Sunday, August 30, 2015

The one to die for

IF there’s anything that should elicit the strongest
passion in us, it should be the desire to be like God. This simply
corresponds to God’s greatest commandment as articulated by Christ
himself: “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and
with your whole soul, and with all your strength, and with all your
mind.” (Lk 10,27)

            Let’s see to it that these words do not remain words
alone, nor mere intention or theory that would hardly have any effect
on our feelings nor on the many aspects of our life. Let’s see to it
that these words would set us aflame with love, with a certain madness
which is how love usually expresses itself.

            This love for God—which is like saying, to be like God,
since loving resembles the lover with the beloved—should be the be-all
and end-all of our life. It’s not fame, nor wealth, nor some power.

            Much less should it be some person with great looks or
tremendous talents, or some vain thoughts about ourselves. It should
be God who draws our strongest desire, the only one to die for. Thus,
it is important to ask ourselves from time, what truly is my greatest
passion now? Is it simply food, fame, money, work, power?

            Or it is possible that our immediate passion is some
worldly thing, but do we know how to relate it to the ultimate passion
that is proper to us? Do we know how to relate these earthly passions
to God?

            Everyday, we need to find reason to make this need to love
God and to be like him very much alive in us. That’s simply because we
have been made in God image and likeness. And we have been given the
freedom together with his grace so that we can choose to be like God.

            We have to understand that freedom is best exercised when
used to choose to love God and therefore to be like God. We should not
misuse our freedom by using in any which way, or by simply using it to
pursue our whims and caprices. Only tragedy awaits us in these latter
cases.

            Let’s remember that our freedom is the best endowment God
has given our nature. It is through it that together with God’s grace
we can truly become like God as God wants it, nay, as God commands it.

            As St. Peter would put, let’s not make freedom “a cloak
for malice.” (1 Pt 2,16) Freedom’s ultimate purpose is for us to
become like God, since we have been created in his image and likeness,
something that we have to correspond ourselves to, using our freedom
precisely.

            We need to be more familiar with this need, and little by
little try to feel it and act on it. It does not come automatically.
It has to be educed, obviously slowly but also steadily. And for this,
it requires a lot of formation, of continuing motivations, and the
appropriate attitude, skills and virtues. Let’s hope that everyone
lends a hand in this task.

            We also need to disabuse ourselves from the
thinking—erroneous and baseless, for sure—that adopting this kind of
attitude would make us strange and weird. Hardly anything could be
farther than the truth.

            Passionately desiring to be like God completes and
perfects our humanity, or rather leads us to the fullness of our
humanity. It certainly is not an easy thing to do. There will be a lot
of awkwardness in the beginning, some bumbling and inconsistent
efforts in the process, but then if we persist, for sure, we can hack
it. It’s hard but not impossible.

            Besides, we are assured of God’s grace. This is also
something that we have to be more familiar with. This task and
challenge certainly does not depend solely on our human efforts. It
requires God’s grace which is actually given to us in abundance, but
which we have to ask, even beg.

            We have to remember always that while things completely
depend on us, they also completely depend on God—in fact, they depend
on God primarily. Our role, while done with total commitment, is more
of seconding God’s will and ways, which we have to do precisely with
our God-given gift of freedom.

            It’s time that we instill in everyone this awareness of
our need to cultivate this passion to be like God, who has revealed
himself completely to us in Christ, and who in turn continues to be
with us through the Holy Spirit acting on the many instrumentalities
Christ himself established.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Small and big


IN life we cannot help but deal with things both small and
big. We have to learn how to handle this aspect which can be very
tricky at times, especially when we get subjected to a lot of
pressures.

            In the gospel, Christ faulted some leading Jews of that
time for getting stuck with little duties but neglecting the big ones,
straining the gnat but swallowing the camel. “Woe to you scribes and
Pharisees, you hypocrites,” he said, “You pay tithes of mint and dill
and cumin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law:
judgment and mercy and fidelity.” (Mt 23,23)

            We are familiar with the saying that “the devil is in the
details.” It refers to our tendency to be too concerned about the big
things—like the over-all or long-term goal, while paying little
attention, if any at all, to the details to carry out that goal, as in
not having plans nor the necessary attitude and skills to achieve the
goal.

            But the reverse can also happen. The devil can also be in
the big things, in the sense that we can be too concerned about the
little details, the practice and the routine, but practically
forgetting the over-all picture, and especially the virtue of charity,
the be-all and end-all. The gospel passage above precisely falls under
this category.

            The ideal, of course, is to give due attention to both the
big and small things in any endeavor. And this can happen only when
that dual love of God and neighbor is the motive of all our actions.
God-love-neighbor should be both in the big and the small things in
our life. It is what would make us attentive to the requirements of
the small and big things in life, and see their organic relationship.

            And so we need to constantly rectify our intentions, since
very easily and frequently we can be overtaken by merely practical
motives which in themselves are not bad, but which cannot stand on
their own alone for long without being grounded on love for God and
neighbor.

            Obviously this ideal can seem to be too much for our human
condition to bear, weakened as it is by our sins, defects, weaknesses
and temptations. But we can always begin and begin again. If we have
the necessary humility to acknowledge our downside, we can always
manage somehow. As St. Paul said, “It’s in my weakness that I am made
strong.”

            That is why there is always a need for us to pause from
time to time in order to meditate and examine ourselves whether we are
giving due attention to these dual dimension of our life.

            We have to be wary of the current trend to be taken over
by a merely impulsive and reactive lifestyle that would deprive us of
our need to pray, meditate, study and examine our conscience. These
are the ones that would keep our proper bearing as we cruise through
the vast and often tumultuous ocean of life.

            In this, everyone should help to create the proper culture
and lifestyle that is both contemplative and active. The family
especially plays a very crucial role here, since it is mainly through
it that children and the youth, the future of the world, get formed
and equipped to face the challenges of an increasingly complicated
world.

            Parents should see to it their children learn the basics
of praying, studying and working. They have to teach their children
the fundamental virtues of order, of setting the proper priorities in
life, of organizing their day well, of distinguishing between what is
essential and what is incidental, what is of absolute value and what
is simply of relative value.

            We should see to it that we are continually imbuing our
community and general culture with the proper values and virtues,
alerting the schools, parishes, etc., to do their part. This is
actually a never-ending task that would require of us a lot of
patience and creativity, never afraid to tackle whatever problems and
issues we may encounter along the way.

            As we can see, we cannot anymore remain na├»ve and
indifferent from this challenge. We have to take the bull by the
horns, always confident that we can do it, since in the end we have
God with us. As St. Paul would put it in his Letter to the Romans: “If
God be for us, who is against us? He that spared not even his own Son,
but delivered him up for us all, how does he not also with him give us
all things?” (8,31-32)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The tree of death and life

I AM referring to the cross. More specifically, the cross
of Christ. It is the tree that symbolizes all our sinfulness and all
its awful effects and consequences, as well as our own salvation, that
is, if we look at it the way Christ did.

            The cross in all its forms should be seen in its proper
perspective, and that is the perspective of our faith, as articulated
by Christ himself not only in words but most especially in deeds. The
cross is not an afterthought of God. It is part of his eternal plan
for us.

            We should avoid regarding it based solely on our own
estimation of things. Such attitude can keep us in an unholy
captivity, since it can only give us its dark, negative side, and not
its redeeming and supernatural character. In this, we have to help
everyone to overcome the common and improper tendency.

            We need to see the cross in all its entirety. It certainly
is not simply bad news. It actually is good news, deserving of being
loved and of looking forward to. We should not be afraid of it.

            The cross is the symbol of our sinfulness and all its
effects and consequences that ultimately include our death. That’s
because our very own nature, which is not only biological but most
especially spiritual with the capacity for the supernatural, would
involve these effects when we misuse the gifts God gives us,
especially that of our freedom.

            It is therefore unavoidable. But Christ shows us how to
suffer it and to convert it into our way of salvation. He has assumed
all our sinfulness and all its effects and consequences, especially
death. But he has turned them, with his death in obedience to his
Father’s will, into our way of salvation. This is the secret of that
happy conversion—suffering in obedience to the Father’s will.

            Thus, the cross becomes a tree of life, a source of grace
and joy. That’s why we should not be afraid of it. We should rather
welcome it and be most eager to embrace it. We need to overcome our
natural fears and resistance, and in fact train our natural systems,
with God’s grace that’s given to us in abundance, to conform to this
wonderful truth of our faith.

            We have to be wary of our tendency to be easily taken up
simply by our feelings when crosses come our way. While we cannot
avoid them, we should not allow them to lead the way in reacting and
accepting these crosses. We have to react in a spiritual and
supernatural way.

            God’s grace in the form of faith, hope and charity can
certainly enable us to bear all things. We may not be able to
understand the mechanism involved. But what we know is that what is
impossible with us is always possible with God.

            And what is usually feared and resisted by us becomes an
object of extreme interest when done with God. Christ has shown us the
way, and the saints have continually given testimony to this truth.

            On our part, we have to take advantage of the many little
discomforts, disappointments, frustrations, problems, etc., we meet
everyday to cultivate this love for the cross. This is how we can
prepare ourselves to face the ultimate big cross of our life—our
death.

            We have to be quick to see the opportunity and the
invitation God is sending us to identify ourselves with Christ when
suffering, in one form or another, comes our way. Yes, for this, we
need to discipline our emotions and thoughts, even as we quicken our
faith, making many acts of faith, hope and charity.

            We should never belittle these practices that may appear
childish to some but actually are clear manifestations of human and
Christian maturity. This is another challenge to tackle, an erroneous
mindset that needs to be changed.

            We have to reassure everyone the crosses, when seen from
the point of view of our faith, are actually welcome events with great
potentials for our own purification and atonement for our mistakes and
sins, and ultimately for identifying ourselves more and more with
Christ. In fact, in this life these crosses guarantee that we are
dealing with Christ.

            These crosses attract graces and occasion spiritual
growth. We should always relate them with the abiding and
never-failing providence of God. Our problem is that we usually fall
into relying on our own estimation of things that no matter how
brilliant can only take so much. We need to change that attitude.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Shaping the future

If we want to see the future now, what we have to do is to
look at our youth today. Yes, the youth indeed hold the key to what is
to come. How they are now determines to a certain extent the character
of the world in the next generation. And so we need to see to it that
our young ones receive the proper formation now.

            This is the challenge we, the elders, have. Preparing the
youth for the future is a task that is becoming more exciting, more
daunting, precisely because of the complicated issues that practically
wrap the world today.

            As recent Popes have been saying for some time now, the
world ethos today seems to be saturated with what is more technically
known as moral relativism. It’s an attitude, a mentality, and even a
lifestyle and culture that banishes any moral absolutes, while making
tolerance an absolute law to follow.

            It ultimately boils down to denying the existence of God,
and to the belief that things just depend completely on us. So,
morality or what is to be considered good or bad would just be a
matter of opinions, consensus, and would just be based on such
criteria as practicality, popularity, convenience, and the like.

            In the end, we are making ourselves our own God. We deny
that we are creatures, that our existence is something given and
received, not self-generated. We deny that we need to be with God
always, to put our mind and heart on him.

            With this mindset, a good part of the world, especially
the more developed Western part, has gone to the extent of legalizing
abortion, mercy-killing, same-sex marriage, etc.

            If we are not careful, this scourge is going to enter our
own country also. There are already clear signs. The RH Law, touted
Divorce bill that some groups are pushing, the same-sex marriage buzz
that we hear around—these are symptoms of an emerging moral confusion
that threatens to be made part of our law and culture.

            We have to give due attention to our youth today,
equipping them with the means that would help them tackle the great
responsibility before them. I was happy to learn that a big group of
young people went to a UN conference sometime ago and made their
voices heard. They were complaining about a document, still in the
making, that contained precisely questionable moral positions. That's
a good sign.

            In fact, we need to reclaim the original meaning of
morality, human sexuality, marriage, etc., in order to help the youth
extricate themselves from the elaborate spin used by those with the
mindset of moral relativism.

            Caring for the youth is no easy task at all. My own
experience with dealing with young college students for many years
indicates that they need abiding attention, a lot of patience and
understanding, a good amount of flexibility and creativity, and at the
same time, an unwavering hold on the faith and the doctrines that go
with it.

            Each one has to be handled in a very personal way. Away
with putting them in boxes and branding and stereotyping them. Once
this personal relationship is established, then things can be expected
to go far.

            The young people need constant encouragement. They
sometimes strike me as toddlers who are still learning to walk
properly—in the moral and spiritual life. They can be up one moment,
and down the next moment. But they have a lot of energy to go on.

            We just have to make sure that they are given the solid
dose of formation in all its aspects—human, spiritual, doctrinal,
apostolic and professional. We have to make sure that these aspects
are properly integrated through the impulse of a genuine love for God
and for others, because only then can they acquire a life and
creativity of their own.

            Caring for the youth actually never stops. It's not just
one stage in a life-long process. We just have to make it clear to
them that our life requires continuing formation, continuing
conversions and renewals.

            In their weak moments or when they are down, we have to be
quick to re-motivate them, showing them new horizons and strong
reasons to hope. We have to show them the way, getting practical
ourselves and not just remaining in the theories.

            We should try to adapt ourselves to them, and if possible
to speak their language, without abdicating our role as elders and
teachers. In the end, we can only help them properly if we ourselves
take care of own spiritual and moral lives. We can't give what we
don't have.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

God and leadership

AS social beings, we will always need leaders to bring us
to our common good. We therefore need to choose leaders with the
proper qualities. And this means that they have the proper
understanding of what our common good is in all its aspects—from the
temporal to the eternal, from the material to the spiritual, from the
immediate to the ultimate, etc.

            We should stay away from the way of choosing our leaders
simply on the basis of popularity, wealth or technical skills. While
these have their objective value and should be given their due
consideration, we have to understand that they cannot be the beginning
and end of leadership. We need to go beyond them.

            We have to say this now since our current world culture
seems to be practically at the mercy of these criteria that at best
are only secondary and instrumental. We have to outgrow this kind of
mindset.

            Leadership has God not only in its center and core, but
also, in a manner of speaking, in every pore of its being. Without
God, or ignoring him, or simply giving him token consideration would
make any idea of leadership hollow. It may manage to make a lot of
sound and fury, but it would be inherently infirm, certainly doomed to
failure sooner or later.

            Its bravery would simply be bravado, its wisdom and
prudence cunning, its victories pyrrhic. Its vision can never be total
and with the right hierarchy of values. It will be biased, distorted,
deceitful. It will not be able to tell everything that we need to know
and do.

            It will shun away from sacrifice or anything that would
need some amount of pain that would be necessary. And when the
unavoidable problems and troubles come due to our fragile human
condition, it hardly would have any resource to tackle them.

            We need to explode the myth that giving God the primary
role in the pursuit of leadership would simply be a drag, an
unnecessary element, or that it is impractical, irrelevant, undoable.
Or that it would just confine us to the spiritual and supernatural and
desensitize us from the mundane, etc.

            This kind of reasoning can only reflect a certain lack of
faith and a lazy thinking. These actually are the basic problems we
have at hand. We need to do something about this predicament by
showing that we as persons need some amount of faith and that we
should try our best to go all the way in our thinking and reasoning.

            We should avoid being led simply by what our senses
perceive, nor even what our intelligence can discern. Again, while
these are always necessary, they are in need of a higher source of
knowledge and stimulus that can only come from faith.

            Our act of faith, which we do one way or another, should
get engaged with an objective faith that comes from God himself, our
Creator and Father, who continues to govern us through his providence.
Our act of faith should not just be a matter of what is empirical,
convenient, intellectually stimulating and the like.

            This objective faith is not a fantasy that can be made up
by anyone depending on how a person is. It’s something that can be
known because even if God is so supernatural that we he will always be
a mystery to us, he is also very close to us. In fact, he is in the
most intimate part of our existence as well as being all around us.

            Besides, he has revealed himself to us in full by sending
his Son to us, Jesus Christ, who left us with his word, his
sacraments, his Church. He has left us with his real presence in the
Eucharist.

            If we would just have the proper disposition of faith that
comes together with hope and charity, we can always connect ourselves
with him, and somehow get to know his will and ways not only in a
generic way, but also in a concrete and specific way.

            Thus, leaders should be men and women of faith, of genuine
piety, who know how to cruise in the material and spiritual world, in
the temporal and the eternal, in the mundane and the sacred.

            True leaders should be able to lead everyone ultimately to
God making use of our natural conditions. They should be able to go
beyond our many human conditionings, not by avoiding or nullifying
them which would be quixotic, but by making use of them by the power
of God.


            God and leadership should be together!


Thursday, August 20, 2015

The cultural battleground

WE need to be aware of this human need. We have to take
care of our culture. If we want to grow and develop as authentic human
beings, culture is both unavoidable and indispensable in our life.

            Can we really say that we are conscious of our duties and
responsibilities toward our culture? Do we know what are involved in
this task? In our life's continuing struggle for meaning, culture is
one of the main fronts to attend to.

            A cursory look around would indicate that there's hardly
any deliberate effort to take care of our culture. It is somehow
presumed that we have a culture, but we are quite ignorant of how
caring for it has to be carried out.

            First of all, we need to understand its nature and
character. It has both objective and subjective dimensions, spiritual
and material aspects, global and local scope, etc. More importantly,
it has both passive and active parts, and we need to know how to
handle its many requirements.

            We cannot be totally passive in our attitude toward it,
though we cannot help but be receptive to it in our daily life. That's
because culture is like the air we breathe. This time, though, we need
to realize that we also have a role to play in creating that air, or
at least in purifying it and putting it in conditions proper to us.

            We just cannot allow culture to grow on its own. It needs
our intervention. We have to understand that culture, like everything
else in our life, is both a gift we receive and a project we have to
do and develop.

            Especially these days when the pace of development is
getting faster and more complex, there's now a greater need for us to
take fuller responsibility over it. We have to do things in such a way
that we can say we make our own culture, even if culture also to a
certain extent makes us.

            Our problem now is that we seem to be falling for a
mindless lifestyle of activism, guided mainly by values that are not
deeply rooted enough on our true human dignity. In fact, this
reference of what our true human dignity is has become impertinent to
many people.

            For many of us, the main principle that shapes our
lifestyle seems to be pragmatism, and all its cohorts—popularity or
fame, wealth and power, vanity and pride, etc. The inputs of faith and
religion, so indispensable in figuring out who we really are, that's
supposed to be basis of our culture, are hardly considered.

            We need to correct this anomaly. We have to dismantle the
so-called tyranny of relativism that a priori disposes anything that
has to do with religion. That's unfair. That's completely
undemocratic.

            With this defective attitude, we cannot help but generate
a thoroughly secularized culture that is allergic to spiritual and
supernatural realities. That would compromise the flowering of a
culture that is proper to us.

            That is why these days, many people find it hard to relate
what they are doing professionally, socially, politically, etc., to
God. Their activities do not bring them closer to God. In fact, the
reverse is true. Their activities bring them farther away from God.

            There ensues a growing awkwardness in our relation with
God. Religion becomes frozen in some formalistic rituals and customs,
emptied of its vital substance.

            With that predicament, what can we expect? For sure, the
temptations to deception, injustice, etc., cannot be avoided. The
stronger ones in worldly terms simply dominate the others. Our
weaknesses, like our laziness and our concupiscence, cannot be
properly addressed and healed. They tend to fester.

            We need to create a culture that is proper to us as
persons and ultimately as children of God. It is a culture that
embraces both the spiritual and material dimensions of our life, our
temporal affairs and eternal goal. Nothing less is needed.

            For this, we need to help one another. The creation and
development of culture is a universal concern. It has to involve all
of us. Thus, we need to be more aware of what we call here as the
cultural front of our life's struggles. We should avoid being
indifferent to it.

            At the moment, we can ask for example if we know how to
place this new phenomenon of the Internet technology in the pursuit of
developing a culture proper to us. Has our fascination for it led us
closer to God and to the others? Has it built up more solidarity,
justice, and charity?


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Prayer and fasting

THIS might seem to be too religious or spiritual a topic
to be taken up in the secular press. But I however believe that we
should dismantle that mistaken attitude, because prayer and fasting,
especially nowadays when our spiritual and moral conditions have
worsened, have actually become most urgently relevant.

            We have to understand that prayer and fasting are always
necessary to us. They are not optional activities reserved only to
some people or to some special occasions. They are duties that involve
everyone.

            And as duties, they have to be done freely, voluntarily,
with love and devotion even, because otherwise they would cease to do
good to us as they are meant to do. Duties done out of coercion or
heavy pressure poison their objective goodness and thwart the purpose
for which they have been designed.

            I believe this is an issue that is literally begging to be
given due public attention. It has been restricted for too long
already in the confines of churches, the academe, etc. It needs to be
brought out to the open, into the fields of business and politics,
sciences, arts and technologies, etc.

            Yes, we have to find a way to bring God, without let-up
and without shame, to the very center of every human activity. And
vice-versa: we also need to find a way to link all our human
activities, no matter how mundane, with God, his will and his ways.

            God has the primary right to be in the middle of our
activities, since everything and everyone comes from him and belongs
to him. This is not an imposition, but a mere recognition of a basic
reality of our life.

            Prayer and fasting are necessary because Christ himself,
who is the very pattern of our humanity, the way, truth and life for
us, and the redeemer of our fallen state, practically showed it to be
so.

            Right after his baptism in the Jordan and just before
beginning his public life, he went to the wilderness for forty days
and forty nights praying and fasting, after which the devil gave him
three temptations that ranged from the material to the moral and
spiritual aspects of human life. (cfr Mt 4,1ff.)

            In this way, Christ somehow teaches us how to handle the
many temptations we can encounter in our earthly sojourn. He is
teaching us that we need to enter into deep if not prolonged prayer
and fasting if only to be ready to counter the temptations in life.
Without these, there’s no way we can tackle temptations that nowadays
have become most subtle and tricky.

            At the moment, we are bombarded with many good things that
also have great potentials of doing us a lot of harm. I am referring
to the new technologies that indeed can give us a lot of benefits, but
can also inflict graver havoc in our spiritual and moral life.

            This is not to instill fear with respect to the new
technologies, but rather to learn how to master and dominate them for
love of God and for the common good. We should not be enslaved by
them. To do this, we have to realize that we need to pray and fast—and
fasting not only in the sense of fasting from food, but also of
fasting from the use of these new technologies.

            Fasting together with prayer somehow conforms our bodily
impulses to the requirements of faith, hope and charity, the
fundamental virtues that assure us of the life proper to us, that is,
life together with God, our Father and creator. It disciplines and
purifies our wounded flesh and all its powers.

            Let’s remember that, by themselves, our bodily impulses,
especially in our  human condition, are only guided and driven by
material and earthly values of sensual pleasure, comfort, convenience,
efficiency, etc. They are quite blind to spiritual and supernatural
values primarily meant for us.

            If our use of the new technologies is not motivated by
love of God and for the common good, if it does not lead us to a
greater intimacy with God and with others, then it is clear that we
are using them in a dangerous way.

            Sooner or later, we will get into trouble, since the
earthly values can easily occasion in us pride, vanity, greed, lust,
envy and laziness. We will generate division and conflict among
ourselves. We don’t have to look far to see the abundant pieces of
evidence.

            We need to find ways of discovering and promoting the
skills and practices that would put God in the center of our human
activities.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Tuning in to God

THIS, as much as possible, should be the first thing we do
once we wake up in the morning. We need to tune in to God for the
simple reason that God is everything to us. Without him or detached
from him, we are actually nothing and can do nothing of real value
even if we do many so-called brilliant actions. Let’s avoid getting
self-deluded.

            God is our Creator, the author of all reality. It is
through him that we go beyond what we merely see and feel, or what we
can understand. With him, we get in touch with reality in all its
entirety. Our world would then not just be our own world, quite
subjective, but the world as God created it. We get to become
objective and global in our perception of things.

            Yes, it may take some time before we can actually tune in
to him since we have to contend with a lot of static, like our
laziness and lethargy, our lack of understanding of the role of God in
our life, if not worse things like religious indifference, agnosticism
and atheism.

            But once we can overcome these, which is actually a
lifetime struggle for us, we should try our best to hook up with him,
no matter how tentative and tenuous, as soon as possible. The
difficulties involved in connecting ourselves with him should not
discourage. Rather they should spur us to find the means to achieve
this goal.

            This is no pipe dream. We are not inventing things,
engaging in fiction. In the first place, because God is always around.
And he is not present in us and in the world in a passive way. He is
eternally active, full of love and desire to be with us. He is
actually intervening in our lives through his abiding providence.

            Besides he has given us everything we need to get in touch
with him, and even to be intimate with him. He has given us his own
Son who became man and who revealed to us all we need to know and to
be with God.

            Christ has left us with his word and teaching, his
sacraments, and the Church itself, all of which perpetuate till the
end of time and beyond his living presence and redemptive action for
our own sake. In fact, Christ remains with us in the real sense of the
word. We are not left only with some symbols and signs.

            We just have to dispose ourselves to capture this
fundamental reality of our life by exercising our faith, hope and love
as fully as possible. This is actually the most fundamental duty we
need to carry out. All other duties and responsibilities would depend
on this.

            As Christ himself said, he is the way, the truth and the
life. No one goes to the Father except through him. In another
instance, he described himself as the vine and we the branches. We
need to be with him if we want to live the life proper to us.

            We can start tuning ourselves in to him by developing the
practice of morning offering, that is, once we wake up, the first
thought that we should try to make is to address God, saying whatever
comes to mind first, as in, “Lord, thank you for another day,” or “I
love you, Lord, and I want to serve you,” or words to that effect.

            That way, we already dispose ourselves to be with him, and
from there, let’s continue to deal with him by carrying our ordinary
daily duties, which are a vital part of God’s will for us, and by
having recourse to a variety of acts of piety, like mental prayer,
spiritual reading, going to Mass and receiving Holy Communion, etc.

            These acts of piety will keep our intimacy with God even
as we get immersed with the things of the world. And far from
desensitizing us from world affairs, they actually would sharpen our
perception of things, and would give us the proper impulses and
motives for our involvement in these mundane concerns. Let’s disabuse
ourselves from the fear that piety undermines our responsibilities in
the world.

            Of course, God will always be a mystery. But instead of
being restrained and turned off by it, his mysteriousness and
ineffability should, in fact, draw us more to him. It’s only in
heaven, our final abode, that we can see him face to face. But now, we
have to be led by faith, hope and charity that will always have their
share of lights and shadows.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Faithful but always innovative

THIS is what we have to follow in life, a kind of law to
guide us in our earthly sojourn. We have to make it an attitude that
should take root in our system and that later on would grow the
appropriate skills and habits.

            We need to be faithful because there ultimately can be
only one purpose in our life. And that is nothing other than to know,
love and serve God, as our catechism tells us so clearly, and to love
everyone else, regardless. We are made for loving. That’s the design
our Creator has given us. We should not alter that design. We have to
be faithful to it.

            But we also need to be innovative, constantly innovative,
in fact. And that’s simply because we have the notorious tendency to
fall into routine, complacency and lukewarmness, which is the silent,
steady and treacherous process of dying of the spirit, our true life
principle.

            If the spirit dies, we would be at best a living dead, a
most radical contradiction we can have. And our spirit dies when it
separates itself from its origin who is God. This is a truth that we
need to be reminded of very often, since we always tend to take it for
granted. Put bluntly, we cannot live as we ought without God.

            That is why Christ gave us this indication: “Every scribe
who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder
who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” (Mt
13,52)

            We need to know how to blend the traditional and the
innovative, the old and the new, the absolute and the relative, the
more or less stable culture and the appropriate passing fads.

            In a higher level, we need to know how to put into an
organic whole the sacred and the mundane, the faith and the sciences,
arts and the technologies, the eternal and the temporal aspects of our
life, etc.

            Given the naked reality on the ground, we need to examine
and question the status quo of our life many times, since we tend to
do well at the beginning of any endeavor, then start to deteriorate as
we go along, until we end up badly.

            This has always been our lot and we should not be
surprised by it anymore. And much less should we feel helpless about
it, since there are many things we can do to renew ourselves
continually, neutralizing the bad effects of our complacency, if not
taking advantage of it to produce a greater virtue.

            This latter case can happen if we have the proper faith
and attitude. As St. Paul would put it, “For when I am weak, then I am
strong.” (2 Cor 12,10) With Christ, death itself can give rise to our
resurrection to eternal life, our final victory.

            Among the things that we can do to counter our tendency to
get accustomed to things and to fall victim to the desensitizing
effect of complacency, routine and lukewarmness are the daily effort
to make a good examination of conscience, a monthly recourse to a day
of recollection, and a yearly spiritual exercise called a closed
retreat.

            These are good occasions to look more closely into how our
spiritual and moral life has been faring, and to see, in a manner of
speaking, what parts of our spiritual and moral life need to be
cleaned up, oiled, or perhaps changed, revised or reengineered to
adapt to changing circumstances.

            We need to hone up our desire to do these things because
given again our weaknesses, we usually do not like to them. We should
not forget that we like to enjoy more than to exert effort. Laziness
and comfort-seeking is a legacy of our fallen nature.

            These exercises can actually bring us to an indescribable
sense of adventure, since we will realize sooner or later that we
there are many new things that are truly helpful to us and are waiting
for us to discover. These new things would give us the sensation that
we are flowing with the times, not stuck at a certain corner of time
or a certain mould of culture.

            We will soon discover that we have many more potentials
that are just waiting to be tapped. These exercises help us in
unleashing these potentials and putting them to optimal use and
effectiveness for our own good and the good of all, and all for the
glory of God.

            Yes, we have to discover our personal formula to follow
this law of how to be faithful and at the same time innovative.