Monday, September 29, 2014

Angels and men

WE have just celebrated the feast of the archangels
Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (September 29). That of the Holy Guardian
Angels is on October 2. It’s good that we pause and focus our
attention to a very important part of our spiritual reality that we
often take granted.

            Angels exist. They are real. We need to say this now since
angels, if they are ever referred to nowadays, are often considered as
mere figments of our imagination that at best can be used as literary
and sentimental devices.

            Obviously, faith is needed to believe in angels. They are
creatures whose presence goes beyond what our senses can perceive.
They can however assume sensible forms as mentioned several times in
the Bible. But essentially, they are pure spirits.

            In this regard, it might be good to cite that episode when
Christ met Nathanael for the first time. (Jn 1,47-51) It’s a concrete
example of Christ mentioning angels, thereby confirming the existence
of angels not only by the highest authority we can have, but the very
source of authority himself.

            When the faith of Nathanael was stirred when Christ told
him something mysterious, Christ told him: “Do you believe because I
told you that I saw you under the fig tree? Amen, I say to you, you
will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending
on the Son of Man.”

            Besides, testimonies of saints and many other men and
women through the ages are abundant regarding their encounters with
angels, as well as demons. Angels exist. They are real. It’s good to
be aware of this reality and conform ourselves to it accordingly.

            As spirit, angels are pure intelligence and will. That’s
what we have in common in them. That’s why we are also spiritual in
nature, except that ours is fused together with our materiality.

            As pure spirits, angels are not subject to space and time
as we are. Their knowing, willing and loving, which are the spiritual
operations, are done in an instantaneous and intuitive way. And the
God that they know, will and love is held in a definitive way.

            In our case, our knowing, willing and loving go through
stages. There is some kind of processing, of sensing and apprehending,
then judging, then reasoning and concluding.

            Though angels are angels and men are men, two different
creatures that should not be compared unfairly, there is also good
reason that we should try to be angelic, in the sense that, like
angels, what we know, will and love should be done and held in an
intuitive, definitive and conclusive way as much as possible.

            Thus, some saints are described as angelic because their
thinking and loving approximate the way angels know and love. They
only had God in their mind, heart and intentions, and in their senses,
words and deeds. Everything else was always referred to God.

            Obviously, the difference we have with the angels has to
be maintained, in the sense that our knowing and loving which have God
as the primary object, the beginning and end, should be incarnated,
materialized and translated into deeds, and not just kept in the
spiritual level, in the world of ideas and intentions.

            In other words, we have to strengthen what we have in
common with the angels, but doing them in accordance to our nature
which is a blend between the spiritual and the material.

            In this regard, we have to sharpen our intellectual,
willing and loving powers, seeing to it that they are firmly grounded
on God and clearly oriented toward him. We have to be wary of our
tendency to be entangled with the material dimension of our life to
the point of making the material, temporal and worldly as the leading
principle of our life.

            But we also have to make sure that just as we have to
strengthen what we have in common with the angels, we also have to
strengthen what makes us different from them. We have to consider our
materiality and temporality as important as our spirituality.

            We as man are a union of body and soul, constituted both
materially and spiritually. While we make a distinction between the
two, in our life they are meant to be together. While there is a
temporary separation of the two at our death, there will be a
reunification at the end of time with the resurrection of the body.

            We have to foster a great devotion to the holy angels,
making that devotion a source of many practical resolutions, freed

from sheer sentimentalism.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Who is Christ to you?

IT is important that we know who Christ is to each one of us. That
question Christ tossed to the apostles, “Who do the crowds say that I
am?” should also be addressed to each one of us.

And it’s crucial that we, with God’s grace, with the faith that has
been given to us in abundance, echo the right answer articulated by
Peter. Otherwise we would just be left with our own estimations, like
how the crowds took Jesus to be.

“Some John the Baptist, others Elias, still others Jeremiah, or one of
the prophets,” the apostles said in reply. But when asked who they,
the apostles themselves, considered Christ to be, it was Peter who

“The Christ of God,” he said. “You are the Christ, the Son of the
living God,” he reiterated. To which, Jesus answered, stressing the
need for faith for us to enable to recognize Christ as he truly is,
“Blessed are you, because flesh and blood has not revealed it to you,
but my Father who is in heaven.”

It is important therefore that we always exercise our faith, that we
make our faith operative and functional all the time, because it is a
fundamental gift of God to us. It is what would reveal to us who
Christ really is.

Faith tells us much more than what our senses and our native
intelligence can perceive and understand. It tells us the eternal
truths, not just passing facts and data or information that are useful
only in the temporal sense.

By exercising our faith, we are not inventing things, though it
involves realities—what are called supernatural mysteries—that are
beyond our capacity to sense and understand. We need to sharpen our
innate tendency to trust and believe to cope with this necessity in
our life called faith.

It is this faith that tells us that Christ is the Son of God who
became man, who was born of the Blessed Virgin, who preached and
performed miracles, and who ultimately offered his life on the cross
for our sins, and then resurrected and ascended into heaven, and who
with the Father has sent us the Holy Spirit.

It is this Holy Spirit that would make Christ present in us and in the
world all the way till the end of time. He is the one that would
remind us of everything that Christ did and said for our salvation,
and guide us along the path of time to bring us back to God, from whom
we come.

We are not just creatures of nature, because nature itself has a
Creator. It is not a spontaneous, self-creation. Neither are we just
children of our parents, citizens of a given country, subjects of so
many conditionings, cultural, historical, social, etc.

We are children of God, made in his image and likeness, and whose life
cannot be and should not be separated from God. We had our first
creation in our first parents, the whole Triune God—Father, Son and
Holy Spirit—involved in our creation, the Father willing it, the Son
being the pattern, and the Holy Spirit effecting it.

With the deformity caused by our sin, God re-created us in his Son who
became man. It is this Son, Jesus Christ, who showed and gave us the
way to re-create ourselves through his death and resurrection. No sin,
no evil is impossible for Christ’s redemptive work to forgive, unless
we want it unforgiven.

All this redemptive work of Christ is now made actual for each of us
through the Holy Spirit. With the Holy Spirit, Christ is alive up to
now, and continues his work of redemption with us. Christ and his
redemptive work are not merely historical. They are always present and

To help us to be with Christ, we are given the Church, his living word
contained in Sacred Tradition and the Bible and interpreted and taught
authoritatively by the Church magisterium. We have the sacraments and
the whole gamut of charisms and Christian witness by a variety of

We need to understand that Christ is very close to us. He is in us and
all around us, since he is the very foundation of our existence and of
the whole reality, no matter how much we deform it.
We have to overcome the natural awkwardness in dealing with this
spiritual and supernatural reality presented to us by our faith. The
means are always there. We have to pray and engage Christ in an
ongoing conversation. Christ should always be in our mind, heart,

senses, etc.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Vanity attacks

LIKE heart attacks or strokes that can put our life in
mortal danger, we have to be wary also of what we may call as vanity
attacks that can put our spiritual and moral life, much more important
than our physical or biological life,  in grave danger.

            Vanity is actually a very ridiculous anomaly that can
happen to us. Basically what it involves is the funny disorder of the
creature mocking or at least outshining its creator, the servant
giving orders to the master, an entity of a lower category dominating
the superior one, or a part presenting itself as the whole.

            It is a phenomenon that is a product of fantasy or of a
wild imagination that is detached from reality. It is pure
subjectivism that is divorced from objectivity. It dwells and thrives
in dreamland, in the mind and heart separated from the outside world.

            It cannot pass the test of time. Artificial, unnatural and
fake, it is highly perishable and always in need of supporting props
and rationalizations. Those indulging in it cannot find true peace and

            What causes it could be many. It could be ignorance,
pride, lack of faith, worldly lifestyle, Godless environment, etc. It
could be cowardice or fear to face reality and the truth. These are
where our attention should be more focused on, dismantling them as
much as we could, so that we can eventually burst the bubble of

            Sad to say, vanity is not only getting rampant nowadays.
It now appears as the norm of behavior, the standard of social life.
No one seems to be bothered or threatened by it anymore. In fact, many
seem to enjoy it and to promote and praise it to high heavens.

            Vanity can come to us in various forms and ways. It can
corrupt our proper understanding and attitude toward our looks or
physical beauty, our intelligence and talents, our wealth and
propitious positions in society, our earthly powers and fame.

            We would be more concerned about our appearance than the
purity of our thoughts and intentions. We use our power, wealth and
other privileges we have simply for our own good rather than for the
common good.

            Instead of acknowledging these things as gifts and
blessings from God meant to give glory to God and to be used according
to God’s will which is for the common good, we rob them from God and
consider them to be solely our own, using them simply according to our
own will that is full of whims and caprices.

            In other words, we take them out of their proper positions
and roles in the over-all plan of God for us. They are like branches
cut off from the vine. Thus, for all their glitz and glam, they are
doomed to inutility. Sooner or later, they would just dry up and die.

            They would just trap us in meaningless cycles of life, as
expressed in the Book of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities…All things
are vanity! What profit has man from all the labor which he toils at
under the sun?”

            They do not have enough resistance to face life’s
challenges and trials, its ups and downs. Sooner or later, reality
will bite them, tearing off the masks, exposing the pretensions and
hypocrisies, exploding the false images, the hype and the gloss.

            We have to do constant battle against the danger of
vanity. This can only mean that first of all we engage everything in
our life with God who is the source of truth, unity, beauty and all
good things.

            That’s why we need to pray not only a lot, but always,
converting everything we do into prayer by offering them to God and
doing them as best as we could as an expression of our faith and love
for him.

            We have to immerse ourselves in the doctrine of our faith,
because that is where the truth about God, about us the world is
presented in its most complete and ultimate aspects. We have to have
recourse to the sacraments, because that’s where God’s grace normally
is conveyed to us.

            Obviously, we have to develop virtues, especially those of
humility and simplicity, sincerity and docility, since virtues work to
resemble us with God in whose image and likeness we are made.

            We have to continually rectify our intentions, the main
driver of our spiritual operations, so they would enable us to enter
into the very mind and heart of God, and thus share what God has,
including unity of life in spite of the many aspects, dimensions and

levels our life has.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The apostolic panorama

“JESUS summoned the Twelve and gave them power and
authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them to
proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Lk 9,1)

            I wonder if we realize that with these words, we who
profess to believe in God and in the truth that we are his image and
likeness, children of his, meant to participate in his life and work,
are also called like the twelve apostles. That is, that we are also
apostles entrusted with an important mission.

            It may still be some breaking news to many, a big surprise
yet to a great number of us, that our life and identity as followers
of Christ unavoidably commit us to do apostolate to continue the
redemptive work of Christ till the end of time.

            Christ, being God who is also man, certainly does not need
us to continue his work of redemption. He is all-powerful. Nothing is
impossible with him. But he involves us in his continuing work of
redemption because that is what is good and proper to us.

            We need to plug this gap in our understanding of our
Christian identity. Our relation with the others, our love and concern
for them, our responsibility toward them just cannot be restricted to
the level of our physical, emotional, social and other human needs.

            Our relation with the others has to cover all our needs.
This is what true love is all about, love being the very core and
purpose of our life. And the whole scope and range of love begins and
ends with God. All our needs in the different aspects of our life
would not be fully satisfied unless God is placed at the center of
them all.

            In other words, it’s God who is our constant, real and
ultimate need. If we don’t feel that need for God for whatever reason,
then we have the basis precisely for the duty to do apostolate, to
bring Christ to souls and vice-versa, and to proclaim Kingdom of God.

            We have to learn to talk about God with everyone and in
every situation. Obviously, we have to do this properly, that is, in
ways that are respectful of our human nature and condition, weakened
as it is by sin.

            Let’s never forget that the best way to drive people away
from God and from religion in general is when we bring the topic of
God and the spiritual, moral and supernatural realities in an
inappropriate way.

            We have to learn to adapt and attune ourselves to the
concrete conditions of persons, taken individually and collectively.
In this, God himself has shown us the way. He made a long preparation
before the coming of his son.

            And when the time came, what is known as the fullness of
time, the son became man and went through the whole process of
adapting himself to the human condition, and this pursued all the way
to the cross.

            We have to learn to be very patient and creative in
carrying out this duty to do apostolate. We have to be ready to be
misunderstood and humiliated, and yet we ought to persevere, preaching
in season and out of season, like what St. Paul once said.

            The objective truth is that the panorama of the apostolic
challenge is immense and tremendous these days. With all the
developments that in themselves are good and most welcome, we have to
contend with the reality that these same developments also tend to
weaken the sense of religion among many people, especially the young.

            There is a lot of religious indifference and doctrinal
ignorance and confusion. Even the popular piety that we sometimes see
around is contaminated with a lot of superstition.

            The duty to do apostolate has to be taken out from the
back burner. We need to give it more teeth, more fuel. We have to
fulfill it with more seriousness and competence, grounding it properly
on one’s intimate relation with God and driving it with true love that
is not afraid of the cost of sacrifice.

            Yes, there is need to do a lot of apostolate of doctrine
and of confession, since the ignorance and confusion often go with all
sorts of sins that would deaden our need for God.

            To do this, we have to understand that apostolate always
has to be based on true friendship, marked with understanding,
compassion and mercy, as well as the persistence to bring God to
people’s lives.

            Concretely, we have to have daily apostolic plans,

renewing and adjusting them as circumstances dictate.