Sunday, September 23, 2012

Life should be a sacrifice

THERE is no mistaking about this. If we study our Christian faith, it
is quite clear that our life ought to be a sacrifice, that is, to be
made holy. That’s what sacrifice etymologically means. It comes from
the Latin “sacrum,” sacred, and “facere,” to make or to do.

    And that’s because that’s how we originally were made. Even in the
state of original justice when our first parents had not yet sinned,
they were supposed to make things and themselves holy by following
God’s will freely and responsibly. We always need to refer everything
to God, who is our all.

    That’s because even if God made us to be like him, he wants us to
want to be holy like God also on our own volition. God is treating us
the way he treats himself, precisely because we have been made in his
image and likeness. He does not force us to be like him. He wants us
to do that freely.

    But our first parents disobeyed, and thus, sinned. It’s a sin that
all of us would inherit. And even if erased through baptism, we would
still be left with some scar that would dispose and tempt us to get
attracted to evil instead of good that comes from God.

    And so the duty to make things and ourselves holy or to make
sacrifice now involves greater effort on our part and also the direct
intervention of God himself, for we cannot make things and ourselves
holy without both our effort and God’s grace. The two have to be

    So from the beginning of our salvation history, this idea of
sacrifice was already inculcated in a steady fashion, starting with
Abel and Cain down to the patriarchs and prophets like Abraham, Isaac,
Jacob, a mysterious character called Melchizedec, till Christ, who is
both the perfect priest for the perfect sacrifice.

    This sacrifice of Christ is perpetuated till the end of time in the
sacrament instituted by Christ himself called the Holy Eucharist, one
aspect of which is precisely the Holy Mass.

    In the Mass, what is actually taking place is not just some ritual,
some dramatization of a past event. It is the very sacrifice of Christ
on the Cross. This is a truth of faith, a mystery, that unites time
and eternity, earth and heaven. It also makes all of us contemporaries
of Christ, inextricably involved in his continuing work of redemption.

    Because of how God’s plan is for us, we are supposed to make our
whole life a sacrifice by uniting it to Christ’s sacrifice on the
Cross made available to us through the Holy Mass. This is the
underlying framework of our life.

    Our every thought, desire, intention, word, judgment, reasoning,  and
our action in all its variations and levels ought to be a offered to
God through the Christ on the Cross, perpetuated at Holy Mass.

    But I wonder how many of us realize this, and more importantly, how
many of us know how to convert this truth of faith into tangible
reality in our life. What we see around most of the time is wanton
self-pursuit, self-seeking, self-absorption.

    In the world of entertainment, for example, how many are the artists
we see around who truly have great talents but who fail to offer their
talents to God. In fact, many are those who ridicule the idea of
offering their talents to God, who don’t see the connection between
God and them, between God and their talents.

    It gives me an experience more bitter than sweet, because while I
greatly enjoy those talents, I also feel terrible at the outright
expropriation of those talents from God to make them their own
entirely. This may not be quite obvious in our country, but try to see
the decadent West where you have many talents, and you know what I

    The area of politics is even worse. Here we see many political
animals only paying lip service to faith and religion when such
service is at their advantage, but who blatantly, without any seeming
qualms of conscience at all, violate basic religious and moral tenets
just to attain their personal goals.

    The values of charity, magnanimity, mercy, compassion, patience,
truthfulness, etc., are shamelessly trampled upon. If ever some
aspects of these values and virtues are present, you can be sure they
are more caricatures than the real things.

    We need a strong reminder about the true purpose and character of our
life. It is supposed to be a sacrifice, to be made holy by offering it
to God through Christ.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Pope’s Lebanon visit

LITTLE has been said about the Pope’s recent Lebanon visit in our
local press. I suppose we are too concerned about our burning local
issues to be distracted by some news about the Pope. But there’s
actually something of importance and of universal relevance to say
about this papal trip.

And that is that the Pope managed to attract rousing, even rapturous
welcome and attention from the people in a region severely torn by
conflict and violence. He seemed to click with the Muslim crowd in a
way no world leader today could.

This, in spite of the fact that the visit coincided with some
unfavorable conditions. For one there is that current rage in the
region because of a video that denigrated the Prophet Mohammed and
that has resulted so far with the killing of an American ambassador.
Then you have Syria that is practically going down into flames now.

It also coincided with the anniversary of an ugly event, the massacre
by Christian militiamen of some Palestinians and Shiites in Beirut 30
years ago. That’s, of course, a very emotional memory.

Then let’s recall also that the Pope himself ruffled the Muslim world
back in 2006 when in an academic address, he said something the
Muslims considered to be a smear against Prophet Mohammed.

But this time, it’s a different atmosphere. The Pope was even welcomed
by the leaders of one of the most uncompromising Muslim sects. One of
the Muslim exponents of co-existence welcomed the Holy Father with the
kindest words, saying, “any harm done to a Christian is a wrong done
to all Muslims, and every attack on a church is an attack against all

The crowds that attended the Papal activities were large. All these
indicate that in spite of the worrying developments in the region,
there are also some good ones taking place, albeit in some quiet way,
typical of what is truly good compared to our own different versions
of what is good to us. Let’s thank God for this.

But the Pope managed to attract this attention also because of the
message of peace and hope that he brought. He proposed a way forward
to a society composed of very different elements.

In his own words, he said that to promote a future of peace and
solidarity, the people must work “to ensure that cultural, social and
religious differences arrive through sincere dialogue at a new
fraternity, where what unites them is the shared sense of the
greatness and dignity of every person, whose life must always be
defended and protected.”

These words remind me that what usually unites us in spite of our
sharp differences in politics, social position and religion, is when
we have natural disasters. There, we don’t talk about differences. We
just help one another.

But we don’t have to wait for disasters to put us together. We have to
learn to build unity and genuine fraternity with or without disasters,
and especially when we move forward to national and world progress and

This, of course, will need some fundamental requirements. There has to
be unconditional respect for the dignity of the person, always
acknowledging his transcendental destiny and not just his earthly,
temporal and material welfare. This will stretch our patience to
infinity as we unavoidably traverse through our differences.

There has to be genuine religious freedom that is the antithesis of
intolerance, discrimination and bitter zeal. This means we have to be
filled up with unconditional love for one another if we truly love God
or Allah or whatever it is that one considers as God.

True religious freedom allows sincere differences in our religious
beliefs, but also knows how to resolve these through cordial dialogue
and respect for the others no matter how convinced we may be that they
are wrong.

Then, of course, life in all its stages, from conception to natural
death, should be respected if peace is to be attained. The Pope said
it well when he said: “If we want peace, let us defend life.”

How can we have peace when there is already fear of life by
contracepting and aborting totally defenseless babies? The attitude
for contraception and abortion is already the very germ that can grow
into the monsters of hatred, suspicion, envy, violence and terrorism.

The Pope also said that we should foster stable families and that
instead of hoarding on weapons, we should rather make a growing stock
of good ideas and creativity about ways of how to handle our
differences well. This is the challenge of all of us today.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What they want vs. what they ought

 I WAS gratified to read the pooled editorial of the Cebu newspapers
done on the occasion of this year’s Press Freedom Week. There were
many things that they dropped there for their readers to chew, but one
statement immediately caught my attention.

It’s when it said: “Figuring out what people want to know, and what
citizens should know, is one of journalism’s finest burdens.”

That definitely is a mark of maturity, a sign of progress, a certain
sophistication and nuanced thinking meant to blow the bubble of
naivete, simplism, herd mentality, sensationalism, etc., that have
also afflicted local media for long.

It seems to say that journalists these days are now more courageous
and responsible to present things even if these things are unpopular
as long as they believe these things are what their readers ought to
know. It’s a very difficult position to be in.

If truly meant and sufficiently supported by an abiding program of
continuing formation, then these words can give us basis to expect a
press that would really serve the common good, not only in terms of
closely monitoring events, but also and more importantly of creating a
healthy and vibrant public opinion, one committed to truth, justice
and charity.

It cannot be denied that more people are becoming more discerning and
discriminating of what they read and see in the media. They know when
they are tricked. They can easily detect spins, gratuitous claims and
badly researched reports.

They know when a newsman, columnist or editorial writer is biased or
not, reckless or not, engaged in shallow and trigger-happy ways or is
doing serious, responsible work.

More, they now have greater power to answer back, clarify and even
correct erring journalists. Or they can simply turn off and look for
many other alternative sources of news and information that they
consider more balanced and fair. And thanks be to God, we have many of
these alternatives now.

And so media practitioners, given their immense power of influence,
should feel it more sharply that they too, like everybody else, are in
need of a deepening formation to be able to carry out their task and
mission with utmost sense of responsibility. This is, of course, a
very serious duty, not to be taken lightly.

We know that these days many of our journalists do not have a clear
idea of where they ought to base and root their sense of right and
wrong, good and evil, just and unjust. They, of course, simply reflect
the general trend we sadly see in the world today.

Many are just in some fishing expedition with regard to their beliefs
and convictions. “Way klaro,” as we put it in our dialect. And so many
of them just get contented with what may be considered as
politically-correct, or socially or culturally-correct. Nothing beyond

They just depend on some popular consensus, but not anymore going
further to see whether such consensus is truly right and fair. And
these days, the “vox-populi-vox-Dei” theory fails more often than not.
It gives messages and signals that are more uncertain than certain.

We need to remind everyone, journalists or not, to really go back to
basics, go back to the origin, and that can only be God, who is the
ultimate source of everything that is good.

But do you think religion is taken seriously by many media people? I
really wish that it were so, but pieces of evidence are aplenty
showing a cavalier attitude toward religion.

Some even give the impression that religion is what causes biases and
prejudices. They prefer to be guided solely by their own reasoning,
their own thinking, their own bank of data and information

Many fail to realize the import of what St. Paul once said about
charity which is the very essence of God, and the ultimate criterion
for our knowing, judging and reasoning, and in fact, our whole
behavior and life.

“Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the
time will come when they must fail. Or the gift of languages, it will
not continue for ever. And knowledge, too, the time will come when it
must fail.” (1 Cor 13,8)

When we, people in the media, are not really inspired by charity, that
is, by God, but simply by some worldly value or our own estimation of
things, then we are yet in the imperfect stage, just as St. Paul again

“Our knowledge is imperfect...but once perfection (charity) comes, all
imperfect things will disappear.” (13,10)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Faith, hope, charity

THESE are called theological virtues. As the Catechism describes them,
they “adapt man’s faculties for participation in the divine nature.”
(1812) Yes, we are meant for this purpose, we have been designed and
wired for this end.

Even in the depths of our heart, as long as it is not hijacked and
hamstrung by some worldly value, we can detect a longing, a yearning
for an eternal bliss that can only signify we are naturally drawn to
God. “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until
it rests in you,” St. Augustine exclaims.

It’s truly good and necessary that we understand the nature, character
and purpose of these virtues, for our Christian life depends on how we
live them. The human virtues, the ones that we cultivate ourselves and
that we need to be able to live as persons, get their sustenance from
these theological virtues.

Again, the Catechism gives us more information about them. They are
called theological virtues because they relate directly to God. “They
dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity.
They have the One and Triune God for their origin, motive, and
object.” (1812)

In other words, these virtues come from God to direct us to him in
whose image and likeness we have been created. We have to understand
then that our life is not simply our life. That would be an anomaly.
Our life also has to be a life with God and in God.

But we also need to realize that these theological virtues have God
also as the motive and object, the reason and energy to motivate and
push us to go to God, to let us participate in his divine life.

We cannot attain that life with God just by our own power. God has to
enable us to have that life with him, sending us first of all these
theological virtues. These virtues are God’s way of allowing us to
share his life.

As to the part we play in this system, we only have to be receptive
and cooperative, as actively as possible. Thus, Christ, the God with
us, the Son of God who became man to redeem us, tells us that he is
the vine, we are the branches. We need to be attached to him, for
without him, we cannot live.

We have to learn to translate this basic truth about the theological
virtues in our life from the world of ideas, doctrine and intentions
to that of action and concrete reality that should involve our
thoughts and desires, our feelings and passions, our work and the
myriad tasks, projects and endeavors we have in life.

This is a very crucial task, because we always tend to get distracted,
to get intoxicated with our own power. In the Bible, there are many
references of how the Israelites, the chosen people of God, the
prototype of how we ought to be, became unfaithful in spite of the
abundant goodness of God.

One image used to illustrate this situation is that of how they
reportedly made use of the milk and wool of the sheep but neglecting
to take care of the sheep. Other images are used like that of King
Saul not completely destroying the Amelekites, but saving some of
their ‘useful’ things that later on would tempt them away from God,

In our earthly life, these theological virtues always go together. Not
one of them could function well if another is missing. Their dynamic
mutual relation cannot be broken. It’s either all or nothing. Only
when we reach our final destination in heaven will charity alone
reign, doing away with faith and hope.

So while these theological virtues are freely given to us by God, we
have to realize that we have the grave duty and task to receive them,
to keep and develop them to their fullness.

But, alas, how many people really know about this responsibility? How
many realize that their life has to be a life of faith, hope and
charity? These theological virtues, in a manner of speaking, are the
ultimate parameters with which we have to develop our life here on

What we see nowadays are a great majority of people living mainly
under worldly criteria—identifying success and victory with wealth,
power, fame, etc. God is really not in the picture, though some
formalistic references are made just to fulfill certain social

There’s a crying need to resurrect a massive doctrinal campaign for
this purpose, plus the pertinent ascetical plan to effect the desired
change of attitude and lifestyle.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bible study

 THIS is supposed to be the most popular book. But now I wonder if the people in the street, the ordinary Juan, know it more than just that it simply exists or that it is supposed to be an important book. Nothing more than that.

I have my doubts. I tend to believe the Bible is a victim of the taken-for-granted syndrome. It would seem that the Bible joins the category of water and air that are so common yet so vital that people hardly give any attention to them.

The big difference is that we can afford to take water and air for granted as long as they are there, which normally is not a problem. But the Bible is a different story. We need to know it intimately, otherwise we will get lost in life. We have to exert deliberate effort.

There’s an urgent need to resurrect the sense of importance of the Bible among the people. There’s no doubt the holy book is our ultimate textbook for life. It gives us the roadmap in our earthly journey toward our final heavenly destination.

It contains the greatest story of the universe, the salvation of man who is God’s masterpiece in the whole of creation. That’s because man is God’s image and likeness, and made a child of his through his grace.

That means God is embarking a very complicated project to make man to be like him. It’s a divine project that depends also on our correspondence that has to be done according to our nature and dignity. That is, we ought to want to be God’s children knowingly, freely and lovingly, without being forced or tricked.

Besides the Bible contains lessons that are always relevant to us. Being an inspired book, the stories there are not merely historical or literary. It always breathes fresh lessons to learn, because in spite of its human condition, it is actually God’s word whose worth is eternal, ever new, without lapsing into irrelevance.

As some saints would have it, the Bible is both old and new. But it is also a closed and open book, a dead and living book. The book is not actually just made up of words. The book presents God. It presents Christ  “in vivo.”

Reading it is actually meeting God, listening to Christ, getting involved in the stories contained there, for these stories are a living pattern of our life in all its variations of situations and predicaments.

Obviously, we have to read and understand it well, that is, with faith and love, otherwise, we will miss the most important purpose of the Bible. The book is not simply to be read to acquire knowledge.  It is meant to transform us radically, to unite us to God’s plan for our salvation, to identify us with no less than Christ.

It’s a closed and dead book in the sense that it tells the whole divine plan for our salvation. There’s nothing to be added there. But also open and alive in the sense that it needs to be applied to our life individually and collectively, with all the possibilities our human freedom can take in the whole duration of time. In other words, it’s a finished and concluded book and at the same time still ongoing.

This is how we have to understand the Bible. Unfortunately, such understanding is practically absent in most people, including those who may be considered quite church-oriented and all that. And if present, it’s an understanding that is gravely distorted, unable to translate itself into action.

In the school where I work, the subject is given to the students at a certain level. It’s a real challenge, because though it’s clear the students are trying to follow the classes, I could still notice that they are still far from what I consider the ideal.

Obviously, things have to be done in stages. At the moment, the immediate goal is to familiarize the students with the flow of events in the Bible, but little by little leading them to see the spiritual and supernatural dimensions of these events.

I just wonder how other people manage to get a functioning sense of the Bible if there hardly was any class given to them. And to those who already have some background, whether a continuing Bible study is done, because, frankly speaking, the Bible has an endless spiral of meanings that we need to appreciate.

Even those who study theology, priests included, I wonder if we realize that the Bible is the soul of such study and duty of preaching.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dissent in the Church

 WE should not be too surprised why we have dissent and dissenters within the Church. We should, in fact, expect it and also be prepared for it. We should not lose our charity just because we are contradicted. Christ himself, love and goodness incarnate, was not spared of this.

He was denied by St. Peter himself, betrayed by Judas, rejected by his own people, suspected by the leading men of his time, and finally crucified by the people he came to redeem. Even his apostles would miss the point of what he was forcefully teaching and showing.

These things can happen to anyone of us. As St. John in his gospel would have it, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” (1,11)
Christ had to bear with all of these. More, he preached and lived what he preached that we have to love our enemies. If one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other. If one takes away your coat, let go of it. If one forces you to walk one mile, go with him for two.

    We have to forgive not only seven times, but seventy times seven, meaning, always. He tells us to forgive otherwise we will not be forgiven ourselves. We should remember that all of us are sinners.

    This is true loving, the one that comes from God and not just our own invention, developed simply on our own terms that are mainly based on the material, the sensual, the worldly. True loving goes beyond these human, natural, not to the mention the inhuman and unnatural categories and values we are prone to have due to our sin.

    Therefore, we should be wary when we feel provoked and react to dissenters within the Church, in their usual colourful ways, by utilizing their own style and venom. That would be joining them in thegutter, instead of taking them out of it.

    What we have to do is to follow the advice of St. John of the Cross, who was clearly inspired by the example of Christ. “Where there is no love, put love and you will find love.” We don’t put off fire byadding fire. We drench it with water.

    This formula never fails. It may take time, its effects not immediately seen, but it will always work. That’s the reason why suffering and sacrifice are unavoidable to a person who truly lovesGod and everybody else in obedience to God’s will.

    That is why Christ himself told us very clearly, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses hislife for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” (Mk 8,33-35)

    Dissent within the ranks is the risk all of us, from God down to the last man, take because of our freedom. It can be a sign of freedom, but not necessarily freedom itself, for true freedom is the reciprocal of total obedience to God’s will. So, let’s take it easy. Let’s just be sport, try our best with charity and truth. God is always in control.

    What we have to do is, as one saint would have it, to drown evil with an abundance of good. In our differences and conflicts, let’s never burn the lines that keep our dialogues and exchanges going. If thesituation becomes unbearable, let’s find ways to seek ways to loosen tension, erode division, remove animosities.

    Let’s pray hard, be spiritual and supernatural in approach, and then study the issues thoroughly. Kindness should not supplant competence. We don’t approach the issues with reason alone. We need to be spiritual and supernatural.

We should have a tight grip on our emotions and passions, and drop many bombs of goodwill, courtesy and compassion.

    This is how the conversation gets going even if the other party is bent in spoiling it. We should be quick to recognize the good points these dissenters make, and build on them the bridges to reach theirmind and heart.

    In points of conflicts, let’s be clear to distinguish between the person and the error. We have to learn to be “fortiter in re, suaviter in modo,” doing what is to be done with unflinching firmness, but inthe most inoffensive manner possible.

    This will definitely take time and oodles of patience. But let’s remember that in dealing with Church dissenters, it’s not a matter of scoring points but of converting them. Obviously with God’s grace but
also with our utmost effort.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Keeping the foundation

WE should never let go of our true and ultimate foundation in life. While we have different aspects in life, and each one more or less has its proper foundation, we should remember that in the final analysis our real foundation is nothing less than God himself, our Creator, Father and the abiding principle that keeps and directs our earthly existence.

    An immediate corollary to this is that we therefore are brothers and sisters to one another. We should polish this sense of being God’s children and our fraternity among ourselves, since many are now the factors that seek to undermine this.

    We need to remind ourselves of this obvious and fundamental truth because nowadays we seem to be slowly and unconsciously detaching ourselves from him, as we get more and more immersed, and also confused, in our earthly and temporal affairs—business, politics, pursuit of knowledge in the sciences, technology, arts, etc.

    As a consequence, we are getting swallowed up by a certain logic and dynamics that is purely worldly, material-found, or at best social, political or economic that, given our human condition, cannot help befall into different and conflicting positions and views.

    Besides it’s a dynamics that also deadens our spiritual aspirations that always, by its very nature, tend to enter into the supernatural reality, the world of faith and religion. It’s a dynamics that in its desire to keep us realistic, confine us always to the here and now, to what is practical, popular, convenient. It hardly goes beyond this.

    In fact, it’s a dynamics that sooner or later will develop an intense hatred against anything spiritual and supernatural, anything that has to do with faith and religion. It becomes aggressively, even violently, intolerant to these considerations, shutting Christ out of our public discourses and restricting him to purely private quarters, if it still does care a little about religious freedom.

    It’s also a dynamics that will eventually put division among ourselves, since it will certainly erode the principle of our unity and fraternity. Instead of being brothers and sisters, we would become enemies to one another.

    Christ has warned us about this very likely possibility, one is that is actually happening in many places today. Referring directly to his usual critics, the scribes and the Pharisees, he said: “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel.” (Mt 23,24)

    This happens when we replace God’s wisdom with our own worldly wisdom, propped up merely by our sciences and technologies, and our political, social or cultural consensus. These are things that, whileproducing wonderful benefits, cannot bring us to our transcendent ultimate goal.

    Let’s remember what St. Paul said about human knowledge, especially the kind that is bereft of charity. “Knowledge puffs up, but charity edifies.” (1 Cor 8,1) The pursuit of knowledge that is not inspired by love of God and others is a dangerous exercise, is toxic to our true human dignity, harmful to human unity.

    This is something we have to resolve. We have to learn how to relate our earthly affairs to our supernatural goal. That’s why we need to pray a lot, meditate on the words and life of Christ, who is thefullness of divine revelation and the very pattern of our humanity.

    We need to master the doctrine of our faith, ever pursuing to have a greater grasp of the whole doctrinal body, so we can have a truly integral, complete vision of things, approximating God’s vision for us. This provides us with the proper perspectives through which to see the world and to relate our temporal affairs to God.

    We should never forget that to closely follow Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life for us, we need to follow what he said: to deny ourselves and to carry the cross. There is no other formula, since our worst enemy is actually our own selves, our pride and tendency to make ourselves our own God.

    We need radical humility that can only be achieved through the cross. That is why we need to appreciate the wisdom of Christ’s cross. St. Paul reminds us of this:

    “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness. But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor 1,23)

    In our politics, the social, economic or purely political options only have relative value. But when an option goes against God, his commandments, the teaching of his Church, then we know it is really wrong.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The value of the Cross

ONE of the greatest disasters of our times is that many people, a great majority of them, have nothing but disgust and even hatred for the distinctive value of suffering. For them, suffering is an intrinsic evil, and therefore should be avoided at all costs.

The cross, the icon of suffering, should be nothing other than an ornament at best. It should not hold any other purpose or meaning.

This is the sad thing about our current world culture. It directly contradicts what Christ said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt 16,24)

The cross, in whatever form it comes, is actually the key that opens the spiritual and supernatural world meant for us. It widens our perspectives, and leads us to transcend the limits of our human nature. It enables us to enter into the dynamics of a love that is not
only material but also spiritual, not only natural but also supernatural.

It represents the extreme and ultimate way of loving, as it invites us to go beyond the confines of our wounded human nature in order to soar to the divine love from where we come and to where we are supposed to go.

With the cross, we would know how to pay for the offenses and sins we have committed. It is the fair deal we are offered in exchange of the tremendous benefit it also gives us—nothing less than the possibility to love all the way to God.

God, and not just the sky, is the limit of our loving. That’s why Christ gave us the new commandment that summarizes all the other previous commandments given to us—that we love one another as he, Christ, loved us. Christ is the standard of our love, and not just any human and natural value.

That’s why saints and holy men and women, following the example of Christ, have always seen the cross as something most welcome in their lives, because Christ’s love for us goes all the way to the cross. Pope Benedict says, “There is no love without suffering.”

Opus Dei founder, St. Josemaria Escriva, echoing the sentiments of all the saints, laments that “the cross is still a symbol of death, instead of being a sign of life. People still flee from the cross as though it were a scaffold, when it is a throne of glory. Christians
still reject the cross and identify it with sorrow, instead of identifying it with love.”

Without the cross, we debase our love and restrict it to the purely sensual, worldly and temporal level. Without it, the wings of our love are cut as it functions only on the basis of practicality, convenience, popularity and other earthly values, motives and advantages.

This is what we see in all these rationalizations behind the move to pass the RH Bill, for example. Those for it, as well as all those who are for abortion, euthanasia and similar things, are espousing a kind of love that sees no value in the cross.

It’s ok to contracept, it’s ok to abort, it’s ok to euthanize, because to a particular person, that may be the right thing to do. No one should dare to correct him, unless some immediate physical harm takes place.

They are developing a kind of morality that is not based on God who is love, bur rather on their own idea of what is good and evil. They make themselves their own God.

Since it’s a morality that denies God, it cannot help but fall to the belief that there can be no absolute truths and no universal moral law. The corollary is that everything is relative to the acting person, to the situation, to the consequences, and to other circumstances and elements, etc.

Of course, it is ironic that what is relative and individualistic is now made the absolute and universal moral law. Everything is reduced to the thinking that what may be good to me may not be good to you, and vice-versa. There’s no such thing as an intrinsically good act which should be fostered at all times, nor an intrinsically bad act that should be  avoided at all times.

This thinking is contained in such ethical systems as relativism, situation ethics,  consequentialism, proportionalism, and some peculiar variations of the so-called fundamental option and liberation theology.

Only considering the circumstances and ignoring the nature of the act itself and the agent’s intentions, they detach themselves from God who loves us through the Cross.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


PREACHING is, of course, an indispensable activity of the Church, because this is none other than transmitting the word of God. Yes, the word of God, eternal and ever relevant to us, needs to be proclaimed always, so as to be known, loved and lived by all as much as possible.

It is the word that gives us eternal life and not just some human and natural knowledge. As St. Peter said when our Lord asked the apostles if they too would leave him after telling them he was the bread of
life that caused disbelief among the Jews, “To whom shall we go? You have the word of eternal life.” (Jn 6,68)

If we go by the standard expressed by St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, then this must be a tremendous responsibility requiring nothing less than vital union with God.

“My speech and my preaching was not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, but in the showing of the Spirit and power, that your faith might not stand on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God,” says St. Paul. (2,4-5)

Further down this Pauline chapter, the apostle of the Gentiles professes that “we have the mind of Christ.” (2,16) It’s a “we” not an “I”, for St. Paul refers to himself, first, then to the others, his
listeners, for only when we have the mind of Christ, one way or another, can we appreciate preaching, whether we are the giver or the listener.

We have to be wary therefore of preaching or listening to it outside of Christ’s mind, doing it solely on the basis of our human talents and conditions, without referring it to Christ.

This happens when one preaches oneself instead of Christ. This happens when instead of making the gospel and the doctrine of our faith as the framework of preaching, one uses mere rhetoric, or his mastery of the sciences, or he exhibits his talents.

Nowadays, more and more people are relying on their human knowledge rather than on word of God as their ultimate key to human development and happiness. And some of them have brought this human knowledge with its accompanying skills to such polish and perfection that the word of God becomes totally irrelevant if not discredited.

They have also become smooth talkers, and many people also have practically lost any touch with the “mind of Christ,” such that they can only welcome the wisdom of the world rather than the word of God.

Again St. Paul referred to this when he said: “There shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears,
and will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned to fables.” (2 Tim 4,3-4)

We have to make our preaching effective. The desire for it should be made to burn in spite of the inhospitable environment. But, yes, there have to be appropriate, creative ways to do it.

Preachers really have to prepare their material well. It starts with a consistent life of prayer and earnest search for sanctity. Without these, no amount of brilliant and clever delivery can cover the hideous hole that will always be apparent when such consistency is missing.

Obviously, preachers have to think of their audience and try to figure out who they really are and what God wants to tell them in their current conditions. Thus, abiding observation of the people and the
social developments is a must.

But let’s not forget that the best way to know the people is when one spends hours hearing confessions. Here he can really get a good glimpse of the intimate interior lives of the people.

The gospel should be made the background of preaching. We have to be wary when we are drawn to participate in secular debates and discussions. The gospel should inspire such exchanges, not the other
way around, or worse, discarding the gospel.

This is a proximate temptation because in the desire to be up-to-date or to be knowledgeable about social, economic or political events and developments, the gospel can be sidelined or simply treated as an ornament.

Preaching has to bring these discussions to Christ, and in fact should inspire them. The word of God is always relevant to these discussions. And these discussions are in great need of divine inspiration.

Let’s also pray that the listeners have the proper attitude toward preaching. They should not expect social or political theories, but rather only to hear God’s word.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The wisdom of the world

WHAT a week it was! First, you had the 192 Ateneo professors digging
in their heels in support for the RH Bill after bishops called the
attention of their Catholic school.

Cleverly using the cover of a Catholic school, they now openly go
against Catholic teaching, something the school itself should check
but seems hesitant to do.

The professors cite excuses like respecting academic freedom, human
rights and other legalistic maneuvers, when what is clear is there is
academic license, i.e., abuse of academic freedom, and outright
violation of the school’s Catholic identity.

These dissenters claim for themselves the exclusive right to know
what’s right and wrong about the RH Bill. They even claim they are in
line with Church social doctrine, when the Church authorities
themselves already consider them to be out of line. Ergo, to their
mind, the Church authorities are the ones not in sync with what is

Then in the US, it was reported the Democratic Party’s platform has
dropped any reference to God, a development pregnant with
implications. Atheists applauded this development, claiming it was the
right thing to do to follow their own version of Church-state

I was actually expecting this, since there’s such thing a slippery
slope theory. But that it actually took place still causes
apprehension. The world is drifting away from God!

Yes, they still pay lip-service to things like faith and religion, but
that’s about it, just lip-service, if only to keep their supporters
who still have leanings on faith and religion. But they present a God
of their own making and ideology. In fact, the God taught by the
Church is considered a false God.

In both events, well-crafted statements were made, employing the best
of rhetoric and style. Of course, some logic was put in, pieces of
supporting evidence and proofs were cited. Some legal, economic,
social considerations were made to make themselves sound convincing.

Still, I feel these are traces of what our Lord warned us about:
“There shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show
great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive even the elect.” (Mt

St. Paul adds: “The wicked one comes according to the working of
Satan, in all power, and signs and lying wonders.” (2 Thes 2,9) And
those seduced by him will receive from God the “the operation of
error, to believe lying.” (2,11)

It was obvious both statements fell long in rationalizations but short
in substance. They made long-winded arguments, but they still missed
the point. They keep the arguments strictly at ground-level, as if
there are no other levels to consider.

Which remind me of what St. Paul said in his first letter to the
Corinthians: “Make no mistake about it. If anyone of you thinks of
himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn
to be a fool before he really can be wise.

“Why? Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As
scripture says: The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts: he knows how
useless they are. Or again, God is not convinced by the arguments of
the wise.” (3,18-20)

But would these words still mean anything to those whose faith is more
in themselves than in God and his Church? Wisdom to them is the wisdom
of this world with its worldly values: practicality, convenience,
popularity, etc.

It’s not the wisdom that comes from above and is taught and
transmitted by properly authorized instrumentalities. This wisdom of
the world is more individualistic or simply a result of some
consensus, but is in clear rupture from authentic Christian teaching
and tradition.

Defying God and the Church, even among some Catholics, has now become
less subtle and more open. Or at least playing games with God and
religion has become some kind of a fad, if not already a norm of

We have to be most wary of this trend. Many world leaders are leading
people away from God. They offer instead their own version of a
utopia, promising an earthly paradise that has nothing to do with a
transcendent, supernatural heaven, while mocking the institutions duly
established by God through Christ in the Holy Spirit.

This is the time to strengthen our true Christian identity, to tighten
our Christian consistency that should cover not only our personal
lives and affairs, but also our common life and affairs together.

This is the time to let our integral Christian faith bear on the
multitude of implications of our human affairs in this world. Beware
of the wisdom of this world!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Capax Dei

THAT means, capable for God. It’s an expression from St. Augustine
that asserts that man, in spite of his limitations, both natural and
infranatural, i.e., those that are consequences of sin, is capable of
knowing God, of launching into the infinite, of longing for the

    We have been designed and wired for it. Even if we don’t consider yet
the truths of faith about ourselves, somehow we can already know we
are meant to know God. That’s because there’s something spiritual in
us. We are not purely material beings, stuck to the material world

    Our spirituality can be discerned by the fact that we are capable of
thinking and loving, operations that are not material but are
spiritual. Here we use concepts and reasons that are spiritual, not

    Since we are capable of spiritual operations, there must be something
spiritual in us, following the principle that “operare sequitur esse,”
the operation follows or is determined by one’s being or essence. This
is how we can rightly conclude we have a spiritual soul.

    It’s our spirituality that enables us to know, to will and to love,
and its field of coverage is actually infinite. It’s our spirituality
that enables us to transcend the material dimension of our life, the
here and now, the cultural and other human conditionings, in order to
enter into the world of the spiritual and supernatural even if we
cannot fully fathom and capture it.

    In his encyclical, “Veritatis splendor” (The splendour of truth),
Pope John Paul II rightly said that “in the depths of man’s heart
there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to
attain full knowledge of it. This is eloquently proved by man’s
tireless search for knowledge in all fields.

    “It is proved even more by his search for the meaning of life. The
development of science and technology, this splendid testimony of the
human capacity for understanding and for perseverance, does not free
humanity from the obligation to ask the ultimate religious

    We have that yearning and are enabled to pursue it. This basic truth
about ourselves is very important especially considering the current
world trend that is drifting if not wallowing in what is called by
people like Pope Benedict XVI as relativism.

    This is the mentality, if not the ethos, that maintains that there
are no absolute truths, and that things simply depend on how one is,
his culture, and other conditionings. Everything is relative to
something. In the end, it denies there is a God, or an objective
universal moral law, or any intrinsic evil, or sin.

    It’s absolutizing the belief that what is true to you may not be true
to me. In short, it absolutizes the relative, an inherent
contradiction and anomaly in its system. It holds that man cannot
transcend his material dimension and the other conditionings that come
into play.

    Pope Benedict XVI, just before becoming Pope, made a strong
denunciation of this phenomenon that is gripping the majority of the
people these days. He continues to denounce it, stressing its
unspeakable dangers if it is allowed to develop to its last

    There would be total confusion and chaos, as each one, each group,
etc., will hold on to their respective beliefs, without ever hoping
that there is a universal bond that can hold us together, despite our
personal, cultural, social differences.

    While it’s true that we are subject to some conditionings, it’s not
true that we cannot go beyond them. While our knowledge of the
absolute truth may not be full, perfect and changeless, it is not true
that we cannot know the absolute truth or that there is no absolute

    Relativism has its roots in isms like atheism or non-belief in God,
agnosticism or the belief that God cannot be known no matter how one
tries. It springs from a lifestyle where the spiritual dimension of
man is practically dead while his material aspect is given full rein.

    This is actually the real problem we have, for which a lot has to be
planned out and done to solve it. It’s a big challenge, because it
involves convincing people about the reality of the spiritual and
supernatural world.

    At the moment, there is well-entrenched belief that any reference to
things like faith, the spiritual, the supernatural, the Church, is
some indication one is out of touch, is not living in this planet, is
unfeeling about the plight of the people.

    It’s indeed a big challenge to dismantle this belief, and to affirm
that we truly are “capax Dei.”