biases, prejudices and short-term impulses. It’s like going through life very handicapped. Our understanding of life would lack depth and real substance.

The other day while waiting for my plane in the airport, I observed a group of young boys and girls who were creating quite a stir in the place with their presence. They behaved bubbly as can be expected. Many of them had their electronic cameras and were taking pictures of their own selves.

They were well dressed, hip style. Even the boys who looked normal to me, upon closer look, wore light make-up. It seems that’s the trend now. They posed before their own cameras, and how good they were at posing! After each shot, they would look at what they took, and youthful laughter and buzz erupted. Obviously they were having a grand time.

Then the public system announced that the flight was delayed. At once, the smiling faces turned sour and sulky, not only for a while, bur rather for the rest of the waiting period of one hour. Now I saw a different side of their personality. They didn’t look nice to me anymore.

We obviously have many aspects, dimensions, levels and stages in our life, but precisely because of this variety there is a need to unify them. Otherwise, we would not know what would become of us. This unifying element is our ultimate dignity as persons and children of God. We just cannot get stuck in one aspect or dimension or stage.

This innate dignity of ours is what relates us, and everything in us and around us, to God. In short, we would be doing harm to our dignity if we fail to relate ourselves to God by praying, by developing an abiding sense of the presence of God, by continually offering things to him and discerning what his will is for us at any given moment.

If we are just stuck with the physical or material aspect of our activities, or with the social, economic or political factors without relating them to God’s will, then we are falling into our own world, our own reality, perhaps with its highs and all, but just that. We would fail to keep up with the “real” reality meant for us.

Our reality, for sure, cannot just be physical reality, nor can it only be material, social, economic or political. It’s a very dynamic reality, living and consciously in touch with the very creator of that reality. We don’t create that reality. We simply take part of it as consciously and as freely as possible.

If we don’t relate things to God, then our thoughts and behavior would just be ruled by what is convenient, practical, profitable, popular, etc. The finer requirements of justice and charity, mercy and understanding, need for sacrifice, etc. would just be neglected.

I’m sure we have at least some ideas or inklings of these truths about ourselves. We really cannot avoid them completely. Our problem is that we don’t go all the way in living these truths with consistency up to their last consequences and implications.

Even those already committed to work in the vineyard of the Lord have to continue struggling it out, otherwise they cannot help but fall into the tricks of pretension and hypocrisy sooner or later.

There’s need to teach people to pray, to live by faith and not by reason alone, or worse, by guts alone. There’s need to familiarize everyone with the spiritual and supernatural realities meant for us. There’s need to highlight the importance of sacrifice and ascetical struggle, to be realistic in our effort to achieve spiritual growth.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Why the cross, Lord?

I REMEMBER a priest friend of mine asking me one question that I'm sure is also in the mind of many people. “Why does our Lord want us to carry the cross? Why do we have to suffer? Did he create us only to suffer?”

Some years ago, that question also engaged my mind in some torturous exercise. This business of having to suffer simply goes against that primal human desire and need to be happy. That's really what is burning in our heart, isn't it?

We want pleasure, we want comfort and convenience. We want wealth and power, and whatever they are that fascinate our heart, and these can be endless. We are told that in heaven, there will just be bliss, unmitigated joy and goodness that “eyes have not seen, nor ears heard.” Then why do we have to carry the cross?

I believe it is a question that needs to be answered not only adequately, but also repeatedly, giving fresh arguments, pieces of evidence, etc., because we tend to lose sight of the whole picture with which it has to be viewed.

Besides, the question possesses many aspects and side issues that also need to be tackled properly. Given current human and world conditions that handicap deep reflection and wholistic, integrative thinking, this duty to give timely reminders of the entire truth of this matter acquires urgent necessity.

In the gospel, we are encouraged to always give reasons for our hope of the promised supernatural life of eternal happiness with God in heaven. This task faces tremendous challenges and difficulties in view of the continuing flow of hardships that many times lead people now not to look for spiritual and moral solutions, but precisely the opposite.

Nowadays, big parts of the world, especially in the so-called developed countries, are lapsing into a neo-paganism era, where God is not anymore the transcendent Supreme Being but rather we ourselves with our newly acquired power especially in technology.

But indeed, why should there be a cross in our life here on earth?

Offhand, we can say that God for sure did not create us simply to suffer. We were created for joy. That's why every pore of our being just longs for it. In fact, everything that he created, he found it to be good. The creation narrative simply says that very clearly.

The problem is that in our case, and in that of the angels, who were both created spiritual (the angels are pure spirits while we are spirit and body), and therefore intelligent and free, we abused these endowments. We dared, first through our first parents and then us, to detach our freedom from God, its creator and law.

This is how evil entered into our lives, and with it all sorts of suffering and ultimately death. We actually cannot avoid suffering from then on. Evil and suffering in all its forms are self-inflicted by us. It's not what our Lord wants for us, though he took the risk and somehow knew in his omniscience that it would happen.

But precisely because of that he unleashes a much more tremendous display of his power by undertaking a very complicated plan to redeem us in a way fit to our wounded human nature and condition.

We could not argue that if nothing is impossible with God, why then would he not make it easy for us by simply making us anew and completely forgetting the past as if it did not happen.

That would not sit well with our human nature. It would be like annihilating us again into nothingness then make us as a completely new creature. That's like cheating. God does not go back to what he has created. From what has taken place, we will do what is necessary to fix the problem.

To do that, he is showing us how to handle suffering and ultimately death. The Son of God has to become man to assume all the sins of men and with his passion and death and later his resurrection, convert those sins into the basis for a new creature, the new, re-created man in Christ.

For this, there was no other way open to Christ but to suffer death on the cross. And so he wants us to follow him all the way to the cross, since his resurrection and ours could only be attained through it.

There's still a lot more of points to clarify, but for now I think what have been articulated suffice. May we not be afraid of the cross!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Going passionate

TO move toward our human and Christian perfection, not only should we be spiritual, but also we need to go passionate. That’s simply because man is both spiritual and carnal, intellectual and emotional, with passion as the strongest expression of our feelings.

We have to overcome that partial understanding of our humanity that highlights our spiritual aspect at the expense of our bodily dimension. Of course, it is also wrong to go the other way around, to stress the emotional at the expense of our spiritual development.

We have to have both taken care of to the highest degree possible. And in a certain sense, this reminder is urgent, since many so-called pious or religious people who try hard to effect some good transformation in individuals and society often concentrate on the spiritual and neglects the corporeal component of life.

The result is often dismal failure, wasting a lot of energy on an apostolic approach that perhaps can achieve some good effects that often do not last. These apostolic fruits fail to tackle the finer demands of our real life in the world.

Passions have to be properly cultivated. First of all, they have to be given due attention. They have often been considered, wrongly, as a drag in our human and Christian growth. They are left in the margins, at best.

They are never a hindrance. They are a necessary component, because love which is our perfection, while mainly an act of the will, a spiritual operation, cannot do away with our bodily dimension where love too has to be expressed.

I remember one point in the book, The Way, of St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, that gives a relevant insight.

“You tell me, yes, that you want to. Very good. But do you want to as a miser longs for gold, as a mother loves her child, as a worldling craves for honors, or as a wretched sensualist seeks his pleasure? No? Then, you don’t want to.” (316)

If love has to be true love, it should not be confined only in the will and in the intellect. It has be go passionate, marshalling all the powers of our body—imagination, memory, feelings, the very use of our body, etc.—to its employment.

Human and Christian love first has to be human before it can be spiritual and supernatural. It cannot be any other way. We would do violence to the nature of things if we understand it differently.

That’s why, especially when dealing with kids and the young ones who often develop love first through feelings and the bodily aspects, we have to understand them and know how to make these feelings or passions conform to right reason and the requirements of faith and charity.

It’s not a matter of repressing those feelings. It’s a matter of educating these feelings, revving them up, in fact, to become passions and not just wimpy elements we are ashamed to show and express.

That the Son of God became man, and continues to both God and man in heaven, means that our humanity is good. In fact, it is supposed to be—that’s the original design—to be God’s image and likeness, sharers in the very own life of God.

Obviously, with our sin, our humanity has been wounded and deformed. But precisely the Son of God became man, Christ, to show us the way how to heal and re-create our defaced humanity.

That’s the reason for the Cross, and the need for us to go through suffering to purify us. But that purification does not mean our feelings and passions and other bodily elements are in themselves bad.

When I see some elders calling the attention of kids because the kids want to sing and dance and to be abreast with the latest in fashion, thinking that the kids are going the way of frivolity, I feel like telling them, No, Don’t. Let the kids get what they want. We just have to know how to purify them.

We should not repress the emotions and passions just like that. But, yes, we have to channel them properly, purifying them of the bad, sinful elements that got mixed up.

For this, of course, we need to teach the kids the value of sacrifice and mortification, making it clear that the Cross is not the ultimate end of our life. It’s our resurrection with Christ through the Cross. It’s joy and bliss, both in our body and soul, that comprise the goal of our life.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Today’s gods

AT least in ancient, biblical times, the false idols were easily recognized. They were clearly man-made, graven images of gold or silver. They had mouths that did not speak, ears that did not hear, eyes that did not see. Though they managed to mesmerize people for a while, it did not take long to expose them to be false.

Today’s gods are more subtle. They are not objects that one can see and touch. They too appear to be spiritual. They seem to have mouths that speak, ears that hear and eyes that see.

But really, they are nothing other than figments of our imagination, projections of what we want. In short, today’s gods are we ourselves. They are us, lodged in our minds and hearts. Thus, they appear to be spiritual because the operations of our mind and heart are mainly spiritual.

These gods can manage to engage us in substantial dialogue, usually in terms of what is practical, what is popular, what brings wealth, power and fame. They can bring us to certain lengths of discoveries and inventions, loading us with blinding excitement and awe. They can bring us to great heights of exhilaration.

We now have such capabilities, and they are growing in exponential pace, thanks to our new technologies and the glutting data and info we are amassing these days. These harden us more in our tendency to make ourselves our own god. They effectively lead us to believe that we are omnipotent.

The effect is that instead of going beyond ourselves to look for the God who created us, we are entering more deeply into ourselves to make ourselves our own creator, a process that from the point of view of logic alone is already absurd.

These days, more and more people, especially the more intelligent ones who have lost their simplicity, find it hard to get in touch with the original, transcendent God, the real God. In fact, many would find such concern as already useless, completely irrelevant.

It’s true that, thanks to God, while there are still sectors who have managed to retain their simplicity and humility, and thus also their faith, hope and charity in God, and even express them in colorful popular piety, there is also a creeping part of our society that is heading toward atheism, or at least agnosticism.

This part is getting worldly and secularized, their morals governed mainly by pragmatism and relativism. A supernatural God, an eternal God, a God outside of ourselves has no more place in its culture and lifestyle.

We need to do something about this disturbing phenomenon. First of all, without question, what we need to do is to intensify our prayers and sacrifices. We have to use the spiritual and supernatural means to make God’s grace get a more favorable reception in the free will of the people.

But together with these spiritual and supernatural means are the human means that need to be established and developed, if possible, to maturity. We need to learn how to pray, how to discern the presence of God everywhere, and how to enter into vital dealing, a moment-to-moment relationship with God.

This is not a utopia. It may be a mystery, but that’s because we are dealing here with a reality, a truth that usually surpasses, but not violates, our natural powers. Our human mind and heart can capture this reality. They have the disposition, and if we allow ourselves to be so disposed, we can enter into the world where God and other spiritual and supernatural realities are.

We are not left to our own devices, stuck in the purely human, natural and material world. We don’t allow our spiritual faculties to cruise and drift in some empty and open space with hardly any idea of where they are supposed to go and to get engaged with properly.

This is the challenge we have these days. It is how to show God in everything, not the god of our own making, but the real God who created us and who is a loving, understanding and forgiving God to all of us.

For this, we have to realize that everything in our life, including the purely material things as well as our spiritual powers that have infinite possibilities, come from God. They contain God. God is there and is waiting for us to find him and to deal with him and to love him.

We are actually made for this. If not corrupted by our own selves and other factors, we actually have a natural longing for God that needs to be pursued and developed.