Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Beware of spins

WE will always have differences of views and opinions due to our differences of backgrounds, preferences, visions, etc. In a way, this is good, to be expected, and, in fact, also to be fostered.

            This variety can only enrich our life in many ways. Many of them come in some unexpected, even unwelcome manners. But the conflicts and clashes can shed some light of clarification, and can even release a certain energy to stir us to action and transformation.

            They somehow enlarge our world, freeing us from the grip of our own biases and improper attachments. They introduce us to new things or to some inconvenient truths that are good for us to realize.

            Yes, tension is unavoidable in this process, and depending on how we handle it, it can do us a lot of good or it can also harm us. Of course, the best way is always to pray, to bring matters first before God before we present them to others.

            Then it is good to have a firm hold of our emotions, our thoughts and words, and to constantly hone our communication skills even to the point of polishing the art of eloquence and elegance. By all means, let’s avoid gutter language and rude manners.

            This training is, of course, an ongoing and lifelong process. We can never say we are good enough in this department. Especially these days when events and developments with their issues come to us very rapidly, aided also by our very advanced communication technologies, we should take good care of our formation in this area.

            There’s just one thing that, I think, we have to be warned about these days. This is the phenomenon of spins, a conscious, self-serving if not malicious effort to distort facts and data.

            This usually comes about when we are too attached to our views and opinions, when we are not open-minded, when we do not exert effort to understand the views of others, when we think that we are always correct.

            And all these can be abetted by our undisciplined emotions and passions, and worse, when we blindly follow, as in being fanatical, some ideologies and the official positions of their leaders, often mouthing empty slogans and clich├ęs.

            For example, in the current heat of the relief and rebuild work in the aftermath of Yolanda and the earthquake, there are obvious attempts to make spins to rationalize things, to hide certain things while showing off other things.

            We can see that in the Korina-Anderson affair, the PNoy-Mar and the Romualdezes tiff, the DSWD and Lucy Torres things. Things are getting confused and certainly are harming the rehabilitation efforts.

            The spin also can come about when we happen to be professional communicators like journalists, public relations practitioners, people in media in general who are paid to do the job of communicating.

            Like lawyers, they can be tasked to promote and defend certain interests of clients, customers, political parties, different groups and sectors of the population. There is nothing wrong with that. That’s how the cookie crumbles in any society.

            But while this profession is very legitimate, we always have to understand that like all other professions, it is subject to the requirements of ethics and morality. No one should dare to practice journalism or public relations work without a clear idea of ethics and morality.

            It’s true that media practitioners can highlight certain angles of the issues at hand, but they are not free to make up stories, tell lies, fall into deception and unreasonable attacks, or to wag the dog, that is, when something of secondary importance takes on the role of something of primary importance, often straining credibility.

            In the world of politics that sadly now colors the relief-and-rebuild operations, spins usually sprout like weeds. We need to actively expose and uproot them as soon as they come.

            There’s always need to continually rectify our intentions, review the data thoroughly, check on the credibility of the sources. Everyone has to work toward the common good, ferreting the truth where they can be found, and always promoting justice and fairness.

            There should be eagerness to engage others in a meaningful and respectful dialogue, with the right manners, language, tone and timing. These conditions contribute to sustaining a good and fruitful exchange of views.

            Neither should we forget the need for delicacy, understanding and forgiveness, both in asking for it and in giving it readily. Thus, even as boldness and decisiveness are crucial in any dialogue, the traits of humility and simplicity should never disappear. These always create a conducive ambience for dialogue.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Economics and religion

THE other day, a posting in the social network caught my attention. It was an article lifted from a prestigious American magazine. It talked about the economic situation of our country.

            It was a well-researched essay, and the author sounded very knowledgeable about his stuff and had a very polite, scholarly style of writing. But it brought bad news for us.

            It was so bad that someone immediately commented in the social network that with the tragedies that we are having, he thought it was not yet the time for such article to be brought out. He said the article was like kicking someone who was already down on the ground.

            In gist, what the article said is that the Philippine economy is actually is a bubble created by the heavy pumping of money, the so-called quantitative easing (QE) by the US for the purpose, I suppose, of stimulating American, if not, the world economy.

            I confess that though I had economics as my collegiate course, I did not bother to closely examine the very tenuous line of reasoning supported by all sorts of charts and data. I just gave it the benefit of the doubt that what it concluded is at least probable.

            In short, we are supposed to be in a very precarious situation economically, or that we are living in a bubble that can burst anytime and plunge us into some bitter reality.

            My consolation is that not many people are aware of this potential danger. In fact, if we are to believe our government economists, we seem to be awash with economic boom.

            But I have always held the belief that it is always prudent to hear all sides of a certain issue, no matter how ridiculous the views may be. That way, we can have a better, if not the global picture of the situation that can help us plot our strategies for the future. Obviously, we need to be discerning and discriminating before we make our conclusions, judgments and decisions.

            Of course, as priest, I cannot enter much into the technicalities of the issue, but what I can say is that while economics has its laws and theories, all very dynamic and malleable due to its very nature of being a social science, it cannot be held exclusively without relating it to other sciences and especially to our religion or faith or core beliefs.

            Economics can only demonstrate a certain part of our human reality. It certainly cannot have the last word in any human drama, though any human situation will always somehow include an economic dimension, just as it will also have some social, political, historial, cultural dimensions, etc.

            Yes, it’s true that the laws, theories and findings of economics have to be given due attention, and we should try to be very strict in this. But they are just one strand among many that make the rope of our whole proper understanding of events.

            Otherwise, we can fall into extreme, bizarre and sometimes funny conclusions that are way off the mark as history unfolds. Think, for example, of the Malthusian theory of population. If that were true, we would already have sunk with overpopulation many, many years ago.

            There are certain things that economics, being a social science, cannot detect in its radar. The resiliency of people, for example. How would we measure that economically? The determination of the people to rise from the ruins of a calamity, irrespective of socio-economic conditions, is another example.

            At the same time, our faith and religion which contain our core beliefs should always be respectful of the laws and theories of economics, though they definitely go beyond the scope of economics.

            This is where elements such as the spiritual strength of the people, the reality of grace, the possibility of miracles, the need for prayer and sacrifice, etc., are found. They are beyond measure. But our faith and religion must also know how to express themselves in economic terms where these are due.

            Thus, in Christian doctrine, there is already good and growing part of what is now called as the social doctrine that precisely tries to make the proper blend between faith and religion, on the one hand, and economics and the other social sciences, like politics, on the other.

            It behooves everyone, and especially our leaders in business and politics, to study and live the social doctrine of the Church. We should not forget that in the middle of our economic affairs, is not only man, nor dollars, but God himself, who governs everything with his Providence.


Friday, November 22, 2013

The end is not yet

CHILL out! Let’s be cool. It’s not yet the end of the world. Though I’m no seer, I don’t think we have serious basis to think the world’s end is already in the offing.

            It’s understandable that with the big earthquake and the supertyphoon that we just had, we become edgy and without as much articulating it, we start thinking whether this is it, whether the apocalyptic image of the end of time is already at hand.

            We can again refer ourselves to what the gospel says to guide us in our thoughts and reactions to the extraordinary events we are experiencing these days. And what does it say?

            The closest and the most blunt clue we can get is what we read in Luke 21,5-19. It might be good to go through it again and meditate on it more closely to get a good idea of what to expect.

            One problem we have to overcome is the neglect we have with respect to our duty to thoroughly know the content of the Sacred Scripture, preferring to have our own sciences as the ultimate source of truth and wisdom.

            When asked in so many words when the world’s end would be and what sign there will be to presage its coming, Christ simply said the following:

            “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and “The time has come.’ Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified, for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.”

            Then he continued, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place, and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky…”

            Well, we just have to look around and see if the events mentioned in these gospel words are taking place. The gospel, of course, can be open to a wide variety of interpretation, but in my opinion, I don’t see these signs happening yet.

            What the gospel is exhorting us always is that we be prepared at all times. Death and the end of the world can actually take place anytime. And to be properly prepared can mean many things.

            One, we need to take seriously the business of our spiritual life. This is really what matters, much more than our family, professional, or social life which are also important and indispensable. It’s the spiritual life that brings us to eternal life and that gives meaning and direction to all the other aspects and dimensions of our earthly life.

            That spiritual life has to be nourished by prayer, the recourse to the sacraments that are clear channels of grace, the development of virtues. We need to see to it that we view the over-all state of our life in terms of how it is spiritually, more than how it is professionally or socially, etc.

            There should be growth of faith, hope and charity for God and a growing love for everyone that is manifested always and everywhere, whatever the circumstances. This is a continuing affair for us here on earth, an endless struggle to grow and improve.

            In the gospel, Christ also wants us to disabuse ourselves from so much concern about death and the end of the world that we neglect our earthly duties. This is dramatized in the parable of the master giving his servants some money and telling them to do business with it while he is away. (cfr. Lk 19,11-28)

            We have to remember that it is in our faithful observance of our ordinary and daily duties that we build up the consistency for our love for God and for others. It’s usually in the small things that serve as the sand and gravel to build up the edifice of our spiritual life.

            While the regular consideration of the so-called Last Things (death, judgment, hell and heaven) is highly recommended, it is meant for us to be properly prepared and not to instill fear.

            Such consideration is meant for us to sharpen our sense of what is essential in our life—seeking holiness in our ordinary duties—and not to be distracted by worldly and temporal affairs. Our usual problem is precisely that of letting ourselves be carried away by our earthly concerns and forgetting the eternal ones.

            I am happy to note that after our initial shock and the mess that erupted in the aftermath of the recent calamities, things in general are slowly settling down to normalcy.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Let’s be like Zacchaeus

ZACCHAUES is a gospel character whose beautiful story endears him to
many of us. He actually typifies us who like him also have our own
defects and sins, and yet in spite of those, continue to hold a deep
admiration and love for God.

    He is described as a wealthy man, the chief tax collector of his
time. It’s not difficult to imagine that he must have committed some
injustice, given the many imperfections of our systems. That much he
himself hinted. In fact, practically everyone considered him as a
sinner.

    But all these negative things did not prevent him from getting close
to Christ. When he heard that Christ was passing by, he made such
great effort to see him that he climbed up a tree, because of the big
crowd and also because he was small in stature.

    That’s when Christ saw him and told him that he, Christ, would like
to go to his house as guest. The good Zacchaeus marveled at this idea
and readily welcomed Christ to his house.

    That’s when Zacchaeus was profuse in explaining his predicament to
Christ. “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the
poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone, I shall repay it
four times over.” (Lk 19,9)

    Here we see a man with great faith and a big heart. He was aware of
his many shortcomings and sins, and in a way, these negative things
enlivened rather than deadened his eagerness to be with Christ.

    That is the attitude we have to develop, given the fact that we all
also have our share of sins and many other shortcomings. Let’s have
the faith and trust of Zacchaeus in Christ who, after all, also
reassured us that he came “to seek and to save what was lost.” (Lk
19,10)

    Let’s have the simplicity and transparency of Zacchaeus. This is the
way to be happy and to be at peace with everyone—with God and with
everybody else. After all, the mercy of God is eternal and universal.
There is nothing that God cannot forgive, unless we ourselves refuse
to be forgiven.

    Much of the complications we see in life is due to our stubbornness,
to our mistaken belief that God is unforgiving, who takes delight in
punishing us. While God is obviously concerned about justice, we have
to remember that his justice is always at the instance of charity and
mercy.

    His justice is not like our sense of justice that is often tainted
with self-interest and undueness often because of insufficiency of
valid grounds. If divine justice involves some punitive aspects, we
can be sure that the penalties are to correct what is wrong, to heal
what is wounded, to repair what is damaged.

    It’s a punitive justice that constructs and edifies. In any case, as
dramatized many times in the gospel, Christ often glosses over the
punitive aspect. This is the case of the repentant thief who did not
explicitly ask for forgiveness. He simply wanted to be with Christ in
Paradise. Christ understood such request as repentance enough.

    This is also the case of the woman caught in adultery. The harshest
words he told her before dismissing her was simply, “Sin no more.” And
of course, one of the seven last words he uttered while hanging on the
cross was to ask forgiveness for those who crucified him, “for they
know not what they are doing.”

    But like Zacchaeus, let’s also be generous in atoning for our sins.
Atonement, reparation, restitution and other forms of penance should
be a happy act for us. They are a very meaningful act that unites us
very intimately with the redemptive passion and death of Christ.

    This is how we should view the many forms of penance for our sins. It
cannot be any other, otherwise our penance would rightly become
inhuman and unattractive. It’s only when our penance is a sharing of
Christ’s suffering that it becomes very meaningful and beautiful.

    Let’s make an effort to cultivate the many virtues and the underlying
attitude that made Zacchaeus a man of great faith and trust in God, in
divine mercy, and a man of deep simplicity and transparency.

    This may not be easy, since we have to contend with a culture and
environment that is averse to the religious meaning of suffering and
penance. But we can always start in a small way now. In time for sure,
the Zacchaeus in us will just appear, the recipient of the greatest
gift of God, his mercy!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Finding meaning and beauty

WE are now in the eye of tragedy and misery, and though we are overwhelmed by the ugliness and pain of it all, deep in our heart an impulse can still be felt asking what is the meaning and beauty of all this.

            There must be some meaning to all this. There must be some beauty, because our heart always longs for it no matter what. And even if such question is at the moment ignored or, like a can, is kicked farther, it lingers and visits us at some unexpected moments.

            As we take some break from our hands-on interventions that our present predicament demands, we need to find a way to grapple with this question properly. We need to go to our core beliefs to get some answers.

            To those who have the Christian faith, we know that the Word of God is what gives us the complete picture. It is the eternal word that sheds light far beyond the limitations of space and time, and the confusing play of the different aspects of our life—our genetics, our personal, professional, social, economic, political conditions, etc.

            Christ himself said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Mt 24,35) In short, God’s word enables us to enter the eternal scope of our life, including the mysteries that we just cannot handle.

            These are words worth relishing these days because they show us where to go to find meaning and beauty in this whole mess we are in now. Let’s see if we can find time to go back to the Gospel and take up God’s word again.

            We have to be wary when we confine ourselves to some human knowledge and wisdom alone, made up at best by our sciences and technologies, and usually colored by our personal and collective experiences, our feelings and estimations of things. No matter how brilliant, they can only cover so much.

            We have to be wary when we just go about our usual mundane activities without considering the sacred, spiritual and supernatural realities of our life. This is our usual predicament which we have to learn how to correct.

            Remember Christ saying at one time, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Lk 17,26)

            We need to listen to God, to his word that, being living and eternal, never fades away nor becomes obsolete and irrelevant.
           
            And what does God’s word tell us about pain, suffering, tragedy, misery and the like? A lot!

            First, that while in the Old Testament, flooding and burning were ordered as punitive measures against people who have gone openly against God and perverse, in the New Testament, what we know is that Christ himself took on all the suffering of men and converted it into our way of our own salvation.

            All this is encapsulated in Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, and perpetuated so that the historical event can be made actual all throughout time in the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist.

            That is why now, suffering and pain, in whatever form they come, be it through sickness or misunderstanding, tragedies and finally, death, is not just pure suffering and pain to be experienced by each one of us alone.

            It can be an experience we can have with Christ who converts a purely negative and destructive event into something positive, constructive and salvific. We should not miss this very important meaning and beauty of suffering.

            Our concept of beauty should not just be confined in the context of a Miss Universe or Miss World title. It should include the harsh realities of our life that are now assumed by Christ and converted into something good for us.

            We have to make some adjustments in the way we think and behave. Let’s take Christ’s words seriously, like having to love our enemies, learning how to see Christ in everyone, especially the poor, the weak, the sinners.

            Remember Christ saying, “Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these least brethren, you did it to me.” (Mt 25,40) And, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt 16,24)

            May we manage to find true meaning and beauty in the disasters we are having now amid the unavoidable suffering!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gratitude and lessons

YES, the sufferings, at least as shown in pictures and in the media and now slowly recounted in the first person by many people, are unspeakable. It’s a national nightmare of epic, even cosmic proportion. One foreign journalist described the whole thing as “worse than hell.”

            I, of course, like all others could not help but get painfully affected by all this. A brother priest, preaching a retreat to the Palo clergy, went missing for several days. Thank God that he was finally located and extracted from the place. And it was also like hell just to be worried about him.

            But the “hell” comment struck me in a peculiar way. I suppose the journalist was just saying it as a figure of speech, a hyperbole, with understandable literary license. But I don’t believe there could be anything worse than hell.

            In fact, in spite of all the pain and suffering, we still have reasons to be thankful. Things could have been much worse.  And the massive destruction in life, limb and property has all of us scrambling for anything to be of help.

            Many have become instant heroes to instant victims. We are given a great opportunity to show and live charity and generosity. We are learning precious lessons, albeit very costly, that we tend to take for granted. Most of all, all our suffering and death unite us to Christ in his suffering and death on the Cross.

            This is how we have to look at this disaster we are having these days. This is not sweet-lemoning. This is rather the objective way to see things, that is, not only from the point of view of the externals and appearances, but most importantly from the point of view of faith.

            Many of the good things, the more precious things that happened and continue to happen because of the unspeakable disaster that was Yolanda are mainly hidden and unappreciated.

            That many people prayed all of a sudden, that they were willing to make great sacrifices, even to die, that they did not anymore mind their sorry condition just to look after the welfare of their loved ones—these and a lot more are the many good things that happened.

            That they continue to build up hope even when they are already living on the edge—this is actually a miracle, since we also have endless reasons why we should feel bad, sad, angry or fall into discouragement, depression, self-pity, bitterness, hardness of heart, etc.

            There will always be some villains. We should not be surprised by this phenomenon. Much of it will be more subjective than objective. But there’s more good than evil in life. “Where sin has abounded, grace has abounded even more.” (Rom 5,20)

            But we cannot deny that we also have learned great lessons. Now our idea of disaster preparedness has gone several notches higher. I am sure that in the aftermath of this calamity, a lot of discussions about this will take place. And that’s good.

            Let’s just hope that the discussions are properly grounded and oriented. Let’s avoid provoking acrimony even as we wade through the different issues, different and even conflicting views, etc. It always pays to keep a cool, sober mind, always keeping the emotions, passions and the tongue in check.

            We will overcome this crisis. We can manage to rebuild, and more than restore, we can remake things, including our very own individual selves, in a much better way. This is actually our choice, our decision. Insofar as God is concerned, he gives us everything for us to make a better world. His grace and mercy is eternal.

            We just have to avoid spoiling things by distancing ourselves from him, that is, by preferring ways that are outside of charity, truth, justice, mercy. These values should not be empty words anymore to us. They have to be real, with our earnest effort to adhere to God and his ways, constituting their substance.

            That is why, we need to pray, avail of the sacraments, develop a certain plan to keep ourselves always growing spiritually and morally. We have to study more deeply the doctrine of our faith and make it the guide for our thoughts, words and deeds.

            We should now realize where the real foundations of our life are, and what is truly essential with it, knowing how to avoid getting entangled with the non-essentials. Yes, we have many more reasons to be grateful than to be sad with Yolanda. Let’s make Yolanda the grave from where to rise to become a new creation!


Saturday, November 9, 2013

God never leaves us

WE just had a double whammy of a natural calamity—an Intensity 7.2 earthquake and the now-touted strongest typhoon in history, Yolanda. It’s understandable that we are at our wit’s end as to what to get from these two disasters.

            And so many of us fall into all sorts of predicaments—fear, anxiety, self-pity, depression, bitterness, etc. The worst part of it is when we lose our faith in God.

            We have to avert all these, because they really have no basis. They come about precisely because our understanding of things is not completed by our faith in God. In short, these calamities are special moments of exercising our faith.

            Remember what Christ said quite often, reproaching those very close to him for their lack of faith. “O you of little faith, why did you doubt,” he told Peter when Peter started disbelieving that he was walking on water. (Mt 14,31)

            When the disciples were in a boat tossed wildly by a strong wind and lashing waves while Christ was asleep, Christ also reproached them similarly. “O you of little faith, why are you fearful.” (Mt 8,26) Then he calmed the raging sea.

            We are human, and we tend to see things solely from the point of view of what our senses only perceive, what our feelings tell us, what our limited understanding of things show us. We need to go beyond these levels and categories, and learn to think, feel and behave according to what our faith tells us.

            And what does our faith tell us? It tells us that God never leaves us. He is always at the very core of our being, and of things in general, taken individually or collectively, or in whatever consideration we see and take them. 

            And to be sure, his presence in us and in everything else is not just passive, but very active, full of wisdom, love, mercy and omnipotence even as he allows us and the whole world of creation to act and behave according to their nature taken in both their positive and negative sides, in their powers as well as in their limitations.

            We are in God’s hands always. Nothing happens without him in the middle of things and events. Even when we commit mistakes or when nature suffers its limitations, God continues to be around, drawing things to himself.

            This is the truth of faith we have to relish, revisiting it often in our meditations so that it may sink deep in our consciousness and give shape and direction to our attitudes, thoughts, desires, words and deeds.

            This is the truth that will save us from being victimized by our own imperfect understanding of things or by the mere play of our emotions and other natural conditions that cannot take on the whole of the rich reality that is meant for us.

            It might be good to review what the Catechism says about divine providence.

            Point No. 55 says, “What is divine providence? Divine providence consists in the dispositions with which God leads his creatures toward their ultimate end. God is the sovereign Master of his own plan. To carry it out, however, he also makes use of the cooperation of his creatures. For God grants his creatures the dignity of acting on their own and of being causes for each other.”

            Then on the question of evil, Point No. 58 says, “Why does God permit evil? Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil. This was realized in a wondrous way by God in the death and resurrection of Christ. In fact, from the greatest of all moral evils (the murder of his Son) he has brought forth the greatest of all goods (the glorification of Christ and our redemption.)

            These doctrines of our faith may be a nosebleed in the beginning. But to be sure, that’s only in the beginning. We just have to wade through them and familiarize ourselves with them, just like anything that is precious but arduous in our life. In the end, they will become second nature to us, a working principle in our thinking and action.

            On a personal note, I would venture to say that these calamities we are having are mere expressions of the natural course of nature that has its limitations. God allows them to happen, among many other reasons, to prepare us for our own death and the end of time that will surely come, and our own meeting with God in the Last Judgment.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Entering the mind and heart

ALL talk about love, unity, peace, harmony, etc., would sound hollow unless we learn how to enter into the minds and hearts of the people. Until then, our affirmations of these values are like clutching at straws, chasing the wind, grasping at shadows.

            It’s truly amazing to see many of us contented only with some physical, emotional, or even social, political and economic maneuverings  to effect what we hold most dear in life—our love for one another, our concern for unity and things like those.

            We need to enter into the mind and heart of everyone because that is where love and unity start and are maintained and developed. The mind and the heart are where decisions are made and convictions reinforced.

            More than that, it is in the mind and heart where the fundamental relation between us and our Creator, and among ourselves, is established and kept going. They comprise the very core of our ultimate identity. We are what our mind and heart contain. We are where our mind and heart are engaged.

            When efforts to build love and unity are not rooted in the mind and heart of the people, then these efforts would just be hanging by a thread. A little disturbance, and everything falls apart. They don’t last long. They cannot go beyond the limits of space and time. They cannot leap into eternity.

            Of course, considering that our mind and heart are created beings, we have to understand that their true essence is when they are grounded on God, our Creator and Father. That’s when they truly become the principle of love and unity, since the essence of God of whom we are his image and likeness is precisely love and unity.

            Consider Christ’s words. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him will bear much fruit, for without me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15,5) And, “I pray that they all may be one, as you, Father, in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us...” (Jn 17,20)

            This union and relation with God is not a matter of genetics nor of some social, political maneuvers, etc. It is spiritual, and made real in us, always with God’s grace, through the workings of our mind and heart.

            We need to train our mind and heart to get engaged with God in all circumstances of our life, whether we are high with successes and victories or low with failures and losses.

            We have to constantly ask ourselves what our thoughts are, where the trajectory of our desires is, etc. Do they begin and end with God, or they simply revolve around ourselves and the things of this world?

            In our effort to help others to be truly instruments of love, peace, unity, etc., we ought to somehow know their thoughts and desires. We have to learn to read minds and fathom hearts.

            It’s not an easy task, but neither is it impossible. With the proper motivation and with the proper skills at observing, listening and understanding others, we can manage to see where the mind and heart of the others tilt.

            Obviously, everyone has to be encouraged to be simple and transparent, reassuring them that it is worthwhile to be so, since to be otherwise would just complicate our life and bring us to undesirable ends.

            Thus, it is important that we continue to make more channels of communication with God and among ourselves, and that they are always open and available. How important it is therefore for all of us to learn how to pray, how to meditate on God’s word and how to have personal chats and confidences among ourselves.

            This is a big challenge for all of us today, since even if the communication technologies are practically proliferating, the irony is that they seem to be making us more self-absorbed, and egging us to be more self-seeking, rather than truly communicating with God and with everybody else.

            We need to correct this phenomenon by seeing to it that though these technologies are very useful, they are not supposed to replace our heart-to-heart conversation with God and with everybody else.

            There are now even parents who don’t know their children well, precisely because they don’t anymore have family get-togethers, and much less, personal conversations.

            When we manage to enter into the mind and heart of others, we will soon realize that we are in the best position to guide and help them.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Persons of sound judgment

WE all should strive to be persons of sound judgment. It’s an ideal whose importance, relevance and urgency are increasing these days, given the complicating conditions we are getting into.

            That’s actually an understatement. We know that to be a prudent man or a person of sound judgment is essential to us, considering our nature and dignity, plus the growing scope of the responsibilities we are acquiring nowadays.

            Not only do we have to contend with the multiplying pressures and conditionings on our personal, family and professional life. Not only do we have to grapple with the confusing ramifications of our social, economic and political life, sorting them out as best as we could.

            With escalating insistence, we need to learn how to integrate the material with the spiritual dimension of our life, the here and now with the eternal and supernatural destiny meant for us.

            We have to know how to live by faith, hope and charity, the essence of our supernatural life with God, in the middle of our daily activities and concerns, and in the pursuit of our temporal affairs, be it in business, politics, education, culture, sports, etc.

            This necessity demands of us to be nothing less than persons of sound judgment. We have to overcome our tendency to be guided mainly by instincts, emotions, moods, fashions, and some sophisticated philosophies and ideologies that, while offering many good elements, actually lead us away from our proper end.

            Remember what Christ himself said: “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul.” (Mt 16,26) And so, even as we do our best in resolving whatever challenges and problems we have in our temporal affairs, we should not forget the “only one thing necessary” in our life, relating and subordinating everything else to it.

            In this regard, we have to help one another develop the proper attitude and skills to be persons of sound judgment. Obviously, the elder  and the more educated ones, the more mature and experienced persons and those with clear natural and supernatural gifts pertinent to this concern should lead the way.

            There is obviously a theoretical and practical side to this affair. For one, we need to study the moral principles and the doctrine of our faith as thoroughly as possible. We should aim at nothing less than becoming masters and experts in this field, since these principles and doctrine are indispensable. We should not have second thoughts on this.

            We have to realize that this study should be an ongoing and continuing concern, ever deepening and refining our understanding of these principles and doctrine, such that we can distinguish the nuances and fine points, and that they become part of our mentality.

            Together with study and meditation, we need to grow in the virtues and to avail of the sacraments that keep us in the state of grace. We should not be theoretical and intentional only. We have to incarnate and express outwardly the things that we have learned in our ongoing formation.

            Let’s realize that we can only see, judge and know persons, events and things properly when we have a vibrant interior or spiritual life, a vital link not only with theories and principles, but with God himself.

            This is how wisdom is acquired, nourished and kept. This is how we can counsel others properly, seconding the will and ways of God in everything that happens in our life.

            Let’s never dare to emit judgments that are mere products of our own making. We have to make them always in the presence of God and motivated by nothing other than love for God and for everybody else. We have to continually check on the rectitude of our intention, and the correctness and timeliness of our words and deeds.

            This is how we can position ourselves to be objective and fair, giving due attention to the different requirements of the many aspects a particular case may entail. This way, we can avoid being biased or partial.

            For sure, we need to pray always, as prayer is our constant conversation with God our Father, our Creator who is everything to us. He is the first and ultimate lawgiver, the judge and arbiter, the law and standard itself that we need to follow.

            We really cannot be persons of sound judgment unless we are truly men and women of God. When God is ignored, if not rejected, we would be simply left to our own devices, and that is when we can only expect trouble and chaos.

Monday, November 4, 2013

November can broaden our mind

THAT’S right. The month of November, which rhymes with somber and ember, all images of things dark and dying, actually invites us to  broaden our mind and enter into a much bigger, brighter and richer reality that we tend to ignore, if not reject.

            And that’s because, with the celebration of the Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of All Souls ushering it, November is actually the month that reminds us about a beautiful truth of faith that we often take for granted.

            We, as men and women, from Adam and Eve to the last man here on earth yet to be born just before the world’s end, form one family with bonds that go far beyond the relations and affinities that can arise due to blood, place, time, social, political, economic conditions or even to the most brilliant legal fictions we can invent.

            We form one family because we all are creatures of God, children of his, whether we acknowledge that status or not. We actually possess a most intimate relation with God and with everybody else. More family than this, there cannot be!

            In fact, a more intimate relation with whatever we can never have. And that’s simply because, our very own life and existence, and everything in that life, whether good or bad, depends on God, or has God us the ultimate enabler. No other relation can top this one.

            Yes, even if we commit wrong, no matter how big it is, God is still in the middle of it, since nothing happens without him at least allowing it to happen. Our freedom to do anything, including what is wrong and evil, while infinite is always conditioned by the fact that it is a freedom that comes from God and is always subject to his laws and wisdom.

            To be sure, God does not cause evil. It’s only us who can cause it. In fact, evil is the only original thing we can cause, since everything good we do ultimately comes from God.

            But God allows us to do evil, first giving us the grace to resist the temptation, and then if we still manage to fall, he can still do things to derive something good from it. That’s how almighty, God our Creator and Father, is!

            We need to broaden our mind and heart to fully take in this beautiful but hard-to-swallow truth of faith. Very often, we allow ourselves to drift into our faith-deprived thinking and reasoning, especially when we encounter evil and suffer the consequences of it, and so we cannot help but plunge into sadness, despair, fear, or bitterness and more hardening and coarsening of conscience.

            There’s always hope, a hope that does not deceive us. There will always be a happy ending as long as we allow ourselves to be guided by the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, the main ingredients of our life with God.

            We have to disabuse ourselves of our strong tendency to depend solely on our common sense, the sciences and the arts, our politics and other maneuverings, to find meaning in our life, especially in those situations when we find ourselves with problems, difficulties, if not failures and crises.

            For this, we need to pause and reflect on the very rich doctrine of our Christian faith, allowing it to form and nourish our basic and abiding attitude toward life with its ups and downs, and to spawn the appropriate practices, habits and virtues that can help us weather all the vagaries of life, tragedies included.

            November also marks the transition from the current liturgical year to the new one with the celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King and the beginning of Advent, the immediate preparation for Christmas, the birth of Christ our Redeemer.

            That transition highlights the indispensable role of Christ in our life. He is our Savior and Redeemer, the very way, the very truth and life for us!

            We need to be more attentive and alive to the significance of these events and celebrations, because they actually steer in the most fundamental manner the course of human history toward its proper destination.

            While we cannot help but do politics and things in the fields of science, culture, economics, etc., etc., let’s not get lost in them, but rather be immersed in them with the truths of our faith that we are reminded of in this month of November, guiding us.

            Far from being dark and somber, November is actually a happy month that we need to live through properly.