Sunday, September 29, 2013

Handling offenses

WE cannot avoid them. We either commit them ourselves or we receive them. We are both their doers and victims. And so we ought to know how to handle them, offenses, that is.

            When we commit them, for whatever reason, including those offenses that may have been done unintentionally, we should be quick to ask for forgiveness and to do whatever repair, atonement and restitution is needed.

            It’s the most human and Christian way to go about them. It shows refinement of heart and acts quickly to resolve conflicts quickly and effectively. It defuses tension and facilitates reconciliation.

            Obviously, we should try our best to avoid committing these offenses, no matter how slight they are. This should be an ongoing concern that can be effectively attended to if we continue to grow in our sensitivity towards others.

            The best defence, as they say, is offence, but offence in the good sense of always doing good to the others. If it’s already second nature to us to be generous in our good acts of service towards others, then we actually minimize the possibility of offending them.

            It’s when we suffer offenses that we need to learn how to react. Our human condition is such that we are most vulnerable to respond to offenses not only with anger, which is understandable as a spontaneous reaction, but also with hatred, bitterness, resentment and a burning urge for revenge that stay with us for long.

            We have to be ready for this eventuality which is actually very common, especially nowadays when people are quick to anger and slow to forgive, which is precisely the opposite of how God is with us.

            We need to look at offenses, when inflicted upon us, from a theological point of view, with faith purifying and enriching our reason and emotions. We have to be clear about not allowing reason and emotions alone to handle the experience of being offended.

            Our faith tells us that we have to learn to forgive offenses. Christ tells us that “whoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment.” (Mt 5,21) When offended, we have to try not to get upset, or to let anger overcome our heart.

            This obviously requires struggle and training. That’s why it always pays to be meek and humble, for these virtues make forgiving easy to do. When we find it hard to do, we have to kneel down and pray, and beg Christ to give us the grace to forgive.

            We have to remove the obstacles to forgiveness that likely are embedded in our heart. These usually are pride, over-sensitiveness, inordinate attachment to our views and preferences, etc. Obviously, meditating on the example of the mercy of Christ as he hung on the cross would be most illuminating.

            What can help us is to realize that offenses and injuries, even if those who inflict them on us may be sinning, can do us a lot of good, since these can serve to purify us, and purification is what we need a lot of, no matter how good and clean we think we already are. We should not forget that offenses also possess some good effects in us.

            We also need to realize that if we pardon the offenses of others, God will also pardon ours, in accord to what Christ himself has said: “If you will forgive men their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offenses.” (Mt 6,14) How beautiful it is then to be able to forgive quickly and from the heart.

            Let’s also remember that by wilfully keeping hatred, resentment and bitterness against those who offend us is a sin that separates us from God. Christ himself said so. “If you offer your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled with your brother, and then come to offer your gift.” (Mt 5,23-24)

            Hatred, resentment and bitterness, no matter how reasonable and fair they may seem to be, have no other effect than to harm us by poisoning our heart and mind. They alienate us from Christ who loved to the point of assuming our sin on the cross.

            In this current hue and cry that we have because of this massive and seemingly systemic national rip-off of the pork barrel scandal, we should see to it that we avoid hatred, resentment and bitterness even as we seek justice.

            As St. Paul said: “Be angry, and sin not. Let not the sun go down upon your anger.” (Eph 4,26)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Parental duties

IT doesn’t do us harm if from time to time we remind ourselves of certain basic duties. Given the rapid flow of events nowadays, chances are high that even the most fundamental responsibilities are taken for granted.

            Among these duties are those of parents toward their children. Truth is a number of problems are sprouting nowadays whose causes can be traced to a certain extent to parental neglect.
            These problems, of course, vary according to the circumstances of the families and parents. I have seen “habal-habal” and jeepney drivers, for example, bringing little children and even infants in their vehicles. I imagine it’s because the poor fellows do not have anyone else to leave their little children in the house when they do their work.

            Among middle-class families, I have also seen cases where the parents are out of the house the whole day, presumably working hard for the family, but without spending time with the children. As a result, many of these children grow unsupervised and likely end up wayward.

            As to the well-to-do families, there is a tendency to spoil the children who are given practically everything to satisfy their most ridiculous whims and caprices. The poor kids end up being soft and yet burning with inordinate desires and ambitions.

            The problems are many indeed. So we just have to remind ourselves of basic truths that actually are very beautiful to consider and are also practicable, if only to more effectively address these problems.

            Parents, to be sure, have to be keenly aware that they are the first and direct link between God and their children. It’s through them that a human person, a child of God is brought into existence.

            As such, they have to be always conscious of their God-given mission as parents. They cannot constrict the understanding of their parenthood by restricting it to its merely natural basis, which in the last analysis would always point to God as the creator and lawgiver of the nature of parenthood.

            They have to have the mind of God always when dealing with their children. We have to remember that God always intervenes in the lives of everyone, and he uses us as human instruments in that abiding divine intervention in our life. And parents are one of these human instruments he uses to reach out to children.

            Parents, of course, take care of their children in their basic needs—physical, emotional, educational, social, etc. More than these, they are the first educators of their children, since parenthood is not simply a matter of begetting children but also a duty of bringing up their children to be mature persons and children of God.

            They instill in their children not only the human values and virtues but also nurture the spiritual life, the piety, life of prayer, faith, charity, etc. of their children. In the hierarchy of parental duties, these that refer more to the spiritual and moral life of the children possess greater importance.

            For this, parents should deal with their children with a lot of affection and understanding, but without compromising the need for discipline which children are always in need of, and much less neglect their duty to educate their children in the faith and morals.

            Parents should therefore realize that they have to be role models to their children 24/7. That’s why they need to be spiritually and morally strong and vibrant, always realizing the need for continuing spiritual struggle and renewal, since our human condition is hounded also by human weaknesses, temptations and sin.

            And without compromising their parental authority over their children, but rather enhancing it, parents should know how to be friends to their children, always winning their trust. They should be able to enter into the minds and hearts of their children to help them in the more important aspect of the children’s inner spiritual growth.

            They have to spend time with their children, and practices and traditions should be created in the family that foster family togetherness and unity, as well as mutual care and concern for one another in the family.

            When signs of insensitivity to the needs of others, habitual laziness and idleness and inability to fulfil tasks reasonably can be observed in children, parents should not hesitate to give the appropriate discipline. This is a matter of genuine love.

            As to faith and piety, it would be good that within the family, a continuing catechesis adapted to the conditions of the children be given. This for sure will do a lot of good to the children.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The light we have to be

THERE, of course, are many different kinds of light. You have sunlight, moonlight, spotlight, flashlight, klieg and neon light, strobe light, etc. Each has its 

particular importance and use for us. 

            But if we go by our Christian faith, we are supposed to be a light too. We are supposed to be a light to the others, to guide them to our proper and ultimate 

end who is God. We are supposed to be eager to give good examples to the others.

            All this is based on what Christ said once. “You are the light of the world…Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify 

your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 5,14-16) 

            It’s obviously a different kind of light. It’s a mysterious kind, to say the least, that goes beyond but does not exclude the sensible, temporal and even the 

intelligible dimensions of our life.

            It’s a light that we produce with our mere presence, or with our words and deeds. It’s a light that we are supposed to produce all the time and everywhere, and 

not just intermittently and in some places. Even in our sleep, it has to radiate. More, even in our absence, it can continue to shine in the memory of others, in their 

minds and hearts.

            It’s actually the most real, ultimate and necessary light we have on earth. All the other lights will come and go, in varying ways and lengths of time. This 

one can last forever. It will never wane nor fade away. It goes beyond time and space.

            This is the light we have to be, the light Christ wants us to be. It is the light meant for us, for which we have been designed by God himself, our Father and 

Creator. No matter how we mess up with that design, our capacity to be that light can never be totally lost.

            We can be this light if we strive to identify ourselves increasingly with the source of the Eternal Light, God himself, through Christ in the Holy Spirit. "I 

am the light of the world," Christ said. (Jn 8,12) This is, of course, a truth of faith that has to accepted with faith, otherwise, nothing will happen.

            This light can come about if we truly desire to know more about God and to grow in a more intimate relationship with him, praying to him in adoration, 

thanksgiving, expiation and petition.

            We can have this light if we earnestly study the doctrine of our faith, making it flesh of our flesh, such that we can arrive at the awareness we are living 

with God and not simply by ourselves. 

            The teachings of Christ, now taught by the Church, are no mere theories that can give us some brilliant ideas. They really bring us to Christ. Our words would 

not simply be our words, but also God’s words.

            We can have this light if we exert the effort to grow in the virtues, allowing ourselves to be shaped and polished according to the image of Christ. We chip 

off our rough edges as we try to grow in humility, fortitude, temperance, chastity, charity, etc.

            Intriguingly enough, this light, while supposedly to be put on the lamp stand and not under the bed, is never of the showy type, the kind that grabs attention 

by way of sensationalism. It stays away from any sign of triumphalism, a shallow and false sense of confidence and victory, unacquainted with suffering.

            Its power to attract and guide is by way of burning quietly and constantly, always refueling itself through a continuing process of renewal and conversion. It 

acts out what Christ once said: “If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself.” (Jn 12,32)

            We have to be wary of false lights that are also proliferating in the world today. These are lights that promise far more than what they can deliver, temporary 

and relative lights that claim to have eternal and absolute character. They overreach themselves.

            These are the human sciences and arts, the very ambitious ideologies that are not inspired by belief in and love of God. Rather, the contrary. They seem meant 

to disprove the existence of God, and to undermine faith, religion and piety.

            They can have some fascinating effects, rich in immediate practical and feel-good benefits, but they are full of tricks and machinations that sooner or later 

would just fall apart.

            Let’s be the light we are meant to be. Let the light of our faith shine forth very brightly everywhere!        

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Truth, justice and charity

THEY are supposed to come together. They are inseparable. They mutually affect each other. All this because they come from the same source and are meant to go 

toward the same end. And that is God.

            But given our human condition, both in its original state and its current state wounded by sin, they seem to sometimes conflict with one another, their ideal 

of being together has to be worked out by us.

            It’s in this context that we have to be more aware of our responsibility to put them together. Precisely when we find ourselves in the middle of some raging 

controversies and hot issues, this duty of ours comes to the fore.

            Now that we are in the midst of a screaming national crisis, thanks to the pork barrel issue, it behooves us to be most careful in expressing our views and 

opinions so that truth, justice and charity go together as they ought.

            At the moment, especially in blogs and in the social network, patent irregularities can be noted. Basic courtesy is tossed to the winds, with venom spewed 

right and left. People seem to monopolize the truth as opinions practically become dogmas, creating very funny black-and-white scenarios.

            We need to hold our horses and strive to sort out things calmly, always eager to hear everybody’s side no matter how insignificant, irrelevant or of little 

value it may be. Everyone should be heard, especially the side of the suspect or the accused.

            In the end, we are all brothers and sisters. No amount of wrongdoing can erase that fact. And we have to remember that whatever good or evil happens in the 

world, everyone of us, one way or another, is responsible, at least in part. We are all in the same boat. We rise and fall together.

            It always pays to be calm, sober and courteous in going through a certain issue, let alone, a national crisis. This way we can think, assess and judge things 

better, able to distinguish between what is essential and what is incidental.

            Yes, certain parties may have to be penalized, but even the penalty, while out of justice, should come and serve charity as well. They may be condemned through 

our judicial system, but they are still persons and brothers and sisters of ours. They are not animals nor mere objects, though they may have behaved like one.

            I think that this will do us a lot of good individually as a person and collectively as a people, as a nation. With our new information technologies that 

afford us easy and rapid communication, we would always be tempted to speak our mind without restraint.

            Truth is not served that way, since truth should always go with charity and justice. We need to restrain ourselves a little bit, to purify our intentions and 

to muster the best way to proceed.

            We have to be most wary of what is known as bitter zeal. It is the eagerness to pursue one’s goal by any means, even trampling on the requirements of charity. 

It is an expression of the erroneous moral principle that the end justifies the means.

            Sad to say, I notice that many people, even the so-called educated ones, seem to have no qualms in resorting to this principle. They feel justified to do so, 

forgetting that no matter how honest and holy they believe they are, there’s always something to pin them down too.

            Remember that episode of the woman caught in the act and practically thrown before Christ to be condemned and stoned to death. Christ simply kept quiet, wrote 

something on the ground, and finally told the accusers that whoever was without sin could cast the first stone. Then everyone left, starting with the older ones.

            It’s bad enough that this bitter zeal afflicts a person. It’s much worse when it afflicts many people, erupting into a mob rule. That’s when truth, justice and 

charity flee, and a most blinding self-righteousness prevails.

            We have to do everything to avoid this predicament to befall on us. So what are we supposed to do? Aside from studying the issues well and going through the 

steps of prudence, what is even more important is to pray, to offer sacrifices, to effect another renewal and conversion both in the personal and collective levels.

            We should never think that these spiritual and supernatural means are of no practical value. The truth is that they are the ones that would enable us to think 

and judge things properly, for these would be done in the presence of God.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to react to sin and evil

SIN and evil are all around us. They are also in us, of course. They come in different ways, sizes, shapes, degrees. Some are big, conspicuous and scandalous. Others may be small, hidden, but in a certain sense also very dangerous. All sins are personal, but some have evolved to become structures in society and in our culture.

                We have to learn to cope with this reality that is unavoidable, given our weakened and wounded human condition. Our attitude should be that in spite of the ugliness of sin and evil, we should still remain calm and happy, convinced that everything has meaning and purpose.

                The basis for this attitude is Christ who took on all our sinfulness by dying on the cross and resurrecting on the third day. It’s this passion, death and resurrection of his that has removed the sting of sin and evil and has converted them into our very own way of purification and salvation.

                In other words, not everything is lost in sin and evil. There’s always hope, a way of deriving some good from them. And the secret is precisely in our effort to identify ourselves more and more with Christ, especially under the aspect of his attitude toward sin and evil.

                And what is that attitude of his? It’s an attitude of continuing love, a love that conquers all, willing to forgive, and even to assume the sinfulness of men and its consequences without, of course, committing sin, suffering them to death and rising from that state in all divine glory.

                Christ is the second person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son of the God, God himself who became man to be with us, to re-create and refashion us into his image and likeness, offering us a way of how we can recover our true dignity as children of God whenever we happen to lose or harm it because of our sin.

                It’s in this sense that Christ identifies himself with all of us as sinners. On our part, we have to learn how to discern the face of Christ in everyone of us as a sinner. Yes, we have to hate sin but continue to love the sinner. We have to love the sinner the way Christ loves each one of us as a sinner.

                This distinction is crucial because very often we put the sin and the sinner together and condemn them jointly. It’s like throwing the baby out with the bath water. While in life, there is always hope, and we have to do everything to help the sinner get rid of his sin.

                In this concern, we have to learn to go all the way, as in, all the way to die on the cross like Christ. Remember him saying, “If you want to follow me, you have to deny yourself, carry the cross and follow me.” We have to engrave these words in our consciousness. There’s no other effective formula for this purpose.

                We have to convince ourselves that it is on the cross of Christ where the sinner can finally get rid of his sin. Christ’s cross is where sin is killed and converted into a way for a new life with God. And so, we have to learn to love the cross, to long for it the way Christ himself longed, embraced and loved it.

                This loving the cross can start by thinking always of the others, praying for them, offering generous sacrifices for them, and figuring out how we can help them directly. We can find ways of how to give them advice, reminders, suggestions, even corrections. 

                We have to give good example, since the consistent testimony of our life convinces others far better than our words. And so, we have to wage a continuing, life-long ascetical struggle to grow in the virtues, to fight against our weaknesses and temptations, to avoid sin, and generally to increase our love for God and others in a practical way.

                If we succeed to acquire the skill and master the art of discerning the face of Christ in every sinner, ourselves included, what peace and confidence we can continue to have even as we struggle to fight against sin and evil in the world!

                That skill and art will broaden our mind and heart, enabling us to fathom the richness of God’s mercy toward us, and to foster our hope and charity amid the woes that sin and evil generate, or amid the false glitter they also produce.

                That skill and art will make our mind and heart universal, able to accommodate, understand and help everyone!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The need for compassion

LET’S give due attention to this particular and strategic need of ours. Many prevailing circumstances today tend to make us focused simply on ourselves, not necessarily because of bad motives. But we have to be careful because these circumstances somehow keep us from entering into the lives of others which is what we ought to do.

                There’s the pressure of work, the concern for personal development, the requirements of our task at the moment, etc. All these are legitimate and should be expected, but they should not dull our sense of duty to be involved in the lives of others.

                Aside from these legitimate circumstances, we unfortunately also have a growing number of disturbing developments that undermine our compassion for the others. The culture of self-seeking and self-assertion is dominating. They tend to confine people into their own private, isolated worlds.

                We have to be concerned for the others. The ideal attitude is that we should always be thinking of the others, not to be nosey, but rather to help in any way we can. 
                Always thinking of the others is actually a very pleasant thing to do, although at the beginning when we are still learning it, we have to grapple with some temporary disagreeable moments.

                But the moment we master it, it becomes really nice. That’s because we are actually made for the others, that is, to enter into intimate communion with them in mind and heart. It’s this state of communion that fills us with a most gratifying sense of fulfillment. 

                We should not forget that this communion with the others is also the way to our communion with God. We can never say we are with God unless we are also with the others. Loving God and loving the others always go together. They are inseparable.

                Compassion is a very specific way of achieving communion with the others. It involves feeling for the others, for their needs and desires. It involves making the concerns of the others our own too.

                Compassion has to be understood properly, and pursued, learned and lived continually. Given our human condition, we develop compassion in stages. We have to start by thinking of the others in a more stable way—praying for them, offering some sacrifices, and noting interesting details in the lives of the others.

                All these should be motivated by faith, hope and charity. And that’s why, we also need to strengthen and enliven these fundamental virtues which connect us directly with God who is the source and end of everything.

                Otherwise, we will just be guided by insufficient criteria that will sooner or later lead us to some dead-end if not to some trouble and complications. The compassion that is driven by faith, hope and charity enables us to love God and others properly, avoiding indifference on the one hand, and sentimentalism on the other.

                Christ, of course, is the perfect model of how to be compassionate. When people were carrying the body of the son of a widow, he was immediately moved to compassion, and without being asked, he raised the fellow to life again and brought him back to his grieving mother.

                He was always thoughtful of the others, anticipating and meeting their needs. Obviously, his greatest act of compassion is when as the Son of God, the second person in the Blessed Trinity, he became man, and even went to the extent of assuming the sinfulness of men while not committing any sin at all.

                His passion and death on the cross constituted the supreme act of his compassion for us. He returned divine goodness to man who lost it due to our sin, and he did this in a gratuitous way. He was not obliged to do so, but chose just the same to do it out of his love for us.

                This is a truth that we should always relish, because it will spark in us impulses of compassion also towards others. This compassion is shown best when we have to give it to someone or in a situation that is most disagreeable to us, where we can say we would gain nothing in return.

                This is the compassion of God, completely gratuitous, never forced and neither imposing conditions on the recipient. God simply waits for that compassion to be returned with compassion.

                For this is the law of compassion and love, in general. When given away, it is not lost, but rather it becomes more and can spread and inspire others to show and give it.

Monday, September 16, 2013

At the impulse of faith

THIS is the ideal situation in our life. It’s when we manage to shape our life according to the behest of our faith that we attain this ideal. Faith is a gift from God that enables us to start living our life with God which is how our life should be.

                We actually have been made for a life of faith. If we look more closely at how we are, we will see that are made for believing, more than just for reasoning or, much less, for feeling. We are in need to make acts of faith, because no matter how much we reason out and feel, we will still realize that the reality goes beyond what reason and feelings can discern.

                Of course, faith always goes together with hope and charity, all of which assure us that while we still are journeying toward our final destination in this present life of ours, we somehow are already there in that destination. 

                That’s the mysterious beauty of these three theological virtues. They make us be both here and there, in time and in eternity, on earth and in heaven. They make us realize we are never alone, since with them we will feel we are with God and also with everybody else. They connect us with God and others.

                How important therefore to take good care of these divine gifts! And among them, the first one to get our attention should be our faith, since our life with God and others begins with it. Faith somehow acts as the foundation for hope and charity, although the three work together in mutual, vital relationship.

                While faith is a gift from God, it is also the response and the care we give to that gift. While it is a matter of grace, it is also a human act and responsibility. As the Catechism says, “believing is an authentically human act. Trusting in God and cleaving to the truths he has revealed is contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason.” (CCC 154)

                We ought to feel the need to constantly sharpen and strengthen our life of faith, because many now are the elements and factors that can undermine it. It’s not so much the outright rejection of faith, like when one falls into formal atheism or agnosticism, as the subtle but continuing neglect of our faith that constitutes its gravest danger.

                We have to be wary therefore when we just allow ourselves to be led mainly by our feelings, moods and passions, by social trends, cultural and historical conditionings, or even by mere ideological factors, since these do not bring us to our ideal way of life.

                Yes, we have to use them—and, in fact, we cannot avoid them—but we have to make sure that they are always infused by faith. Otherwise, they can lead us to some exciting adventures or drift us aimlessly in life, but they, alone without faith, can never bring us to where we should be.

                Especially in the beginning, we have to make deliberate acts of faith, much like a child learning how to eat and write properly. We should not make a big fuss about this awkwardness or even difficulty. It’s all worth it. The important thing to keep in mind is that these acts of faith will hopefully become second nature to us.

                We need to trust God, his wisdom and his ways. Especially when things look like impossible to do or accomplish, the more we should trust him. We have to be convinced that with God, nothing is impossible.

                How many episodes in the life of Christ as narrated in the gospel attest to this fact! It’s God, it’s Christ, it’s his Church and the many instrumentalities the Church has made available to us where we can have what is essential, what is ultimate in our life.

                Let’s go beyond but not discard our tendency to rely on some human and natural sciences and arts alone as means to achieve our ultimate goal in life. We need to use our faith!

                Look at the lives of saints. In spite of their human shortcomings, it’s their faith that made them do impossible things, even to accept martyrdom. Besides, as St. Paul said, “the foolish things of the world has God chosen, that he may confound the wise. And the weak things of the world has God chosen, that he may confound the strong.” (1 Cor 1,27)

                Let’s make our faith burn, making many acts of faith, studying the doctrine, and doing things with magnanimity.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Lawyers and ethics

MY father was a lawyer, and as early as when I was in Grade 5 or 6, I already started helping around in his office which actually was in our house also. 

                That’s when I discovered I was pretty good at typing some papers, but quite a disaster when it came to filing them. My father finally gave up on me in the latter, but was happy with me in the former. He had a good typist who offered his services gratis et amore.

                Those where very memorable years when aside from learning things in school, I had the feeling I was learning a lot more in my father’s office. I felt I had the edge over my classmates in school because of what I got from my father’s office. 

                There were times we had to sleep late to finish some job, and I sacrificed a little of my youthful preferences just to be with my father whom I idolized. But I was convinced it was all worth it. I actually did not miss anything from life in the streets and moviehouses with my friends.

                There were also amusing moments. Many of my father’s clients were simple people from the towns and mountains of Bohol. They even would often stay in our house and would take their meals with us. 

                So, I got familiar with all the idiosyncracies of the different places, especially their accents, their sense of humor, their simple ways, etc. I laughed most of the time with them, but there were times when I also cried with them. The human drama of their cases was more absorbing than what I read in novels or saw in movies.

                The evening before a trial, my father would usually rehearse the clients on how to answer the possible queries during the hearing. In this area, most of the time I had fun just watching the simple folks grapple with the intricacies of logic and legal defense. But there were also moments when I asked myself whether what my father did was right.

                I was not at that time into spiritual exercises or pious practices, and much less was I clear about moral principles. But something told me there were things that did not sound quite right. 

                Like when the client would earnestly give his answer to a question my father asked, which I considered to be the real answer, and my father would tell him to modify it or simply to keep quiet on a certain point.

                I didn’t like the idea that my father would earn his living for us, a big family of 11 children, by tampering with the truth. I preferred to sell fish in the market than to do that. But I did not know how to confront him.

                Finally, when I gathered enough courage, I asked him about my doubts, and surprisingly he was very happy to engage me with what I considered as a very paternal explanation of his legal profession. My father also had a very tender heart.

                He assured me everything was ethical, and that he was not doing anything wrong just to provide for the family. And then very patiently he told me about what lawyers were supposed to do with their clients, especially those whom my father already suspected or was even sure were guilty of the accusation.

                He told me everyone has to the right to be defended, even the one who is guilty. And the lawyer’s job is to help the client defend himself along the technicalities of a legal trial.

                He told me the lawyers, like everybody else, should not tamper with the truth, but neither is the accused client obliged to incriminate himself. The burden of proof lies on the accuser. The accused is always presumed innocent unless proven otherwise. This is a legal process, my father said, not the Last Judgment before God where absolutely everything would be in the open.

                And so the accused client may not have to say everything that he knows, and when asked directly about something that might incriminate him, he can remain silent, which should not be automatically interpreted as incriminating him.

                I must confess that it took me time before I could feel at ease with this explanation. Even up to now I feel a little discomfort. But I can see the validity of the lawyer’s job to defend his client, however guilty he may be or not.

                Given this predicament, the ideal lawyer should be no less than a saint, otherwise, the temptation to play around with the truth would just be irresistible. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Not meant to be a dead letter

OUR laws should not be left alone to dry up and deteriorate into a dead letter. We need to give them life always and revive them from time to time when they show signs of flagging. They need to be nourished, purified, attuned and adapted to situations as they flow in time.

            I wonder if we, as a people, as a nation, are aware of this responsibility. We make laws, usually worded very beautifully with all the legal jargon we can get from all sources, but then we scarcely make any effort to enforce them, much less, to make them grow and flow with the times.

            We have to remember that our laws are at best our estimation of what is truly good and fair for us. They can’t help but be reflections of the ultimate law, which is the eternal law of God, our creator.

            Unless we understand that, we would be suffering from a fundamental infirmity, if not a radical error, that would surely drift us to all kinds of dangerous destinations in life. Yes, they are mere estimations, which presume that they are supposed to be a living, dynamic phenomenon that needs to be handled accordingly. They are estimations in constant search for perfection.

            Thus, they always need refinement and polishing. They are a letter that constantly requires to be animated by the spirit proper of us as persons and children of God. Our laws cannot just be a matter of words. They have to have the spirit, otherwise, they would denature themselves.

            And their perfection is nothing less than love, just like what one liturgical prayer puts it: “Law finds its fulfillment in love.” Of course, love here means everything: truth, justice, affection, understanding, sacrifice, patience, etc.

            We have to have a very clear idea of what this love is all about, because all sorts of definitions that spring mainly from the emotions, fashions, and very partial ideologies, are now being presented to us and we need to be discerning.

            Our laws should become more and more humane, more and more able to bring us to God as well as to serve the common good.

            Thing is if we individually make some kind of periodic self-assessment or examination of conscience to see if we are still on the right track, to see if what we are now approaches what we ought to be, then all the more reason should we as collective body, as a people and nation, need to have the same regular self-examination.

            Business companies, for example, take pains to take care of their bookkeeping, lest they would fail in their business. They institute all sorts of check-and-balance mechanisms just to see to it that things are working as they should.

            But do we do this? Frankly, I don’t see much of these things around. If ever there are signs, they remain signs with hardly any substance to back them up. They are just for show.

            We need to have a radical conversion to attend to this basic need of self-examination. This obviously should start in the individual level, but it should spread to an ever-widening circle of entities—family, schools, offices, communities, towns, cities, provinces, private and public sectors, and other areas of human concerns.

            This need should be able to count on an adequate plan of practices and structures in all levels of human life, seeing to it also that the coordination among the different parts and levels is well delineated and executed.

            Are we able to pinpoint the gaping loopholes that exist, for example, in the area of how our public officials are using the public funds or approving contracts or identifying projects to be done?

            Are we growing toward a greater and more effective participation of the constituents in making decisions that affect a certain community? How are we improving our electoral process such that the true common good of the people is served and not perverted by certain machinations of politicians?

            There many other questions that can be asked, and they all show that we have to be always watchful with regard to our public affairs, and the appropriate laws should be made and improved to effectively pursue the ideal situation for us as a people.

            The problem is that our politicians in general are distracted by their desire to remain in power or to get even more of it. So we have lawmakers who, instead of making laws, more busy going around practically campaigning.

            We need to have living laws, that dead ones.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Reading the writing on the wall

WE have to learn to read the signs of the times. It’s an aspect of prudence done beyond our personal affairs and going to the social and global dimensions of our life.

            It enables us to anticipate things and prepare ourselves for them adequately. It alerts us to overcome our naivete and complacency, and to be very alive to the challenges of our times, anticipating things and shaping the course the events.

            Remember Christ reproaching some people for their lack of this skill. “When it is evening, you say, it will be fair weather, for the sky is red. And in the morning: Today there will be a storm, for the sky is red and lowering. You know then how to discern the face of the sky, and can you not know the signs of the times?” (Mt 16,2-3)

            Our usual problem is that we get contented with appearances alone, the externals, the here and now and all that, and we miss the substance and the future of things. We very often blindly follow social and fashion trends and we hardly bother about their morality and ethical implications.

            This attitude is sadly present in practically all aspects of our life. In our politics, for example, the players seem to be not as much interested in pursuing the common good, which is what politics is all about, as in gaining, retaining and increasing their power and influence. Politics has become a game of power-seeking instead of selfless service to the people.

            The current screaming scandal of the pork barrel that has practically converted our Congress into a “House of Representathieves,” and our lawmakers into big-time “senatongs” and “tongressmen” is a clear consequence of this attitude.

            And to think that we are supposed to be a Christian country, and many of our officials are Catholics who like to parade their Catholicity in fiestas and other big events! This is because we fail to read the signs of the times, the writing on the wall.

            We are easily taken in by ostentatious displays of goodness by our public servants and turn a blind eye to their personal weaknesses, the temptations around and the deficiencies and loopholes of our systems that actually cry for proper attention.

            While it’s good always to be nice, trusting and believing, such attitude is not meant to displace our duty also to be careful and judicious in dealing with persons and assessing things.

            We can also say the same things about the world of business and economics, where very often we take things for granted until problems, which start small and tolerable, blow up into destructive crises.

            Same with the world of spirituality and piety. The need for ongoing formation, for continuing renewal and conversion is often neglected or done pro forma alone. And the supporting structure to facilitate this need is also often neglected. So what can you expect?

            We have to learn to be discerning of how things are running. Many good and bad things go together, like the gospel parable about the wheat and the weeds. There are elements that can be dangerous, and we have to learn how to avoid them or convert them into something useful.

            Obviously, for this skill we need to have the proper criteria. Yes, we can use all the sciences and arts with their corresponding technologies for this purpose. Let’s hope that we develop an interdisciplinary approach to things, since world trends are not anymore as simple as black and white.

            But we need to realize also that the ultimate standard would be the doctrine of our Christian faith and morals. That’s where we get a clear picture of what is good or bad, just or unjust, as given and defined by God himself, the Creator. That’s where we go beyond the realm of opinions and go to the absolute truths.

            That’s why a continuing catechesis and evangelization, starting with oneself, then the family and other higher entities, is always a necessity. We can never enough of it, since life will always present new challenges, questions and issues.

            And more than just studying the doctrine, what is necessary is for everyone to try his best to acquire and develop the virtues in an endless way. That’s the only way we can see and judge things properly.

            As St. Paul once said, only a spiritual man can discern spiritual realities and their corresponding morality. The carnal man would have no real interest in the spiritual and supernatural.
            Let’s see if we can develop a keen sense of reading the writing on the wall.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Faith and psychology

HOW important it is that we get to have a clear idea about the intimate relationship between faith and psychology! At the moment, it seems that psychology is largely grounded and ruled by one’s feelings, moods, temperament or some organic elements alone, if not by some cultural or social factors, or even by mere ideologies.

            There are even those who develop their psychological life along lines of mere techniques, or worse, by some drug-induced sense of stability and calmness or other escape and defense mechanisms.

            Obviously, for those who are already psychologically sick, these techniques and drugs are indeed necessary. But we have to be clear that they are precisely for the sick, and not for those who are supposed to lead a normal psychological life which we presume everyone of us should pursue.

            Ok, for those who are supposed to be normal, they can also avail of these techniques and drugs sometimes as a way to relieve some momentary stress. But the ideal state should be that we would be freed of these things.

            That’s why we need to reiterate the fundamental and indispensable role of faith in our psychological life. It is faith that gives the whole picture of our life. It includes both the good and the bad side about us.

            It tells us who we are, how we are supposed to be and to behave in the different and even conflicting situations in our life. It precisely sees to it that our thinking, desiring, feeling, acting, or the whole gamut of our psychological life are those proper of our dignity as persons, not mere objects, and ultimately as children of God.

            It tells us how we are supposed to understand and live through our successes and victories. When times are good, how should we feel? Should we not be thankful and be more humble so as to be more resolved to give ourselves more to God and to others?

            It also tells us how we are to react and to proceed whenever we encounter difficulties, trials, or whenever we commit mistakes, fall sick, suffer misfortunes, etc. When times are bad, are we not supposed to go to God for the sure and final relief and cure?

            “Come to me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you,” Christ said (Mt 11,28) We should never forget these words. Again, he reassured us: “In the world you shall have distress. But have confidence, I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16,33)

            It’s important that we realize that our faith, which always goes together with hope and charity, is the terra firma on which the seed of our psychological life should be planted, watered and made to grow to its fullness. It will always have a direct relevance in our psychological life. It’s not meant to be optional item in the menu.

            It makes us understand the real meaning of our whole life. It tells us what would comprise our true joy and development. It teaches us how to handle our defeats and losses, how to find meaning in them, and even how to take advantage of them to attain our genuine good.

            We should highlight some more the crucial role of faith in our psychological life, its intrinsic relation to psychology. A psychology that ignores or marginalizes the faith is always suspicious.

            But, yes, we also have to explain and clarify how the faith is related to psychology. Quite often, psychology’s indifference to the faith is due to an inadequate or erroneous mentality that puts them into two disparate, even hostile compartments in our life. We should reinforce the link between them.

            Nowadays, many people, even the young ones, already carry heavy psychological baggage because they cannot resolve certain questions and issues in their lives, and even those which can be considered as basic and easy questions and issues to answer.

            Because there’s a lot of ignorance and confusion around, all kinds of self-inflicted and easily avoidable complications come about. People lack time and, worse, the disposition and skill to think and reflect, to study things thoroughly and to pray. That’s why they cannot help but pile up mountains of problems and complications in their lives.

            We also have to explode the bias that considers faith as something too mysterious or too spiritual to be of any value in scientific psychology. We need to remind everyone that it’s precisely in one’s thoughts and desires, in one’s judgments and decisions, and the accompanying feelings, etc., where we can see the state of one’s soul.

            Definitely, faith and psychology are intrinsically linked.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Let’s be trusting

 DUC in altum (Put out into the deep) (Lk 5,4), a famous line in the gospel that gives us a sharp lesson on trust in God. It’s worth engraving it on our mind and making it a guiding principle especially when we find ourselves in some kind of a dead-end in any aspect of our life, more particularly in the spiritual and apostolic parts.

            As the gospel narrates, after preaching to a crowd, Christ told Peter to go to the deep and to lower the nets for a catch. Peter, who acted as head of the apostles, immediately said, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”

            And soon a miracle happened. The men caught such a huge amount of fish that they had to call their partners in another boat to help them haul the catch in. Peter was overwhelmed by what he saw. He could not help but say, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

            The story is very moving indeed, and the good news is that it can happen to any of us as long as we have faith and trust in God. It has been actually happening in many instances, though most of them go unreported.

            We need to learn to trust God, and in his word and in his ways, no matter how they seem unreasonable, impractical or impossible. For this, we have to go beyond our own understanding and estimation of things, and open our mind and heart to the light of our faith and love for God and for others.

            While it’s true that we have to use all our human faculties in dealing with our earthly affairs and concerns, that is, our intelligence and will, our sciences and arts, our common sense and cultural and social wisdom, we should not forget that all these would have no real value unless they are engaged with our faith in God.

            God knows everything. He is omnipotent. He actually intervenes in our lives in the most intimate way since he is the one who ultimately supports our existence and who governs it wisely with his providence.

            The best news is that he is all too eager to share his power and wisdom with us, since we are his image and likeness, and as his children, we are expected to share his very own life and to act in his name here in this life.

            We need to adjust the way we think to accommodate this wonderful truth of faith about ourselves in relation to God and to others. Our problem is that we tend to be restrictive in our view of things, omitting the inputs of faith and thus opening ourselves to have a very narrow and shallow view of things, prone to uncertainties, doubts and fears.

            Even those who already have a vibrant spiritual life may find themselves still in need of growing in their faith and trust in God. That’s because we tend to get stuck at a certain level, the one that we usually refer to as our comfort zone. Yes, even in our spiritual life, this thing can afflict us and we should try to be most wary about it.

            What usually happens is that we just allow ourselves to be dictated by our feelings, our passions, or by the trends and fashions around us, or by some systematized ideologies or philosophies, but not by faith and trust in God.

            Of course, these things can give some instant results. They can give some immediate practical advantages, but they are notoriously biased and reductive in their understanding of things. They actually cannot go very far before some contradictions and troubles emerge.

            The word of God, which is freely given to us and which is to be accepted by faith, may not be immediately beneficial because it is, first of all, mysterious, and then, it often involves some amount of suffering. But it is what gives us the whole picture of things, what brings us not only to some earthly destination, but to heaven itself.

            We need to study it, and make it part of our systems. To be sure, assimilating it is not only a matter of understanding it intellectually, but rather making is flesh of our flesh. This can be achieved if beyond simply intellectualizing it, we get to love it, we make it a way to love God and others, we translate it into deeds and not just keeping it as good intentions and nice words.