Saturday, March 29, 2014

Nourishing our spirit

WE need to be more aware of this need and do all we can to develop the appropriate attitude and skills. In fact, we need to cultivate a culture that fosters due attention to this need.

            While it’s true that we have to take care of our physical and material needs, it is even more important to be mindful of our spiritual needs. Our problem now is that we tend to give a lot of consideration to our bodily needs at the expense of our spiritual needs.

            Let us clarify. We are made up of body and soul. Let’s hope this truth, so basic, is not anymore put into question and debated upon. That we have a body is obvious. We can see, touch and feel it. That we have a soul that is spiritual is actually also obvious, because we can think, know, choose, love, etc.

            These latter operations indicate that there is something spiritual in us since these operations are spiritual in nature. They may start with the material world, but they proceed in ways that are abstracted from the physical world, and therefore spiritual, as we now deal with ideas, judgments, reasoning and conclusions.

            Since we are capable of doing something spiritual, there must also be something spiritual in us. That’s because the character of an action indicates the nature of the one doing that action. If the action is spiritual, then it is presumed that the doer is also spiritual in nature, at least as a constituent part of that nature.

            The principle followed here is expressed in Latin as “operare sequitur esse” (operation follows being). In other words, one’s nature determines the kind and scope of one’s actions. What one is determines what one can do.

            The first step we do to nourish our spiritual needs is to start knowing things. That’s why babies are shown things and little by little are taught what these things are, how they are, etc. Then the lifelong process of instruction, education and formation takes place.

            We should however realize that our spiritual needs would not be fully met unless we connect them to the very source of our spirituality. Since these spiritual needs would not be fully satisfied with its mere nourishment of worldly knowledge, we have to realize that they can only be fully met if they are related to their spiritual source.

            The knowledge of worldly things, like our sciences and arts that mainly deal with material and temporal objects, cannot fully satisfy our spiritual needs. That is why, we have an innate desire for happiness that cannot be satisfied with material things alone, like money, health, and even power and fame.

            Our spiritual nature will always look for something that is spiritual in origin and in totality, and therefore eternal and immutable. This is when we get a primitive sense of religiosity, because we somehow would know that this spiritual origin must be a being we call God, a supreme being to whom we attribute all perfections even if we don’t know what all these perfections are.

            This phenomenon is described in the Catechism in this way: “In many ways, throughout history down to the present day, men have given expression to their quest for God in their religious beliefs and behavior—in their prayers, sacrifices, rituals, meditations, and so forth.

            “These forms of religious expression, despite the ambiguities they often bring with them, are so universal that one may well call man a ‘religious being.’” (CCC 28)

            This is the basis why we can say that to nourish our spiritual soul we need to relate ourselves to God and not just to things of the world. And this relation with God is nourished and sustained through prayer, through familiarizing and meditating on the word of God and the other things used by God to reveal himself to God.

            These other nourishing means can be the sacraments which God through Christ in the Spirit and in the Church has instituted to perpetuate his presence and action in us.

            Nourishment of the spirit can also be done by developing the virtues that would little by little make us better persons, and in effect would make us resemble God in whose image and likeness we are. It is also attained by taking care of our spiritual formation which we should pursue in a continuing way.

            Offhand, what I would like to stress is the meditation of the word of God as revealed to us by Christ, since that word contains all the wisdom we need to be true children of God!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Let’s surrender to win

MANY people today, sad to say, are having difficulty sleeping, eating and, worse, achieving a certain balance and stability in their life because of the many new things that lead them to long bouts of distraction, self-seeking and eventually utter self-exhaustion.

            They are losing the proper focus in life, and their sense of priority has practically become a big mess, since they are slowly realizing that they are getting enslaved by gadgets and held hostage by the strong, almost irresistible impulses of the flesh and the varied allurements of the world.

            Many of them know these impulses and allurements go against reason and their common sense, let alone, their Christian faith. They know they are showing symptoms of addiction.

            Depending on the degree of severity, some can handle this predicament and can manage to come out of it. But there are others who find it hard, if not impossible. They seem to be under the total control of these errant impulses and deceptive allurements.

            It’s time to remind ourselves of the truth that we need to surrender ourselves to God if we want to live our life properly. We cannot serve two masters, we are told, and God is the only Master we have.

            Christ precisely told us: “He who is not with me is against me. And he who gathers not with me scatters.” (Lk 11,23) In short, we need to be with Christ if we want to avoid dispersion and dissipation, and to achieve unity, coherence and effectiveness in life.

            A case in point are the many young people hooked to games in the computer and in their mobile phones. Many times they lose sleep, they eat at odd times, fail to study, pray and live normal family life. They fail to carry out even their basic duties, like keeping good hygiene.

            Older people are not exempted from this predicament. Many have fallen into activism, ‘professionalitis’ and similar discrepancies, and all kinds of vices, difficult to extricate from. There is now a clear surge of inordinate, immoderate attachment to technology that fascinates people externally but impoverishes them internally.

            We have to be wary of these developments and learn to take up the appropriate antidote. This is none other than learning the art of surrendering ourselves to God from whom, we are told, “all good things come.”

            We should not be afraid to be “servants” of God, yielding ourselves to him rather than to our flesh, world and the devil. We have to be convinced that it is in surrendering to God that we would have our true joy and peace. He is the true source and keeper of life, power, wisdom, rest, etc.

            This art of surrendering to God echoes what Christ himself constantly taught: that we need to die to ourselves or to lose our life to allow the life of God to take root and blossom in our life.

            As intelligent and free beings, we always have to make a choice between God and ourselves, between good and evil, etc. This choice is done every step of our earthly life.

            May we always make the right choice and know how to detect the subtle tricks of our wounded flesh, the fugitive world and the clever devil. We have to be clear as to whom we ought to be beholden. We need to feel indebted, because obviously we were not the ones who gave what we have.

            Is it God, or is it ourselves, the world, or worse, the devil? Our problem is that we tend to feel self-sufficient, to make ourselves our own god, the standard and measure of things. We tend to think that our freedom begins and ends with ourselves, otherwise it would not be freedom.

            That’s why there is a great need for us to surrender ourselves. The most difficult enemy that we have is our own selves, and specifically our will that often refuses to be subjected to God’s will, its creator and lawgiver. We prefer to make our will absolutely our own.

            This is obviously a distortion of reality. Our will is a creature. It is not self-generated. It cannot simply be by itself. It has to submit itself to its Creator who gives it its proper law and direction.

            Many people, especially the saints among them, have testified that it is when they surrender their will to God’s will they enjoy true joy and peace in spite of the unavoidable sacrifices involved.

            Those sacrifices serve as purifying and expiating agents that would put our will in its proper orbit with God at the center.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sense of sin

IT is inherent in our rational nature that we develop an idea of what is right and wrong. As soon as we are old enough to use our reason, aside from perceiving and knowing things, we start to distinguish what is good and evil.

            Obviously, our capacity to distinguish good from bad starts in a primitive stage, kind of shallow and very limited in scope, based solely what we see and feel, and not much more. But with time, experience and education, this capacity grows and hopefully matures.

            It is for this reason that we all have the need to base ourselves on the very foundation of reality, the very source of what is moral and immoral. This is none other than God, the author and creator of the universe.

            Grounding our capacity to distinguish between right and wrong on another basis would set us on the offside. Sadly, this is what is happening these days. There seems to be a systematic distancing from God and a growing dependence on our own ideas, ideologies, philosophies, and other methods that practically ignore or are even hostile to God.

            We need to remind ourselves strongly these days that we need God for us to know and judge properly. We just cannot depend entirely on our legal and technological systems, for example, no matter how sophisticated they have been developed.

            For this to happen, we need faith to give substance and direction to our reason. Reason cannot stand on its own. It is incomplete without faith. In practical terms, this means we need to overcome our tendency to make ourselves the standard, the ultimate lawgiver.

            It is God who is all of these, and we need to enter into an intimate relation with him to know and judge things properly. Thus, we need to pray, to talk to him and get to know and love him more and more. We need to study his teaching, now the doctrine of the Church. We need to develop virtues, have recourse to the sacraments. Only then can we be intimate with God, and live and work always with him.

            One big problem that the world today faces is the loss of the sense of sin. Many people do not anymore know what sin really is. Many think sin is only a matter of what is legally prohibited, socially tabooed, politically incorrect, or what is unpopular, what turns out to be a failure in some sense, etc.

            This loss of the sense of sin, greatly lamented by many saints and popes, is mainly due to our drifting away from God. Thus, we are now even legalizing what are actually outright sins like abortion, contraception, many forms of sensuality and corruption, etc.

            These developments reflect what St. Paul once said: “For many…are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” (Phil 3,17)

            To have the proper sense of sin, we need to meditate on the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. There we can see both the ugliness of sin as well as the unending mercy of God, since as St. Paul also said, “where sin has abounded, grace has abounded even more.” (Rom 5,20)

            Yes, it’s our faith more than our reason alone that captures the true essence of what is sinful. It’s also our faith that gives us hope where reason tends to plunge us into despair whenever we consider our attitude toward our sinfulness.

            Our faith teaches us how to deal with sin. It tells us that whenever we are tempted, let us be tempted always with Christ and not simply by ourselves, so that we would know how to overcome the devil with Christ also. We cannot do this just by ourselves.

            Let’s be convinced that in this life we cannot avoid temptations. But as St. Augustine once expressed it, if we are with Christ, the temptations can serve to occasion spiritual progress, since “no one knows himself except through trial, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives except against an enemy or temptations.”

            As St. James said in his letter, we are put to the test to make us patient, since patience would make us “fully-developed, complete, with nothing missing.” (1,4)

            We just have to humbly accept our guilt, but neither should we forget the unfailing mercy of God. We should not be afraid or ashamed to acknowledge our sin. But we should neither be despondent of God’s mercy. His delight is to forgive us!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Cruising the digital world

WE have to learn how to cruise the digital world. It’s practically part of everyone’s life now, offering a lot of good but also a lot of dangers. We should know how to make use of it without compromising our dignity as persons and children of God.

            This highly technological world introduces us to a virtual environment that is like a super-superhighway with much heavier and more complicated traffic than what we experience in our busiest thoroughfares. Its range and scope is not local but global, and it touches on practically all aspects of our life.

            If in our transport systems, we need regulations like registration of vehicles, licensing of drivers with their respective periodic renewals, and other things like traffic road signs and traffic aides, etc., we have to realize that we need more or less the same set of regulations in our digital world.

            Obviously, the regulations here would be more extensive and comprehensive than what we have in our transport systems. They should cover not only considerations of practicality and convenience in our needs of knowledge and communication, but also and more importantly, considerations of appropriateness, morality and spirituality.

            Everyone knows that the digital world can have two effects. It is good to those who are good, and in fact, it will improve them. But it is bad also to those who are bad or weak, and it tends to worsen them.

            Digital citizens and users should therefore be clear about their identity and dignity as persons and children of God who are supposed to be ruled by truth and love, and all their consequences of justice, mercy, compassion, and of concern for one another and for strengthening our relation with God, etc.

            The ideal would be that every time they are in the digital environment, they should learn to see God there and to be motivated only by love for God and for others. They should ask themselves after using the Internet, “Am I now a better person and child of God with what I have seen and done in the Internet?”

            Unless this basic requirement is met, one would enter into a highway that is a slippery slope toward all forms of self-seeking with their usual company of greed, envy, vanity, lust, gluttony, sloth, etc. Conflict and contention would not be remote in this arena. Unrestrained competition and rivalry would surge.

            That is why, this identity of the digital citizens as persons and children of God who are necessarily connected with everybody else and governed by truth and love should always be protected, maintained and strengthened.

            Toward this end, it stands to reason that digital citizens and users should be men and women of prayer, of virtues, of clear criteria based on sound human and Christian moral principles. They should know the true nature and meaning of freedom, avoiding using freedom as “a cloak for malice,” as St. Peter said in his first letter. (2,16)

            Otherwise, they would be confused and lost, and an easy prey to the many subtle conditionings all of us are exposed to—physical, emotional, psychological, social, cultural, historical, economic, political, etc.

            And since many young people are very much involved in the digital world, the elders and others of authority and influence should do everything to inculcate in them very deeply this proper identity and dignity of being persons and children of God, brothers and sisters with one another, ruled by truth and love.

            These youngsters are typically highly driven by their curiosities, but with curiosities that spring and are maintained usually by unpurified impulses and peer pressure. They really need to be taken care of, but in an appropriate way, since they also do not like to be treated like babies.

            If before a youngster is allowed to drive a car in our public road system, he has to have the proper age requirement, the appropriate physical and health condition, and has to be trained and tested, then it stands to reason that this youngster all the more would need a similar kind of requirements before he is allowed to cruise in the more dangerous digital thoroughfares.

            This attitude toward the digital world should be developed first of all in the family, then in churches and schools, and then in other public places like offices, hospitals, etc.

            We should understand that the digital world is not a free-for-all world. It would be a deadly understanding of freedom if that is how we understand the freedom we enjoy in our digital world.

            It has to be properly regulated so we can cruise it safely and fruitfully.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Esteem others as always better than us

IF we want our life to be truly Christian and enjoy its true dignity even if it also involves some sacrifices, then we should cultivate the attitude of considering the others as always better than us.

            St. Paul said is clearly: “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil 2,3-4)

            He rounded it up by saying that Christ himself, “though in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2,6-8)

            Of course, Christ himself was firm in this point. He washed the feet of the apostles, and insisted on doing this in spite of the protestation of Peter, if only to give them an example of how each one of them should treat others.

            “The greatest among you must be your servant,” (Mt 23,11) he said, obviously referring to situations where one’s superiority over others in intelligence, talents, wealth, health, etc., should never be a cause to be proud and vain, but rather a stronger reason to serve others more and better.

            This truth should be engraved in our mind and heart because, first of all, it is commanded to us by Christ himself, and secondly, because it really does good to us and enables us to gain merit for whatever we do to others.

            We have to understand why this is so. This truth actually feeds our need to love that is often desensitized, if not completely snuffed, by the clever maneuverings of our wounded flesh, and the deceptive arguments of the devil and the world. These latter can offer us perks that seem irresistible but are actually poisonous.

            We have to be most wary of the many attractive fallacies our flesh, the world and the devil can give us. That’s the reason why we always have to humble ourselves, to submit ourselves to some self-denial as Christ told us, since our tendency is to get blinded by these glib fallacies that play upon our wounded, sinful condition.

            We need to esteem others as better than us, especially when objectively speaking we are in a superior position compared to them. Only when we do so can we love, which is what we always need to do, because we cannot love anyone who is not better than us.

            Regarding others as better than us is a prerequisite for loving. And this should not be a result of comparing what we have. It should be a fruit of the conviction that each one is a child of God, no matter how disfigured that dignity is.

            As such, everyone else deserves always to be loved, regardless. He therefore has to be better than us somehow. This is, of course, a matter of attitude that is based on our faith more than on anything else.

            Precisely because of this faith-based attitude of considering others better than us regardless of whatever, we need to make certain adjustments in the way we think, and wage a continuing struggle against our tendency to consider people based only on some purely human criteria.

            Everyone should be aware of this need and should do whatever he can to contribute in creating a culture that fosters and nourishes this attitude. As of now, this attitude is still considered a pariah, acceptable only to a few who are often considered, in the eyes of the world, as strange people.

            We should try to inculcate this attitude to children as early as possible, quickly defending them whenever they find themselves in situations that undermine this attitude.

            We have to learn the art of true love which can have 3 stages. The first is “eros.” That’s when we love somebody because we can get something from that person. The second is “filia,” which means we love somebody because we happen to share things in common with him.

            The third one and the best kind of love is “agape,” where we love somebody regardless of whether that person reciprocates our love or not. This is pure self-giving, completely dispassionate and disinterested, but still full of affection and understanding.

            Let’s hope that we can truly consider others as better than us so we can love them, and love them all the way, regardless.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Let’s foster optimism

WITH all the pressures, challenges, trials, etc., that we have to face every day, all of them corrosive of our composure, we need to deliberately foster optimism if only to survive the day, if not to do well, what with all the possibilities that are actually staring at us also every day.

            It’s really a matter of attitude, a matter of choice. We can choose to succumb to these negative elements, or to be hopeful, patient and optimistic, looking beyond the here and now and detaching ourselves from the unreliable play of our emotions, knowing that there is always meaning in everything that happens in life.

            We need to build up our conviction of optimism and create its corresponding atmosphere and culture around, since we cannot deny that many people and a growing part of the world today are sinking into depression and despair.

            Recent medical statistics indicate an increase all over of the world of mental illnesses that have as their root the loss of hope and purpose in life. Erratic and dysfunctional lifestyles, marked with all forms of escapism, have also multiplied. These, and other anomalous behaviour, are also reflective of depression.

            We need to acknowledge the problem and take the bull by its horns. But we have to see to it that our effort to shore up optimism worldwide be built on the proper foundation. And that is none other than God.

            A sense of optimism that is based on other things will always be undependable, and even dangerous. It cannot last long. It cannot cope with all the tests we can meet in our lifetime. It will work only under some controlled conditions.

            That is why, we need to stimulate and energize our spiritual life, our relation with God, our life of faith, hope and charity. Only in this way can we truly be optimistic in a manner that is realistic and wholistic, and capable to leading us to our ultimate end, our eternal life with God.

            In the gospel, many are the instances where Christ told us to be hopeful and optimistic. “In the world you shall have distress,” he said, “but have confidence, I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16,33)

            We need to revisit these words and probe its basis more extensively. Thing is, we should not just be good at citing gospel passages. We should also try to fathom as much as we can the truth and wisdom of these divine words, so that these words can also be truly ours.

            Christ, of course, has conquered everything that is detrimental to our dignity as children of God through his passion, death and resurrection. This should be the core belief to have, to which everything else in our life, whether it is a success or failure, should be referred.

            We need to be clear that what is truly harmful to us is sin that can deal a death blow to our spiritual life, to our relation of love with God and others. Everything else, whether we succeed or fail in a business venture, etc., only has a relative value, which can be use for good or for evil.

            That is how we should understand what is truly evil to us, to save us from unnecessary worries over things that at best only have relative value. In our earthly affairs, we should learn to be sport, to be tolerant and patient, and not to be easily taken by twists and turns of life.

            If we succeed, good and give thanks to God. If we fail, it’s still good and we should never fail to thank God just the same. But also we should try to learn the precious lessons occasioned by our failures and defeats.

            Let’s remember that Christ has assumed our sinfulness and all its consequences—our failures and defeats—and has given them a certain quality to make themselves our path to our salvation.

            So, we just have to trust in God’s providence, ever so mysterious but also always wise and merciful. While we have to be 100% responsible for our life, we should neither forget that it is also God who is directing and drawing us to himself. All we have to do is to be open to his will and ways.

            “Be not therefore solicitous for tomorrow,” Christ told us. “For the morrow will be solicitous for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. (Mt 6,34)

What we have to do is follow Christ’s command: “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Mt 6,33)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The perfection of love

“BE perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5,48) Very clear is the injunction of Christ to us. It should not be taken lightly, but with faith, hope and charity, with a holy bull-headedness, it should be followed, convinced that God’s grace is always there to help us carry it out.

            As a necessary consequence, since we should not just be beings of desire but also persons of action, we should do everything to make this goal reachable and a functioning, albeit streaming reality in the lives of each person and of society in general. May this divine order be obeyed and lived consistently!

            We need to come out with effective spiritualities that would animate us to seek this Christian perfection without let-up, whatever the circumstances may be. This should be an object of intense prayers by all of us.

            Of course, we need to understand first of all what this perfection is all about, for many now are the ideas and theories about the essence of this perfection, and most of them actually miss the real thing.

            There are those who associate perfection with mere looks and appearances, social standing, wealth and heath, power and fame. Ironically, when these criteria are not properly grounded on what truly makes us perfect, they become not only passive but also aggressive enemies of our perfection.

            The divine order to be perfect comes as some kind of conclusion to Christ’s long discourse, all in Matthew 5, about the beatitudes, about us being the light of the world, about the need to follow strictly the law but also to go beyond it, about our need to make our righteousness surpass that of the scribes and the Pharisees.

            It comes after being told that we should not be afraid to cut a hand or to pluck an eye if they are in the way of our sanctification and salvation. Also, that we should not resist evil, that is, if one strikes us in the right cheek, we offer the other. Then, to top it all, Christ told us to love even our enemies.

            All these premises are pregnant with implications, both theoretical and practical. In these times of rapid communication and information, we should be very aware of them and try our best to live them.

            We have to learn to leave behind what so far we think is loving, because love by nature goes without measure. We have to follow its unending quest and adventure, relying mainly on the impulses of God’s grace.

            What is ironical is that in spite of our very advanced information technology, many of us may be gaining a lot of technical and scientific knowledge, but losing the religious knowledge and wisdom. We need to do some drastic revision of attitudes.

            What is clear is that we have to revolutionize our understanding of love which is the essence of our perfection. It should go beyond the parameters of our human condition, and give the dynamics of grace full play.

            In practical terms, this could mean that we should never say enough to the demands of love. Loving requires us to be vitally in touch with God through prayers, recourse to the sacraments, development of virtues, carrying out of our responsibilities.

            If we persist in praying, we can increasingly discern God’s will for us moment to moment. Our capacity to follow his will and to receive and share his powers and wisdom increases. We would just find ourselves swept by the forcefulness of his love. What we found before as difficult, if not impossible, to do, we would find it rather easy now.

            This perfection of love has endless manifestations. We would always think well of others in spite of their mistakes and even their offenses against us. Like God, we would be slow to anger and quick to forgive.

            On our part, we should learn to find reasons to love everyone. We should not just wait for them to prove that they deserve our love. We initiate that love at the impulse of grace. That they are persons, like us, is already enough for us to love them with madness.

            We have to learn to find excuses and to bear whatever burden and inconveniences others may cause. We will always speak well of others. We have to learn how not to be scandalized by their sins and failures. More than this, we should be eager to give them the best—and that’s none other than God.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Management a function of charity

THAT’S right. Managing people is actually a matter of loving them, and loving them all the way.

            While we have to be most thankful for the tremendous light we have gained from the many management theories so far articulated, we have to be very clear that no theory takes off the ground, let alone, flourishes unless it is infused with the living substance of charity.

            Managing people, for sure, is not merely a matter of techniques, though techniques and methods, with their corresponding tools and instruments, would always be helpful and necessary.

            In this regard, let’s hope and pray that the effort to refine these techniques and methods, and to improve the tools and instruments, would continue. There’s still a lot of room for improvement in this area. But we should avoid falling into the thinking that management is just a matter of playing up these elements in some clever manner.

            The reason is that people are not mere objects. They are persons, and as persons they need to be dealt with properly by entering into their mind and heart, giving them the indispensable motives that should also go beyond the material and worldly values and standards.

            Their innate dignity as persons and children of God should not be put in brackets in any given moment. They simply cannot and should not be managed to achieve a purely economic, social or political goal. The criteria to measure their efficiency and effectiveness should not just be in purely worldly terms, like profit, popularity, etc.

            Charity has to be always the moving spirit behind every management task. It should be a constant, and not only to be seen as the principle or as the result of the management process. It should not be regarded as something that can be turned on and off in certain instances. It has to be on all the time.

            No one can actually ignore the requirement of charity for long. While some immediate benefits can be reaped with a mere application of techniques and methods, the same cannot go far unless the demands of charity are truly met.

            The human need for charity in the management process will always find a way to be felt. That’s the reason why there are always changes, dialogues, problems in any management environment. When badly understood and handled, this need can explode into violence. And even when well handled, this need will always seek betterment.

            We need to understand that this charity is the charity that comes from God. It should not just be a product of our own making, no matter how well-intentioned. Through time we have seen many caricatures of charity that only have the name and appearance of charity but not the substance. They don’t work for long.

            This is the charity expressed by Christ who said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” It is the charity that is actually being given to us in an abiding way through his grace. It’s not just an idea, a policy, a slogan, or a mere sentiment. It’s a living and effective thing that embodies all virtues proper to us.

            It certainly includes justice, prudence, mercy, affection, compassion, creativity, etc. Remember St. Paul describing it as something that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor 13,7)

            We have to disabuse ourselves from the fear that charity would just put us in a weak position in our management activities, or that it would do away with penal justice altogether, or that it would lead us to be easily taken advantage of, etc.

            Charity, in fact, would prod us to face certain inconvenient truths and situations bravely and would guide us in tackling difficult decisions to be made.

            But it certainly starts with affection, understanding, compassion and patience. It tells us to think well of the others even if they have done some wrong for which justice also has t be served.

            It is the charity of God who is “slow to anger and quick to forgive.” It knows how to reinvent itself as often as necessary all the way to death.

            This is the charity that will be sustained by prayer and sacrifice, by constant recourse to the sacraments, without neglecting the human need to attain the competence we need in our management activities, which means continuing study and formation.

            Charity makes use of both human and spiritual means, human and supernatural means. Only then can our management duties be carried out properly.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Our lifelong warfare

WITH Lent in our midst, we should be reminded of our duty to hone up our skills in spiritual warfare. We should not let this Lenten season pass without doing anything to improve ourselves in this particular department.

            Christ already hinted this much when he said: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent bear it away.” (Mt 11,12)

            We have to understand though that to be violent in this sense does not mean to be destructive but rather constructive, driven by love and the desire to be united with God and with the others in a way proper to us as children of God and brothers and sisters among ourselves.

            Our life here on earth cannot but be in some form of struggle. Aside from our innate urge to grow and develop that requires some effort, we also have to contend with enemies whose sole intent is precisely to bring us down, to divert us from our proper path toward holiness.

            We are not simply ranged against natural difficulties, challenges and trials in life, but rather with very powerful and subtle nemeses. The natural enemies alone are already formidable. St. John describes them this way:

            “For all that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 Jn 2,16) That’s why we can talk easily about envy, jealousy, vanity, lust, greed, sloth, etc.

            For this type of enemies alone, we need an extensive spiritual pharmacopeia and moral regimen to cleanse us of their affliction. That’s why we are encouraged, especially during Lent, to intensify our fasting and abstinence, and other forms of mortification. We should not take this indication lightly. They are very necessary.

            Yes, we need to pray a lot and grow in the different virtues so we can be strong, optimistic and cheerful, prudent and capable of handling these challenges. We have to learn how to deal with our weaknesses and the usual temptations that come from the flesh and the world.

            But we still have enemies tougher than these. As St. Paul said, “Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.” (Eph 6,12)

            This type of enemies affects us more deeply. They corrupt not only the body, but also our very spirit that is supposed to be our immediate and direct conduit with God. They bring our warfare from the arena of the natural to that of the spiritual and supernatural.
            With these enemies, our intelligence and will, our thoughts and desires would then operate outside the context of God’s will. Our thoughts and desires would then be at the mercy of evil spirits that can only be handled properly if we also use spiritual and supernatural means, and not just some natural power.

            When we fail to deliberately offer everything we think, say and do to God, as told to us in the gospel, then we open ourselves to the coming of another spirit that will offer us, at first, a lot of attraction and allurement, until we are so enslaved by it that it would be very difficult for us to detach ourselves from it.

            That’s why today we have such phenomena as atheism, agnosticism, materialism, and other forms of ungodliness, with their corresponding manifestations, such as, the legalization of abortion, the spreading culture of death, all forms of corruption, etc.

            This big and open hostility against God and also against our nature always starts in a small, unobtrusive way, cleverly spiced and glibly packaged to grab our attention. We have to be most wary of these little openings to sin by making our conscience more refined and sensitive, and by growing in the virtues.

            We have to understand that at every point of our life is always a choice between God and ourselves, between God and the devil, between God and the world. We have to be humble enough to choose God always.

            The humility involved here would lead us to feel the need to continue asking for the grace of God, since without him, we can accomplish nothing that would bring us to our eternal life.

            The humility involved here would lead us also to trust in God, especially when we see our own weaknesses, mistakes, failures. With such trust, we simply begin and begin again in our struggles.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Let our weakness occasion strength

IF we believe in what St. Paul once said that it is “when I am weak, that I am strong,” (2 Cor 12,10) then there must be something good in our weakness, whatever form it may take.

            If we follow his logic that “the foolish things of the world has God chosen, that he may confound the wise, and the weak things of the world has God chosen, that he may confound the strong,” (1 Cor 1,27) then indeed the goodness of weakness must indeed be something.

            Christ himself affirmed so in his beatitudes. He considered as blessed those who are poor in spirit, meek, those who mourn, who hunger and thirst for justice, who are merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, those who are persecuted and reviled.

            In many other instances in the gospel, he praised the little children, gave special attention and healing to those with all kinds of affliction. He even raised the dead. He fraternized with sinners and what are generally regarded as the scum of the earth.

            What peeved him were the proud and the self-righteous, or those described by St. Paul as “enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” (Phil 3,18)

            Yet, in spite of all these, Christ was willing to die for all of us, assuming in the process all our weaknesses and sinfulness for all time and dying to them, so we may have a way to rise with him in his glorious resurrection, already freed of all of them.

            We have to remember that our true dignity as persons and as children of God can only be attained and recovered through Christ. Yes, we also have to give our all in recovering that dignity, lost by sin, but all that effort would tantamount to nothing unless united with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, renewed sacramentally in the Mass.

            All this does not mean that we have to be cavalier in our attitude toward our sinfulness and weaknesses. On the contrary, we have to be dead serious in avoiding and removing them. What it means is that whatever may be our warts and faults, there is always hope. God, being a true father, is always willing to forgive.

            In fact, we can manage somehow to be happy when we notice and experience our weaknesses and sinfulness, since in that way we attract the attention of Christ. As Good Shepherd, he is always at the lookout for the lost sheep.

            What we have to avoid is to deal with our weaknesses and sinfulness by our lonesome, relying only our own powers and devices, which though impressive will never cope with the evil of our weaknesses and sinfulness without God.

            What we have to do when we see our weaknesses and sinfulness is to go to God, to run to him, making acts of contrition and atonement, especially going to the sacrament of confession, because that is how we regain God’s grace, the source of our true strength.

            Let’s try to avoid the example of Cain who after killing his brother fled from God and became a fugitive. Let’s follow the example of the prodigal son who in his lowest depth of dissipation decided to go back to his father and was roundly welcomed.

            God as our father provides us with everything. He has given us our life, our health, our natural needs. He has made the masterpiece of his creation, making us image and likeness of his, children of his.

            And as father, he does even more. He is willing to forgive us, to provide us with what we need most—his mercy, since we cannot help but abuse his goodness and fall into sin and suffer the consequences.

            On our part, we should do at least the minimum that can be expected of a creature who thinks, judges and executes things. We ought to be sorry for our sins, making acts of contrition, atonement and reparation, and making confession a regular habit.

            In this we have imitate Christ who did all this by dying on the cross. No wonder he tells us that if we want to follow him, we have to deny ourselves and carry the cross too. We die with him to be able to rise with him too.

            Let’s strengthen our hope and trust in God’s mercy especially during this Lent. For where sin has abounded, God’s grace has abounded even more. This is where our weakness can occasion strength.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Web of self-pursuit

WE have to be wary of this clear and present danger. In our effort to gain knowledge, power, wealth, influence and other human ideals, we might end up simply pursuing ourselves and not God, the real and ultimate goal for all of us.

            This is happening in vast and massive proportions these days. With our new technologies, we are always tickled to get more information, to talk and communicate more, to share insights and experiences.

            Research work these days, for example, is almost like a walk in the park. No sweat really. Just type a few words on the Internet, and, voila, you have all sorts of data and info at your bidding.

            The landscape of our business and politics, and especially our social life, has morphed drastically. Depending on our attitude, the number of friends and enemies has multiplied also.

            For sure, there are now many great benefits and advantages we are enjoying. But let’s be wary of the catch. For all these good things that can intoxicate us, we can also easily fall into insulating ourselves from God, and even from others, as we become more and more self-centred.

            The rise of couch potatoes in our midst is proof of this. The increase of laziness and indifference is another one. And even those who may be driven by some passion while using our new technologies may just be feeding their own egos.

            They may enjoy efficiency, flexibility, adaptability, creativity, and many other human and worldly values...they may gain more knowledge, power, wealth, fame while using these new technologies, but these may not bring them any closer to God. On the contrary, these may even bring them further from him and from others.

            In the gospel, there are many instances of people enjoying great blessings and privileges, and yet all these did not make them better persons. In fact, they became monsters.

            St. Paul once said in his Letter to the Romans: “God has given them the spirit of insensibility. Eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear.” (11,8) And that’s because, they have made gods of things and of themselves, rather than worshipping God. They have become ungodly.

            Again, St. Paul describes this danger vividly: “For professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. And they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man, and of birds, and of four-footed beasts, and of creeping things.” (Rom 1,22-23)

            Of course, these days, our new idol are the new technologies that draw us into a sticky web of self-seeking. We are just pursuing our own comfort, our own convenience, our own interests, etc.

            Anything that goes beyond these and can give a semblance of love, compassion, justice, etc., are purely accidental, not intentional. Or it is simply used as a smart cover for a selfish ulterior motive.

            This is what we have to be most careful about. That’s why we have to be most vigilant, starting with strengthening our belief that everything comes from God and belongs to God, and that whatever we do should always be for the glory of God.

            That’s what St. Paul said: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10,31) God, not us, is the one who gives true value and worth to anything that happens in life.

            We have to be watchful of our passions that usually want to dominate us and to lead us along paths of self-satisfaction. They need to be purified, disciplined and led by the trio of the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity that enable us to live our life with God, and not simply by ourselves.

            We should not be afraid of the discipline of self-denial mentioned by Christ himself, since that discipline can only be for our own good. Especially in these days of Lent, let’s train ourselves more intensely in the spirit of penance and sacrifice. Let’s be generous in this area.

            Let’s see to it that our recourse to the new technologies, and our pursuit of our curiosities, desires and ambitions are always grounded on love for God and for others. They should make us more pious, more compassionate, merciful, etc. Yes, they should make us holy, for in the end, holiness is really the goal of our life.

            Let’s rectify our intentions always. Let’s see to it that this love for God and other palpably grows, and just as palpably, that our self-love wanes and eventually disappears.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Glory in humility

WE need to know how to live in glory without compromising our humility, and vice-versa, how to live in humility without undercutting the glory proper to us as persons and children of God.

            Yes, we need to distinguish between proper and improper sense of personal glory, and between true and false, or healthy and sick humility.

            Our life is not supposed to be a life meant for suffering alone, hounded always by difficulties, problems, anguish, though these, given our condition now, are also unavoidable. It is meant to be a happy life, verified universally by our undeniable innate desire for joy.

            And this is because as image and likeness of God, as children of his, as persons with the capacity to know and to love, we are meant to live our life with God who is all goodness, all love and mercy, omniscient and omnipotent. We cannot help but move toward this ideal.

            These truths are the basis for our glorying in humility. Glory and humility need to go together, because our glory is a participation, a reflection of the glory of God. And such objective order of things requires a healthy humility that is not just a nihilist kind of self-denial, but a self-denial that allows God to enter into our life.

            St. Paul tells it to us directly: “He that glories, let him glory in the Lord.” (2 Cor 10,17) The same idea is echoed in a prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours: “The wise man must not glory in his wisdom, nor the strong man in his strength, nor the rich man in his riches. Rather, let him who glories glory in the Lord by seeking him and doing what is right and just.”

            As to the basis of our need for humility, again St. Paul tells us: “What do you have that you have not received? And if you have received, why do you glory as if you have not received it?” (1 Cor 4,7)

            All those exhortations about humility, about self-denial, about having to pass unnoticed, etc., are not meant to plunge us into darkness and a joyless life. They are not meant for us to simply drift in passivity, or to sink in fear or despair. They are meant to give us the glory proper to us. They are meant to make us truly happy, active, liberated.

            These exhortations are made in view of our wounded condition due to the effects of sin. Truth is with our sinfulness we tend to think our glory and joy are produced and sustained by our own efforts alone, or our own natural endowments. This is nothing other than vainglory. It’s an illusion, a false, mistaken understanding of our own selves.

            To be humble is never meant to make us assume a passive attitude toward life. That it is sometimes associated with shyness, with signs of an inferiority complex means that authentic humility also has its own share of weeds that look like the real plant but are actually a pest.

            If we are to consider the life of Christ and the saints who were all humble, we can clearly see that humility is always marked with glory, joy and an active attitude toward life. St. Paul even went to the extent of saying: “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” (1 Cor 4,16)

            It would be good that we get a global picture of our life as presented to us by our Christian faith so that we would understand the relation between glory and humility as we go through the different events of our life.

            Let’s have a Christian sense of our beginnings which gives us the fundamentals of our dignity. Then let’s cultivate a Christian sense of our history and end that involves the redemptive work of Christ so that we would know how this relation between glory and humility can be lived as we tackle the consequences of our sinfulness.

            This is how we can echo those humanly intriguing statements of St. Paul who said: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal 6,14)

            It’s time that we do away with the idea that glory and humility are antithetical to each other, that is, that glory has nothing to do with humility, and that humility neither has anything to do with glory.

            They always work hand in hand. We have every reason to feel glorious and happy when we are humble, or even humbled.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Spirit of recollection in the world

THIS is a skill we have to cultivate and practice all the time. Remember St. Paul telling us: “If you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth.” (Col 3,1-2)

            This is the essence of the spirit of recollection that is meant for all of us, since we are all supposed to live our life with God. Our life, like that of all other creatures, cannot be without its Creator, the provider of everything that we need. In fact, he is the ultimate and constant provision we need, more than anything else—food, money, air, etc.

            In our case, since we are humans with intelligence and will, we need to be aware of this reality about ourselves and correspond to it knowingly and willingly. God is actually in us always, at the very core of our life, since he is the fundamental maintainer of our existence.

            But more than keeping us in life, he is gives us everything else proper of a creature created in his image and likeness—knowledge, wisdom, power, etc. And since we cannot help but sin, he is also ever eager to give us his mercy, his ultimate gift before we can fully identify ourselves with him, our goal.

            This spirit of recollection means we are constantly aware of his presence, vitally doing things with him and for him. It’s not supposed to keep us always passive, though a certain passivity and receptivity is involved. But it’s what supposed to give us impulse, energy and direction in our life.

            This spirit of recollection can only be lived if we activate the gifts of faith, hope and charity that God constantly and abundantly gives us. People who are curious to know more things as well as lovers who always want to be with their beloved can offer us the template for developing this spirit of recollection.

            We need to seek God, even if we have to deal with great difficulties. Christ himself told us clearly: “Ask, and it shall be given you. Seek, and you shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened to you.” (Mt 7,7)

            We have to learn to discern the omnipresence of God—within us in our mind and heart as well as around us. We have to train our senses and our spiritual faculties of intelligence and will to go beyond the dimensions of the sensible and intelligible world. They have to capture the inputs of faith, hope and charity.

            We should go beyond the physical, material and temporal, to enter into the world of the spiritual, eternal and supernatural. We should go beyond the merely practical and convenient, to be able to live the values of morality and piety of being children of God.

            We should be able to be in constant intimate relation with God—talking to him, asking him for light, strength, etc.—by taking advantage of everything that happens in us and around us. Everything that we see, hear, feel, learn and know, everything that happens, whether good or bad, is always an occasion to be with God.

            We have to disabuse ourselves from our tendency to think that dealing with God can only take place in some special moments of our life. All events and circumstances of our life—even our worst condition of committing a grave sin—can and should be a moment with God, praising him, thanking him, asking for pardon, asking for help.

            If we have these truths well in place in our mind and heart, then we would be in the proper condition to develop this spirit of recollection. Of course, to prosper in this effort, we need to constantly mortify and purify our senses.

            That means dealing some kind of death to our senses, and even to our intelligence, so that the life of faith, hope and charity can take root, grow and blossom in us.

            It does not mean to do away with our senses and faculties, since that would be inhuman, but to mortify and purify them so as to be led and guided by faith, hope and charity.

            This effort will take time, and we should learn to be patient. We should not forget that we are ranged against tremendous weaknesses, temptations, etc. But there’s always hope. We just have to persevere until this spirit of recollection becomes second nature to us, enabling us to be with God in the middle of the world.