Friday, July 31, 2015

Why we need the cross

ONE of the greatest disasters of our times is that many people,
a great majority of them, have nothing but disgust and even hatred for
the distinctive value of suffering. For them, suffering is an
intrinsic evil, and therefore should be avoided at all costs.

      The cross, the icon of suffering, should be nothing other than
an ornament at best. It should not hold any other purpose or meaning.

      This is the sad thing about our current world culture. It
directly contradicts what Christ said: “If any man will come after me,
let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt

      The cross, in whatever form it comes, is actually the key that
opens the spiritual and supernatural world meant for us. It widens our
perspectives, and leads us to transcend the limits of our human
nature. It enables us to enter into the dynamics of a love that is not
only material but also spiritual, not only natural but also

      It represents the extreme and ultimate way of loving, as it
invites us to go beyond the confines of our wounded human nature in
order to soar to the divine love from where we come and to where we
are supposed to go.

      With the cross, we would know how to pay for the offenses and
sins we have committed. It is the fair deal we are offered in exchange
of the tremendous benefit it also gives us—nothing less than the
possibility to love all the way to God.

      God, and not just the sky, is the limit of our loving. That’s
why Christ gave us the new commandment that summarizes all the other
previous commandments given to us—that we love one another as he,
Christ, loved us. Christ is the standard of our love, and not just any
human and natural value.

      That’s why saints and holy men and women, following the example
of Christ, have always seen the cross as something most welcome in
their lives, because Christ’s love for us goes all the way to the
cross. Pope Benedict says, “There is no love without suffering.”

      Opus Dei founder, St. Josemaria Escriva, echoing the sentiments
of all the saints, laments that “the cross is still a symbol of death,
instead of being a sign of life. People still flee from the cross as
though it were a scaffold, when it is a throne of glory. Christians
still reject the cross and identify it with sorrow, instead of
identifying it with love.”

      Without the cross, we debase our love and restrict it to the
purely sensual, worldly and temporal level. Without it, the wings of
our love are cut as it functions only on the basis of practicality,
convenience, popularity and other earthly values, motives and

      This is what we see in all these rationalizations behind the
move to pass the RH Bill, for example. Those for it, as well as all
those who are for abortion, euthanasia and similar things, are
espousing a kind of love that sees no value in the cross.

      It’s ok to contracept, it’s ok to abort, it’s ok to euthanize,
because to a particular person, that may be the right thing to do. No
one should dare to correct him, unless some immediate physical harm
takes place.

      They are developing a kind of morality that is not based on God
who is love, bur rather on their own idea of what is good and evil.
They make themselves their own God.

      Since it’s a morality that denies God, it cannot help but fall
to the belief that there can be no absolute truths and no universal
moral law. The corollary is that everything is relative to the acting
person, to the situation, to the consequences, and to other
circumstances and elements, etc.

      Of course, it is ironic that what is relative and
individualistic is now made the absolute and universal moral law.
Everything is reduced to the thinking that what may be good to me may
not be good to you, and vice-versa. There’s no such thing as an
intrinsically good act which should be fostered at all times, nor an
intrinsically bad act that should be avoided at all times.

      This thinking is contained in such ethical systems as
relativism, situation ethics, consequentialism, proportionalism, and
some peculiar variations of the so-called fundamental option and
liberation theology.

      Only considering the circumstances and ignoring the nature of
the act itself and the agent’s intentions, they detach themselves from
God who loves us through the Cross.

The theological eyes of love

YES, love has eyes, eyes that see things very sharply,
eyes that see things that others do not see. That is why people in
love are often accused of being blind, a blindness that actually has
perfect vision, while those who say they can see yet have no love, are
those who are truly blind.

            Christ describes this phenomenon this way: “For judgment I
came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that
those who see may become blind.” (Jn 9,39): These definitely are very
intriguing words that can only be understood if the inputs of faith
are made.

            Those who are in love with the love of God have eyes that
see the minutest details of things. In fact, they have eyes that can
discover more things than what those with normal eyes can. They see
things beyond the physical and material. They can see spiritual forces
and play and blend with them.

            The eyes of love are not isolated organs, operating on
their own. They are organically linked to the other senses and organs.
What the eyes of love see trigger our other organs and parts into
action. What the eyes see, the other organs act out.

            More than that, the eyes of love are not merely physical
or biological organs, ruled simply by natural impulses. They are
vitally connected with the original source of love, God himself.

            They are eyes that also are spiritual and that function at
the instance of right reason, and of faith, hope and charity. In a
sense, we can call them the theological eyes of love. They become the
windows of our heart and soul. Through them we can see what’s inside
our heart and soul. Try looking at the eyes of holy people, like St.
John Paul II.

            They see things spiritual and supernatural. Their standard
of goodness, pleasantness and beauty is not simply of the physical
kind, or of the merely natural, social, cultural kind, etc. What may
be considered ugly and messy in these latter categories may still be
considered attractive to the theological eyes of love.

            These theological eyes of love function at the instance of
the love of God that is universal and full of wisdom, understanding,
mercy and compassion. They see things according to the moral law of
God. They get to see things in their ultimate perspective.

            That is why they can manage to see beauty in suffering, in
trials and temporary setbacks, etc. They can see the final victory of
those who persevere with God’s will and ways even if these involve

            More than that, these eyes get to see God in everyone and
everything, irrespective of their condition and situation. In fact,
God is what they primarily see, because they see first the Creator in
every creature before any other consideration is made.

            This is how lovers behave. How many love songs romanticize
their love by saying, for example, that they see their beloved in
every flower they encounter? “I am looking at the moon, but I am
seeing you,” goes another song soaked with the passionate sentiments
of love.

            We need to develop these theological eyes of love. We have
to train our vision to go beyond the physical and natural laws, and to
acquire the power of the spiritual and supernatural laws of God.

            This will take time and effort, of course. But even before
these, developing these theological eyes of love would require a lot
of prayer and sacrifice. We need to beg God to give us this kind of

            He, for sure, will grant us this request, because in the
first place these theological eyes of love are what he wants us to
have. He wants us to see everyone and everything the way he sees them,
since we are his image and likeness, and adopted children of his. This
request will never be too much to ask and to aspire.

            But, yes, we have to give our all in cultivating these
eyes. We have to be completely identified with the doctrine of our
faith, and then little by little, with the steadiness of someone truly
in love, we have to develop the virtues that would liken us to God
through Christ in the Holy Spirit.

            There will be the usual awkward stage of the learning
curve, but if we persist, we will soon find out that having this
theological eyes of love can become second nature to us.

            With them we can manage to be calm and confident in all
instances, in fair weather or foul, with friends of with foes.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Forging character

ONE’S character defines that person and guides him in all
the situations of his life. It gives a certain consistency to his
thoughts, words and deeds, his choices and decisions, his reactions
and over-all behavior. It is what gives focus, meaning and direction
in all that he does.

            It’s important then that we be aware of the need to forge
the character proper to us as persons and, more importantly, as
children of God. Our character should be one that is proper to a child
of God. It is a character that knows how to deal with God, which is a
matter of loving him with all our soul, mind and heart, and of loving

            In any situation that we find ourselves in, our constant
and ultimate criterion should be love of God and of others, a love
that is shown to us by Christ. All other criteria and standards, like
efficiency, convenience, practicality, etc., should be subordinated to
this indispensable criterion.

            To be sure, this ultimate criterion of loving God and
others does not undermine the concern that we also ought to give to
all the human and worldly values that are proper to us as well.

            We need to say this because some quarters claim that
giving priority to love of God and others would make us blind to these
human standards and would lead us to be narrow-minded, up in the
clouds, if not fanatical, bigoted and self-righteous.

            Obviously, those latter accusations can be true if we do
not know how to love God and others properly. But if done the way God
wants it done, that ultimate criterion of loving and others can only
enhance, purify and optimize all the other legitimate human and
worldly standards that we ought to be subject to.

            That is why this duty of forging the proper character is a
great responsibility for everyone and should be felt first of all by
parents with respect to their children. We can never overemphasize the
indispensable role parents play with respect to helping their children
forge the proper character, since they are the first educators of
their children.

            Parents should see to it that this concern of forging the
proper character of their children is foremost in their mind. They
obviously need to be properly equipped to carry out this delicate and
abiding duty.

            So they need to be clear about their life of faith and
piety, and to be skilful in translating the ideals and truths of faith
and morals into action, so as to give good example to their children
and to be competent in giving timely pieces of advice, suggestions and

            Parents have to closely monitor the developments of their
children’s life, always sensing the things that are going well and
also those things that may not be going well. They have to be prompt,
active and resourceful in coming up with plans and strategies to help
their children grow toward human and Christian maturity.

            Parents, for example, should see if their children are
developing virtues, if the kids know how to make use of their time, if
they are learning how to be responsible, etc. Most importantly,
parents should see to it that the children realize more and more
deeply that they need to be motivated by love for God and for others.

            One current issue that parents should try their best to be
on top of is in the area of the use of the new technologies. They have
to teach their children how to use these gadgets that can be both
helpful and harmful.

            With their knowledge of how their children are, and with
proper study, consultation and prayers, they have to come up with
clear and concrete guidelines as to how to use these new technologies,
always emphasizing the positive side while making the children aware
of the possible dangers.

            It’s for this reason, among many others, that parents
really need to spend quality time with their children. The family
culture should be such that it is rich in customs, traditions and
other practices that foster family life, togetherness and also life of
faith and piety.

            It’s in this quality time spent with the children when the
parents would know whether the children are happy or not, are doing
well or not, are growing in the virtues or not. It’s in this time that
parents actually carry out their primordial duty to be the primary
educators of their children.

            In the end, it’s in this time spent with their children
that parents continually forge the proper character of their children.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Seeing Christ, seeing God

WE have to learn how to see Christ in everyone, how to see
God behind every event and situation. This is crucial, because unless
we see Christ and see God, we cannot find the true good in every
person and in any event and situation that we can have in life, and
thus can find neither reason nor power to properly love them, which is
what we are supposed to do all the time.

            We have to wary of loving others based not on God’s love
but on some merely human and worldly values. That’s because no matter
how legitimate these latter values are, they cannot go very far. The
love they generate would be very limited, incapable of tackling all
possible scenarios, and can even be dangerous as it can lead us to a
perverted kind of love.

            This art of seeing Christ and seeing God in everyone and
in everything, for sure, is not some ravings of a madman, a gratuitous
claim with no leg to stand on. This has firm basis.

            In the first place, it’s because we are all creatures of
God, and as such, we actually cannot help but reflect some semblance
of God, our Creator, much like any work of art would somehow leave
some imprint of its maker. When we look at a particular painting, we
could somehow tell who painted it by its style or some other criteria.

            Besides, we all know when God creating us and the whole of
the universe, it was purely out of love. And in loving, the lover is
in the beloved. That’s the dynamics of love. And so we can say that
God as the lover is always in his creatures, his beloved. We should
learn to discern that reality in everything that we see or experience.

            This is especially so in our case, since as human persons,
we have been created in the image and likeness of God. Obviously, it
is not so much in our physical or biological attributes that that
divine image and likeness is imprinted on us. It’s more in our
capacity to know and to love that, if properly used, would enable us
to participate in God’s nature and very life, and thus resemble us
with him.

            And even if that image and likeness has been deformed by
our sin, we have to realize that such divine image and likeness has
not been completely damaged, and that the deformity has, in fact,
increased God’s love for us.

            “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those
who are sick,” Christ said. “For I came not to call the righteous, but
sinners.” (Mt 9,12-13) These words should make it clear that our
weaknesses, defects, failures and sins, while somehow deforming us,
actually draws God to us in some special way. This truth we should
manage to discern.

            We need to make adjustments in the way we look at others
and view and understand the many events of our life. We have to
conform, little by little, to the ways indicated by our Christian
faith that eventually leads us to the highest virtue which is charity.

            In this, we have to admit first of all that we are like
little children who are in need of education and formation. We can
never outgrow this need to learn the ways of our faith, hope and
charity, unlike in our purely human and natural education--the
academics, for example--where we may say we have already learned

            We need to transcend our usual way of looking at persons,
things and events that will always be conditioned by our human and
natural attributes. Yes, we cannot do away with the many conditionings
we are subject to, but just the same, with our spiritual nature that
precisely makes us God’s image and likeness and that is enhanced by
grace, we are capable of going beyond them.

            That’s what “to transcend” means. It’s going beyond what
we have or how we are conditioned, but not discarding them. If ever,
what happens when we transcend something is that we go beyond it while
modifying, purifying or elevating to another level as we keep it.

            So in our daily earthly and temporal affairs, we can still
manage to have our differences, preferences and subjective views and
opinions even though we can be above them or go beyond them.

            This is how we can be Christ-like, and how we can see
Christ in others, and the hand of God behind every event or situation.
This is how we can love one another truly despite our differences and

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Our universal communion despite differences

THIS is quite a challenge we have. As persons, we are
meant to enter into communion among ourselves irrespective of our
differences and conflicts, sometimes deep and sharp, and the ever
growing and dizzying variety of classifications that we can find
ourselves in.

            And communion is not simply a matter of physical
togetherness, nor of some social, political, cultural, historical and
legal reasons. It is much less a matter of biological or temperamental

            Rather it is a matter of life, a communion of life
generated by a love that can take on anything, including what can even
go against love. It’s a communion where we can care for everyone,
serving him all the time irrespective of how he is.

            Yes, there is such love that can tackle anything. It is
the love of God who has given us everything so that we can be as we
ought to be, persons and children of his meant to live in communion
with him and with everybody else.

            He has shown this love by sending his son to us, the son
becoming man and preaching us the good news about God and about
ourselves, and ultimately assuming all our sinfulness by dying on the

            More than this, it is a love that involves God to be with
us all the time in the Church, in the sacraments, in his eternal
word—the doctrine of our faith—since this love always goes together
with the truth who is Christ himself. It is not a chaotic,
anything-goes kind of love.

            This is all because of the Holy Spirit who is with us now
and always. All of this because we have been created in the image and
likeness of God who is love himself.

            In short, God has shown us this love, nay empowered us to
have this love, through his Son who became man, Jesus Christ, whose
continuing presence and redemptive work is now done in the Holy

            We actually have no excuse why we cannot have this love
which God gives us so abundantly. Let’s call to mind what St. Paul
says about this divine madness over us. “He who did not spare his own
Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things
with him?” (Rom 8,32)

            These are words that should be engraved deeply in our
hearts and in our very consciousness. They give us the reason to hope
to achieve what is meant for us, like loving everyone so that we can
enter into this universal communion among ourselves in spite of the
tremendous differences and conflicts among ourselves, not to mention,
our mistakes and sins that we all can commit.

            Let’s do our best to conform ourselves to this kind of
love. It is actually commanded of us. “A new commandment I give unto
you,” Christ says, “that you love one another, as I have loved you,
that you also love one another.” (Jn 13,34)

            We need to make adjustments in the way we deal with
others. While it’s true that we will always have differences and
preferences, that we one way or another will always be subjective in
our estimation of things, it’s also true that with our spiritual
powers plus God’s grace, we can go beyond them even while holding them
at the same time.

            We have to learn the love of God through Christ in the
Holy Spirit by praying, by making sacrifices, by learning thoroughly
the doctrine of our faith, by having recourse to the sacraments, by
waging ascetical struggle and by developing the virtues, etc.

            We have to learn how to be patient, broad-minded,
compassionate, understanding, tolerant the way Christ was and
continues to be. We have to learn how to make our differences and
preferences into means of unity through complementation rather than a
cause of division among ourselves.

            Even our mistakes and sins can be useful. If acknowledged
and related to God through contrition, they can be a tremendous source
of precious lessons for us that can enrich our wisdom and knowledge.

            Of course as humans who learn things, grow and develop
toward maturity in stages, we have to start with the small, basic and
elementary things, like learning how to distinguish and relate the
differences between young and old, male and female, and among the
different classifications in terms of temperament, intellectual
capacity, emotional and psychological condition, professional work,

            Going through this learning process is actually a lot of
fun even if it has its share of stress, disappointments, frustrations,

Friday, July 24, 2015

Interior order before exterior order

KEEPING order has always been an abiding concern of ours.
And especially now, when we are thrown into an increasingly complex
and complicated world, we would really need to have a firm and solid
hold on this virtue. Otherwise, we would just be lost in today’s maze,
so marked with a lot of pressures, issues, need for multi-tasking,
challenges, etc.

            We just have to make sure, first of all, that in speaking
of order, we need to have an objective basis. We just cannot be led in
this by passing ideas of how this virtue should be, as in simply
following our raw instincts, or some merely worldly values like
efficiency and convenience, profitability and popularity, or some
earthly concept of aesthetics, etc.

            Our instincts and the worldly values can only give us some
semblance of order, but they cannot bring us to our eternal
destination which is what this virtue of order in the end is for. Our
instincts and the worldly values are in need of a deeper, more stable
foundation that would put them oriented and on track toward our final
goal in life.

            And this objective basis of the virtue of order is none
other than God who is our creator and the first and ultimate lawgiver.
To him we should always have constant recourse, because as creator and
lawgiver he is actually governing all his creation at all times
through his providence. We should never forget this fundamental truth
of our faith.

            God is always in control of everything, no matter how much
we mess up his work. 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 of love and a time of hatred.
A time of war and a time of peace.” (3,1ff)

            God knows what to do with any situation. He allows his
creatures, especially us, to live according to their God-given nature,
including the possibility of going against nature which of all the
creatures, we, as free beings, are capable of doing. And in spite of
that, God would still know in his wisdom, power and mercy, what to do.
God effectively orchestrates a kind of symphony out of his own

            Our virtue of order that necessarily involves also the
virtue of prudence would require us to have an abiding and intimate
relationship with God. That way, we would go along with God’s plans
and ways. We, so to speak, would do our part in that great symphony
God is conducting in his entire creation, hoping to avoid getting out
of tune.

            That is why when we talk about how to develop this crucial
virtue, we need to realize more deeply that we have to take care,
first of all, of our interior order before we worry about exterior
order, material, temporal, social, cultural, political, etc.

            Obviously, the priority we give to interior order over
exterior order is in terms of the spiritual and moral dimension of our
life. In the actual flow of life, we learn first some exterior order
before we are aware of the need to take care of our interior order.
But once we see the priority of interior order over the exterior, we
need to change gear and give due attention to the former.

            With interior order well taken care of, we would really
know what is essential in life and would be properly guided when we
are faced with apparently competing options that in themselves are
good. We would know what to sacrifice for the sake of the greater
good, or bluntly said, of what God wants in any given moment.

            This interior order prevents us from getting rigid,
although it will always make use of certain attitudes, practices and
habits that would always be welcome anytime or most of the time. This
can be the attitudes of always being prompt and making good use of
time, avoiding idleness and laziness, or the practice of assigning
specific places for specific items, or specific times for specific

            Still, the main motor of our sense of order is that
intimate sensibility of following God’s will in any given moment. This
will make our sense of order flexible, not frozen. This is, of course,
a big challenge, since it will not be easy to be acquainted and
abidingly familiar with God’s will and ways.

            But that’s the big challenge which we have to face
squarely. And the sooner we tackle it, the better for us.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

What our strongest passion should be

AS to what the strongest passion should be, we have to
refer ourselves to the greatest commandment God has for us. After all,
God is our creator, the designer of our nature, the lawgiver, the
beginning and end of our life. He should know what it is.

            And this greatest commandment was told to us quite clearly
by Christ, the Son of God who became man precisely to reveal what God
wants of us. In the gospel of St. Matthew, we read the following:

            “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart,
and with the whole soul, and with whole mind.” (22,37) The reference
to the “whole heart,” which is the seat of our feelings and passions,
already clarifies the matter. We have to see to it that our heart is
burning with love for God. That should be our strongest passion.

            We, however have to add that the heart should be united
with the soul and the mind. Our heart, which should be burning with
love for God, should be vitally united to the soul and the mind that
equally should be ardent with love for God as well.

            This is again a task that we have to be more conscious of,
since that ideal unity among the heart, soul and mind does not come
quite spontaneously. Given our weakened nature, wounded by sin, that
unity cannot be presumed.

            While we individually continue to be one whole person, we
are made of different parts. That natural state of ours alone would
already require of us a certain effort to build and keep that unity.
But with the effects of sin, that effort even has to be intensified,
since these parts would be warring among each other.

            St. Paul expresses this predicament very well: “I do not
do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I am delighted with
the law of God, according to the inward man, but I see another law in
my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in
the law of sin, that is in my members.” (7,15ff)

            This is going to be our lifelong lot, our fate in life,
which we have to be ready to face and tackle. We should not be afraid
of this reality, since the means are actually abundantly available.
God’s grace, for one, is never lacking. With the proper disposition,
we can always receive and take advantage of them.

            Obviously, we have to do our part. We need to pray, make
sacrifices, avail of the sacraments, develop the virtues, master the
doctrine of our faith, fulfill our daily duties, wage a continuing
interior struggle.

            We should avoid idleness and laziness, keep distance from
occasions that can lead to sin, learn to fight against temptations
effectively. We have to fill our mind with good things, ever quick to
see Christ in every person, and the hand of God in every situation.

            As regards our passions, they obviously need to be
properly regulated by our reason and controlled and directed by our
will that in their turn should also be vitally connected with God
through faith, hope and charity.

            That is why in every thought, desire, word and deed that
we do, we should strive to have purity of intention, i.e., motivated
only by love of God. We have to develop the appropriate skill to do
this, since very often we just get too spontaneous without giving due
attention to this need to purify our intentions.

            The passions just cannot be left on their own, much less
be led by the mere impulses of the flesh and worldly values. They are
like little children, always immediately charming, very active, if not
restless, but needing guidance and direction. We have to teach and
train them.

            Sometimes, we have to correct and scold them also, since
they tend to follow their own dangerous ways. We have to discipline
them, otherwise they can lead us to all forms of obsessions,
addictions and bondage.

            But we should never think that the ideal life for us is
when we repress our emotions and passions. Stoicism is not for us.
That would be unnatural to us, fraught with many potential dangers
that can even cause grave damage to our mind and soul. We should
rather see to it that we make full use of our emotions and passions
that are properly grounded and oriented.

            When our passions are fully and properly used, then we can
truly say that we have attained a good level of integrity and
wholeness of our being.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Beware of our ingratitude

IT all started with our first parents. After being created
in the divine image and likeness and endowed with the best of things,
they eventually disobeyed God’s law and strayed away.

            It’s a sad fact of life that continues to take place even
up to now. We seem to get easily spoiled by whatever goodness,
blessing or privilege is given to us. We need to be more prepared to
cope with this proneness, cultivating the relevant attitude, skills
and virtues.

            The basic problem we have is that we tend to forget God
and fail to thank him for whatever good we have and enjoy in life. As
a result, we tend to make our own world, creating a bubble of life
that sooner or later will just burst to nothingness.

            Let’s remember that all goodness comes from him even if
it’s also true that that goodness could also be a result of our own
efforts. Nothing actually is truly good unless it somehow comes from

            Our sense of gratitude is what keeps us always in touch
with our Creator and the indispensable maintainer of our existence and
source of whatever good we enjoy in life. We should do everything to
sharpen that sense as we go along. It’s what reminds us of the basic
relationship we have with him whom we tend to forget or take for

            Our greatest passion should be to be thankful to God
always. If there’s some passion we have that is greater than this,
then we can be sure that we would be treading on a dangerous path in

            Let’s always remember what Christ told us about what God’s
greatest commandment is for us. We should “love God with all our might
and strength.” That love has to involve our whole being, not only our
spiritual and intellectual part, but also and all the way to our
feelings, emotions and passions.

            And that’s simply because if our strongest passion is not
love for God expressed in part by always being thankful to him, then
it would be something else. And most likely it would be something that
is not proper to us, but rather one that may offer us some human good
that will eventually separate us from God.

            This is what is happening these days with all the
advantages and privileges afforded us by the new technologies. They
offer us a lot of good, but if not related to God, they can become a
competitor of God. They can become our god.

            And the most subtle of this danger is when it is done in
the field of religion itself. During the time of Christ, this was a
rampant problem. The leading men got so stuck with their own religious
laws and practices that they failed to recognize the God who became
man. They were so convinced with the goodness of their laws and
practices that they absolutized them, and made them their god, instead
of God who became man.

            Nowadays, we see a lot of self-righteous people who have
their own version of what is true, good and beautiful, without
referring it to the one who is all true, good and beautiful. They are
now redefining things and building their own tower of Babel.

            We should try our best to always keep God the center and
focus of our life. We need to remind ourselves of this fundamental
truth, because like toddlers who can go on with their childish ways
unmindful of the people around, we too can go on with our many
temporal affairs and concerns unmindful of God.

            We should never forget that we cannot outgrow our
dependence on God, and that the more mature and more accomplished we
become, the more dependent we ought to be on God. We need to remind
ourselves of this truth constantly, making many deliberate acts of
faith and thanksgiving during the day.

            That’s why there is always a need also to cultivate the
sense of spiritual childhood, that awareness that in the eyes of God
we will always be children in need of his help and guidance.

            Even if we are totally free and responsible for our life
and actions, such freedom is no excuse for declaring independence from
God who is the author, law and pattern, as well as goal of our

            We need to educate ourselves to make many acts of
thanksgiving all throughout the day, and feel in our flesh our
complete dependence on God. Let’s not be ingrates who arrogate to
ourselves what actually belongs to God.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Our human dignity and megalomania

OF all the creatures on earth, we are the greatest with
the highest dignity. And that’s simply because we have been created
“in the image and likeness” of God. To our nature that is rational,
i.e., with intelligence and will, and not merely biological, is added
the potency to enter into the supernatural life of God that is made
possible with God’s grace that he himself gives, or at least makes
available to us in abundance.

            This identity and dignity of ours is, of course, given to
us by our Creator. It is not something that we give to ourselves,
although we have the duty to uphold and defend it, protecting it from
anything that can deform or degrade it.

            This truth about ourselves is not anymore a merely natural
truth, but a truth of faith that can only be accepted by faith.
Nonetheless, it is a truth that our nature, even if wounded, would
have a natural longing.

            We always want to believe in something or someone, more
than simply relying on our reason that can only take so much at a
time. That’s why we can rightly describe ourselves as creatures of
faith more than as merely rational creatures. The history of the
different cultures somehow lends credence to that.

            That is why it is important that we exert effort to know
and understand very well this truth of faith, and from there conform
our life, from our thinking, attitudes to our desires, words and
behavior, to this wonderful reality presented to us.

            It is a dignity that merges all the good qualities we can
find in God who, in fact, is all goodness. We may feel awkward to
realize this truth, but that simply is how we are supposed to be. We
should just persist in our effort of relishing and incarnating this
truth little by little but consistently. For sure, this is not a
gratuitous, baseless aspiration.

            Yes, with this dignity, we are supposed to adopt the very
mind of God himself, to share in his wisdom and power, and to
cooperate, with utmost freedom, with his ways and providence. We need
to feel at home with this reality and do our best to fulfill the
duties involved in it.

            That means that we have to be continually be in the
presence of God, and exert a continuing effort to know and love him,
spending time in prayer, in spiritual reading, going to the
sacraments, especially of confession and the Holy Eucharist, etc. The
ideal situation would be that our very consciousness is filled with
God’s presence and not simply with our own thoughts.

            We have to be wary of our tendency also to distort this
very fundamental truth about ourselves. Since we are free, we can tend
to misuse our freedom and dare to be on our own, if not, to be our own

            This was what happened to Lucifer who became Satan, and to
our first parents who were tempted by the devil to eat the forbidden
fruit so that they can become god. This was what happened to those who
dared to build the tower of Babel, and to the long chain of human
rebellions against God that continue up to now.

            In all of these episodes, the rotten core is pride that
detaches our great dignity from its true source. This is where we
plunge into an intoxicating condition of megalomania, falling into an
illusion of grandeur that has no basis.

            Pride that leads to megalomania is a very sweet poison, a
very brilliant if blinding light that is actually false. With it, we
get convinced we are doing ok when in fact we are not. And sometimes,
it can be so invincible that there would be practically no more way
for us to get out of that miserable condition.

            Obviously, we should never lose hope. In spite of the
enormity of the problem, the grace of God, his mercy and compassion
can always undo evil. “Where sin has abounded, the grace of God has
abounded even more.”

            At the moment, we have to be wary of the drift toward
megalomania in the area of our new technologies. These give us
tremendous power such that we may think we are already all-powerful,
and can afford to forget that all power actually comes from God.

            Submitting the power of the new technologies to God and
his will and ways will enhance our dignity, not undermine it. This is
what we should consciously do if only to avoid the slippery slope to

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

As long as we struggle...

YES, as long as we struggle interiorly, there is spiritual life, the
very wellspring that produces the living water for our river of life.
As long as we struggle interiorly, we can be assured of our fidelity
to whatever commitment we have entered into. Interior struggle is
essential and indispensable in our life.

Our life is very dynamic, with all sorts of challenges to face,
problems to solve, issues to be clarified. We need to see to it that
our interior life, our spiritual life, our thoughts, desires and
intentions are firmly rooted on God, their proper foundation.

We need not only to purify our thoughts and intentions from any stain
of pride, vanity, lust, envy, sloth, gluttony, anger, etc. We need to
also fill them and rev them up with true love and wisdom. These are
the reasons why we have to engage in a lifelong interior or spiritual

The ideal situation should be that we are always in awe at the
presence of God in our life, making him the principle and objective of
all our thoughts, words and deeds. We have to be spiritually fit
before we can be fit anywhere else—family-wise, professionally,
socially, politically, etc.

Let’s never be deceived that our life is mainly physical, and its
development is just a matter of struggling externally—that we manage
to eat, to work, to earn, to stay away from physical danger, etc. The
real battle is in our internal selves—in our thoughts and desires, our
will and plans.

The struggle in life cannot just be a matter of economics or politics.
The battle always starts and ends in our mind and heart, in the
spiritual aspect of our life. This is where things start to happen,
and where things also get resolved.

Even if there are still things to be fixed externally, we can still
manage to fix them internally, because that’s where we get in touch
directly with God, and with him, nothing is impossible. Let’s disabuse
ourselves from the thought that we get our ultimate peace and joy
somewhere else.

That’s why we have to see to it that our thoughts and desires are
properly engaged with God who is their true foundation and end, for
outside of him, we will just expose ourselves to all sorts of random
and usually dangerous possibilities.

And God is not a figment of our imagination, a product of our desire
to believe, a mere psychological crutch. He is the most real being—in
fact, the fullness of subsistent being whose essence we can somehow
know but can never fathom. He is the very author of reality itself.

This task of conforming our thoughts and desires to him is getting to
be very exciting, because these days many are the earthly
things—attitudes, philosophies, ideologies, cultures, together with
their lifestyles—that dare to be alternatives to God.

Today’s world is so immersed in worldly values that any reference to
God is at best a mere formalism, a decorative item, a lip service to
tradition that is already emptied of its true substance.

And this is because in the first place many people are not praying
anymore, are not exercising and living by faith. They prefer to follow
by the rule of “following what comes naturally.” And that’s usually
just obeying one’s feelings and passions, or the many flipping fads

Thus you have ad slogans like, “Obey your thirst,” “I don’t wanna grow
up….. I’m a Toys R Us kid,” “It’s fun to tickle your tongue with…” If
you’re constantly bombarded with messages like this, chances are you
will believe them, and start abdicating the use of your spiritual

We have to wage an abiding interior struggle if only to keep our
sanity, our humanity. We need to do it to avoid becoming mainly
conditioned by earthly values that are blind to the spiritual and
supernatural realities of our life.

We need to see to it that our mind and heart are truly
engaged with God, with the living God, and not just an idea or theory
of God. This is not only possible, but also highly practicable,
because in the first place, God himself wants it that way.

The reason many people find it hard to get in contact with
God is because they have lost the art of prayer and contemplation, and
have assumed a dominantly worldly outlook that makes them
self-centered, complacent, agnostic, if not atheistic.

This is where interior struggle is most needed.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Common sense is not enough

WHILE we always have to use it, we have to understand that
we just cannot be completely guided by common sense, or what some
people refer to as “what comes naturally.” Our common sense would not
be enough to cope with all the situations and issues we can encounter
in life.

            Especially these days when things are getting increasingly
complicated, we need to see to it that we are adequately equipped to
tackle the challenges of the times. There are many developments taking
place from all sides, political, economic, social, technological,
etc., and we just have to know how to grapple with them with some
degree of competence.

            We cannot be indifferent to these developments. Rather we
should feel a great responsibility to direct the course of these
developments in a way that is proper to our dignity as persons and as
children of God. We are supposed to be masters of time and history.

            Now that we are facing powerful ideological forces that
are not anymore shy in admitting to be godless, we have to know how to
have a handle on this very exciting situation.

            No, we cannot solely rely on our common sense simply
because it only has a limited range of capabilities. It usually can
cope with situations that only require instinctive reactions or those
with which we are already most familiar and that call for more or less
routine responses only.

            And though we can enrich it, as we should, as we go along
in life, we have to understand that our common sense is by nature
subjective and highly relative. It comes as a result of our exposure
to the different things in life and our experiences, and is
conditioned by our upbringing, our temperament, our social and
cultural milieu, etc. That’s why what is commonsensical to one may not
be so to another.

            Besides, our common sense usually cannot penetrate into
the more subtle, complex things in life, and much less, the spiritual
and supernatural aspects. The ideal, of course, is to have our common
sense already completely infused with the impulses of faith, hope and
charity, but that will always be a lifelong quest, requiring heroic

            We need to overcome our tendency to simply rely on our
common sense. Without, of course, ignoring it, we need to go beyond
it. We should not make it the status quo of our thinking.

            We have to study and take up the lifelong journey of
knowing more and more things, especially the doctrine of our faith
that in the end is the ultimate source of knowledge for us, of what is
good and proper to us, of what would bring us to our ultimate end, our
eternal life.

            Thus, we have to realize that our thinking, judging and
reasoning should be theological. That is to say, it should not be
simply be based on what we see, feel, understand with our reason
alone. It should always consider the inputs of faith.

            This means that we have to be reflective in our thoughts
and reactions. We have to overcome our tendency simply to be
spontaneous and driven only by the impulses of our instincts, emotions
and tentative understanding of things.

            There is a need to study the truths of our faith,
meditating on them and figuring out, perhaps with the help of a
spiritual director, how these truths can be incarnated in our
attitudes, thoughts, intentions, words, feelings and emotions, and
actions. The ideal would be if these truths of our faith become the
very instincts of our behaviour.

            Let us enrich our common sense with these truths. That is
why it would be good if together with the mundane concerns all of us
have, we would know how to incorporate in our daily, weekly, monthly
schedules, etc., a plan for continuing formation, involving time to
study, to pray and meditate, and to attend to some means of formation.

            Then let us develop virtues which will always be an
ongoing affair for us. We can never say we are virtuous enough. As St.
Augustine once said, the moment we say enough, we would already have
retrogressed in our spiritual and moral life.

            Let us be clear about this need, and avoid a cavalier
attitude toward it, something that, sad to say, is rampant nowadays,
even among those who can be considered as highly educated.

            Let’s take this as a very personal concern that we ought
to share with the others, especially within the family, and then with
friends, relatives, colleagues, etc. Let’s raise our common sense to
the level of faith, hope and charity.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Joseph and dreams

SOMEHOW, the name of Joseph reminds us of dreams. We have
Joseph, the son of Jacob, in the Old Testament, and St. Joseph, the
foster father of Jesus, in the New Testament, both of whose lives were
shaped by dreams.

            In the case of Joseph, the son of Jacob, his brothers
branded him as a dreamer out of envy. He told them of a dream about
his sheaf of crop standing out and those of his brothers bowed down to
his. Also, he dreamt of the sun, moon, and 11 stars bowing down to
him, which further stirred the envy of his brothers.

            This was later on realized when even Jacob and Joseph’s
brothers had to bow down to him, already as a governor of Egypt who
was in charge of dispensing grain during the time of famine. This part
of the story of Joseph is most moving, it shows his magnanimity and
how good a person he was in spite of the grave injustice inflicted on
him by own brothers.

            It was also because of dreams that Joseph, who was earlier
sold as a slave by own brothers, managed to gain favor from the
Egyptian ruler and later rose to be a big man there. And that’s
because he convincingly interpreted the dreams of the baffled and
disturbed pharaoh.

            It was when the great famine struck and all people had to
go to Egypt that the famous words, “Ite ad Ioseph,” (Go to Joseph, and
do whatever he tells you), were uttered by the Egyptian pharaoh who
already trusted Joseph and gave him charge of the affairs and concerns
of the land.

           Somehow the Old Testament Joseph prefigures the New
Testament St. Joseph. Like the former, the latter also had dreams that
shaped his life. He was clarified about his vocation and mission in
life through a dream. Like the former, the latter also had to go to
Egypt because of the rampage of killing of the innocents.

           And just as the former received the homage of his own
father and brothers, the latter now is revered by the Christian
faithful all over the world. And just as the former took care of the
affairs and concerns of Egypt, the latter took care of Jesus and Mary,
and now of the whole Church.

            We can only wish that we have dreams like those of the two
Josephs. This should be part of our constant prayers. Even if we
should not pay much attention to our dreams, since they are beyond our
control, we should realize that dreams somehow play an important role
of our life. They can tell us many things about ourselves, and about
others also, and still many other things.

            We have to know how to handle them, when to take them
seriously and when not. The proper and basic attitude, I think, is not
to be afraid of them and to remain calm, especially when they are
distressing. We should also bring them to our prayers, always asking
for light from God.

            Yes, dreams can express the content of our subconscious
mind and heart, our fears, hidden desires and pent-up emotions. When
this is the case, it can only mean that we have to improve on our
integrity and simplicity, our unity of life, resolving with the grace
of God and our efforts whatever inner contradictions we harbor in our
hearts, especially the tension between our spirit and our wounded

            We may have to make some consultations with appropriate
persons like priests and spiritual counselors, etc. In this, we have
to practice utmost prudence and remain calm.

            But let’s pray that we have dreams of the entertaining
type too—song-and-dance routines, adventures, comical skits, a little
suspense and drama, etc. This would somehow indicate we are ok,
healthy, etc. Let’s thank God for them.

            But most especially, let’s ask God that our dreams be like
those of the two Josephs, that is, that we have dreams that are
vehicles of God’s will and messages for us.

           These are dreams that help us discover our true vocation,
that somehow portend the future to us, that make us more in love with
God and with everybody else. These are dreams that though involving
some sacrifices, would make us happy and at peace.

            Now that we have this holy craze of the devotion to the
sleeping St. Joseph, let’s approach this holy patriarch and ask him
that we have dreams like his. I am sure that he is too willing to
oblige us. From heaven, his intercessions will always be effective.