Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mercy above all

THIS should be very clear to all of us. We have to be
merciful ourselves, because God who is our Father is merciful. Christ
himself said it openly: “Be merciful as your Father is merciful.” (Lk
6,36)

            In the Holy Bible, numerous references to the mercy of God
are made. His mercy is forever, is eternal. He is rich in mercy. He is
slow to anger, quick to forgive. We have to forgive others not only
seven times, but seventy times seven. This obviously alludes to the
biblical passage that even a just man falls seven times in a day.

            When Christ was asked to teach his disciples how to pray,
he gave them the now-famous “Our Father” that includes, “Forgive us
our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

            More importantly, he asked for forgiveness for those who
crucified him. “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”
These are words that are meant not only for those who participated
directly in his crucifixion, but also for all of us.

            This desire and request of Christ, who is God himself, the
Son of God who became man, must also be the desire and the request of
his Father, since the Father and the Son are one, together with the
Holy Spirit. Of course, it must have been a desire and request fully
and happily granted by God.

            All these very reassuring truths should solidify our
belief that God is always merciful and that we too, since we are
children of God, image and likeness of his, should also be merciful.

            Whatever differences and conflicts we may have among
ourselves, whatever mistakes and failures we commit, we have to be
merciful in the end.

            Mercy should be above all other considerations. It
certainly goes beyond what our human justice can cover and resolve.
Thus, even as we try our best to resolve these differences and
conflicts through our legal and judicial system, and our other
informal ways of justice, we should be ready and quick to dispense
mercy to everyone.

            Let’s not get detained too long by the mistakes that we
all commit. Rather, assured of God’s mercy and liberally dispensing
mercy ourselves to one another, let’s look forward to what can be done
to help, to heal what is wounded, to restore what was destroyed, to
repair what was damaged, to improve what still needs to be improved.

            Christ was clear about how it is not in him to condemn
people. “The Son of man came not to destroy souls, but to save.” (Lk
9,56) We should also have this attitude. And so, we need to expand our
mind and heart so as to be magnanimous always with those with whom we
have some problems.

            Very often, our pursuit for justice is marred by many
other not-so-welcome ulterior motives. Justice often becomes a
playground to play out our preferences, biases, whims, caprices. It
can also become an arena to fight out our vengeance, anger, hatred and
other forms of malice. It can deteriorate into mob rule.

            We have to be wary when we get too concerned about justice
without as much being concerned about mercy. We would be treading on
dangerous ground that way. Instead of attaining justice, we most
likely would be generating more injustice.

            In fact, we should be more concerned with mercy than with
justice, given the obvious limitations of our human justice. It’s not
that we should ignore justice altogether. We have need at least to air
out our differences and enter into some discussion. But everything has
to be marked by delicacy and refinement.

            To avoided like the plague is anything that can lead to
acrimony, bitter zeal, self-righteousness, bigotry, impatience, foul
language, rash judgment, etc. Even if in the eyes of the public we may
seem to have been defeated in a debate because we follow the
requirements of charity and mercy, we can be sure that deep in our
heart and before God, we are winners who do not consider the other
party as losers.

            In the first place, venting out our anger and falling into
hatred because of our very limited if not distorted sense of justice
harms us more than create any good in anybody. We would just be
polluting the air around.

            As the world in general becomes more complex, with more
issues coming in and possibilities of conflicts increasing, it would
be good if we truly value the importance of mercy and its crucial role
in our effort to live justice.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fiestas

THANKS to God, we still have and are blessed with a strong
and deep tradition of celebrating fiestas in our country. Fiestas are
a great occasion of joy and thanksgiving, an experience of sublimity
that satisfies a primal yearning of the heart.

            In practically all places and corners of our country,
fiestas are celebrated due to a religious reason. And this is very
understandable, because more than any human accomplishment, it is the
truths and mysteries of our faith, the triumphs achieved by the saints
that offer the ultimate reason for joy and thanksgiving.

            These religious spiritual reasons of fiestas stand not
only for a time. They stand for all eternity. If handled properly,
they can foster and reinforce the religious and spiritual dimension of
our life that we often fail to properly take care of and develop.

            If we have the right understanding, attitude and practices
relevant to fiestas, we will realize that we are actually already
sharing in some way the indescribable joy we can expect in heaven, our
definite home and ultimate state of life.

            There is a certain sense of gloriousness that we can feel
during fiestas. It’s a gloriousness that is compatible with humility,
not pride, vanity and frivolity. It’s a gloriousness that fills us
with peace and a great desire to give ourselves more to God and to
others, all done in a quiet, natural way, without acting strangely or
weirdly.

            We need to see to it that this sense of gloriousness is
kept pure and uncontaminated by unwelcome worldly values that have the
penchant to spoil the true nature and purpose of fiestas.

            We just have to make sure then that the celebration of
fiestas is driven first of all by the religious and spiritual motive
that is their basis and raison d’etre. We should strengthen that
motive in a deliberate way especially when it has to contend with new
and very seducing manifestations of these unwelcome worldly values as
flow in time.

            There is, first of all, commercialism that while having
some valid reasons can also undermine this religious and spiritual
motive. Then there’s the tendency to splurge and to wallow in
gluttony, frivolity, showing off and flaunting, throwing to the wind
the requirements of temperance and self-discipline that are always
necessary to us.

            Other ulterior motives can come—political, social,
economic, etc., that can go beyond their valid reasons during fiestas.
We should be quick to recognize them and quicker still to avoid, undo
or make up for whatever damage these motives can cause.

            There should be an effort to connect these motives to the
religious and spiritual character of the fiestas. Thus, certain
organized activities can already be disqualified a priori, like
illegal gambling, wild parties, games, beauty contests, and other fun
activities that would be hard if not impossible to relate to the
religious motive.

            Fiestas, of course, should not be deprived of festivities
and the fun connected to them. But they should be so organized as to
boost rather than weaken the religious and spiritual motive.

            This will require a keen sense of discernment and
judgment. Competent officials should take care of supervising the
whole affair. Obviously, this will involve the cooperation and
coordination of both civil and church authorities, and other figures
that may have some say on these matters.

            More important is to promote the proper understanding,
attitude and practices relevant to fiestas. Thus, fiestas should be
the best occasion to study the cause of the celebration. With our new
technologies, this practice can easily be done in a more widespread
way.

            We have to go beyond the level of slogans and the use of
catchwords. While they can serve a purpose, they should not be left
alone, but should always be linked to a deeper explanation and
description of the celebration. These explanations should include the
practical implications of the fiestas.

            The practice of holding novena Masses before the fiesta is
one way of educating the people about the true significance of the
fiesta. This should be maintained and improved. They should be adapted
to current developments, both good and bad, so people can be
enlightened and helped to celebrate the fiestas accordingly.

            We should also remember that the best way to prepare for
the fiestas, celebrate them and purify and rectify whatever needs to
be rectified after the celebration is to offer a lot of prayers and
sacrifices. Fiestas are no mere social events. They are first of all
religious and spiritual means that require the appropriate spiritual
means also.

            We need to tap some people to lead in this.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cultivating freedom

IT’S a difficult animal to tame. I am referring to freedom
that all of us want to invoke to express what we really have inside
our mind and heart. Unfortunately, very little attention is given to
the fact that freedom is something we need to cultivate, and as such
it requires all kinds of processes and procedures, and patience, and
patience, and still more patience.

            I remember when I graduated from high school, my father
made for me the valedictory that I had to deliver on behalf of my
class. It had an intriguing opening line, since my father, who was a
lawyer, had a flair for the dramatic in his orations.

            “Freedom is not free,” my speech began. “Either you pay
for it or it buys you out.” That was quite a mouthful for a
15-year-old to say, and I tried my best to show that I understood what
I said and that I meant it.  Those were the days of teen-age bravura.
Now, of course, this memory makes me laugh

            I somehow understood then that what my father meant was
that freedom can either make or unmake a man. I’ve read that in some
novels, and seen it in some movies and even in real-life third-person
drama. But such understanding was more theoretical than experiential.


            Still, I knew then that the seed of curiosity about
freedom was planted deeply in my heart. And as years passed, my
understanding of it also grew. And what a tumultuous itinerary I had
to pass through! Indeed, direct, first-person experience is quite a
master teacher.

            Our problem with freedom usually stems from the fact that
we have a partial understanding of it which we tend to consider as
already complete and full. We hardly realize that our idea of freedom
would often be short-sighted, narrow-minded, biased and
straight-jacketed according to our own subjective criteria.

            That is why we often would have the sensation of highs and
lows, exuberance and depression. A sense of stability and confidence
is hardly felt. But life in general, no matter how much we twist it,
cannot help but show us the real objective face of freedom through the
many contradictions and humiliations we suffer along the way.

            Yes, reality bites! It sooner or later, one way or
another, will burst the bubbles that we unwittingly have been creating
for ourselves. Sometimes, we fall crashing down to earth after we
managed to build a complex and sophisticated dream world, driven by a
false idea of freedom and creativity.

            Whether we like it or not, aware of it or not, reality
will find a way to tell us that freedom is not something that we
spontaneously generated. It’s not our own making. It is something
given to us, with an objective law that governs it.

            It’s not our creation, to be used absolutely according to
our own personal and subjective terms. It comes together with the most
fundamental truth that we are creatures and that there is a Creator.
Toward it, the proper attitude to have to is to respect it and its
law. And this requires a lot of humility.

            The law that governs freedom is, of course, nothing other
than God himself, in whose image and likeness we are. That’s why
Christ, the fullness of the revelation of God to us, said: “I am the
way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through
me.”

            It is Christ who is the truth that will make us free. And
Christ himself lived by this truth. His sense of freedom was bound up
with his obedience to his Father’s will, no matter how painful that
will was.

            Saints have understood this character of freedom very
well. Many of them have gone to the extent of explicitly saying that
freedom is none other than obeying the will of God. That, in its
distilled form, is the essence of freedom.

            Freedom and obedience therefore go together. One cannot be
without the other, in contradiction to the understanding of many of us
who often put freedom and obedience as antithetical to each other.

            That’s why we need to deepen our humility to be able to
see this vital connection between freedom and obedience. And again,
this humility has to be understood not only theoretically, but also
practically. In fact, it should not only be understood. It has to be
lived always through the events and circumstances of our daily life.

            To cultivate true freedom is to cultivate a growing
obedience to God’s will. Outside of that orbit, we can only have false
freedom.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Alone but never lonely

WE all, from time to time, need to be alone. Many of us do
so because we want some space, some rest, some escape from what we
consider as drudgery of life, or from some problem that we want to
sort out, or simply that we want to ruminate...

            Very often, we want to be alone just to be by ourselves,
which is actually a dangerous thing to do. That’s because we are and
should be never alone. The objective reality about ourselves is that,
whether we are aware of it or not, we are always with God and with
others. That’s how we are designed by nature. We should try our best
to correspond to that truth about ourselves.

            It’s certainly wrong to think that we can be by ourselves.
That would start the process of building our own world, our own
fantasies, our own reality that becomes detached from the reality
outside.

            That’s when we put ourselves to be easy prey to the tricks
and wiles of our wounded flesh, our doubts and fears, and the many
erratic and unreliable conditionings around us. That’s why we need to
do everything to avoid falling into this predicament which can come to
us sneakily and easily.

            These days, for example, we have to be wary of our
tendency to be carried away by all kinds of interests that cause
obsession, activism and workaholism that practically snuffs out our
desire for prayer, contemplation and spirit of recollection. This
tendency would push us to self-centeredness.

            Our need for solitude is actually meant for us to be alone
with God, our Father and Creator, who is the source of all good
things. It’s when we are with God that we can be with ourselves and
with the others in the proper way. About this we should have no doubt.

            That’s why we have to strengthen our conviction that to
get and to keep in touch with God is not only possible but also highly
doable. What’s more, it is necessary and not meant to be optional in
our life.

            We have to hone up our skills in maintaining a living
contact with God, aware of his presence always and somehow also aware
of his will for us and his ways with us.

            To be sure, to be alone with God does not detach us from
our temporal and worldly affairs and concerns. On the contrary, it
will make us more aware of them and of what we can do about them.

            It will make us more identified with God’s will and ways,
his wisdom and power, his charity, justice and mercy, his abiding love
for us. It will sharpen and deepen our knowledge of persons, events
and things.

            That’s what we see in the example of Christ. Before
starting his public life, he spent 40 days and nights in a desert to
pray and to be alone with his Father. Throughout his public life of
preaching, he would often go to an isolated place, waking up early in
the morning just to pray.

            He would come out of this solitude invigorated and eager
to do the tasks ahead. Just before his passion and death, he went to
the garden of Gethsemane to pray. He begged his Father to “let this
cup pass by me,” but eventually rectified himself by saying, “not my
will but yours be done.”

            We can somehow do all this if we follow Christ in seeking
that solitude to enter into intimate communion and conversation with
God. We have to learn how to organize our day such that we can find
time to be alone with God.

            To be sure, to be alone with God does not mean that we
leave behind our reason and our senses and the other natural human
powers and faculties we have, as some people claim. No. Rather we will
feel the need for the full use of these powers, but infusing them with
faith and devotion.

            That’s when we can see things in a much better perspective
and with greater depth. There we can make more considerations that
often are ignored when pure reason and mere senses and emotions alone
are used.

            When our reflections are soaked with faith and piety, we
can see many other consequences and implications that our reason and
senses cannot get. In fact, many times, not only are they ignored.
They are most likely also rejected and ridiculed.

            We have to disabuse ourselves from the thought that
spending time to be alone with God is a waste of time.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Keeping in touch

SOME people may find this delusional, but together with
all the saints and many others striving to be good and holy despite
obvious limitations and imperfections, I can assure everyone that
getting and keeping in touch with God is not only possible, but also
highly feasible and practicable. Not only that, it is necessary.

            This is no gratuitous affirmation. This is no fantasizing.
Many layers of reason, if we do not want to be bothered yet by inputs
of faith, can already give us solid basis for this. If by reason
alone, we can safely conclude that there must be God, otherwise, we
could not explain our existence and the order that we still see
around.

            And this God is not just any god, man-made, and often
shaped according to our own desires and fears. This God has revealed
himself. He is no distant God, aloof and indifferent to our affairs.

            In fact, he became man and lived with us, such that what
is ours, including our sins and defects, can also be considered as
his. The very mystery of his Incarnation tells us of a most wonderful
exchange: what is his becomes ours, and what is ours becomes his, not
in the sense that we bring down God to us, but rather to bring us back
to God from whom we come and to whom we belong.

            And even if this God-man, Christ, already died, we also
know that he resurrected and ascended into heaven, but leaving us
still with his living presence through the Church, and especially
through his word and the sacraments. He promised that he will be with
us all the way till the end of time.

            As clearly revealed and taught by Christ, this God loves
us no end. He shares what he has with us. He starts this by giving us
his grace that includes the theological virtues of faith, hope and
charity.

            In more concrete and direct terms, he continues to
intervene in our life, speaking to us through the ordinary events and
circumstances of our life. He is never absent in any moment of our
life. Even in our most horrible situation, when we fall sick with sin,
he would still be around, ever eager to help us out.

            Christ said it clearly, “They that are well have no need
of a physician, but they that are sick. For came not to call the just,
but sinners.” (Mk 2,17)

            With respect to us, God designed and created us in his
image and likeness, endowing us with powers and faculties that would
enable us to correspond to him. That is why, on our part, we need to
realize that we have develop and use, to their fullest potentials,
these powers and faculties God has given us.

            This means we have to learn to pray, to enter into a
continuing dialogue with him, making use of whatever situation,
circumstance and even predicament we may be in to occasion and
maintain this contact with Christ.

            We just have to exercise our faith, fleshing it out with a
working piety that would enable us to be aware of God’s constant
presence in our life and to correspond to his will and designs for us.

            We have to be more aware of this need and our duty to live
it. Getting and keeping in touch with God is possible, is feasible, is
necessary. This should not be some kind of a pipe dream to us anymore.

            Nowadays when God is given at best some lip-service alone
or just a token of formality, we need to take this duty to develop our
relationship with God more seriously. To be sure, such relationship
would not be a hindrance to our daily affairs and concerns.

            Quite the contrary. It will help us distinguish between
good and evil, safe and dangerous, fair and unfair, etc. Far from
taking us out of the world, it will immerse us in it even more, but
orienting it to its proper end.

            We have to realize that the world and our own flesh in
general have their own laws that need to be directed toward God. They
just cannot be left on their own, and allowed to lead us along their
impulses.

            Remember Christ saying, “The spirit indeed is willing, but
the flesh is weak.” (Mt 26,41) And, “They are not of the world, as I
also am not of the world.” (Jn 17,16)

            These words indicate we need to keep in touch with God to
bring our wounded flesh and the wayward world back to him.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Remembering Rhodora

IT must have been during my freshman or sophomore high
school year when we had a new, bubbly teacher in English Literature
who asked us to study a poem entitled, The Rhodora, by Ralph Waldo
Emerson.

            I, at first, like all the other boys in class, was
hesitant to do the assignment because of the prevailing prejudice that
subjects like Literature were more for girls than for boys.

            But I did it just the same, draggingly, of course, but
more to avoid trouble, since I was quite sure I would be asked to say
something about it in class. Little did I know that I would fall in
love with the poem. In fact, it was the first time I felt something
special toward literature.

            I was fascinated by its musical and lyrical tone,
bewitched by its cadence and rhythm. More importantly, it delivered a
strong message so appealing to both my mind and heart. It has since
then become indelible in my memory.

            It was a message that I did not expect after reading the
first few verses that described what I thought were merely ordinary
observations. I was told beforehand that the Rhodora was actually just
a plant, an information that worsened my misgiving about the class
assignment.

            But now I realize that the element of surprise is part of
the beauty of any literary piece. That was what happened to me. I was
pleasantly surprised, and then somehow affected...quite deeply. The
misgiving turned into a blessing. My misgiving actually set me up for
a big kill in myself.

            The verse that attracted me most was this: “Rhodora! / If
the sages ask thee why / This charm is wasted on the earth and sky, /
Tell them, dear, / That if eyes were made for seeing, / Then beauty is
its own excuse for Being.”

            In my adolescent mind then, I readily agreed to that
statement. Beauty was a very precious and rare commodity. And I
understood beauty as an exclusively physical affair. It was hard for
me then to see beauty around. Back in the province, there must have
been some pretty faces, but not one that sparked awe and fascination.

            And so, I thought beauty could only be found in the
movies, in the magazines, and in those occasional visits of movie
stars and starlets during town fiestas. “If eyes were made for
seeing...” kept ringing in my mind.

            Years passed, and the scenario has altered quite
significantly. This time, you see beauty in the physical sense in
abundance. A worldwide industry of make-up and make-overs, plus the
increasingly powerful supporting structure of networks, etc., has made
that possible. But I also realize that these have somehow exposed the
false character of beauty in the physical sense.

            Beauty and human perfection cannot be confined in the
physical alone. There is a lot of fiction, deception, and fantasy
involved there. Neither can beauty be a matter of feeling good, or of
being popular, etc. These ideas of beauty cannot satisfy the deepest
longings of our soul.

            Beauty has to be found in something more profound. It
cannot be skin-deep alone. It has to correspond to a more complete set
of criteria based on our true and ultimate dignity as persons and as
children of God, created in the image and likeness of God. It has to
satisfy our deepest expectations that definitely go beyond the
material and the natural.

            These days, we have to be wary of a thick, dominant
culture that considers beauty almost exclusively in the physical sense
only. We have to feel the need to transform that culture slowly but
steadily. It’s an urgent task that has to be done if we want to avert
a disaster much worse than a Yolanda or a magnitude-7 earthquake.

            We have to recover the original and authentic nature of
beauty, one that is organically linked to God and his commandments,
and that goes far beyond satisfying merely material and natural
categories.

            We have to present in convincing terms, arguments and
actuations that beauty should not be allowed to be hijacked by
physical and natural criteria. It has to be understood as living out,
for example, the beatitudes as articulated by Christ.

            That’s where beauty really lies. It’s achieved when we
learn to love as Christ loves us, which means, loving even our
enemies. That’s because that’s where our perfection is achieved.

            For sure, this ideal of beauty is at the moment considered
to be like a Rhodora, precious, rare, hidden. But it should be common
in the future and in eternity.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

PWD

THAT’S “persons with disability” or “people with
disabilities.” We have to distinguish their many kinds if only to
better know how to care for them. This is part of the new sensitivity
we should develop as the world becomes more complex each day.

            Remember that St. Paul once told us that we “bear one
another’s burdens,” for that is how we “fulfil the law of Christ.”
(Gal 6,2) Even more, he tells us that we should always consider others
better than us—yes, including those with disabilities, since according
to him, this was the mind of Christ. (cfr. Phil 2,3-5)

            The kinds of disabilities can come in different
combinations or forms and in varying degrees. One type usually brings
in the other types. And so, we just have to be more discerning and
more skilful in dealing with them in their concrete condition.

            The more common type are those with physical
disabilities—the blind, lame, mute and those with other bodily
deformities. These persons are easy to identify and relatively easier
to handle.

            Basically what is needed is to give them facilities that
are more material than spiritual, more tangible than
intangible—wheelchairs, crutches, guide or care-giver, ramps,
elevators, etc.

            The more difficult ones are those with mental and
emotional disabilities. More specialized skills are needed. And while
some medicine is used, what is more necessary is greater human
interaction. They require more attention. And the therapy is longer
and more complicated.

            The most difficult ones are those who can be described as
persons with attitudinal disabilities. They can look normal, but they
actually are not. Nowadays, some people are even promoting the culture
of “having an attitude,” as a way to create an impact on society.

            We need to be most prepared to deal with these people.
First, because they now are far more than those with other
disabilities, and worse, they are not easily identifiable. Second,
because they are really more difficult and more challenging to deal
with.

            We cannot be naive in the face of this growing phenomenon
around us. We have to have to proper dispositions, and better, also to
have the appropriate skills in dealing with them.

            They normally do not admit there’s something wrong with
them. But they definitely have a wrong attitude or outlook toward
life. Even with the most elementary indicators and criteria, they
would already fail.

            They are proud, haughty, self-centered, self-righteous,
judgmental, lazy, indifferent, greedy, sensual, etc. And if they are
not of the OC type (obsessive-compulsive), they would be in the other
extreme—apathetic, pessimistic, prone to fall into self-pity, and
feeling as if the whole world is against them.

            St. Paul already described them in his Letter to the
Romans. They are “detractors, hateful to God, contumelious, proud,
haughty, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, foolish,
dissolute, without affection, without fidelity, without mercy.”
(1,29-30)

            They have a very restrictive and subjective concept of
what is right and wrong, what is good and bad, moral and immoral.
These would often be determined according to their own criteria of
convenience and other terms of self-interest.

            Faith, religion, piety, virtues and things like these have
practically no place in their world-view. If some tribute is given to
these values, it is merely out of formalism or because they cannot
escape having to go through some lip-service that is clearly devoid of
substance.

            We have to be ready for these persons. We should always be
hopeful and eager to go through the rigor of dealing with them as much
as possible with a lot of naturalness, and even poise and elegance.

            The first thing we have to do is to use the supernatural
means. We have to pray a lot for them, offer sacrifices and develop a
healthy apostolic attitude toward them. Instead of fleeing from them,
we should rather go to them and develop and deepen friendship with
them.

            Yes, we also need to develop virtues, like patience,
fortitude, creativity and generosity. A certain insensitivity is
welcome in the sense of not being too sensitive to all the forms of
inconveniences and contradictions that they are likely to cause.

            When dealing with persons with disabilities, we normally
would be most understanding and compassionate. If we readily are like
this with respect to those with physical disabilities, we should be
more so with those of have emotional, psychological and, worse,
attitudinal disabilities.

            This would be charity in its finest forms, a concrete and
proximate participation of the charity of Christ toward us as
expressed in his crucifixion and death. God and goodness will always
prevail.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Wedding anniversaries

IT’S always a cause for joy when a couple decides to
celebrate their wedding anniversary and asks for a renewal of their
marriage vows in the Holy Mass. I find that gesture very meaningful.
Definitely it goes beyond mere social expectations, since there is
actually no obligation for them to do that. Besides, the whole affair
usually entails a lot of inconveniences.

            It must be more because they know they have lived their
marriage as best as they could. And even if there had been many trials
and difficulties, and even mistakes and failures, they managed to go
through it all in a way that is not just a matter of luck but more a
matter of reliance on God’s grace and many blessings, as well as faith
in their own powers.

            Every time I have the chance to take part in these
celebrations, I always see the couples very thankful to God and to
many others who may have helped them in some way. I don’t think they
do it to show off. When they again say their “I do’s,” I can’t help
but notice the tone of greater sincerity, meaningfulness and
fulfillment.

            I don’t think they feel like they are mere survivors of a
long plight of suffering, though suffering they must have experienced
quite a lot. They look more like beaming victors who feel blessed and
privileged to have gone through the drama of married and family life
with their love not only intact, but rather growing and prospering.

            As they look back on their years of marriage, they must
feel how they have proven the veracity of their commitment “to have
and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer,
for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”

            Through those years, they must have raised children and
faced the complex and complicated responsibility of bringing them up,
educating and forming them into mature persons and Christians. They
must have faced all kinds of tests ranging from the physical to the
spiritual and moral, from the financial to the emotional.

            Through it all, they have managed to remain firm to their
commitment and must have experienced first-hand the wonders of God’s
grace working in them, to which they also much have tried to
correspond as faithfully as possible. They must have been convinced
that the whole thing is more the making of God than theirs. All they
did was simply to remain faithful in spite of whatever.

            Yes, there could have been mistakes, failures and lack of
correspondence, but in the end, they managed to go past them, even
making them the concrete occasions to develop virtues and other
qualities that have been missing in the beginning of their married
life.

            I usually ask the couples why they decided to celebrate
their anniversary with a renewal of their marriage vows in the Holy
Mass, and I also usually get a good, earnest and spontaneous answer.
“All this comes from God,” is their more or less standard reply.

            This is true, and is worth spreading around. It’s the good
news that should warm the hearts of couples already married or
planning to do so. Marriage is a matter of faith more than anything
else.

            When its authentic nature and intrinsic laws are respected
and followed, you can be sure that the grace of God will always be
there to give light, strength and support. What is wanting, wounded or
damaged in our human efforts to stay married is supplemented or
completed, healed and repaired.

            More than that, if lived according to God’s designs for
it, marriage can be a sure way to heaven, a great provider of
sanctity, aside from being an effective means to foster human maturity
and social progress and development.

            This is because marriage is a reflection and participation
of nothing less than Christ’s love for his all of us, the people and
children of God. It’s guaranteed not to fail. It is a powerful
generator of goodness in the world.

            We need to spread the gospel of marriage more vigorously,
to counter forces than tend to undermine and openly contradict its
true nature and laws, obviously with expected and matching
consequences.

            Let’s hope that those who have gone through married life
already for such a period as to celebrate their silver, ruby, golden
or diamond anniversaries should take active part in proclaiming,
promoting and defending marriage as it should be.

            The world is in great need of living witnesses who attest
to the true beauty of marriage.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Examples and models

CONTRARY to the thinking of many people, we are actually
meant to always give good example and be models of virtues to others,
taking advantage of whatever platforms and pedestals are available to
us. And with our new technologies, we have very powerful platforms and
pedestals to spread goodness around.

            Since we are not only individual persons but also social
beings, always having some relation with others, we cannot avoid
having this duty. It’s actually part of our DNA.

            We are not meant to be alone, indifferent and detached
from others, and especially from God. We are meant to live in
communion with others and pumping goodness always to the system, so to
speak.

            That’s why Christ expresses it to us very clearly. “You
are the light of the world…Your light must shine before others, that
they may see your good deeds. (Mt 5, 15-16)

            We therefore should not be afraid to be in the limelight.
In fact, we have to foster a holy desire to be there. Our
understanding of humility and that delicadeza of passing unnoticed
should not exclude this need for us to give good example and be models
of virtues for everyone to see and to hopefully be edified.

            As Christ himself says, “A city set on a mountain cannot
be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel
basket. It is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the
house.” (Mt 5,15)

            Obviously we have to do it properly and with the right
intention. And that’s because we also are not lacking of people
wanting to be in the limelight for the wrong reasons. They are there
to show off their vanity and frivolity, and to act out their pride,
greed, envy, etc. Instead of sowing good things, they are spreading
their unfortunate motives to others.

            Thus, Christ says, “Your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
(Mt 5,16) It should always be God who is the motive, pattern and end
for any effort of ours to give example and be models to others.
Nothing should replace God in this.

            Reiterating the same idea, Christ in another part of the
gospel tells us to be so identified with God through him in the Holy
Spirit that anyone who sees and hears us can see and hear God also.
This is a point on which to examine ourselves constantly.

            This is actually how things should be. We are nothing
without him. We should be ashamed to simply show ourselves off,
regardless of how gifted we are intellectually or physically. Sad to
say, we have a glut of these cases around.

            In this regard, we have to be most wary of a very subtle
danger than can sneak into us, no doubt a very insidious trick of the
devil who is always bent to mislead us. This is when in our holy
desire to be a good example and model to others, we fall into a spirit
of triumphalism, a holier-than-thou attitude, and a self-righteous
outlook.

            This happens when we become unduly intolerant and
impatient with others when we see their defects and mistakes, when we
are full of rash judgments and reckless comments and reactions, when
we develop such an abiding sense of superiority over others that we
would always look down on them, or compare them with us endlessly..

            A person who is truly with God understands more than gets
irritated when he sees the defects and mistakes of others. Like God,
he would be slow to anger and quick to forgive. He does not keep
grudges or resentment towards anyone. If he has to take note of the
mistakes, it is for the sake of prudence and of helping, and not
anything else.

            He is always aware that the defects and mistakes others
have and commit could also be his. He knows he, like anybody else, has
feet of clay, and therefore is always on guard and understanding
towards others.

            He would always remember that it is practically because of
the sins of men that God became men and went through the complicated
process of saving us. And so he reflects this attitude in his actions.

            This person would know how to be noticed by others without
grabbing attention and credit to himself. When people praise and thank
him, he automatically transmits these to God to whom they duly belong.
But he would continue to give good example and be models of virtues to
others.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Back to school

ANOTHER school year opens and I am now again back to
school. It’s just one among many other pastoral assignments given to
me this year. But I welcome this opportunity to be involved in a
school, since the exciting task of forming people is made easier by
the more or less controlled and structured conditions schools have.

            Still I know I have to keep myself strong inside and
outside to tackle all the burden that undeniably is also great, and
even daunting. Just the same, I also know that it also has its sweet
and gratifying moments. It’s not all sweat and blood, my friend.

            As chaplain, I say Mass everyday for everyone
there—students, teachers, staff, some parents and guests. I hear
confessions, conduct recollections, retreats and doctrine classes, and
sit for hours in the confessional for personal spiritual direction.

            These are very delicate tasks but also a very privileged
honor. Not everyone gets the chance to be of help and to make some
crucial impact on the most intimate aspects of the lives of young
people.

            Much of this work is done hidden and in silence, without
fanfare and worldly rewards. But what consoles is the thought that
that’s how things and persons grow. And if I do things well, I know
that together with God’s grace, I would be making a big difference in
the lives of people.

            It’s in these personal chats that I can clarify matters
and issues, give pieces of advice and words of encouragement, sow
reasons for hope and broaden minds and hearts by pointing to our
ultimate common goal while learning how to avoid getting entangled
along the way. My desire is to be able to motivate and inspire people.

            In a sense, I would be walking and journeying with them.
And given current world conditions, the effort is not without
difficulties. Complicated minds and attitudes have taken root in many
people. One really has to be very patient and creative with them,
knowing how to make timely detours, when to stop, when to go, etc.

            The effect of all this task is many times very
heartwarming, as people make welcome changes in their lives. Some
people think miracles do not happen anymore these days. My experience
is different. I see miracles taking place every day, though most of
them do not have external manifestations.

            Among the things I do in school is to give a class on
Christian morality to high school seniors. While I have been giving
classes and talks on this topic, there’s always the challenge of how
to present the same ideas and doctrine especially to young people
whose mental and emotional framework may be a bit, if not, a lot
different from what I’m used to.

            There’s always the need to adapt oneself to his audience.
He needs to be most perceptive of the subtle shifts of mentality that
takes place among people through the years and to attune himself to
those conditions.

            It cannot be denied that giving classes also involves some
skills in performance and theatrics to be able to catch and keep the
attention of the students. Especially when the students are young, the
teacher has to contend with the notorious fickle-mindedness of these
students. But he should not lose sight of the essential things to be
imparted.

            Due preparation is a must in giving classes. A teacher has
to bear in mind that his presence alone should project a certain
wholesomeness that would attract the young students, including the
laziest and the most distracted and inattentive ones.

            He should try his best that he is consistent himself with
what he is teaching. What frustrates students most is when they see
their teachers not living what they are  teaching.

            In this class on Christian morality, I immediately felt
the need to clarify what morality is not. That’s because nowadays,
many people, especially the young, come with very distorted ideas and
biases against the mere mention of morality.

            I had to say that morality is not just about human
sexuality, though a good part is dedicated to it since it is where
many of us have our weakness, if not, our Waterloo. Neither is
morality simply about rules, though rules there also are.

            The challenge is how to make a keen sense of morality an
integral, natural part of one’s thinking, speaking and acting. Sad to
say, with the thick cloud of confusion nowadays, many people have
practically lost this sense, and if they still have it, it is quite
damaged, needing repair.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Pentecost today

TO be sure, Pentecost which celebrates the coming of the
Holy Spirit is not an event in the past that at best is merely to be
remembered if we care. It continues to take place up to now.

            In the first place, every liturgical celebration is not
just a commemoration of something that happened in the past. It is the
making present of what took place in the past, since the subject of
the celebration is Jesus Christ who is God and man. As God he is
eternal. Nothing in him or in his action is simply swallowed in the
past.

            And that’s also because, to put it bluntly, the Holy
Spirit is the very life of the whole world, the whole creation. He can
never withdraw from the universe no matter how much we ignore him, or
worse, deny his presence and ever abiding action on all of us.

            Nothing exists, nothing can be real and true if the Holy
Spirit is not first of all in the very core of its being. No one can
do good, no one can believe in God if he is not animated in some way
by the Holy Spirit.

            What we should rather do is to sharpen our sensitivity to
the indispensable role of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the
world. Even more, we, as God’s image and likeness and adopted children
of his through his grace, should in fact try our best to cooperate
with him.

            Among all God’s creatures, we are the ones expected to
cooperate with the Holy Spirit as closely as possible. That’s due to
our spiritual nature which, through our intelligence and will, enables
us to enter into intimate communion with him.

            We are meant to share our life with the Holy Spirit. We
need to hammer this truth of our faith more insistently these days,
since the ignorance and indifference to the Holy Spirit is widespread
and prevalent.

            There’s, first of all, some awkwardness with the idea of
living with the Holy Spirit, for the obvious reason that we are
dealing with a supernatural reality that requires more than just our
natural powers.

            But if we really come down to it, there’s actually no
problem with dealing with supernatural realities, since God in the
Holy Spirit always adapts himself to our conditions and circumstances.

            This truth is best illustrated with the mystery of the
Incarnation, that is, God becomes man, or better said, God assumes
human nature without leaving or diluting his divine nature.

            The supernatural life of God with which we are meant to
share does not suppress our nature. Rather the supernatural purifies
and strengthens our nature that has been dirtied and weakened by sin,
then elevates it.

            For his part, God gives us in abundance everything that we
need to live the supernatural life with him. He gives us first of all
faith, hope and charity. They are called theological virtues, since
they have God as source and end. They are not man-made virtues.

            Then the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are poured on
us—wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and
fear of the Lord. These further refine and facilitate the workings of
the theological virtues.

            Being filled with the Holy Spirit produces twelve fruits
that precisely indicate the Holy Spirit is in us. These are charity,
joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, long-suffering, mildness,
faith, modesty, continence and chastity.

            On our part, we should predispose ourselves to receive all
these by being docile always to the working of the Holy Spirit. This
would include having recourse to the sacraments, developing a life of
prayer and continuing formation, and loving the cross, since following
Christ involves the cross always as he himself told us clearly.

            We should not be afraid to go through this formula. And a
beautiful and useful prayer can be the one composed by St. Josemaria
Escriva. It says:

            “Come, O holy Spirit! / Enlighten my mind to know your
commands; / strengthen my heart against the snares of the enemy; /
inflame my will... / I have heard your voice, / and I don’t want to
harden myself and resist, / saying, ‘Later..., tomorrow.’

            “Nunc coepi! Now I begin! / In case there is no tomorrow
for me. / O Spirit of truth and wisdom / Spirit of understanding and
counsel, / Spirit of joy and peace! / I want whatever you want, I want
because you want, I want however you want, I want whenever you want. /
Amen.”

            Then be amazed at how the Holy Spirit works in our life!

Friday, June 6, 2014

To a new priest

I DON’T know if it’s a sign of aging that every time I attend an
ordination of priests, I get very moved in a strange way. All sorts of
thoughts and feelings come to mind. I easily fall into waxing lyrical,
sentimental, hopeful, etc., in an alternating flow.

There’s also a trace of apprehension which I try to drown out with
positive thoughts. There’s always hope, no matter what. That’s what I
repeat in my mind, always recalling God’s promises to all of us. I
believe the good always triumphs in the end.

I suppose it’s the years in the priesthood that have made me more
perceptive and nuanced regarding possible scenarios that we, priests,
can find ourselves in. In a manner of speaking, my experience has
enabled me to read more between the lines, to be more discerning of
the drift, the implications, etc.

There’s the good and the not-so-good scenarios. My experience has
enriched my appreciation of these possibilities, and have made me more
aware of the many factors and elements that go into them. The happy
cases are many, but the saddening ones are also growing.

In the face of all this, my reaction and evolving conviction focus on
how I can be of help to my brother-priests. I feel that I cannot
remain in the level of intention and theory alone. I have to dive into
the pond and get dirty if need be.

And so, if I have the chance to talk to a new priest, most likely
these are what I would say.

I would strongly advise him to always remember the points articulated
in the manual for priests called, The Directory for the Ministry and
Life of Priests. This has been updated lately and now contains more
details more reflective of current world situation.

There the basic areas of concern are well explained, namely, what the
priestly identity is, the need both to develop a working priestly
spirituality and to avail of continuing formation.

Sad to say, these points appear to be known mainly in theory but
hardly put into practice. The gap and inconsistency is widening.
Nowadays, we can even hear voices of dissent to what have already been
clearly defined.

And if there’s one thing I feel is most crucial in a priest’s life,
it’s his life of prayer, his abiding effort to get in touch with God,
with Christ, with the Holy Spirit everyday.

This can take many forms and can be done in many ways. But what I
would consider very fundamental is the daily meditation of God’s word
as conveyed to us in the Bible.

I would like to give special mention to the praying of the breviary.
It’s a daily prayer for priests, containing beautiful psalms, readings
and excerpts from Tradition, church documents and writings of saints,
etc.

There the very thoughts, will, sentiments and desires of God are
expressed vividly. If all of us, being image and likeness of God have
to reflect these thoughts and sentiments of Christ, then we should
realize how important it is know and incarnate his words.

This is especially so for priests who are the sacramental
representations of Christ as head of the Church—we act “in persona
Christi capitis.”

The breviary is a beautiful source of inspiration. It feeds the faith,
strengthens the hope and sharpens the charity of priests. It trains
the heart to feel both for God and for all men, in the different
situations and predicaments we can be in.

It gives us the complete picture of our life and mission on earth. It
effectively blends all the aspects of human life, from the material to
the spiritual, from the temporal to the eternal, from the natural to
the supernatural. It broadens our minds, warms our hearts, and equips
and prepares us to face whatever in life.

It teaches us what to be concerned about, and how it has to be
pursued. It’s never an abstract piece of literature, detached from our
immediate daily realities.

Thus, we have to be most careful when we think that to be realistic,
or to get real, we can withdraw from God’s word and just rely on our
reason, our sciences and arts, our opinions and consensus, etc.

We need to give priority to God’s word as expressed in the breviary.
It’s where we can truly get in touch with God. Otherwise, we would
just feed on our own food, with more or less effective results, but
fail to be nourished by the real thing.

A priest should preach God’s word, not merely his own word.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

There’s more fun with God

I COULD not help but laugh out loud while listening to a
venerable 79-year-old Monsignor tell the story of how he discovered
his vocation. I had great fun, and it made me more convinced that fun
is actually part of God’s plan for us.

            He said that ever since he was a kid, he was already
exposed to parish life, since his parents were very active in the
church activities. He became an acolyte which was no mean feat at that
time since it required great discipline. One had to memorize Latin
prayers and do complicated moves.

            That early, he already toyed with the idea of becoming a
priest himself. But there was a big but. He found the priest of the
parish, an old Spanish priest, too serious, too ascetic for comfort.
He thought he could not measure up.

            “He was always in cassock,” he said of the priest. “He
wore it even in his bedroom such that I never had a chance even to see
his feet. I only saw his head and hands.”

            So the young boy thought priests must be a different kind
of people. “The priest was not like my father,” he said of his
impressions at that time. His desire to become a priest waned a bit.

            Then a Filipino priest replaced the Spanish one. Still the
Filipino priest was always wearing the cassock the whole time. The boy
found the new priest to be too serious and too rigid also.

            He was about to give up with his priestly desire when one
day he went with the priest and others to a certain place. It was very
hot that day, according to him, so hot that the priest took off his
cassock. That was the first time he saw how a priest looked like
without a cassock.

            Not only that, he saw the priest go to a bush to take a
leak, and that was when he finally realized that priests are also like
everybody else. That erased whatever doubts he had that he too could
become a priest.

            Looking at the Monsignor, I was convinced that he had gone
light years away from those childhood ideas of priesthood and yet
remaining childlike in his simplicity and outlook in life. I was
convinced God sometimes plays games and tricks with us to convey his
most sublime will for us.

            The whole story reminded me of what the Book of Proverbs
once said: “Playing in the world and my delights were to be with the
children of men.” (8,31)

            There definitely is fun to be with God. In fact, there’s
more fun with him than with anybody or anything else in the world.
Living with God, fully dedicating ourselves to him never lacks moments
of exquisite joy, fun and pleasure. Life with God is never dull or
boring. It is full of adventure and excitement and fun.

            Yes, living with God also has its big share of suffering
due to our sin. But if we consider the whole message of the Christian
gospel, we know that everything will always turn out for the good. So
there’s really no serious and permanent reason to be sad or troubled
or disturbed.

            We have to learn how to be game and sport in the drama of
our life here on earth. Problems, difficulties and contradictions just
offer us occasions to have excitement and suspense, knowing that no
matter how things end humanly speaking, we would always win if we
strive to be with God.

            St. Paul said it. “For those who love God, all things work
together unto good.” (Rom 8,28) As a consequence, we have reason to be
hopeful and optimistic. We can even afford to face the drama of life
with humor and elegance without neglecting the requirements of
continuous self-giving and sacrifice. It’s a matter of choice.

            St. Josemaria Escriva also narrated the funny story of a
juggler who wanted to become a cleric. Since he was poor both
money-wise and intellectually, he felt inferior to the other aspirants
who were endowed with great talents.

            Not knowing what to give our Lady on one of her feasts, he
thought that at the middle of the night he would get to the chapel in
secret and do his juggling before her image.

            He did it, but his superior caught him in the act. But
before calling his attention, the superior saw that the image of our
Lady was smiling and even moved to wipe the sweat from the juggler. He
let the juggler finish his act.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Blare and glare

WE need to be most careful about certain sounds and
lights, produced mainly by us and by some worldly dynamics, which are
detached from their true source and disoriented from their true goal,
both of whom is none other than God.

            We have so many of them today that we now appear to be
sinking under their sheer weight and thrown to confusion by their
endless flow of complicated and complex data, information, ideas,
images, etc.

            The play of forces they generate is truly mind-boggling.
Our reaction to this phenomenon can be varied. Some simply get
mindlessly sucked in by the spiral. Others take more active part and
play games with them, often without realizing the risks. They even go
to the extent of gambling with their destiny.

            We need to shield ourselves from this worldly blare and
glare, and find space and time for some silence and darkness if only
to rediscover the voice and the light of God, our Father and Creator.

            He is always around, and in fact is always intervening in
our lives. Being our Creator and Father, he actually governs us
non-stop, although most of the time we are unaware of his moves.

            That is a predicament we need to correct. We should try
our best to establish firmly and deeply in our consciousness and in
our culture in general the habit of praying, meditating and
contemplating, so we can nourish our sense of the true foundation,
meaning and direction of our life.

            Christ himself, perfect God and perfect man, found it
necessary to distance himself from the crowd from time to time if only
to enter into a deeper and more intimate communion with his Father.

            Being God himself, he is always with his Father. We could
say there was no need for him to pray. But being man also, he needed a
way to converse with his Father and to conform his will to the will of
his Father.

            Saints have done this and we too should do the same.  This
is not a call, of course, to flee from the world. We are in the world
and it is God who has placed us here and who wants us to do his will
in the middle of the world.

            We just have to be careful with the world, since not
everything in it is good. Contaminated by our sin, it has many
elements that can lead us away instead of toward God.

            That’s the reason why Christ in his priestly prayer to his
Father said, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated
them, because they are not of the world, as I also am not of the
world.” (Jn 17,14)

            And yet, in the next breath, Christ said, “I pray not that
you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them
from evil.” (17,15) These words can only mean that while not
everything is all right with the world, we should just stay there and
do what we are supposed to do with God’s grace and with our all-out
effort.

            We should not escape from doing business and politics nor
belittle them and the other human and temporal affairs we have in the
world. Rather we should see to it that all these necessary human
activities start and end with God. They should not be pursued simply
at the instance of our own designs and ambitions without making a
clear reference to God’s will and laws.

            And so we have to be wary when certain elements in the
world tend to conjure some siren calls and false lights meant to
titillate us, or to intoxicate us if only to deceive and mislead us.
The art of doing this has developed immensely, sad to say.

            We should try to avoid being na├»ve in the face of this
unwelcome development. And the first thing we have to do is to
strengthen our relation with God, by spending time praying and
offering sacrifices, studying his teachings and doctrine, undertaking
a lifelong program of growing in the virtues, etc.

            We have to realize that these practices are as basic and
necessary to us as breathing and eating and drinking. We cannot
survive spiritually nor aspire to reach our true ultimate goal if we
consider them as merely optional.

            In this way, we can tend to be more discerning and
discriminating in assessing the multi-level developments we have
around us, and play more actively in the process of reconciling us and
the whole world with God, our Creator and Father.

            WITH the recent celebration of the Solemnity of the
Ascension of the Lord, we have to strongly remind ourselves that our
thoughts and desires should somehow start and end with heaven.

            This much, at least St. Paul tells us in very clear terms:
“Set your hearts on heavenly things, not the things that are on
earth.” (Col 3)

            It’s not that we ignore or disdain the earthly things. The
most obvious and undeniable reality is that we are here on earth, and
we just cannot and should not be indifferent to its affairs.

            What we are rather reminded of is that we learn how to
relate everything to heaven, and not get entangled with our merely
earthly and temporal affairs. Everything is meant to start and end
with God who is the Creator of everything and the very foundation of
reality.

            Our problem that we often do not realize is that we live
our life as if everything is just a matter of our concerns here.
There’s hardly any reference to heaven. We need to wake up from this
lethargy, make the necessary changes in our attitude and actuations,
and get to conforming our whole life to this truth of our faith.

            We have been told that our worldly and temporal affairs
only have a relative value. They are only means and occasions for us
to work out our duty of reaching our ultimate end which is heaven, or
our eternal life with God, our Creator and Father.

            What has absolute value is to be with God, with whom we
can start to be with while here on earth and going about our temporal
concerns. As the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, “We have not here a
lasting city. But we seek one that is to come.” (13,14)

            We need to disabuse ourselves from the thinking, often
unarticulated but is quite ingrained in us and in our culture, that we
can build a permanent city here on earth. We rather have to be clear
about this basic truth—the ‘terra firma’ is not in this world; it is
in heaven.

            But how can we relate everything to heaven? First of all,
by exercising our faith that tells us that being our Creator, God is
always with us and is actively governing everything through his
providence.

            With the revelation of his mind and will already fully
done in Christ and perpetuated till the end of time through his
Church, we already know what it takes to relate things to him and to
heaven.

            We are asked to pray, to be generous with sacrifices, to
study and thoroughly know the doctrine of our faith, and to realize
that our earthly concerns always have some connection with God and
with heaven that we need to discover and to apply ourselves to.

            We have to learn to undertake a continuing struggle, both
interiorly and exteriorly, both spiritually and materially, so that
while being immersed in the things of this world, we don’t lose sight
of our real goal which is heaven, a state that transcends our material
and temporal dimensions.

            It’s truly a big challenge for us to learn how to be both
in the world and yet to have our mind and heart in heaven. St.
Augustine gives us an idea of how to go about this task. It’s a matter
of growing in our desire for it.

            “Such is our Christian life,” he said. “By desiring heaven
we exercise the powers of our soul. Now this exercise will be
effective only to the extent that we free ourselves from desires
leading to infatuation with this world.”

            How important, therefore, it is to always rectify our
intentions! That is, we should see to it that whatever we may doing,
even if in the end, what we do could be considered wrong or deficient
in some sense, should be done out of faith and love for God and for
others.

            This is to live out what St. Paul once said: “Whether you
eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God.”
(1 Cor 10,31) It’s in this way that we can somehow live with the great
mystery of heaven. This is how we can set our hearts on heaven.

            Let’s remember that heaven is so mysterious that “eye has
not seen nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what
things God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor 2,9)

            We have to learn to live with the mystery of heaven now.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Setting our hearts on heaven

WITH the recent celebration of the Solemnity of the
Ascension of the Lord, we have to strongly remind ourselves that our
thoughts and desires should somehow start and end with heaven.

            This much, at least St. Paul tells us in very clear terms:
“Set your hearts on heavenly things, not the things that are on
earth.” (Col 3)

            It’s not that we ignore or disdain the earthly things. The
most obvious and undeniable reality is that we are here on earth, and
we just cannot and should not be indifferent to its affairs.

            What we are rather reminded of is that we learn how to
relate everything to heaven, and not get entangled with our merely
earthly and temporal affairs. Everything is meant to start and end
with God who is the Creator of everything and the very foundation of
reality.

            Our problem that we often do not realize is that we live
our life as if everything is just a matter of our concerns here.
There’s hardly any reference to heaven. We need to wake up from this
lethargy, make the necessary changes in our attitude and actuations,
and get to conforming our whole life to this truth of our faith.

            We have been told that our worldly and temporal affairs
only have a relative value. They are only means and occasions for us
to work out our duty of reaching our ultimate end which is heaven, or
our eternal life with God, our Creator and Father.

            What has absolute value is to be with God, with whom we
can start to be with while here on earth and going about our temporal
concerns. As the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, “We have not here a
lasting city. But we seek one that is to come.” (13,14)

            We need to disabuse ourselves from the thinking, often
unarticulated but is quite ingrained in us and in our culture, that we
can build a permanent city here on earth. We rather have to be clear
about this basic truth—the ‘terra firma’ is not in this world; it is
in heaven.

            But how can we relate everything to heaven? First of all,
by exercising our faith that tells us that being our Creator, God is
always with us and is actively governing everything through his
providence.

            With the revelation of his mind and will already fully
done in Christ and perpetuated till the end of time through his
Church, we already know what it takes to relate things to him and to
heaven.

            We are asked to pray, to be generous with sacrifices, to
study and thoroughly know the doctrine of our faith, and to realize
that our earthly concerns always have some connection with God and
with heaven that we need to discover and to apply ourselves to.

            We have to learn to undertake a continuing struggle, both
interiorly and exteriorly, both spiritually and materially, so that
while being immersed in the things of this world, we don’t lose sight
of our real goal which is heaven, a state that transcends our material
and temporal dimensions.

            It’s truly a big challenge for us to learn how to be both
in the world and yet to have our mind and heart in heaven. St.
Augustine gives us an idea of how to go about this task. It’s a matter
of growing in our desire for it.

            “Such is our Christian life,” he said. “By desiring heaven
we exercise the powers of our soul. Now this exercise will be
effective only to the extent that we free ourselves from desires
leading to infatuation with this world.”

            How important, therefore, it is to always rectify our
intentions! That is, we should see to it that whatever we may doing,
even if in the end, what we do could be considered wrong or deficient
in some sense, should be done out of faith and love for God and for
others.

            This is to live out what St. Paul once said: “Whether you
eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God.”
(1 Cor 10,31) It’s in this way that we can somehow live with the great
mystery of heaven. This is how we can set our hearts on heaven.

            Let’s remember that heaven is so mysterious that “eye has
not seen nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what
things God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor 2,9)

            We have to learn to live with the mystery of heaven now.