Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Forgive and be forgiven

WE are all familiar with the Lord’s Prayer or the “Our Father.” It’s the prayer Christ told his apostles when they asked him to teach them how to pray. Since it contains all the basic elements and purposes of prayer, it is considered the model prayer. Our personal prayers should reflect at least some aspects of this paradigmatic prayer.

            A part of it is most relevant in guiding us in our relationship with one another. It’s when Christ said, “Forgive us our sins (trespasses) as we forgive those who sin (trespass) against us.”

            As if to underscore the importance of this point, Christ reiterated: “For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences.” (Mt 6,14-15) It’s clear therefore that we can only be forgiven if we also forgive others.

            We have to be clear that his injunction is meant for everyone, and not only for a few whom we may consider to be religiously inclined. That’s why when asked how many times we should forgive, he said not only seven times, but seventy times seven, meaning always.

            That’s also why he easily forgave the woman caught in adultery. And to those whom he cured of their illnesses, it was actually the forgiveness of their sins that he was more interested in.

            To top it all, Christ allowed himself to die on the cross as a way to forgive all of our sins, and to convert our sins through his resurrection as a way to our own redemption. What he did for us he also expects, nay, commands that we also do for everybody else.

            Thus that indication that if we want to follow him, we have to deny ourselves, carry the cross and follow him.

            It is presumed that all of us sin one way or another. That’s why St. John said: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jn 1,8) I am sure that our personal experience can bear that out easily.

            No matter how saintly we try ourselves to be, sin always manages to come in because of our wounded humanity and the many temptations within and around us. As St. John said, we have to contend with three main enemies: our own wounded flesh, the devil and the world corrupted by sin.

            The awareness of this truth is not meant to depress us but rather to keep us humble and always feeling in need of God. We should be wary when we would just depend solely on our own resources to tackle this predicament. We need God.

            The awareness of this truth should also help us to develop the attitude to forgive one another as quickly as possible, since that is the only way we can be forgiven. When we find it hard to forgive others, it is a clear sign that we are full of ourselves, are self-righteous, proud and vain.

            We have to continually check on our attitude towards others because today’s dominant culture is filled precisely by the viruses of self-righteousness, that feeling that we are superior to others, etc. We have to do constant battle against that culture.

            That’s why we need to douse immediately any flame of pride and egoism that can come to us anytime. We have to learn to understand others, to accept them as they are, warts and all, while praying and doing whatever we can to help them. It’s not for us to judge their motives which will always be a mystery to us.

            In fact, as St. Paul once said, we have to consider others as always better than us. Only peace and harmony can result with such attitude. The abuses that can arise will soon be overcome if we are consistent with this attitude.

            We should not fall into the trap of putting justice and mercy in conflict. Both have to go together. Their distinction does not mean they are opposed to each other. Any appearance of conflict is only apparent.

            But obviously the way to blend them together is to follow the example of Christ, and not just to rely on our own lights, no matter how brilliant these lights may appear. We can always forgive, and forgive from the heart, even if the requirements of justice still have to be met.

            We need to be clear about the intimate relationship between justice and mercy. One cannot go without the other.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Open, discerning, focused

I IMAGINE that these are good traits to develop in life. You may have other and better ideas, but let me tell you why I say so.

With all the twists and turns in life, and with all the factors, conditionings and forces in play, many of them beyond our control, we just cannot help, if we want to save our sanity, at least, but to be open to everything, yet also discerning and focused so as not to get lost.

Our openness, which brings with it many other good qualities like being game and sporty, cheerful, confident and optimistic, should be based on the fundamental truth that whatever happens in life, God is always in control and he never wavers in his love for us. He knows what to do with anything that can happen in life, whether good or bad.

“All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven…A time to be born and a time to die…A time to destroy, and a time to build…A time of love, and a time of hatred, “ the Book of Ecclesiastes tells us. So, let’s just take it easy, and not worry too much.

Our openness should lead us to develop a certain sense of abandonment in the hands of God, in his almighty, wise and merciful providence, so that we don’t get carried away by the mere and shallow workings of our emotions, estimations and understanding of things that often distort and warp things, if not miss the point completely.

Everything that happens in life, even those that are reeking with human malice and openly against God’s will, can always be made use of by God himself to generate a greater good. This is a core belief that should guide us especially in our low and difficult moments.

The parable of the prodigal son bears this out as well as many other parables in the gospel. The ultimate proof is the very passion and death of Christ which came as a result of man’s worst malice and from which Christ did not avoid—he was open to it—and yet all that led to his glorious resurrection and to our salvation.

We have to echo the same conviction that St. Paul once expressed: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8,28) The important thing is to keep our faith and love for God unmoved in spite of our sins and infidelities. There’s always hope!

That’s why while we have to be open to anything in life, let’s also be discerning and focused on Christ, on our faith, because this is the ultimate and constant guide we need amid the ebb and flow of time and life’s ups and downs.

In this the perfect model is Christ himself. He was open to everything and anything, even to the point of being betrayed by one very close to him, an apostle. He was open to the possibility of being misunderstood, persecuted and executed. He allowed human freedom to do whatever it wants to do with him.

Yet, in spite of all this openness, he was focused. He did not get lost. He knew how to take advantage of everything to be able to do the will of his Father. “I seek not my own will, but the will of him who sent me,” he said (Jn 5,30)

And he must have been discerning also, because in spite of all the hectic pace of his life, he managed to pray, to spend time with his apostles and friends, to attend to the requests of many individuals. “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, that I may perfect his work.” (Jn 4,34) He knew exactly what he had to do.

We have to learn to reflect the life of Christ in our own lives. He is the very pattern of our life. There is no other, since as he said, he is “the way, the truth and the life.” (Jn 14,6)

Let’s develop the proper attitude and vision of our life by taking care of our daily routine. As we wake up everyday, let’s do a morning offering to remind ourselves that we need to serve God and offer the day the way God created the universe in the beginning—with all the love and goodness he could give.

Then as we go through the day, let’s reflect Christ’s life as he tackles all sorts of things but orienting them toward his passion, death and resurrection.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Year of the Laity

OUR beloved bishops have declared 2014 as the Year of the Laity. I suppose it is part of the 9-year preparation, a novena of sorts, for the celebration of the fifth centennial of the Christianization of our country in 2021. Remember that Magellan discovered our country and introduced Christianity on March 16, 1521, as that naughty Yoyoy Villame ditty had immortalized.

            In their pastoral letter of exhortation, they appeal to the laity to be more aware of their duty and responsibility in the Church and in our country. The bishops wish that the laity to be consistent to their faith, translating it from belief to action, from something personal to something social and collective, especially in the area of politics.

            Let’s hope and pray that this initiative acquires more meat and structure, gains foothold and traction, and runs far and wide. It should not just be a good idea, a beautiful letter. It has to be a living reality, widely and immediately felt, and concretely acted out.

            Many things need to be done, many concepts to be clarified, programs to be acted on, and goals to be pursued. Even the very concept of laity is not clear to many people, including those who consider themselves very Catholic. So, imagine what idea they have about the responsibilities attached to their status.

            While every believer who is baptized is called a faithful in the Church and therefore enjoys a basic equality with everyone else in terms of dignity and responsibility in the Church, there is also a functional diversity that distinguishes them into clergy on the hand, and laity on the other, with the consecrated religious men and women comprising as a third division.

            There should be no question about who is higher or lower in the Church. The hierarchical structure of the Church is not meant to elicit that attitude but rather to put in place and to keep the vitality of the Church as animated by the Holy Spirit himself.

            Everyone has to be aware that, whether cleric or lay, he is part of an organic body that has dimensions both visible and invisible, material and spiritual, human and divine. He has to realize that the Church is also in his own hands. He has to learn to work in tandem with others.

            All faithful are conformed to Christ in baptism. Those ordained to the priesthood are conformed to Christ in a more specific way, that is, to Christ as head of the Church.
           
            Yes, they enjoy a certain authority over others, but that authority is precisely meant to serve the others. They preach, administer the sacraments, etc. Their power should not be understood as a claim of entitlement. On the contrary, priests should feel like rags for the lay faithful to step on softly on their earthly pilgrimage.

            But the laity has a great responsibility too in the Church, and especially in the world, since they have to bring Christ, his spirit, his teaching into the world, transforming it to make it more human, more Christian, more in accord with the will and plan of God for it.

            Thus, they should never feel like secondary citizens in the Church. They have to stop acting like little, uneducated kids, or mere amateurs. They have to earnestly aim to be mature Christians, aware and alert to do their duties. This truth has to be pounded on their heads more often, because they tend to get contented with an idea of maturity that is simply temporal.

            Their faith has to be a matter of conviction, guiding them in their thoughts, words and actuations, whether in private or in public, and in every level and aspect of life. To achieve this, they have to learn to pray, to spend time conversing with God, to study thoroughly the doctrine of our faith, develop the virtues, avail of the sacraments, etc.

            They have to burn with desire for holiness and with apostolic zeal, such that wherever they are, they would always be aware and feel urged  to be holy and to be apostolically concerned with everyone else.

            Let’s hope that we can make use and activate all structures and mechanisms to enable the laity actualize their potentials. We have to start with the individual, then the families, schools, parishes, offices, etc.

            It’s good to note that there are now many groups with different charisms that are working to make everyone an authentic Christian. Let’s hope that little by little, we can see a transformation, a new spring in the world of politics, entertainment, business, etc.


Friday, January 24, 2014

The art of preaching

THOUGH some people consider preaching as some kind of public enemy to be shot down, the truth is that we need preaching, since preaching is none other than transmitting the living word of God.

            It’s a necessity in our life: for our survival, for our enlightenment, and especially for our salvation. God’s word gives life, nourishment, light, purification and redemption. “Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word of God,” (Lk 4,4) we are told clearly by Christ.

            That’s why we need to see to it that we develop and ever polish the art of preaching, which is a vital extension and participation of the preaching of Christ. Through the powers of the sacraments and the liturgy, Christ’s preaching continues up to now, this time making use of authorized ministers.

            This is how we have to view preaching. It’s not just some priest yakking at a certain point in the Mass. It is delivering and listening to the word of God as expressed once by St. Paul when he extolled the Thessalonians:

            “We give thanks to God...because when you heard and received from us the word of God, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but, as it truly is, the word of God who works in you who have believed.” (1 Thes 2,13)

            It’s about time that we give serious attention to this very important aspect of our life, since as we all know a lot of flaws, confusion and wrong practices have marred it through the years.

            I remember that as a kid in the early 60s, I would go home at the start of the homily on Sundays to take breakfast, and when I came back, it was still the homily. Practically everyone was bored and disconnected.

            Thank God, a lot of improvement has taken place since then. The men do not anymore flee from the church during the sermon. The priests in general have acquired an engaging way to deliver their homilies. Still a lot of things need to be done.

            We have to understand that what is involved in preaching and in listening to it is God’s Word, which is not just any word. If we have to go theological about it, God’s Word is the very Son of God who became man to redeem us.

            God’s Word, perfect God and perfect man, is the perfect and sole bridge and mediator between God and us. When we preach and when we listen to it, this basic reality has to be very much in mind, otherwise we will miss the point and will get entangled with the peripherals.

            Living faith is needed by both preacher and hearer, a faith that exudes itself externally. Thus, the preacher has to be more a witness to that faith than a teacher of it. And the hearer has to be a believer, touched first by God’s grace, since otherwise nothing of God’s Word would enter his heart if he does not have faith.

            It is in this regard that on the part of the preacher, all effort should be done to vitally immerse himself both in God and in others, acting like a bridge and mediator between God and men as Christ was and is.

            He should plunge deep into the knowledge of the doctrine of Christ, the fullness of God’s revelation to us, and also into the knowledge of men, not only in a theoretical way, but also and more importantly in a practical and direct way.

            It’s only in this way that preaching becomes true, genuine preaching, and not just a delivery of some smart lecture or entertaining show. Obviously, a lot of preparation has to be done before one preaches.

            Of this, Pope Francis reminded us recently in his document, Evangelii gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). He recommended that after praying to the Holy Spirit, one thoroughly studies, reflects and meditates on the Biblical text that should be the basis for the homily.

            Then God’s word has to be personalized, going beyond the technicalities of the text and employing the “lectio divina”, one has to ask himself what God wants to say to him with the words.

            Then the preacher has to keep a keen ear to the people to find out what they need to hear. Thus, the preacher should be in constant contact with flock to such an extent that as the Pope said, he himself would smell like a sheep.

            Then the delivery has to be engaging, with “an idea, a sentiment, and an image”. It also has to be positive.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Growing in intimacy with God

            THAT’S right. We need to grow in intimacy with God. Let’s banish the fear that such aspiration is impossible, or that we are just engaging in some wishful thinking, pursuing an illusion that will never come true.

            Let’s remember that God is our Creator who not only gives us existence but also keeps us in it. We cannot exist and we cannot keep on existing without him. Ergo, he is very much in us.

            As the Psalm says: “If I ascend into heaven, you are there. If I descend into hell, you are present. If I take my wings early in the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there also shall your hand lead me...” (139,8-9)

            To be sure, his presence in us is never passive nor simply formal. His presence is ever active and marked always by how he is, that is, with love, wisdom, mercy, justice, etc.

            As St. Paul says: “It is God who of his good pleasure works in you both the will and the performance.” (Phil 2,14) And again in the Psalms, are told the following: “Lord, you have proved me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up. You have understood my thoughts afar off. My path and my line you have searched out. And you have foreseen all my ways...” (139,1-4)

            We just have to learn how to discern and capture this reality, and to keep it going in us for always. And the secret is precisely that—to grow in intimacy in our relationship with him.

            We have to strongly remind ourselves that this relationship is not a fantasy, is not just our invention without any basis in reality. And the secret is to set our heart on the law of the Lord that hopefully will lead us to a vital encounter with God. We have to train our heart on no other object but solely on God.

            Thus, while pursuing worldly affairs, while keenly interested in such values as effectiveness and efficiency, practicality, profitability, popularity, etc., we have to make sure that such values directly contribute to growing in our intimacy with God.

            We have to make sure that God strikes us as a living person, and not just an idea, a memory, an abstract character whom we go to as a kind of psychological or emotional prop, or a spiritual ornament.

            Otherwise, these values would just feed our pride and vanity or that mistaken belief that we are just on our own, our true freedom understood as being by ourselves completely without being beholden to anyone, God included.

            That is the prevalent problem we are seeing these days, even among those who pride themselves as believers. To them, God is not actually a person, a living being who is always with us and is everything to us.

            We need to see God in everything and everyone. Thus, we have to learn how to be recollected and to be a contemplative especially in the middle of the world as we go through our temporal affairs.

            Let’s be sure that God is precisely also in the middle of the world, in our mundane affairs. He is waiting for us there and is expecting us to turn these things to him, since these things are the very test God provides us to see if we truly believe and love him or not.

            When we notice that we are just having many stray and spontaneous thoughts that are often critical and uncharitable, and reacting to them in a purely human way without relating them to God, it can be a sign we are not living in the presence of God.

            When we notice that our interest in success and other values like the ones mentioned above do not motivate us to pray, to love God and others more, to be more concerned about justice and the common good, we are not growing in intimacy with God. We would just be feeding our egos, sometimes using God for that purpose.

            When we have presence of God, we would feel the love of God that is full of mercy and wisdom. We would be convinced that we are truly his children and would learn how to behave according to that basic truth.

            When we grow in intimacy with God, we would become more familiar with his will and ways, and would feel strongly moved to cooperate more full in his designs. More than simply doing our own thing, we would be more conscious we are doing things with him.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

To be truthful

WE should never take it for granted that we are truthful enough. Let’s be clear: we are never truthful enough in this life. To be sincere is an abiding challenge for all of us without exception, and it is always accompanied by terrible dangers and threats.

            The other day while in an excursion, I heard over the radio a song by Rod Stewart entitled, I was only joking. In it, he expressed in catchy melody and in his signature carefree but pained voice, how he finds it hard to say if he truly loved his girlfriend.

            It sounded to me like a good reflection of today’s common predicament when people, especially the young ones, find it hard to see if they are truthful or not. “Now you ask me if I’m sincere,” the song says, “That’s the question that I always fear. Verse seven is never clear. But I’ll tell you what you want to hear.”

            To be truthful is not matter of simply saying facts and data. Neither is it simply a question of expressing one’s feelings. One can vividly express his feelings and emotions, with all the drama he can muster, but he may still not be truthful. As the poet William Shakespeare put it, it is like being “told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

            To be truthful is not even a matter of sounding off the insights and conclusions one arrives after some thorough study. One can make use of his great intellectual and creative powers, coming up with tremendous ideas and impressive theories, but if he is not with God, he will still miss the boat.

            He will be misdirected, reducing and distorting reality, mistaking the forest for the trees, framing things unfairly. He will be prone to tricks and gimmicks, and to temptations to play with legalism, intellectualism, and all structures and figures of formalism without the substance, to attain a selfish goal instead of the common good.

            To be truthful requires nothing less than a vital union with God who is the foundation of reality. Not only that, God is the way, the measure and the objective of truth. Without him, we can say whatever we like, but we can never be truthful. At best, he can only be partially truthful.

            Truth will escape us. It slips away and can leave us only with its shell, its casing or packaging. That’s when we would be most prone to play around with appearances to suit our convenience and preferences.
            Let’s remember that “not as man sees does God see, because he sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” (1 Sam 16,7) We often misjudge, because we tend to be led only by looks, feelings, and other social and political conditionings.
            Neither should we forget that the tricks of malice and deception can also be in play. Let’s not forget the image of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Treachery and betrayal precisely make use of the appearances and forms of truth to strike a deadly lie.

            Thus, we need to always pray, to stay in constant touch and conversation with God. We need to develop virtues relentlessly, like tact and discretion, prudence and justice, etc. We need to avail of the sacraments, since it is through them that we receive the vital impulses of God’s grace. We need to thoroughly study the doctrine of our faith, and form our conscience accordingly.

            Only in this way can we be truthful, always combining truth with charity. And with charity, we can expect to develop all other qualities proper to our dignity as persons and children of God, brothers and sisters among ourselves.

            These qualities can be a keen sense of justice and solidarity, mercy and magnanimity, quickness to forgive and forget, as well as to repair whatever damage is done, to heal whatever wound is inflicted.

            There will be a great leap in peace, unity and harmony in the family and in society in general. Affection, understanding and compassion will flourish. The proper development of man in all his aspects would be on track.

            That’s because when we put God in the middle of our effort to be truthful, then we cannot help but resemble ourselves more and more like him, in whose image and likeness we have been created.

            That’s when we can really say that the truth will make us free, will make us love authentically, since love is the supreme expression of freedom. Truth is the way to freedom and love, and to God himself, but always through the cross.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

The endless quest for humility

OH, what a slippery virtue humility is! It’s hard to keep it in one’s grip without pride spoiling it precisely by making use of it. The most insidious and devious type of pride is when one takes pride in his humility, righteousness and holiness. That’s when pride becomes almost invincible.

            When one finds it hard to understand and pray for others, to be considerate and magnanimous, these are signs of the absence of humility. When one thinks in an abiding way to be superior to others, when he is quick to judge others and to regard his criteria, standards and opinions to be the only ones that matter, for sure humility is practically dead.

            When he does not feel superior, he is usually taken over by envy and anxiety. Insecurity creeps in, and joy and peace just flee. Thus, he likes to feed his superiority by indulging in selfies and other forms of self-assertion, both open and hidden, aggressive and subtle, even to the point of using reverse psychology.

            When one seems to see only the weaknesses, mistakes and failures of others with hardly any notice or just quiet on their accomplishments, you can be sure pride is lording it over him. He may be well-mannered from a distance, but when he starts to speak, the words betray what’s really inside his mind and heart.

            He is prone to gossip, unable to control himself. He, of course, will try to make himself look good and fair. He may even admit to some shortcomings of his own but only to strike a bigger blow on others. It’s actually a terrible, dirty world, this world of gossip.

            He is usually hard to be with. And if he looks like he’s being sociable, you can readily see the artificiality of it all. And most of the time, he only talks about his own self, about his own interests. He hardly listens to others. He just listens to himself.

            I have met all kinds of people but there’s hardly anything more depressing than to talk with someone so enclosed in his own world that no reminder, suggestion and correction from outside can enter. Only his ideas and ways make sense. Those of others don’t. The proud person is agonizingly blind.

            This reminds me of what St. Peter once said in his letter. “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” A proud person cannot be a man of God. C.S. Lewis expressed it well when he said:

            “As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”

            The scourge of pride usually afflicts people of more or less high status intellectually or in some other aspects like talents, power, fame and fortune in life. It can afflict persons even in a more grievous way in the religious and ecclesiastical circles.

            In fact, I have come to believe after many years of experience that they—we, including myself—are the most vulnerable ones. This, of course, is not surprising since the higher one gets in his status, the bigger also would be the temptations, and the more painful would be the fall when he falls.

            But to be sure, not everything is lost. There is always hope. And the more challenging the problem and predicament are, we can also get a greater grace. St. Paul said it: “Where sin abounded, grace did abound more.” (Rom 5,20)

            It is just a matter at focusing our life on God, entirely conforming our mind and heart on Christ, on his word and example. We just have to develop the proper attitudes and virtues. We have to be open-minded, always thankful, mindful always that everything good comes from God.

            The bad things should neither take us away from God, but rather should spur us to go even more closely to him, convinced that Christ has redeemed us, converting our sinfulness into the very way of our own salvation through the cross.

            We need to follow Christ’s command closely to love one another as he himself has loved us. For this, we cannot help but have to deny ourselves and to carry the cross in any form it comes, as he himself clearly said.

            Let’s develop the attitude of doing what we have to do yet passing unnoticed, always eager to serve and not to be served. And as St. Paul said, “in humility, let each esteem others better than themselves.” (Phil 2,3)


Saturday, January 18, 2014

The world of liturgy

LET’S take advantage of the fever generated by the celebration of the Feast of the Sto. Nino to talk a little about the world of liturgy. It’s a reality that is often taken for granted, or badly reduced, distorted and misunderstood, and yet it is actually the beginning and end of our deepest beliefs and the culmination of our Christianity here on earth.

            As the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, liturgy is the “celebration of the mystery of Christ” through which the sanctification of humankind takes place. It’s a public worship offered by the whole Church as one organic body, with Christ as head and us as its members. (218) It’s a joint effort between Christ and us.

            As the “sacred action par excellence”, it is therefore the “summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed and it is likewise the font from which all her power flows.” (219)

            Even with this brief and general description of the liturgy, we can readily sense that a lot of catechizing is needed, since the very concept and reality of liturgy is so rich and complex, open to all kinds of insights and interpretations, both correct and incorrect, that we, especially the Church leaders, should not stop studying and preaching.

            We have to make everyone understand that our Christian life cannot be but liturgical in character, since it is in the liturgy that our sanctification is achieved not solely through our good intentions, best efforts and even heroic efforts, but rather mainly and indispensably through the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, our Redeemer. We are only co-redeemers. We cannot redeem ourselves without him.

            This is a truth that should not be left confined only in the world of the academe, the seminaries, churches, etc. It has to run far and wide, and should so enter deep into the mind and heart of everyone that it becomes a guiding principle in one’s Christianity.

            Of course, together with widely sowing this truth about the essentially liturgical character of our Christian life, we should polish and deepen our practice and participation of the liturgy.

            This is a most dynamic and complex area of concern that nevertheless should be reined in. Thus, we have to understand that our proper understanding of it, not to mention its proper exercise, requires nothing less than a continuing formation, both on the part of the Church leaders and the ordinary faithful.

            While laws and rules are necessary to regulate it, we have to realize that such laws and rules need to be constantly polished, updated, purified, revised, etc., because while there are essential things that should remain constant, there also are many other incidental things around it that need to adapt with the many changing circumstances.

            Especially these days when the changing circumstances are not only fast-paced but also are multiplying, we need to have a good grip on what is essential about it and what is incidental. Otherwise, there will be a lot of confusion and unfair situations, often giving way to superstitions and wrong practices.

            Vatican II, for example, has stipulated that there should be massive liturgical instruction and active participation in the liturgy among the lay faithful. I suppose a lot of things have been done to reach this objective, but still a lot more need to be done.

            On the one hand, there are any cases where liturgy seems to be held captive by groups labelled as conservatives and traditionalists, and on the other, by groups branded as liberals and progressives, etc.

            I imagine that each one has something valid to say, and so it’s imperative that an ongoing discussion and process of sorting out things has to be done in the different levels of the Church structure that should observe its proper hierarchy. We should stop, or at least minimize the air of tension and acrimony among the different groups.

            Everyone should be given a chance to air his views, presuming that everyone should also make due study before articulating his positions. We have to avoid the impression that the liturgy is too static, too legalistic, too Roman or too African, or too dynamic, too vague, etc.

            We have to observe the essential of the liturgy in as perfect a unity as possible, while respecting the legitimate diversity that can arise from the incidental aspects of liturgy, for example, in the area of the varied cultures in the world. Unity is never to be understood as uniformity.

            Thus, the crucial part is to know which is essential and which is incidental in the liturgy.


Friday, January 17, 2014

We should not judge?

WE should be careful not to fall into a simplistic, ridiculous and somehow extremist understanding of that gospel indication not to judge. A child’s common sense can readily tell him he is made to judge.

            We are all made to judge. No question about that. Otherwise, why do we have intelligence, the power to know, think, discover, reason out and arrive at some conclusions? Well, that’s because we are all made to judge. He who does not make any judgment is not in his proper humanity.

            But obviously, if it is Christ who tells us not to judge, then there must be something to it. We cannot dismiss it lightly. There is something serious about it which we are gravely obliged to know, appreciate and live by.

            Let’s examine this divine indication more closely. Let’s see in what context it has to be understood. It is found in the gospel of Matthew, with its corresponding versions in the gospels of St. Luke and St. John. In St. Matthew’s version, we have the following words:

            “Judge not that you may not be judged. For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged. And with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (7,1-2)

            St. Luke’s version is very similar to St. Matthew’s. “Judge not and you shall not be judged. Condemn not and you shall not be condemned. Forgive and you shall be forgiven.” (7,37)

            St. John adds a slight twist. “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge just judgment.” (7,24)

            It’s quite clear from these citations that we are presumed to make judgments, but good and fair judgment, full of love and understanding, justice and mercy. What is discouraged, if not prohibited, is to make bad judgments that are rash, gratuitous or insufficiently based, and driven by some selfish and therefore unfair motives.

            We have to be most careful when judging, because if we can be very reckless in our speech, as when we indulge in sheer loquacity that lends itself easily to gossip, detraction, calumny, exaggerations, etc., we can even be much more reckless in our judgment since there would be less deterrence in making rash judgments.

            In judging, we should first of all be sure that we are doing it with God in our mind and heart. Without him, we can already be sure of how our judgments would go. All sorts of anomalies, mostly subtle and tricky, can spoil them.

            We need to follow his teaching and example of how truth should be proclaimed, explained and defended in charity. One cannot be without the other. And we have to be convinced that rather than truth being a hindrance of charity, or vice-versa, they actually both need and help each other mutually.

            We have to be wary of our tendency to be simply driven by the logic of the flesh—with our instincts, emotions and passions leading the way—or by the machinations of the world that are full of deceit, questionable ulterior motives and mere self-interest.

            When we have God in the middle of our judgments, we would know how to distinguish between the act which we can judge and the person who only God, not us, can judge.

            In short, when we put God at the center of our judgments, we would know the proper scope, the basis and the limits of our judgments. We would follow the requirements of prudence and discretion, making the proper study, consultation and reflection before we make our judgments.

            With God, we would know how to be delicate in the way we judge and would do it with proper sense of timing. We would be quite aware of the consequences, both in the short-run and in the long-run. We would be quite sure that the ultimate effect would be the good of everyone, and not just the good of one party.

            With God, we would go beyond mere legalism and formalism, which are very much the scourge of our present times, when judgments are rendered according to some literal and formal interpretations of man-made and still perfectible laws, often blindly followed, but without the proper spirit of justice.       

            With God, we would be very cautious with our judgments, and much more with our words and deeds. We would be quick to give others the benefit of the doubt, to be patient, to prefer to suffer than to be unfair, and to be forgiving and magnanimous.

            We would not keep rancor and bitterness. In fact, we would experience true peace that favors reconciliation over enmity, healing over mere penalty.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The monster in us

WE have to be aware that each one of us has some kind of a monster, ever ready to get hold of us and to lead us to his wild and sinful ways. We need to tame him, or better still, to convert him into some kind of a lamb.

            In biblical terms, this monster is referred to as the “old man” as opposed to the “new man” who is already redeemed and renewed in Christ, or the carnal man as opposed to the spiritual man, the man led by the Spirit rather than by mere impulses of the flesh and the play of worldly forces.

            It is this monster that expresses what is wrong with us—our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, our attraction to evil and malice, our conscupiscence and sinfulness, etc. It is what spoils our original dignity as persons and children of God.

            It also is responsible for us living some kind of a double life, which we should also correct by trying to attain the ideal of unity of life, because while we are attracted to the good, we also get somehow attracted to evil.

            Remember St. Paul saying, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.” (Rom 7,15ff.)

            Let’s never forget that with the way we are, we are very much capable of leading a double life, what with the ways of deception and hypocrisy very accessible and easily assumed, and with hardly anyone else noticing.

            Thus you can have a person who can look like a saint but is actually a demon, worse than a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Nowadays we are not anymore surprised to discover that there are false prophets and false teachers not only in civil society but also in the ecclesiastical world. Due to this, horrible scandals explode from time to time.

            This is the reality of our human condition here in our earthly life, which we should acknowledge without going through unnecessary drama and lamentation and which we should try to correct with God’s grace and our generous efforts inspired by faith, hope and charity.

            Let’s remember that no matter how ugly things can become, there is always hope. Christ has conquered evil. We always have a way to recover from our sin and its consequences. We should avoid getting depressed and feeling desperate even in our worst situations.

            This means that we should always be in a state of what may be called as spiritual red alert, ever on the look-out and ready to make war against our own selves, the devil and the world, if necessary. We need to update our knowledge and skill in the art of spiritual warfare.

            We have to be wary of our tendency to be complacent, to take things for granted, and to be afraid to go against the current in a world that seems to be driving recklessly toward perdition.

            The world nowadays is getting more openly hostile to God’s laws and is now imposing its own, based perhaps by some consensus and vigorously pushed by some powerful and moneyed groups with their own rationalized ideologies.

            What is evil and sinful is now considered a human right, an expression of freedom, or a path to human maturity and liberation from what they consider as stupid kinds of bondage. To fight against evil as defined by God’s law is now branded as discrimination or plain injustice.

            These groups talk loudly about losing the fear of God and the law that God has written in our hearts and has revealed to us also. And they will do everything to undermine the authority of the Church. It’s not that Church leaders are exempt from sin and mistakes, but their failings are exaggerated to take away their authority.

            This position of the ideological groups goes precisely against what the Bible says about fear of the Lord as the beginning of wisdom, that is, divine wisdom and not just wisdom of the world.

            Thus, aside our own personal weaknesses that create and keep the monster that everyone of us has, we also have to contend with increasingly powerful worldly and demonic forces that seek to nurture our personal monster, and to snuff the life the “new man” and the “spiritual man.”


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Discernment and discretion

AN architect-friend approached me one day to ask if it’s ok to build a modern-designed church to replace a centuries-old one, Baroque in style, that was flattened during the earthquake in Bohol last year.

            I immediately told him his question simply cannot be answered with either a yes or no. A lot of discussion is unavoidable. But if he wanted a quick answer, I told him that he has to get some kind of consensus from the constituents and the approval of the bishop.

            He showed me his design, and I must say that it was good. In fact, it was very beautiful yet simple, the lines very easy and pleasant to the eyes, and yet they still evoke what I call a churchy character.

            I congratulated him for his concept. And when I saw the interior design, I was even more amazed. The suggested images for sure could arouse piety, and the placement of the different elements of the church structure was proper and in order.

            When I asked him about the costing, he assured me that the design has the lowest cost compared to the other alternatives that he was also considering. Still, the whole thing would run to millions. But, he said, many benefactors have already pledged to help.

            So I told him I was for it and promised to pray that his plans get carried out. It made me think a little about how churches should be at these times when even a remote town cannot anymore be unaffected by the world trend of constant flux and dynamism.

            There’s indeed a great need to be discerning and prudent in this very delicate venture. Of utmost importance is that the church structure should try its best to embody the true spirit of religion taken individually and collectively, and also in terms of the culture and history of the people involved.

            As if that is not enough, even more important is for the church structure to somehow be able to convey and exude the transcendent quality of a church. While rooted on the here and now, it has to lead people to eternity, to things spiritual and supernatural.

            In other words, it should not just be an expression of the social and cultural status of the people. It has to have a strong, pervasive atmosphere of prayer and adoration, a place where people would immediately see the value of sacrifice and asceticism, of taking their spiritual life seriously, of making their spiritual life relevant to all other aspects of their lives, etc.

            For sure, a lot depends on the people taking care of the church and running its activities. But insofar as the church structure is concerned, I just hope that first of all, it is so strong as to be earthquake and Yolanda-proof, that it is beautiful and piety-provoking, that while it keeps the traditional judiciously, it is also open to innovations and renovation, etc.

            I remember my reaction when I recently saw the new chapel of the seminary where I had my first assignment in Spain in the 90s. I must confess that I am more at home with Baroque chapels, with gilded retablos. What I saw instead was what I thought at first was a messy artwork that looked like an inverted tree, with the roots up and the foliage down.

            When I asked what the whole thing was all about, I was floored by the explanation. I was told that the theme was the tree of life with roots in heaven and the fruits and leaves on earth. And that’s when I started to see the beauty of it all.

            When I looked at the seminarians, obviously a much younger generation, I could see that they were praying. In fact, the place literally breathed with piety, and I was happy, and made my own adjustments to conform my mind and heart to the spirit of the place.

            We all need to be discerning and discreet in flowing with the times and in coping with the ever-changing circumstances and challenges. We have to be wary when we get stuck to a certain form or way of doing things, confusing the merely incidental with the essential.

            We should be aware that we tend to impose our own tastes and preferences, our own views and biases on others, absolutizing what are merely relative. Let’s be guarded always against this tendency to be bigoted.

            A certain openness of mind is necessary. And also the attitude of consulting, studying, praying, etc., to be prudent and to effectively discern the promptings of the Spirit.


Monday, January 13, 2014

From Gregorian chant to rap

IN this life we cannot help but be versatile. St. Paul himself expressed it so well when he said that we have to be “all things to all men.”

“To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews,” he said. “To those under the law I became as one under the law—though not being myself under the law—that I might win those under the law.

“To those outside the law I became as one outside the law—not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ—that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak.” (1 Cor 9,20-22)

Of course, we have to remind ourselves also, as St. Paul himself had also reminded us, that though “all things are lawful…not all things are helpful.” (1 Cor 8,12) There’s always a need for discernment and prudence.

This is a doctrine worth keeping in mind, its relevant attitude and skill properly and consistently cultivated and developed. That’s because nowadays we cannot help but contend with a growing variety and complexity of people, issues and situations.

Most pronounced these days are the generational and cultural differences, the old and the new, the traditional and the modern. There are also differences brought about by our professional, economic, social and political status, and our many personal preferences in styles and outlook. We have to learn how to handle this condition.

Even in our spiritual life, we cannot help but have a great variety of spiritualities, brought about by the different Spirit-given charisms to cope with the different situations of our life.

All of these, though, are meant to enrich the one same Church, the People of God that comprise the mystical Body of Christ. They are not meant to tear the Church apart, dividing and isolating people from each other. Our differences and the variety of things are supposed to build and enrich the whole Church and each one of us.

And so, we just have to learn to be open to all possibilities while maintaining the core essence of things, which hopefully everyone will recognize to be none other than to have faith in God and his doctrine, to have hope in his promises, and to fill ourselves with the love of God that enables us to love everyone, including our enemies.

This consideration has led me to cultivate the need to be versatile without getting lost along the way. In the area of reading and praying the psalms, for example, I was thinking that while traditionally they are set in Gregorian or even in more ancient tones, they can also be set in modern ways, even in what is now known as the rap.

Recently, a very young nephew of mine uploaded in youtube a song about the earthquake in Bohol, with a very good Christian message, but rendered in rap. I must say I was moved, not so much because it was done by my nephew, but more because the Christian message can be delivered in rap. There was no irreverence at all.

There’s a certain beauty to it, with a beat that is most appealing to the young of today. It sounds cool and it’s hip. It’s fast-paced, short of emotion but it drips with the reverse appeal of the sangfroid, the I-don’t-care and challenging kind of stance that mysteriously is captivating.

At the moment, most rap is done with inane, naughty and even immoral compositions. But that’s precisely the point. We can turn it into something good and useful if it is humanized and Christianized. There’s nothing in it that can take away its rich Christian potential.

Obviously, it has its limitations and dangers, as anything done to excess and out of place will always have. But these limitations and dangers do not detract from its becoming a good way to pray.

I must say that while I pray my Breviary mostly in plain meditative tone, I also try to do it with the Gregorian chant in my mind. I also tried it in other settings, like soul, jazz and R&B, depending on the mood and the circumstances at the moment, and always with good effects.

I am trying it now with rap as the background, and I must say that it also has bracing effects. I cannot deny that I also feel energized by it as I get to see things with a certain clarity due to its crispy rhythm, and I seem to feel lighter, as if cleared of some baggage.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

The pursuit of eloquence

EVERYONE, I suppose, wants to be eloquent, that is, forceful and persuasive in his conversations, dialogues, speeches. Especially to those engaged in public speaking and publicity work, eloquence is the apple of their eye, their jewel of the crown.

            Thus, politicians, media men, advertisers and all kinds of public communicators do all to sharpen their skills in that department. They check the quality of their voice, its pitch, tone and volume. All of these should be appealing to the public. The voice should be neither too strident nor too dragging. Better if it is clear, smooth and warm.

Then they employ all sorts of devices, tricks and gimmicks to enhance their expressiveness. Thus, they are fans of similes and metaphors, anecdotes, jokes, the popular expressions and slogans, buzz words and memes of the moment, and other literary sparklers. They are constantly minting new words and idiomatic expressions.

Of course, they also check their appearance and image. They are willing to go through complicated make-ups and make-overs just to achieve their desired persona or their preferred avatar.

Some people are not even averse to using underhanded means, like bombast, spins and hype, exaggerations and hyperboles to prop up their eloquence. This is not to mention many other factors, both licit and illicit, that also go into their pursuit of eloquence.

 There can be pressures from outside, for example, from different sources—ideological, financial, commercial, political, etc., that are systematically pushing their partisan views, biases and prejudices.

We need to be aware of these forces that are at play in our public exchanges and know how to treat them properly. Of course, they are not altogether bad. They will always have some good, truth and beauty, otherwise they will not prosper. But they need to be examined with a fine-toothed comb to see what is fair and unfair, safe and dangerous in them.
We need to understand that eloquence is first of all a matter of having a vital union with God, the source of all that is true, good and beautiful. Without this, all claims of eloquence would be false and deceptive.

Thus, eloquence requires a great effort to be with God always, making him the beginning and end of our discourses, the motive and objective. This requirement is not at all inhuman and unnatural, but rather what is fundamentally proper to us, given our nature and dignity as persons and children of God. It may be hard, but it is practicable.

Since eloquence is a question of being persuasive, we have to understand that the first person we have to persuade is our own selves. We need to be persuaded that we need God first of all. Only then can we feel confident that we can persuade others about God and about anything else in life.

Eloquence should not just be a play of persuasion and expressiveness about worldly and temporal concerns, no matter how valid they are. Its first objective is the acceptance of God as our Creator, Father and Provider for everything. The ultimate objective of eloquence is to relate everything to God. This is the big challenge for us who seek eloquence.

So we have to be most wary of the glib talkers who only speak about politics or business or some worldly affair we have. Without a clear grounding on God, their words can only be shallow and biased, if not insincere and deceitful, even if they are heavily supported by facts and data and seasoned with all literary and rhetorical devices.

Real eloquence will always lead people to God, giving them true wisdom. It is not meant to lead people to mere ideologies or to some interest groups exclusively. It will always lead people to God, and because of that, it will also lead people to all others, in spite of one’s particular position that can be different or even in conflict with that of the others.

Real eloquence avoids contention and envying. It is not driven by bitter zeal. It does not arouse sensual or merely worldly reactions to issues. We have to be wary of speakers who are wont to stir intrigues and provoke controversies, restricting our discourses at the purely mundane level.

Real eloquence can use all the devices and gimmicks that are licit and moral, but as St. James said, it would embody a heavenly wisdom expressed in meekness and goodness.

That wisdom-infused eloquence would be “chaste, then peaceable, modest, easy to be persuaded, consenting to the good, full of mercy and good works, without judging, without dissimulation.” (3,16)


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Deepening popular piety

I CONSIDER it a great blessing that in our country we still enjoy a tremendous amount of popular piety. This January, for example, we have the celebration in many places of the feast of the Sto. Nino that draws a lot of crowd in a mode that unmistakably is very moving, to say the least.

            Visit Cebu City during these days of the Sto. Nino, and you will know what I mean. The sight is simply heart-melting, exhilarating. Prayers and piety are expressed in large processions, novenas, Masses, dances, and the whole range of festivities, both religious and secular.

            While there are many warts and imperfections that accompany these activities, it’s undeniable that the mysterious character of faith and devotion is very palpable, and tends to be contagious.

            It’s good that we take this occasion to find out how we can improve the tenor of such celebration, for definitely improvement and development there should be in this area also. We cannot be na├»ve to think that things will just go well by some invisible forces without our due part.

            Especially these days when the all-too-worldly manners of celebrating are getting more and more prominent, we need to practice prudence and the appropriate, if not Spirit-inspired, creativity to bring this popular piety to its proper objective.

            It is not to curb spontaneous expressions of piety and religious sentiments, but rather to purify them and channel them along proper paths. We have to be wary, for example, of superstitions that can easily mimic and distort piety. And superstitions and questionable pious practices, there are many!

            We also have to be wary of elements that take advantage of this popular devotion to push commercialism, materialism and frivolity. It’s not that we have to avoid altogether some commerce and fun, but we need to see to it that these are pursued properly. That is to say, that they enhance rather than detract from the religious and spiritual character of the festivity.

            The clergy should take the lead in undertaking a most active and effective evangelization with respect to popular piety. Of course, the laity too should do their part. The whole Church should be involved in some organic fashion in this duty.

            The aim to reach is to make everyone closer to God, with faith strengthened and alive, producing fruits of sanctity and apostolate and not just something professed and bandied about. In short, everyone should grow in his spiritual life, with a spirituality that is abiding and properly adapted to one’s personal and social circumstances.

            This will involve a whole range of details that embrace the entire gamut of Christian and human life. Catechesis has to be done always, with the appropriate plan to cover the Creed, the Sacraments, the Commandments and morality, and Prayer.

            It cannot be denied that popular piety can highlight one aspect of Christian life at the expense of the other aspects. For example, people can get very hot about lighting votive candles before their favorite saint, but fail to appreciate the need for going to Mass and to confession. They can look fervent in churches, but are little devils or even horrible monsters at home or in their work places.

            As much as possible, this catechesis has to be properly prepared and programmed. We have to outgrow the culture of improvisations and on-the-spot adaptations that can only be narrow and shallow at best in their reach.

            Aside from the collective and public means, the catechesis has to filter down to the level of the family and even of the individual. The ideal is to have one-on-one personal chats, so that each person is thoroughly known and guided, with the concrete circumstances considered and the most proper advice given.

            We should avoid generic mother statements, made attractive by some sound bites, popular slogans and memes, and other rhetorical gimmicks. Everyone involved in catechesis should somehow feel that he is the instrument of the Holy Spirit to spread the truths of our faith and to stir people’s spiritual lives.

            Piety should not be too popular as to compromise its intimate personal aspect, nor too private or personal as to compromise its social and public dimension. In other words, piety should be both personal and social as is proper to our nature.

            This obviously requires serious study and continuing effort. I am sure that if we are generous with our prayers and sacrifices, we can attain the proper blend, and enjoy a popular piety that will leave good effects on everyone’s life and on society in general. We can truly be called the People of God!


Monday, January 6, 2014

Renewal

LET’S foster our need for renewal. Let’s not take it for granted. Nor should we just mindlessly hitch it to some automatic mechanism brought about by social or economic forces, or by some cultural, fashion or temporal trends.

            Let’s do it intentionally, making use of both human and supernatural means, because this is what is proper to us as persons and as children of God. We have to realize that this need is constant and will last till the end of life.

            The new year should be a good occasion to remind ourselves of this duty. Though the shift from the old to the new is merely conventional, it is still useful to pause at this time to take stock of things in our life, making a review and examination of some sort, and to set goals.

            For this, of course, we need to be clear of who we are and what we are supposed to accomplish. This means that some core beliefs have to be set in place. Otherwise we would be clodding aimlessly in an intractable wilderness.

            One problem we can immediately notice is that many people do not anymore bother about such things as core beliefs, creeds or faith. They even mock this matter. Some have gone to the level of indifference, scepticism, agnosticism and atheism.

            The more practical-minded just rely on the attitude of “what comes naturally,’ or at best, on some philosophies and ideologies that in their turn only capture some portions of human concerns.

            It’s a complex situation. But in any event, let’s just hope that the unmistakable need to renew oneself can also clarify the issue of core beliefs that hound all of us. We actually cannot escape from this, in spite of those who say otherwise.

            These past holidays have given me another fresh insight about this need for renewal. Together with the festivities associated with Christmas and the New Year, I also joined in the renewal of marriage vows of two couples—one after 60 years, and the other after 25 years—and the pledge of change of life while visiting prisoners.

            The three events drew different crowds and generated different atmospheres, and yet there was one common element that bound them together. In spite of the time that has passed and the still many uncertainties that the future can bring, the parties involved want to renew.

            The diamond jubilarians want to make their love sealed for eternity. The silver jubilarians wish their love to grow strong and ever young as they still have a lot of territory to traverse in life. The prisoners want to change to normal life.

            This wish to change, to keep on going, to reach the perfection and fulfilment of human aspirations is what fuels our need for renewal. It’s just in the way we are that while we are always bound to a certain place and time, we are also in constant motion, as if in a journey.

            This is an aspect of life that we should take more seriously. For it, we need to be prepared and appropriately trained. That’s why the most basic attitude to develop is that of having to begin and begin again. In this life, while we tend to reach certain goals, we can never attain the ultimate one.

            But instead of not doing anything about it, what we need to do is to continue, without let up, having to begin and begin again. This is a practical law of life that we should apply in our daily affairs.

            We need it, first of all, when we may have committed a mistake. We can always begin again, because even if we have to contend with the consequences of our mistakes, we can always count on the power of atonement and reparation that always produces beautiful effects.

            We have to begin and begin again because we are also subject to our continuing tendency to be lukewarm.  That’s an undeniable condition we have to contend everyday.

            And lastly, we have to begin and begin again because in spite of our best efforts, our ultimate goal to be with God forever always beckons us. Thus, in the Book of Revelation, we read the relevant passage: “He that is holy, let him be sanctified still.” (22,11)

            This attitude of having to begin and begin again makes the need for constant renewal attainable, and not left simply as a mere desire. It keeps us going, fanning the love that is at the core of our being, until that love gets consummated when with God, we will always be new, never to grow old.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Talk to God

WE have to overcome our doubt, fear or mere awkwardness to talk to God. It is a prime duty of ours to do so, since God is everything to us. Nothing true, good and beautiful happens without talking to God. Nothing exists without him. And even in our worst situations, we still can talk to God.

            That’s because God is the very foundation of reality, whether it is the reality that still maintains its original goodness or is already spoiled by our sins. In the latter case, God through his Son and now in the Holy Spirit through the many instrumentalities now made available to us, shows us how to get to the essential goodness of things.

            It’s always possible to talk to God. It’s just a matter of exercising our faith, the faith that is first of all a gift from God to us, his first gift to enable us to start sharing his life, which is what is proper to us.

            For this to happen, we need to strengthen our conviction that we are meant more to believe than just to reason out. Our reasoning, our intelligence is always in need of an object for it to get activated. And in the face of an object, a reality that is simply mysterious and even supernatural, we need to believe, to make an act or leap of faith.

            Faith does not stifle, and much less, kills reason. Quite the contrary, faith enhances our reason. It expands reason’s scope and range. It enriches and deepens reason’s understanding of things. It is what makes reason acquire wisdom.

            Faith gives reason proper light and path to proceed. Otherwise, reason can just go anywhere, including in ways that would do damage to it, although they appear to be very reasonable, practical and convenient.

            But faith also shows reason’s limitations. First of all, faith tells reason that reason is not self-generated at all. Reason is not self-created. Reason comes from God and is always subject to God’s laws for it. Reason cannot be simply on its own, following laws that simply are its own making.

            We need to learn to talk to God all the time. Given our weakened condition, we have to make deliberate effort to be able to do this. We need to get beyond the confines of our material, earthly and temporal dimensions to enter into the spiritual, celestial and eternal aspects of our life.

            This is not an easy task to do. A certain discipline is needed, a discipline that hopefully will become so part of us, like a second nature to us, that it develops into an abiding and life-giving and direction-setting spirituality for us.

            We need to convince ourselves that this aspiration is not just for some special people. It is meant for all of us, whether we are the intellectual type or of the blue-collar kind. That’s why we have to understand everyone, whatever may be our differences, faults, mistakes, as well as our accomplishments, etc.

            To talk to God meaningfully, we may have to spend time meditating on his words, on his life, on his doctrines that are now articulated more explicitly and with God-given authority by the Church magisterium.

            We have to find time for this, since God actually has always something to say about anything and everything in our life. We have to explode the myth that there are things in our life where God has nothing to say.

            In fact, not only does he talk and offer mere words and ideas to us. He offers nothing less than himself, especially in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven,” he said. “If any man eats of this bread, he shall live forever, and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life the world.” (Jn 6,51)

            For sure, these words are not easy to digest, but neither are they impossible to accept and believe in. With an act of faith, we just allow ourselves to swim in an ocean of mystery into which we are thrown. Let the unknown and the ungraspable in the mystery be the very reason to stay put and to trust in God’s loving and merciful providence.

            Our ultimate lot, without compromising our God-given powers, is to abandon ourselves in the hands of God. In fact, this should be our constant attitude that is activated by learning to talk to God continually.

            That way, our sense of abandonment would not lead us to loneliness, but to a most reassuring company.