Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pursuing justice

            PEOPLE are asking, where do we go from here? They are referring to the controversial impeachment case we just had. It’s still a very hot, volatile issue, with very dangerous possibilities, what with all the people sharply divided about the issue.

            I would say, let’s just wait a little, allow the air to clear up a bit, and see where the wind, or better still, the Spirit, will take us. I believe we will see the direction soon. In the meantime, let’s talk about the grave duty we have to continue pursuing justice.

            This is what we have to understand very well. Justice is a very dynamic affair. We have to look for it constantly, live it more faithfully, and perfect it as much as we can. We have to be wary when we think we already have justice in hand, because that at best is only partly true, with many parts distorted.

            Let’s be careful with the temptation to go into easy and reckless sloganeering—“The conviction of CJ was a triumph of justice,” etc.—because most likely, we would miss the point, gloss over many other crucial considerations, and succumb to all kinds of simplism and injustice itself.

            During the trial itself, I saw a lot of rash judgments, herd mentality in action, public lynching, name-calling galore, dizzying spins, fault-finding, grandstanding, wrangling, tit-for-tat verbal brawls, partisan political and ideological biases, etc. These could not be justice. No way.

            The accused was treated like a dog, with all sorts of anomalies heaped on him. The accusers were painted like haloed saints, which made many people laugh. Both sides indulged in character assassinations. It was a terrifying open season for all forms of lack of charity. I felt like many of us sank into lower levels and forms of life.

            Even if the trial went by strict legal rules, we can still find imperfections that need correction and polishing. But it also went by shifty political rules, and the imperfections are even magnified. Justice? No way. Well, ok, there’s a little, conceded, but I feel there’s more injustice than justice.

            And when the verdict came, I read a lot of comments, and the same things pop up. Justice? Where, oh where are you? I just hope no lightning or similar disaster would strike us as a people as a sign of divine retribution. I find the whole episode ugly, even if precious lessons can also be learned.

            We need to go back to the real source of justice. And this is God. We have to overcome whatever awkwardness we may have in openly basing our justice on God.

            When our sense of justice is not properly moored there, well, we can expect a lot of adventurism that can give us the deceptive feeling it’s more fun in the Philippines.

            Of course, such adventurism can also cause disasters, terrible ones, and so, let’s also be prepared for them. This should give us all the more reason that in pursuing justice, we really should deepen our understanding of it. Truth is, our collective sense of justice is eons away from the ideal.

            When we make an effort to stay close with God, we can see things better, we can be more objective and more broad-minded. Our sense of justice will always include mercy, compassion and magnanimity. It’s always a constructive, healing justice that we get, not the destructive penal and vindictive one.

            When our justice is not based on God, we would not really know what we owe to others, which is the very heart of justice. Without God, we can think only in terms of commutative, distributive, legal and social justice, with politics and other forms of human weakness spoiling things.

            Without God, we would be at the mercy of our prejudices and weaknesses, not to mention the temptations and the evil machinations of so-called smart men.

            But given our true nature and dignity, as taught to us by our Christian faith and by a dispassionate study of our condition as persons, we deserve a lot more than these human forms of justice.

            Man deserves to be forgiven, to be understood, to be helped and rehabilitated if needed, and not just left out in the open twisting in the wind. We should not dwell too much on the mistakes of the past, but rather let’s look forward to the future.

            That’s why true justice includes mercy always. I agree with what someone said once: “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” Let’s stop playing hypocrites.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Detachment and simplicity

            THESE virtues may not be popular these days—in fact, they are unpopular, as in, ignored if not disliked and hated—and that’s why we have to bring them up from time to time, for they are actually important and indispensable in our life.

            The gospel is filled with reminders and encouragements for us to live these virtues. Just one passage to prove the point:  

            “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.

            “But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (Mk 10,29-31)

            We have to relish these words because, since they were spoken by Christ, they will always come true. They never fail, they are no mere bluff. It’s worthwhile to build our hope on them and to make them give shape and direction to our thoughts, desires, words and actions.

            If we bother to study the lives of saints, then we will see how these words are indeed effective. We should try to give more attention to saints than to media-hyped idols and celebrities, since the former truly give more authentic witness to our life’s true character than the latter.

            It’s not that we have to reject our parents, the family, our business and other earthly affairs we have. Our Lord himself commands us to honor our parents and to subdue the earth. We just have to learn how to love our parents and to get involved in our temporal concerns properly.

            That means that while we have to love our parents and others as much as possible and get seriously immersed in our earthly affairs, we just have to see to it that our heart and mind are solely for our Lord, that our motives are nothing other than love for God and love for others which should go together.

            We cannot underestimate our duty to love our parents, since our parents are our first link to God and to life itself and also the first representatives of God to us, especially in our upbringing and education. But our love for our parents should start and end with God. It should not replace our love for God.

            Neither can we underrate our duty to love others, since loving them is a concrete manifestation of our love for God. We just have to see to it that our love for others truly leads us to God, and not away from him, as when we just use them or take advantage of them. That would corrupt our love for others.

            As to our involvement in the earthly and temporal affairs, like our profession, business and politics, etc., we have to understand that God wants us to immersed in them without getting lost as to the purpose of our participation there.

            These earthly affairs are our paths to God. They are not avenues to pursue merely personal goals. Everything has to be related to God.

            The virtues of detachment and simplicity help us to keep our proper focus on God. They help us to keep our intimacy and closeness with God, which is important if we are to survive spiritually and morally in our world today, full of temptations and distractions.

            These virtues are not just a matter of self-denial and of keeping a kind of low-profile in life. They, in fact, can sometimes require us to be assertive and to do things in a big scale or in public or in a very artistic or trail-blazing way.

            They simply ask us to keep our heart whole for God and for authentic loving, instead of being entangled with earthly if not personal and self-oriented things. And this is a big challenge to us nowadays, since we are constantly tempted to be merely worldly and egoistic.

            They keep us properly anchored, enjoying a sense of stability along the flow of life that is getting increasingly rapid and complicated.

            We have to examine ourselves frequently to see if our heart is still with God or is it already held hostage by something or someone else. Let’s be firm in our belief that what we give up for God is nothing compared to what we will gain from him even now.

Be Spirit-filled

            WE have to feel at home with the basic truth that if we want our life to be complete, perfect, mature, it has to be a life in the Spirit. We are actually wired for it, and besides, God through Christ gives us the Holy Spirit.

            We are wired to a life in the Spirit because we are also a spiritual being whose spirit comes from the Holy Spirit and belongs to him. Our spiritual soul, the seat of our intellectual and willful operations—our knowing and loving—would simply hang on air unless it is connected with a spiritual principle and end.

            We obviously have a variety of spiritual principles and ends to choose from. We can choose our own selves, for example, or we can choose things of the world to be the principle and end of our spiritual soul, of our knowing and loving.

            The proper principle and end, however, is God who in the Son through the Holy Spirit created us. It’s a truth that can be accessed through our reasoning alone, and confirmed and buttressed by faith.

            Our reason already tells us that since we cannot create our own selves, we must have been created by a higher being. This is how we are led to discover the reality of God. That initial discovery is deepened and enriched by our faith. Our task and responsibility therefore is to keep our faith to conform ourselves to this basic truth.

            That’s why if our spiritual faculties, our intelligence and will, are made to operate unhampered by any bias, they will always have a natural tendency to look for God as their first principle, a principle without any previous principle, and their ultimate end, beyond which there can be no other. We are actually wired for God.

            Christ himself said that he will send the Holy Spirit to us. “It is much better for you that I go,” he said. “If I fail to go, the Paraclete will never come to you, whereas if I go, I will send him to you.” (Jn 16,7)

            Then he added, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. When he comes, however, being the Spirit of truth he will guide you to all truth…” (Jn 16,12-13)

            It is interesting to note that with these words, we can say we cannot really know the truth, the fullness of it, unless we are in the Holy Spirit. If we want a reality check, we have to go to the Holy Spirit, and not just depend on our senses nor even our brains.

            That should make us realize very deeply how important it is that we be in the Holy Spirit, that our life is in fact a life in the Holy Spirit. In short, we would be leading a bogus life, one not quite proper to us, if we are not in the Spirit.

            If we are not in the Spirit, our knowing and loving would have trajectories that in the end would lead us nowhere, though they can have exciting episodes in the meantime.

            We have to adjust the way we think and see things in general to accommodate this very crucial truth about ourselves. We are often so hampered and then entangled by merely earthly and material considerations that we fail to see things in their real and ultimate perspectives, with the inputs of pure reason and faith considered.

            We need to pray to the Holy Spirit, to develop an abiding and intimate relationship with him. In this, let’s hope that we can pass from the infantile stage to the more adult and mature one that would enable us to resolve the many questions and doubts we can have about the Holy Spirit.

            It’s usually our pride that makes us blind and deaf to the Holy Spirit, and to depend solely or mainly on ourselves. We have to melt that pride away, sometimes using strong solvents for that purpose.

            But it’s important that our dealings with the Holy Spirit be constant. We have to learn to be sensitive and docile to his promptings to the extent that our thoughts, words and deeds would reflect the mind and ways of the Holy Spirit.

            Toward the Holy Spirit, the proper attitude to have is to want to be filled with him. Let’s be zealous in reaching that goal, without being distracted by our other concerns no matter how urgent they may be.

            Let’s promptly second the Holy Spirit’s inspirations, because delays will only distance us from him.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Persons not commodities

TOGETHER with the rest of the country and I suppose millions of others all over the world, I was disappointed when Jessica Sanchez did not win the American Idol title. What made it worse was the news item that Jessica would most likely get only a $30K contract, way below the usual $175K rate others of her ranking would take home.

                The news said that the downgraded rate was due to the low ratings the American Idol finale got that evening. Somehow, that item left in me a bad taste in the mouth.

                It’s actually not so much about her low-valued contract that bothered me. I understand that there is always a business side in contests like the American Idol, and that has to be respected. It’s more about reducing everything into money and profitability that would seem to turn talents into mere commodities.

                I pray that I’m wrong in this observation, that perhaps I have been overly sensitive and have been exaggerating my reactions and generalizing my judgments. Still, I find many instances where this disturbing thought seems to be validated. And I feel we need to do something about this.

                We have to be careful with this tendency that is actually proliferating to such an extent that it is now becoming the mainstream culture worldwide. The fine distinction and proper relation between talents as persons and as business products are getting confused, if not obliterated and reversed.

                This is a dangerous situation, obviously because talents now appear to be considered more as a commodity than as a person. Talents are simply used when useful and profitable, and conveniently discarded when their popularity drops. That’s because they are treated more as commodities.

                Young talents, not yet well educated, are very vulnerable to be used and in fact are willing to be used as mere commodities. And the people in general, the audience, do not know any better either. They go along with that kind of system.

                This dangerous situation is especially endemic in showbiz, where the talents just come and go like soaps and shampoos in the commercials. But it actually also obtains in practically all fields of profession and business. Even in clerical circles, this anomalous phenomenon can also take place.

                We tend to see others more for what they can do to us than what or who they really are. This seems to be the currency or the lingua franca nowadays in our dealings with others. And this is generating, albeit quietly and subtly, a polluting atmosphere around us. It perverts the world culture from the root of our relationships.

                We often forget that talents, workers, artists, etc., are first of all persons with mind and heart, with a spiritual soul, who in the last analysis are the image and likeness of God, children of his and brothers and sisters of ours who deserve always to be loved regardless of our differences and other conditions in life.

                As such there is a certain sacredness in all of us that should always be acknowledged and respected no matter what successes or failures, victories or defeats we may have. Whatever talent one may have, or the lack of it, should always be related to God, and not just something to be used purely for gain or other practical purposes.

                As such, there is always a need to give preferential treatment to the inner aspects of man, and I refer not so much to a person’s feelings and emotions, though these too are important, as to a person’s conscious and willing conformity to right reason, and ultimately to truths of faith about us.

                Obviously, cases are abundant where our feelings and emotions are actually at odds with the objective truth about us as presented to us by reason and faith. In these instances, we just have to find a way to reconcile these conflicting inner aspects, always giving priority to the demands of faith and reason over our feelings and emotions.

                Our usual problem is that we often get contented with tackling just the external aspects—one’s performance, his efficiency, popularity, profitability, etc. Obviously, these have to be attended to, but if we give a lot of attention to them, much more so should we give to protecting and enhancing one’s dignity as person and child of God.

                We should try to avoid succumbing to the practical side of things at the expense of neglecting and even sacrificing the objective dignity of persons. In this, we have to be more conscious, precisely because he current culture is in dire need of correction.    

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Marriage redefined?

            US President Barack Obama has just come out of the closet and announced that he is for same-sex marriage. He said that was the conclusion of his long period of “evolving.”

            Many political observers, however, say that he originally was for it, then against it, then was reconsidering, and then at present is for it again. They say this flip-flopping is a reaction of a political animal to changing political conditions.

            Well, we know how this stance is called in our country. “Weather-weather lang ni, bai.” To a certain extent, this attitude is valid given the temporal nature and autonomous character of politics.

            But when used indiscriminately, it can enter into forbidden territory as when it is applied on matters of faith and morals, and on the fixed nature of things. And I am afraid this is what is happening in this present issue.

            Marriage is not a political issue that has to be defined, and its problems resolved, solely or mainly in a political way. Marriage has a universal, immutable nature, applicable to all of us regardless of race, gender and whatever condition we may be in. When nature of things is involved, we just accept it, we don’t redefine it.

            Marriage simply has to be a stable relationship between a man and a woman, because it involves a love that entails the use of sex whose primary purpose is procreation before it provides pleasure and other benefits to the couples concerned.

            That’s simply the nature of sex and marriage. It is not a religious imposition, but rather a result of careful, comprehensive metaphysical study of the matter. If we pursue this study thoroughly, then we will arrive at the conclusion that marriage in itself has properties of exclusivity, unity and indissolubility.

            Of course, people can have varying understanding of the nature of sex and marriage, and so we just have to undertake a continuing discussion, clarification and formation. The government should also feel the duty to do this. This is everyone’s responsibility.

            But we just cannot stop at the level of “that-is-your-stand-and-this-is-mine,” since the issue at hand is not a matter of opinion or personal preferences. It binds everyone to conform to this nature of sex and marriage, in a way that should be more forceful than the binding quality of our tax and traffic laws.

            Ironically, the latter laws on taxes and are more strictly pursued than our marriage laws. It seems we are now having the wrong priorities, the wrong emphasis on our varied concerns.

            I was shocked when I heard President Obama’s reasons for supporting same-sex marriage. They had the usual rationalizing taste of the tolerance bit. It’s a reasoning that has overreached its purpose, trying to go to a bridge too far.

            This alibi about tolerance, while it has its merits, should not be the only, much less, the primary consideration to make especially in issues like marriage. There are many other more fundamental and indispensable considerations that precede it.

            Obama was quoted as saying: “No matter who you love or what God you worship, you can still pursue happiness—I will support you every step of the way."

            So, if one happens to love an animal in a sexual way, he is free to marry it, and bestiality can now be elevated to the level of marriage? Or if one happens to fall in love with his own sister, or his own brother, he can also marry her or him, and incest can be marriage?

            Anything is always possible with man. That’s why we need laws based on some absolute truths to guide and educate us.

            Or if one happens to believe in violence and terrorism as his own God, it would just be ok? The words of Obama did not include any qualifier as to who can be the object and God of one’s love and devotion.

            I may be exaggerating and am blowing out of proportion Obama’s words, but these words certainly give us a direction that, in their most lenient interpretation, can be considered as potentially dangerous.

            There are things that we can not and should not tamper. Marriage is one of them. Everything has to be done to strengthen it. Those who violate them, while we always have to be charitable and fair, should be dealt with clearly, and even strongly.

            I have no problem with gays. I know many of them and they are excellent persons, workers and friends. But let’s not call what is wrong, right, and bad, good, just because we are friends.

Friday, May 25, 2012


WE need to protect and, in fact, enhance our need for intimacy. Especially in our times now of frenzied activities and tormenting concerns, we need to see to it that our fundamental requirement for intimacy is not unduly sacrificed.

            Intimacy means we know who we are and not just what we can do. It means we know how to be at home even while we unavoidably get into some journey and feel like an exile which characterize our earthly life.

            It means we continue to be persons and not converted into automatons because of our work. It means we are still connected to the very foundation of our being, the origin of our life that gives the blueprint for our whole life.

            Yes, it’s true we have to be tough and strong, iron-clad and with some immunity to our increasingly polluted environment, not only in the physical sense but also in the moral sense. But we have to keep our intimacy intact, seeing to it that our heart continues to be of flesh and not turned into stone.

            Yes, it’s true that we have to be efficient and flexible, knowing how to cope with the speeding pace of developments, but we should not allow ourselves to become robots, governed only by the standards of practicality, convenience and efficiency.

            When we live intimacy, we always treat others as persons, eager to know them more and more to the point of not only remembering their names, but also other personal data and peculiarities, like their birthdays, their likes and dislikes, etc. We will treat them always as friends, even if they are subordinates at work.

            We should be wary of being swept away by the torrent of our trials and challenges, and carried away by the flood of emotions and passions. These have the nasty habit of sapping our intimacy away and of leading us to behave less as a person, not to mention, as a child of God.

            We should protect, fiercely if necessary, the intimacy of our personhood, which means we should not allow our mind and heart to be overtaken by external factors and mere emotions. We have to uphold the primacy of our reason that obviously has to be infused with faith, since it has to be properly engaged with God.

            We have to see to it that our mind and heart are functioning properly, engaged first with God and then with others, keeping these relationships always personal and never just professional, social or formalistic, much less, merely material and mechanical.

            We have to understand that our capacity for intimacy starts and is kept alive only when we have intimacy with God first.  God is our foundation from whom we should never dare to be detached. Thomas a Kempis, in his Imitation of Christ, said something appropriate:

            “Wherever you may find yourself, you will be a foreigner and a pilgrim. You will never find rest unless you unite yourself intimately to Christ.”

            To nourish this need for intimacy, we need to nourish our intimacy with Christ, with God. We have to learn how to do that, because while we have a natural tendency for God, that tendency can easily be, and in fact is often, perverted by a number of factors and reasons.

            As in, we convert our sense of intimacy only in the physical, if not, sexual sense. Or we mistake it for what is known as individualism or isolationism. True intimacy does not cut us off from God and from others. Quite the contrary happens.

            In short, we can say we are truly nourishing our need for intimacy when we feel God is the primary and immediate driving force of our thoughts, desires, intentions, words and deeds. Short of that, we are not actually living intimacy, even if for some reason we may feel as if we are.

            So that we can be intimate with God and with others, we need to spend time with him, and really train our mind and heart to develop and strengthen a sense of attraction and attachment to him.

            Otherwise, we will easily be overtaken by the concerns of this world that can easily hold us captive in the realm of senses alone, gripping us in an up-and-down, bipolar runaway sensations of thrill and boredom, glee and sadness and anguish, etc. We will lose our sense of stability.

            We have to learn to pray, to converse with our Lord, to relate everything, including the negative events, to him. We should do everything to protect our intimacy with our Lord.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Reality check

  WE need to have a reality check on reality itself. Our concept of reality and truth seems to stand on shaky ground. For many, reality is simply what they see, hear or feel, a product of their senses. Or, it can just be what they understand.

            While this concept has a lot of truth in it, it is still lacking, and in fact is lacking in a very fundamental way. Reality cannot be confined simply to the sensible nor to the intelligible. It has other dimensions that transcend the grasp of our senses and intelligence.

            Our ideas, for example, while subjective have elements of reality and truth in them. We cannot say that just because these ideas are intangible and abstract, then they are not real or true. Reality cannot escape from our ideas, since our very contact with reality will depend on our ideas, judgments and reasoning.

            And when these ideas correspond to the objective reality of things, not only in the physical order but also in the spiritual and supernatural order, then these ideas stop being simply subjective, but are also objective. These ideas are therefore true, not false, real, not illusory.

            Reality therefore cannot be restricted to the sensible and intelligible dimensions only. Restricting it that way would miss out many very fundamental values and ideals, like justice, charity, patience, mercy, the value of suffering, and ultimately God, the very author of reality.

            We have to understand this point well, since for years we have been locked away in a very deficient understanding of reality. We have just been too dependent on the physical and reasonable, and have largely ignored the more fundamental aspect of truth provided by the spiritual and supernatural sources.

            Of course, our usual problem is that we tend to ignore these spiritual and supernatural sources of truth. The underlying predicament is that we tend to rely more on our own estimation of reality than on another source of reality outside of ourselves. And, unfortunately, it’s a tendency now supported by an already well-developed system of questionable attitudes and habits.

            In short, we tend to make ourselves the maker of reality and truth, rather than their reflector and conveyor, their lover and user. We usurp the role of God in our pursuit for truth.

            We often say that these sources are difficult to access, or that they are not felt readily. While these observations are partly true, they simply do not have the last say. The difficulty involved simply means we just have to try harder. And that’s where the real problem lies—we are often too lazy to exert the needed effort.

            We need to reconcile ourselves to the basic truth that reality can only be had when we develop a very personal and intimate relationship with God and follow as best as possible all that God tells us. Otherwise, we would be living in a world of our own making, with some truths in it, but in the end, would just be a fantasy.

            To have a reality check therefore is basically to go to God, to know and follow his will and commandments. This may sound like a raving of an overly pious person, a fanatic perhaps, but again, after everything is said and done, this is simply what we get. Reality has God as its beginning, end and the in-between as well.

            That is why God came and revealed himself in full in Christ whose presence and action is pursued all throughout time in the Holy Spirit. We need to acknowledge this truth and conform ourselves to it as best as we can. Otherwise, our estimation of reality and truth would be shaky ab initio.

             We have to learn how to be consistent with our relationship with God while being immersed in the things of this world. This is a big problem to us, since we often think that God and the world are incompatible. We have to outgrow this bias, and start to develop the proper attitudes and skills to keep ourselves in line with this basic truth.

            We have to know how to live in the presence of God all the time, how to discern his will in an ongoing way. This can mean many things—we have to learn to pray, study the doctrine of our faith, develop virtues, avail of the sacraments, follow the example of Christ who told us to deny ourselves and carry the cross.

            We have to learn to deal with the Holy Spirit. That’s when we can really say we are in reality.