Wednesday, December 31, 2014

When order becomes a disorder

ORDER, of course, is a great virtue. We have to do
everything to develop and live it well. And also to spread it as
widely as possible, making ourselves, if need be, its models and
endorsers, especially when the prevalent culture is precisely lacking
in it.

            Many of our problems are caused because we do not live
order as we should. We misplace things, so we have trouble finding
them. We fail to take note of something, so we forget them. In the
end, we waste time, effort and even money, since we may have to
replace lost or broken items.

            Things can even get worse, as when the lack of order
becomes habitual, attitudinal, systemic and cultural in our life and
society. We don’t have the habit of making plans and schedules. Our
sense of priority is a mess. We prefer to be guided by spontaneous
impulses rather than by a sober assessment of things.

            We like to delay doing things, and when we finally begin
to work, we drag our feet. Tardiness becomes a norm to us. Aggravating
things further is the advent of the multi-tasking culture that easily
adds confusion to the mess.

            To top it all, we can start to rationalize our lack of
order as being human, as if to be human is not to live order,
contradicting the abundant evidence of order in nature. We prefer
simply to be at the mercy of the situation and the circumstances,
however they may be.

            Some ideologies have, in fact, been developed based on
these notions. Relativism and situation ethics are samples and have
been duly exposed as such by the Church magisterium.

            At bottom, what they teach is an anything-goes,
free-for-all lifestyle. Nothing can be held absolute. Everything is
relative. Everything depends on us, however we take ourselves. We make
ourselves our own God.

            Obviously there’s always something good and true in them,
otherwise, these ideologies would not attract anyone. And for whatever
good and true they have, we can take advantage in some way. But let’s
always be prudent.

            That’s because if looked at closely, what’s actually
followed are mere instincts, emotions at the moment, personal
preferences and biases, fads and trends, and the mundane and
self-seeking criteria of practicality, convenience, popularity,
profitability and the like.

            But there’s a kind of ‘order’ that is actually a disorder.
It is the kind that usually afflicts those who are generally regarded
as ‘good’, ‘intelligent’ or even ‘holy’ people. It is the kind that
converts order into an obsession, that makes one rigid and inflexible
in his ways, and usually leads him to be judgmental, self-righteous,

            It is an ‘order’ that is pursued with bitter zeal, and
usually leaves one with a psychological illness called
obsessive-compulsive syndrome. One becomes a controlling, calculating
and manipulative agent.

            He is often deaf and blind to the developments around,
insensitive to the feelings and conditions of others. It’s his ways,
his criteria, his opinions that must be followed. He can hardly
countenance deviations from what he expects from others.

            He finds it hard to adjust to others, and to adapt to ways
different from his. Any concession in this regard is merely token,
assumed mainly for the sake of convenience, never of broadmindedness
and charity.

            Because of this attitude, he can worry a lot, suffer a lot
of strain, much more than what can be considered normal. All this can
leave a mark on his over-all appearance and behaviour. He can look
always dour and snobbish.

            His perfectionism is insensitive to the promptings of the
Holy Spirit. More than God’s will which can also be gleaned from the
developments around—the so-called signs of the times—it’s his will
that dominates.

            Sad to say, while our common understanding of disorder is
still rampant today, we can already see a growing number of those
afflicted with the disorder of the so-called ‘order’ of the

            We have many very opinionated people nowadays who try to
impose a monolithic view of things when plurality and diversity of
opinions is, in fact, most welcome and very healthy.

            Even some church people exceed the limits of their
teaching power of doctrine and dogmas to areas like politics,
business, sociology, etc., where different and even conflicting
opinions are not only allowable, but also are necessary.

            We definitely have to do something about this, trying to
nip it in the bud as soon as we notice its symptoms, especially among
the young ones. Families and schools are the best venues to correct
this disorder early enough.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

We need patience

THIS is a most indispensable virtue to have. If only to
maintain our sanity, if not to survive in a world that’s full of
surprises, challenges, trials, setbacks, problems, difficulties,
disappointments, and an endless etcetera, patience is what we should

            Besides, patience allows us to see things more objectively
and calmly, disposing us to react and behave in a more appropriate way
whatever the situation may be. Our judgments would be better arrived

            With it, we become more able to handle all kinds of
predicament, whether they be hot issues, difficult persons or personal
failures. We cannot deny that situations are aplenty where we find
ourselves unable to cope with our problems, where we can only see face
to face the naked reality of our limitations.

            With it too, we would know how to move on in spite of
impediments and hindrances. We would not get stuck at a certain point,
and would just allow the workings of providence to take effect. Along
the way, we get to know more and new things, expanding our knowledge
and savouring the finer points of things we already know.

            Our mind would be broadened, our heart made more
universal. We would be released from the confines of our temperament
and character, and put ourselves on track toward a fuller
actualization of our potentials. Yes, it facilitates our blossoming to

            There are many other practical advantages of patience. But
what is of utmost importance is that it is what would also resemble us
with Christ who is patience personified.

            We have to be clear about this. If we want to have
patience, it is to Christ whom we should approach and learn from. It’s
he who will make us understand the reason and meaning of it, he who
will give us the very strengthen for it, which otherwise would be
impossible for us.

            With Christ, all our efforts to be patient can have not
only temporal, human effects, but also eternal and supernatural ones.

            We should not just be relying on our own powers and
resources, no matter how vast and deep they may be. We should not just
be relying on our knowledge of the doctrine of our faith, which if not
infused with charity, mercy and compassion, can lead us to be
judgmental and self-righteous, raising invisible walls and barriers
among us.

            So, as early as possible, while it’s true that we have to
do whatever we can to handle our concerns, we should never forget that
it is to Christ that we have to go and depend on. Only with him can we
hope to live patience that is a function all at once of truth and
charity, justice and mercy.

            Thus, we have to beg for it in our prayers constantly. We
cannot take this intention for granted. Ignoring it can only mean that
we are depending merely on our own human strength to be patient, and
that is an immense anomaly. We have to beg for patience, because it is
first of all a grace from God. It’s not something we ourselves make.

            And so, a big dose of humility is also needed here, for us
to feel this objective need. Let’s remember that pride can enter us in
a most subtle way, and can even disguise itself as humility. And
that’s when we can be almost incurably blind and insensitive to this
need for humility.

            But since grace does not do away with our human nature,
but rather works on it, enriching, purifying and elevating it to the
supernatural order, we have to understand that to develop patience, we
also have to do our part.

            In this regard, we can always take advantage of our daily
events, already full of contradictions, to broaden and deepen our
capacity to suffer out of love, which is what patience is all about.

            We should practice restraint and moderation in our
thoughts and reactions. Since our spontaneous reactions cannot be
controlled, let’s see to it that we can manage to correct ourselves or
at least put ourselves in some cautious mode as soon as we can.

            We should always be careful with our emotions, moods and
passions. The same with the social trends and fashions that can
trigger a mob response to situations, instead of a more human and
charitable one.

            Our words should be well thought out before they are
uttered. More importantly, we should always arm ourselves with good
intentions, the skill to discern whatever good there may be in any
situation even it is dominated by so much evil. This will make
patience easy and even enjoyable.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Dispensing divine mercy

THIS is, of course, a tall order, especially to confessors
administering the sacrament of penance, and to practically everyone of
us, since we all need to forgive one another. But neither is this an
impossible task.

            We all know that God’s mercy is abiding and is forever.
There is nothing that can’t be tackled by it. God is not scandalized
by anything. His mercy can take on anything. Not even our most
grievous mistakes and most stupid blunders can frustrate it.

            St. John Paul II once said while our capacity to do evil
can be infinite because of our spiritual nature, God’s mercy can
always limit it. So we should not be too alarmed by any evil, no
matter how ugly and persistent, because God’s mercy can handle that.

            Always given readily and in abundance, this divine mercy
has to be dispensed always in the context of truth, justice and a
charity, a combination that is always tricky to the human instruments
through whom it is dispensed. The possibility of mishandling it is
always there.

            Dispensing divine mercy, which is the only kind of mercy
proper to us due to our dignity as children of God, requires nothing
less than for the human instruments to be vitally united and
identified with Christ who is the very personification of divine

            Let’s remember that Christ not only preached what is right
and wrong, what is good and evil, but also assumed all the sinfulness
of man by offering his life on the cross. He came to save, not to
condemn. He was slow to anger, quick to forgive.

            He would make use of any sign or trace of goodness, no
matter how slight and mixed up with many other bad elements, to elicit
a conversion. His mercy is the overflow of love that in the words of
St. Paul “is patient and kind...does no insist on its own way...does
not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right...bears all things,
believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor 13

            This is the standard that any human instrument charged
with dispensing divine mercy should follow. But this standard, let’s
be clear about this, is not just abstract idea, a frozen theory and
principle, a historical character buried in the past. This standard is
a living person, always present in our lives, actively intervening and
loving, and easily accessible.

            The challenge is precisely in identifying ourselves with
Christ. It’s in adopting his mind and attitudes, his skills and
willingness to suffer for the sins of man. We just can’t rely on our
own theories and human systems of dispensing mercy, nor on our own
estimation of what is fair and just.

            We need to enter the very mind and heart of Christ. We
need to reproduce “in vivo” the very sentiments, desires and concerns
of Christ in us. This is something not only possible, but is also very
practicable, because the grace of God is given to us abundantly. What
is simply needed is our generous and even heroic correspondence driven
by faith and charity.

            To enter into his mind and heart, we have to be willing to
deny ourselves and to carry the cross, as Christ himself clearly
indicated to us. A lifestyle that is alien to self-denial and
sacrifice can never be welcoming to Christ and to his mercy. We would
miss the true essence of divine mercy even if we can appear, by human
standards, to be kind and merciful.

            Let’s remember that it is through the cross that we can
savor God’s wisdom about his infinite mercy. This is the only way we
as dispensers of divine mercy can carry out that duty effectively.
That is when we, like Christ, would be a loving father, an intimate
friend, a competent spiritual doctor and a merciful judge to the
penitents and to our offenders.

            We would know how to weigh and assess things, make
judgments, give timely counsel and effective advice to the penitents.
In short, we would know how to deliver the whole mercy of Christ that
culminated with his passion, death and resurrection. Mere study or
reliance on experience, no matter how vast, while helpful, can only go
so far.

            Dispensing divine mercy should not just be some
ritualistic, much less, bureaucratic and officious exercise. It has to
flow organically from a vibrant and persistent effort of one’s
sanctification. This is the only way we can capture God’s infinite
mercy and feel the great need of men’s forgiveness from God!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Aspiring for a certain immunity

IT’S obvious that in this life we are always exposed to
all kinds of impurities, toxins and other harmful elements. That’s
unavoidable. We try to avoid them, of course, improving on our hygiene
and sanitation, and undertaking preventive measures, such as

            But even our best efforts can only go so far. Besides, we
should be realistic enough to acknowledge that we should not overdo
the preventive measures, since we might end up isolating ourselves
from the real world, living in a kind of greenhouse.

            Besides, being too clean, we might just be setting
ourselves in the end for a graver predicament. We have to learn to
swim in the water, dirty though it may be, and not outside of it. We
just have to acquire a certain immunity to at least some of these
destructive organisms so we can live our life as normally as possible.

            We actually are somehow endowed with a built-in defense
mechanism in our bodily system. We have some natural antibodies to
neutralize harmful bacteria and other poisonous elements that get into

            What we lack in this department we try to make up by
producing appropriate antibodies and antidotes through vaccinations.
Some antigens in controlled amounts are inoculated into our body with
the aim of triggering the production of the corresponding antibodies.

            Of course, all this has to be done with extreme care and
prudence. Some vaccines have side-effects that can be worse than the
intended effect. And even the good and safe ones need to be
administered with great care, because not everyone has the same
expected reaction. Some contra-indications have to be made clear,
before giving them out.

            In our spiritual and moral life, something similar takes
place. With our conscience, we have some natural mechanisms to help us
identify what is right and wrong, and to behave accordingly. It’s
important that we give due attention to the care of our conscience. We
just cannot leave it alone, growing and developing on its own.

            We have to realize that our conscience needs to be trained
and formed also. Due to our weakened condition, it may come out, at
least in some instances, doubtful, perplexed, scrupulous, lax, or
outright erroneous. It has to be given the proper moral principles and
supported by virtues to facilitate its work.

            A thorough personal examination of the conditions of each
case should be made so the proper advice and counsel can be
prescribed. That’s why a personal spiritual direction or counseling or
mentoring is always recommendable.

            Every effort has to be made to put or to restore the good
spiritual and moral health of the person. And this can mean helping
one to develop a certain immunity against the moral evils around.

            The ideal in this regard, of course, is to work for an
abiding and functioning identification with Christ. It is only through
him when we can aspire to have a certain dominion over our weaknesses,
our temptations and trials, and our falls and sins.

            With him, not only would we not be scandalized by evil,
but also would be most eager and able to transform evil into good.
With him, we would not only be patient and tolerant with the
unavoidable evils, but also capable of turning the tables on them.

            Let’s remember how he handled the temptations at the end
of his 40 days of prayer and fasting in the desert before he started
his public life. Let’s savor his attitude and reactions to the sins
and the sinners. Since he gives himself completely to us, we can say
that what he can do, we can also do, but always with him.

            We need to have the mind and will of Christ, to have his
thoughts, desires and longing. We need to adopt his ways which he
shows us so eloquently. He reassures us that he will refresh us and
that his yoke is easy and his burden light as long as we learn from
him to be meek and humble.

            The secret to be effectively identified with Christ is to
be meek and humble like him who allowed anything to happen to him but
yet firm and unmovable in his obedience to his Father’s will.

            We have to be wary of our tendency to be proud and
self-assertive, manifested in our inclination to rely more on our
opinions, views and preferences rather than consulting God’s will and
adopting God’s ways.

            Yes, we can have a certain immunity against our weakness,
temptations and sins if we just follow more and more fully the ways of

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Repacking and retailing

THOSE in the business of marketing consumer products know well that
they have to do repacking and retailing to make sure their goods reach
the end-users. That’s why we have shampoos and catsup, for example, in
sachets, and food products reduced to bite size for easier

And they organize an ever-growing network of outlets and agents and
sellers, classifying their market into different segments and coming
up with appropriate plans and strategies.

They continually monitor market trends and adjust their products,
their pricing and marketing plans accordingly. They invest a lot on
advertising and packaging that trigger the impulse to buy. Marketing
campaigns are launched, employing gimmicks and celebrity endorsers, to
promote the products.

More or less, we need to do the same with our Christian doctrine that
is even more important than any of these consumer products. We need to
repack and retail it as widely as possible, making use of whatever
technique and strategy that can effectively bring it to the equivalent
of the market end-users.

We should not be averse to make use of secular ways of doing things to
promote the things of God meant for our spiritual health and apostolic
vitality. Let’s remember the parable of the dishonest steward who was
praised by Christ not because of his dishonesty, but because of his
resourcefulness. (cfr Lk 16)

In short, whatever is useful for this purpose, even if mixed with some
bad elements, should be welcomed and availed of, with prudence, of
course, and with the view of cleaning up and purifying the system,
since as the same parable reminded us, we cannot serve two masters. We
cannot serve both God and mammon.

In this concern about our Christian doctrine, we have to realize that
all of us should be involved in all the stages of the process. We all
are both sellers and buyers, producers and consumers, makers and users
of the Christian doctrine. But everyone under the guidance of the
Spirit through the Church.

This is, of course, the ideal situation. To reach it involves a
dynamics whose mechanism we should know increasingly well, so each one
of us can act properly.

We have to learn the art of how to deal with evil which is unavoidable
in the world. A certain tolerance and even cooperation with it—for
sure, only material and passive, never formal, intentional and
active—can be expected. In this world, we should not presume to be
squeaky clean all the time. We can’t avoid getting dirty sometimes.

In this regard, the model to follow is Christ himself. The very
creator of the world, the source and pattern of everything that is
true, good and beautiful, becomes man and assumed our weakened human
condition to save us. As St. Paul once said, Christ made himself like
sin without falling into sin.

He fraternized with the weak and the lost. He adjusted his ways to the
wounded condition of our humanity. His preaching was constant and
keyed to the level of the people, making use of parables, images and
other literary devices familiar to the hearers.

We have to have the mind and attitude of Christ with regard to
spreading the doctrine of our faith. We have to preach and spread it
widely, in season and out of season, obeying Christ’s command to his
apostles just before he went up to heaven to go, teach all nations…
(cfr Mt 28,19)

Wherever we are, we should feel the urge to communicate the saving
doctrine of Christ, knowing how to deal and communicate with everyone,
no matter how different they are from us.

We have to learn how to repack and retail the doctrine of Christ,
arming ourselves first of all with the proper attitude and
disposition, then with the appropriate skills.

The lofty, sublime, spiritual and supernatural truths of our faith
should be brought down to the ground level so they can be appreciated
and followed by everyone. If some sing-and-dance routine would be
needed or would be appropriate in a given situation, we should not shy
away from doing it.

We have to learn to appeal to all kinds of people—the young and the
old, the intellectuals and manual workers, those engaged in some
rocket science as well as those selling peanuts in the streets. In
short, everyone.

Since we always are in need of some strategy, and therefore some
selection and prioritization are unavoidable, we should not forget
that our basic concern is to reach everyone.

With abiding prayer and continuous effort to identify ourselves with
Christ, we can manage to do this seemingly impossible task.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Doctrinal orthodoxy and pastoral charity

THESE two should be together, like an unbreakable, organic pair, or
like the two sides of the same coin, or like marriage where the
principle of “what God has put together let no one put asunder” has to

They need each other, establishing a relationship that should be
worked out and enriched along the way. It is therefore a living,
dynamic relationship, not an inert, passive one.

But to be realistic, we have to learn to distinguish between the two
and to admit that some tension is always involved in their
relationship. The ideal has to be pursued in the context of the
concrete conditions and circumstances of the parties involved, and
always in reference to God’s will.

The relationship should not just be a matter of one’s good intentions
and estimation of things. It has to be forged by dint of prayer,
study, personal contact with people, continuing monitoring of
developments, etc.

Especially these days when the Pope is pushing for what is called the
Church of mercy and compassion, and when some proposals, like those
raised in the recently held synod on the family, sparked a raging
controversy as to how to wed charity with truth, mercy with justice,
we need to know how to develop this relationship properly.

The challenge is right in front of us. We cannot avoid it or ignore it
for long. Life has moved on to another level of development with their
corresponding good things and the inevitable problems, issues and
questions, if not, clearly bad things also coming out.

The thing to remember as a basic guideline to tackle this matter is
that the ideal relationship between doctrinal orthodoxy and pastoral
charity can only be found in the mind and the ways of God. We can only
reflect and approximate that proper relationship to the extent that we
are willing to identify ourselves with God’s mind and ways.

Of course, the will and ways of God can be discerned not only from the
doctrine and dogmas so far defined by the Church, nor only from the
rich traditions and established practices developed through the years
in the Church, but also from the continuing developments in the world
through which God also continues to speak to us.

The Spirit of God continues to intervene in our lives, no matter how
we shape and develop our lives. We always need to be perceptive of his
promptings that can come to us like the wind.

We have to be ready to go along with these promptings that can demand
of us to go farther from the current state of our beliefs and
practices. While it’s true that the objective body of faith is already
given to us, our subjective understanding, appreciation and
application of it will always be an endless process.

We also need to understand that the will and ways of God are not
confined only to some letter, to some doctrine or dogma, to some
theories and principles. They are mainly spiritual and supernatural
that go beyond, without nullifying, what we can humanly articulate.

Our usual problem is that we tend to absolutize what in fact only have
a relative value, since they are always subject to many factors that
can vary, like the historical, cultural, social, not to mention the
personal that can be quite unique to each one of us.

Our generalizations, otherwise valid and necessary, can also overstep
their limits. This is when our laws and traditions degenerate into
isms, frozen and blind to the real and concrete needs of the people
and deaf to the promptings of the Spirit. This is when we would have
legalism, traditionalism, rigorism, etc.

We should not be afraid to continually review and examine how things
are with respect to the proper relationship between doctrinal
orthodoxy and pastoral charity, and much less afraid to do the
necessary corrections, purifications, adjustments and adaptations.

Aside from having a general assessment of things and people, what is
actually more needed is to have direct personal knowledge of the
people. Thus, individual personal spiritual direction is most needed.

We also need to understand that the ultimate and culminating doctrine
of our faith is that Christ assumed all the sins of men by offering
his life on the cross. Our doctrinal orthodoxy should go to that
extent. Otherwise we would not be orthodox enough.

Christ preached and clearly told us what is right and wrong. But in
the end he perfected his redemptive work by dying on the Cross. That’s
where doctrinal orthodoxy and pastoral charity become one.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Prayer’s new relevance

PRAYER is always relevant. It’s as indispensable as
breathing. Our spiritual life would be detached from its life-source,
exposing itself to great dangers, when one stops to pray. But with
today’s confusing developments, when we have to learn to blend truth
with charity, justice with mercy, prayer becomes even more relevant
and indispensable.

            To be sure, this task of blending competing values
properly is nothing new. This has been both our challenge and our duty
since time immemorial. But the new developments today require us to be
more skillful in it as we face more complicated issues and situations
and more difficult questions that just cannot be ignored.

            With the current papal thrust to have a Church of mercy
and compassion, there definitely will be a more deliberate effort to
review and sort out the current norms and practices in the Church to
see if there are areas that can be improved, updated, purified of such
tendencies as traditionalism, legalism, rigorism, etc.

            Let’s remember that the Church, while divine and is
therefore divinely guaranteed, is also human and as such is subject to
the vicissitudes of our human condition. It will always be in need of
growth and development, and along the way, continuing conversion and

            The task to review and sort out is going to be very
delicate, and we have to expect a lot of discussion in this regard.
That’s why prayer is so much needed these days so that these
discussions would be pursued always with the guidance of the Spirit
who can spring surprises and tackle anything, and all within the truth
of our faith, the confidence of our hope and the warmth of our

            When we pray, we follow the example of Christ who managed
to go through his passion and death calmly and with the confidence
that his passion and death was the way to go for the salvation of

            Prayer makes us see things better. It inclines us to be
more perceptive of the abiding promptings of the Holy Spirit who
always traces the path we need to follow. At this point, we need to be
strongly reminded that it is the Holy Spirit, more than us, no matter
how bright and experienced we may be, who leads the way. We all have
to go to him and refrain from getting too attached to our views and

            Prayer helps to calm down our emotions that can easily get
agitated and that can blind us especially when sharp differences arise
in the discussion. We have to be wary of our tendency to easily get
inflamed by our passions that would just complicate matters.

            Prayer helps us to be more prudent in our judgments. It
facilitates our ability to listen to all sides, to study things
thoroughly, to make consultations when necessary, and to make
decisions. Prayer helps us to know when to stop and think, and when to
move and execute things.

            Prayer broadens our mind, nourishes our patience, and
keeps us hopeful and optimistic despite unavoidable setbacks. It helps
us how to properly take the biases, opinions, assumptions that we
always carry with us when we enter into any discussion.

            We need to see to it that we are truly praying, that is,
conversing with God in a very intimate way and bringing up things that
really matter to us. We should avoid just going through the motions of
praying but really without getting in contact with God and taking up
things that are not relevant, sort of just indulging in some abstract
exercise. Alas, this is a common bane to those who claim they pray.

            For this, we have to find the appropriate time and place,
knowing how to distance ourselves from our usual activities so we can
get into the proper mode of meditation and contemplation.

            We have to have the right dispositions, sharpening our act
of faith, our humility and docility. We have to be wary of the wiles
of our flesh, the world and the devil that can nullify our efforts to

            Obviously, we also have to prepare the topics well. This
is very crucial so that we avoid wasting time during our meditations.
This preparation will put us in a better position to see the light
that the Holy Spirit will be shedding on us.

            But it’s also important that we make a conscious effort to
appeal to the Holy Spirit to enlighten us. This should not be taken
for granted. This conscious effort will make us more perceptive of his

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Finding our anchor

NO matter how dynamic our life may be, we somehow know
that we need an anchor. We just cannot go on with our life without a
purpose, without some knowledge of where we come from or what life is
all about. We just cannot be too open to anything without some
principles to guide us, some norms and criteria to follow.

            There are those who, of course, would deny all this. Life
has to be taken, according to them, as it is, as it comes, as it
develops. But this kind of mentality already betrays some
rationalization, an afterthought. The spontaneous belief that we have,
even without articulating it, is that there must be some guideline we
need to follow in life. Otherwise, there would be utter chaos.

            It’s true that to some extent we have to take life as it
is, reacting to any development in the most practical way we can. But
practicality itself has need for anchoring. It just cannot hang on
air. Our sense of practicality can only spring from some foundation.

            In fact, whatever human and immediate motive we have in
acting and reacting to things, be it profitability, convenience,
popularity, etc., would always need some deeper anchoring.

            It is for this reason that we should be more aware to
sharpen our sense of the need for proper anchoring. We should go
beyond our immediate motives and follow the often muted or at least
muffled ultimate longing of the human heart which seeks true and
permanent joy and peace.

            We have to be wary of the many elements and factors that
tend to undercut this natural and primal necessity of ours. We are now
living in a world of dizzying dynamism and activism, with distractions
pouring in right and left, such that we are easily tempted to give
mere knee-jerk reactions, easily carried away by the currents.

            That’s why, especially with the temper of our times,
there’s also great need for prayer, for deeper reflection and
recollection, for some silence and distancing from worldly affairs if
only to regain our proper bearings or to secure a firm footing.

            We need to have a more global picture of things, widening
our perspectives without unduly sacrificing our attention to the
details. We need to know how to relate the here-and-now to our
ultimate goal, the material to the spiritual.

            In all this, we have to acknowledge that God, in fact, is
our firm anchor, since as the Creator of the universe and the Father
to all of us, he is the very foundation of reality. We need to sharpen
our presence of God and increasingly be familiar with his will and
ways, his abiding providence over all of us.

            This is a task for everyone, and we just have to help one
another to carry out this task as best as one could. We have to
overcome the problems and difficulties surrounding this concern, like
our initial awkwardness, our doubts and fears. Sometimes we think we
are behaving strangely by attending to this need, which is not true at

            We also have to be wary of the other extreme of dangers
that can beset this task. We can tend to be judgmental,
self-righteous, rigid and narrow-minded, etc., if our effort to know
and deal with God is driven by the desire to dominate others or to
simply want security, and not by humility and by the need for constant
conversion and renewal.

            We have to remember that dealing with God is always
accompanied by the growth of humility, mercy and compassion. Absent
these, we can be sure we are dealing with him wrongly.

            Getting to know God more and more is actually an easy
thing to do, since he is everywhere and he actually intervenes in our
lives all the time. He is never passive. Nor does he play hard to get.

            All we have to do is dispose ourselves to conform as
closely as possible to the ways of our faith. That’s the big
challenge, since we tend to rely more on what is tangible and sensible
than on what is intangible and spiritual, if not supernatural.

            We need to train ourselves and acquire the discipline of
meditating and contemplating, since more than anything else, these are
the way we enter into the world of our faith. It does not mean that we
have to reject our feelings, much less, the material world. It simply
means we have to go all the way of relating material to the spiritual
and supernatural.

            This is how we can find our true anchor!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Master of adoption and adaptation

WITH Christmas, we are somehow reminded of that beautiful
and awesome truth that God loves us so much that in spite of our sins
and unworthiness, he continues to love us by adopting us as his
children and adapting himself to our condition so we can have a way to
be like him and to regard him as our Father.

            Christmas is about God becoming man. He is the Son of God,
the second person of the Trinitarian God, the very pattern of our
creation. And yet he allows himself to be conceived in the virginal
womb of Mary, and is born in a manger in a remote corner in Bethlehem.
The creator makes himself a creature. The pattern fleshes up his own
pattern for our sake.

            It’s because of this most wonderful truth that we
romanticize Christmas with all the creativity that we can muster, and
we, of course, are doing it rightly. Nothing wrong with that. But we
cannot deny the fact that Christmas involves what we can consider as
the painful process of God emptying himself to the extreme just to be
with us as intimately as possible.

            Yes, what we consider as painful and negative on the
whole, becomes the very expression of love insofar as God is
concerned. He spares himself nothing just to be with us and to save
us, never to condemn us. His love is a kind of divine madness.

            It’s because of this that we can call him the master of
adoption and adaptation. His love is such that he identifies himself
with us, assuming not only our nature but also the consequences of
sin, short of sin itself. He does this so we can also have a way of
identifying ourselves with God, whose image and likeness we are.

            God is true and faithful to his word for us, even if we
abuse and corrupt that word. He is willing to undergo whatever
sacrifices are needed just to keep that fidelity intact. He adopts us
as his children, and he adapts himself to our condition, however it
may go, just to keep that divine filiation of ours a living reality.

            We just have to try our best to correspond properly and
generously to this divine madness by repaying love with love also.
Christ himself commanded it of us: “You shall love one another as I
have loved you.”

            To repay love with love, we have to follow his example of
being a master of adoption and adaptation. Like him, let us do our
best to identify ourselves with the others through the many ways of
love: empathy, sympathy, compassion, patience, affection, mercy, acts
of service, generosity, etc.

            For all this to happen, we have to understand that we have
to be as demanding on ourselves as much as we can, because only then
can we be able to truly love the others as they ought to be loved,
allowing the grace of God to work on us effectively.

            Let’s remember that love is determined by what the others
expect and demand from us, by what they truly need, and by what they
objectively deserve as defined by God’s designs for all of us upon
creating us.

            And love does not hide in anonymity. It seeks to enter
into the lives of the loved ones. That’s why it is inventive, creative
and versatile. It knows how to adapt itself to the concrete conditions
of the beloved. It goes beyond simply knowing others. Loving others
involves uniting and identifying oneself with the beloved.

            And so we have to be very tough. We just cannot be
confined and restrained by the conditions of our temperament,
character and the many transitory circumstances that define our life
in a given moment.

            We need to empty ourselves more or less in the way Christ
emptied himself to become man and to die on the cross for our sake. We
have to be convinced that this self-emptying, while involving a lot of
suffering, is the sure path of our own perfection, our own maturity.
We should feel happy to experience the adventure of self-emptying.

            Let’s strengthen our faith in the words of Christ who
said: “Whosoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and he that humbles
himself shall be exalted.” (Mt 23,12) Let’s glory in humility and
ceaselessly find ways of deepening this indispensable virtue of

            We can do this in many ways—making many acts of service
while passing unnoticed, eager to help, even to volunteer without
being asked. We forgive and also ask for forgiveness, etc.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Appetite for communion

ONE prayer that holds great meaning to me and that I
learned soon after a dramatic personal conversion many, many years ago
is what is called Spiritual Communion.

            This can be said, of course, in different ways, but the
one I learned was the one used by St. Josemaria Escriva, Opus Dei
founder. It goes this way: “I wish, Lord, to receive you with the
purity, humility and devotion with which your Most Holy Mother
received you, with the spirit and fervor of the saints.”

            As explained to me by the priest who was my spiritual
director at that time, it’s a prayer that I should try to say as often
as possible during the day, and especially as an immediate preparation
for Holy Mass, since it expresses the proper attitude we ought to have
with respect to Christ.

            He went on to say that Christ is everything to us. He is
our savior, the one who fixes things for us, who shows us the way we
have to go through in our earthly life toward our definitive eternal
life without getting lost.

            I was made to realize that our life would not be complete,
as it should be, without Christ. Our true happiness and perfection is
in him. Somehow, I knew all this in theory and I fully agreed to it,
but how to put it in practice was the big problem.

            The priest continued to tell me that it was important that
I manage to keep this need and hunger for Christ all throughout the
day, and to avoid getting swallowed up by merely earthly affairs and
concerns. He said that I should learn how to make my involvement in
mundane activities sharpen rather than dull my desire for Christ.

            The advice had great and lasting impact on me. I remember
I had to process it slowly in my personal reflections, figuring out
how to put it in place in my mind and heart, making it a fundamental
and functioning principle in life.

            I remember I had to revisit the many theological
foundations of this counsel, and to relish them so as to make them
alive and keenly felt, rather than keeping them merely as abstract and
cold ideas.

            I was quite aware of my predicament. I was doing very well
in my studies. And wherever I focused my interest into, somehow I
managed to get good results. But I was also aware of the motives
behind them. And they were not all good! Worse, they can look good to
others who appreciated what I did, but I know there were not all good.

            Some kind of pack of wolves always hounded me as I believe
they do with everybody else. Pride, vanity, envy, greed can subtly
attach themselves to otherwise good intentions and initiatives. And,
of course, lust would not be far behind. All these somehow would
manage to enter into the equation.

            Repeating the Spiritual Communion somehow helped and
continues to help in putting the mind and heart in the right track. If
prayed earnestly, it surely would assure us of a certain sense of
security and immunity from dangers coming from our weakness and from
other external sources.

            We would be strongly reminded that Christ is always with
us, showing us the way, and ever ready to help us in our every need,
and quick to understand and forgive us. He is not a Christ who is
indifferent to us, who enjoys in our difficulties and suffering.

            If he allows us to fall, in spite of our best efforts,
it’s because there is always something good and better that can be
derived from these bad experiences. He will teach us how to suffer and
bear all things. He will show us how we can develop a virtue that is
still lacking in us.

            We need to cultivate this appetite for communion with
Christ. We have to develop a holy fear of simply being by ourselves,
relying solely on our human powers and resources. This is a dangerous
situation to be in.

            We need to enter into communion with Christ, which is
actually what is proper to us, since our life is not meant only to be
ours alone, but rather to be vitally united with God through Christ in
the Holy Spirit. We are made in his image and likeness. We cannot be
without him in our mind and heart, and in our life as a whole.

            The spiritual communion should lead us to Holy Communion,
the living bread that Christ himself commanded us to eat to have life,
the real life, in abundance!

Fighting bigotry

IT’S an old problem we all have. It afflicts everyone. You
now see it everywhere, especially in our public discourses. It’s not
anymore only a matter of being a racist or a religious bigot. It has
morphed to affect practically every aspect of our life, be it politics
or whatever.

            It used to be associated with those who are usually
regarded as conservative people, the rightists, the traditionalists.
But I have also met those whom we usually brand as liberals, leftists
or progressives, and I must say that they are just as bigoted as the
former. It can be very vocal or very quiet, which is the more
dangerous kind.

            Bigotry is basically asserting what one considers as the
truth but without charity. As such, it cannot help but have a narrow
view of things in general, and held at that with so much passion of
attachment. A bigot is a rigid and close-minded person.

            Bigotry is a hybrid of so many uncorrected anomalies of
perception, judgment and reasoning. It oozes with pride, conceit,
arrogance, an almost invincible sense of self-righteousness. That’s
why it looks like it has some built-in mechanism for blindness and

            It expresses itself in rash judgments, sharp, inflammatory
words, and views and opinions that are considered exclusively
infallible while those of others are jammed with errors and flaws.

            A bigot usually thinks he is all correct, while others are
all wrong. Not even an iota of correctness can be found in them. Often
they use grandiose words and arguments to sound credible.

            What is worse is that bigotry is now mainstream and is
playing big-time. It is actually like an epidemic left ignored if not
practically stimulated. Just look at the social networks. There the
freedom of speech and freedom itself are dragged to their worst state
of abuse.

            Many people nowadays, first of all, feel that they can
make comments on just about anything. Never mind if they have little
or practically no background knowledge about a certain subject. They
just want to say something. To be opinionated seems to be trend today.

            All of a sudden you see a profusion of experts in global
warming, political and social sciences, arts and technologies,
religion and church affairs, for example. You take a cursory look at
their bio-data, and there’s hardly anything there that would suggest
they are qualified.

            Amateurs want to sound like professionals, transients like
to appear as residents of a certain place. What is meant to be given
only a casual consideration is given a pseudo-serious one instead.
That’s why opinions are made to sound like dogmas, and what is of
relative value is garbed in absolute terms.

            What is worse is that they feel their comments are the
most correct, if not the only correct comment in the field. Courtesy,
civility, openness, tolerance, a sense of self-restraint and
moderation appear to be strangers if not enemies to them. These have
no room in the mind and heart of a bigot.

            Bigots want to attract attention. They get hurt when they
are unnoticed. They would do anything, even feign humility and
goodness, if that would draw attention to themselves.

            We have to learn to fight bigotry, first of all, by
nipping it in the bud. We have to check our attitudes and dispositions
regarding all kinds of people, including enemies, whom we have to
love, and regarding all kinds of issues.

            We have to learn to be open-minded and tolerant, eager to
listen to both sides or to all parties involved in a discussion, no
matter how different or opposed their views are to ours.

            We need to check on our emotions, keeping them under
proper supervision and away from points which can trigger their
uncontrolled outbursts. We have to learn to accept unpleasant
developments and other forms of contradictions calmly.

            In this, what is most helpful is to meditate on the
passion of Christ, including his trial before Pilate where he remained
quiet even when asked, “What is the truth?” There we can get an idea
of what truth is.

            Truth is not simply a matter of being correct, of being
honest to one’s feelings, or of having the info asked and telling it.
Truth goes much further than these levels. It can include being quiet
and simply willing to suffer all kinds of weaknesses, errors and
malice of men.

            It’s in the passion, death and resurrection of Christ
where we can see the perfect blend between truth and charity, justice
and mercy. It’s there where we can overcome our tendency for bigotry.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mercy and compassion

WITH Pope Francis pushing what he calls as the Church of mercy and
compassion, we all have to do some adjustments in our attitudes and
thinking, because with that call some kind of paradigm shift is
actually being presented to us for the life of the Church.

    To be sure, this papal thrust is not meant to undo what the previous
pontificates and the several councils have accomplished. We have to be
clear about this, and set aside fears the Pope is taking the Church in
the wrong direction. It simply is a step further, Spirit-inspired, in
the path the Church has to take to pursue its mission.

    It’s also a thrust that is more attuned to the temper of the times,
when a lot of developments are happening, giving us both good and
not-so-good things. More than just a confusion in doctrine, there is a
big haemorrhaging in the Church with more and more people feeling if
not being alienated from it.

    This thrust of Pope Francis’ pontificate is meant to tackle this
problem in the Church. We cannot anymore be casual, passive and
cavalier toward those who are getting farther away from the Church. We
have to reach out to them as actively and as persistently as possible.

    This means that even as we tighten our grip of what is essentially
right and wrong with respect to faith and morals, we should also try
to loosen as much as possible our ways of dealing with everybody so as
to be in friendly and talking terms with everyone.

    All this is meant to reflect the ways of God himself who is both very
strict and very lenient, very demanding and very patient and merciful.

    The mercy and compassion being asked of us is not so much directed to
those in some material need or misery as to those who are in grave
spiritual and moral predicaments. In the prayer for the preparation of
the papal visit to our country, these persons are referred to as “the
weak and the lost.”

    The mercy and compassion presented to us is that aspect of the
redemptive life and work of Christ who fraternized with sinners, who
taught us to love our enemies, who spoke of the parables of the lost
sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son, and who bore all the sins of
men by offering his life on the cross.

    They all tell us that it is not enough to have good intentions only
towards others, nor to do some acts of charity which is more of
philanthropy than anything else, a kind of “noblesse-oblige” mindset.

    The mercy and compassion asked of us is that very attitude of the
poor widow who out of what she had to live on gave her two mites in
contrast to the rich man who gave quite a bit but out of his

    This papal approach is asking us to go beyond being doctrinally
correct, without of course disparaging in any way the need for
doctrinal orthodoxy. It is asking us to be very pastoral and
heroically apostolic, done in a personal way of friendship and
confidence more than as an official duty.

    It is asking us to be open and tolerant with everybody if only to
keep the friendship going. We have to check if there’s anything in our
beliefs and practices that we hold in absolute and restrictive manner
when they can allow for other acceptable ways.

    And even in the case where one is doctrinally correct and the other
wrong, we should refrain from raising walls between them but rather
should trigger the dynamics of the charity of mercy and compassion.
The extreme of delicacy in our dealings should be lived.

    The discussion of the doctrine can wait if the person involved is not
yet ready to accept what is right and wrong in doctrinal matters. We
have to remember that we are not concerned so much about who is right
and who is wrong as about loving everybody.
    Our differences should not dull our affection with one another.
Rather, they should enhance it, since only in this atmosphere can
doctrinal differences be settled properly.

    However, catechesis in a general way should continue unabatedly,
doing it with gift of gab, adapting it to the concrete conditions of
the listeners. As St. Paul said, we have to “preach the word in
season, out of season.” (2Titus 4,2) He also said that, yes, we can
“reprove, entreat, rebuke” but “in all patience and doctrine.”

    The call for a Church of mercy and compassion has to be heeded!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Saving and losing

ONE very intriguing teaching of Christ is that we have to
lose our life to save it. “Whoever would save his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (My 16,25)

            We need to go beyond the sensation of being simply
intrigued, charmed and mesmerized by these words, and get to
understand what they really mean, what they involve and require, and
start to apply them in our lives.

            These, for sure, are words of wisdom, spoken as they are
by Christ himself, the fullness of the revelation of God to us and,
thus, also of what is ultimately true, good relevant and necessary to
us. We should never take them for granted, but should rather do all we
can to convert this teaching into reality in our lives.

            We obviously have to approach them with faith, a complete
trust in Christ who would never deceive us. For this, we have to
loosen our grip of the here and now, of the merely sensible and
natural reality, to be able to take a leap of faith that would always
involve some mystery, since faith always entails the spiritual and the

            This mind-frame and attitude is precisely what is behind
these intriguing words of Christ. We need to lose our fear of letting
go of the natural realities, not because they are bad or wrong, but
rather because, like a fledgling that already has acquired flying
feathers, we need to take off to the wider and richer world of our
faith and supernatural life.

            These words of Christ are an invitation, if not a command,
to make faith, hope and charity the main principle of our life, and
everything in it—our thoughts, desires, words and deeds, the personal,
family, professional, social aspects, etc. They tell us that we are
meant for a supernatural life with God, and not simply a natural one
by our own personal selves or among ourselves together.

            We should not be guided only by our feelings alone, not
even by our reason, no matter how brilliant, because if our reason and
all the other human estimations and calculations of things are not
based on faith, then they will very likely miss certain realities
meant for us.

            Our human powers and faculties (our intelligence, will,
etc.) need to be fueled properly by faith, hope and charity that
connect us to the source and creator of all things. They just cannot
be fed by the merely sensible and even the purely intelligible
realities. Their proper objects go beyond those levels.

            Obviously, these faith, hope and charity are not things
that we invent and produce ourselves. They are first of all gifts of
God, our Creator, who gives them to us abundantly.

            We have to realize more deeply that being our Creator and
Father, God always intervenes in our life. His governance over us and
everything else never ceases, since he is the very foundation of
everything that exists. His abiding providence is never passive, but
always active.

            But we need to correspond to these gifts as best as we
can. We should not be indifferent to them. We have to sharpen our
awareness of this need, and start to train our mind and heart, our
emotions and other bodily powers to feel the need for faith, hope and

            All this will certainly require continuing effort and
struggle. Not only do we need to purify ourselves and to get involved
in the constant war between good and evil. Most importantly, we need
to always strive to be better and not to be self-satisfied at a
certain level of goodness.

            We have to do constant battle against complacency and
lukewarmness so we can be more generous and burning in our love for
God and our concern for the others. We have to understand that losing
our life for the sake of Christ in order to find it will involve us in
an endless pursuit.

            We have to be ready to enter the realm of the mysteries of
the spiritual and the supernatural. Yes, if we simply rely on our
human faculties and powers, we can readily see our limitations, and we
can choose to stay within that system.

            We can see the sky, for example, but we cannot reach it,
much less, go beyond it. But with faith, hope and charity, yes, we
can. What we need is to be humble and obedient to our faith, so we
acknowledge our limitations but allow ourselves to be taken up beyond
them. This is to lose in order to save.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Yoke easy, burden light?

THAT’S what Christ said! “Take my yoke upon you and learn
from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for
yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Mt 11,29-30)

            I’m quite sure that at first reading and simply relying on
our native attitudes in the raw, these words will strike us as funny.
We can dismiss them, saying, “Tell it to the marines!” How in the
world can things be easy and light when our immediate perception of
things in general point precisely to the contrary?

            Even without inputting the faith, life is already full of
hardships. We have to contend with our weaknesses—physical, emotional,
psychological, etc. Then the endless challenges and difficulties of
life—the trials, setbacks, pressures… The world would not be enough to
record all the possible problems and complications we can encounter in

            And if we input the requirements of faith and of the
spiritual and moral laws, things become even more difficult if not
impossible. Christ already warned us that we need to enter by the
narrow gate, we have to deny ourselves and carry the cross, we have to
do some violence to enter heaven.

            Christ himself, who is supposed to be our “way, truth and
life,” begged the Father in his agony in the garden to let the cup
pass by him, knowing what tremendous sacrifice he had to do by
offering his life on the cross.

            In our case, we know that in spite of our best efforts, we
can still find ourselves wallowing in the mud of our own stupidities.
Even those of us who consider ourselves good and holy are often
afflicted with the most deceptive illness of self-righteousness,
bigotry, pride.

            Yes, we can do a lot of good things, we can affirm a lot
of truths of our faith, we can burn with a certain holy zeal, and yet
quite often, evil, in all its forms overt and mostly hidden and
subtle, undermine if not nullify them.

            We have to contend with the erratic impulses of our
weakened flesh, the many temptations in the world, and the wiles and
tricks of the devil. We are told that we are ranged against powerful
spiritual enemies. St. Paul warned us so:

            “Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against
principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of darkness,
against the spirit of wickedness in the high places.” (Eph 6,12)

            Christ’s yoke is easy and his burden light? Before we say,
no way, let’s see if we are missing something we ought to know. Let’s
review more closely the words of Christ. There we will realize that he
is asking us to learn from him because he is meek and humble of heart.

            That, I think, is the secret. The meekness and humility of
Christ is the way for us to accept anything in this life and end up
considering his yoke to be easy and his burden light. He is telling us
that with his meekness and humility, we can be patient and can take on
anything in this life, no matter how hard and impossible they may be,
humanly speaking.

            It’s a matter of attitude, of having the very spirit of
Christ who actually gives it to us abundantly if we don’t hinder it.
It is the attitude and spirit that was beautifully articulated by St.
Paul a number of times.

            “We also are weak in him (Christ), but we shall live with
him by the power of God towards us.” (2 Cor 13,4) Again, “Gladly
therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may
dwell in me…for when I am weak, then am I powerful.” (2 Cor 12,9-10)

            We have to make sure that we increasingly identify
ourselves with Christ, acquiring his spirit through our prayers,
recourse to the sacraments, internalizing his doctrine and example,
and waging a continuing ascetical struggle to develop virtues.

            We have to make sure that we grow in meekness and humility
which can serve as the doorway for faith, hope and charity to enter,
stay and develop to maturity in our life.

            Although suffering will always be suffering in whatever
form it may come, somehow we are also afforded some kind of mysterious
anesthetic, made up of faith and charity, that would enable us to go
through that suffering without much drama, just like what happened to
Christ while dying on the Cross.

            This is when we can say that Christ’s yoke is indeed easy,
and his burden light!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Always beyond our powers and resources

WE should not be surprised that life and all the
challenges and trials we are going to face in it will always demand
from us things beyond our powers and resources. And that’s simply
because we are meant to go to God for all our needs, without
neglecting any effort we can give along the way.

With God, we have everything. As St. Teresa de Avila would
put it, “Solo Dios basta!” What we lack in our humanity, we can always
make up by relying always and completely on God.

But, alas, this can happen only when we have faith, for
faith is our best resource. As St. John puts it in his first letter,
“This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith.” (5,4)
Without faith, we are left with a big problem right from the start.

Thus, before all this exciting drama and adventure of
life, our attitude should be that of being sporty and game, based on
our faith in God and trust in his all-powerful and merciful
providence. This attitude is actually what is presumed every time we
enter into some form of commitment, whether to a vocation or marriage
or work, etc.

It’s clear that we are not in control of everything. But instead of
being fearful and frozen into inaction, we should launch out into the
deep, warmed in the heart that if we are doing what we know is God’s
will for us, then we have every reason to believe it will always be
good, even if by human criteria it might be considered as a failure.

Let’s remember that “duc-in-altum” episode of the apostles with
Christ. At first, they hesitated to follow Christ’s command to go into
the deep for a catch, because they said they went fishing the previous
night and caught nothing.

But they chose to obey Christ just the same and, lo and behold, they
made such a big catch that it was hard for them to bring it to the
shore, leaving Peter covered with shame for his initial disbelief.

When we enter into a commitment of any kind, let’s make sure that it
is done before God and in accord to his will. A commitment not done
this way, or done simply relying on our own powers and resources, or
on some blind fate, is doomed from the beginning.

When properly done, that commitment should be the guarantee of our
success, if not here then hereafter, if not materially then
spiritually, if not humanly then supernaturally. That’s because, with
God, nothing is impossible. He actually does not lose battles, even if
in our own estimations, he might appear to have lost.

This truth about commitment should fill us with a deep sense of
confidence. More than that, it should prod us to be very generous and
magnanimous, sparing no effort or resource at our disposal, and always
enterprising in our pursuits, thinking big without neglecting the
little details.

Obviously, we have to balance all this with prudence and a growing
sense of humility also. Remember that Christ told us to be “wise as
serpents and simple as doves.” We have to avoid being totally like a
serpent without being like a dove, and vice-versa.

The health and vitality of our sense of commitment depends on the
health and vitality of our faith in God that in turn should lead us to
a vibrant life of hope and charity. Without discarding the due
function of our reason and senses, we have to be guided mainly by

That is why we need to discipline our thinking and emotions, because
they tend to go on their own and leave faith behind. We have to see to
it that the way we think and feel should always be infused by faith,
otherwise we expose ourselves to unnecessary dangers that would lead
us to fear, doubts, gloominess, etc.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

To serve and not to be served

THIS is the attitude to have. It is what Christ himself
had and continues to have. He once said, “The Son of man also came not
to be served but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Mk 10,45)

            This is what love is all about, love in its most distilled
form. It goes beyond merely wishing others well, or giving something
and sharing things. This is love in action, in total self-giving even
if nothing can be gained by doing so.

            Besides, it is a love done in total obedience and
availability to his loved ones, the Father and us. For love is true
when done both at the instance of the loved ones and of one’s personal
gratuitous initiative.

            We have to do everything to acquire, develop and enrich
this attitude in ourselves and among ourselves, inspiring and
inculcating it in others as much as we can, for it is what truly
proper of us all.

            With God’s grace, we have to exert effort to overcome the
understandable awkwardness and tension involved in blending the
natural and the supernatural aspects of this affair, as well as the
expected resistance we can give, due to the effects of our sins.

            We can make use of our daily events to cultivate this
attitude. For example, as soon as we wake up from sleep in the
morning, perhaps the first thing we have to do is address ourselves to
God and say “Serviam” (I will serve). It’s the most logical think to
do, given who God is and who we are in relation to him.

            And “Serviam” is a beautiful aspiration that can
immediately put us in the proper frame of mind for the day. It
nullifies Satan’s “Non serviam” and our tendency to do our own will
instead of God’s, which is what sin, in essence, is all about.

            And as we go through our day, let’s see to it that
everything we do is done as a service to God and to others. Let’s not
do them merely out of self-interest or self-satisfaction. That kind of
attitude is highly poisonous to us, ruinous to our duty to love.
Sooner or later, we will find ourselves completely engulfed by

            For us to be able to do things as service of love to God
and to others, we have to continually rectify our intentions. We
should be quick to react when we notice that our intentions and
motivations are already invaded by self-interest.

            It’s not that we cannot and should not care about
ourselves or pursue interests that are beneficial to us. We can and,
in fact, should. But all that should be done as a function of the love
of God, for what is truly good for us is when what we do, either for
us or for others, is inspired by the love of God. Otherwise, it would
be harmful to us.

            It is God’s love that gives us what is truly good to all
of us. Our own approximations of love that are not inspired by God’s
love can only go so far, and most likely will end up harming more than
helping us.

            Aside from rectifying our intentions, we also need to
continually look for opportunities to serve others. This should be an
on-going concern for us. We have to be wary of our tendency to avoid
this duty by concocting questionable if not false motives like
convenience, practicality, popularity, efficiency, and others not
worth mentioning.

            A person who is truly in love with the love of God will
have all his senses and powers alive to whatever opening to serve
would come his way. He is not afraid to make sacrifices. In fact, to
suffer would be his joy. While suffering will always be suffering, it
is love that makes that suffering joyful.

            In very concrete terms, we can show this attitude of
serving and not wanting to be served if even at the end of the day,
when we are already tired from work and all the pressures of the day,
we can still manage to be of good disposition and even keep good humor
during family dinners and evening get-togethers.

            As can be easily gleaned, cultivating this attitude to
serve and not to be served can be done in our ordinary daily events.
It does not wait for extraordinary occasions for it to be set in
motion. The daily happenings are enough—in fact, more than enough.

            We would be Christ to one another if we live out this
attitude consistently.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mary’s ‘Fiat’ and our will

“FIAT mihi secundum verbum tuum” (Be it done to me according to your
word). These are the famous words of Our Lady that radically changed
the course of the history of mankind.

    With them, God’s work of human redemption started to take place in
its final form. Our time recovered its fullness when it is reunited
with the divine eternity. Our state of being a fugitive from God due
to our sin is given a reprieve and a way to reconcile with God.

    And that’s because, with these words, the Son of God became man. “Et
verbum caro factum est” (And the Word was made flesh). In the very
womb of Mary, the reconnection between God and man, sundered by sin,
was established.

    In a very mysterious way, a woman, a creature became the mother of
her creator and savior, and thus enjoyed a number of divine favors and
privileges, among them, those of her immaculate conception, perpetual
virginity and assumption into heaven, without compromising her
humanity and her freedom.

    Mary becomes the icon of the most ideal state of man as he is meant
to be, in the mind of God, at the beginning of creation, before sin
came, as well as at the end of time, when everything would be
reconciled with God our Father through the cross of his Son and her

    She is the most perfect among all the creatures. Greater than her, no
one else except God, as one saint would put it. She is the perfect
personification of what is meant to be “the image and likeness of God”
in which man was designed and created.

    She is also the perfect personification of man redeemed by Christ
after we have all fallen into sin. Being the perfect co-redeemer in
Christ, she embodies the best results of the redemptive work of her
Son, thus she deserved the assumption into heaven body and soul
without waiting for the end of time.

    All these mainly because of that word, “Fiat” (Be it done). Her
openness to God’s will, her obedience to the divine designs for man
somehow started the healing of the disobedience of our first parents
that plunged all of us into a life and a world of sin.

    That “Fiat” is the best example of obedience that man as a creature
can have in relation to the will of God, our Creator and Father. It
perfectly echoes in a mysteriously anticipative way also Christ’s
obedience to the will of his Father—“If it is your will, let this cup
pass by me, but not my will but yours be done.”

    Mary’s “Fiat” is the perfect model of how our will ought to be
conformed to God’s will. We have to be reminded that by the very
nature of our will, the very seat of our freedom, our will is supposed
to be in synch with the will of its Creator. It just cannot be by
itself, turning and moving purely by its own.

    It is meant to be engaged with the will of God, its creator and
lawgiver. It is the very power we have been given by God that enables
us to unite ourselves with God in the most intimate way. All the other
aspects of our life—physical, biological, chemical, etc.—are also
governed by God-given laws but, by themselves, they cannot bring us
into intimate union with God.

    We cannot expropriate our will to be simply our own. We are meant
only to be stewards of it, not its owner nor its designer, creator and
lawgiver. It has to submit itself to the will of God, otherwise it
would be working without proper foundation and purpose.

    Mary’s “Fiat” should be an all-time motto for us, a guiding principle
in our whole life. The submission of our will to God’s will is never a
diminution of our freedom. On the contrary, it is the enhancement of
our freedom. It is where we can have our true freedom and true joy.

    We need to be more aware of this fundamental need of ours to conform
our will to the will of God. Very often, we behave like spoiled brats
who do not yet realize the importance of this need. We have to correct
this tendency.

    We have to train ourselves in the art of deepening our sense of
obedience to God’s will, basing it on our faith, hope and love of God
and others, and making it intelligent, truly voluntary, prompt and

    That’s when we can be truly children of God, his image and likeness.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Finding Christ in the little things

WE have to learn to find Christ in the little things which
comprise most of our day, if not of our whole life. This is not a
gratuitous, baseless assertion, an act of fantasizing, of hunting
lions in the corridors of the house.

            This is as real and true as can be. Of course, it requires
faith, but if we care to listen to faith, we will, in fact, find it
reasonable and practicable, not something quixotic, cocooned in the
realm of the abstract, the absurd and the impossible.

            Christ is God made man. As God, he is involved in our
creation, in our getting into existence. As such, since it’s existence
that is involved in creation, he cannot withdraw from us, since by
doing so would be like God withdrawing our existence. Since we
obviously exist, ergo, he is in and with us by the very fact of our

            As God and man, he is our redeemer, the one who, in a
manner of speaking, would re-do or re-create us after our original
state of humanity has been damaged by our sin.

            As such, since we all need to be redeemed at all times, he
neither can withdraw from us, since by doing so would be like this
God-and-man, Jesus Christ, withdrawing from our redemption. Since we
need to be redeemed always, Christ is also always with us. He actually
cannot help but redeem us, because of his great love for us.

            We need to be more aware of this reality about ourselves,
since we often do not realize it, dominated as we are with the merely
material and sensible realities and with what is the here-and-now and
what is immediately felt. We many times fail to go beyond this level.

            This is not to mention that our sins themselves make us
insensitive to this reality which is also a truth of faith. And our
sinfulness can be such that we would not even feel the need for
conversion, thus putting ourselves in some state of invincible
insensitivity to the truths of our faith.

            This is the truth of faith that serves as the basis for
our belief that Christ is also everywhere and all the time, and
especially in the little ordinary events and circumstances of our day.

            Not only that but also that his omnipresence in our life
is anything but passive and indifferent. He is always actively
intervening in our life, which we can safely deduce if we also believe
that he truly loves us.

            Of course, that love can never be doubted if we also
consider that he offered his life on the cross. As he himself said and
as we can easily agree, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man
lays down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15,13)

            Since Christ is God, his presence can continue in us and
in our life in ways that are impossible for us to do. To his
disciples, he said: “I am with you always, to the close of the age.”
(Mt 28,20)

            We therefore have to learn to find Christ in everything,
doing so not in some generic, theoretical way, but in a specific,
practical way, one that is abiding and active. This, of course, is a
great challenge to all of us, but if we believe in this truth and we
try to conform ourselves to it and to persevere in it, for sure we can
achieve a certain degree of success.

            It should be something normal to all of us to feel
Christ’s presence in all things, especially in our little ordinary
events of the day, and to correspond to that presence as actively as
possible. This ideal is not only for some people who we usually regard
as mystics and very special people.

            This is for all of us, but obviously to be pursued in
stages and in other human ways that would involve leaders and
followers, teachers and students, masters and disciples.

            We can always start anytime, for what it takes is only an
act of faith that we try to pursue as far as we can. If we persevere
in this effort, for sure, sooner or later we can find Christ even in
the most ordinary and even ugly things of life.

            This is so because Christ identifies himself with all
things, and he has assumed everything human, no matter how that
humanity turns, except sin. And even when we are in sin, he precisely
gives special attention to us.

            Let’s start by finding Christ in the little things of our day.

Friday, December 5, 2014

We need to seek the cross

THAT’S simply because without the cross, there’s no other
way but for us to get spoiled. Our sense of freedom and of what is
good, right and fair would get unhinged from its proper foundation,
and would fall easy prey to the blind impulses of our flesh, the
deceptive allurements of the world, and the wiles of the devil.

            The cross is where we find Christ, and Christ completing
and perfecting his work of human redemption. It is the instrument of
our salvation, the tree of life that counters the tree of death. No
wonder that he commands us to carry the cross: “If any man would come
after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
(Mt 16,24)

            Christ’s cross is the effective counterbalance of our
freedom, which can swing in any which way. It keeps our freedom in the
orbit of truth and charity that can only come from God, our creator
and father.

            It heals what is wounded, cures what is sick in us,
especially our tendency to be lazy and complacent. It makes us humble
and simple, protecting us from the dangers of pride, bigotry, conceit
and self-righteousness.

            It assumes all our sins, mistakes and other stupidities,
and atones for them, repairing what they damage, making up for
whatever we ourselves cannot anymore resolve humanly. It also serves
to strengthen us, making us more resistant to the different evils of
this world.

            It purifies us, and deepens our knowledge and wisdom,
widens our perspectives and compassion It pushes us to where we ought
to go but usually do not like to. It’s a stimulus for growth in all
aspects of our life, goading us on the road toward human and Christian

            Above all, the cross is the strongest proof of love. It
somehow captures the whole range of love which is not contented only
with giving and sharing, but also of suffering for the loved one. It
is the grand school of mercy.

            The good effects of the Christ’s cross are abundant. They
are actually beyond accounting, because the dignity proper to us as
well as our capacity to do evil for which the cross serves as a foil,
are also beyond accounting. In short, it has many mysterious good

            We actually need the cross more than we need air. That’s
why we have to train ourselves to love the cross, seeking it actively
and not waiting for it to come. Knowing the way we are, with our
wounded condition, this is the proper attitude to take toward the

            But we have to make sure that we have the right
understanding of it. We have to be wary of the reductionist if not
perverted attitudes toward the cross. Sad to say, the world today is
also full of doctrines and ideologies that promote such attitudes. So
we have to be always watchful and discerning, frequently rectifying
our intentions, promptly correcting ourselves when we notice we have
strayed from the right path.

            We can start by taking advantage of the constant
opportunities to embrace the cross in the usual events of our day. We
should not eat without including an element of sacrifice, for example.
Whatever we like doing—our interests, our sports and hobbies,
etc.—should be accompanied with some forms of mortification.

            It may just be a matter of self-discipline in terms of
following a schedule, even if not having one does not make much of a
difference. It could just be a matter of guarding our senses,
purifying our imagination and memory, struggling to smile and to say
some nice words even in the midst of some contradictions. There are
endless possibilities.

            Or it could be taking coffee without sugar, bread without
butter, taking more of what we don’t like and less of what we like. Or
taking up some physical exercises especially when we tend to lead a
very sedentary lifestyle.

            It is through these that we make ourselves ready to face
the big challenges, trials—in other words, the big crosses—of our
life. It is through these that we keep ourselves identified with the
Christ on the cross, full of love, understanding and mercy.

            We should also see to it that our seeking and loving the
cross should make us more loving and understanding towards others. If
that is not so, then we are seeking and loving the cross wrongly. And
again, sad to say, cases like this are also plenty.

            We have to seek the cross properly and abidingly, but with