Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Easter, the ultimate victory

THAT’S the victory of Easter, the resurrection of Christ when he
finally conquered death itself and with it all the malice of sin and
evil. It’s the victory that recovers our original dignity as image and
likeness of God and nothing less than God’s children in Christ, the
dignity we lost because of sin.

    This ultimate victory even enhances that dignity, since it involves
God becoming like us so that we can be like him! It’s this very
sublime exchange and sharing that comprises the supreme good that can
happen to us.

    Some people have considered it a Pyrrhic victory since it involves
quite a tremendous cost. It’s like saying that the resurrection of
Christ has given us only a zero-sum triumph, since what we gain with
it is almost the same as what we lose.

    This is, of course, a very poor understanding of this truth of faith.
While it’s true that this culmination of the redemptive work of Christ
on us entailed nothing less than his life, it’s also true that that
death has been converted into a gateway to our salvation with his
resurrection. What matters is what happens in the end, with an effect
that will be for always.

    If we believe this truth and live it ourselves, identifying
everything in our life with the life and the passion, death and
resurrection of Christ, then we too can partake of this ultimate

    We should not forget that it will involve nothing less than the
offering of our life. Before that, it obviously will entail a lot of
suffering—the cross, in other words—which Christ already warned us
about when he said that if we want to follow him, then we should deny
ourselves, take up our cross and follow him.

    It would be nice if we can quit wasting time by fussing about this
truth, and simply proceed to live it, acquiring the relevant attitude
and skills to put it into practice. Yes, with this truth about our
assured ultimate victory in Christ, we ought to have the confidence
and serenity in going about the affairs of our life. Plus, a driving
sense of responsibility that should push us to do things for others
without counting the cost.

    The other day, someone told me about an advanced management program
designed in the likes of those in Harvard and the number 1 European
business school, IESE, in Barcelona, Spain.

    What caught my attention is that this program is offered to the CEOs
and owners of big companies in the Philippines and the other countries
comprising the ASEAN, because by 2016, there is supposed to be an
economic integration of the region that would boost economic

    What is prominently distinctive of this program is that it infuses a
strong Christian spirit into the complex art of managing big companies
with global impact. I consider this a very bold move, since it will
bring religion at the center of business and economics, a combination
that is often considered taboo, at least in the practical sense and
not so much in the theoretical.

    It’s about time that God is seriously put into these human
activities, so crucial in our lives. Those behind this program
reassured everyone that freedom of conscience will always be
respected, but that God, faith and religion would be unabashedly
talked about in relation to these affairs of ours.

    I consider this as a kind of having the Easter mentality, the
attitude of a confident winner who goes beyond merely monetary and
other technical criteria in their business and economic activities.

    That it is given to the business leaders is also very significant,
since that would surely have a great effect on the ethical climate of
the regional and global economy. Every time I pass by the IT Park in
Cebu where I usually see a lot of young people, I cannot help but
think of how to evangelize them.

    I can already detect certain attitudes and behaviour that are
actually disturbing, most of them related to how the virtue of
chastity is lived, how time and money are spent, etc.

    Casual flings seem to be the in-thing among them. They are only
interested in the money and the so-called freedom that money can give
them. There’s a great need to clarify things and to inculcate the
proper values and develop the virtues.

    We need to have the Easter spirit in dealing with this challenge.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Evil fathomed, borne and destroyed

IF there is anything that is very prominently highlighted in the Good
Friday liturgy and the entire Easter Triduum that ends on Easter
Sunday, it is that all the evil and malice we are capable of
committing are fathomed and measured by Christ, borne and assumed by
him and finally destroyed and conquered.

    This is what we have to bear in mind as we go through the liturgical
services that from the human point of view can really be tedious and
boring because of the many details involved.

    It’s only with this thought that would enable us to enter into the
deepest meaning of these days. Otherwise, we would just end up hating
the services and itching for an escape.

    Our capacity to do evil and to succumb to malice is also infinite.
That’s just how things are with us. The range and scope of
possibilities for both good and evil, given our spiritual nature, is
quite extensive.

    That’s a thought that should sober us, especially if we consider the
evil possibilities. If we think we have already seen enough evil and
malice in this world, think again. There are still more, and in forms
that can truly beggar our imagination.

    This is not meant to scare us. Rather, it is meant to firm up our
conviction that the greatest evil has already been done, and that is
the killing of Christ on the cross, the crucifying of not only a great
man, even the greatest man, but also of God himself, for Christ is
both man and God.

    In a sense, we should not worry so much about the evil that can still
unfold before our eyes in forms and ways that can really stretch our
disbelief to the limit. Nothing can surpass the evil and malice of
killing Christ, though we must also admit that every evil we commit
contributes and reprises the cruel crucifixion of Christ.

    This does not mean that we can be cavalier with evil, even in its
slightest forms. We should try to avoid all traces of evil and malice,
and resist them with our best efforts. But if we cannot help but fall
into them, we should not worry too much, because all that evil has
already been borne by Christ and conquered by him.

    Besides, St. Paul told us quite clearly that while sin has abounded,
the grace of God has abounded even more. It’s a truth that was richly
dramatized in the parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep and the
prodigal son. What we have to do is to act out what those involved in
these parables did—to look and find God again, to ask for pardon.

    We need to immerse ourselves more deeply in this conviction so we
don’t waste precious time and energy tangling with our doubts and
fears because of our weakness, temptations and falls. We sometimes go
to such extremes in lamenting over these phenomena that we may not be
able to get hold of what is truly important—to go back to God.

    That’s why it is important that we meditate on the passion, death and
resurrection of Christ. Being the culmination and summary of his
redemptive work that is also perpetuated in the Church especially
through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, this paschal mystery
sheds abundant light on the interplay of grace and evil, mercy and
malice, etc.

    Such meditation, especially during the Holy Week, can truly widen our
perspective and deepen our faith in God and his loving, wise and
merciful providence over us. It will take us away from ignorance,
error and confusion, so rampant these days insofar as our faith is

    It will also help us to be understanding towards ourselves and others
whenever we feel we are committing or seeing evil around us. It will
help us to be more charitable, preferring to pray, to ask for pardon,
to go to confession, to make atonement, etc.

    If there’s any need to clarify something or to defend ourselves, then
we can do these with utmost delicacy, without falling into bitter
zeal. We would also be encouraged to imitate Christ in accepting the
cross, our daily contradictions with faith and trust in God and his

    In the end, we will be helped in developing a supernatural and
theological outlook toward life, especially its unavoidable dark
aspect, and even to have a positive, serene and cheerful attitude, so
necessary these days when we are wracked with a lot of negativism and

Poverty that enriches

 WE are, of course, more familiar with the poverty that truly
impoverishes and dehumanizes us. And it’s right that we do everything,
in the different levels of our life, from the personal to the social
and global, to eliminate such poverty.

    Hunger, illiteracy, ignorance, marginalization and isolation,
unemployment, social injustice and inequality are some forms of this
terrible kind of poverty. We need a concerted effort to tackle these
problems present in all levels of society and aspects of our life.

    But there’s another kind that we need to be more familiar with,
because it is what is proper to us. This is the poverty that enriches
us actually, because it precisely deprives us of things that we tend
to accumulate but which separates us from our true and ultimate
wealth, God himself.

    This is the poverty spoken of in one of the beatitudes: “Blessed are
the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It’s a very
strategic kind of poverty, so indispensable in the struggle for our
salvation and perfection, given our wounded nature and the confused
state the world is in.

    We need to understand this kind of poverty not so much under the
light of not having this or that, a matter of self-denial and
privation, as under the light of being more in God and in love. We
need to see and live the organic connection between the depriving part
and the enriching part. Otherwise, we will distort its true face and

    This is the poverty taught and lived by Christ, as well as by the
saints through the ages. It can have different manifestations, but the
core essence is the same. It’s a matter of emptying our heart of
earthly things and attachments to fill it solely with God. It’s not so
much a question of having more or less as a matter of being more or
less with God.

    While its usual practical implications and measure lean more on the
economic, financial and material, this Christian virtue of poverty now
challenges us in more subtle, intangible categories.

    Yes, we have to continue being wary with the rampaging waves of
consumerism, commercialism and materialism afflicting our society
today. But now, we have to give due attention to how we are developing
and living this virtue in the way we use our time and other resources
like energy, freedom, creativity, etc.

    It’s in these areas where we have to check whether the self-denial
and detachment involved in poverty actually leads us to get close to
God and to others, whether it’s a poverty that makes us love God and
others more.

    Poverty is not purely a negative virtue. It is a very positive one,
and of the type that needs to grow at the behest of love. It’s never
idle or sterile. It’s a very fruitful kind of poverty, and exciting as

    In the use of the Internet, for example, we need to see if such use
makes us grow in love for God and others. If the Internet, now with
its many programs like the social networking systems, blunts rather
than sharpens our life of prayer, our family life and our apostolic
work, then obviously we would not be living poverty well in that area.

    We have to realize that the Internet has the tendency to stimulate
and absorb us. It consumes a lot of our energy such that we can be
completely exhausted to do other things that are even more important
though less attractive to us.

    Christian poverty can involve the way we resolve not only our lack of
money and things but also our tiredness, our lack of time, our other
weakness and difficulties that tend to put us down one way or another
in life.

    Do we manage with God’s grace and our effort to contend with these
negative conditions, which are definitely other forms of privation,
with heroism and greatness of heart, with generosity in self-giving or
do we buckle down to the sheer demands of our physical conditions even
other more important concerns still need to be attended to?

    We need to realize that this is also one clear area where we can
develop and live Christian poverty. Do we manage to make ourselves
more available to others, more flexible to the varying demands of the
times when we find it hard to adapt to new and unfamiliar situations?

    Are we prodded to be more magnificent in attitude when big challenges
come our way? This is where true Christian poverty comes in.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Holy Week

THE Holy Week somehow reminds us of the true character and value of
time which we often take of granted. Time, for many of us, is just an
unavoidable element in life which we try to measure in terms of
seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, etc.

    For sure, if we limit our attitude toward time in that level, nothing
beyond the calendar year, we would have a very poor and shallow
understanding of a very important resource in life.

    But thanks to God, because of the inescapable demands of life and our
needs, we can’t help but put more meaning and purpose to our time.
That’s why we have schedules, plans, deadlines, and we classify time
into school years or fiscal years, for example.

    Just the same, we need to realize that time has a much deeper meaning
and purpose than just the practical one or other considerations and
criteria that only give us some earthly benefits.

    Our time is actually a time with God. We need to reinforce this
belief, making it an abiding conviction that should guide us always in
our thoughts, words and deeds. God is with us. That’s what Emmanuel,
another name for Christ, means. We are not left alone. We are never
alone even if physically we are in solitary confinement.

    Time, therefore, is the basic resource given to us by God himself,
our Creator and Father, to work out the very purpose he created us or
put us into existence. Far from the common attitude that considers
time as just pure time without God, we need to reinforce the belief
that our time is a time with God.

    Whatever we do in time, whatever happens to us in time, is supposed
to take place not only with us alone, but also with God. Thus, a
fundamental attitude we need to cultivate is that we need to live
always in the presence of God. It would be an anomaly if we live

    While we, through sin, can disengage our time from God and his
wonderful plans for us, we can always make up because our time has
also been redeemed by God through Christ with his redemptive work and
made to continue throughout time in the Holy Spirit and the human
instrumentalities made by Christ to make this ideal real.

    Our time is now objectively connected with the eternity of God, and
has shifted from conditions perishable to imperishable. This is the
ideal level which we have to aim at if we want to have a complete and
proper understanding of time.

    This affirmation is based on what St. Paul once said about the
“fullness of time.” “When the fullness of time came, God sent his Son,
made of a woman, made under the law, that he might redeem them who
were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Gal

    So aside from considering time as calendar, school or fiscal year, we
need to be more aware of what is called as the liturgical year which
considers our time as a time with God, with Christ in the Holy Spirit,
coming to us, sharing what he has with us, bringing us to him which is
where we truly belong.

    The liturgical time makes time sacred and not just mundane, and
infuses it with spiritual, redemptive and supernatural dimensions. The
liturgical time plays out the infinite and abundant value of the
redemptive work of Christ that took place in history but is now
stretched out all throughout time and into eternity.

    This is the context in which we have to consider the Holy Week. The
Holy Week is the climax of the liturgical year since it represents the
sharp transition from our state of sin, expressed in all our suffering
we live through the Holy Week, to our state of glory and victory with
the resurrection of Christ.

    The darkest and the brightest moments of our life are acted out in
the Holy Week. The ugliest of our malice and the fairest of the love
of God which is offered to us to live out is dramatized and
sacramentally presented to us in Holy Week.

    Let’s be quick to savor this true character and value of Holy Week
therefore, from the triumphal entry of Jesus to Jerusalem on Passion
Sunday that starts the Holy Week, to Holy Thursday when Christ
instituted the Holy Orders and Holy Eucharist, to Good Friday and then
Easter Sunday.

    We are greatly blessed, but through the cross!

Let’s be good partisans

NOW that we are again into exercising our duties as citizens to elect
our public officials, we need to remind ourselves to be good

    To be partisan is unavoidable among us as we try to choose our
options in our effort to organize ourselves as a people journeying in
this world toward our ultimate goal in heaven.

    This is nothing to be surprised about, and should not cause us some
misplaced fear as long as we live that aspect of our life properly.

    To be partisan is a consequence of our human condition. Since we
cannot help but have different backgrounds, preferences, views, etc.,
neither can we help to avoid being partisan of what we think would
serve our interests as well as those of the others, or in fact, what
would serve our common good.

    We need to be respectful though of the different and even conflicting
opinions, and just try our best to settle or resolve our differences
in ways that are fair and charitable.

    To be fair and charitable while being partisan can mean many things.
It can mean always trying to enter into dialogue instead of imposing
one’s opinions on others. That is why we need to promote anything that
can enhance dialogue. We need to hear all sides that have something to
say about a certain issue.
    It can also mean the effort to get a consensus when a variety of
options is presented. As much as possible we have to agree to a
certain device or mechanism to arrive at a consensus. In other words,
the rules of the game should be set out and accepted by all parties as
much as possible.

    Underlying all this is the attitude of charity and understanding
towards others. No matter how strong we feel about views, ours or
those of others—and indeed we can be strong in our views in certain
situations—we should never lose this attitude of charity and

    To be Christian about it, what we need to do, more than just voicing
out our views and positions, is to pray and offer sacrifices before,
during and after expressing these views and positions. We need to
understand that it’s not only reason, much less, passion, that should
be mainly used in sorting out our differences.

    We have to use the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity,
because these are what are truly proper to us in our discussions as
persons and children of God. Reason and passion without these
theological virtues can get us nowhere but spiraling tension and

    We should see to it that our mind and heart be freed of any trace of
resentment, anger and the like during and after the exchanges. We
should try to avoid as much as possible illegitimate biases and
prejudices, always keeping an open mind and the attitude of quickness
to understand, disregard and forgive whenever some mistakes are
committed by the parties involved.

    What should ideally happen is that greater love and understanding is
achieved after the discussion, and even after one’s position is
outvoted or defeated. Especially when the differences are merely
matters of opinion, we should not make a big fuss as to whether who
wins or who loses. We just accept what the consensus says.

    And even if the differences are serious matters of faith and morals,
we should make sure that that such situation does not entitle us to go
against the requirements of justice and charity.

    While it’s true that we can employ certain techniques and tactics of
persuasion that can also be strong and forceful, we should see to it
that we don’t depart from the sphere of justice and charity.

    In fact, whenever we have to assume a strong position we have to make
sure that we also are stepping up our eagerness to be most fair and
charitable, only using legitimate means even if they involve

    In this regard, we have to realize more deeply that we need to be
vitally identified with Christ. It’s the only way we can remain truly
fair and charitable amid these sharp and painful differences.

    Vital union with Christ would teach us how to be patient, how to see
things in the context of eternity, far from a narrow and shallow view
of things and from a knee-jerk reaction to issues. It would teach us
how to be merciful even as we try to go ahead with a strong and clear
vision of things and do our best to win our case.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ending up adulterous

We have just been reminded about the episode of the woman caught in
adultery. It’s a story packed with lessons. Among others, it throws
light on a terrible aspect of our sinful condition, lived even in our
human structures and systems, that continues to afflict us in
increasingly sophisticated ways.

    A woman was dragged before Jesus. As sanctioned by the law then, she
ought to be stoned. But Christ knew what was behind the accusers’
actions, and decided to keep quiet and to write something on the
ground instead.

    When pressed what to do with the woman, Christ simply said that he
who has no sin may cast the first stone. That was when the accusers
started to leave, beginning with the eldest. At the end Jesus simply
dismissed the woman with the admonition to sin no more.

    Christ clearly shows here how we ought to use of our law and other
structures and systems we have in our society. They have to be used
with the proper spirit, that of love and understanding, and not that
of mere revenge, of humiliating someone, or in this particular case,
of testing Jesus to fish something that can be used against him later

    We need to be wary of the reasons and real motives behind our
actions, especially those that can affect the lives of many people in
a direct way. Very often, we take these intentions for granted, since
after all they are too personal and intimate that they can hardly be
known by others.

      This is where we have to be most guarded. We are our own most
insidious enemy, since we can easily rationalize our own selves,
especially when we choose to be by ourselves rather than be always in
the presence of God, which is the ideal situation we ought to find
ourselves in.

    And because we are supposed to be in the presence of God, then we
also ought to be in the presence of others also, since being with God
and loving him necessarily involves being with others and loving them
too. God and others should always be in our mind and heart.

    Outside of that orbit, the only possibility left to us is to delude
ourselves into the fantastic thinking that we can be by ourselves, and
then proceed to distort reality and the proper order of things. That’s
when we can start thinking that God cannot be in everything.

    And if this trends goes uncorrected, then we can arrive at the
conclusion that there is no God, that everything simply depends on us,
that our sense of righteousness would simply be our own making, not
anymore referred to God or to any external standard or law. We make
ourselves our own law and standard.

    This is what is called self-righteousness, a predicament clearly
referred to by St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians. “For his
sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so
much rubbish,” he said, “that I may gain Christ and be found in him,
not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which
comes through faith in Christ...” (3,9-10)

    When we succumb to this predicament, then we can prostitute our human
structures and systems. They are supposed to be inspired by God’s law
of love. Instead they become inspired by mere human machinations that
can cleverly cover the workings of pride, vanity, greed, revenge,
lust, etc.

    That’s when our legal system, for example, can be manipulated into
legalism to allow the hideous play of wicked human interests while
showing it as an act of justice and benevolence. In this situation, no
justice can truly be given, as those with more power, money,
influence, talent, etc. would have the unfair advantage over the

    That legal system then becomes open to the promiscuous tendencies of
human machinations, hitching it to whatever selfish and unfair motives
drive the parties involved. Loyalty and fidelity would disappear from
their vocabulary. We end up adulterous in the use of our laws.

    We need to clearly rectify our intentions, constantly referring
things to Christ by closely hewing them to God’s will as expressed in
his commandments, in his teachings which are now authoritatively
taught and handed down to us by the Church. We also need to have
frequent recourse to the sacraments that channel God’s grace to us.

    In short, we need to be with God to use our laws and other systems properly.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pope Francis

I, of course, was very happy to know we have a new Pope. When I
woke up at 4 a.m. last Thursday, there were already 5 text messages on
my mobile phone. And they all broke to me the good news. I prayed

      A little later, I scrambled to know more about the new Pope.
Like everyone else I was also surprised and gladdened to learn about
him and his life. The Cardinal from Argentina, a Jesuit, cannot fail
but command love and admiration for the way he is, for what he has
done, for what he stands.

      Even in his appearance, there is already a palpable air of
humility, gentleness and compassion. His smile and over-all demeanor
say it all. Besides, he takes the bus to go to work. He lives in a
small apartment instead of the palace reserved for his office. He only
has one lung. In short, he avoid perks.

      Of course, as the day wore on, and more impressions and
reactions came in, especially from opinion-makers, some dismay crept
in. In hindsight, I should be prepared to know about these reactions.
Different people can obviously express what they like. These views can
only show from where these columnists are coming in.

      I noted that many of them had to eat crow after badly failing in
their predictions. Cardinal Bergoglio was not in many of their radars.
Obviously, the Holy Spirit had something else in mind besides their
brilliant reasonings. But not content with that, now they are putting
a lot of political coloring in the election of the new Pope.

      The usual branding poured in—liberal or conservative, pro-this
or anti-that, etc. Several spins spun wildly. Will he bring the Church
to a new direction, out from the ashes of the sex scandals afflicting
many parts of the Church and the mismanagement of the Vatican
machinery? And at 76, will he just be a caretaker Pope?

      Well, the world will always be the world until the end of time.
Its language and logic will often be dominated by passion rather than
by reason, and much less by faith. Yet, in spite of all that, the
grain of truth and the seed of charity can never be lost completely.
And so let’s just be game and try to sort out things as best as we

      Patience, therefore, is the name of the game. In the meantime,
let’s remind ourselves some basic, indispensable truths about the Pope
and the papacy, and try to craft a plan to educate everyone about how
we ought to think about the Pope.

      The first thing we have to remember is that everything about the
Pope and the papacy is a matter of faith. We cannot take them mainly,
and much less fully, from an earthly, temporal point of view, be it
historical, cultural, political, sociological, ideological, etc. Our
attitude should be theological, more than anything else.

      Not that all the other considerations have nothing to say and
contribute. But we need to understand that the directing force of
faith should take precedence. Absent this, then the whole exercise
will have no other end but doom. We would be missing the whole point
about the Pope and the papacy.

      This is not going to be easy to take, I know, especially by
those who are very opinionated about anything that has significance in
the national or the world stage. Faith is like asking them to deny
themselves, which is a central part of Christ’s teachings that they
cannot understand.

      We have to understand that the Pope, whoever he may be as long
as he is elected properly, is the Vicar of Christ here on earth. St.
Catherine would call him the “sweet Christ on earth.”

      As our Catechism teaches us, “The Pope, Bishop of Rome and
Peter’s successor, ‘is the perpetual and visible source and foundation
of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the
faithful.’” (882) He has full, surprise and universal power over the
whole Church.

      That description alone should make us realize that we all need
to follow the Pope, to be close and united to him in mind and heart,
in his teachings and directives, irrespective of who he is.

      There is a Latin expression which I think summarizes the proper
attitude we ought to have toward the Pope. “Omnes cum Petro ad Iesum
per Mariam” (all with Peter to Jesus through Mary).

      This is how we ought to welcome Pope Francis!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Unity amid diversity and errors

WE need to be more aware of our duty to establish, build up and
strengthen the unity in our life. We only have one life, made up of
many parts, aspects, stages and levels, and subject to all sorts of
conditions, big and small, favorable and unfavorable, etc. The
challenge is how to put all these things together in harmony.

    Strengthening that unity of our life insures us that we would be on
the right track toward the goal proper to us, that we would be
effective in what we are doing, and healthy and resistant to anything
that can weaken us or lead us astray.

    Everyday we should be conscious that amid the mind-boggling diversity
of conditions and circumstances defining our daily life, like the
pressures and challenges we have to contend with, we are consistently
working out this unity of life.

    We have to avoid getting distracted or entangled by things that,
while unavoidable and also important to us, do not comprise our
ultimate end. We have to be wary when we get confused and disoriented,
and succumb to the worldly appeals to be merely practical,
influential, rich, famous, etc.

    Thus, we need to have a clear idea of what would represent a
distraction or swerving from the right path to take, because often we
do not even know when are already getting distracted or entangled or

    There even are indications nowadays that point to the disturbing
phenomenon that the wrong and immoral things are now considered all
right. In fact, the distinction between good and evil, moral and
immoral seems to be thinning beyond recognition. It’s like the
distinction is mauled by a lion.

    All this means that we have to be clear with the belief that the
source and end of the unity of our life is God. It cannot be any
other. Working for our unity of life would depend on where our faith
lies. Is it with God or simply with our own selves, our own estimation
of things?

    How important therefore it is to reinforce our life of faith, because
with this respect to this particular issue, a vague and weak faith
would certainly lead us nowhere in any effort to establish that unity.

    With a weak or even missing faith, any appearance of unity we may be
able to show in life would be grounded on shifting sand, not on terra
firma. It would be a unity that cannot cope with all the demands unity
requires, all the questions and issues it can raise.

    A unity based only on social, political or economic grounds would not
know what to do when the opposite of what we consider to be the ideal
in these fields takes place instead. It’s a unity that would not know
how to cope with contradictions.

    It’s only with God as revealed fully in Christ and perpetuated by the
Holy Spirit in the Church that even the defeats and losses, the pains
and misfortunes that we suffer in this life can contribute, rather
than undermine, the true unity we ought to seek, the unity based
precisely on God.

    As St. Paul said: “To them that love God, all things work together
unto good…” (Rom 8,28) The same idea is reiterated in many of his
epistles. “The weak things of the world has God chosen, that he may
confound the strong.” (1 Cor 1,27) “It’s when I am weak that I am

    The wisdom behind these words cannot be captured by any human
estimation of what is good for us, of what can possibly contribute to
building up our unity in our individual person and also among
ourselves as a people.

    The merely human criteria we may use to establish unity will always
be vulnerable to the many contradictions and mysterious situations,
the so-called crossroads, we are bound to meet in life.

    At the moment there seems to be a trend to bash the Church because
some people attribute a wrong notion of triumphalism to the Church.
Any violation of this notion therefore forfeits the right of any
Church leader concerned to say anything about faith and morals.

This attitude is, of course, unfair. Even Christ told his disciples
that they may follow what the Jewish leaders were preaching though
they should not follow what the leaders were doing, since they did not
practice what they preached.

    To build our unity, we need to know also, following the teaching of
Christ, how to cope with our mistakes and failures.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


MARCH, of course, marks the end of the school year. Baccalaureate
Masses and commencement exercises will take place. Graduation speakers
will do their best to give their go-go speeches. Families of graduates
will happily get some high, a salutary lift.

In all this, I wonder if the fresh batch of university outputs would
be up to par as to the challenges of the times.  In fact, we can ask
if everyone in the schools who will move up to the next level can
competently handle the increasingly complicated world.

How about the schools themselves? Are their programs and curricula
attuned to the times? And the teachers who are not supposed to give
technical information only to the students, but should also be
involved in the wholistic process of human formation? And the parents?
Are they adequately equipped to take on the new challenges?

There are now many crossroads to face. And the choices are getting
subtler and subtler. Even the distinction between good and evil that
was quite clear and sharp before now seems to be obliterated.

Just the other day, I noticed that there seems to be a drift toward
legalizing same-sex unions in many so-called developed countries.
Their leaders have openly endorsed it, describing it as good for
society or that its time has finally come. Some have described it as
one giant step toward progress and human maturity.

One former US president even wrote recently an article explaining why
he has changed his mind about gay marriage. He previously signed into
law a Defense of Marriage Act, but now wants to overturn it,
practically branding that law as intrinsically discriminatory.

He said that the country has met this crossroads often enough that it
would already know the right path to choose. Nice words, but always a
politician’s words, which means they should be taken with a grain of

In our country, the enactment into law of the notorious RH Bill is
making an opening for the legalization of abortion, divorce and God
knows what else. In fact, many politicians are already sounding off
and stirring public opinion. We have to be wary of politicians.

Politicians, by choice or circumstance, usually take the social pulse
no deeper than the surface. They obviously serve some purpose,
alright, but it would be dangerous and wrong to entrust our entire
destiny into their hands.

We need leaders whose vocation, vision and skill go beyond the
skin-deep. That means that together with politicians who have to be
regarded in their proper place and role in society, we need other
leaders who can lead us especially in the more important aspects of
our life.

Thus, we need to recognize the importance of spiritual leaders. No
point disparaging them, in spite of their own share of defects and
mistakes, just as we cannot totally disregard our political leaders.
Obviously we have to be discerning always. Let’s hope the modern world
can disentangle itself from that unfair bias against spiritual

In these times of many controversial and hot-button issues, we need to
be very clear and well-grounded on the doctrine of our faith, if we
still believe in our Christian faith.

Yes, we need to study the doctrine thoroughly and assimilate it such
that we can live our daily life also under the light and guidance of
our faith. Toward this end, the study of the Catechism of the Catholic
Church should be an ongoing affair.

We have to remember that the doctrine elucidated there are not merely
ideological theories, but truths that can bring us to our ultimate
end. We need the proper dispositions to study and imbibe it into our

In this regard, we have to be well focused on the example of Christ
whose unwavering teaching of the truth was pursued always in the
context of humility and charity, of obedience to his Father’s will and
abiding compassion for everyone.

It was this attitude that ultimately led him to his death on the
cross, something that we too should be ready to take, if we really
want to follow Christ, which is what an integral life of faith would

This is the only way that we avoid the pitfall of self-righteousness
that often becomes the reason many people get alienated from Christ
and his Church. Unless we are ready to take on what Christ faced and
suffered, our efforts to proclaim and defend the truth about ourselves
would just be futile.

We need to go all the way, the way of Christ!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The use of copied software

OVER the past few years, a number of people, usually friends involved
one way or another in IT, have asked me about the morality of the use
of unlicensed copies of computer software.

This is, of course, something new to me, because even if I use
computer programs for personal use only and not for profit, I don’t
anymore bother to check whether the software is to be paid for or not
each time I use it.

It’s like reading a book that I may find in some common place. I can
just pick it up, browse and read part or all of it, without having to
check if it has to be paid for or not. Obviously, if it’s a friend’s
book that I would like to take home for a time, then I should ask
permission. But usually, no payment is asked.

We need to clarify the issue more thoroughly. I discovered that the
first law that entitled computer software developers some intellectual
property rights was the 1980 Computer Software Amendment Act of the
United States. Similar laws in other places soon followed.

But these laws at times were too one-sided as they favored the
developers of these products without considering many other factors
that really need to be given due attention and relief.

Like, when new versions come and the users of the previous versions
that now become obsolete and may not be sold anymore suffer some
economic or professional damage because they may have to abandon a
database they have created with the previous versions. These users
should be given some relief.

Or when a developer of a software gains a dominant position in the
market and creates a monopoly, commanding exorbitant prices, in a
field that has become a basic channel for information and
communication. There obviously is a kind of unfairness here, but this
is hardly being addressed up to now.

For sure, we need to distinguish between professional programs used by
banks, big corporations, architectural firms, and non-professional
programs used by students, householders, etc.

Since some of the latter programs are priced too high due perhaps to
the fact that the developer has become a monopolist, some people may
not consider it illicit to make copies for a friend who would use it
not for some lucrative business but for some personal purpose.

We also can distinguish between the new versions and the old ones.
Making copies of the old ones that generally are not sold anymore
should not be a big problem. Anyway, many of these developers make
software with planned or built-in obsolescence for their products.
They should not worry too much if their old products are copied.

Also, we can consider the usual attitude of the police and other
authorities with respect to this issue. They usually are after those
who commit massive frauds, rather than those who make copies that a
single user might give to a friend for personal use.

In all these and given the fact that the whole matter still does not
enjoy very clear and authoritative ethical rules, we should be careful
not to fuss excessively about it, imposing casuistic rules that often
are meant to favor the developers or to confuse and unnecessarily
bother the users.

We have to acknowledge that people have different sensitivities, and
the questions in this field should be raised and tackled in a way that
is respectful of this variety.

If someone feels uncomfortable because he is using programs of unknown
origin, then he can remove such programs. But he should not impose
that rule on the others who feel differently.

This, of course, should not be taken to mean that we are promoting
pure subjectivism here. It’s just that we have to recognize that
people have different levels of knowledge and experience that should
also be taken into consideration when assessing the morality of the
use of unlicensed software.

Obviously, sorting out all the aspects of this issue is still a work
in progress. We need to closely monitor the developments and
controversial situations generated by this issue, and try to resolve
them as promptly and as best we could. All relevant parties should
join hands in this endeavor.

As a tentative final word, we can say that we should not burden the
conscience of those who copy non-professional programs with no
intention of making a profit.

Also, it might be a good idea to inform people on open source
software, since they help restrain monopolistic tendencies of some

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Caring for our doctrinal formation

IF we believe in God, then we have to believe in Christ, the son of
God who became man to be our redeemer. We also have to believe in his
teachings that are now entrusted to the Church and authoritatively
taught to us through its doctrine.

We need to see this vital connection between God and the doctrine that
we need to study and meditate on. Hopefully, we assimilate this
doctrine such that it becomes flesh of our flesh.

Our usual problem is that we tend to disconnect the two, raising all
sorts of reasons why such vital link between God and the doctrine
cannot be possible, if not always, then from time to time.

There’s obviously some point to why the doctrine cannot fully capture
God and his teachings. And that’s because of the human elements
involved in the doctrine. But in spite of that, we need to realize
that in its substance and in its core, the doctrine is actually

We just have to know how to distinguish between its divine character
and its human elements that would unavoidably include some
limitations. This is actually our human condition.

Truth is God always intervenes in our life and makes use of our
humanity to come and be with us. We should not waste time making a big
fuss about the human limitations that accompany this abiding divine

That’s why God through Christ in the Spirit has endowed the Church
with the proper power and authority to teach his doctrine integrally
and infallibly, much like we as a nation entrust our government with
certain power to govern us in spite of the many limitations in the men
running the government.

Except that in the case of God in relation to the Church, the act of
empowering goes far more radically than what takes place in our
empowering of our government to rule over us.

The former involves God, the latter simply us through some consensus.
The former involves the entire scope of our life, especially its
spiritual and supernatural end, while the latter simply involves the
temporal dimension of our life.

This clarification is important because we need to cultivate the
appropriate attitude toward the doctrine of the Church. In the gospel
of St. Matthew, Christ clearly said:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I
have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until
heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest
part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken
place.” (5,17-18)

Then he continued, “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of
these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in
the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these
commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” (5,19)

These words need to be studied and understood well, so that we can see
the vital connection between what Christ said directly about the “law
and the prophets,” and the doctrine that the Church, founded and
properly empowered by Christ, now teaches us.

We need to consider the Church doctrine as the true and most precious
doctrine that can bring us to our ultimate joy and end. It is not just
a man-made doctrine that can give us some benefits and advantages,
some social or economic progress, but not our ultimate supernatural

We also need to see the Church doctrine as the proper spirit that
should animate any human doctrine we may make for some practical
purpose we may have in the different aspects of our life—personal,
family, professional, social, political, etc.

Thus, it is essential that we learn to know the Church doctrine or the
doctrine of our faith such that this doctrine becomes the moving
spirit behind our every thought, word and deed, behind our every plan
and project, big or small, ordinary or extraordinary.

There is need for us to know how to relate the doctrine of our faith
to our daily affairs and to our very serious and big projects and
plans, and vice versa. At the moment, this expertise is hardly known,
its need hardly felt.

This is the challenge we are facing today as we tackle the
increasingly rapid, complex and complicated developments. Let’s hope
that we can overcome whatever biases we have that hinder the
appreciation of our basic need for Church doctrine in our human

Exercising parental authority

EXERCISING authority is always both a delicate and rewarding duty.
This is especially so when done toward growing children. That’s where
one’s integrity and the authenticity of his love, with its usual
demand for sacrifice, can be shown, as well as developed.

That’s because it’s in the home, living with the children 24/7, where
the battlefront of this exercise is located. In other aspects of our
life, as in our profession, social or political life, the exercise of
authority can be intermittent and can easily be delegated to others.
Not quite so in the family, with children still growing up.

We, of course, know that the power and authority we may have over the
others is always a participation of the authority of God. And such
authority should be exercised with God’s will always in mind.

That’s what St. Paul clarified. In his letter to the Romans, he said,
“There is no power but from God, and those that are, are ordained of
God.” (13,1) We need to be clear about this, because many times we can
feel that the authority we wield is simply ours.

Or that our authority comes from us individually or personally, or
from among ourselves through some consensus, and that it can be used
to pursue solely our own goals and designs.

This point has to be brought out because big sectors in society today,
especially those influenced by leftist and Godless ideologies,
consider authority as simply originating from them.

They confuse the divine beginning and end of authority with the
mechanics of who to assign it among ourselves, what its coverage is,
how to exercise it, etc., all of which can be decided among ourselves.

Of course, in the context of the family, parental authority is easily
recognized by the children. No need to figure it out through some
election or other screening processes. What is to be kept in mind more
is that this parental authority be maintained and done properly.

But how can we do this? I suppose that first of all we have to be
reminded that power and authority has to be used as an expression of
love, shown in deeds of service, and not regarded as an entitlement to
some privilege or advantage over the others.

Christ himself warned his disciples about this. He said: “You know
that the princes of the Gentiles lord it over them, and they that are
greater exercise power upon them.

“It shall not be so among you. But whoever will be the greater among
you, let him be your minister, and he that will be first among you,
shall be your servant, even as the Son of Man has not come to be
served but to serve...” (Mt 20,25-27)

In the context of the family, the parental authority can be done well
if it is exercised to give the children the basic equipment to become
better persons and ultimately, better children of God.

This can happen if the parents can show by consistent example to their
children that they are happy with their own lives that are dedicated
in pursuit of the love of God in all aspects of their lives.

Besides that, they should exercise their authority with due respect
and an unconditional love for their children, treating them as they
are but slowly molding them to be good persons and children of God.

This is how the parents can gain their children’s trust and confidence
in an increasingly meaningful way. Children are usually observant of
their parents and tend to imitate them even automatically.

If they see their parents praying and how that prayer is helping their
parents, making them happy and at the same time able to cope with all
the challenges of life, then the children will just develop a love for
prayer and the a love for cultivating a life of faith and hope.

How parents react to the different events and circumstances of life,
both good and bad, happy and sad, is also how the children will learn
to react in similar events and circumstances.

That’s why parents really have to spend time with the children. They
should see to it that they organize their life, especially in the
aspect of their profession and other social obligations, such that the
quality time with the children is not compromised.

They have to cultivate healthy family practices and traditions to
foster family life, and to exercise parental authority effectively,
and even with the children not noticing it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Put God in politics

OUR times, I believe, call us to be tough yet flexible, tolerant yet
discerning. And now that we are in an election season, these qualities
are in great need.

    To be sure, the only and best way to acquire these seemingly
contrasting traits is to be with God, to have a living relationship
with him, where an intimate and ongoing conversation between him and
us takes place.

    Some people are questioning the feasibility of such a situation, that
is, to be able to talk with God. I don’t know where they get that
idea, since as far as I as well as many others are concerned, God is
everywhere and he wants us to talk to him.

    We need to reinforce our belief that only in God can we have
everything. Let’s be wary of suggestions, now becoming very popular,
that there are things in which God has absolutely nothing to say or
contribute and that we are just on our own to think, say and do
whatever we want.

    A passage from the Psalms can remind us of this need for God. “The
Lord is my firmament, my refuge, and my deliverer. My God is my
helper, and in him will I put my trust. My protector and the horn of
my salvation, and my support.” (18,2)

    Sad to say, there are now a rising number of politicians who not only
put God and his Church aside, but also mock and openly attack him and
the Church. Or to be politically correct, they also make appeals to
God but a God according to their own terms, a god and church of their
own making.

    Some have gone to the extent of saying that this business of
including God in politics, for example, hinders their freedom and
effectiveness. In short, that God is a spoiler.

    And they can be Catholics who pride themselves to be good Catholics
because according to them, they do this and do that, just like any
fawning politician would parrot, and yet they go against Church

    They even dare to say that the Church should change, otherwise it
will be depleted of members, and that there would be a mass exodus of
faithful to other sects, etc.
    I would say, no problem, since the Church has always experienced this
mass exodus in the past and it will still continue to have such thing
in the future. Remember that even in the time of Christ, massive
defections already took place, and in spite of the systemic
persecutions through the years, it is still around.

    That thinking of some of our Catholic politicians or politicized
Catholics only show their poor and politicized understanding of what
it means to be in the Church. It would indicate they think of the
Church as a kind of prison such that they now are threatening a
massive jailbreak. Well, they can go ahead. No one is preventing them.

    With moral issues now becoming more and more political, we have to
make sure that God is in the middle of politics. Of course, there is
such thing as autonomy of temporal matters like politics and business,
and the often-misunderstood doctrine of the separation of Church and
state, but all this does not mean God has no place in politics.

    Quite the contrary. If God is not in our temporal affairs, then those
temporal affairs would be harmful to us. They would not be ruled by
truth, justice and charity, mercy and prudence, but merely by human
calculations that will always benefit the strong, the powerful, the
rich more than everybody else.

    If we still want our country to be God-fearing, then we have to be
wary of candidates peddling platforms that not only are alien to faith
but are in open war against God and his Church.

    There are now initiatives started by some lay people, perhaps with
some inspiration from Church leaders, to precisely put God in
politics. That thing about the Team Buhay vs. Team Patay is one of
them. I hope there be more.

    I am thinking of some groups vetting all the candidates as to their
position about moral issues. Obviously, all this should be done in
great delicacy and respect, with courteous dialogue and positive
explanations made rather than indulging in gutter language and logic.

    Also, that all this should be done with clear delineation as to what
properly falls to the clerics to do and what the lay faithful ought to
do. May God bless us all!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Gearing up for the future challenges

 WE have just been reminded about the parable of the barren fig tree
(Lk 13,1-9). The obvious lesson to derive is that we should never
waste time and that we should try our best to be as productive and
fruitful as possible.

    This might already sound like a trite reminder, but then again, given
our culture of self-indulgence and complacency, the warning actually
continues to be current and urgent.

    That’s because our tendency to take things for granted is simply
limitless, especially when we are in our comfort zones, like when we
are at home, or alone, or simply pursuing personal hobbies and

    We obviously need to know when to be serious and when to relax, but
the latter should not be taken to mean that we can forget the more
serious concerns of our life. If ever there’s any value to our rest
and recreation, it is to refresh us so we can go back to our weighty
concerns and challenges in life.

    Otherwise, our rest and recreation can be harmful to us, as they can
only give us means of escapism, thereby nurturing our dissipation and

    We should be wary of our tendency to break the link between our work
and rest, our business and recreation, just as we should avoid
breaking the connection between our work and prayer, our temporal
affairs and our spiritual activities.

    We only have one life, though with many aspects and needs. We have to
learn how to integrate and blend them well to strengthen the unity of
our life. And this task can be challenging, since these aspects and
needs can compete with each other. We have to learn the necessary
skills and competence for this.

    That is why, even as we pursue with our rest, recreation and fun, we
should never forget that their purpose is to make us more able to face
the serious matters of life. And these days, the challenges can be

    The developments all over the world have become fast-paced and
complicated, leaving in their trail a lot of questions to answer,
issues to resolve, and new skills to acquire. We should avoid being
blind to these concerns, otherwise we will just find ourselves in a
deeper mess in the future.

    Just the same, we should never forget that the way to tackle the
future challenges is to strengthen and not to weaken, much less,
neglect, the basic structures of our life—our own personal spiritual
and moral life, our family, our work, and the  responsibilities we now
have due to our current state and condition in life, etc.

    With respect to our spiritual life, we need to fortify our faith in
God. Especially these days when ideologies with their corresponding
lifestyles are questioning the validity of faith, the existence and
providence of God, etc., it’s important that our faith should stand
firm, strong and fruitful.

    That’s why, we really have to make our prayer real prayer, not just
mumbling of words or a surge of sweet religious feelings, but one
where we engage God in a serious father-and-son conversation where we
bring up and sort out our concerns with him.

    God is everything to us. We should never forget that. We should
rather trust in him and in his ways, even if sacrifices and
inconveniences are involved, rather than get taken in by the
allurements of some quick-fix philosophies not founded on God but
rather on our human estimations of things alone.

    As to the family, we need to see to it that the family is bright,
cheerful and vibrant, with the interrelationships within it
functional. Parents have the grave duty to form their children well
humanly, spiritually, morally, doctrinally, etc.

    The parents should be quick to recognize the problems and issues
affecting every member of the family, and to start resolving them.
That’s why the parents also need to be strong and always abreast with
the developments of the times.

    Subsidiary entities, like schools, parishes, clubs, etc., should be
established and enhanced, and their relation with the families and
individuals, especially the children and weaker members of society,
should be clearly defined and strengthened.

    I feel this is the way to brace for the future challenges. No matter
how complicated they are, these challenges can always be manageable if
we take care of the basic and fundamental aspects of our life.

    We would be in a better condition to face these challenges.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Going eschatological

WE have to be familiar with this term, and more importantly, we need
to develop its appropriate sense. It’s a necessity in our life, since
it gives a bigger, if not complete picture of our life. It enables us
to go beyond the here and now to enter into the world beyond death.

Eschatology is that part of theology concerned with death, judgment
and the final destination of the soul and humanity itself, that is,
heaven or hell, or the so-called the Last Things. It may sound scary
at first, but it actually is very helpful. We just have to make the
necessary adjustments in our attitude toward it.

So, it’s a part of theology and not a merely empirical science. We
need to have inputs of faith which actually play a directing role in
the study. We cannot simply rely on so-called observable data,
material or sociological, that by definition cannot fathom the
spiritual and supernatural dimensions of our life.

References to this concern in the Bible are many. Among them is the
parable about the rich man and the poor man, Lazarus, recorded in
gospel of St. Luke (16,19-31).

It shows us that how we live our earthly life has eternal effects on
our afterlife. We have to learn how to life our earthly with the view
of our eternal and supernatural destination.

This concern is expressed in one of the prayers during Lent: “You have
given your children a sacred time for the renewing and purifying of
their hearts, so that freed from disordered affections, they may so
deal with the things of this passing world as to hold rather to the
things that eternally endure.”

That’s the challenge we have—how to be renewed and purified of earthly
attachments so that we can see and prepare ourselves appropriately for
our eternal life, hopefully in heaven. We need to learn how to relate
what we are having and doing now with our eternal destination.

At the moment, we are afraid of death and we refuse to consider the
importance that the considerations of judgment, heaven and hell have
on us. We get so attached to the here and now that we become blind to
our life beyond.

It’s a challenge that definitely invites us to live by faith, hope and
charity, the theological virtues or gifts that God gives us so we can
have basis for making our earthly affairs, our temporal concerns
acquire an eternal, supernatural value.

These virtues are God’s ways of sharing what he has with us, such that
what takes place in our life can actually participate in the life of
God in whose image and likeness we are.

This ideal of a life of faith, hope and charity is made available to
us through Christ who is the Son of God who became man, and who
continues to be with us till the end of time through the Church in its
doctrine, sacraments and hierarchy.

We need to see these linkages clearly to realize more deeply that
being with God even now or being able to relate our here and now with
eternity, etc., is possible, and in fact is made available to us if
only we know how to avail ourselves of it.

In other words, we need to learn how to pray, study and assimilate the
teachings of Christ, now transmitted to us through the doctrine of the
Church, then avail of the sacraments, and make ourselves faithful and
obedient subjects of the hierarchy of the Church, in order to have
this eschatological sense.

In other words, we need to sanctify ourselves daily, making use of the
means made available to us and the events of the day to have a
personal and collective encounter with God.

We need to see things at this level. Our usual problem is that we tend
to keep ourselves at the low and shallow levels, and we hardly make
any effort to extricate ourselves from that predicament, if ever in
the first place we consider such situation a predicament.

We need to pray and meditate a lot, to be able to fathom the richness
of the means—doctrine, sacraments, hierarchy—given to us to enter the
spiritual and supernatural reality.

Many times, we prefer to get entangled with the human imperfections
that also accompany these means. We like to find fault, rather than
focus on the real substance that these means offer.

Another helpful exercise in this regard is to make daily examinations
of conscience where we can see more clearly if we are on the right