Friday, October 24, 2014

Fidelity and God’s surprises

WE need to be ready to hear some hard words from Christ.
Yes, they can jolt us. But they are meant to wake us up, we who always
have the tendency to get complacent, self-satisfied if not

            We need to remind ourselves that no matter how harsh these
words may sound, they are always meant for our own good. We have to be
quick to relate them always to the other teachings that talk about joy
and peace, our ultimate end, and thus get the whole picture.

            One example: “Do you think that I have come to establish
peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Lk 12,51)
Or, “Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth. I came not to
send peace, but the sword.” (Mt 10,34)

            Frightening as they may sound, we have to relate them to
his other words, like “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be
called children of God.” (Mt 5,9) Or, “Holy Father, keep them in your
name whom you have given me, that they may be one as we also are one.”
(Jn 17,11)

            These latter teachings give the proper context in which
the former words have to be viewed. They tell us that both peace and
unity are a result of some effort. They just don’t come to us
automatically. They have to be fought for and kept under close
vigilance. They somehow imply that we need to make continuing
conversion and renewal.

            More importantly, we need to realize very deeply that
peace and unity can only come from God. They are a grace, a gift from
God. They just cannot be a product of our own making alone. And so we
have to continually relate ourselves with God through our prayers,
sacrifices, recourse to the sacraments, ascetical struggles, study of
doctrine, etc.

            Christ is always reminding us to be faithful and to
continue fulfilling his will as it unfolds itself in an unending
process of deepening. But it’s a deepening that follows the
consistency of God’s love, mercy and wisdom.

            The surprises he seems to make do not nullify but would
rather purify and enrich the previous stages of our knowledge
regarding his will and his ways. They strike us as surprises because
of our limited condition. We should not therefore be overly concerned
about them. We should just accept them with humility, tranquility and

            That is when we can get along with the mysterious ways of
God’s providence. We can remain awed as we discover more new things
even as retain the old ones.  The things of God are always new and at
the same time also old.

            We have to be wary of getting trapped at a certain point
of the way because of our human estimations of things that tempt us
always to feel so contented that we would not anymore like to move on
or to discover new things. Let’s be most careful with the tendency to
convert God’s graces and charisms into mere human categories.

            These human categories can be provided by our own
sciences, philosophies, ideologies, politics, history, culture, social
trends, etc. They are always useful, but only as means. We should not
confuse them with our faith. Our faith transcends them while using

            We have to put our passions and convictions more on our
faith than on these human estimations. We have to be wary of the
tendency of these human estimations to dominate us as to so enclose us
in a certain system as to blind us to the impulses of faith through
the Spirit.

            So we have to be very careful with our categorization of
people into conservative or liberal, for example, or into
traditionalist or progressive, rightist or leftist, pro-this or
pro-that, anti-this or anti-that. Our human prudence has to spring
from a living contact with God, not just from some grounding on
ideologies, philosophies, etc.

            Since to distinguish between what is of true faith through
the Spirit and what is simply our human estimations can be very tricky
and confusing, we always have some need to be jolted and to be
surprised. Ironic as it may sound, we should not be surprised with
surprises. We need to expect them somehow.

            In other words, our faith and sense of confidence in our
hold of absolute truths should be dynamic, not static, living and
growing, not inert. Being game with life and never leaving behind
humor, without abandoning due sobriety either, are to my mind what are
appropriate in playing the drama and game of life.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Much given, much expected

WE are all familiar with that gospel lesson that those who
have been blessed and gifted much, much is also expected and demanded.
“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still
more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” (Lk 12,48)

            This sounds commonsensical enough. We don’t have to argue
about it. The problem is how to apply this rule to specific situations
and how to ‘quantify’ the ‘much’ involved in what is given and what is

            Considering the way the world is now, plunged as it is in
confusion, ignorance, error, if not in sin, perversions and other
anomalies—all this in spite of the many advances in many fields of our
life—getting to know the answers to these questions is like looking
for a needle in a haystack.

            Take the case of the controversy arising from the recently
concluded synod on the family. There is definitely a need to reach out
to people in some difficult situations, like those who are divorced
and remarried and still would want to be faithful Catholics, or those
with homosexual tendencies who want to be true to their Christian

            This is not to mention that we need to reach out to them
even if they do not want to be faithful. They are usually referred to
as ‘the weak and the lost’ or the ‘unchurched,’ the ‘uncatechized,’
etc. If we have to follow Christ closely, we have to have that

            But, in the first place, there are some of those affected
who do not even acknowledge there’s something wrong with them. As if
there is anyone in this planet, whether in regular marital status or
not, whether straight or not, who is completely free of anything
wrong. Who to deal with these people, and how, is a question needing
clear answers.

            The same question, of course, can be poised with respect
to those who acknowledge their predicament. It’s not an easy question
to answer, since not just anyone can do it for sheer lack of pertinent
skills, aptitude if not of spirituality. People with the appropriate
gifts should do it, people who are strong enough to carry the weak.

            In general terms, we perhaps can say that the clergy
should lead the way in dealing with this challenge. After all, they
(we, me included) with their sacramental priesthood have certainly
been given much in terms of grace and training, and they are in touch
with just about everyone, at least in theory.

            But can we really say that they are generally trained for
this? We just have to take a quick look around and see clearly that,
first of all, they are not enough to handle this situation. Then, they
are burdened with all sorts of duties, responsibilities and tasks.

            Then, they simply cannot go far beyond giving generic
reminders and suggestions. As far as I know, many of them are not
trained to handle counselling and spiritual direction. There’s even a
big problem about encouraging them to sit in confessionals to hear

            And with these faithful who have to be reached out, what
is needed is special, personalized attention. They just cannot be
given the normal things, for the simple reason that they are not yet
in the proper condition. They need a lot of talking, clarification,
encouragement, counselling, spiritual direction, etc.

            Our Church leaders should come up with appropriate
structures and programs to tackle this challenge—but structures that
are properly animated with the true spirit of God, and not just purely
human structures and programs that just can be turned on and off at
one’s convenience.

            We can already make use of the many groups which, animated
with a certain charism, are doing some pastoral work. These are the
charismatic groups, the Basic Ecclesial Communities, and other
organizations apostolic in character. Schools, too, can be tapped.

            The laity, more than the clergy, to my mind would be most
appropriate to carry out this task. They are spread out all over and
can easily get in touch and journey with these people in special
conditions. They therefore have to be properly motivated and trained.
Their competence to do this task should be clear.

            It’s quite obvious that for this concern to be effective,
the dealings have to be based on real friendship and confidence. They
just cannot be done in a professional or clinical level.

            It might be good to revisit the points articulated in the
‘Familiaris consortio’ of St. John Paul II to give us a clear idea of
how to deal with special cases.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Vigilance, paranoia, charity

IT goes without saying that we need to be vigilant all the
time. Many reasons come to mind. We are in our life like having a
trip, and we should try to avoid getting diverted from our path. Also,
we are in our life somehow in a state of expectation, and we should be
ready for the fulfilment of that expectation.

            Besides, in our life there will always be dangers and
mishaps that would require us to be watchful. These dangers,
difficulties, challenges and all the possible consequences they can
bring require us to be very discerning, prudent and at the same time
prompt in taking the appropriate action. We should avoid getting
complacent in this duty.

            Given our human condition, we cannot help but get tense,
be held in suspense, and somehow be haunted by fear, doubts,
uncertainties. To some extent, this is all normal. We just have to
make sure that this understandable fretting does not go overboard,
leading us to a state of paranoia when we become suspicious of
everything and of everyone.

            The duty to be watchful and vigilant is no excuse for us
to get paranoid. That duty is and should be compatible with joy and
peace that should characterize our life all the time. The secret is to
anchor this duty on the most stable foundation, and that can only be

            When this duty to be vigilant is inspired only by some
human criteria alone, like our biases and preferences, our cultural,
sociological and ideological leanings, etc., then we have reason to
fear that it will degenerate into paranoia.

            In that situation, we would be prone to get distrustful,
to make many rash judgments, and other wild, disproportionate
reactions. We would even generate a lot of unnecessary heat in the
environment around us. We can get into a freefall of all offenses
against charity.

            We need to bank on God always, on his ever wise,
omnipotent and merciful providence. That way, we would be guided by
firm but flexible, clear but highly nuanced criteria. We most likely
would get a proper, or at least fair understanding of people, things
and events, and would behave accordingly.

            For this to be effective, we need to pray, study the word
of God, the doctrine of our faith, the history of the Church that can
give us a good idea of how God intervenes in the twists and turns of
the way we use our freedom individually and collectively.

            The insights and lessons we can get from these exercises
would calm us down, would reassure us that everything would just be
all right even if we have to experience momentary pains and defeats.
They can readily motivate us to move on, to get along. They help us
avoid getting too scandalized by things as to get stuck with the

            Again, for us to be both vigilant and calm, we need to
develop the relevant virtues like prudence, discretion, temperance,
tact, patience, optimism, and I would say, also humor. Yes, humor!

            While we have to be serious in life, we should neither
fall into getting too serious. Humor, as they say, is the best
medicine for worries. It puts us in a better condition to face
problems as they are. It serves to control and dress up the primitive
impulses of our instincts, emotions and passions. It gives us space
and distance so we can view things in a better perspective. It’s a
good foil to our tendency to rub it in.

            In that controversy emanating from the recently concluded
Synod of Bishops on the family, this kind of vigilance is most
relevant. In the midst of the debate, let’s hold our horses. No need
to be talking about Antichrist or that so and so is a bad person. or
that his views are rotten.

            In a sense, we can and should expect sharp discussion and
disagreements in any church gathering. Past church councils were
neither freed from such conflicts. But there’s always a way to resolve
all this.

            Just let everyone say his piece. That way, sooner or
later, we can sort out which is right and which is wrong, which is
part of our faith and morals and which is already heretical.

            The issues certainly have to be resolved, but everything
ought to be done in charity, with due respect accorded to every person
involved and to everyone’s views. Even in the worst of scenarios, we
should never abandon charity.

            Let’s pray hard, and ask the Lord for the grace to
overcome our tendency to be scandalized and to live charity to the

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The God of surprises, etcetera

POPE Francis recently introduced to our Church vocabulary the
expression, God of surprises. That’s his way of warning all of us to
avoid the pitfall of the Pharisees and scribes of old who were so
trapped in their own religious traditions that they failed to
recognize the Messiah when finally he came and stood right before

We have to heed this warning seriously because what happened to the
Pharisees and scribes can also happen to us who, perhaps with good
intentions, can enclose ourselves in a system that would already be
insensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

The power of God and the ways of the Holy Spirit can never be
contained in purely human categories, no matter how thoroughly and
brilliantly studied these categories are made. God always exceeds our
human powers.

We need to be familiar with the phenomenon of cloying that can
desensitize us when something that is originally good becomes too
excessive that we become narrow-minded, one-track-minded, complacent,
obsessed, addicted and intolerant toward those who may not have
similar attitudes and ways as we do.

This tendency toward getting cloyed can usually afflict the so-called
“good people” who in their desire to be good, holy, pious and correct
can become judgmental and rigid in their ways.

Their ‘goodness’ can lead them to become conceited, and therefore
blinded by their own lights. Humility, self-abasement, self-emptying
that was personified in Christ is always a necessity for all of us.
It’s what enables us to see things objectively, and to discern more
clearly and follow more promptly the will of God from moment to

One may enjoy a particular charism and follow a certain spirituality,
but he should always be open to others with different charisms and
spiritualities. Let’s always be wary of the danger of
self-righteousness that can be so intoxicating we can think we are
heading toward heaven when it’s hell that we reach instead.

In fact, we are all asked to be kind, compassionate, understanding and
merciful to everyone to the point that we fulfill what Christ himself
told us about loving our enemies. God is the God of everyone and of
everything. He is the God of what we consider as conservatives and
liberals, the saintly and the sinful, etc.

To be sure, this God of surprises does not mean that now everything
will just be fine and ok. The God of surprises is not a God of
anything-goes, a God of free-for-all. He is also a God of fidelity, of
tradition, of commandments and doctrine, of continuity. His surprises
never negate but rather purify and enrich our fidelity, our

He is also a God of continuing mystery, of innovation, of deepening,
of new challenges. He is a God who will demand of us continuing
conversion, renewal and spiritual growth that would require constant
struggle, adjusting, adapting. In short, he is a God of a continuing
etcetera, a God who is both very strict and very lenient.

We have to understand that what we know about God and his ways, which
already is a lot, is nothing compared to what we don’t know yet about
him. The certainty we have in our knowledge about God is never a
static, frozen one. It’s a living, dynamic one that continues to
demand more things from us.

It’s true that God in Christ has already given us the fullness of his
revelation. In a sense, there’s nothing new to be discovered. But it’s
a revelation that continues to remain a mystery, requiring a
continuing deepening and conversion on our part.

We can and should never feel contented with the level of knowledge
about God and piety in spiritual life we may be enjoying at the
moment. That would spell complacency for us, a kind of slow death and
sweet poison to our spiritual life.

To this tendency we have to react strongly by always praying more,
offering more sacrifices, waging interior struggle and conquering new
frontiers in our spiritual life, being more faithful to our
commitments and more discerning of the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

We should never say we are already giving enough to God and to others.
In our spiritual life, there’s never anything enough that we can do.
God would continue to ask for more. We have to constantly ask, Lord,
what more do you want me to know, to do and to be?

We have to learn to play the game God is playing with us. It’s not so
much a matter of scoring points as of following Christ closely
wherever the Holy Spirit leads us.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Rising from the ruins

IN my latest trip to my province of Bohol, a few days
after the first anniversary of the deadly earthquake, I happen to pass
by the ground zero of the destroyed church of the town of Loon. I was
not really intending to visit it, but when I saw people literally
crawling like ants over the rubble doing some cleaning up work, I
decided to stop and see.

            I thought they were the usual paid workers, and I of
course was happy that something was being done about the destruction.
To my pleasant surprise, these were not the usual workers, but simple
people from some barangay of the town who were doing volunteer work,
as in, working without pay, completely gratis.

            I was amazed to see even many old men and women, with grey
hair, bent and legs already bowed with age, and also young boys who
must have been about 10 to 13 years of age, carrying bags or sacks of
the debris.

            I learned from them that the different barangays of the
town take turns in doing that volunteer work. The ones I met came from
a mountain barangay, for example. I obviously was very moved to learn
about this and went to their makeshift chapel where the image of their
patroness, Our Lady of Light (Birhen sa Kasilak), stood on a humble

            There I prayed to give thanks. I knew some tears
threatened to shed but I had to keep a happy face for the people to
see. I was told that that image, which was at the very center of the
reredo, was the only thing left standing after the temblor. Everything
else fell.

            I went to see the parish priest. We only had casual
meetings before, and I immediately expressed my joy at seeing how the
parishioners were offering to do some cleaning up work. He tried to
compose himself as he started to tell me some stories about the
earthquake and the response the people made to it.

            He said that he could not start the reconstruction work of
the church because the church is under the national heritage program.
The government is supposed to take care of its reconstruction. Some
initial work was done, but it stopped after a short while.

            Since it was taking time and not even a backhoe appeared,
he appealed to the people to do some cleaning up work at least. He
told them that when someone dies in the family, the family usually
takes care of burying the dead member, instead of waiting for other
persons to do it. The people understood immediately and started to
organize themselves to do this volunteer work.

            I asked him if some better-off parishioners were giving
some financial help. And he said, yes, but only a few and not much,
since many of them were also affected by the earthquake. Many of them
had to rebuild their own houses.

            He then narrated some personal insights and observations
about the catastrophe. He was in his ‘convento’ when the earthquake
happened. At first, he thought it was going to a slight and short
tremor. But when it lasted and became stronger, he first thought he
was going to die but then immediately forgot himself to help the
people get out of church.

            He also said that the earthquake was actually a blessing.
Many people have recovered their faith because of it, and have begun
to come back to church. More people now attend the Masses in their
makeshift chapel even during weekdays. Many are beside themselves in
thanking God for their survival. They could not explain how they
managed to escape death when it looked so certain to them at that

            The priest also told me that because of the earthquake,
the people are now more united with the parish and among themselves.
The factions that used to afflict the parish life have practically
disappeared. They are now working and praying together and offering
whatever help they can give to one another.

            The priest also said that has stopped complaining about
anything. He was just thankful for everything.

            I usually do not bring big amount around for the simple
reason that I just don’t have such amount. But at that time, I felt
the urge to give him whatever I had in my thin wallet. I told him to
buy some snacks for the volunteer workers.

            When I left, I saw the volunteers with happy, smiling
face, with no trace of self-pity at all. What a joy! I’ve just seen a
resurrection in action.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Taming the tongue

IT is in the Letter of St. James that we are told about
taming our tongue. It’s just a small part of our body, and yet its
effect, good or bad, is great. “The tongue is indeed a little member
and boasts great things. Behold how small a fire kindles a great
wood,” (3,5) it says.

            We’re warned that taming it is indeed so difficult that
when we manage to dominate it and direct it properly, we can be
described as having reached our perfection.

            And the simple reason for that, to my mind, is that the
tongue is the first to express to the outside world what truly is the
state of our soul. It practically can reveal our true identity.

            It’s not our appearance that marks our identity. And our
works come only later to show who we really are and what we are
capable of. It’s the tongue that first shows where our mind and heart
tilt in an abiding way. And so it can also draw immediate reaction
from everyone.

            More than that, our tongue, and the word that comes
through it. is supposed to reflect the whole origin of word and the
communication that is essential in our life of relations.

            We need to understand that just like the Word of God who
is the son of God, and since we are image and likeness of God, our
word should somehow be the very image of who we truly are—that is, as
image and likeness of God, children of his. Our word truly plays a
primordial role in our life.

            That’s why we have to be extra careful with our word,
first the spoken one and more so with the written one. We just could
not treat it lightly, assuming a casual attitude toward it. Our word
can either make or break us.

            And being careful with our word is not just a matter of
trying not to hurt anyone according to our own estimation of what may
hurt. It should not be formed simply at the instance of our instincts,
feelings, pure reason, or some ideology.

            Being careful with our word is a matter of truly uniting
ourselves with God who is all at once the truth, goodness, love,
mercy, justice, etc. We just cannot feel spontaneous and ‘natural’
about it, depriving it of the light of faith, the impulse of hope, the
warmth of charity that make us speak with God at all times.

            We have to be most wary of the tendency, so current and
widespread these days, to simply speak on our own, currying our word
with some rhetorical devices, clever catch phrases, anecdotal
sparklers, etc.,  to make it attractive, but failing to ground them on
their true source of what is true, good, beautiful.

            Also, we have to consider the station or office we hold.
While everyone has to be careful with his word, it’s also
understandable that those who hold high positions in life should be
most careful with his speech and writing.

            Obviously, the same statement could have varying import
and effects if spoken or written by a farmer, a clerk, public official
or a priest, bishop, and especially a pope. The higher one’s position
is, the more careful he ought to be with his word. He has to be wary
of making off-the-cuff comments that often fail to consider many

            Obviously, this requires a lot of training and discipline.
We just hope that right in the family and the school, the basic
institutions where we start to develop and grow toward maturity, we
can already have the atmosphere conducive to using our tongue and word

            At all costs, we have to avoid gossiping, backbiting, idle
talk, ironies, sarcasm, negative and bitter comments. On the contrary,
we have to foster positive, encouraging comments, statements that are
well thought-out, properly researched and weighed.

            We should be quick to speak in a way that reflects
understanding, compassion, fairness, mercy. We should learn how to
speak with prudence and discretion, knowing when to speak and when
not, how to say things, paying attention to the tone of our voice.

            These considerations, contrary to what some people
sometimes suspect, do not make us unrealistic. They are not meant to
hinder our candidness. Our candidness should not be at the instance of
our instincts alone. It should come as a result of a disciplines
training in charitable speaking.

            Let us promote this culture of taming our tongue and of
speaking and writing well. Let’s hope that in our public exchanges,
marked improvement in this area can be achieved!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Two earthquakes

TWO items grabbed my attention these past days. Both
commanded intense prayers—of thanksgiving, expiation and petition. One
was the first anniversary of the 7.2 tremor that hit my beloved
province of Bohol, and Cebu where I’m now assigned.

            The other was the Synod of Bishops on Family now going on
in the Vatican, which some observers also considered as a kind
earthquake. Its mid-Synod report generated quite a heat among many who
certainly are seeing things from different angles.

            The Bohol earthquake destroyed a lot of churches, but it
strengthened also the faith of many. It also brought out the resilient
character of the people. It’s a good reason to be happy and thankful,
and to still hope that things, and the people especially, continue

            It’s different with respect to the Synod. The cracks,
potential destruction and havoc it is producing are so very subtle
that many do not even notice them. That’s why, that gathering to the
eyes of many has become more disturbing.

            But there is always hope, and so let’s pray that with the
open, candid but respectful discussion the Pope is promoting in this
Synod, the issues would be resolved properly, with every voice and
observation given due attention and blended, hopefully seamlessly, in
one organic, living piece, with the divine spirit animating it.

            It’s not an easy task, of course. And so we really have to
implore the help of the Holy Spirit to guide our Church leaders to
come out with a document that would make everybody happy. That may
sound impossible, or at least improbable, but hope always springs
eternal. We just have to try to be most receptive to the Spirit’s

            The main issue, to my mind, is how to fuse together the
exclusivity of truth and the inclusivity of charity. In this regard,
it may be useful to keep in mind all possible leanings and biases
people can have and try to craft a document that would be kind of
politically or pastorally correct for everyone, not favouring one over
the other.

            We have to presume that everyone is for God, that everyone
is for the truth, charity, justice and mercy, that everyone is a
sinner called to become a saint, etc. But we have to get real on how
each one is in his concrete condition.

            Some can be described as conservatives, others liberal,
some saintly and pious, others openly sinful, some are of the
intellectual and theoretical type, others are more of the pragmatic
kind, some steeped more in tradition, others are of the progressive
mould, keen in innovations, etc. We also have straight and gay people.

            This is not to mention that people are classified
according to age, sex, profession, social, economic and health
condition, talents, charisms and other endowments. Some are healthy,
others not, others may even be in the ICU. Everyone has to be
respected, loved and cared for.

            Yes, we have to give more attention and care to the needy,
confused and lost but not at the expense of sacrificing those who are
well-off, clear-minded and very much in the mainstream of orthodoxy.

            A way has to be found to make everyone care for one
another, with the better-off giving more to those who are more in need
who actually can also give something precious, if intangible, to the
better off.

            Whatever document or comment or initiative our Church
leaders make about his pastoral ministry should be tactful, avoiding
anything that can disparage, much less, alienate in any way certain
sectors. They have to learn to be most prudent, discreet and delicate
especially in their words.

            Of course, man will always be man, still haunted by his
weaknesses, mistakes and all that, but Christ has already come and
redeemed us with his death and resurrection, and all we need to cure
what is sick, right what is wrong, heal what is wounded is already
given to us, entrusting the Church with the power to dispense those

            It’s right that Christ’s redemptive work, while already
perfect and made available to us, still remains a mystery that can
spring surprises to us. But these surprises will never be a denial of
what is already known and lived by us as authoritatively taught by the
Church, but rather a deepening of those.

            We have to revisit the doctrine on graduality and
conversion as articulated in “Familiaris consotio” and see to it that
it does not degenerate into relativism, which is to make God according
to our designs. Everyone needs continuing conversion, you, me,
priests, bishops and even the Pope. Let’s help one another instead of

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Universal mind and heart

WE have to see to it that we are moving toward developing
a universal mind and heart. That’s how our mind and heart are supposed
to be. They are meant to cover all and everything and everyone.

            We have to understand that to have a universal mind and
heart is not only a matter of generics. It also is, just as much,
concerned with the particulars and the individuals. Let’s never think
that having a universal mind and heart hinders our personalized
attitude to people and things. On the contrary, it fosters such

            This is the mind and heart of Christ after whom we are
supposed to be patterned. While he preached to a crowd, he always
managed to address to everyone. While a big crowd followed him seeking
some cure for their maladies, he healed them by touching them one by
one or at least keeping each one in mind.

            His love and concern for all humanity did not diminish one
bit his attention and care for each individual person in the
concreteness of his situation. In a sense, he takes care both of the
whole and of the parts, the entire thing and the details.

            To be sure, our human nature is wired for this. Both our
mind and heart, the seat of our spiritual powers of intelligence and
will, are oriented toward the infinite. And given our material
dimension, we cannot help but attend to the individual cases and
specific situations.

            And so, we can say that while we are meant to have an
outlook that is global and universal, we also have to learn how to act
in the local and personal, individualized levels. In sociological
terms, we have to learn how to blend the principles of the common
good, solidarity and subsidiarity, making them one organic and
functioning principle of life.

            God’s grace extends this human potential of ours to be
able to acquire a supernatural character, capable of adopting the very
mind and heart of God as taught by Christ and effected by the Holy
Spirit. In this, we can cite what St. Paul once said: “We have the
mind of Christ.” (1 Cor 2,16)

            But obviously, given our weakened and wounded condition,
we can have some disorder in this need of ours. We can think that to
have a universal mind and heart means treating people and situations
in a generic way. The personalized approach is deemed unfeasible. Or
we can hide in anonymity in our actuations.

            Or, vice-versa, we can think that it is impossible to have
a universal mind and heart, and that we are only meant to have an
individualized and particularized understanding of things and attitude
toward people. We need to correct this error.

            The key to developing a universal mind and heart is
clearly to have a living identity with Christ who, for his part, has
given himself completely to us so we can be “alter Christus, ipse
Christus” (another Christ, Christ himself).

            Such identification enables us to echo St. Paul’ words: “I
live, now not I, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2,20) Such
identification enables us to share Christ’s power and wisdom that can
resolve all things in their ultimate terms. That’s when we can expect
to have the universal mind and heart of Christ.

            That’s because Christ’s words and ways are not simply
economic or social or political or character. They
obviously give due attention to these considerations, but they go far
beyond these limitations. His words and ways are always creative and
innovative, even if they are also rooted on tradition.

            There’s no human problem or world issue and predicament
that cannot be handled by Christ. He is the real and ultimate solver
of problems. We have to disabuse ourselves from the tendency to limit
Christ to certain concerns of ours, or from relying solely on our
human powers and sciences.

            So, we need to develop the proper attitude and skills of
being with Christ in a vital way so we can learn how to be adaptive to
all kinds of situations without getting lost. We have to learn to be
open-minded and tolerant of things even as we strengthen our hold of
the truths already known and clearly articulated.

            In facing difficult situations, not to mention, difficult
people, we have to learn the art of continuing dialogue, always
maintaining a humble attitude and following the law of gradualness
that’s meant to lead to conversion and transformation, for us and for
everybody else.

            With this attitude, we can expect to have the universal
mind and heart of Christ.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Are we still capable of praising God?

IT’S a good question to ask. We have good reason to think
that we are losing this most fundamental human need. And we should be
concerned about this, and do something about it. Otherwise, we would
be deforming our humanity.

            We need to ask this question because we are now seeing
cases upon cases worldwide of quarrelling, mudslinging, fault-find,
cursing, backbiting and backstabbing, all indications of losing the
attitude of praising God. We practically do not hear anymore nice,
positive words about others.

            And if some good words are said, we can’t help but
suspect, based on our common experiences, that they are not that
sincere, or that there are hidden strings attached, or even traps laid

            In the world of media, for example, there’s such a lot of
hype, bombast and frivolity that we would not know what the truth or
the real intention of the people involved is. Things are not said
plainly as they should. Layers of ulterior motives are quite

            It’s even worse in the world of politics where with
runaway partisanship, we see an alternation of bootlicking and brazen
attacks, simplistic branding of people and sophisticated
rationalizations. Candidates and public officials are regarded either
as thoroughly evil incapable of any good, or thoroughly good incapable
of any evil.

            In the face of all these anomalies, many have become
indifferent, if not sceptical and cynical about things. These are
clear escape mechanisms that do not solve anything but rather worsen

            We have to look into whether we really are still praising
God. That would indicate whether we are still with God or just by our
own selves, relying simply on our own devices. That would indicate
whether we are quite clear about the Creator-creature relation we have
with God.

            When we are truly aware of who God is and of who we are,
the fundamental reaction we would have is to praise and adore him,
since we would surely know that absolutely everything we have and that
is around us comes from him. Everything comes from him and belongs to

            It is this awareness that constitutes the fundamental
attitude we have not only toward God but also toward everything else
in life and in the world. It’s what gives us the basic perspective of
reality, giving us a proper sense of priority.

            It gives us a sense of intimacy, something very important
for us since without intimacy we would be moving toward becoming
automatons. It gives us a sense of the sacred while immersed in the
world. Thus, we could keep seeing God in everything, even in our
mundane affairs.

            If this attitude is compromised, everything else somehow
would also be distorted. Our understanding and reaction to things
would be gravely limited, since they would lack the spiritual and
supernatural dimensions of our life. We would be vulnerable to fall
into confusion, fears, doubts and despair, or to the other extreme of

            We have to see to it that this need to praise of God is
very alive in us, affecting us not only intellectually, but also
emotionally. More than that, it should so affect us as to move us to
make deeds worthy of being intimate with God. The whole person should
be permeated by this need.

            We have to be wary of playing games with this need,
something that we are also very capable of doing. We can go through
the motions of praising, making some lip service, but our mind and
heart are not actually in it.

            We can sing and dance, but still the spirit is absent. It
would just be a merely physical, mechanical exercise, or an act of
fawning or flattering. It can be showy, and yet can show hardly
anything as fruits of praising.

            Or praising would just be a sentimental expression with
hardly any meat and substance in it. Praising simply becomes a
function of our emotions and feelings at the moment. It is more for
our benefit than for truly paying homage to God that by definition
would involve deeds of self-giving.

            Let’s try that every morning, we do some praising so that
we can be filled with awe by the grandeur of God’s majesty, and by his
wisdom and power. It’s not without reason that the beginning of the
daily priestly prayer called breviary is a prayer of praising God.

            “Let us rejoice in the Lord, with songs let us praise him,
The Lord’s is the earth and its fullness, the world and all its
peoples,” it says, setting the tone for the day.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Dealing with unavoidable tensions

WE cannot avoid tensions in our life. They are actually a
necessary ingredient for our development. Not only do we have to
contend with differences and conflicts between good and evil, right
and wrong. We also have to grapple with legitimate values that seem to
compete with each other. We just have to learn to deal with this
tricky but healthy kind of tension.

            In the Synod of Bishops now going on in the Vatican, there
is such tension taking place. Aimed at how to face the modern and
complicated challenges to marriage and family, the Synod members are
trying to figure out how to blend the requirements of doctrine and
pastoral care, law and the spirit, justice and mercy, truth and

            In theory, these pairs ought to be together in some mutual
healthy relationship. Their basis and source of power and
effectiveness is God himself who is everything to us. But in real
life, given our human condition that is wounded by sin, that unity is
very tenuous, if not elusive, giving rise to tensions.

            Before this predicament, we should be cool and not
over-react by getting unnecessarily nervous, leading us to make wild,
uncalled-for reactions. Let’s always remember that everything is under
God’s control in spite of our shortcomings and mistakes. His
providence never fails. It can always manage to produce some good even
from the rotten core of evil.

            We have to learn to face the reality of things as they
are, warts and all, knowing also that if they are the way they are
now, it’s because God allows them to be. And if God allows them to be,
it’s because there is some good that can be derived from them.

            Pope Francis hits it bull’s eye when he encouraged the
Synod bishops who come from all over the world to speak their mind
freely, with parrhesia, he said, that is, with candidness, but also
with humility, always respectful of the views of the others.

            This is to have to a good picture of the world situation
with respect to marriage and family. Obviously, some biases and
prejudices will color the discussion. But if there is parrhesia and
humility, as the Pope recommended, we can presume that things can also
be properly and soberly sorted out and put in their right places.

            We cannot ignore the gravity of some cases, like those of
couples who have divorced and remarried but who want to receive
communion, those separated due to economic and other reasons, the
increase of illegitimate children, etc.

            We need to have some practical means to help these
faithful in these difficult situations. How to extend mercy and
understanding to them, what steps to take to recover them into full
communion, etc., are issues to be looked into more closely.

            There obviously are things that should not change since
they are essential to Christian and human life, but there also are
many things that need to be revised, modified, updated, refined, etc.

            A lot of wisdom, prudence, discretion, courage and
optimism are needed here. Certain bold measures have to be taken given
the gravity of the situation. Yes, we have to be realistic, but always
on the right track, even if we have to open new frontiers.

            This is not going to be an easy task. Nothing less is
required than for everyone to be truly united with God and to be
keenly discerning to the promptings of the Holy Spirit who is the one
to guide us in all this maze.

            That’s why that Gospel message to “ask and you will
receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to
you,” is most relevant these days. We have to be persistent, undaunted
by the difficulties we are going to meet.

            We need to realize that to tackle these issues, what is
indispensable is true, breathing sanctity of everyone, especially the
bishops and priests. Pieces of advice, suggestions, clarifications,
brilliant ideas based on some insights and human considerations can
only go so far, and are effective only if based on one’s sanctity.

            We have to be wary of our tendency to rely only on some
structures and bureaucratic mechanisms. They certainly have their role
to play. But if not vivified by one’s sanctity, they will not be
effective and can even cause harm to people.

            The ways of God, the promptings of the Holy Spirit can be
discerned and can prosper only on the firm ground of one’s sanctity.
We have to pray for the sanctity of everyone.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Holiness at your fingertips

OBVIOUSLY, we have to make a distinction between the state of
holiness and the process of making oneself holy. I refer more to the
latter, which actually is what is needed for us to be truly holy.
Sanctity and sanctification should go hand in hand, and if we are not
yet in the former, then we should work out the latter.

    This matter should already come out in the open, especially in the
media, because it is actually everybody’s concern. In fact, we can say
it is the be-all and end-all of our life. “What does it profit a man
if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul,” Christ’s words
that practically articulate this need of ours.

    In fact, insofar as God is concerned, this is his will. St. Paul says
so, “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” (1 Thes 4,3) And
because of that will, God is giving us everything, including he
himself in his Son who became man, Jesus Christ, so that we can truly
obtain sanctity.

    Again, St. Paul clearly reassures us of this truth: “He that spared
not even his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how has he not
also, with him, given us all things.” (Rom 8,32)

    This is a truth we have to learn to feel at home with. Very often,
when we think of sanctity and sanctification, we feel that things just
depend on us, and thus, given the enormity of the challenge and the
task, we tend to get discouraged and to forget the whole thing.

    We have to overcome that misconception. God is actually giving us
everything. In fact, He is giving us nothing and no one else other
than his very own self in Christ. That’s why there’s such thing as
constant stream of actual graces so we can manage to do good in spite
of our weakness and mistakes.

    If we persist in corresponding to these actual graces, then we can be
led to so deep a conversion that we can receive what is known as
sanctifying grace that puts us into the state of holiness.

    And after conversion, we still need to continue struggling to keep
that state of sanctity intact. “Conversion is a matter of a moment,” a
saint once said, “but perseverance is a work of a lifetime.”

    We need to correspond to these actual graces that God sends us in
abundance. It is these actual graces that enable us to sanctify
ourselves as we go through all the details of our day, usually small
and insignificant humanly speaking.

    In this regard, we need to explode the myth that this business of
sanctification can be carried out only during extraordinary occasions,
as when we have to be martyred or sent to far-away missions, working
with difficult people, etc.

    Or that sanctification or the state of holiness itself is a matter of
being canonized, placed on an altar if not given a monument in some
public square.

    Sanctification can be done and ought to be pursued anytime, anywhere,
making use of what we have at the moment, whether it is something good
or bad. This is what is meant by holiness at your fingertips, attained
by showing our faith and love for God and others in the little things
of each day.

    If we persist in this kind of behavior, we can truly achieve a
sanctity more heroic and meaningful than that achieved through pubic
martyrdom. I believe there is more merit in a sanctity that is
attained in a hidden way than that acquired before the public eye.

    Everything can be an occasion to be holy. It’s a matter of how we are
corresponding to God’s grace. If we are attacked by laziness, for
example, we become holy when we make the effort to overcome it, when
we start to pick up things to do, or simply just perform our duty of
the moment, whatever it may be.

    When we are visited by lust, greed, envy, or any temptation, we
become holy when we do our best to fight them off. When we fall, we
still can easily become holy when we are prompt also to ask for

    Holiness at your fingertips is also a matter of just doing whatever
duty you have at the moment, and doing it with love, with generosity
and magnanimity. It may just be studying, or watching over a sick
person, or doing household chores, but if done with love for God, you
can already achieve holiness. Sainthood is just a death away!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rosary most relevant today

WE have just celebrated the liturgical memorial of Our
Lady of the Rosary (October 7). It’s this celebration that has made
the whole month of October the month of the rosary. Let’s hope that we
appreciate the true value of this prayer.

            I still remember my childhood days in the province when we
were “forced” or at least “pressured” to say the rosary with Lola and
Mama and other siblings who were “caught” at the time of this prayer.
We did it kneeling down. Of course, I didn’t quite like it, but
neither did I feel mistreated. Filial obedience played a big role in

            Since I could not escape, I just played along, but
wondered why this prayer was so important it had to be that way. In a
sense, I was both there and not there, my mind alternating between
praying and getting distracted. Pretension reigned often.

            It was only late in my youth, while I was already
separated from the family to study in Manila, and therefore quite
independent but aware I had to fend for myself, that I realized how
important this prayer was. For a start, it gave me a tremendous
calming effect.

            To a person who was extremely excitable and sensitive as I
was—though I would also know how to cover these traits—the rosary was
most welcome. It gave me time and space to breathe and consider things
more calmly.

            But I soon discovered other more important aspects of this
Marian prayer. I realized the value of vocal prayers. What I tended to
take for granted actually contained precious ideas. I somehow
discerned a certain beauty in them, far removed from merely physical
beauty and transitory worldly pleasures.

            And so to prevent me from falling into mere mechanical
praying, I would focus on some phrases of the prayers, one at a time,
and try to understand and fathom their meaning and figure out how they
can affect my life.

            That’s when I relished the reality of God being a father
to me, of what my attitude should be toward him, what I can expect
from him, what I ought to ask from him, etc. Also, that Mary is such a
wonderful mother who is a most worthy model to follow, the most
competent teacher with respect to the virtues I ought to develop, etc.

            More importantly, the rosary would start to give me a
global picture of the redemptive life of Christ which I used to take
for granted. Even a cursory meditation of the mysteries of the rosary
would elicit all kinds of insights and considerations that I felt were
very useful to me. I could use the youth-speak of ‘cool’ to describe

            With the rosary, I get the sensation that I am seeing the
different parts of the life Christ through the eyes of Mary, the one
who understood perfectly the life of Christ and conformed herself to
it is the most intimate way.

            In other words, the rosary helped me to be a practical
contemplative right in the middle of the world, teaching me how to see
things through the eyes of faith and devotion. It inculcated in me a
living piety that knows how to be lived right in the midst of the
secular world.

            This, to me, is the greatest effect of the rosary. It is
indeed an effective means to instill a supernatural outlook in us, a
handy tool to ask for special favors through our Mother’s
intercession, a good way to spend time and know more about Christ and
about her.

            If there are pressures to bear, problems to solve,
challenges to face, and even special intentions to pray for, the
rosary is a good companion. Even when we get visited by insomnia, the
rosary helps us go to sleep.

            Especially these days when we are buffeted with all kinds
of tension-causing predicaments, the rosary is a good antidote. It
puts our mind and heart in their proper place, firmly rooted on Christ
and oriented toward him. It makes us conscious of our human and
Christian duties.

            The rosary can be done anytime, anywhere. It need not be
finished in one seating. And with the new technologies which enable us
to follow it while listening to its recording, it can be done quite
easily, even while we are driving.

            It’s good to spread this devotion as widely as possible,
first in the family, then in the neighborhood, in schools, parishes,
offices, etc. We can also organize pilgrimages to shrines of our Lady.
All these can only have good effects on us all.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Clearing up the confusion

JUST a little warning before proceeding with this column.
We have to view issues and problems besetting us always within the
context of hope. No matter how grave our predicaments are, we should
not forget there is always a reason for everything that happens in our
life, good or bad,  and that God is always in control.

            For those who believe in God and love him, everything will
always work out for the good, ‘omnia in bonum.’ (cfr Rom 8,28) Let’s
remember that we cannot know everything about a certain problem. We
should do all we can to tackle it, but neither should we neglect to
abandon ourselves always in the wise and merciful providence of God.

            In short, no need to worry so much and to get stuck at the
level of mere lamenting and complaining. We have to tone down our
voices and restrain ourselves from making wild reproaches and
quarreling. There is hope. There is always some cure, even if
unavoidably we have to go through some cleansing and painful process.

            Let’s look more at what solutions we can offer, what
alternatives there can be to give relief to our burdens. More
importantly, let’s try to decipher more distinctly what God is trying
to tell us, for after all he is the one who holds the ultimate key to

            What is more needed is to pray and study, perhaps make
consultations, come up with plans and trials, and a lot of patience
and optimism. At the same time, let’s not be unstinting in our efforts
to carry out the proposed resolutions and solutions that have been
duly thought out.

            At the moment in Rome, a synod of bishops is going on.
It’s tackling a most delicate issue on marriage and family. The whole
exercise deserves all the prayers and sacrifices we can offer, since
whatever findings and recommendations it will make will certainly have
great and crucial impact on the world and the Church today.

            Days before it began on October 5, a group of marriage
experts and marriage advocates wrote an open letter to Pope Francis
and the synod members, tracing the current serious challenges facing
marriage and the family.

            It’s good to refer parts of it to give us an idea of how
serious the problem is and what solutions we can expect to tackle it.
We certainly now have a world culture that throws us all into
confusion. Aware of these things, we can at least pray and offer some
sacrifices, so the synod can do its task well.

            Here it goes:

            "Dramatic increases in cohabitation, divorce, and
nonmarital childbearing in the Americas, Europe, and Oceania over the
last four decades suggest that the institution of marriage is much
less relevant in these parts of the world...In the US...more than half
of births to women under 30 years of age now occur outside marriage.

            “Between forty and fifty percent of all first marriages in
the U.S. are projected to end in divorce... While every nation is
unique, studies show that the impact of these trends spans the globe.
A small sampling of such studies: China, Finland, Sweden, Uruguay,
Mexico, Greece, Africa, and East Asian Pacific nations...

            “Studies of pornography's impact on relationships suggest
it is a major contributor to the destruction of marriages...”

            Though we don’t have available statistics for our country,
we can safely say that we go along these trends.

            But like I said, there is always hope. And these experts
are making suggestions. Among them:

-      A serious study on the role of pornography in the marriage crisis.

-      Educate seminarians to be more adept in marriage and family
issues, and train priests to showcase in their homilies the spiritual
and social value of marriage, contemporary challenges to it, and
parish help for troubled marriages.

-      Create networks of strong married couples as mentors at the
parish level, available to give spouses the tools to sustain healthy,
lifelong marriages.

-    Educate parishioners on the extraordinary influence they can
have on the marriages of friends and family.

There are still many more. Let’s hope that the synod can come out with
more concrete and doable ideas. It cannot be denied that we are facing
a world that is immersed in all kinds of sophistries to rationalize
some ideas and behaviour that are clearly at odds with our human
nature, let alone, our Christian vocation.

Let’s always remember that marriage and family is vital for the health
of each person, on the one hand, and society in general, on the other.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Discriminating but not discriminatory love

WE need to love everyone. And since it is love we are
talking about, we have to give the best that we have, if not all of
ourselves, to everyone. This, in the end, is what is meant to be
discriminating but not discriminatory.

            Love is a never-ending affair that requires total
self-giving that is always renewed. By its very nature, it is meant to
be given to everyone and requires the giving of oneself to everyone.

            Christ is the model for this. He, in fact, commands us to
love everyone as he himself loves us. And the details of this love can
be found in the beatitudes, in the sermon of the mount, in the
greatest commandment and the second greatest that he articulated when
asked, and in the fact that he offered his life on the cross for us.

            In fact, everything in his life speaks eloquently of love.
He discriminates against no one. Even the sinners, even those who
crucified him, he loved, since he was always solicitous of their
condition and literally begged for their conversion and
transformation. He even asked forgiveness from his Father on their

            We need to have this attitude deeply embedded in our
consciousness, and from there, develop the appropriate skills,
practices and habits as well as structures that would turn this ideal
into concrete reality.

            We have to be wary of the danger of complacency,
lukewarmness and self-satisfaction that can deceive us into thinking
we are doing enough when there is nothing enough where love is

            These are our proximate and constant dangers. And they
come about due to our weaknesses and sinfulness. We tend to be lazy,
and to be improperly dominated by our preferences and other
attachments that blind us from giving what we ought to everyone.

            We need to acknowledge these weaknesses and sinfulness in
all their manifestations, and with humility ask the help of God to
overcome them and even to use them to do the things God wants us to do
for others. This is the proper way to deal with this predicament of

            If we have the proper attitude toward our weaknesses and
sinfulness, an attitude rooted on our faith, these weaknesses and
sinfulness would not be a big, insoluble problem. They can even be a
vehicle to do wonderful things out of love.

            Let’s remember what St. Paul once said: “To them that love
God, all things work together unto good...” (Rom 8,28) It’s important
that we continue to have a gung-ho attitude toward our life in spite
of our shortcomings, failures and mistakes.

            With Christ’s redemptive work carried to its fullness in
his passion, death and resurrection, we have no reason to be sad due
to our weaknesses. Besides, sadness only complicates things and
hinders us to do what we are supposed to do.

            We just have to wage a continuing struggle against our
tendency to get wrapped up in our world, oblivious of the needs of the
others and of the reality outside. This bad tendency can be shown in
our inclination to be lazy, self-centered, arrogant, vain, greedy,
lustful, distracted, attached to material and worldly things, etc.

            We have to try our best to develop a universal heart, able
to love everyone including those whom we may consider to be unlovable
or whom with our human estimations we regard as our enemies.

            We just have to rev up our concern for the others to a
heroic degree, never sparing in our generosity, especially in our
prayers and sacrifices for them which, before being expressed into
concrete deeds, are the fundamental and indispensable ways of showing
our love for others.

            For this, we have to be willing to be understanding and
compassionate with the others, ever mindful and thoughtful of them,
quick to forgive, slow to anger as Christ is, eager to bear all their
burdens without complaining.

            For this we have to train especially our emotions and
passions that usually react to things at the instance of our mere
natural, if not, physical appreciation of things. We have to purify
them with our faith, hope and charity, through prayers, study of the
doctrine of our faith, sacrifices and mortification, and other
spiritual and ascetical exercises.

            This is how we can be truly discriminating in our love for
everyone, excluding no one. Obviously, given our human condition
constrained by space and time, we need to have strategies that require
us to be selective in our love if only to reach everyone in the best

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Loosening and tightening

AS we go through life in all its twists and turns, its ups
and downs, its ebb and flow, we certainly need to do a lot of
adjusting and adapting. We also need to do a lot of planting,
cultivating and cutting if only to avoid rigidity, a sure sign we are
heading toward deterioration and death, and that we rather are growing
and going toward our true destination.

            If only for the sake of sheer survival, we need to be
aware that there are certain things we need to tighten and other
things to loosen. That’s simply because circumstances change, and yet
there are things that should not change.

            We have to learn what to keep and what to let go as we
move along in life. And so we need to analyze things so we can
distinguish between what is essential, necessary and indispensable in
our life, on the one hand, and on the other, what is incidental,
contingent and disposable.

            Another way of saying this is that we need to know what
our true ultimate end is and what are merely the means to it. Not that
the means are unimportant. We just have to distinguish which is which,
and act in accordance to that distinction. Sad to say, there is a lot
of confusion in this area, the means often regarded as the end, and

            For all this, we have to assume a metaphysical approach to
things. And this is where our basic problem lies. Metaphysics is still
unknown to many of us. And those who know it are often confined in
their academic world of abstract ideas. There’s hardly any effort to
encourage people to think metaphysically.

            Most people nowadays are contented to base their thinking
mainly on what their senses perceive, and so their reactions are often
knee-jerk, emotional and sentimental, shallow.

            Influences coming from our culture, social background,
etc., can also go into people thinking, lending some texture to our
thoughts. At best, the sciences, arts and modern technology contribute
a lot in shaping our thoughts. But unless our thinking is
metaphysical, we would be missing the most important part of how to
understand things in life.

            The metaphysical approach certainly does not ignore how
things are in their immediate and concrete reality. But it goes beyond
that level. It goes further than the sensible world to examine the
ultimate causes of things. These causes are usually not seen nor felt.

            It’s an approach that enters into the ethos and the
spiritual underpinnings of the concrete realities, and leads us to the
supernatural world and ultimately to God, from whom we come and to
whom we belong. That is the distinctive contribution of metaphysics.

            If we can acknowledge a certain organic hierarchy among
the sciences, metaphysics should actually occupy pride of place, since
it integrates the inputs of all the other sciences and relates them to
their ultimate causes and end. It respects an inter-disciplinary tack.

            It is therefore a very important science. And it’s just
unfortunate that it is hardly appreciated as it is. Only very few are
interested in it, and worse, those in it do not seem to know how to
relate their studies and findings to the here-and-now world.

            When we have a metaphysical mind, we would know what have
absolute and universal value, and what have relative and variable
value. This would lead us to know the exclusivity of truth and the
inclusivity of charity, what to be strict and what to be lenient in,
what to tighten and what to loosen.

            When we have a metaphysical mind, we can be more
broad-minded and avoid narrow-mindedness, we can be more open to the
way other people are and avoid bigotry and stereotyping.

            When we have a metaphysical mind, we would know that we
should not be too attached to our opinions, our taste and preferences,
our biases brought about by our profession and other conditionings,
social, economic, political, cultural, historical, etc.

            When we have a metaphysical mind, we would know what to
tighten in the midst of a constant flux of life. We need to take care
of our continuing formation, ever sharpening our dispositions so that
we would always be eager to know and pursue our ultimate end.

            There will always be certain things in life that tend to
blur our vision of the fundamental and ultimate in our life. We have
to be careful of the distracting effects of our concerns, problems,
challenges and trials, plus the allurements in the world, not to
mention the tricks and temptations of the devil.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The two sons

THE parable of the two sons (Mt 21,28-32) is very
instructive about a particular aspect of our human condition, weakened
as it is by sin. Yes, we tend to be inconsistent, and with that, are
prone to other related anomalies like deceit, hypocrisy and

            But we can also change. There is always hope in spite of
that tendency. We have to continually remind ourselves that while we
may be beset with all sorts of crazy anomalies, there is always hope,
there is always some cure, there’s a good chance for conversion and

            As the parable narrates, the first son said ‘no’ to his
father’s request to work in the vineyard, but later on changed his
mind and worked. The other son said ‘yes’ but did not go.

            When Christ asked his listeners who between the sons did
the father’s will, they answered the first, and Christ told them they
were correct in saying so. That, of course, tells us that more than
words, it is deeds that would fulfil God’s will or the will of
anybody, for that matter.

            We have to be ready to tackle this particular and, sad to
say, very common problem of ours, making use of every opportunity we
can be true to our words that in turn should be true to the will of
anyone who has lawful authority over us and ultimately to God, the
very source of authority.

            Consistency has to be viewed in the context of our
relation to God, since it is in that relation that the proper
delineation of all our other relations, either to persons or to
things, events and issues would be properly developed and lived.

            God is the source of all good things, of truth and unity.
He is the vine from which we as branches grow. Separated from him,
there’s no other consequence but to be fragmented, to wither and die

            So, if we are truly interested in developing a strong
consistency or unity of life, we need not look further to see where we
can have it or where we can start. It’s in our relation with God,
nourished by faith, hope and charity that God himself gives us in

            And for this faith, hope and charity to effectively shape
our life, we have to dispose ourselves to them properly by being
humble, by realizing that we by ourselves, no matter how brilliant or
powerful our natural talents and powers may be, can only go so far
without God.

            We need to deepen our humility, something that we should
never take for granted. We can never think that we are already humble
enough. We need to realize that deep in our consciousness, there is
always a tendency of ourselves to assert ourselves over God and over
any other authority.

            Christ himself has shown us the way by emptying himself.
Let’s listen again to what St. Paul once said about the self-emptying
(kenosis) of Christ: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in
Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to
be equal with God.

            “But he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,
being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He
humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of
the cross.” (Phil 2,5-8)

            This self-emptying is indispensable in our life. We need
to do everything to be able to achieve that, obviously doing it also
with utmost naturalness, the way Christ himself did it.

            He did not go around announcing he was the Redeemer. He
just let his deeds and his miracles do the talking more than his words
which were not lacking either. When some people wanted to proclaim him
king, he escaped. When he had enter Jerusalem to claim his kingship,
he rode on a donkey.

            We have to see the indispensable value of humility to
nourish our faith, hope and charity that in turn would nourish our
strong unity of life. It is this humility that enabled Christ to
accept the will of his Father to offer his life on the cross for our

            “Father,” he said in the agony in the garden, “if it is
your will, let this cup pass by me, but not my will but yours be
done.” This submission of one’s will to God’s will is the ultimate
expression of humility that allows faith, hope and charity to flourish
and a unity of life to come as a consequence.