Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The God-and-neighbor formula

IF we are to ask ourselves what formula or plan should we
use to live our life to the full, I think the answer is in what Christ
himself said when asked what the greatest commandment of God was.

            If we believe that it is in the will of God where
everything begins and ends, where what is true and good for us is
contained, then we have to realize that it is in knowing and living
his will or his commandment that we would be able to live our life to
the full. We should be eager to put that commandment into practice.

            And what was the answer of Christ to the question? “You
shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and will all your
soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength,” he said.
The he continued, “The second is this, You shall love your neighbour
as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mk

            Later on, Christ himself summarized these commandments
into a new commandment, giving us a more clear way of living the two
inseparable commandments. And that is to “love one another as I
(Christ) have loved you.”

            Christ makes himself the standard of that love by which we
have to live our life to full, since He is the very embodiment of
loving God with everything, including offering his own life on the
cross in obedience to the will of his Father, and of loving everyone,
including those who crucified him.

            This is the basic formula to use to live our life
properly. Everything has to be determined by our love for God and love
for neighbour. The parameters to use in everything that we do,
starting with our thoughts and intentions down to our most material
activities, should be love for God and love for neighbour.

            These are the determinants that should define our life and
give shape to our thoughts, words and deeds. Outside of these
parameters, we would be straying from the proper path.

            We have to understand then that what would constitute as
our true development and as our fullness of life should be the fruit
of our love for God and love for the others, whoever they may be, for
that is what a neighbour is—he is anyone and everyone.

            We have to be wary with just doing what we like to do,
even if what we do is objectively not bad since it is not a wilful
disobedience of God’s commandments. This is because, if it not
referred to the love of God and love for neighbour, it may just be an
exercise of self-centeredness or selfishness.

            And this is the common predicament we have around the
world. People, merely relying on what they consider as personal good,
just do whatever is convenient and practical to them, whatever is
profitable and advantageous to them.

            We have to do everything to escape from the grip of these
worldly values that can only be legitimate if related to love of God
and love for neighbor. We have to spread the good news that it is
actually when things begin and end with God that whatever legitimate
desire for success, wealth, power, etc., would be achieved properly.

            That’s why in many of our liturgical prayers, we always
end with the words, “Through Christ, our Lord...” That’s simply
because it would only be through Christ that whatever we say or ask in
our prayers is heard and acted upon by God.

            In fact, in many prayers, we also express the very idea
that everything begins and ends with God. A sample of this is the
following favourite thanksgiving prayer of mine: Go before us, O Lord,
we beseech Thee, in all our doings with Thy gracious inspiration, and
further us with Thy continual help, that every prayer and work of ours
may begin from Thee, and by Thee be duly ended. Through Christ our
Lord. Amen.

            We also have to remember that referring ourselves to God
always involves referring ourselves too with others. God and neighbour
cannot be separated. Our love for God would not be true if it is not
carried out in our love for others. And vice-versa. Our love for
neighbour would not be true if not based on our love for God.

            It’s this dual reference of our thoughts, words and
actions that would give us the objective path for our own development
and joy, a joy that would be lasting and would lead us to eternal


Monday, March 30, 2015

Convert study into prayer

WITH all the graduation rites these days for which I have
to say the baccalaureate Mass, I cannot help but remind the graduating
students and others that our formation never ends, that study should
be a constant attitude and habit to have rather than just a task to do
at a given moment, and that study should be converted to prayer.

            This is actually good news rather than some kind of brick
a preachy priest wants to unload on them. Of course, it’s good news
that commands a certain price. But that’s precisely what makes that
good news good. It has to be worked for. It has to be earned.

            Study is a human necessity that has to be taken seriously
and nourished constantly. We should not just be casual about it.
That’s because study holds the key for us to understand things, to
contribute to the common good, and most especially, to connect us with
everybody else, and ultimately with God.

            Study unlocks for us the secrets of nature in all its
aspects. It makes us explore the many facets of life and the world
that we often ignore. Let’s remember that as image and likeness of
God, we are meant to know things as much as possible. There’s actually
no limit to what we can possibly know through our study.

            Study enables us to fulfil our duty, together with God our
Creator, as stewards of our earthly goods and temporal affairs. In
fact, it enhances our sense of freedom and responsibility, since these
aspects of our life depend a lot on what we know.

            In a way, study keeps and enriches our humanity. Without
it, we can start to deface our own nature and our sense of what is
true and not true, what is right and wrong, what is good and evil.
Without it, we expose ourselves to many avoidable dangers in life.

            We can fall, for example, to ignorance and confusion, to
indifference to our duties and the needs of others and the world in
general. We can start to be sloppy in our work and to resort to
cheating and deception just to get by. There are many other dangers
down the line.

            We should never think that we have studied enough, because
the simple truth is that we can never study enough! How can we say
that we have studied enough when there will always be things that are
new and mysterious and always changing, even if there also are things
that are old and do not and should not change?

            Even with respect to the old things, we will always be in
need of renewing and refreshing our understanding of them. We should
never be self-satisfied with what we already know and even what we
have mastered. They can always be enriched and updated, made to adapt
and impact on the new and changing environments.

            We have to make sure that our study should not simply be
reduced to a purely intellectual operation. It has to be motivated and
oriented toward love—love for God and love for others. Otherwise, our
study would be a sure source of pride, vanity and other anomalies like
greed, envy, lust, etc. It would be an exercise of self-centeredness.

            Study somehow should be for us a form of prayer. This can
be done if it is motivated precisely by love for God and neighbour.
Its technical requirements are no obstacles to prayer, since prayer,
by its nature, can be expressed by any kind of human activity,
including the very menial ones, as long as the motive is love of God
and neighbour.

            The different languages and methodologies involved in the
study of the different arts and sciences are not incompatible with
developing an intimate relation with God and others, since after all,
all these languages and methodologies, no matter how technical and
abstruse, come in the end from God and are part of God’s will for us.

            We should overcome the baseless idea that studying
technical things, as in the arts and the sciences, cannot be
considered as prayer. This is an idea that needs to be exploded,
because it happens to affect a great majority of the people.

            The mundane, the material and temporal things of our life,
while enjoying a certain autonomy, are never outside of God’s
providence. Everything is part of God’s providence and can be made use
of to connect us to God and to others as, in fact, they should.

            We may have to use certain techniques and devices to help

us convert our study into prayer.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Incarnation today

WE’VE just celebrated the solemnity of the annunciation of
the Lord, and we’re reminded of that most heart-warming truth of our
faith that God became man in the purest womb of Mary to reach us, to
be with us, to save us.

            In so doing, God assumed not only our nature but also our
wounded condition, including death, without committing sin, if only to
identify himself completely with each one of us.

            His love was, is, such that he goes all the way, even to
assuming all our sinfulness to bring us back to God, from whom we
come, to whom we belong and in whose image and likeness we have been

            His love is not just the “eros” type—loving someone with
the view of getting something from that someone. Nor is it simply
“filia”—a form of loving expressed in sharing things. It is
“agape”—the highest form of love where one loves irrespective of
getting something or not, or even rejected and contradicted.

            God can never forget us, a truth that was already
articulated well in the Book of Isaiah: “Can a woman forget her
sucking child, that she would have no compassion on the son of her
womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” (49,15)

            We have to pound this truth of our faith constantly into
our head and heart, so we can feel at home with it. Our problem is
that we often take God’s love for granted and thus trivialize the
dignity that we have, and suffer the consequences that actually can
and should be avoided. We can either abuse this love or doubt it.

            We may feel awkward about this truth, since we seldom, if
ever, expect much less experience a love such as this. We often
consider such love as madness, or impossible to take place, etc. But
this is the love God is offering us and is asking us also to have.

            This tremendous love of God to us through Christ was once
described vividly by St. Paul. Let’s listen to him slowly:

            “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died
for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man—though
perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his
love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
(Rom 5,6-8)

            This awkwardness toward the incredible love God has for us
is very understandable, but we have to fight it off. The truth is that
with God’s incarnation in Christ, there’s nothing in our life that is
not covered by his redemptive work.

            Whatever our situation is, whether approved or disapproved
by him, God will always love us and will do everything to bring us
back to him. He precisely is willing to die for us.

            All we have to do is to cooperate with him as much as we
can. This is also because no matter how much God loves us to madness,
he cannot impose that love on us. He will always respect our freedom,
even if we choose to misuse it.

            It’s always worthwhile to pause and reflect on this
crucial truth of our faith, because it is also something that is
expected of us. Our love for one another, as Christ commanded us in
his new commandment, should reflect this very love God has for us.

            We need to understand one another, willing to go all the
way to bear the burden of the others. St. Paul precisely told us about
that: “Bear one another’s burdens, and you shall fulfil the law of
Christ.” (Gal 6,2)

            This will obviously require a lot of adjustments on each
one of us, since our tendency is to think and care only for our own
interests. And if we happen to be interested in the concerns of the
others, it is usually pursued with some self-interest in mind, with
some ulterior motive involved.

            We have to learn to forget ourselves and immerse ourselves
completely and gratuitously in the affairs of the others,
understanding them no matter how different they are from us or how
wrong we feel they are about certain matters. We have to be friendly
to everyone, and quick to forgive and to reconcile once some conflicts

            Yes, we can and should proclaim this truth in season and
out of season, but without imposing it. If we suffer because of that
attitude, so be it. Such suffering will be a participation of the

redemptive suffering and death of Christ on the cross.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When charity can look like hypocrisy

CHARITY can certainly, at least on some occasions, look
and feel like hypocrisy. But we should not worry too much about that.
That’s simply because charity often demands or even pressures us to
appear or even to do something opposed to what we feel inside.

            The simple explanation is that even in our original,
sinless state of humanity, there is already some kind of tension among
the different parts that we are made of. Our thoughts and desires may
not go together well with our feelings and preferences.

            This, without taking into consideration that we are meant
to aim for a supernatural goal—our union with God. Thus, there will
always be some kind of tension and awkwardness involved here.

            But this, again, should not worry us too much. God will do
everything to make what he wants from us to be achieved. All that is
needed is our cooperation, which in turn requires of us humility,
because pride is a big obstacle in our pursuit for growth in charity
as in any other virtue.

            So, in our dealings with others, we should expect some
kind of opposition within ourselves that can give rise to this
phenomenon of charity looking like hypocrisy. We force ourselves to
smile even if we are mad, to speak well even if we are at the brink of
lambasting someone.

            This should come as no surprise. Those efforts to live
charity despite contradicting sentiments are a best proof of charity
itself. In time, we will learn to deal with that situation, like a
baby learning the different functions of man.

            And this condition of our human nature is made worse
because of sin and its effects. Here we are not dealing only with
normal tension and opposition, but with some radical contradictions
that were once expressed graphically by St. Paul.

            “For the good which I will, I do not. But the evil which I
will not, that I do,” says St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans (7,19)
This is a common experience that should not plunge us into sadness and
despair, because there is always hope. There is always a way out of
this predicament.

            God’s grace is never lacking. And we have to remember
always that God has given us everything already for us to be able to
live charity at its fullest. We have to strengthen this truth of

            What we have to do is remain calm, not to get nervous, and
to strengthen our faith and love of God. If we are bothered by this
predicament, the best thing to do is to go and run to our Lord, to ask
for help, like those gospel characters who, helpless in their
predicaments, went to Christ for a cure or for compassion.

            We should not run away from him, and suffer things by
ourselves. This would be a dangerous situation, which befell those
unfortunate characters in the Bible who instead of going to God,
asking for pardon and help, preferred to flee from God and consummate
their alienation from God and from others.

            We need to push ourselves to go to Christ, never getting
satisfied with some human stop-gap measures, like psychologising
ourselves into believing that it would just be alright, etc. We have
to take Christ’s words seriously: “Ask and you shall receive, seek and
you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you,” since we tend to
take this duty to run to God for granted.

            We should also remember that when we experience some
internal opposition in our effort to live charity, it is because God
wants us to raise our charity to another level. We should not forget
that charity, being the highest virtue, is always in search for
improvement, for perfection.

            With these contradicting sentiments, God is actually
pointing out to us certain areas and aspects in our life—out
attitudes, our understanding of people and things, etc.—that need to
be purified. They are a good occasion for us to have healing and
strengthening of our spiritual life.

            It would also be good if we avail of the traditional
practice of spiritual direction where we confide to a trusted and
competent person our very personal situation as to how to correspond
to the growing and endless demands of charity.

            Everyone actually needs this kind of help, since no one is
a good spiritual director of oneself. We tend to overlook many things
when it comes to our own personal struggles in charity.

            Let’s hope that we can outgrow the conflicting aspects of
charity with God’s grace and our efforts.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Pray, pray and pray some more

I'm not exaggerating. Our need to pray is like our need to
breathe. It should be non-stop, since it is indispensable in our union
with God our Creator, who keeps us alive and healthy in our spiritual
life. Again, let’s bring back a basic truth—without God we are

            The only difference is that breathing is a bodily
necessity and is instinctive and automatic until we die, while praying
is a spiritual necessity that requires conscious effort and continues
even after death though in a different form

           In fact, praying requires faith, hope and charity which
first of all are gifts from God that need to be corresponded to by us
with a lot of patience and the dynamic interplay of all the other

           We should not be surprised by this requirement of prayer,
much less complain about it, since praying is our most basic way of
dealing with God who has given us all and who has the right to expect
all for us also, we being his image and likeness.

           If understood and done properly, praying actually gives us
joy always. It enables us to see and understand things better. More
importantly, it helps us to have a glimpse of God's will, where
everything starts and is governed and led to its proper end.

           Praying processes and finds the answers to all our needs.
In good times and bad times, when we are healthy or sick, when we
enjoy successes or suffer defeats or are tempted, praying comes as our
natural way of coping with everything that our spiritual life needs
just like breathing does with our bodily needs.

           To those who are afraid that praying just gets in the way
of our human activities and concerns, the contrary is true. If
anything at all, praying tremendously helps us in putting our
activities and concerns in another level so they acquire a spiritual,
moral and supernatural value, which is proper to us, since we are
God's image and likeness, and children of his.

            It fits in all the situations of our life, because it is
first of all a matter of attitude, of an awareness that we are in the
presence of God who asks us to follow him and to love him.

           Obviously, for our prayer to be substantial, consistent
and abiding, we need to spend some moments of special and serious
conversation with him, like some period of mental prayer, meditating
on God’s word, having recourse to the sacraments, etc. These are like
the refueling process that helps us to continue going on with our
spiritual life.

            The important thing to remember is that whatever we may be
doing, we somehow should engage our mind and heart with God. We should
never dare to do things alone, by our lonesome, relying only on our
natural powers and some kind of luck. That is the way to get carried
away and swallowed up by the mundane things.

           It is when we are constantly engaged with God that we get
the light and the strength to deal with our earthly affairs, knowing
how to relate them always to our ultimate goal, and not getting
entangled with merely temporal goals. When we pray, our sense of
purpose and direction gets sharpened.

           While it needs them, prayer also actually nourishes our
faith, hope and charity. Prayer puts us into a virtuous cycle that
brings us closer to our ideal ultimate state of communion with God and
with others.

           No, prayer does not alienate us from others nor from our
earthly affairs. Quite the contrary is true. It puts us in a proper
relation to them, and helps us to avoid the unhealthy entanglements
with our worldly business.

           This truth should be spread out quite widely these days,
since many now are the factors and elements that tend to deny the
indispensability of prayer in our life. In short, what some people are
saying is that we do not need God in our life. We are our own god, our
own lawgiver. We just rely on whatever we have in terms of
intelligence, talents and luck.

            It should be clear to us that prayer is indispensable to
us. Unless we make ourselves souls of prayer, we have reason to doubt
whether we are truly living our life properly. We should be wary of
some worldly ideologies, like atheism, agnosticism, hedonism, etc.,
that tend to mock the importance of prayer in our life.

            We have to overcome some myths, like prayer is only for
old women and little children, etc.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Between rigidity and flippancy

IN our dealings with others, especially when done in
public fora, we have to avoid the extremes of rigidity and flippancy,
of being a bull-headed stickler of some rules and a good-for-nothing,
anything-goes fellow.

            Yes, there certainly are laws and rules to follow, but let
us remember that love is the ultimate law that sometimes goes beyond
what our human laws and rules can indicate or how we understand and
live them.

            We should avoid putting laws and rules, on the one hand,
and love, compassion, understanding, on the other hand, in conflict.
They are meant to go together. There certainly will be tension between
the two, but it’s a tension that will always challenge us to grow in
our maturity, not to mention, in our sanctity.

            We should never forget this distinction, perhaps too fine
to be easily considered, but always worth the effort to be aware of,
and of course, to conform ourselves to. Our dialogues, discussions and
debates would be on the right track when this distinction is put
foremost in our mind and heart.

            Especially when some contentious issues are involved, as
usually happens in the fields of politics, business and social life,
and even in some sacred religious teaching, we need to learn how both
to stick to rules and to be charitable with everyone, including those
who differ from us or are clearly in error.

            We have to learn how to bear with all our differences and
conflicts, and to move on with life. The secret is to follow the
example of Christ who revealed all that we need to know about God and
about ourselves while going to the extent of assuming all our
sinfulness by offering his life on the cross.

            Yes, Christ was most strict and precise about what would
comprise as our ideal state of life, which is what holiness is all
about, but he was also most accommodating with the all the weaknesses
of men.

            He knew how to deal with the sinfulness of men by bearing
all our sins in his supreme act of love of offering his life on the
cross. “No man has greater love than he who offers his life for his

            We sometimes feel that since we are tackling merely
worldly issues, as in politics, we can do away with what is actually
an indispensable requirement of being truthful and charitable at the
same time. This is a mentality that has to change, not so much because
it is against Christian teaching as it is first of all against our own
common humanity.

            We are all men and women who, from beginning to end,
belong to the same family. We are meant to love one another, to care
for one another, to be responsible for one another.

            In politics, where issues are more a matter of opinion, we
should refrain from dogmatizing our views and demonizing those of the
others who differ from us. And even in matters of faith of morals,
where dogmas are already involved, we have to learn to understand
those who do not or cannot, for some reason, follow them.

            In this regard, we have to be extremely patient,
reflecting the very patience of Christ who goes all the way to the
cross. We have to intensify our prayers and sacrifices, revving up our
spiritual life by doing a lot of catechesis and apostolate.

            Let’s avoid at all costs mocking and insulting those who
differ from us or who are clearly in error. The fact that we are
clearly right on a certain issue does not give us the right, much
less, the privilege to mock and insult others. That would be pure

            Let’s remember that as long as we cling to Christ, as long
as we believe, love and follow him, everything will always work out
for the good, even if in many instances we may seem to suffer a lot of

            It would indeed be nice that as we go on with our life,
with new developments good and bad, we learn how to sort out our
differences calmly and charitably. This simply means that we have to
become more and more like Christ, who is in fact the very pattern of
our humanity, not to mention, our savior.

            So let’s try to learn the truth, to follow the rules and
ultimately the will of God, without getting rigid, and at the same
time, let’s also try to be understanding and accommodating of
everyone, without becoming flippant, frivolous, totally unhinged from

            Let’s follow the example of Christ!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Prayer of the IEC 2016

AS we are now inching our way toward the celebration of
the International Eucharistic Congress 2016, let me just comment a
little on the prayer prepared for such big event.

            It’s a beautiful prayer that should be on the lips of all
of us, meaning it with all our heart, because it contains precious
truths that we should not forget, and petitions that we should make. I
highly recommend that it be prayed as often as we can, either
individually or as a family. I’m sure it will go a long way in helping
us spiritually.

            The prayer goes this way: “Lord Jesus Christ, our hope of
glory, / You are the fulfillment of the Father’s plan to save all
humanity, / You are the mystery hidden from the ages / and from
generations past, now manifested to us. / You abide in your Church and
in the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. /

            “As we celebrate the Holy Eucharist and receive your Body
and Blood, / grant us the awareness that your presence in us / urges
us to continue your saving mission in the world.

            “Send us your Holy Spirit, / that He may lead us to walk
humbly / with the poor and the marginalized, / in the company of Mary,
your most holy mother and ours. /

            “O Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament, / To you be all
honor and glory and praise / in the unity of the Father and the Holy
Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.”

            I would say that it’s a prayer worth meditating on and
memorizing, so we get to have a deepening awareness of the nature,
meaning and purpose of this most sublime sacrament, and so we can
recite it as often as we can, especially before or after attending
Holy Mass, or when we visit the Blessed Sacrament, or just about
anytime we feel the need for it.

            Let us try to spread the prayer around, encouraging others
to pray it also and, in fact, to make it their own. As we approach the
IEC 2016, it would be nice that we as a people grow in our faith,
understanding, love and devotion for the Holy Eucharist.

            The prayer is already a good instrument for catechesis. It
tells us that Christ is “our hope of glory,” since he is our Savior
who will bring us back to where we come from and to whom we belong.
This after we have strayed away from God due to our sin.

            Christ, who is made present in the Eucharist and whose
merits of his redemptive work are offered to us through the Eucharist,
is indeed the fulfilment of God’s plan “to save humanity.”

            We need to be most keenly aware of this tremendous truth
that should give us great joy. We have to be more aware of what great
treasure is given to us in the Eucharist. We have to do everything to
ward off the usual danger of getting used to the Eucharist,
considering it as one more thing in our life.

            The Eucharist should be the source and summit of our
Christian life, as one Church document would describe it. Another
saint described it as the root and center of our interior life. Of
course, the basis for all these affirmations is that in the Eucharist,
we have Christ himself, the Son of God who became man and remains as
man in eternity, and makes himself the “Way, Truth and Life” for us.

            In short, we cannot be with God without Christ, without
the Eucharist. Christianity would not be true and authentic
Christianity without the Eucharist. We have to see Christ in the
Eucharist, and also feel the need for the continuing work of
redemption that Christ invites us to cooperate.

            We are all co-redeemers with him. This truth should sink
deep in our consciousness and unravel its many, in fact, endless,
implications and consequences, both theoretical and practical.

            Everyone of us is called to do apostolate. The mere fact
that we all human beings, members of the same family, and made the
people and family of God through Christ’s redemptive work, should
already encourage us to care for one another, not only materially but
also spiritually, not only naturally but also supernaturally.

            This wonderful implication of the Eucharist should remind
us always that whatever differences and conflicts we may have in the
areas of politics, business, etc., we are all meant to love another.
Recourse to the Eucharist will assure us of that unity in spite of,
and even because of, our differences.