Thursday, April 30, 2015

Be contemplative to be realistic

THERE are certain myths that we need to get rid of. One of
them is that to lead a contemplative life practically takes one out of
reality. Hardly anything can be farther than the truth.

            It is precisely when one is truly contemplative that he
gets a good grasp of reality. He becomes more objective and his vision
and understanding of things in general would be more complete. That’s
simply because, to put it bluntly, he is more in a position to see
things the way God, the Creator and our Father and the ultimate
measure of reality, sees them.

            He just does not depend on his senses. Though he uses them
to the full, he goes much further than what sense data would provide
him. Not even does he depend only on his intelligence that already can
penetrate into the essence of things and can transcend from the
sensible to the intelligible in all their forms and possibilities.

            He uses his faith, activating it in a working life of
piety and contemplation. Faith is a gift from God given to us in
abundance and that sheds the best light we can get to see, know and
understand things. This is where God shares what he knows with us.

            To be sure, to be contemplative does not do away with the
senses and our intelligence. Our need and use of faith in our
contemplative life will never do away with our senses and
intelligence. It, in fact, makes use of them to the max, but goes much

            So to be contemplative never means that one isolates and
detaches himself from the world. The contrary is true. It makes one
more immersed in the world. Its interest is never limited but rather
is open to the all developments in the world.

            Obviously, given our human condition, we will always have
a particular or specific viewpoint and interest, but it’s an angle
that is open to the universal reality. A contemplative life that is
not open to the whole reality is not a genuine contemplative life.

            In fact, a true contemplative will always feel the need to
know more about other fields that he is not familiar with. He would at
least have an open mind, willing to listen and learn from them. Thus,
he would always feel the need to be versatile and adaptable. He avoids
being rigid and one-track-minded.

            His desire to know more about persons will be insatiable.
His knowledge of persons would always deepen and expand. He is not
contented with knowing them superficially. He has to probe the mystery
that each person is, guided by his faith and love of God that would
drive him to do so.

            This need can only be satisfied when one is truly humble.
Humility makes one always realize his inadequacy and possibility to
know more and learn more. A proud person simply does not feel this,
and tends to say enough and stop knowing more.

            And while it’s true that due to our human condition, our
limitations and those of the world, we need to distance ourselves from
time to time from the world to be able to meditate and contemplate,
it’s an exercise that is meant to enhance our immersion both in God
and in the world.

            A contemplative always feels the need to be recollected to
make sure that faith leads the way instead of the senses and the
intelligence simply leading the way. We cannot deny that the latter
always have the tendency to dominate. That tendency is simply an
indication of our deeply embedded pride and vanity that are always our

            That’s why to be a contemplative will always involve some
self-denial. No one can be a contemplative unless he knows how to
discipline and put his senses and intelligence in their proper place.
It is a self-denial that would lead him to vividly feel the push of
faith and love of God to immerse himself in the lives of others and in
the world in general.

            This is not an easy thing to do, since we will always have
to contend with the tricks of our weakened flesh that wants to
dominate us, not to mention the wiles of our wayward world and the

            But we also have ways to cope with this predicament. We
can deepen our humility, grow in our skill at spiritual warfare,
polish the art of always rectifying our intentions and correcting
ourselves whenever we find ourselves in error.

            Yes, to be truly contemplative would make us more in touch

with reality.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Our sinfulness should trigger mercy

YES, that’s right. Evil and our sinfulness should occasion
love instead of getting us stuck in horror and anger, and sinking us
in hatred or self-pity. Obviously, evil is evil and should be avoided,
unloved and atoned for. But we should never fail to make it draw us to
the dynamics of love whose supreme act is mercy.

            This is how God has dealt with us who are all sinners. He
sent his Son to us out of mercy. The Son became man and fully revealed
the true nature and love of God for us. Out of this great love and
mercy of God for us, he finally offered his life on the cross to set
us free from sin.

            This should also how we have to deal with our own
individual selves when we sin, and with one another when others sin.
We have to train ourselves in this regard. Instead of running away
from God in fear or shame when we sin, let’s rush to him who will
always be forgiving. Instead of wasting time lamenting over our
sinfulness and that of others, let’s be quick to give the mercy of God
to ourselves and to others.

            As Pope Francis said in his document, Misericordiae vultus
(The face of mercy), mercy is who God is, who we are and what brings
us together.

            “Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy
Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to
meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every
person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters
on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man,
opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our

            In so many words, the Pope is telling us that mercy is the
be-all and end-all of our existence. Mercy, of course, is a great
mystery that can somehow be fathomed to the extent that we identify
ourselves more closely with God in whose image and likeness we have
been created.

            We need to develop it and grow in it, taking advantage of
the daily events and circumstances of our life. For certain, we have
to prepare ourselves for the pain and suffering that will be involved
in this endeavor.

            In pursuit of mercy, we cannot help but to deny ourselves.
Our pursuit for mercy cannot be separated from our effort to identify
ourselves with Christ. And Christ told us to that follow him, we have
to deny ourselves and carry the cross.

            The cross can be the pain and suffering involved in going
beyond our human limitations and weaknesses so we can conform
ourselves to the supernatural life of God that is meant for us. It can
also be the pain and suffering in tackling our sinfulness and its
effects and consequences in us.

            All this pain and suffering that we have to go through
have already been taken up by Christ himself in his passion and death.
This ultimate manifestation of his love and mercy for us has taken
away the sting of our sin and death and converted it into the way of
our salvation, if we also suffer and die with him.

            We need to appreciate more deeply the wisdom of this
divine logic and way of dealing with our sinfulness. By suffering and
dying with Christ, there is no evil and sin that cannot be forgiven.

            We can also say that by suffering and dying with Christ,
we will be creating a general atmosphere of love and mercy that will
be the best antidote for all the sins of men and their ugly
consequences—conflicts and division, envy, greed, pride, vanity, etc.

            There will be greater harmony and understanding for one
another in spite of our unavoidable differences and mistakes. Wounds,
personal or social, will be healed or at least, their deterioration

            The world today is in great need of mercy. Our differences
and conflicts are escalating precisely because people are drifting
away from God. They are pursuing their own ideas of truth, goodness
and justice, when all of these come from God and can be known and
lived only in God.

            We are getting away from the ultimate fact that all truth,
goodness and justice are summarized in the mercy of God that is shown
to us in Christ, and now taught and dispensed by the Church.

            It really would be nice if in the face of all our problems
and sinfulness, we would be quick to ask for God’s mercy and to give

it to one another.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Emmanuel and our affections

EMMANUEL, of course, means God-with-us. It is the name
given to Christ, the son of God who became man to save us. It’s he who
perfectly translates this name into reality. Though he died,
resurrected and ascended into heaven, he continues to be with us, in
fact, not only in a passive way, but in a most active way. He always
intervenes in our life.

            God can never be absent in our life. As creator, he is the
giver of our very existence and maintains it, since otherwise we would
cease to exist. As savior through his son, he re-creates us to free us
from the clutches of sin that has deformed us. Driven by an eternal
love for us, he will always be with us.

            We need to train ourselves to be more aware of the
constant presence of God in each one of us, among all of us, and in
the whole world and the entire creation. He is in every place and in
every situation of our life. And he is actually always showing us the
way to live each moment—how to think, judge, reason, conclude, etc.
All we have to do is to discern his will and ways.

            We need to be more aware of this reality that first of all
requires faith. But let’s remember that faith should not just be a
purely intellectual and spiritual affair. Since it is meant for us,
and we are men with body and soul, our faith should affect us all the
way to our bodily dimension. It should not be stuck in the spiritual
level alone. Thus, crucial in this concern is the role of our emotions
and passions, our sentiments and affections.

            Though only secondary to the role of our intelligence and
will, our emotions and affections nevertheless cannot be neglected,
since as our Catechism teaches, they are “the movements of the
sensible appetite—natural components of human psychology—which incline
a person to act or not to act in view of what is perceived as good or

            Our emotions and affections are integral and somehow
indispensable in our life, and therefore also in our relation with God
and with others which in the end are what our life is all about.

            We cannot and should not take them lightly for the simple
reason that if they are not for God and for others, then they would be
against them and would just be instruments of our self-indulgence,
something that will spoil us sooner or later.

            We can apply in this regard the words of Christ: “He who
is not with me is against me and he who does not gather with me,
scatters.” (Mt 12,30) These words may strike us at first as quite
demanding, but let’s always remember that Christ also has given us
everything so we can actually follow his will. All we have to do is to
avail of what Christ has given us.

            In short, if our feelings and affections are not with him,
and because of him with everybody else, then they will be against him
and others. They will just be for ourselves, lived and developed at
the instance of our own whims and caprices.

            Besides, when our feelings and affections are truly
grounded on love for God and for others, then we would have more unity
and consistency in our life, and avoid the usual tendency of ours to
profess one thing and yet do another. We would avoid, in short,
hypocrisy, double-life or at least some inconsistency in our life
where our actions often belie what we say.

            That’s why for us to be more aware of God’s continuing
presence in us and to be stably driven by the love that is proper to
us, we have to see to it that our relation with him should also be
felt, and in fact, felt quite strongly. It’s not enough that our
feelings for him are shallow, tenuous and easily overtaken by many
mundane things in life.

            We need to spend some time training our feelings and
affections to conform to our professed belief and love for God and for
others. For this, we have to ask first for the grace of God, then go
through the process of meditating the word of God, savoring the
tremendous love Christ is showing us through those words.

            We have to allow ourselves to burn with love. It should
also be a love that knows how to be practical and adaptable to the
different circumstances of our life. Let’s give it a thought and start

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Holiness occasioned by sin

WE need to remind ourselves that holiness can be
occasioned, (not caused, of course) by sin. And so we have to devise a
spirituality that recognizes this very important fact and acts on it

            Just a reminder: it’s God’s grace and our correspondence
to it that cause holiness. But anything, everything, even our problems
and sins, can be and should be an occasion to attain a certain degree
of sanctity. With God, everything will always work out for the good.

            Let’s be wary when we only develop a spirituality that
restricts itself to the practice of good things and yet is helpless
when faced with the ugliness and effects of sin and evil in oneself
and in the world.

            That would be a spirituality that is not realistic, that
chooses to ignore a salient if unwelcome aspect of our human condition
here on earth. It is prone to fall into self-righteousness, rash
judgments and fault-finding.

            It is also prone to the tricks of hypocrisy and deception
if only to cover the unavoidable inconsistencies in our spiritual and
moral life. It cannot help but drip of sanctimony, the caricature of
holiness. Besides, it tends to turn off people especially when its
flaws get widely known.

            It’s a pity, because with the temper of the times when a
great majority of the people are saddled with all kinds of sin and
anomalies, not only of the small and transitory ones but rather of the
big and often persistent and vicious kind, there’s a clamour for a
spirituality skilled in tackling this unfortunate situation.

            We need to have a plan or program of spirituality that can
be attractive to sinners and people in trouble who, in spite of their
predicaments, still have a longing for what is objectively true, good
and beautiful. This practically refers to all of us.

            It should be a spirituality that knows how to dispense
mercy and the means to cure or at least give relief to our spiritual
and moral predicaments. It should have a pharmacopeia that is able to
attend to a great variety of spiritual and moral conditions that we
can fall into as we go through life.

            Let’s never forget that we are all sinners, and yet God
loves us still, even to the point of becoming man and offering his
life on the cross, practically assuming all our sinfulness just to
recover us. In a certain sense, there is something in sin and evil
that attracts God to us.

            Our spiritual life should capture this divine logic and
behaviour that certainly sees sin as evil and yet is not scandalized
by it. Rather, it should fill us with sorrow and contrition, rushing
to God asking for forgiveness, instead of running away from him that
would worsen our condition.

            God’s love is always greater than the malice behind our
sin. More than that, it is capable of drawing good from evil. This
truth of our faith should be spread more widely, not to spoil us by
abusing the goodness of God, but rather to instil hope in us who are
struggling with all kinds of sin and their consequences.

            We should also not lose sight of the fact that sin, if
properly reacted to and handled, can somehow expand our perspective,
enrich our wisdom and make us more identified with Christ who, as St.
Paul once said, made himself like sin without committing them.

            Sin should be avoided at all costs. But when it comes,
when we fall into it, we should not aggravate the situation by fleeing
from God who is all eager to forgive and comfort us, and to give us
all the means to bring us back to our original dignity.

            We should avoid keeping to ourselves. With God’s
forgiveness, we can start the way to full recovery, going through the
process of atonement and reparation for whatever damage our sin may
have cause, and developing the appropriate virtues and learning how to
tackle our weaknesses and temptations more effectively.

            Let’s remember that the Church which is holy because of
its founder, its doctrine and sacraments, etc., is also a family of
saints who have been sinners but who struggled all the way to the end.

            Some of our great saints have been big sinners before. We
can cite the example of St. Paul, for one. He was a vicious persecutor
before his dramatic conversion which was an effect both of God’s grace
and his quick correspondence to that grace.

            Let’s hope that we can develop a spirituality that knows
how to take advantage of our sinfulness!