Saturday, January 31, 2015

Some notes on poverty

IT’S obvious that we have to do all we can to combat bad
poverty. That’s the poverty that dehumanizes us, that undermines our
dignity as persons and as children of God. Anything that stands in the
way of what we ought to be, both in the natural level and with respect
to our supernatural destination, should be rooted out.

            And in this Year of the Poor, it’s understandable that we
are called upon first to do something about the plight of the many
people suffering under some yoke of human misery like hunger,
unemployment, ignorance, injustice, and other forms of privation.

            These in themselves are already a very formidable task
that deserves our immediate action. We need to pray and offer a lot of
sacrifices for these causes, sparing nothing to resolve them. But our
understanding of poverty would be gravely deficient if we regard
poverty exclusively in this light.

            There’s a lot more to poverty than this common and most
wonderful sense of empathy and sympathy with our fellow citizens in
dire necessity. There’s a good poverty that is actually a virtue to be
desired and cultivated.

            It’s the poverty that makes us more and more human, and
that fosters our relationship with God and with others. It gives us
the proper attitude toward all earthly goods and our temporal affairs,
delineating how these ought to be pursued, used and developed.

            It’s not true that good and Christian poverty is averse to
possession of material things or to involvement in business, politics,
arts, fashion, etc. Or that it has to be lived exclusively in the
original Franciscan style of austerity. In this case, only the
Franciscans who follow the original charism would live Christian

            Good and Christian poverty is very much compatible with
being a millionaire or billionaire, with a lot of possessions, etc.,
but whose heart is completely detached from them. He only uses them
exclusively for God’s glory and for the good of all men.

            He who lives good and Christian poverty, even if he is a
millionaire or a billionaire with lots of possessions, would certainly
stay away from any form of ostentation, vanity, and arrogance. He
lives a simple life despite the many things he owns. He avoids
idleness and ego-tripping. Rather he is always busy for God and for

            He knows that all earthly goods, whether naturally endowed
or acquired through human labor, come from God and belong to God. He
knows that they are meant for God’s glory and that they have a
universal destination for the good of all people

            He is not averse to exploiting these goods to their
maximum potentials, following God’s command to our first parents to
“subdue the earth,” and doing this exploitation of the earthly goods
always in accordance to God’s natural law and the law of love and

            Since he has a lot of possessions, he knows he has to give
a lot more. He knows he has to be generous, sharing not only what is
in excess of his needs. He knows he has to give everything, following
that indication Christ gave to the rich young man in the gospel “to go
sell what you have…and come follow me.” (Mt 19,21)

            Good and Christian poverty therefore knows how to use
material things. We have to disabuse ourselves of a misconception of
good poverty that links it with a certain pettiness and

            An example of this is the suggestion that as much as
possible, the churches and the liturgical celebrations should be using
the minimalist style—few or no candles at all, few or no flowers,
altars, reredos, vestments and vessels should be as bare as possible,

            While I can see a certain value to this approach, it
should not be imposed on all of us, and especially with the
insinuation that the use of rich ornamentation in churches and in the
liturgical celebrations is per se against Christian poverty.

            All these things need not be mere decorations that only
tend to show off. They can be the magnanimous efforts of a lover who
wants to show his love with material things to his beloved who, in
this case, is God, Jesus Christ, our Lady, all the saints.

            Remember that gospel episode when a woman brought precious
oil to bathe the feet of Christ. Someone murmured that it was wasteful
and that it could have been used to help the poor. But Christ
corrected him.

            For me, diamonds and precious stones are better used in
sacred vessels than when they just dangle on somebody’s neck or ear or

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Seeing through anniversary celebrations

ANNIVERSARY celebrations of whatever milestone we have in
life should not just be some de rigueur events that we simply go
through because they happen to be the days of the anniversary.

            Thanks to God, I’m sure that that is not mainly the reason
why we celebrate anniversaries. That we ready ourselves for them,
sometimes going through elaborate preparations, can only mean we
attach special meaning to these anniversaries. They occupy a special
place in our heart and in our memory.

            It’s just that often, we also get lost in the
preparations, and get too concerned about how things would turn out,
that we miss the real reason for celebrating these landmarks as well
as the implications and consequences of such celebrations.

            Anniversaries are very special occasions. At the very
least, they are days of deep thanksgiving for the many graces and
blessings we received from our Father God through the years. It’s
important that while we unavoidably meet difficulties, failures,
setbacks, etc., in life, we should not forget that God continues to
take care of us.

            It’s important that we be quick to acknowledge these
graces and blessings, and give due thanks for them, especially through
prayers, sacrifice and, of course, the celebration of the Holy Mass
which is the best way to give thanks, since our gratitude would be
coursed through Christ’s supreme act of offering of his life to his
Father for our sake.

            Anniversaries should remind us of many fundamental things
in life. They remind us of the beginning and the reason of such
anniversaries which could be the gift of life, the commitment of
marriage, the charism granted to a person or to an institution, etc.

            Anniversaries remind us of the past and of how it is
connected to the present and even to the future. In fact, if we have a
more theological understanding of time which we should try to
cultivate and have, we would realize that there is an organic unity
and direction of time past, present and future, all of which coming
from God from all eternity and directed to God also in eternity.

            Time is therefore connected to eternity, and the fullness
of time, which is an expression used in the Bible, refers to when time
is vitally reconnected with eternity through the redemptive work of

            In short, anniversaries should remind us that we are in a
journey through time toward eternity, toward God from whom we come and
to whom we belong.

            Even the commemoration of some sad events, like the
killers Yolanda and the big earthquakes, can still give us reason for
thanksgiving and joy, because we know that God is in control of
everything and knows how to derive good from evil.

            As the Book of Ecclesiastes puts it, “all things have
their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven. A time
to be born and a time to die…a time to destroy and a time to build…a
time to weep and a time to laugh…” There’s always meaning in
everything, and a reason to hope and to be happy in the end.

            Anniversaries should bring these truths to the fore, and
should elicit in us the proper response. Aside from thanksgiving, we
should be filled with desires for renewal, for another conversion, for
sustained continuity and fidelity.

            They should remind us of the bigger, more comprehensive
picture of our life, removing us from our tendency to be restrictive
in our view, understanding and attitude to things.

            In fact, we need to learn how to relate the here and now
to our beginnings as well as our ultimate end. More than that, we need
to learn to relate the temporal to the eternal, the material to the
spiritual, the natural and to the supernatural, etc. Anniversaries
should somehow occasion these considerations in our mind and heart.

            We should help one another to understand and conform our
mind and heart to the true nature, character and purpose of
anniversary celebrations. Especially these days when we are bombarded
with things that tend to chain us to the present and to the externals,
desensitizing us from the other important considerations, we need to
be more active in highlighting the true meaning of anniversaries.

            The youth especially are most vulnerable to miss the
significance of anniversaries by the many intoxicating developments we
have now. They feel that a theological consideration of anniversaries
is a spoiler to the enjoyment of anniversary celebrations, if ever
they care about these things in the first place.

            It’s time to make the true meaning of anniversaries mainstream.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dealing with our problems

WE will always have difficulties in life. They are
unavoidable. They come with the limitations of our human nature and
aggravated by its condition of woundedness. Usually they come as small
disappointments and frustrations, little failures and setbacks we meet
everyday. All of them, more or less, manageable.

            But they can also be big ones that can plunge us into
deep, long-running crises of fear, anger, anxiety, hatred and despair.
Cases of unsolvable predicaments, at least, humanly speaking.

            We have to be ready for them and know not only how to deal
with them but also how to derive something good from them. In these
instances of the hard predicaments, for example,  when we seem to be
at a loss as to what to do, we should just see at what God does, after
we have done all things possible to solve our problems.

            We need to trust in God’s providence and mercy. We have to
learn to live a spirit of abandonment in the hands of God. Yes, if we
have faith in God, in his wisdom and mercy, in his unfailing love for
us, we know that everything will always work out for the good. If we
are with God, we can always dominate whatever suffering can come our
way in the same manner that Christ absorbed all his passion and death
on the cross.

            Let’s always remember that God, in his ineffable ways, can
also talk to us through these crosses. In fact, he can convey precious
messages and lessons through them. It would be good that we have a
theological attitude toward them, and be wary of our tendency to react
to them in a purely human way, based only on our senses and feelings
and on worldly trends.

            We have to be quick to discern what God is telling us
through them. Let’s be quick to see in these problems golden
opportunities to receive more graces and other blessings from God.
These graces and blessings can deepen our love for God and neighbor,
enrich our understanding of things, occasion the birth and development
of virtues. They can truly do us a lot of good.

            Thus, people who know how to suffer, bearing their
suffering with Christ, are effective in conveying to us sublime and
divine messages. They are the most credible people who can surprise us
with their deep insights and understanding of our life and the world
in general.

            This was what Pope Francis intuited when he saw thousands
of people who withstood the rains and wind, the under and tiredness
just to be with him during his pastoral visit to our country. The
sight was so powerful that he was convinced, according to him, that
God was telling him something important.

            On this, St. Paul has something interesting and relevant
to say. “In everything, God works for good with those who love him…If
God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but
have him up for us all, will he not give us all things with him?” (Rom

            It would be good if we have this conviction in our mind
and heart so as to avoid getting unnecessarily bothered by our
problems. Instead, we should see in them opportunities rather than
problems, blessings rather than misfortunes. And so we would be filled
with confidence and serenity, hope and optimism.

            With this mind, we can easily be patient, knowing how to
unite our sufferings with the redemptive passion and death of Christ.
Our problems acquire great meaning, and can strike us as something to
welcome and to be thankful for, not something to run away from.

            With this attitude toward our predicaments, we can easily
move on, without getting unduly entangled by them. We can easily ride
them out, never mind what effects and consequences they may have in
the other aspects of our life.

            Our problems can actually lead us to live our life with
God, which is what proper to us. Understood in this way, our problems
are actually God’s blessings for us. No wonder, saints and holy men
and women through the ages have considered the cross as something
lovable, not hateful.

            We certainly have to make some adjustments in our
understanding and attitude towards our unavoidable problems. Our
attitude towards them should go beyond what our senses, feelings and
our other human powers can handle. We have to allow God’s ways to work
in our life.

            There we will see the beauty of the cross, for which
Christ was sent to us!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Pursuing the truth

ONE very crucial virtue in our life is sincerity. That, of
course, has something to do with truth. Our genuine development and
perfection as persons and as society would depend to a large extent on
how we are sincere, or on how we understand and handle truth. As the
gospel says, it’s truth that will make us free.

            If instead of truth, we are dominated by lies, falsehoods
and deception, we can be sure that we would be doomed to perdition.
Injustice and inequality would flourish. Some people will exploit
others. Forms of slavery will come. And we will attract many other

            But before we think that truth and sincerity are simply a
matter of telling what we see, how we feel, what we experience, how we
understand a certain thing, or how we fare with respect to a certain
matter, we have to realize that truth and sincerity actually involve a
lot more than these.

            Sincerity is a matter of continually pursuing the truth
that in the end is none other than dealing with God. We should have no
doubt about this. God is Truth himself, the source and measure of
truth. Only in him can we have the whole scope of truth in all its

            Apart from him, we can only have partial truths, or data
and facts that are subjectively used to suit our ulterior motives. We
can play games with these pieces of information that may be true but
very prone to be manipulated according to our schemes.

            Being a pursuit of truth, sincerity is a very dynamic
virtue that involves developing an increasingly intimate relationship
with God. It cannot be any other way. But we have to understand that
this relationship just cannot be limited to knowing God only. It also
involves loving him, since God is not meant to be known only, but
mainly to be loved.

            And to love God means to follow his commandments. “If you
love me, keep my commandments,” Christ said clearly. (Jn 14,15) And
his commandments are that we love God above all, that we love our
neighbor as ourselves, and that we love one another as Christ himself
has loved us.

            And so, we can conclude that to be in the truth or to be
sincere means to know and love God as well as to know and love others,
the way Christ knows and loves us. We are not being truthful and
sincere enough if we just blurt out what we see, what we feel, what we
experience, how we fare about a certain matter.

            In other words, we can be quite frank and candid about how
we feel or how we understand things, but unless we make an effort to
know and love God and others, we would still be far off the mark of

            The other day, in a family reunion, I observed two
one-year-old toddlers greeting each other. Toddler 1 started by
touching the face of Toddler 2 but in a way that would appear to us as

            At first, Toddler 2 did not respond, but when later on he
did by doing the same act of slapping to Toddler 1, the latter cried
and sort of complained to us, because he was showing his cheek to us.

            The whole time that was what he did, in between his
bumbling forays around the house. The poor one-year-old only
understood that he was slapped.

            And I thought that that is exactly what happens to us when
we simply are concerned about our own feelings, views, observations,
etc., without making any effort to know what God and the others want
of us. We can be candid and yet still miss the point. We can feel
sincere, but actually not truthful enough.

            We need to be clear about one point. For us to develop
properly personally and as a member of society, starting with the
family, we need to be sincere and truthful, making our love for God
and concern for the others as the constant parameters in our effort to
be in the truth.

            That’s why we always need to ask ourselves as to where our
thoughts and intentions go. Do they revolve around ourselves or around
God and the others? We have to realize that thinking of God always and
being mindful and thoughtful of the others will actually simplify our
life and put in touch with the real world.

            We should have the attitude of serving the others. This is
how we can be truthful and sincere, avoiding living in a world of our

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Family issues

IN October of this year in the Vatican, the 14th ordinary
general assembly of the synod of bishops will take place with the aim
of discussing about the vocation and the mission of the family in the
Church and in the contemporary world.

          We need to pray and offer a lot of sacrifices for this event
that surely will have a significant impact on our lives. The theme is
most relevant, but ironically, it is often taken for granted. As a
result, many of us are not aware of the increasingly complicated
duties and responsibilities in that crucial aspect of our life.

          In its working paper, called Lineamenta, the bishops are
asked to highlight “the need for mercy in responding to difficult
situations—even asking the bishops to avoid basing their pastoral care
solely on current Catholic doctrine.”

          This is a very delicate step that demands a lot of prayers,
sacrifice, study, consultation, etc., since the requirement of
fidelity to the faith has to contend with the need for growth and
adaptation of the same faith without distorting it.

          Faith, of course, is a gift from God. As such, it is one and
unchanging, or what is more technically referred to as immutable. But
it is not dead or inert. It is very much alive and active, and knows
how to tackle any human situation however complicated it may be
because of our use or misuse of freedom.

          The same Lineamenta asks the bishops to find ways of
promoting authentic family values, giving appropriate training of
clergy in the family ministry, making the Church more present among
those living far away from the Christian faith, enabling the Church to
effectively care for families that are wounded and fragile.

          Besides, the working paper includes consideration of
delicate issues like same-sex marriage, divorce and remarriage,
contraception, and cohabitation outside marriage. Of course, there is
a caveat that in all these issues, it should be made clear that the
basic Catholic doctrine of our faith should not be put in doubt.

          Again, this is a very delicate and sensitive phase in the
life of the Church. This cannot be treated lightly, and we should not
just let our bishops handle all this without the strong and solid
support of the rest of the faithful.

          Aside from our prayers and sacrifices, the other faithful
can contribute by voicing out their observations, suggestions,
clarifications based mainly on their first-person experiences as well
as studies, both individual and collective. Obviously, our bishops
should also listen to them.

          We cannot deny that right now the family in general is beset
with all sorts of problems and difficulties. Even looking at the local
scene, we can already see many dysfunctional and broken families.

          The problem is aggravated by many of today’s developments
that, while giving us a lot of advantages and conveniences, are also
undermining the very foundations and pillars of the family. The pace
and complexity of life today has taken a toll on family life and

          In many instances, husbands and wives do not live together
because one or the other has to look for work abroad. Young couples
tie the knot without a clear idea of what a lifetime commitment means
and requires. They often base their love on very perishable and
expirable foundations, and not on God’s love. In fact, many do not
know that human love has to be rooted on divine love.

          Again, with the new developments around especially in the
field of technology, more division within the family, rather than
greater unity, is observed. The gaps are not anymore generational,
cultural or social. They are becoming more personal and

          It’s, of course, good to note that some people are forming
private groups where mutual help is extended to promote more family
life and harmony. They, for example, monitor developments that have
disturbing effects on the family and try to figure out how to handle
them. Let’s hope these groups multiply.

          They are also putting up schools where parents are made to
have a more active role on how these schools should be run, what
values ought to be taught or stressed, etc. They have many other good
initiatives like erecting appropriate places for family bonding,
relaxation and rest.

          What we should not forget is that the family is not just any
kind of collection of people. It is supposed to reflect the inmost
life of God who is one yet a trinity of persons in an eternal relation
of knowing and loving. The family is not only human. It’s meant to be
divine too.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sanctifying the economy

SINCE becoming a priest, I have left behind my former
profession of being an economist. I consider priesthood as demanding
total dedication to an exclusively spiritual, moral and supernatural

            I understand that being a priest, one should not get
entangled with worldly partisan politics or with merely profit-seeking
businesses, etc. As Opus Dei founder St. Josemaria once said, “A
priest should be a priest through and through.” He should only speak
about God, and about spiritual, moral and supernatural realities.

            Just the same, I also understand that the world of
economics, being a human activity, and a major one at that, also needs
to be sanctified. That’s why, I also pay attention to some economic
developments, both local and global, if only to see whether they are
in keeping with God’s designs or not, which is actually a matter of
fulfilling the temporal common good of men.

            While there is no strict mathematical relation between our
temporal common good and our eternal common good, we can nonetheless
say that the former helps a lot in attaining the latter. What we do in
our earthly affairs somehow determines our eternal destination.

            To be sure, God speaks to us also in the world of
economics. He is not absent there. In fact, we need to realize more
deeply to acknowledge his presence and his will in this part of our
life that we usually regard as a place where God has no role to play
at all, or that he simply has a little role, as in a cameo or an extra

            For all its mundanity, our economic affairs have God at
the center of it all. They are where God also speaks to us in a
special way, and directs his divine providence of guiding all of us
and the world toward him while always respecting our freedom and the
nature of things.

            It’s where many of us are expected to work for our
sanctity and to participate actively in the continuing work of
redemption. We somehow need to view our economic and other temporal
affairs theologically. They just cannot be understood in purely
worldly laws.

            Thus, I am happy to note that irrespective of the
competence or incompetence of our political and business leaders, we
have good reason to be happy and confident that life  in general will
just move on rather smoothly for us.

            Why? Because we have good economic base to drive our
economy. The contribution of our heroic OFWs is enormous, and it’s
still growing at 6%. And the income generated by our BPOs is also
catching up, growing every year at an estimated 20% growth rate.
That’s phenomenal!

            Local tourism is also rising sharply. We, Filipinos, are
spending in our own tourism, suggesting that there is money around and
it is being circulated more widely. Thus, the over-all growth rate of
our country in the region, while not yet at the top, is not that bad
at all.

            Imagine if we have leaders who know how to manage the
potentials of our economy! Let’s hope that we can choose leaders who
are competent and honest enough to face the challenge.

            Most of all, we have to pray and choose leaders who are
God-fearing, and whose source of competence and honesty is precisely
their authentic faith in God and their patriotic love for the people.
Let’s hope that we can see in our lifetime corruption thrown into the
dustbin of history.

            That may be quixotic as of now. But let’s really hope that
little by little we, as people, and led by our officials, go through a
radical change of attitude, understanding and skill in dealing with
money and other economic affairs.

            Let’s pray that we grow in our awareness that our economic
activities are an occasion for sanctification and apostolate. They
just cannot be ruled by purely economic laws. They should make us holy
and should bring us closer to God and to one another in a communion of

            While we have to behave in a very natural way in our
transactions, we should neither forget that each transaction can and
should be a form of prayer, an expression of charity. Each of them
should make us a better person, spiritually and morally.

            Let’s be wary of our tendency to let these business
activities feed only our material needs. They have a tremendous
capacity to give glory to God and to work for the common good of
everyone. Carpe diem! Let’s be quick to take advantage of their
sanctifying value, if only we know how to sanctify them also.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Getting down to brass tacks

IT’S truly a blessing, and therefore very heartwarming, to
see the earnest, simple manifestation of faith among our countrymen
these past days with the pastoral visit of our Holy Father, Pope
Francis. Thanks be to God, it’s happily and healthily contagious.

            Some intellectuals and those who consider themselves as
educated, knowledgeable about things, and armchair analysts in their
ivory towers may wonder whether this is true faith and piety or mere
superstition and mass delusion.

            I was amused when a CNN report, for example, presented the
event more as a joke than anything else, since according to them the
Philippines is 80% Catholic. What can you expect?

            And so, they took the spin of the Philippine Church facing
the danger of getting increasingly irrelevant if it would not allow
same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion. Well, that’s CNN, not
worth getting mad at. Just to be prayed for.

            The media will always have some spin, depending on their
political or ideological color. And let’s just be sport with this fact
of life. But we just have to proclaim the gospel as it is, adapting it
to the minds and current needs and conditions of the people. This, in
itself, is already a formidable task should not be unnecessarily
hindered by some unavoidable spoilers.

            As to whether all that expression of faith and piety is
genuine, only God knows. We cannot judge. What we already know is that
even in the time of Christ, big crowds also followed him with all
sorts of motives, and some of these were not even good.

            In fact, there were those who spied on him, trying to get
something from his words to pin him down at an opportune time.
Besides, many of those in the crowd were the same ones who shouted,
Crucify him, Crucify him, later on.

            But Christ did not reject anyone. On the contrary, he had
great compassion for them, since he regarded them like “sheep without
a shepherd.” And so he preached the Good News to them and performed
some miracles.

            Those with faith benefited from all these. Those without,
of course, did not receive anything. He also did some scolding, if
only to clarify matters. In the end, he offered his life for everyone,
bearing all our sins and stupidities.

            Let’s remember that Christ came to save all, and not to
condemn anyone. It would really be a waste of time if we have to
bother about whether all that explosion of faith and piety we have
just witnessed was genuine or not.

            Let’s just be most thankful that we still have them, and
then take this occasion to let them grow some more, deepening and
strengthening and broadening it as much as we can, with God’s grace.
We have to make them mature and fruitful.

            That is what Christ himself would want. He told us to
enter by the narrow gate and avoid the easy way of life. He told us to
love one another the way he loved us all the way to the cross. He told
us to pray without ceasing, to deny oneself and carry the cross, to go
out to all nations and to proclaim the Good News to all, etc.

            The Holy Father told us many things. As Vicar of Christ,
as the sweet Christ on earth, he was transmitting to us what Christ
would have told us at these times. We have to protect and strengthen
our families. We have to show mercy and compassion with everyone,
including those who are not yet with Christ.

            We need to be vehicles of the love of God for all of us,
showing this by proclaiming the truth with constant affection, abiding
spirit of mercy and compassion that should be expressed in the most
immediate, direct and tangible way.

            We need to be wary, of course, of the usual dangers. The
Pope talked about the evil of corruption and some ideological
colonization that is going on in our country. He also talked to us
about the danger of complacency, fear of change, petty compromises
with the ways of the world, and “spiritual worldliness.”

            We need to get down to business to tackle all these points
that the Pope told us. Let’s consider them slowly in our prayers, and
start to make the necessary adjustments and changes. There is always
something to adjust and change in spite of what we may consider
already as our accomplished level of wisdom and holiness.

            If we truly have God and everybody else in our mind and
heart, we will always feel the need to adjust and change, to grow for
the better.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dynamic, open-minded, versatile fidelity

THE question of fidelity comes up again as the more
pressing question of what to do with the new, ever multiplying and
complicated issues in the Church and in the contemporary world is also
begging for an urgent answer.

            Yes, we have to be very faithful to God, to his word, to
his Church, but we have to understand that such fidelity is not a dead
and rigid one. It is alive and active, always able to react and say
something meaningful, relevant, useful, and most important, redeeming
to any situation and predicament we may be in.

            Nothing is impossible with God. We just have to try our
best that we be up to his will and ways. They will always be
mysterious and inscrutable. We try to fathom them as best as we could.
And to a certain extent we manage.

            But we can also say that in spite of our best efforts, we
can never arrive at that point where we would be so identified with
him that we have nothing else to do. There will always be a need for
renewal, conversion, spiritual and moral growth, doctrinal
development, etc.

            We need to go to him always and especially as a last
resort, asking for a miracle, for mercy and compassion, because our
human capabilities at the moment have reached their limit. We have to
acknowledge our own helplessness in the face of many predicaments in
our life, and run to God.

            This happened many times in the gospel. People in hopeless
cases of human predicament like being born blind, or sick with
incurable diseases, or possessed by demons—cases where human powers
can’t anymore do anything about—went to Christ, and were cured or

            The leprous man, the woman suffering from haemorrhage, the
man possessed by a legion of demons, etc., went to Christ or were
brought to him by their families and friends, and there were all

            There was even a crowd of this kind of people begging for
help, and Christ, according to the gospel, “healed them all,” (Lk
18,6) hardly making any distinction or qualification.

            This question of fidelity in the face of new challenges
requiring new responses, etc., can also be seen in the history of the
Church. Always faithful to Christ, the Church has to face the
challenges of the heresies, and the real spiritual and moral needs of
the people.

            That’s why we have had councils defining dogmas, the
Magisterium issuing encyclicals and exhortations, new but organic
doctrine like the Church’s social doctrine being developed to tackle
the social issues, liturgical reforms as what happened during Vatican
II to better accommodate the faithful’s new conditions, etc.

            Our sense of fidelity has to flow with the times. It has
to be dynamic, open-minded and versatile, able to tackle with Christ
whatever situation we may find ourselves in.

            Remember what the Letter to the Hebrews said about the
word of God: “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any
two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of
joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts of the heart. And
before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to
the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” (4,12-13)

            Our sense of fidelity should not be stuck in some point of
history, or in some culture and mindset. And these can happen when we
fall into what are known as traditionalism, rigorism, legalism and the
like. All these can only show a certain bias or preference that may
work for a while in certain conditions, but not all the time.

            This does not mean that we can just do anything without
any concrete guideline or specific plan. We will always be in need of
them, but without making them absolute and rigid. They have to be
flexible, always feeling the need for renewal, updating, improvement,

            These guidelines and plans would have some basic,
unchangeable features, and other elements that can and should change.
These should not be treated blindly and in a routine way.

            They are meant to be aids, giving some kind of structure
to our life and day, but should be regarded also as living and
organic, able to branch out in any which way depending on

            In the life of the Church, distinguishing which part is
unchangeable and which changeable should be an ongoing process of
reflection, study and dialogue with everyone, with the hierarchy
leading the way. This is how we can have a dynamic, open-minded and
versatile fidelity.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Talking about God

IF we believe that God is everything to us, that he is
most relevant to our life and to our needs, since he is at the very
core of it all, being our creator and father who is the very giver and
keeper of our existence and nature and who loves us no end, then the
least thing we can do other than keeping him simply in our mind and
heart is to talk about him, and doing so openly. This ought to be our
normal behaviour.

            Besides, it is what the world needs, especially now when
we see a clear drift toward godlessness, worldliness, materialism,
etc. People need to hear about God other than what they hear in
churches and other formal religious occasions. We have to recover the
warmth of God’s abiding presence and love for us in a world that is
growing cold and indifferent to him.

            Christ himself commands us to do so. “Go therefore and
make disciples of all nations,” (Mt 28,19) he told his disciples. In
another occasion, he said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men I will
also acknowledge him before my Father who is in heaven. Whoever denies
me before men, I will also deny before my Father.” (Mt 10,32) With
these words, I suppose we just cannot be quiet about God.

            Obviously, we have to do all this with naturalness, having
a keen sense of timing and proper tone and appropriate words and
arguments. In other words, to speak with a gift of gab, which is also
God-given. But not to the extent that we would hardly talk about him
among our friends and even in some public fora. Sad to say, this is
what we are observing these days.

            We even hardly hear, “Thank you, Lord,” for the many
blessings we have received. Not only do we seldom hear about God in
our ordinary daily dealings, we also seem to be afraid or ashamed to
talk about him.

            I remember that in the few occasions I had casual meetings
with the now-Blessed Alvaro del Portillo in the 90s, I would often
hear the expression, “Gracias a Dios” (Thanks to God) to everything
that I would tell him. That left me with deep impression of him.

            We tend to take God for granted very often. We consider
talking about him in our daily activities as out of place or not
politically or socially correct. What has he got to do with our
politics, our business, our sciences, our entertainment, some people
ask. Precisely in these fields so vulnerable to be abused, we need to
talk a lot about God.

            And so we go against the very basic truth of our faith and
the most fundamental fact of life, and that is that we need God
always, that he’s always relevant to our needs, that he holds the key
to our proper understanding of things.

            We have to overcome this predicament of ours. Keeping
quiet about him can only lead us to many dangers. Our weaknesses would
easily get provoked. Temptations start to hound us. Falling into sin
would just be a matter of time. Misunderstanding and misrepresenting
people and things can easily afflict us.

            First of all, we need to thank God because whatever we
know, discover or invent can only have God as the basis and goal. Then
we need to talk about how what we know or handle have a relation with
God’s abiding providence, for everything is always under God’s
omnipotent, wise and merciful providence.

            It would be funny if we think that there are things in our
life that have nothing to do with God. Even our mistakes and failures
have a special relation with God. They can reveal God’s mercy, and can
occasion in us a deeper understanding about ourselves and about the
world in general.

            Let us remember that there is only one thing necessary in
our life, and that is our own sanctification. The story of Martha and
Mary is very illustrative of this point. (cfr Lk 10,38-42) The work of
Martha, no matter how good it was, cannot replace what Mary did. And
St. Paul says it also quite directly, “This is the will of God, our
sanctification.” (1 Thes 4,3)

            There may be difficulties involved in fulfilling this
need. But they precisely should be motives to study and talk more
about God, rather than to remain quiet and passive. Our concern for
naturalness and discretion is no excuse to be silent about God in our
daily affairs. God himself is the first to be concerned about these

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Love the constant and final criterion

NOW that we are beginning a new year, it’s good to be
reminded that love, and not just any other value, no matter how
legitimate and useful, should be the constant and final criterion to
see if we are living our life well or not.

            This is what is proper to us, given our dignity as persons
and children of God. We have been created out of love and for love.
Our common vocation, for which we have been designed physically,
emotionally, mentally, socially, etc., is to love and to enter into
communion with God and with one another.

            Love is also the reason why God has to redeem us, sending
his Son to us by becoming man and showing us the way how to love,
given our weakened and wounded condition due to sin.

            It would be good that at the end of the day, as we review
how the way went, we can clearly say that we have been motivated by
love in all our thoughts, words and deeds, and that in fact we can
notice a growth of it. How wonderful it would be if that is the case!

            This should be our mindset all the time. If for one reason
or another we deviate from that plan, let’s rectify ourselves
immediately. Yes, there are many elements that can undermine it and
betray what we ought to be and to do.

            We have to contend with our weaknesses, the false
allurements of the world and the tricks of the devil. We have to be
quick to expose them and to do battle with them.

            But we have to understand that we can only love as we
ought if we are vitally united with God. He is love by essence. He is
the source and pattern of love. He is the end and goal of love. There
is no other.

            We have to be wary when our love does not start and end
with him, when it’s not patterned after his love. This divine love has
been shown to us in full in Christ who offered his life on the cross
for us. “No one has greater love,” Christ says, “than he who offers
his life for his friend.”

            We need to see to it that we understand love not simply as
a matter of what is pleasurable and gratifying to our senses and
feelings. Neither can it be something that gives us only convenience,
power, fame, wealth. These may be legitimate, but they cannot be the
main source or motor for love.

            Love has to be first of all a matter of faith that is
acted on more by our intelligence and will that are under the
influence of grace, than of the blind impulses of our senses and

            In this regard, we have to be clear about the proper
relationship between our senses and emotions, on the one hand, and our
intelligence and will, our spiritual faculties, on the other.

            We have to be guided more by our intelligence and will
without neglecting the indispensable role of our senses and emotions.
And let’s see to it that these spiritual faculties of ours are
nourished by our faith and by God’s grace that is given to us in

            We have to be clear about this because we have the awful
tendency to be dominated by our emotions and passions, and to fall
into sentimentalism that would often be dead to the faith-nourished
intelligence and will of ours.

            Or said in another way, we allow our intelligence and will
to be directed not by faith and the grace of God, but by our senses
and feelings alone, and by some worldly criteria, like social trends,

            To be sure, love is not all sweet. Let’s not delude
ourselves into thinking that it is an all-things-bright-and-beautiful
affair. It will unavoidably involve suffering, lots of it, since it
has to cope with the limitations of our nature, and more so, with the
consequences of ours sins, and these latter can be endless.

            Be that as it may, we should not think that love is
something difficult to do. It is first manifested by doing our
ordinary daily duties and responsibilities, for these are the basic
expressions of God’s will for us, and love is precisely doing God’s

            It can be shown by always being nice to others, thinking
well of them in spite of their defects and mistakes. It is especially
shown when we can manage to be merciful and compassionate with
everyone, friend or foe.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Unafraid of the world

WE have just celebrated the birthday of Opus Dei founder,
St. Josemaria Escriva (1902-1975), last January 9. A maverick priest
who under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit rocked the Church with
his bold campaign about the universal calling to sanctity in the
middle of the world, he openly talked not only about being unafraid
but more about passionately loving the world.

            In one stirring homily, he said, “God is calling you to
serve him in and from the ordinary, secular and civil activities of
human life. He waits for us everyday in the laboratory, in the
operating theatre, in the army barracks, in the university chair, in
the factory, in the workshop, in the fields, in the home and in all
the immense panorama of work.”

            He continued, like dropping a bombshell, given the
dominant mentality of the time. “Understand this well: there is
something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary
situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.”

            We all need to have a more positive attitude toward the
world in general, however its state and condition may be in a given
moment. This is not, of course, a call for us to be worldly, but
rather to love it the way God loves it.

            We should not just love the world, or portions of it, when
it happens to be in good condition or when it is favourable to us in
the many aspects it can be considered—politically, socially,
economically, and even morally and spiritually. We have to love it
even more when it happens to stray from God’s will, which is usually
the case.

            Let’s remember what the Gospel says about God in relation
to the world. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that
whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn
3,16) It continues, “For God sent the Son into the world, not to
condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”

            We need to have this mind of God toward the world. We just
cannot remain complaining about its problems and evils. Nor to be
indifferent to them. We have to have the attitude of saving the world,
transforming it from the inside.

            Its problems and evils should not turn us off. Rather,
they have to turn us on. We have to convince ourselves that precisely
the irregularities and anomalies it has are the materials that need to
be sanctified, first of all, by intensifying our prayers and
sacrifices, and by looking for concrete ways in which all these evils
can convert into goodness.

            Yes, a lot of patience is needed. We have to learn to live
and work in an environment that will always have dirt, if not, a lot
of dirt. We need to see quickly whatever is good and salvageable in a
situation that may be dominated by evil.

            In this, we should not exaggerate the evils we find in
this world. We have to remember that the worst evil, the killing of
the Son of God, has already taken place. Whatever evil we have in this
world can only be a reflection of that one.

            This will require grace, of course, but also a change of
attitude. We may not be too aware that we tend to look at things from
the point of view of our likes and dislikes, our preferences and pet
peeves. Human as we are, we may not be completely freed from that
tendency, but we can always try to develop, with God’s grace, God’s
universal mind and heart that loves everyone.

            This requires a lot of training. We have to learn to be
tolerant, to be broad-minded, to be very positive and optimistic about
things even when they look gloomy. If one tack or plan fails, let’s
try another. May our failures not discourage us.

            Let’s remember that God has underwritten everything. He
has given everything to us. This is a truth of faith that we have to
continually strengthen because, again, we tend to forget it or to take
it lightly.

            We just have to do our part as actively, generously and
even heroically as possible. For sure, this active cooperation with
God will give full meaning and joy to our life. We have to give our
all. This is the law that should govern our life. We have to be wary
of being complacent and calculating. These can only give us false joy.

            We have to love the world the way God loves it.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The relevance of Christ

I, of course, find this topic a bit funny. I thought the
relevance of Christ in our life and in everything in it is beyond
question. But I’m meeting more and more people raising that question
up, or at least admitting that they in theory believe in Christ’s
relevance but could not find the concrete way to feel it.

            Obviously, the relevance of Christ is not a matter of
feelings but of faith, which in turn depends more on our will than
again on our feelings. Feelings of God’s presence in our life come
only as a consequence of our will to believe in him which is also a
result of God’s grace that is given to us abundantly.

            If we find that reasoning circular—what we call, begging
the question—we need to be clear about one basic point. And that is,
everything starts with God. He takes the initiative in everything.

            He created us. He endowed us with the best faculties and
powers that would qualify us to be his image and likeness, and his
children. He started everything with us and will always be with us.

            When we start with ourselves, especially with our senses
and feelings, and remain there, then we would be understanding things
with a grave handicap. Chronologically, we of course start with our
senses and feelings, but when we start to use our reason, and let it
run its course as fully as possible, then we would realize that
everything, in fact, starts with God, not with us.

            In fact, we rectify ourselves as often as we realize that
our initial understanding of things based on our senses and emotions
has not been that correct. We have to be wary of our tendency to be
too dependent on our senses and feelings, since these faculties of
ours, no matter how powerful and necessary to us, can only do so much.
They can capture only the sensible reality, not the intelligible, much
less, the spiritual and supernatural realities.

            While we start our process of knowing with them, we have
to understand that they only serve as starters, not as completers or
perfecters of our knowing. Our knowledge of things takes place in our
mind and heart, which in turn derive their capacity to know and love
from God and always with God, their creator and lawgiver.

            Having said all that, we can say that we have to train
ourselves to think properly, that is to say, to acknowledge the
indispensable role of God in everything in our life. He will always be

            Being the Son and Word of God who became man, Christ is
the very pattern of the whole of creation, and especially of man who
is God’s image and likeness. This means that everything that exists
has its nature and law written, so to speak, and originating in

            What we know and discover and invent in this world has
Christ in the center of it all. He is at least the reference point of
our knowledge that can differ from how things ought to be as designed
by God. He is the ultimate arbiter of what is right and wrong, good
and evil in our life here on earth.

            By becoming man, Christ offers us the way to return to God
after we have fallen away from him through our sins. He shows us how
to handle our spiritual powers of knowing and loving. But he presents
all this to us as an option. He does not force us to accept it. He
respects our freedom. We are also free to accept it or not.

            We can then understand that no one and nothing can
actually be more relevant to us than Christ himself. He is actually
everything to us. While he presents himself to us as an option, we
have to understand that he is not optional, but rather a necessity to

            We need to process this truth of our faith slowly and
thoroughly because many are the factors that can undermine our free
acceptance and belief in it. We often do not like to bother ourselves
to go beyond what is physical or material, social or political,
historical or cultural.

            We rely too much on our senses and feelings. If we use our
intelligence, we base its operation more on what we see, touch and
feel, rather than on what our faith, whose fullness is given to us by
Christ, tells us.

            We have to acknowledge the primacy of faith in our pursuit
of knowledge so we can see Christ’s continuing relevance in our life.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The danger of routine

WE have to be forewarned about this danger. This is a
constant threat to us. Given our human condition that has to contend
with the tricky duty to put our act together since we are made of
different parts, not to mention the divisive effects of our sins, we
need to be on the lookout for routine to subtly seep into our system.

            Routine is the opposite predicament we have to the more
common ones of laziness and idleness. It happens when we do things
mechanically. It’s action without the spirit, deeds without love.

            It’s using our hands and mouth with mind and heart
somewhere else. It gives us a false sense of being there, yet the fact
is that we are not really there. It tends to make us showy, using
clever rhetoric and histrionics, but without the substance.

            Yes, we can appear busy for a time, occupied with so many
things, and can even manage to show some good fruits of our labor, and
yet miss the main point. We can look good on the outside, but the
inside is quite empty and a mess.

            It’s what is being referred to in the Book of Revelation,
addressed to the angel of the church of Sardis, “I know your works.
You have the name of being alive, and you are dead.” (3,1)

            This is how one saint, St. Josemaria Escriva, describes
the danger of routine: “I must also warn you against the danger of
routine—the real sepulchre of piety. Routine is often disguised as an
ambition to do or embark upon great feats, while daily duties are
lazily neglected.” (Friends of God, 149)

            In our current world culture that is heavily leaning on
image-building, putting make-ups and doing make-overs that could
easily lead us to pretensions, hypocrisy and deception—in short, that
could easily undermine our consistency, integrity, unity of life—we
have to double up our guard against routine.

            Nowadays, the make-up and make-overs that people do are
more to mask some negative or ugly physical features rather than to
enhance one’s real if inner beauty. They are meant more to lie than to
purify the truth of our dignity we have inside us. We have to correct
this anomalous attitude toward this otherwise legitimate use of
make-ups and make-overs.

            Besides, our current world culture pressures us to be very
interested in big things that would have vast social or public impact,
but at the expense of giving due attention to the ordinary little
duties of our day.

            This is a dangerous situation that would make us most
prone for routine to set in. We can plunge into a frenzy of activism,
motivated not by love but more by pride, vanity, greed, lust, etc. We
get into a self-destructing process.

            We need to see to it that we are truly in touch with God,
that we are motivated mainly by love and not just by any practical and
mundane value, because outside of this context of God and love, all
our work and efforts can only invite routine to come in.

            With routine, any task or initiative that we do cannot
last long. That’s simply because with routine we actually would be
detached from the inexhaustible source of love, goodness and energy.
It would lack a self-perpetuating and continually-renewing principle.

            That’s why we need to examine ourselves more deeply,
trying to probe into the real and basic motives of our intentions and
actions. If at the end of the day, we get tired not only physically
but also spiritually, then we have a clear indication that we have
been working more out of routine than of love of God and of others.

            Obviously, protecting ourselves from routine requires
continuing training and formation as well as daily battle against the
enemies of our soul. We need to learn to pray, to get in vital union
with God even while we are in the middle of the world.

            We have to learn to discipline our senses and feelings
that usually get carried away by the many allurements of the world.
Better said, our senses and feelings do not have the capacity to
discern what is good and evil, what is safe and dangerous with the
many things we handle in this world.

            We have to learn how to look for time and space to be
especially close to God, because only when enjoy an abiding intimacy
with God would we be able to avoid routine. Hopefully, such practice
would sooner or later make us a real contemplative in the middle of
the world doing things out of love, and not just out of routine.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Strict with self, lenient with others

IF we want to have a good formula of how we ought to
behave in general, this would be it. We have to be strict with
ourselves as much as possible, and just as much as possible too, we
need to be lenient with others.

            We can safely say that this was the mode of behaviour of
Christ himself, who is our way, truth and life. No one could be
stricter with his own self than Christ himself. The very canon of what
is true, good and beautiful for us, he held to that principle
consistently, without any gap.

            Even all his efforts at naturalness so as to be one with
us did not make any break in his being strict with his own self. He
managed to pray always, even getting up way before daybreak just to go
to a secluded place to pray.

            In fact, from birth to death, he was always characterized
by poverty, detachment, austerity, even if all of these were also
lived in good taste. Let’s remember that when he was stripped of his
garments for his crucifixion, the soldiers were astonished to discover
that his tunic was first-class. It was seamless.

            Precisely that vivid description of St. Paul about the
self-emptying of Christ speaks of how strict Christ was with his own
self. Not only did he, being God, allow himself to become man, he went
all the way to offer his life on the cross. Can anyone be more strict
than he is?

            And yet, he was most open to others, no matter how much
they offended him. He was simply game with them, or at least, just
kept quiet and bore everything in silence. He even offered to ask for
forgiveness for those who crucified him.

            Christ always respects the freedom of men, however it is
used, for the good or for evil. His love for us is such that he is
above whatever immorality we may commit. He came to save, not to
condemn. If someone is condemned, it would not be because of Christ,
but rather because of that person concerned.

            Christ is only concerned with showing us the true nature
of love and its full range, which would include his eternal mercy and
compassion. He gives us the grace necessary for it, and the many means
by which this love can be lived. He gives himself completely to us,
sparing nothing.

            It now depends on us whether we will correspond to his
love and goodness. That is why he gave that new commandment that
summarized and perfected all the other commandments. “Love one another
as I have loved you.”

            It is the love that involves being very strict with
oneself while always being lenient with everybody else. It’s the love
that never responds to evil with another evil. Rather, it is the kind
that drowns evil with an abundance of good.

            We need to learn this kind of love from Christ. We have to
convince ourselves that this is the only love that is proper to us.
More than that, we should have no doubt that this love is possible and
doable, because Christ himself has given us everything for us to live

            We have to do our part. While it’s true that we are always
conditioned by many elements like our temperament, our physical,
emotional and mental health, our social and economic status, etc., we
have to learn also how to go beyond them, and not simply be restricted
by them.

            God’s grace for this purpose is never lacking, and the
effort needed simply depends on us completely. Part of the strictness
we have to exercise on ourselves is precisely to be willing to be
patient, to bear whatever needs to be borne, and doing it cheerfully,
without complaint.

            May it be that we can get beyond our personal preferences
and biases, that we can learn to love and understand everyone no
matter how different they are to us, or worse, offensive. Ours should
only be to do good to others, even if our efforts would not be

            We have to learn to be magnanimous, and also to be quick
to discover anything good, no matter how small, in any person or
situation, even if that good is dominated by a lot of evil.

            Let’s pray for the grace and work it out also so that we
can reach a point where we would not be scandalized by any evil, but
rather would always be moved to help and to love more, so conversion
and transformation would take place.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Fear and no fear

WE have to know when to be afraid and when not. We have to
distinguish between a good fear and a bad fear, a healthy one and a
sick one. We need to know how to handle and deal with our fears that
are unavoidable in our life.

            Fear is an emotion that we need to educate also. It just
cannot be on its own, guided only by our spontaneous judgments and
reactions, and appearing when it’s not supposed to, and not appearing
when it’s supposed to. It has to be grounded and oriented properly,
expressing the sublimity of our dignity as persons and children of

            Let’s remember that among the gifts of the Holy Spirit is
the fear of the Lord. It’s the good and healthy fear of a child who is
afraid to offend his father. It’s a filial fear, not a servile one.
It’s one that, instead of being tempted to run away from God, would
rather motivate one to get closer to him. It’s the fear of losing God,
even if we may have offended him and have to do something to atone and

            It’s the fear that we should foster, especially these days
when we see a lot of people who are not afraid anymore to offend God.
Though to be fair, we can also say that many do not fear God anymore
because in the first place they don’t know him. No one fears what he
doesn’t know.

            Look at little children. They have to be watched closely
because in their carefree spirit of playing and running around, they
do not know the many dangers that can befall them. In a sense, they
have no fear, which is why we have to watch them closely.

            There are, of course, those who do not fear God because
they don’t believe in him. This is reflected in one of the psalms:
“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God above.’” (52)

            Lastly, there are those who lose the fear of the Lord
because they think they can escape or hide from him. It’s kind of a
funny predicament to be in, but actually many fall under this
category. For sure, it’s the devil’s work, supported by one’s
weaknesses and self-inflicted delusion.

            We have to contend with these possibilities and wage a
battle of love and peace, of truth and charity, with a lot of patience
to boot. Prayers, heroic sacrifices are definitely needed, but
concrete, doable plans on how to tackle these problems should also be

            We have to avoid pursuing this course with bitterness.
Instead, we have to do it with utmost delicacy, bothering ourselves as
much as possible to be correct politically, socially, humanly, without
compromising the truth

            But there are also occasions when we should lose our fear
too. In the gospel, there are many instances when Christ would tell
his disciples: “Do not be afraid.” Those were when the greatness of
the spiritual and supernatural character and power of Christ was made

            Or, said in another way, when the limitations of our
nature could not grapple with the transcendence of the divine, when
our faith could not yet get a safe footing before certain mysteries.

            That’s what happened, for example, when the apostles were
tossed by a rough, stormy sea in a boat with Christ simply sleeping.
Or when the disciples saw Christ walking on the water. They were
scared. They thought they were seeing a ghost.

            We have to learn to lose our fear in these cases, allowing
our faith to make that leap in the dark that is integral to it. That
is the secret. Many times Christ had to castigate his disciples for
their lack of faith. “O man of little faith,” he would repeat often.

            Instead of fear, what we would have would be awe when we
have our faith alive and vibrant. Though it may have some freezing
effect, awe actually attaches us with God. Not so with fear. Fear
makes us to run away from God.

            We have to little by little be accustomed to the
mysterious and awesome ways of God. To be sure, we will never feel
totally at home with his inscrutable ways. He will always manage to
pull some surprises. But, yes, to a certain degree we can get
acquainted with them such that we would be left in awe instead of
falling into fear.

            It’s an awe that would not deter us but rather would
launch us into a generous and even heroic correspondence to his love
and goodness.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Planning and goal-setting

THIS is the usual activity we do at the beginning of the
year, just as what we normally do before embarking on anything new, be
it a project, a business, a trip or an excursion.

            We should not take this for granted. In fact, we should
increasingly sharpen our sense for this need and the corresponding
skill, for it is what our basic rationality and freedom require. We
are always driven by a sense of purpose which should be given as full
a play as possible.

            A life without a sense of purpose is not human, let alone
Christian life. Sad to say, this is what we are observing in many
places nowadays. Many people seem to be living without a clear sense
of purpose other than what the erratic impulses of their instincts,
feelings and passions, biases, trends would dictate or suggest.

            This is not to mention that we are often afflicted with
laziness, excessive love for comfort, a lot of attachments to temporal
and worldly things, greed, envy, lust and the like that deaden or at
least distort our sense of planning.

            We cannot overemphasize the many benefits and advantages
of planning and goal-setting. It simplifies our life, putting order
into our things and affairs. It enables us to be more aware of our
priorities. It can save as well as multiply our time and other

            Of course, we should always be wary when we so exaggerate
it that we become rigid and inflexible. The need for planning and
goal-setting is not meant for that. On the contrary, it is meant to
equip us properly with the surprises in life.

            We should strive to plan things as exhaustively as
possible. We should not be contented only with short-term plans, but
also with a long-term one. In fact, we should try to plan for life,
and even for life hereafter. This is not falling into presumption, as
long as we give due consideration also to the legitimate constraints

            We need to have some plans and goals to reach in the
different aspects of our life—personal, spiritual, family,
professional, social and all the way to the political and global. At
the same time, let’s see to it that all these aspects are integrated
into one working and organic whole.

            Yes, we cannot be sure of everything. There simply are too
many things that are beyond our control, our power and resources. But
this reality does not excuse us from planning our life as fully as

            Precisely because of it, we need to make plans, to be able
to face the different contingencies and vicissitudes of life.
Obviously, such plans may have to be revised and modified many times
along the way. This should not bother us. It’s part of the territory.

            We just have to remind ourselves that in every plan, we
always make some calculated assumptions and risks. But central to the
whole equation should be the sense of abandonment in the providence of
God who can take care of everything, including our mistakes.

            Let’s remember that God is the source of law and order. He
is also the one that enables us to live order. “I can do all things in
him who strengthens me,” St. Paul says (Phil 4,13) Our sense of the
need for planning and goal-setting should begin and end with God.
Short of that, we would be developing it improperly.

            This is the challenge we have—how to begin and end with
God in all the planning and goal-setting we do. Many times, we get
contented with merely worldly values and criteria—more knowledge and
information, greater efficiency, profitability, etc. We are still very
awkward in putting God at the center of it all.

            That’s why there is a great need to pause and put
ourselves in some mode of deep meditation and contemplation to be able
to touch base with the most profound longing in our heart that is
often muffled by the cares of this world.

            What St. Augustine once expressed continues to hold true
today: “My heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.” Let’s do
everything so that this sentiment continues to hold sway on us,
overcoming the many powerful distractions the world today offers.

            This requires a spirit of sacrifice and self-denial,
precisely echoing what Christ himself told us that if we want to
follow him, we need to deny ourselves and carry the cross. There is no
other formula for us to follow.

            Everything has to be done so that God becomes the be-all
and end-all of our planning and goal-setting.