Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Moving on

I WAS happy to hear from a priest-friend, whose family suffered greatly from the Yolanda disaster, that we should not just be contented with Tindog (Stand) or Bangon (Rise) but that we should rather Uswag (Move on).

            This shows a fine spirit of faith and hope that we badly need these days, even as we are given a another chance to begin again with the celebration of the New Year 2014. This should be the attitude to have.

            It’s true that the difficulties and challenges are big and even overwhelming. They are like a gaping hole which we do not know exactly how to plug. But what would brooding, floating in idleness and inactivity, if not sinking in self-pity do to help?

            This is the time for belief and trust in God to directly lead us the way. As someone would say, “How God will transform my troubles, I do not know, but that He will transform them, I know for sure.”

            This is no mere wistful thinking, empty, idle, gratuitous. It is rooted on solid ground that cannot be shaken by any earthquake. The basis for this attitude is precisely the omnipotent, wise and merciful providence of God.

            God never abandons us, even if we feel he has left us. He has us, all of us, in his hands. He allows disasters and calamities to happen for a good reason though we, with our very limited mind, cannot fully fathom it.

            He’s asking for belief and trust, the way Christ asked the apostles that led to the multiplication of the few bread and fish to feed a big crowd of hungry people, and to the miraculous catch of fish when in the previous night the apostles caught nothing.

            This belief and trust is not inhuman at all, as some atheists and agnostics claim. These non-believers already have a fundamental handicap when they say belief is the death of intelligence. I don’t know where they get that non-sequitur.

            Belief is unavoidable since the reality that we have to grapple with simply cannot be tackled with our reason alone, no matter how brilliant and high our IQ is. This has always been the case since the birth of any man up to his death. Without belief, we cannot move forward at all.

            A toddler learns to walk because he believes and trusts his parents who egg him to walk. A child never discovers his hidden talents until he believes someone who tells him he has got what is needed to do a certain thing. Etc., etc.

            There will be baby steps and awkwardness in the beginning, falls and mistakes too, but it seems like a law of life that it is precisely through these moments that precious lessons are learned and skills developed.

            And faced with a predicament that as of now we don’t know how to handle, to whom else should we go to believe and trust that everything will just be fine? If we cannot anymore believe and trust in our present human capabilities, we go to God.

            We should not forget that with God nothing is impossible. This is a truth of faith that should sink deep in our consciousness and made to motivate, shape and direct our thoughts, plans, words and actions.

            We have to reinforce this belief continually, especially when we are assailed by doubts, fears, questions, failures. In fact, we have to turn this belief into a formidable conviction, and market it as widely as possible.

            This is not at all engaging in a Pollyana attitude toward life. Yes, we need to be cheerful and optimistic all the time, but with the cheerfulness and optimism that is properly grounded.

            We just have to make sure that the grounding is authentic. It should be on God, on our faith, on our belief in the spiritual and supernatural realities that should go beyond the material, temporal and natural dimensions of our life.

            Obviously this is easier said than done, and that is why we need to be patient and persevering in working out the many details we need to do to acquire a true belief and trust in God, and not get derailed into superstitions, which are a continuing threat to us.

            We are starting a New Year. Let’s make it another chance God is giving us to put things in order in our life, both the personal and the collective. Let’s get back on our feet and start to move on. There is no other way to go, but grow, develop and progress toward God, our ultimate end!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Gearing up the family

WE are right in the midst of the happy Christmas season when the family plays a very crucial role in everyone’s life. It’s time to look again into the current challenges of this most natural, most basic and most indispensable social unit, since on it hangs much of the fate of our lives.

            Definitely we cannot be blind to the many challenges and difficulties that the contemporary family faces. The number of broken and dysfunctional families is increasing. Its nature, purpose and requirements are getting vaguer and vaguer to many people, especially the young.

            Many developments today, while offering some good, are also creating havoc on the family because they are not understood well nor assimilated properly to the needs of the family. There’s so much concern for the economic viability of the family at the expense of taking care of its spiritual and moral vitality which is more important.

            There are many absentee parents. They often delegate their parenthood to others. Besides, parenthood is many times restricted to the act of begetting children alone, without the necessary complementing duty of bringing up children properly. Many do not know anymore what it is to be truly a parent.

            Quite often, the parental responsibilities are confined to the material and temporal needs of the family. There can be an overdrive of the emotional side of family life, which to a certain extent is good, but the spiritual and moral upbringing of the children is often untouched.

            In fact, that the family is a domestic church remains at best a theory. It is more commonly ignored and not understood, its practical implications unknown to many. That it is in the family where faith, hope and charity ought to be nourished, where the art of prayer and the development of virtues are taught and pursued, is hardly felt by many.

            That some family catechesis ought to be done is practically not done at all. Many parents feel awkward with that idea, and much less are trained to carry out that duty. It’s really quite a disaster.

            More and more couples enter marriage and start a family without adequate preparation not so much in the material and economic side as in the spiritual and moral dimensions of the family. There’s even that scary development of young couples not knowing that marriage is for life.

            The social and professional environment also gives some serious problems. In the world of entertainment, for example, so much frivolity is generated that the sacredness of love and life is often compromised.

            Also, more and more people spend more time at work and little time for the family. When they get home, they are often too tired to bother about playing with the little ones. The family is often taken for granted or made a poor second in terms of attention behind one’s work.

            That sex is often trivialized is left to fester to its dire consequences. The inculcation of proper masculinity and femininity of the children is practically not done. Nowadays, you see a lot of children whose gender is practically in a confused state. This is a serious problem since a big part of the developed countries are actively propagating the same-sex culture.

            Even our legal and political systems are giving problems with respect to the family. The contraceptive mentality now widely and vigorously pushed by our laws is certainly distorting the essence of love and life. Morality is discarded. It’s only practicality and convenience that are made the primary considerations.

            Of utmost concern also is that many parents do not realize that they actually need to do an active apostolate on the family, clarifying its nature and character, and defending it is attacked either openly or subtly.

            The duty to do apostolate is still an unknown concept to many. They feel that they have no such duty. In fact, many believe that apostolate is already in intrusion to the privacy of others.

            We have to stem the tide of irregularities regarding the family. It’s good that there are now many groups that aim precisely to proclaim, clarify and defend the nature and purpose of the family. Many are parish-based, but a good number are also of the private initiative type. Let’s hope this trend flourishes.

            We need to reach out to many people regarding this concern, and in fact, to involve them in this business. I would say that the true character of society would be shown when many of its constituents take active duty in promoting the family.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Let Christmas be everyday

YES, indeed, let the spirit of Christmas be a daily affair for all us. It should not just be a yearly observance which we drown with a lot of fanfare and merry-making. It should not just be a historical event that we want to remember with some magical nostalgia.

            Christmas has to be way of life itself. It’s a spirit, more than anything else, a truth of faith that is supposed to animate every cell and pore of our being. It’s the marvellous reality that whoever and however we are in this earthly life, we are actually with Christ, conformed to him, formally or informally, regardless of whether we acknowledge it or not.

            That’s why Christmas always evokes joy and peace. Amid the ruins left by the natural calamities and the even bigger man-made disasters due to our pride and attachments that cause a Yolanda of partisan anger and hatred, a storm surge of collective cruelty and insensitivity among ourselves, the spirit of Christmas is what we need most urgently.

            The radical objective reality about ourselves is that we have been created by God in his image and likeness, through the Son who later on became man to re-create us after we have fallen into sin and left alienated from God.

            Christ is the very pattern of our being. If we want to know who we really are, how we ought to be, we should not look for references other than Christ himself. And Christ is not some distant, frozen model or idea that we strive to follow.

            He is alive, and he is in us, he wants to be with us always, he identifies himself with us whatever our situation may be and shows us how to live that situation. This is what Christmas is all about. It’s Christ knocking at our heart’s door, asking to come in, to be born in us and to live with us.

We have to be more aware of this reality of Christmas. More than that, we have to learn to step into that reality and live it as best as we could, locking ourselves in it always as much as possible and actively corresponding to it with all the might that we have.

Let’s learn the many precious lessons of Christmas. Christ born in a manger, Christ who is God emptying himself to become man and to suffer all the inhumanity of man, etc.—he shows us how to live in this life.

We have to learn how to be simple and humble. These traits are never a sign of weakness. On the contrary, they are a sure path to our objective and original greatness that we lost but was recovered and enhanced for us through Christ.

This is the truth that we should relish together with whatever ham, cheese, beer and lechon we will be having this Christmas. That’s why the celebration of Christmas should have an eminently theological character, going beyond the social and sentimental.

We need to input the truths of faith to the merely natural and human elements of the festivity that always have a way, given our weakened condition, to intoxicate and desensitize us to the greater wonders of our life.

This Christmas, let’s take account of the challenges of our times. There are many disturbing developments that we need to face always with the spirit of Christmas. That would be the spirit of truth given in charity and causing joy everywhere.

At the moment, I can think of how many young people today are trivializing the sacredness of marriage and sex. Reports are rampant of what are called hook-up relations, the proliferation of the so-called selfie culture that promotes egoism and vanity.

In the area of politics, we now have so much inhuman partisanship that the different characters involved are now into red-hot acrimony and bashing. There is now fanaticism in the mainstream. It’s the new normal, as if basic courtesy and giving others the benefit of the doubt should be shot down on sight.

We are getting farther away from the true spirit of Christmas. And the irony of it all is that we like to flaunt our Christmas greetings and feastings. It has become a Christmas without Christ. Sadder still is the fact that we don’t seem to realize it. Our ignorance and inconsistency appear invincible.

But I know there’s always hope. That’s what Christmas also tells us. God’s ways are like water that through the most difficult mountains can still manage to pass to the sea.

Let Christmas be everyday!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Charity is not optional

CHARITY is, of course, a necessity for us. It is what makes us who and what we are in our fullness. It is the essence of our humanity, since we are the image and likeness of God, and God is love, “Deus caritas est.”

            In fact, Christ commanded us to be charitable. When asked what the greatest commandment was, he simply said, to love God with all our might and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

            Charity is not something optional for us, to be lived only from time to time, depending on favorable circumstances. We have to live it all the time and to extend it to all, friend or foe, at home and in the fields and offices, in schools and in sports, in business and in politics.

            Especially politics, since that is where we usually find ourselves to leave charity behind. In the aftermath of the calamities we just had, for example, rabidly partisan politics rears its ugly head, and charity is simply shredded to pieces.

            It’s true that we unavoidably have different views and opinions about issues dear to our life as a nation. But these variety and differences are good, since they would only enrich our appreciation of things.

            Yet it does not mean that to push our particular position, we have to abandon charity. It’s precisely in this kind of situation when we have to be most charitable, and when living it, in spite of its inconveniences, becomes more meritorious to us.

            Sad to say, this fanatical partisan politics is what we are seeing these days, especially in the social networks. All kinds of insults, bashing, mudslinging, ad hominems are thrown around. All kinds of fallacies, even those that are so obvious that the commonest of common sense could effortlessly detect, are presented.

            Mere opinions are now presented as dogmas, one’s favored politician is pictured as a true saint incapable of committing any mistake while his hated politician is the devil incarnate himself, simply incapable of doing anything good.

            The canine devotion on the one hand and the raging hatred on the other can be so overwhelming and blinding that they are extended to families, allies and supporters of the politicians. Distinctions are forgotten and the generalizations become dominant. There’s flattery on the one hand, and carpet bombing on the other.

            In discussing issues, many times the division between what is essential and what is incidental is all but forgotten. The conscious effort to relate issues to the common good is neglected. What rules is one’s personal interest or advantage, which at best only has a relative and supporting value.

            And we are not talking about uneducated and illiterate men who are doing this. We are talking about professionals, with brilliant bio-data and all that, who are falling into this kind of madness. It makes us wonder what kind of education they have been receiving.

            It is clear that we have a big crisis insofar as charity is concerned. And since charity is the mother of all the virtues and the perfection of our humanity, any crisis directly involving it is a crisis of the first magnitude.

            And the simple reason for this sad phenomenon is because God is not at all taken seriously in politics. In this field of human affairs, God is often considered as irrelevant, a persona non grata, unwelcome.

            Many consider Christ’s teachings and even the whole gamut of faith as not having any relation to politics. Politics is regarded as no-man’s land, where everyone is absolutely free to do anything according to his own terms. With such mindset, politics becomes exempt to the requirements of morality that is always ruled by charity.

            We need to correct this irregularity before it becomes a formidable and most painful crisis. Let’s practice charity and refinement in our exchanges of opinions. Let’s get a better and firmer grip on what would really comprise our common good.

            We also need to have good control over our emotions, passions and temper. Reason has to lead the way, reason enlightened by faith, seasoned by hope and expressed in charity.

            And let’s remember that common good is not just a collection of earthly and material goods to be enjoyed by us. It always starts and ends with charity. Without charity, we cannot speak of common good.

            It’s charity that insures that everyone is treated justly and fairly, though never uniformly. Some enjoy certain privileges that the other don’t have, but these privileges should be used for the good of all, and not just for sheer personal convenience.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


WE need to develop in ourselves the spirit of expiation which we might describe as having the mind of paying and atoning for our sins, repairing what we have damaged, curing what we have harmed.

            We cannot help but have faults and weaknesses, commit mistakes and sins, and all these have their consequences that we have to learn how to handle. This is a fact of life, an unavoidable occurrence in our life. As St. John said, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jn 1,8)

            We should not anymore make a big fuss about this reality. We just have to acknowledge it and learn how to deal with it properly. What is obvious is that we need redemption.

            That is why right after the fall of our first parents, the idea and the need for expiation by offering some sacrifices were already inculcated, as in the case of Abel and Cain and the many other biblical characters.

            The divine pedagogy about this practice continues with increasing clarity with Christ’s sacrifice as the summit and abiding model and goal for everyone to follow.

            We have to understand then that expiation is an essential ingredient of our life here on earth. It’s a real necessity, ignoring which can only mean a terrible insensitivity on our part.

            We need to know more about this need, especially its motives and means. And let’s help one another develop this spirit, which can easily be acquired and lived if we have the proper attitude and disposition, the proper understanding and matching skills.

            While in the beginning expiation was done mainly by offering something to God, now we have to understand that expiation can only be properly done if done together with Christ who did not only offer something to his Father, but rather his own self.

            Christ’s passion, death and resurrection is the perfect sacrifice that fully paid for the all the transgressions of men. He is the perfect redeemer and savior, because he is both God and man, and thus connects God and man all the way.

            Only Christ can satisfy divine justice for our sins. Without him, no matter how much we try, we cannot fully satisfy God’s justice, since we are only man alienated from God due to sin.

            In other words, Christ assumed all the sinfulness of man without committing sin so we can be reconciled with God. This he did out of sheer divine love for us. St. Paul expresses this truth well when he said: “Him (Christ), who knew no sin, made himself sin for us, that we might be made the justice of God in him.” (2 Cor 5,21)

            We have to have this kind of mentality. We should learn to be willing to make ourselves like sin, suffering its consequences, as atonement and reparation for the sins of all men, ours and those of everyone else.

            That is why Christ himself said it clearly, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt 16,24) And for us, the cross can take many forms: physical pain, emotional anguish, moral and spiritual suffering, etc. We need to have a theological attitude toward these unavoidable elements in our life.

            We should embrace them the way Christ embraced the cross. Christ should be the template to follow when dealing our pains and sufferings. That’s when our pains and suffering can have meaning and purpose. They acquire an expiatory and redemptive value.

            Let’s not mind if we feel we don’t deserve the suffering we encounter in this life. Christ did not deserve to suffer and die at all, but he chose to do so, again out of pure love for us. That’s the attitude we should also develop in ourselves.

            Let’s drink heavily on these mysterious words of Christ: “He who loses his life for me shall find it.” (Mt 10,39) These words are meant to build up hope in us and to reinforce the theological way we ought to have when trying to understand the different events in our life.

            And let’s not exaggerate the pain and suffering, since we also would know how to deal with them. St. Paul said: “If you live according to the flesh, you shall die. But if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live.” (Rom 8,13)

            This is the secret of how to bear all kinds of suffering we can experience here, and how to derive the ultimate good from them.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


ONE basic and undeniable fact that we have to learn to correspond properly is that each one of us and all of us together are called—called by God, our Creator, our Father. We don’t live by our lonesome, with the option of connecting with others when some need arises. We are not meant to be a freelance, uncommitted individual.

            The rudimentary truth is that we are, from beginning to end, related to God and to everybody else. And this inherent relationship demands from us our conscious effort to engage with God and with everyone. That’s why we are told that God’s greatest commandment is to love God with all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

            We therefore have to wage an unrelenting battle against our tendency to think that as persons we are first and foremost an individual and that we in the end will just be by ourselves. We need to crush that tendency to fall into egoism.

            It’s true that a person is an individual, but it is also true that a person would not be a true person unless he is also related to others, with God as the first other. We have to process this truth more thoroughly since the dominant understanding is precisely that we are mere individuals and that our relation with others is just optional.

            Obviously, we are not forced to enter into any relation. As persons, we have to do things freely. But we also have to understand that entering into a relation is not optional. It is a necessity that we have to take up freely. It’s like the freedom to meet the necessity to breathe.

            In other words, entering into relations is part of our nature and design as persons. We have to conform ourselves to how we have been designed, since there are many things in our nature that do not come and function automatically. They need to be worked out.

            One of these things is precisely the fact that we are called. We have not been born and put into existence without this calling, first of all, from God our Creator, and then later on from everybody else.

            This kind of awareness is akin to that of spouses who are supposed to do things always thinking of the other spouse. That is why this awareness of being called can also be described as developing and having a spousal attitude toward life. We can truly say that we are married to God from beginning to end.

            This awareness of being called is what may be considered as our sense of vocation. Everyone has a vocation just as everyone has his own DNA. The vocation is like God’s program for each one of us and all of us together that extends all throughout our earthly life and beyond. It contains everything that our life is supposed to be.

            It is our duty to grow in our awareness and knowledge of our personal vocation, growing in love with it and in the generosity of living it in its fullness. This duty can start with a simple act of morning offering every day, as soon as we wake up, and then sustaining it all throughout the day by some regular reminders.

            The first thing we have to do is precisely to offer the day to God and to activate our attitude of living in God’s presence, ever attentive to his promptings which obviously he does since he is always with us, actively intervening in our lives.

            To be sure, God’s presence in us is never passive. His interventions are not of the supporting type only. He does not play a cameo role only in our life. He plays a prominent role, but he does it always with us, such that we can say that our life is and should be as much ours as it is also his.

            And this can happen if we keep and reinforce our abiding awareness that we are always called. We need to sharpen our skill to listen as attentively as possible to God’s calling, ever discerning to even the slightest insinuations that he may be making through the different events of our life, both the big, extraordinary ones and the small ones.

            What can also help are the continuing study of our faith, regular prayers or intimate conversations with God carried out in the mind and heart, recourse to the sacraments, the exercise and development of virtues.

            These will make Christ alive in our life. They nourish are awareness that we are always called by him.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


WHILE we all have to pursue the long and winding road to sanctity, we have to remember that we also have to be sinner-friendly, but not sin-friendly. We have to be most careful with the distinction.

            It would be a disaster if in our earnest effort to be holy, we become monsters instead, because we become proud and vain, feeling ourselves superior to others, making rash judgments right and left, and reeking with self-righteousness.

            To be sure, it would not be true holiness if the struggle in our spiritual life takes away charity, understanding, patience and compassion towards others. The contrary should be true. Authentic sanctity should make us more charitable, merciful, understanding and patient towards others.

            This is what we see in Christ. Accused by the leading people of the time to be “a glutton and a wine drinker, a friend of publicans and sinners,” (Mt 11,19), he did not correct that impression, but rather went along with it.

            He fraternized with sinners. Zacchaeus, for example. Matthew was another one. When a woman, caught in adultery, was presented to him for condemnation, he refrained from doing so. Instead, he dismissed her with the simple admonition to sin no more.

            Right there on the cross, a thief crucified with him, simply begged, “Lord, remember me when you shall come into your kingdom.” And Christ, without further ado, readily saw the contrition and said, “Amen, this day you shall be with me in paradise.” (Lk 23,42-43)

            Jesus was very liberal with his mercy. He did not make unnecessary demands. He who taught his disciples to forgive others not only seven times, but seventy times seven—meaning always—practised what he preached. The parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep and the prodigal son can attest to this.

            More than that, he told his followers to love their enemies. For that precisely is the true character of charity. It’s when it’s given gratis et amore, without expecting any return, that its authenticity is shown, that is, that its divine origin and character is shown.

            This is most vividly expressed in his passion and death on the cross. With that, he assumed the sinfulness of all men, from the first to the last, without committing sin himself. In short, he made his very own self as the very expiation for our sins. He did not merely offer some things as ransom for our sin. He offered himself.

            That’s why, Christ declared that “no man has greater love than he who lays down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15,13)

            Christian life would not be complete if this infinite mercy of God is not preached and lived together with the rigor and discipline that following Christ also involves. We have to be careful in presenting the true essence of Christianity. While it has its very strict aspect, it also has its most lenient part. The two should go together.

            We need to reassure everyone that there is always hope regardless of whatever faults, mistakes and sins we commit. And in this task of reassuring everyone of hope, we cannot be passive, but rather proactive by reaching out to those who may not yet feel the urge to return to God.

            The gospel of hope, love and mercy should be spread far and wide, even in those areas where this good news is not yet welcome.

            This is the challenge we all have to confront. For sure, it can only be handled properly if we try our best to conform ourselves as intimately as possible to the mind, will and heart of Christ. There can be no other way.

            For this to happen, we need to pray and meditate on the living and eternal word of God, avail of the sacraments, study the catechism, develop and grow in the virtues, and fill ourselves with the holy zeal to bring others closer to God.

            This is how we can have a true encounter with the living Christ who often is caricaturized and disfigured by us through our inadequate effort to follow him closely. We many times reduce him to our own terms and schema because we fail to enter by the narrow gate, or we are averse to the sacrifice needed in following him.

            We have to have the living Christ before we can present and give him to others. Though there will always be obstacles along the way, we are assured that if we persevere and are willing to go all the way—even to our version of crucifixion—the truth and beauty of Christianity would simply be irresistible.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Let’s be joyful and at peace

GAUDIUM cum pace. Joy with peace. An ideal we have to reach everyday, especially at the end of the day. It is what is proper to us. Without it, we would be miserable creatures, regardless of the riches, power and fame we may have.

                As Sacred Scripture would have it, “A merry heart is the true life of man, is an unfailing store of holiness. Length of years is measured by rejoicing.” (Sir 30,23) And St. Thomas Aquinas has this to say apropos: “Happiness is a good proper to human beings. Animals can only be called happy by a misuse of language.”

            There are many benefits of joy and peace. The Book of Proverbs says, “A cheerful heart makes a quick recovery. It is crushed spirits that waste a man’s frame.” (17,22) Joy facilitates thinking and reasoning. It helps us understand people and situations. It fosters simplicity, creates a good atmosphere around, builds up unity.

            We have to make sure that we are happy and peaceful. Obviously, we have to understand that to be in that state is first of all a result of grace which we should always ask and pray for. But it is also a product of our own correspondence to God’s grace, and of our effort to follow more closely Christ’s teaching and example.

            The joy and peace rooted on Christ transcend the physical and earthly dimensions. They can be lived even in what may be considered humanly speaking as difficult moments of pain, suffering and privation.

            Thus, St. Paul once said: “In all things we suffer tribulation, but we are not distressed. We are sore pressed, but we are not destitute. We endure persecution, but we are not forsaken. We are cast down, but we do not perish. We are always bearing about in our body the dying of Jesus so that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodily frame.” (2 Cor 4,8-10)

            We need to go theological to attain this state of joy and peace. We cannot rely solely on the physical, medical and other worldly elements that go into the making of joy and peace. We need faith. We need to be vitally united with Christ.

            We have to see to it that every day, and in fact, in every activity we do during the day, we should always end with a sense of joy, satisfaction and fulfillment, no matter how things went. They can go badly, humanly speaking, but if our sense of joy and peace is theological, we will always find meaning, beauty and purpose in them.

            This is crucial because it is joy that keeps us going, that keeps us alive. We may get physically tired, but our spirit would still be vibrant. We can still manage to smile, to be hopeful and positive about things, to be encouraging in our words and deeds.

            And all this not because we are inventing things. We are convinced of the solid foundation of our faith that secures and guarantees our conviction about our sense of joy and peace. It’s this conviction that would make us consistently happy in good times and bad times, whether alone or with others.

            It’s a pity to see many wilted faces around precisely because many people do not know where to find their joy and peace. They look for them in some pills, or in merely physical and emotional well-being, and in many instances, in some forms of escapism like drugs, sex and the now-proliferating inane forms of entertainment and games.

            They end up more depressed and more cheated than before. Their joy and peace is a thin chimera that cannot take the test of time and the many trials and challenges in life.

            We have to help one another develop the proper sense of joy and peace.  We need to show the joy contained in the gospel, in the sacraments, in the exercises of prayer and penance.

            All too often, these spiritual things are pictured as dour and gloomy or a killjoy. We have to expose and explode that myth. The contrary is in fact the truth. But we need to go through some theological thinking to see this reality.

            We need to do some massive and urgent rescue operation, not unlike what should have been done to give immediate relief and comfort to our Yolanda victims. Many of us are deceived by a kind of sweet poison that prevents us from appreciating the objective character of joy and peace, as well as their true source and the proper means to have them.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Who are we really?

A STORY is said about Alexander the Great who astounded a beggar who only asked for some alms but instead was given the government of five cities. When the beggar expressed his consternation, Alexander just said: “You asked like the man you are. I give like the man I am.”

Well, that’s how the cookie crumbles in this life. Whatever we do or say is determined by the way we are. We understand, see and react to things according to the kind of person we are.

As some Latin adages would have it, “Operare sequitur esse” (our deeds are determined by our being), or “Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur” (Whatever is received is received according to the manner of the receiver).

The guests in a wedding give gifts to the newly-weds in accordance to their station in life. The millionaire may give a car or a house, while an ordinary housewife may give a set of chinaware. It can happen, though, that the latter gives it more wholeheartedly than the former.

When you just have a little money, you usually give a modest tip to the barber or the waiter. But when you have a thick wallet, you tend to give away a lot more.

Different people react to issues or tackle problems according to the way they are. The intellectual sees things differently from the way a farmer sees them. Same with how believers and unbelievers approach challenges.

This is a law of life that somehow sheds light on the importance and the need of truly enriching our identity, our humanity, because everything else in our life would depend on who we really are.

I suppose we can readily see that we are much more than just a biological creature, or a socio-cultural product, or a political animal or economic phenomenon. For sure, these aspects also go into our identity, but there must still be some deeper underlying basis that holds these aspects together.

Some ideologies have put forward their conception of our nature. The communists tend to see man simply as a material creature, subject only to social, economic, historical, political forces. There is nothing beyond our death.

Atheists and agnostics tend to limit us only to our temporal and earthly dimensions. Hardly anything spiritual and supernatural is considered. In fact, they are averse to such considerations. They claim there is no God, or that God’s existence is doubtful, and therefore we hardly have any relation with God.

We need to enrich our identity because our humanity is not a static matter determined solely by genes or legal status or some social and cultural criteria. Our identity is a dynamic affair that ultimately depends on who we believe we are.

The quest to know our real identity and to bring our humanity to its fullness cannot help but touch on our core beliefs. It has to enter into the question of whether we are created, and if we are created, then how we are related to our Creator. Is it a relation between a person and a thing, or between a person and another person?

The Christian faith tells us a wholistic vision of our humanity, one that covers not only the temporal and earthly, but also the eternal and supernatural. It gives meaning not only to the good events we have like our joys and successes, but also the bad ones like our sufferings and defeats.

The Christian faith tells us that we are persons, not things, since we have intelligence and will. We can know and love. We can enter into a relationship and are conscious of it. More than that, we are expected to keep and strengthen that relationship.

This is a very crucial point to be understood by us—in fact, by all of us as much as possible. Sad to say, we often are remiss of this duty to keep and deepen this relationship. We just let ourselves be led by some feeling or changing perceptions. We seldom go to the root of our identity.

Our Christian faith tells us that not only are we persons, created in the image and likeness of God. We are children of God who with grace are expected to participate intimately in the very life of God. We have been enabled for this dignity, and this potential is made actual by God’s grace and our correspondence to it.

This is the truth of our faith that needs to be processed thoroughly and assimilated deeply so we don’t get lost in the confusing ways of our earthly life.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Our daily patchwork

EVERYDAY we have to deal with all sorts of things, a veritable hodgepodge, a patchwork of matters that often are incongruous to each other. This can lead us to confusion, to bewilderment and then to things like skepticism, cynicism, indifference and the like.

            If we want to survive, then we should feel the responsibility of blending this mix with meaning and beauty, with a sense of purpose and direction. In that way, our daily patchwork becomes a living thing, not just a dead, inert mess that we are forced to handle. It becomes organic. That’s our daily challenge.

            Aside from the basic variety in our life, like the spiritual and the material, the natural and the supernatural, the sacred and the mundane, the temporal and the eternal, we have to deal now with the endless finer nuances that this diversity produces.

            There are things that we like and don’t like, things that we love and we hate, developments that are pleasant and unpleasant. There are successes and failures, moments that are prosaic and also sublime, times when we go into an intellectual mode as well as into a manual mode.

            We handle both absolute dogmas and relative opinions, old and traditional customs as well as new and innovative practices and trends. We have our highs and lows in our emotional and psychological life.

            Then we deal with all kinds of people. There are the good, saintly ones, and the openly devious, full of calculations and schemes. You have the rich and the poor, the simple and the sophisticated, the quick-witted and the dimwit.

            We just have to learn how to be sport and flexible before all these possibilities, and versatile as well, so we can be “all things to all men,” as St. Paul once told us. We need to be open in our attitude, and confident and competent so as not to get lost as well as to know how to integrate them together into one meaningful whole.

            The ideal to reach is to be able to reflect God’s joy at the end of each day of the creation story, where it is said that “God saw that it was good.” In fact, on the seventh day of creation, he rested and entered into communion with his creation. That is how we ought to feel and do at the end of our day and of our life.

            We, of course, can only do this if we are with God. And that’s precisely the main point we want to make here. We have to work on our unity and identification of God, whose image and likeness we are, whose children we also are. We cannot and should not be left alone, left to our own devices. We need God.

            Insofar as God is concerned, he is always with us. He intervenes in our life. His presence in us is never passive even if we are not aware of him. If we have faith, then we will realize this truth and would be led to correspond to his designs for us.

            God’s intervention in our life had led him to send his son to us, the son becoming man himself through the mystery of the incarnation. It’s good that we go through what the Catechism teaches us about the significance of the incarnation so we would know how God and us can live together and can be united.

            Point 521 says: “Christ enables us to live in him all that he himself lived, and he lives it in us. By his incarnation, he, the Son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man. We are called only to become one with him, for he enables us as the members of his Body to share in what he lived for us in his flesh as our model.”

            In short, Christ shows us the way of how to deal with whatever we experience in life, which he identifies with.

            We need to be aware of this truth of our faith and start to act and behave accordingly. We need to deal with Christ personally through prayer, reception of the sacraments, continuing study of our faith, etc.

            This is how we can put life and purpose, order and harmony, meaning and beauty into our daily patchwork.

            We need to spread this Good News and reassure everyone of its veracity as evidenced in the lives of saints through the ages. Our times, more complicated, subtle and challenging, need modern saints who know how to cope with the growing patchworks we need to deal everyday.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The greatness of little things

OF course, big things come from small things. The former is made of the latter. No building will rise if no sand, gravel, cement, wood, bars, etc. are put all together. As an ancient Greek writer said: “From base things we devise things noble.” No orchestra will play great music if its many members will not play their part properly.

            We need to see the organic connection between the little things and the big things, the here-and-now and the beyond, the means and the end, the material and the spiritual, the natural and the supernatural. We need to see that connection and be fascinated by it always.

            Our usual problem is to get stuck with one or the other term of the equation. Our usual problem is we either get too focused on the little things without relating them to the big things, or we have the bias of considering only the goal or the result without giving due attention to the often tedious means and processes.

            Without seeing and living this connection, we become vulnerable to miss our goals, or we can fail to burn and grow in our love—for God and for others. We cannot persevere in our pursuits. Our initial enthusiasm fizzles out easily. The gloss and sheen of our appearance and behavior evaporate in no time.

            The Book of Sirach says: “He who despises small things will fail little by little.” (19,1) We have to be most careful because the neglect of little things can easily lull us to complacency, or to think that nothing is wrong and that everything is just fine.

            In short, we fail to develop a unity of life. Not only would we be unable to link the present with the future, the means with the end, the internal with the external, we would also fail to relate the mundane with the sacred, the fleeting character of the prosaic elements in our daily life with the permanent value in our life beyond death.

            We obviously have to contend with many obstacles along the way. We can tend to be narrow-minded and short-sighted, full of improper biases and attachments. We easily make rash judgments and are often at the mercy of our emotions and passions, putting our reason and faith to sleep.

            We can also get tired, or rather, we can cover laziness as tiredness. The general environment, the prevailing culture can be insensitive to the value of little things. It only gives attention to the big things, not the little ones, the desired success, not the necessary effort.

            This is where we fail to realize the greatness of the little things, taking them for granted, and to miss the fact that while it’s true that the devil can be in the details to show the falsity of the apparently impressive things we do, God is also in the details, since it’s the little things where we can see God and engage him in a relation of love.

            As the spiritual writer Cassian once said, the most subtle trick, the most insidious snare the devil can make on us is to suggest that progress can only be achieved in the big things and not in the little things.

            It’s in the little things, it’s in the care we give to the small, ordinary, prosaic activities and concerns of the day that proves whether we are really true to our good intentions and to our fervent affirmations of love and care for the others.

            We need to train ourselves to see God in the little things. The objective reality is that God is everywhere. He’s not only in the extraordinary events in our life. He is always with us.

            Thus, we need to learn to be contemplative even in the middle of the world, able to see God in all the good, the bad, and the ugly that the world contains. We need to learn how to be recollected so that even as we engage our senses and faculties with the many immediate things in life, we don’t lose sight of the ultimate end.

            We need to exercise our faith. We cannot depend solely on what we see, hear or feel. Neither would it be enough that we move only when we understand things. We have to follow closely what our faith tells us, even if there are mysteries involved.

            God’s providence is such that not only is he present in everything. He is also actively intervening in our life, especially in the little things, drawing us and everything else to himself.