Saturday, May 31, 2014

Without counting the cost

WE have to learn to give everything, especially to God
and, because of him, to everybody else. Let’s be convinced that this
is what is expected and proper of us. Christ himself said it very

            “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and with
your whole soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind,
and your neighbour as yourself.” (Lk 10,27)

            These divine words are actually put as an order, a
command, that indicates what really is the very mind and will of God
for us. They are not meant only as a desire, an ideal to keep in mind
only but not so much in practice.

            Obviously, Christ always respects our freedom and does not
impose things on us even if he commands us something. This we also
have to be clear. His commands never take away nor undermine our
freedom. Rather they foster our freedom.

            We have to learn to give our all without counting the
cost. We should not be afraid to do so, because Christ himself assures
us that he who gives more shall also receive even more than what he
has given.

            Listen to these words of his: “Everyone who has left
house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or
children or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and
shall possess life everlasting.” (Mt 19,28)

            We have to learn to give ourselves as a gift to God and to
others the way God himself has given himself as a gift to us—first,
our life, then our talents, etc. He gives himself to us completely
gratuitously, even if we choose not to correspond to his generosity.

            Let us train to give ourselves to God and to others more
and more each day. Let’s not be afraid of losing everything, because
the contrary will actually take place. Instead of losing, we gain by
giving ourselves more.

            In fact, what we consider as a gain by keeping things
instead of giving will actually be a loss to us, or will become a
toxic and harmful element in our life. This has been proven endless
times in lives of people.

            When we give out of love for God and others, out of our
faith and trust in God’s words, we may lose something in the physical
sense, but we gain something spiritual that eventually will express
itself in some material form, given our body-and-soul constitution.

            A number of people have told me that when they are more
generous with their money and other resources to help other people and
especially to help in promoting the worship of God, they end up
getting pleasantly surprised because they tend to receive much more
than what they have given away.

            Even in terms of energy, what we spend certainly will
diminish our stock of it. But we will notice also a surge of a certain
kind of energy, spiritual if not supernatural, that simply comes out.
We can be sure that it’s the grace of God that goes beyond, and even
seems to defy, if need be, the laws of nature.

            God cannot be outdone in generosity. Christ reassured us
of this. “He who believes in me, the works that I do, he also shall
do. And greater than these shall he do.” (Jn 14,12)

            These words, to me, are always a jaw-dropper. They make me
wonder, as everyone most probably also would, what these things are
that are greater than what Christ did. But we have to believe them,
because it is Christ who said them, and he cannot tell a lie nor
exaggerate things beyond the objective truth.

            We really should try to live by faith. At the beginning,
like a baby learning how to walk, we surely would be unsure of
ourselves and awkward in our ways. But if we persist, then we would
see that what we considered difficult or impossible is actually
feasible and doable.

            We need to break loose from the grips of our merely human
estimation of things. We have to allow the words of God, our Creator
and ever loving Father, to rule us. Let’s imitate his example, because
we are supposed to be his image and likeness, and with his grace, have
become in Christ children of his.

            We have to learn how to give ourselves as a gift,
completely gratuitously given to God and to others. Let’s be convinced
that’s how we grow humanly, and reach the fullness of Christian life.
Let’s believe when Christ says: “Be not afraid!”

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Mindful and thoughtful

WE have to be both mindful and thoughtful, because this is
what is proper to us. If we fail to cultivate these traits, we
actually are harming our very own humanity, aborting our road to human
maturity, not to mention, the fullness of Christian life.

            We need to be mindful because we have to know what’s going
around us. We should never be aloof and indifferent. We have to be
aware not only of things and events that are taking place, whether
near or far, but also and most especially of persons, starting with
the one right beside us.
            In this way, we become active agents in the itinerary of
our history as well as ministers in the very lives of people. We
should not forget that our life is always tied to the lives of others,
and that we too have a role to play in their lives, obviously in
different ways and in varying degrees.

            At least, when we are aware of our togetherness and are
actively maintaining it, whatever good we have would always be shared
by being multiplied, and whatever evil or misfortune we have would
also be shared by being divided among us. That’s how things work.

            And not only should we be mindful. We also need to be
thoughtful. We should think ahead of how things are developing and of
what we can do to help shape its evolution. Life is always a work in
progress, and there are goals, the ultimate and the subordinate, to
reach. We should not get stuck with the here and now.

            We should learn to read the signs of the times and to
prepare ourselves for whatever indications or warnings they are giving
us. This way we put ourselves in condition to influence the flow of
things, and to somehow already fashion the future.

            Most especially, we have to be thoughtful of others
always, ever anticipating of their needs and never just contented with
attending to their present situation. This could very well be the
litmus test of the sincerity of our love and concern for them.

            Christ was both mindful and thoughtful. In spite of the
supernatural loftiness of his mission, he was always aware of the
conditions of those who were with him. And he was quick to address
their needs at that time.

            His compassion was direct and immediate. When someone
asked for healing, he healed him without hesitation. When he saw the
crowd hungry and weary, he asked that they be fed, even if the
conditions for doing so were quite adverse. He even raised the dead
back to life.

            In all these manifestations of his compassion, he never
forgot to do what he needed to do. He preached about the Kingdom of
heaven, and about how we ought to be, ultimately giving us the new
commandment of loving one another as he has loved us.

            His mindfulness and thoughtfulness is epitomized in his
parable of the Good Samaritan. Unlike the previous passers-by that
even included a priest, the Good Samaritan immediately went to help a
fellow robbed and left half-dead at the roadside.

            He must have changed his plans sharply and abruptly, and
he did it quite willingly. Just the same, even as he ministered to the
unfortunate fellow, he did not forget what he had to do. He made
arrangements with the innkeeper for the continuing care of the
recuperating man, but he proceeded to his business.

            We should see to it that while we are asked to be always
compassionate with others, we should not forget the real goal of life,
both ours and that of the others. We need to move on and go toward our
real common goal.

            It would be good that right from our young age, we be
taught how to be mindful and thoughtful. This can always be done in
many ways, starting with the very elementary means of teaching
children to learn to be attentive, observant and helpful to the

            Obviously as we grow, these mindfulness and thoughtfulness
have to develop in the sense of being more ingrained in us and of
being more creative, making a lot of initiatives and not afraid to
make sacrifices for the others, even to the heroic degree.

            This is actually a big challenge nowadays as we see
people, especially the young ones, trapped in their own world of
self-absorption, thanks and no thanks to our new technologies that, if
used indiscriminately, can ruin our need to be mindful and thoughtful.

            Let’s all give examples to others of how to be mindful and

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Be bitten by the bug

IN other words, let’s be zealous, driven and passionate in
doing good, which can only mean doing things with God, for it is only
with God that we can do good. We have to be clear about this. Doing
good is doing God. Outside of that, the best we can do or achieve is
an apparent good.

            We need to disabuse ourselves from the widespread, if not
dominant and mainstream mentality that with our best intentions and
efforts alone, we can manage to do good.

            It may happen that objectively we can do something good
without having to refer things to God, but that would not be the ideal
meant and proper to us. We have to be in synch with God as much as
possible, for he is the source of all goodness, truth, beauty, etc.
Nothing would be authentically good, true and beautiful without him.

            St. Paul says it clearly. “Whether you eat or drink, or
whatever else you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10,31) We
need to understand that as persons, we are designed to be always
rooted and oriented toward God, our Creator and Father, who is
actually everything to us.

            In other words, we are not meant to be alone or to do
things all by our lonesome. The objective reality about ourselves,
whether we are aware of it or not, is that we are always with God, and
because of that, we are also always with others.

            Obviously, the ideal situation is that we aware of this
reality about ourselves, and correspond to it as fully as possible.
And this means that we should try our best to rev ourselves up to do
things with God.

            Now that we are approaching the feast of the Holy Spirit
(Pentecost Sunday, June 8), we are precisely reminded of this
beautiful truth of our faith. The readings of these days tell us more
about the Holy Spirit—that he is the spirit of truth who will tell us
everything about truth.

            “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have much more to tell
you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of
truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own,
but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things
that are coming.” (Jn 16,12-14)

            It’s quite clear from these divine words that we cannot be
in the truth unless we are with the Holy Spirit. We cannot be guided
in our pursuit for truth, and everything that flows from truth, solely
by our senses and observations, or by simply citing data, facts and
other pieces of information.

            We just cannot be exclusively led and directed by our
juridical systems, our philosophies and ideologies, our social,
political or economic trends. All these need the perfecting element of
the Holy Spirit to be able to perceive the truth in its fullness.

            Otherwise, the truth can be used and manipulated by us. It
cannot help but be subjective, and be adapted to our designs and
desires rather than be objective. We need to get out of this orbit.

            Thus, we have to consciously and actively deal with the
Holy Spirit. He, first of all, does not make himself hard to get. He
is actually very close to us, ever prompting us of what to do and how.
Our problem is that we often are not only deaf and blind, but also

            We need to exercise the divine gifts of faith, hope and
charity to be able to deal with the Holy Spirit, who is always willing
to give us his gifts and fruits. He it is who makes us have a deeper
insight of divine truths (understanding), properly make judgments
concerns truths of faith (knowledge).

            With him, we are enabled to make judgments according to
divine and not simply human norms (wisdom), make decisions regarding
human actions (counsel), develop good relations with God and others
(piety), direct and guide our irascible appetites (fortitude) and our
concupiscible appetites (fear of the Lord).

            The fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are the
manifestations of his presence and action in us, are love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness,
modesty, self-control and chastity.

            We need to deal with the Holy Spirit as closely as
possible. If we have that attitude, then our life cannot help but be
full of zeal, drive and passion in doing good...the real good which is
to do things with and for God, and for everybody else.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Restoring our divine image

THIS is a task we have to do, obviously with God’s grace.
But I wonder if many people are aware of it, and if they are, if they
are really dead serious in carrying out that duty.

            Restoring our divine image, of course, presumes that we
have been made in the image and likeness of God, a fact that was
distorted and corrupted by our sin. It’s a truth of faith that somehow
expresses itself in our innate desire for what is true, good, simple
and beautiful.

            In spite of our wretchedness, we are at bottom a religious
being. We are always looking for a god, if not explicitly, then
implicitly. The history of man bears witness to this fact irrespective
of the complicated twists and turns.

            The restoration work, for sure, is a joint effort between
God and us. On God’s part, everything has been done to make it
possible. In a sense, he has supplied us with the plans, the
materials, the strength, and the other resources we need.

            In fact, he gives himself to us. If we only realize the
power and effectiveness of God’s word, the sacraments and the Church
herself, then we would have no doubt that God is constantly with us
and intervening in our life. The meaning of Easter and Pentecost
highlight this truth.

            Things now depend on us, on whether, first of all, we are
aware of this duty, and then on whether we decide to pick up the task.
That’s why, for those who already know and are convinced, there’s
always a need for apostolic work, for catechesis and evangelization.
Let’s hope that all this gets going all the time.

            The task of restoring our divine image is a matter, first
of all, of faith. Without it, then we would not know what to do next.
But with it, we would soon realize that the task involves constant
docility to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, prayer, and the love
for sacrifice.

            We need to be docile to the Holy Spirit who is actually
guiding and leading us all the time to our real end. He never
withdraws from us. But we have to realize also that to be more able to
discern his promptings, we should be familiar with the teachings of
Christ and now the Church.

            Constant study of the doctrine of our faith is a must. We
should never take this for granted, thinking that with our common
sense and with our occasional reading and reflection of God’s word, we
already would be properly enlightened. God’s doctrine contains a lot
of mysteries that require us to probe them always.

            This study of the doctrine will help us build a sense of
beginning and end of our life. It will show us the pattern and
itinerary of our life as given to us by Christ himself. It will
reassure us that whatever happen in life, there is always a means to
bring us back to God.

            That’s why we also need to pray. Prayer is our continuing
conversation with God. And while it usually touches on our daily
affairs and concerns, it is also the best occasion to plumb deep into
the God’s mysteries that are unavoidably entwined with our life.

            We should really find time for it. That time will never be
a waste. Rather, prayer would be the best way to spend our time, since
it will give us a sense of direction, and fill us with the warm
presence of God. Whatever happens, we can manage to remain at peace,
with joy to boot.

            But we should neither forget that restoring our divine
image necessarily involves the cross. It cannot be helped, because
that’s how the ball bounces, given our nature and dignity as free and
intelligent beings whose choices and decision have consequences that
we cannot avoid.

            Yet we know that Christ took away the poison of sin and
death through the cross, showing us that we can only conquer sin and
death, and thus restore our divine image, if we too choose to be with
Christ on the cross.

            That’s what he said clearly. “Anyone who wishes to come
after me must deny himself, carry the cross and follow me.” We need to
overcome, with God’s grace, our natural fear for the cross, so that we
can escape from the bondage of sin and death.

            The cross also trains our human nature to be open to our
supernatural goal of being with God. It does not destroy our nature.
It simply enables us restore our divine image.

Pump faith, hope and charity

WE need to learn this skill, that is, how to pump faith, hope and
charity to our every thought, word and action such that we can truly
say that every breath of ours is actually prayer, and not just a
physical operation so basic in our life.

    Saints have done this. Christ himself always felt the need to pray,
even going to the extent of spending the whole night in a secluded
place just to have a conversation with his Father. In everything that
he did, he always referred to his Father.

    Our life is supposed to be a life with God always. Christ revealed
that to us in no uncertain terms. ‘I am the vine, you are the
branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.’

    These words reinforce what he also said on another occasion. “I am
the way, the truth and the life. No one goes to the Father except
through me.”

    We should not understand those words as meaning that we are meant
only to be with him in some formalistic way, or only from time to
time. We need to be with him in a vital, organic way, something that
he himself makes possible by giving us his gifts of faith, hope and

    But since we are like God, his image and likeness, his children, in
fact, he does not impose or force on us what he giving us in
abundance. We need to correspond to his self-giving, something that he
himself also empowers us to do.

    That is why we have to understand that we are meant to live always by
faith, hope and charity, and not only by reason alone, much less by
feelings.It is through these supernatural gifts of faith, hope and
charity that we attain our true ultimate goal even while here on
earth, that is, sharing what God has with us.

    Our usual problem is that we think that by using our natural powers
alone to more or less know the truth and do some practical and helpful
things, we would already be ok, or that we would already be living our
life as we should.

    Such understanding of our life actually does not meet the deepest
longing of our heart that will always look for the eternal, or for a
joy and a life that never ends. Such understanding of our life is
simply earth-and-time-bound. It ends and gives nothing after death.

    We need to relate everything to God, and that is what is meant by
living a life of faith, hope and charity. Without such relating,
without such offering together with the accompanying conditions that
such offering involves, all our work, concerns, affairs, in short, all
our life would prove useless, as they would no eternal value.

    We need to be pumping faith, hope and charity into our thoughts,
desires, words and actions, so that we can truly live our life with
God. It’s actually what gives us peace and joy, as Christ himself

    He clearly said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not
as the world gives do I give it to you.” (Jn 14,27) And, “I have told
you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be
complete.” (Jn 15,11)

    We have to be wary of the false and deceptive forms of peace and joy
offered by the workings of our flesh and the dynamics of the world.
That’s why we need to deliberately make many acts of faith, hope and
charity, otherwise we would be held captive by the urgings of the
flesh and the wiles of the world, not to mention, the devil.

    This, I believe, is an urgent task. That’s simply because we all know
that the world is immersed in a culture that while having many good
things also have many bad things. If we want to avoid getting confused
or misled, we need to have a firm grip on faith, hope and charity.

    Without this continuing pumping of these gifts from God, we would
become very vulnerable to our own weaknesses and the many temptations
around. When this pumping becomes part of our system, then we can
afford to face anything in life, including all sorts of trials and
temptations, and we would still come out victorious.

    We can be strong, and able to repeat with St. Paul, “I can do all
things in him who strengthens me.” And ultimately, “It is no longer I
that live, but Christ who lives in me.”

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A very exciting thing

I”M referring to prayer. If it’s authentic prayer that we do, then we can only experience joy and excitement. That’s precisely because when we truly pray, we are talking with God. And can there be any other person more exciting to talk with than God himself? Can there be any other person who can give us what we really need?

            Besides, if our prayer is genuine, we would be touching on the most important and relevant topics and issues in our conversation with God. Nothing else can outrank the subject matter of our prayer. Whatever riveting human projects and concerns we have would end up being part and parcel of our loving dialogue with God.

            What is more, when we truly pray, we can always manage to see the meaning and beauty of everything. Even in our darkest moments or our worst scenario, we can always find the light at the end of the tunnel.

            This is quite so especially when we realize the true spirit of Easter, that is, Christ conquering sin and removing the sting of death with his passion, death and resurrection, and sharing this Easter renewal with us if we want to. That’s why we can always say without exaggeration that there’s always hope for us in spite of whatever.

            We need to examine the way we pray. Very often, what we call prayer is actually not prayer, but simply some kind of personal introspection, a sort of soliloquy, or otherwise, a mere play or expression of the emotional and psychological condition we find ourselves in a given moment.

            We have to be most careful when we fall into this predicament that can come to us in a very subtle way, because sooner or later we will find ourselves confused if not lost, deceived and completely deprived of any benefit. We will find ourselves tricked and losing for good any interest in prayer.

            Obviously, prayer can involve all these, but what makes real prayer distinctive is that it is driven by faith, hope and charity, and not just by human or natural factors or conditions.

            Genuine prayer transcends our bodily and earthly settings. It is a spiritual and supernatural activity, first of all, before it expresses itself in our material and natural dimensions. It is fuelled by faith, hope and charity rather than by our mere sentiments and human understanding or estimation of things.

            Our beautiful manifestations of popular piety where we pray with showy public expressions like making novenas, staging processions, kissing, dancing and waving at images would be hollow if this basic property of prayer as primarily a spiritual and supernatural activity would be missing.

            If we pray as we should, then we allow God to come to us and to engage us in a true discussion of things. It would be God, more than us, showing us how things ought to be. In a way, prayer is actually an easy thing to do, precisely because of this.

            When we complain that we find prayer boring or empty or something that would lead us to some sad, depressing or inconvenient episodes, it can only mean that we are not actually praying. We may just be talking with our own selves, and allowing our human conditions at a given moment to completely dominate and rule us.

            Obviously, to pray as we should we have to do our part to purify ourselves of some conditions that would impede us to talk and listen to God, and to enter into a loving conversation with him.

            This is where we have to feel the need for mortification, for self-denial or self-emptying as Christ himself underwent to be in synch with his Father’s will. In short, we cannot pray without mortification or sacrifice.

            If our main motive for prayer is to seek relief of our problems and burdens but at the same time neglect to purify ourselves, then we most likely will end up not praying. We may go through the motions of praying, but that prayer will definitely be fruitless.

            That prayer may produce some temporary relief, but unless rectified and purified, the relief will not last long and can even be dangerous to us, since it would not be God we would be dealing with, but something else, perhaps even an evil spirit that disguise itself as a good one.

            Christ himself shows us how to pray. He fasted, he went to a secluded place, he spent the whole night praying. With the parable of the Pharisee and the publican in the temple, he tells us humility is essential to be able to pray.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Chastity today

RATHER than be sceptical, cynical and all negative about it, let’s be hopeful, confident and determined to develop and live the virtue of chastity. Yes, it’s still possible, and in fact is highly possible to live this virtue that nowadays is practically written off as something that all of us should be concerned about.

            It’s important that we be positive always in attitude toward any problem we may have. There’s always hope. Worries and pessimism do not help. They add to the burden unnecessarily.

            We know that since the fall of Adam and Eve, the whole of humanity has been having problems in this particular department. That should come as no surprise, and in fact should be treated as a given in life.

            That’s because our weakened human condition has damaged our integrity. Thus, our different parts and aspects are fragmented, and each one more or less now follow laws that do not anymore come from God, or laws that also come from a broken system, and therefore often clash with each other.

            Seriously affected by this loss of integrity is the proper dominion we ought to have with respect to our body. Alienated from God, its true source of life and law, our body, and specifically our sexuality, now goes adrift according to the wind and wiles of instinctual and hormonal urges and other environmental factors. It has lost its anchor and sense of direction.

            The peculiarity of the predicament at present is that this problem is becoming more widespread with the advent of the new technologies, and has affected a bigger coverage of people. What we have, without exaggeration, is a real disaster, a genuine calamity that has become, horror of horrors, normal.

            The victims are now both younger and older than those in previous generations. Sex addiction has become a more common disorder. The accessibility to pornography has been made much easier. You don’t even have to look for it on the Internet. It just pops up. What used to solitary sins are not sins making use of a network.

            It’s good to know these features of the problem so that we would know exactly what to do, how to react, how to protect ourselves. In other words, they make us very realistic about this problem. They can give us a good picture of how big the challenge is for us, and what recourses we have to make to confront it.

            Obviously, we have to remember that chastity is first of all a positive and creative virtue, not so much of a negative, defensive and reactionary one. It’s more a matter of growing in love for God and for others. Such growth will make our inordinate sexual urges irrelevant, or at least will rechannel them to a proper end.

            For this, we need to make use of both human and supernatural means. We need to keep ourselves busy, avoiding idleness, loneliness and complacency. We have to learn to sniff as early as possible the coming of a dangerous occasion, and then try to avoid it without entering into some negotiations unless there’s a good and higher reason to do so.

            We have to learn to make our thoughts clean and our desires always healthy and wholesome. Our imagination, feelings and especially passions should be firmly supervised and directed. They just can be left alone to pursue whatever fancy catches them at a given moment.

            With the new technologies, we have to make use of some filtering systems so unwanted postings can readily be screened out. We have to make sure that their use is properly managed and not just at the instance of pure curiosity.

            And in the event that inappropriate things pop up, we should be ready and quick to defend and protect ourselves. We have to develop a certain immunity to resist and avoid being immediately affected by these postings.

            But more important that all this is developing the skill of praying always while using these technologies. Our mind and heart should always be with God and with others even if we have to engage in very technical or mundane tasks.

            We need to be glowing with love for God and for others, else there’s no way but to easily fall to the tricks of the flesh. Very helpful in this regard is the exquisite devotion to our Lady, our Mother most pure and most chaste. She truly helps us to gain and keep intimacy with God while immersed in our worldly affairs.

            To repeat, there’s always hope in promoting and living chastity today, despite the disaster and calamity it also is now.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Truth’s exclusivity, charity’s inclusivity

WE need to figure out how the exclusivity of truth can blend with the inclusivity of charity. Truth and charity should go together, not one without the other. St. Paul says it to us very clearly: “Do the truth in charity.” (Eph 4,15)

            He says that it is by this guideline that we will become like Christ. He reiterates this point when in another letter, he says: “Let all your things be done in charity.” (1 Cor 16,14)

            And that’s simply because charity is the mother of all virtues, the summary of all goodness, and, in fact, the very essence of God in whose image and likeness we are. Nothing is genuinely good and proper to us unless it is infused or motivated by charity.

            Truth, of course, is about what is objective, real, right, fair. It is more about how things ought to be which may not coincide with how things are at present. In the end, truth is Christ himself, his whole self, his entire teaching and example. He himself said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (Jn 14,6)

            Our difficulty starts when we understand truth simply as an intellectual affair, divorced from its moral requirements. That attitude restricts the essence of truth, making it abstract, projected only in the ideal world of the mind and desires, detached from the concrete and real world where many other considerations ought to be made.

            Truth understood and lived in this way is actually not truth, since it would miss the entire picture of reality. And so we must disabuse ourselves from the indiscriminate reference of this term when what we are referring are actually principles, doctrine, dogmas, opinions, and even popular consensus only.

            If ever we have to use that term, we need to qualify it accordingly as principles, doctrine, dogmas, ideologies, opinions or some consensus. It still has to pass the test of charity, which means that it has contend with the concrete data on the ground, the facts and conditions, that would determine whether such truth as principles, doctrine, etc. would be applicable or not, and also the way such truth ought to be presented.

            We have to be most wary to impose the truth on others. That’s not the way Christ did it. He was willing to be misunderstood, to suffer for the truth and eventually to die for it. Even in the strongest terms in which he presented the truth, he never imposed it on anyone by force.

            This is something that we have to learn to do, since very often our tendency is that even in matters of opinion where any view can have more or less the same weight as any other, we like thrust ours to others. We feel hurt when we encounter disagreement.

            Yes, we need to foster the truth, especially the gospel truth, in season and out of season, as St. Paul says. But it should be done with charity always. We have to try to avoid humiliating others, especially those who are clearly in error.

            As much as possible, the transmission of truth should be such that the audience or recipients would feel that they get to know the truth by their own accord, instead of being told, or made to arrive at a certain conclusion because of how the truth is framed.

            Priests who by office preach should try their best that their words drip with charity, compassion, understanding and mercy. As much as possible, they (we) have to avoid sounding domineering and lording it over. This will require nothing less than a vital union with God

            No matter how sure we are of our doctrine or how relevant the point we want to make is, there is no basis for us to sound scolding and controlling. The tone should always be kind and warm, positive and encouraging, hopeful and optimistic even if we have to issue some suggestions, warnings or corrections.

            We should remove any trace of bitterness, sarcasm, irony. These only leave a bad taste in the mouth, and can be more destructive than constructive. Rather, there has to be a more dialogical character of any communication. This is how we can more effectively blend the exclusivity of truth with the inclusivity of charity.

            To reach and to adapt to us, God had to become man, and the man-God, Jesus Christ, did everything humanly possible to make himself understood. He used parables and his teachings were accompanied by appropriate actions. He was willing to go all the way to die on the cross to make his point.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Avoid getting lost in the little things

SAINTS have extolled the great and strategic value of little things we handle every day. Most famous among them was St. Therese of the Child Jesus who eloquently articulated and lived the spirituality of “the little way” that can effectively lead us all the way to heaven. We should never trivialize the value of little things.

            That’s understandable, of course. Care for the little and the ordinary things in our daily life can mean a lot of good things. It can mean constancy, for example, as opposed to having an on-and-off zeal that depends mainly on big, extraordinary things that usually come from time to time only.

            It can also mean authentic love unaffected by the false glitter of the world in terms of fame, wealth or power. It presumes a deeper motivation. It can also show true fidelity, as Christ himself said clearly: “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much.” (Lk 16,10)

            Indeed we have to give special attention to the little and the ordinary things of our daily life because through them do we build up our genuine spiritual life of faith, hope and charity with God and with everybody else.

            It is certainly false and deceptive to wait for big and extraordinary things to happen before we live out our faith, hope and charity. This attitude can lead us to inconstancy, hypocrisy, disloyalty, etc.

            And yet for all the good things that the care for little things can mean, we should also be careful not to be fall into an obsession for them so much so that we miss out the ore important or the essential things in life.

            Nowadays, we can see many people who appear to be very attentive to the little and the ordinary things in life and yet miss life’s goal. There are people who tend to be so fastidious with little details that they fail to see the bigger picture.

            In fact, today there seems to be a surge of people afflicted with the obsessive-compulsive anomaly. They can appear neat, clean and orderly, but they also practically kill and bury charity, understanding, flexibility, compassion.

            They can seethe with what is called in spiritual language as bitter zeal. They tend to think that their ideas and ways are the best and should be the standard and measure for others to follow. Everyone and everything else should fit in their world order. Meeting this kind of people can actually be a nightmare.

            With that kind of attitude, they tend to be quick to judge, to brand and stereotype people. They have rigid ways, and can end up always defensive and suspicious of others. Humility flees and pride sets in and digs deeper.

            We have to do everything to avoid stumbling into this pitfall as we strive to lead a good human and Christian life that gives a lot of importance to the little and the ordinary things of our daily life.

            We should see to it that our concern and care for the little things is truly motivated by love of God which, as a necessary consequence, also involves love for everyone else.

            It should be charity that drives us to care for the little and the ordinary things, not just a pure fascination for order or efficiency. It should not be driven either by our urge to satisfy our merely personal, cultural or social preferences and conditions. In other words, our biases and prejudices that we all have.

            We have to learn to go above our personal preferences, something that is possible only if we pray, if we are truly close to God and live the virtue of charity that knows how to understand, how to be flexible, how to forgive and take advantage of whatever, including mistakes, to forge a unity of life aimed at loving God and others.

            To be sure, it is only when we are effectively with God that we would be enabled to marshall our care for the little and the ordinary things in life to true love. That’s why we have to constantly check on our intentions and motivations.

            Many times there will be a need to purify these intentions and motivations. Human as we are, we cannot help but be driven by mere personal preferences instead of by true love.

            This is nothing new, of course. We should be humble enough to acknowledge our weakness and seek the appropriate means to correct what is not quite right with us. We should avoid getting lost and entangled in the little things.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Let’s all be Marian

WE have to count our blessings! In spite of how the world today is plunging headlong toward secularism and worldliness where God has hardly any place or is treated more as an ornament than for what he truly is, we still have certain practices that lend themselves easily to deep popular piety.

            One of them is the “Flores de Mayo.” In practically all the parishes of the country in the month of May, little girls, with a generous sprinkling of little boys too, usually donning white dresses with angel wings and halos as props, go to their respective chapels and parish churches to offer flowers to our Lady, Mother of God and our Mother as well.

            It’s a very beautiful and moving sight to see these children making their baby steps in developing a Marian devotion, and on the side learning how to pray and continuing their study of the catechism of the doctrine of our faith.

            I have often wondered why this practice has survived up to now, considering that the world, if not occupied with very absorbing worldly affairs, is beset with all sorts of problems, some of them crying to heaven for immediate relief, and theoretically should weaken people’s devotion and piety.

            I have no other explanation than that it’s a working of the Holy Spirit who makes use of a local custom already deeply rooted in our culture. There’s also what I call a certain Filipino temperament that seems to be quite receptive to truths of faith and practices of piety.

            I know that there are people who consider these traits of ours more of a weakness than a strength. Still the fact is hardly anyone is complaining, at least loudly. How can the little children, with their parents and elders, be faulted if they want to have such devotion to our Mother Mary?

            This heart-warming custom should remind us that we too, all of us, in fact, should try our best to develop a deep Marian devotion, making use of this Marian month of May to make a few more steps in that direction.

            Mary is indispensable in our life. She is not just a kind of decoration in our life of faith and piety. She is no mere incidental or optional character in our spiritual life. She is integral to our faith, and therefore, somehow essential.

            And this is mainly because Christ himself, on the cross just moments before his death, gave his mother to the disciple John—“Woman, behold your son...Behold your mother”—a gesture that the Church interprets as Christ giving his mother actually to all of us also.

            We can somehow understand why Christ did so. Being the epitome and the very pattern of our humanity, his mother must also be our mother. That’s because what is his is also ours, even as what is ours, including our sinfulness, he made also as his own, a divinely-initiated exchange generated by pure love. And this principle applies well to our relation with Mary.

            Besides, Mary has all the qualities of a mother to the max. She was and is always caring, understanding, ever willing to defend the children before the justice of the father. As a woman and a human person, she embodies all the virtues proper to us.

            All of this wrapped up in a motherly fashion that is alien to showiness and self-seeking. She knows how to pass unnoticed even if she also knows how close she is to God, how effective and powerful her appeals are before God. When Mary speaks, God listens. When Mary asks, God grants.

            This was how the saints have looked at Mary. Thus, in their most intense trials, they managed to remain calm, because they knew Our Lady was with them, reassuring them that everything, including their sufferings, was worthwhile.

            In this age of rapid developments, we should make an effort also to deepen our devotion to our Lady, our Mother. She will do nothing to hinder us in our legitimate pursuit for progress.

            But she will make sure that we remain childlike before God and before her, full of faith and trust, able to keep our spiritual and supernatural outlook in spite of the worldly things we are immersed in.
            This is important if we do not want to get astray in our worldly affairs. And since we are not little kids anymore, somehow disqualified to do “Flores de Mayo,” we can always do many other things to mature in our Marian devotion.

            We can pray the rosary, the Angelus or Regina Coeli, do a pilgrimage, etc.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Lord and master of the Internet

THIS is what we ought to be. As much as possible we should avoid becoming slaves of the Internet, helplessly dependent on it, totally at its mercy, already losing effective dominion over our instincts, passions and our other weaknesses that this new technology can mindlessly if sweetly stimulate all the way to our destruction.

            This is now a major concern, since even a cursory look around can yield abundant pieces of evidence of men and women, boys and girls, young and old, healthy and sick, completely blown away by the dizzying freefall of its deceptive beauty and usefulness.

            One can see a sharp rise of couch potatoes, tied to laziness, idleness and complacency, swallowed up in a sinkhole of inanities and trivialities, willing victims of the urges of pride and vanity, self-seeking and self-assertion, lust and greed.

            There is some kind of addiction afflicting many of the people. Many are practically defenseless and clueless to the tricks and traps of the Internet. In its wake are left the debris of disorder, anguish, frustrations, conflicts, etc.

            To be sure, this new technology gives us a lot of advantages. For these, we have to be very thankful. But we should not forget that these good things always come with a price, and in fact, a high price, because if misused and abused, they can spoil us into a rotten pulp much more than what illicit drugs can cause. It can be a Trojan horse.

            The harm inflicted by its misuse is of the spiritual type, not just of the body. And if we believe that the spirit is the one that in the end gives life to the body, so once it is impaired if not rendered practically dead, then the body actually suffers tremendously, irrespective of how good and healthy it may look based on the appearance alone.

            We have to ring the alarm and warn everyone of this present and clear danger. More than this, we have to set about teaching and helping everyone on how to use the Internet properly.

            I believe this is an issue that cannot be handled by giving out platitudes alone or occasional reminders, etc. It has to be taken like the bull by the horns. We should not take it for granted, or lightly. This is a very serious issue that affects all of us irrespective of our political colors or socio-cultural conditions.

            The aim is to equip everyone adequately by clarifying the true nature of freedom and how it can be lived properly with respect to the use of the Internet. “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful,” St. Paul warns. (1 Cor 6,12) “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything.”

            Alas, not many realize the wisdom of this truth of faith. For many, freedom is, as they say, what comes naturally, that is, what their passions, feelings, curiosities, etc., urge them.

            We need to disabuse ourselves of this false and dangerous understanding of freedom. More than that, we need to acquire the appropriate attitude and skills to live the true nature of freedom and its consequences.

            A basic requirement for this is faith in God that is nourished through prayer, sacrifice or self-discipline, study of the doctrine of our faith, especially with respect to morality, recourse to the sacraments which are the ordinary channels of God’s grace, lifelong development of virtues, and the art of spiritual or interior struggle and warfare.

            There’s always a great and indispensable need for us to grow and mature spiritually. Now is the time to realize more deeply that this particular need has to be attended to first of all and always, and never to be sacrificed in exchange of some immediate, practical but very perishable benefits that the Internet and other worldly things can give us.

            We need to develop our spiritual or interior life, nourishing it always with the truths of our faith and the many and endless acts of hope and charity. Only in this way can we have dominion and mastery over our earthly affairs.

            For some practical guidelines, it might be helpful to determine and limit our time of going to the Internet. Let’s avoid going to it at the instance of our whims. Definitely, it should be made to compete with our time for meals, family gatherings, work, and especially our prayers and other spiritual activities.

            We need to practice temperance, restraint and moderation always. We have to keep close guarding of our senses, both the external and internal.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Consistency and adaptability

WE need to strike a healthy balance between consistency and adaptability in our behaviour, especially as we go about reclaiming our life, now warped here and there by so many confusing elements, for God.

            Again, the ultimate model for this is Christ who did nothing other than to carry out the will of his Father and yet was game to all the possibilities that human freedom would take him, including dying on the cross.

            I am sure that even in our ordinary affairs, we need to do some kind of balancing. Our life is filled with many things, often with competing values that objectively are good in varying degrees, not to mention the constant clash between good and evil. We have no other alternative but to find that balance that would give due consideration to all these elements of our life.

            Yes, we need to have consistency in our life, in our identity, in our mission. But we should not understand this consistency as rigidity, inflexibility, hardness. Christian consistency is very much compatible with adaptability. In fact, Christian consistency requires an adaptability that goes all the way till death, like what Christ did.

            Neither should we understand adaptability as a lawless attitude toward life. We always need to acknowledge the law that comes from God, as well as to acknowledge when that law is followed and when it is violated. We have to avoid the thinking that everything will just have the same value. That’s an adaptability gone haywire.

            The secret to all this is to imitate Christ. He ceaselessly preached the truth about God, about ourselves and everything else. He persisted in it regardless of whether he was understood or not, believed or not.

            In spite of all difficulties and contradictions, including being betrayed and denied by those close to him, he continued with his redemptive work. He kept this determination alive by spending time in prayer—he would spend nights talking with his Father. He was not afraid of making all kinds of sacrifices.

            And he did everything to make himself understood and accessible to people. He, first of all, being God became man so he can truly be not only with us but also bear in his humanity all the wounded condition of man.

            This truth was vividly described by St. Paul when he talked about the self-emptying of Christ. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was 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...” (Phil 2,5ff)

            In his preaching, he used parables to make his messages more understandable to the people. He was extremely patient with everyone, even if on occasion he had to make corrections.

            He may have done a good number of miracles, but they were made not to impress the people, but rather to show them genuine compassion and to help them build up their fledgling faith.

            Then he allowed himself to go through all the suffering and all the way to death on the cross, in obedience to his Father, to take up all the sins of men, to die to them only to resurrect. This is the ultimate of how Christ lived both consistency and adaptability.

            The crux of the secret is to imitate Christ in his obedience to his Father’s will. “Father, not my will but yours be done,” he said. It is this obedience that would show the full extent of our faith, hope and charity in God through Christ in the Holy Spirit.

            It is in imitating Christ in this obedience to his Father’s will that would indicate how willing we are to be with God even if we would already run out of reasons to follow him. Faith and reason should go together, but faith can outrun reason.

            We need to process this truth of our faith slowly and deeply, so we could relish the many implications and consequences, theoretical and practical, of how we can live both consistency and adaptability in our Christian life and mission.

            Some of these implications are that we really need to commit ourselves to a certain plan of life, made up of certain practices of piety and continuing formation. This way, we nourish our spiritual life, we keep ourselves spiritually healthy and morally active both in good times and in bad.

            In short, we have to think of spending time in serious personal and intimate prayer, study of the doctrine of our faith, recourse to the sacraments, etc.

Glorifying the body

YES, there is such a thing as glorifying the body. St. Paul said it clearly in one of his epistles. To those who, like the Manicheans and the Puritans, think that the body is bad, an object of shame, or that it should be disciplined, if not suppressed in some way, some clarification is definitely in order.

            Obviously, glorifying the body does not mean either that we, like the libertarians, pamper it out of vanity, pride and their ilk. That certainly is glorifying the body the wrong, if sweet, way. That, sadly, is also a rampant phenomenon that urgently needs correction.

            We glorify the body properly when we glorify God in our body. St. Paul explains it this way:

            “Your bodies are the shrines of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in you. Ad he is God’s gift to you, so that you are no longer your own masters. A great price was paid to ransom you. Glorify God by making your bodies the shrines of his presence.” (1 Cor 6,19-20)

            Still in another part of the same epistle, St. Paul teaches: “Your bodies are not meant for debauchery. They are meant for the Lord, and the Lord claims your bodies...Have you never been told that your bodies belong to the body of Christ?” (6,13)

            This is, of course, a truth of faith that we need to process well so that it becomes an incarnated part of our life, an operative principle in our thoughts, words and deeds. Our body is as constitutive of our being a human person as our soul. That is why we really have to take care of our body as much as we take care of our soul.

            We have to be most wary of the current world trend—in fact, the dominant, mainstream culture—that considers the body simply as an object, subject mainly if not exclusively to physical and biological laws, and other natural and worldly conditionings, without relating it to its most radical foundation who is God.

            That kind of mindset divorces the body from our personhood. The body becomes a mere object, and not anymore a constitutive part of our being a person. That understanding of the body detaches the body from its proper orbit that is made up of its intrinsic relationship with God, with our soul, and with everybody else.

            The body degenerates its dignity into a mere instrument or tool for purely pragmatic purposes or toy to play with, an ornament to show off. It loses its significance as the very expression of our love for God and for others, especially the love proper between man and woman, husband and wife.

            The body, seen this way, is vulnerable to the stirrings of pride and vanity, greed and envy, lust and sensuality. It follows a lawless path that would surely lead it to go pffft sooner or later. It loses its potential for an eternal life of bliss, exchanging it with a poor puddle of earthly and temporal pleasure.

            This culture is expressed in many ways. When, for example, we consider the body only or mainly in its physical attributes, and basing our ideas or criteria of bodily beauty and health in these terms only or mainly, then we are considering the body simply as an object.

            When what strikes us more is the physical beauty or strength of the body rather than its spiritual beauty as expressed in its capacity for love, fidelity, kindness, patience, mercy, etc., then we are surely treating the body as an object only.

            We have to purify and overcome this culture. We should not succumb to the rationalization that to be realistic, we have to avoid making too many theological considerations about the body and just do with it whatever comes more or less naturally, which actually means surrendering to our passions and to merely worldly conditionings.

            Glorifying the body by glorifying God in it is a very gratifying thing to do. It may require some sacrifices and self-denial, but these are meant to make the satisfaction of having glorified body surer, purer and lasting.    

            We have to see to it that we don’t subject the body only to the natural and physical laws. It has to be thoroughly infused with the spirit that is the Spirit of God, the source and end of all things.

            The body so infused will simply be glowing with goodness, love, generosity, etc., in spite of the imperfections it may have in its physical and natural dimensions.

            These are truths we should consider when thinking of what to do with our body.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Separate the wheat from the chaff

WE all need to cultivate this skill, and polish it to perfection as we go through our very exciting, if complicated, life. There are glitters and sparkles that are false and deceiving. There are also those that are genuine, but our problem is that we get stuck with them, completely mesmerized, and fail to get to the real thing.

            On this we are amply warned in the gospel. “Not by bread alone does man live but by every word of God,” (Lk 4,4) Christ tells us, practically saying where our true nourishment for life is. We have to be wary of being blinded by merely material things and the world’s allurements, and fail to consider the more important spiritual realities.

            On another occasion, we are told not to judge by appearances alone. We should learn to enter and read the mind and heart of people, where their real identity is found. We have to learn to discern the essence of things and the spirit behind every event in our life and every development in our ongoing stream of history.

            All these indications have many implications and consequences. We have to learn how to judge and assess things properly, ever discerning and discriminating, able to distinguish between the wheat and the chaff, the essential and the accidental.

            In our daily life, for example, we have to be wary of commercials that intensify their hype about certain products, titillating our senses, curiosities and our other vulnerabilities, so we would buy them, never mind if we don’t need them.

            Same with glib speakers usually in the person of politicians, publicists and yes, why not, preachers. We have to be most judicious of the substance of their messages rather than be easily taken by their brilliant rhetorical tricks and devices. It’s not a matter of being sceptical or cynical. Just discerning and discriminating with God’s grace.

            What is indispensable in all this is to be truly a man of God, since only then can we be in the truth, whether we are delivering it or receiving it. So, prayer, meditation of God’s word, deepening in the knowledge of the doctrine of our faith are a basic necessity. Otherwise, we would cruise the ocean of life rudderless.

            In fact, we are asked to be born again in the Spirit. We have to put on Christ, bury the old man and the carnal man in ourselves, so we can be alive to a far deeper and richer reality etched out by our faith and God himself.

            Obviously, these spiritual moorings should be translated into tangible practices. We have to know how to organize our day, seeing to it that we have ample time for prayer, reflection and study. We just can’t go on flowing with the tide of life without making vital contact with our true foundation.

            Better still, we have to learn how to detect God’s presence and abiding intervention in the very things that we handle or get involved. Yes, we need to be contemplatives right in the middle of the world.

            This concern, mind you, is not of the medieval era, anachronistic at our modern, fast-moving, highly technological world. This should always be the ‘in’ thing, never allowed to fade into obsolescence. It’s a basic necessity for us, for which God also has given us all we need to achieve it.

            We also have to develop virtues—the good, old ones that never fail to serve us well. They actually facilitate our comprehension of things, no matter how complicated they are, as well as develop our capacity to cope with whatever situation or predicament we get into.

            Yes, a certain sobriety and temperance are also needed. These virtues are not meant to take away our fun in life, throwing us a wet blanket. Neither are they meant simply to be restrainers.

            They serve to give us a certain distance from things so we can see them better, and space so we can sort out things well. They assure us that we are on a right, or at least on a safe path, and not just going about wildly, led by aroused but often blind emotions and passions.
            Hopefully, these practices would make us persons of good criteria and judgment, properly guided to the point that prudence and discernment become instinctive in us. Let’s encourage everyone to learn the art of separating the wheat from the chaff in our daily affairs.

            In a culture marked by selfies and unmitigated self-seeking, let’s do our part in reminding everyone of our need for God, for spiritual exercises, and the virtues.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The art of passing unnoticed

ONE of the mysterious aspects of the behaviour of Christ was his constant insistence not to be known as some kind of wonder-worker or superhero every time he performed a miracle. He had a kind of obsession to pass unnoticed.

            This behaviour somehow contrasted with his open desire to be known and considered by as many people as possible as the Son of God, the Redeemer of mankind.

            On one hand, he would always tell the beneficiaries of his miracles not to broadcast what he did. Rather he would instruct them to simply go to the priest and report what happened.

            When, out of extreme gratitude, these beneficiaries offered to join him in his journeys, he would tell them to go back home instead. When the hungry people, who were fed to satiety with just a few loaves and fish, wanted to make him king, Christ quickly withdrew to a mountain.

            Even after his resurrection, when he was supposed to be in a glorious state, those to whom he showed himself did not recognize him at first. He appeared like anybody else. He obviously did not like to impress and overwhelm people just for the sake of impressing and overwhelming them.

            But on the other hand, he would also insist, especially to the unbelieving leading Jews at that time, that he was the Son of God. He would, in fact, cite to them the many miracles he did to show to them that he was not merely human. He was and is God.

            This contrasting behaviour obviously baffles us. Why does he want to hide his divinity to some people and affirm it to others?

            I believe the answer lies in the fact that Christ wants to be known both as God and man, and as our Redeemer, not out of idle curiosity or for merely practical purposes, but really out of faith.

            Our problem often is that our belief in Christ is often corrupted by merely human motives. It’s not faith, but some mixture of idle curiosity and other practical purposes that make us follow him.

            And when these idle curiosity and practical purposes would already have their fill, or worse, are not met as expected, then that belief in Christ falls apart. The apostles themselves were not exempt from this phenomenon. Many times, Christ would lament over their lack of faith.

            Same with the crowd. Those who welcomed him at his entry to Jerusalem were also those who shouted, “Crucify him” a little later.

            Christ wants us to approach him with faith. He wants us to consider the spiritual and supernatural character of his life that should also be reflected in ours. He does not want us to get stuck with his merely material, natural and human aspects.

            Not that these material, natural and human aspects are bad or are a hindrance in our proper attitude toward Christ. They are important and indispensable, but they should conduct us to, not prevent us from knowing his real nature and role he plays for us. These aspects should in fact help us to enter into the very life of Christ who is both God and man.

            But given our wounded human condition, prone to see only the partial and the immediate and  to miss the whole picture, Christ must have been playing it discreet when performing those marvellous miracles of his. He was careful his work nourished the faith of the people, and not just met their immediate needs.

            This should also be a lesson for all of us to follow. In all our thoughts, words and actuations, we should see to it that we feed our faith, that we are led to God, that in the end we manage to live true charity that includes all the other virtues.

            We should do our best to avoid getting hijacked in the purely material or practical aspects of our life. We should imitate Christ in his discretion and restraint, in his art of passing of unnoticed, in his effort to avoid grabbing unnecessary and dangerous attention from others, by seeing to it that our thoughts, words and deeds truly lead others to God, and not simply to us.

            At best, we should simply be conductors to bring others to Christ. We should avoid making ourselves something like idols, objects of interest. The ideal situation would be that all who see us should see Christ, as he himself said it clearly to his apostles, then to us.
            We have to learn to pass unnoticed while doing things that would lead others to Christ!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

We need to be strong and tough

OF course, without compromising our need also to be tender and gentle. We are not meant to be strong and tough like the brute and the monster. We need to have the strength of charity that knows also how to bend, to understand, to forgive.

            It’s a matter of discernment and prudence. They actually can and should go together—our toughness and gentleness.

            But their manifestations vary according to the situation, and we just have to learn how to show and live both anytime, or highlight one over the other given the circumstance or the need of the moment.

            Christ, of course, is the ultimate model of all this. The saints have reflected this integrated quality well. We too need to learn and live this virtue, if we want to be truly human, let alone, Christian.

            We need to be strong and tough, first of all, because our life will always involve, if not, require nothing less than continuing effort and struggle. Christ himself said it clearly: “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force.” (Mt 11,12)

            This is because there are goals and challenges to reach. And they are not merely natural, social or human goals. They are spiritual and supernatural that obviously need both grace and nothing less than our all-out effort.

            Besides, given our wounded human condition, there obviously are problems and difficulties to face, temptations and consequences of our sins, mistakes and failures. There will always be issues that we need to resolve.

            This is not to mention that each one of us has his own personal weaknesses to tackle. Everyone is prone to laziness and complacency, to narrow-mindedness and shortsightedness, if not blindness to spiritual and supernatural realities, all of which can lead to complications in our life.

            We have to deal with the concupiscence of the eyes and the flesh, the pride of life, our tendency to be vain and self-centered, and to be dominated by the urges of lust and sensuality, greed and avarice, gluttony, and the many other disordinate passions we have.

            We have to know the peculiarities of our emotional and psychological make-up, so we can be prepared to deal with the ups and downs of our life, twists and turns of life’s drama that can lead us to wild mood swings and to more serious conditions like falling into bipolar and similar mental and emotional illnesses.

            This is not to mention that we have to learn how to cope with the consequences of the other extreme of committing mistakes and sins, suffering defeat, being a failure that can plunge us to depression, self-pity and despair. Or the sweet poison of success that can spoil us.

            Let’s never forget that we also have to deal with spiritual and supernatural enemies of our soul. We are actually ranged against powerful spiritual enemies.

            We indeed have to learn how to be strong and tough, ever patient, hopeful, trusting in God’s never-failing and ever-wise-and-merciful providence, and optimistic, cheerful, serene and confident. The ideal Christian life is one of being zealous and aggressive, not passive and completely defensive.

            We need to pause and probe deeply into this truth of our faith so we can have a clearer idea of what, aside from God’s grace that we should always ask, we can do to deal with our different predicaments in life.

            Yes, it’s true that we have to be sensitive and delicate, especially in our conscience, but it’s also true that we have to learn how to be thick-skinned, how to be indifferent and to ignore certain things, and just to move on, in spite of cuts and bruises we may suffer along the way.

            Christ told us that it’s better to be one-eyed and to cut one hand off than to have both eyes and hands if one part of the pair becomes an occasion of sin for us. We have to learn to suffer, always trusting in the end in the ever-powerful and wise will of God.

            Let’s remember that Christ himself pleaded with the Father to take the cup away from him, but in the end, he simply submitted to his Father’s will. “Not my will but yours be done.” And he resurrected, and with it, conquered sin and death for us.

            In this Easter season, we need to have the mind of the Risen Christ. Like him, let’s have the mind of a victor, a conqueror who is willing to take on anything and still wins.

Work when sanctified sanctifies

MAY 1 is celebrated in a special way both in the Church and in our civil society. In our liturgical calendar, it is the memorial of St. Joseph the Worker, and in our civil society, it is National Labor’s Day.

            Both focus on the importance of work. We, of course, do not need to belabour the obvious. Work is a necessity in our country if we want to survive economically and even politically. That’s why we are interested to know about productivity, efficiency, profitability, GDP, GNP, ROI, etc.

            There are many issues involved in this particular aspect of work. Generation of employment is one, another is equitable distribution of income. In this regard too, we can also talk about minimum wage, what would constitute as fair work conditions, etc.

            But in the heat of sorting out the macro issues of work, we should not forget that work is first of all necessary for everyone’s personal growth, development and maturity. It unleashes our powers and actualizes our potentials.

            Aside from giving us a source of income and a stabilizing element in family life, it is what gives us a deep sense of fulfilment and joy. Everything has to be done so that these personal, micro aspects of work are always enhanced, and not unduly sacrificed due to some macro goals.  

            This is just to follow that Christian teaching that the person should be given priority over the demands of labor and the economy. The latter should work for the good of the former, and not the former enslaved by the latter.

            Underpinning all these considerations is a more fundamental and radical truth that should always be respected, and in fact, fostered every step of the way and in every level of human life, personal, family, social, economic, political, etc.

            And this is none other than that our work is actually an intimate, personal participation of the continuing work of God which is his abiding providence over all his creation.

            As image and likeness of God, we live and do everything, including our work, with God always. Even without realizing it, the objective truth is that our life, and everything in it, is always a life with God.

            Our work therefore is not just ours. It just does not correspond to some purely natural and human needs. It is by definition a work with God. We need to be most aware of this truth, so we can also consciously and freely work in sync as much as possible with God’s will and ways, as is proper to us as God’s image and likeness.

            If we know, believe and start living this truth, then we can conclude that our work is the usual and main means for all of us to be sanctified, for that is what is meant when we vitally unite ourselves with him, when we conform our will and work with God’s will and work. Our work can make us holy, since it can unite us subjectively with God.

            This effort of uniting our will and work with God’s will and work is what comprises the task of sanctifying our work. When we try to discern what God wants us to do and then do it with utmost love for him and others, we are sanctifying our work.

            That work that is so offered and done to God with love, expressed in doing it with the best competence we can muster, will surely sanctify us. It would purify us and put us on the path of resembling ourselves more and more with God who is our Father, our beginning and our end—in fact, our everything.

            We need to retail this truth more actively and widely. Some of us may already know this truth in theory, but we are not yet there in practice. In this sector alone, a lot need to be done.

            But we also know that there is even a much larger sector who does not know the intimate connection of work with God. In this regard, we really have to mobilize whatever resources we have to establish this truth firmly in our culture.

            May those who know this truth be more consistent in living it. May they also be more active in spreading it until this truth permeates the life of the family, and the spirit with which we live out the social, economic, political aspects, etc., of our life.

            Our times now challenge us to have a more mature understanding of our work, otherwise we would simply get confused and lost in the many new things arising around.