Tuesday, May 31, 2016

With both decision and discretion

THIS is the ideal way to behave and to tackle the many
issues and challenges in life. We have to be decisive but at the same
time prudent, driven but also sober, focused on the essentials yet
open to things in general and flexible enough to adapt to varying and
unexpected situations.

            That is why we need to sit down, reflect and meditate,
make plans and strategies. We obviously have to make the appropriate
changes and revisions along the way as the need arises. We should also
have a good grip of the proper priorities we ought to have.

            While our material and natural needs may have to be
immediately attended to, we have to keep in mind that our spiritual
needs and supernatural goals hold greater importance and should be
given the proper attention. We should learn how to cruise in these
tricky waters of the material and the spiritual, the natural and the
supernatural, the temporal and the eternal.

            With all the technological advances we now have, we cannot
deny the fact that we are always tempted to try them, spending
precious time and exploring the plethora of possibilities with them.
The urge to “carpe diem” gets ever stronger, often milking us dry of
our creative juices, etc.

            This is a good development, of course, but only if we are
prepared for it, adequately equipped and clear as to their ultimate
purpose. Otherwise, we would just be blown and swept away by the storm
of novelties and curiosities they offer.

            Thus, while they help us to be more driven in life, they
also ask us, nay, require us to be properly grounded. A certain kind
of sobriety and discretion is needed, since our tendency to be
intoxicated is now always teased and provoked.

            The other day, someone told me how concerned he was since
his high school daughter already has more than a thousand friends on
Facebook, most of them male admirers, and they come not only from the
city and the province, but also from the rest of the country and even

            That’s a new problem that is asking for new ways of how to
be prompt and effective in dispensing parental guidance, while
observing the requirements of prudence and understanding for the young
one involved. New house rules have to be made to adapt to the new

            I told him to regulate the time his daughter spends on the
Internet, and to see to it that she studies and prays and that family
gatherings, like eating together, having after-meal get-togethers,
going to Mass together, etc. should be fostered.

            Besides, frequent direct personal chats and bonding
moments should be encouraged between parents and children so that
criteria, suggestions and corrections can be made punctually.

           I myself have to be careful not to spend too much time on
the Internet. Now that I have 5000 friends on Facebook, I have to see
to it that I have a clear idea what to do and how much time I can
spend every time I open my account.

            Obviously, to be able to handle this situation properly, a
certain detachment from things and self-discipline are needed. If we
do not yet have these capabilities, I suggest that we restrain
ourselves strictly from using the new technologies at what they call
“open time.” Or that we need to be closely guarded and supervised.

            But we have to consider this new phenomenon as a good
challenge and occasion to develop many appropriate virtues. We have to
branch out into new ways of cultivating these virtues like decision
and discretion. For sure, the old and traditional forms and ways of
these virtues need to be updated.

            This may involve a lot of effort at discerning, since the
sensitivities and attitudes of the young ones, like the millennials
and the succeeding generations, will definitely be different from
those of the previous generations.

            In this, some collective and consensual study and
consultation would be most advisable, and an increasingly
interdisciplinary approach would have to be resorted to. We need to be
prepared for this new challenge before it overruns us and ruins what
we so far have accomplished through the previous eras and generations.

            We who belong to the older generation should never feel
out of place in this challenge. In fact, we have a crucial role to
play, but we have to realize also that we need to know as thoroughly
as possible the current and forthcoming developments.

            As they say, we should always flow with the times, never
lagging behind. This is how we can keep ourselves young even as our
age advances.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Magnificat and feeling blessed

WHAT a wonderful prayer! The words, uttered by a most
humble and honored Mary, Mother of God, Mother of Christ and our
Mother, simply drip with the highest aspirations and noblest
sentiments any human being can and should have.

            “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit
rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly
servant,” responded Mary when her cousin Elizabeth paid her the
highest tribute: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the
fruit of your womb.”

            It’s one of the happiest occasions in the Christian world
when two most divinely blessed women met, one visiting the other. They
could not help but glow in the splendor of the tremendous favor given
them, one bearing the very son of God, our Redeemer, and the other
carrying the very precursor who was going to point out to the people
the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world.

            It’s a scene worth engraving in our consciousness all the
time, for what it expresses is what is actually proper of all of us to
have. What those women felt should also be what we should feel all the

            Yes, we have every reason to feel intense joy and
thanksgiving and to feel blessed, regardless of whatever, because the
Son of God, the very pattern of our humanity, has himself become man
to bring us back to where we all come from and to whom we belong.
Whatever situation we find ourselves in, good or bad, happy or sad,
should always be infused by the spirit of the Magnificat.

            We should repeat the words of the Magnificat daily, and,
in fact, often during the day. We should repeat them from the heart,
especially when we encounter difficulties and failures in life,
because they remind us that God never fails to bless us. Yes, we
should always feel blessed even amidst our problems and mistakes.

            Feeling blessed is important and indispensable to us.
Without it, we would be putting ourselves in great danger as we would
simply stand on an unstable ground, totally dependent on the shifting
world of chance, luck and fortune.

            When these latter mundane and temporal values are missing,
we cannot help but feel doomed, our life losing meaning and purpose,
and our activities would simply become means to pass the time. Nothing
more and beyond!

            To be able to assume the spirit of the Magnificat, we
should try our best to adapt the attitude of Mary. She was most humble
and most docile. She asked for a clarification when she was told she
was going to become the Mother of the Son of God, but it was not out
of doubt and lack of faith. It was simply to make her cooperation with
God’s will and ways most complete.

            When it was told to her how the incarnation of the Son of
God in her womb would be, she simply said, “Fiat mihi secundum verbum
tuum, be it done to me, according to your word.” And God became man,
“Et verbum caro factum est.”

            Let us hope that even and especially in the middle of our
worldly affairs, when we also need to be immersed in them, tackling
all the technicalities that they can involve, we can manage to
remember the Magnificat that, to Mary, was the result of her being
chosen the Mother of God and the tremendous weapon she used to
actively participate in the redemptive work of her Son.

            To us, the Magnificat should be the pledge that God loves
and blesses us, no matter how undeserving we are, as well as the means
to face all the vagaries of life, praising God, thanking him, asking
for pardon and favors with confidence.

            The Magnificat should remind us that even in our worst
predicaments, God is always around and Mary is showing us how we can
be united or reunited with her Son. She would infuse confidence into
our heart especially at a time when we would be most vulnerable to
lose that confidence and opt to become a fugitive from God.

            The Magnificat is like a most precious and useful family
treasure in a Christian’s life. It’s not meant to be kept in some
secret vault. It has to be used frequently, for it has tremendous
power to bring us back to vibrant Christian life if we have slackened
or to keep the fire of love burning, full of action and not just of

            Like Mary who quickly visited her cousin to help, we too
can quickly involve ourselves in the lives of others.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Bearing and conquering

IF we want to be faithful to Christ, we should expect all
kinds of suffering, especially that of misunderstanding and
persecution. And sometimes, we can even suffer at the hands of our own

            We should not be surprised by this eventuality. We just
have to be ready for it. We also should strengthen our conviction that
all this suffering will be worthwhile because divine justice, always
with mercy, will always come our way sooner or later.

            In the gospel, many are the references that point to this
phenomenon. “In the world you shall have tribulation,” Christ warned,
“but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16,33)

            More pointedly, Christ also said, “a time is coming when
anyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God.” (Jn
16,2) Yes, things can be that bad.

            In the gospel of St. Mark we are told about a parable (Mk
12,1-12) where a man planted a vineyard and leased it to tenant
farmers. The servants whom he sent to collect his portion of the
harvest were treated badly and some were even killed. Finally, he sent
his son, thinking that the tenants would respect the boy. But they
also killed him.

            The servants and the son are a picture of those who work
for Christ. That’s actually all of us, since we all ought to work for
Christ. But precisely because of the message we have to spread and
live by, and the resistance of the world, we can expect
misunderstanding, persecution and even martyrdom to come our way too.

            We have to learn to be thoroughly patient, bearing all
things that can come to us, as St. Paul once described charity. But
let’s also remember that charity can also conquer all things. Charity
is not just bearing all the time, but also conquering all the time.

            I would say that the bearing part of charity would seem to
have the last word in our life that is going to be full of suffering.
But it’s actually conquering. Just as Christ bore all the sins of men
by dying on the cross, he eventually conquered with his resurrection.

            This divine paradigm of our own redemption should be clear
in our mind. In our earthly sojourn, there would be many instances
that we have to bear all the misunderstanding and persecution we can
encounter in life. But we should not be remiss of our duty, out of
charity also, to conquer, not only in the last moment, but also along
the way.

            This conquering can be done in terms of making corrections
on people who are in error. The way to do these corrections would, of
course, vary depending on the circumstances of the case.

            Yes, it’s true that we have to bear and be patient with
everyone all the time, but it would not be right if we do not make
corrections or suggestions or mere proclamations and reminders of
truths when both the need and the opportunity come. In fact, we should
not just wait for the opportunity to come. Somehow we have to look for
them, or even make them come.

            Bearing and patience would be false if they are not
accompanied by acts of conquest.  We are somehow noticing this anomaly
around when people just prefer to be patient, actually doing nothing,
without making any effort to make some corrections or suggestions,
proclamations and reminders.

            The gospel warns us about the danger of what is known as
human respect. This is the fear to correct someone who is in error for
a variety of false reasons—because he is a friend, or a superior, or a
disagreeable person.

            Or it can be that we play favorites and treat different
persons differently in an unfair manner. The different translations of
the Bible refer to this attitude as “partiality” or “favoritism” or
“respect of persons.” (cfr. Rom 2,11; Act 20,34)

            Yes, we have to bear and be patient, but we also should
not run away from the opportunities when we have to speak up and even
complicate our life out of true love for God and for souls.

            When Peter and John were commanded not to speak of Christ,
they just boldly said: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to
listen to you rather than to God, you must judge. But we cannot but
speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4,19-20)

            They and many other holy men preferred to suffer, even to
the point of martyrdom, rather than to keep quiet and fail to proclaim
or correct those who need to be corrected.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Revving up our Eucharistic devotion

WITH the celebration of Solemnity of Body and Blood of
Christ, we are reminded to grow continually in our Eucharistic
devotion. May we go to Holy Mass and receive communion more often. May
we make frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament. May we spread the
Eucharistic piety.

            We should not take this duty for granted. Many are the
elements now that tend to deaden our belief and devotion to this most
important reality of our earthly life.

            A cursory look at how the Eucharist is celebrated in many
places today can readily reveal that it has practically become banal
and stale. In the first place, only old pious women seem to be regular
at attending it. Other than them, many of those who are there look as
if they are merely complying with some religious duties or social
expectations. In other words, the Eucharist has lost its universal,
immediate appeal proper to it.

            There are indications that its celebration seems to be
propped up only by some sentimental hymns or by the oratorical skills
or theatre gimmickry of the priest-presider. When asked about the
reason for going to Mass, many people, especially the youth, give out
those rationales.

            We need to rekindle our Eucharistic amazement and to
intensify our Eucharistic piety, since in the Eucharist we really have
Christ with us and he offers himself as food for our earthly journey
toward eternal life.

            Obviously for this devotion to keep going and growing, we
need to grow in faith also, a faith that should be expressed always in
deeds of hope and charity.

            If we truly have faith and love in the Holy Eucharist, if
we are truly Eucharistic souls, then we cannot help but be intensely
and abidingly apostolic souls as well.

            In fact, we need to be most zealous in our apostolate,
since it actually is a duty incumbent on all Christian believers to
have and to keep burning all throughout their lives, making use of all
the situations and circumstances we may find ourselves in.

            Everytime we hear Mass, receive Holy Communion or visit
the Blessed Sacrament, we should remember those final and most
heart-felt words of Christ to his apostles: “Go into all the world and
preach the gospel to the whole creation…” (Mk 16,15)

            These words clearly indicate how Christ wants his work of
redemption to continue. This time it will be carried out as a joint
effort between him and us. While we are first of all the object of his
redemptive work, we also become the subject of such work with him.

            We also have to realize that we have in our hands a
tremendous and delicate treasure that we need to take extreme care of.

            This is a challenge actually to everyone, though certainly
the leading role falls on the bishops, priests and other religious
persons. We need to give more attention to this responsibility so that
the devotion can truly mature and produce fruits not only for the
individuals but also for the whole of society.

            Truth is many people have complained that in spite of our
supposedly Christian background and culture, our society is still
wracked with all sorts of shameful anomalies in its different sectors
and levels. We need to have more consistency between what we profess
to believe, and what we do in our business and politics, etc.

            We need to understand and live the intrinsic link between
the Eucharistic adoration and its social consequences. Our personal
encounter with the Lord in the Eucharist should strengthen our social
mission contained in it.

            I remember Pope Emeritus Benedict saying, “The Eucharist
seeks to break down not only the walls that separate the Lord and
ourselves, but also and especially the walls that separate us from one

            These are nice words that certainly convey a deep insight
about the mystery of the Eucharist. The challenge now is how to make
everyone aware of this reality. We the clergy have to demonstrate and
act this out ourselves first before we can dare to convince the
others. But everyone has to do his part.

            Little things count a lot here. The care and devotion we
give when we kneel or genuflect before the Blessed Sacrament, for
example, can already go a long way in helping us enter deep into
Christ’s presence and into the lives of people.

            This will be an entering that goes beyond our
psychological, temperamental or social and cultural conditionings. It
will be an entering that is led by faith and love. It will enable us
to savor Christ’s presence and people’s lives in a manner that beggars

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Playing with the truth

WE have to be most careful in handling the truth. First,
we have to know what truth is, where to find it, why it is the truth,
how to present it, etc. Otherwise, we can suffer what St. Augustine
once said:

            “They love truth when it enlightens them, but hate when it
accuses them. In this attitude of reluctance to be deceived and intent
to deceive others they love truth when it reveals itself but hate it
when it reveals them. Truth will therefore take its revenge: when
people refuse to be shown up by it, truth will show them up
willy-nilly and yet elude them.”

            This Augustinian observation can be validated, at least
partially, in that gospel episode about some leading Jews who, driven
by unbelief that brought with it its usual cohorts of envy and hatred,
asked Christ, “by what authority are you doing these things?” (cfr. Mk

            They were referring, of course, to Christ preaching and
performing miracles and in the process drawing a lot of people to him.
But Christ, knowing their motives, also asked them a question that has
to be answered first before he would answer them. “Was John’s baptism
of heavenly or of human origin?”

            This threw them into a quandary. If they answered one or
the other, they would be caught in a bind, since they would certainly
suffer the obvious bad consequence of each possible answer. And so
they said they did not know. To which, Christ simply said: “Neither
shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

            We have to understand that to be truthful, the first thing
to do is to believe in God and to follow his commandments. After all,
God is the creator of everything. He knows the ins and outs of all
things, whether material, spiritual, natural, supernatural, etc. All
we do is to discover them, not make or create them.

            Our senses and intelligence alone can capture only so much
truth. They cannot go all the way, and in fact, they always need
another higher principle. This is where faith comes in.

            We have to have faith in God first, before we can get to
the truth. Faith enables us to accept truths that are beyond our
capacity to see, hear and touch, and even to understand. Faith makes
us accept truth through belief. What our Lord told the doubting Thomas
is illustrative of faith.

            “Have you believed, Thomas, because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (Jn 20,29)

            Even in our ordinary, daily life, we use some kind of
faith, because we simply have to trust people rather than go through
the tedious process of investigating and studying as to whether this
woman, for example, is really my mother or not, or whether the cook
really serves me food and not poison, etc. We are wired for faith.

            We just have to go all the way to the scope of faith and
find that at the beginning and end of it, we will find God himself,
the Creator, who made the universe, the author of all reality in all
its infinite richness and variety of aspects and levels.

            In short, we cannot really be in the truth unless we are
in God. We cannot seek the truth unless we seek God. The problem we
have is that we dare to know, study and use the truth without God, or
ignoring him, at least. We even think that to be objective and
unbiased, we would just depend on what our senses and intelligence can

            As a result, we get some aspects of truth that ultimately
depend on us simply. And since we are not stable, not to mention that
we are often affected adversely by passions, if not dominated by
malice, then the truth we see, study, invent and use, cannot be the
truth that is the real truth.

            It would be at best a contingent truth, a relative truth,
detached from its stable and ultimate moorings, and therefore can be
shifty, unstable and vulnerable to be misused and abused. This is what
we see around, and thus we are also quite in a mess.

            We need to have some kind of revolution in our attitude
towards truth. There has to be a conscious, deliberate effort to seek
God who actually revealed himself fully in Christ and continues to
reveal himself to us in the Holy Spirit. Unless, we do this, our
affirmations of truth will always be suspicious.

            Why, for example, do we make an oath before God when we
say something really important?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Divine anger and passion

YES, God, the ever-merciful and compassionate God, can be
angry. His anger can even turn into fury and wrath. Just read the Old
Testament, and you will have a good dose of vivid instances of this
divine anger and wrath.

            Which reminds us that anger is not bad after all. If God
can be angry, we, who are his image and likeness, can be angry too.
Anger has a place in our life. Except that we have to be most careful
with it, since our anger can only be good and righteous only when we
are truly identified with Christ. And given our current condition,
that identification can only be at best tenuous.

            To be sure, God’s anger is not a lasting, much less,
permanent feature. It’s a passing emotion. As Sacred Scripture puts
it, he is slow to anger, quick to forgive. His anger is just for a
moment, but his mercy and compassion is forever.

            Our anger should be like the anger of God. In the gospel,
Christ showed this anger when he drove away those sellers and vendors
who were desecrating the temple area. The same when he found a fig
tree full of leaves but without fruit. (cfr. Mk 11,11-26)

            We can clearly see that Christ was a man of passion also,
which tells us that we should not be afraid of emotions and passions
as long as we express them in the proper way. This training our
emotions and passions will be a life-long process, and so we just have
to be patient and sport about the whole affair.

            We have to understand that to move toward our human and
Christian perfection, not only should we be spiritual, but also we
need to go passionate. That’s simply because man is both spiritual and
carnal, intellectual and emotional, with passion as the strongest
expression of our feelings.

            We have to overcome that partial understanding of our
humanity that only highlights our spiritual aspect at the expense of
our bodily dimension. Of course, it is also wrong to go the other way
around, to stress the emotional at the expense of our spiritual

            We have to take care of both dimensions to the highest
degree possible. And in a certain sense, this reminder is urgent,
since many so-called pious or religious people who try hard to effect
some good transformation in individuals and society often concentrate
on the spiritual and neglects the corporeal component of life.

            The result is often dismal failure, wasting a lot of
energy on an apostolic approach that perhaps can achieve some good
effects that often do not last. These apostolic fruits fail to tackle
the finer demands of our real life in the world.

            Passions have to be properly cultivated. First of all,
they have to be given due attention. They have often been considered,
wrongly, as a drag in our human and Christian growth. They are left in
the margins, at best.

            They are never a hindrance. They are a necessary
component, because love which is our perfection, while mainly an act
of the will, a spiritual operation, cannot do away with our bodily
dimension where love too has to be expressed.

            I remember one point in the book, The Way, of St.
Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, that gives a relevant insight.

            “You tell me, yes, that you want to. Very good. But do you
want to as a miser longs for gold, as a mother loves her child, as a
worldling craves for honors, or as a wretched sensualist seeks his
pleasure? No? Then, you don’t want to.” (316)

            If love has to be true love, it should not be confined
only in the will and in the intellect. It has be go passionate,
marshalling all the powers of our body—imagination, memory, feelings,
the very use of our body, etc.—to its employment.

            Human and Christian love first has to be human before it
can be spiritual and supernatural. It cannot be any other way. We
would do violence to the nature of things if we understand it

            That’s why, especially when dealing with kids and the
young ones who often develop love first through feelings and the
bodily aspects, we have to understand them and know how to make these
feelings or passions conform to right reason and the requirements of
faith and charity.

            It’s not a matter of repressing those feelings. It’s a
matter of educating them, revving them, in fact, to become passions
and not just wimpy elements that we are ashamed to show and express.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Overcoming our blindness

THAT gospel character Bartimaeus, the blind man, gives us
a precious lesson with respect to a certain blindness that we all
have. Like him, we have to acknowledge our blindness and humbly beg
Christ for a cure by repeating Bartimaeus’ words, “Master, I want to
see” (ut videam). (Mk 10,51)

            Though we may enjoy good vision at the moment, we have to
realize that to be able to see things properly and completely, we
simply do not rely on our eyes nor any of our senses.

            Our eyes and senses can only capture a little part of the
whole reality that governs us. They can only perceive what are called
the sensible realities, still light-years away from the intelligible,
not to mention the spiritual and supernatural aspects of reality.

            Still what they get and gather are very useful and in fact
are indispensable, since the data they give are like the raw material
that will be processed by our more powerful faculties of intelligence
and will. In this sense we can already consider ourselves as suffering
from some kind of blindness.

            We need to be more aware that nowadays there is a strong
tendency to base our knowledge of things mainly on the material and
sensible realities alone. That’s why we have these disturbing
phenomena of materialism and commercialism comprising our mainstream
world of knowledge and understanding.

            We have to correct this tendency because that simply is
not the whole of reality. Our senses can only have a limited view of
things. And what is worse, that limited condition is aggravated by the
effects and consequences of our sins that not only limit but also
distort reality.

            Thus, if our thinking, judging and reasoning are simply
based on the sensible and the material, we would miss a lot of things
and would unavoidably get into trouble. We end up making our own
world, our own reality which is actually a fantasy, an illusion, if
not a delusion.

            This is where we have to very strongly acknowledge our
blindness so that we recognize what is lacking and wrong with us, and
start to look for where the remedy and cure can be found.

            We should imitate Bartimaeus in that when he realized it
was Christ passing by, he immediately screamed, “Son of David, have
pity on me!” We have to acknowledge that we are blind and that we are
in great need of help that can only come from God who is our Creator,
Father and Provider for everything that we need.

            Being the Creator, God is the one who has designed
everything in the world. He is the one who knows its ins and outs,
what is real and not real, good and bad, etc. It is from him and with
his light that we can see things clearly and completely.

            We should not simply depend on our senses, nor on our
intelligence and will and the other faculties we have, like our
memory, imagination and other talents, no matter how excellent they
are. At best, they are meant to be mere instruments.

            They should not be made as the ultimate source of truth
and primary means to know the whole of reality. Obviously, to
acknowledge this would require a great amount of humility, since we
tend to make our own selves as the ultimate god, reflecting the very
error of the first sin that took place in Eden with our first parents.

            And nowadays, with the great progress of our sciences and
technologies, we have a formidable temptation to make ourselves our
own god, the maker and not just the stewards of the universe, deciding
on what is true and false, good and bad, and on the destinies of

            We can be so intoxicated by our own powers and
achievements that our pride and self-absorption with their consequent
blindness can appear invincible and incurable. We are actually
drifting toward this kind of situation today.

            We have to be most wary of this danger, and so we have to
realize ever more deeply that the more power we have and the more
achievements we make, the more our humility should be.

            We have to make sure that every advance we make in any
field of human knowledge should not dull but rather sharpen our need
for God, our sense of gratitude to him, our awareness that we need to
do everything with him and for him.

            This is what a deepening sense of humility would entail.
And this is what would put us in the right path, avoiding the danger
of blindness.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The fundamental attitude to serve

            IT’S amazing that even as Christ was already talking about
his impending passion, death and resurrection, two of his apostles,
James and John, were more interested in occupying special places in
heaven—that they may sit “one at your right and the other at your
left.” (cfr. Mk 10,32-45)

            This elicited a sharp rebuke from Christ and the
clarification that “whoever wishes to be first among you will be the
slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to
serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

            Before saying those words, he told them: “You know that
those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over
them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it
shall not be so among you.”

            These words are a timely reminder for all of us, and
especially our newly elected public officials, who wield a certain
authority over others due to our position and status in life. They
clearly spell out how our attitude should be with respect to power and
authority that we can have.

            Power and authority is meant for serving. To serve is the
language and the expression of love. It authenticates any affirmation
of love we do, converting it from intention to tangible reality.

            This is the attitude meant for us, with God himself as the
exemplar. Imagine, Christ served us by dying on the cross. Before
that, he shocked his apostles when he insisted that he be allowed to
wash their feet. That was to give an example to them, and us, so that
what he did we would also do to one another.

            The angels too, superior to us in nature, are made to
serve us, following a divine law articulated by Christ himself when he
said: “Let him who is greatest among you become as the youngest, and
him who is the chief as the servant.” (Lk 22,26)

            We need to be more keenly aware of this law. This is truly
what is good for us, providing us with the basic source of strength
and consistency we need as we grapple with life’s endless challenges.

            Before we worry about the big and destructive enemies of
our soul, we have to realize that our most insidious foe is right
within us, when this attitude of serving others is not firmly
established in our mind and heart.

            That it was James and John who made that questionable
request only shows how easy it is for us who try to be close to God to
fall for the tricks of our soul’s enemies.

            They most likely were motivated by the best intentions.
Still, those intentions were wrong. Like them, we could be
subjectively loving, but objectively not so. Thus, the need to
constantly rectify our intentions.

            It is this missing attitude of wanting to serve in each
one of us that sooner or later grows into social and cultural
proportions, then into something global with ideological supporting
structures, that offers the seed, sun and water for the big enemies we
have against our spiritual life.

            The absence of this attitude nullifies whatever big and
ardent professions of love we may have toward God and others. Our
desire to love could not soar into the flight of authentic love when
this eagerness to serve is absent.

            Any attempt to love with this attitude not in place would
be plain mimickry. It would attract many problems and anomalies. It
will drown in the quicksands of pride, vanity, envy, jealousy, and the
other subtle forms of egoism. It cannot survive the mere tests of
differences of characters and opinions, for example.

            This eagerness to serve really has to be worked out,
because with our fallen and wounded nature, every pore of our being
tends to go against the law of love expressed in service that God
meant for us.

            We need to pause and reflect to get a clear view of our
predicament, then beg and pray for God’s grace for we can do nothing
without it, and then little by little, day by day, start to develop
the mind and the skills to bring us always ready and happy to serve.

            Let us remember that the fall of the angels started when
one of them said, “I will not serve.” Our first parents fell because
they too chose to serve themselves instead of God.

            Every sin and moral evil has in its core the virus of not
wanting to serve. And so, perhaps as a motto that we can repeat often,
we should say to ourselves, and to God and all: “Serviam” I will

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Willing to suffer

 “EVERYONE will be salted with fire.” That’s what Christ
said, as recorded in the gospel of St. Mark. (9,49) We have to be
prepared for this unavoidable eventuality. And that simply means that
we have to learn how to suffer, and be willing to suffer, in fact.

            Salt, of course, is used for food seasoning and
preservation. For our life to be properly seasoned and preserved all
the way to its definitive eternal life in heaven, we need to be
salted, except that in this case, we have to be salted with fire, and
not just the material salt.

            Fire obviously has its proper uses and benefits, but it
can also be harmful and destructive. It definitely causes pain when we
get into direct contact with it. And that seems to be what is meant by
the above-mentioned gospel passage, since we need to be salted with
it. Nothing is salted without being directly touched by salt, and this
time, it is the salt of fire.

            Fire here means not only anything that causes physical
pain, but also moral anguish and spiritual suffering. We should learn
how to take all this with faith and trust in God’s mercy that will
always be available no matter how gravely we fall.

            We need to learn how to suffer. The massive problem we
have now is precisely that many of us do not know how to suffer. We
complain and cry even at the slightest touch of suffering. We become
sad and fall into a hard case of depression. Self-pity and idle
passivity can dominate us, sinking us into a spiral of problems and

            Or we can grasp at straws, going to all sorts of useless
defense mechanisms and deceptive forms of escapism like sex, drugs,
extreme forms of sports and activism, frivolous entertainment,
rationalizing philosophies, ideologies, lifestyles, etc. We can in
vain try to erase or ignore subjectively what objectively will always
be with us in our life.

            We have to learn how to suffer. It’s an art and skill that
is available if we only care to notice. It’s all there as clear as
noonday, its cause and meaning precisely defined, its antidote and
vaccine abundantly provided. Our Christian faith sheds tremendous
light on this mystery of our life. Christ is showing us the way.

            Our faith, the ultimate source of truth about ourselves,
tells us that suffering is due to sin, to the misuse of our freedom,
to our disobedience to the will of God who created us to be his image
and likeness, to be children of his, sharing in his very own life.

            Let’s remember that if God allows us to suffer some
deformities or to experience some mistakes and commit sins, it is
because he can derive a greater good from them. He wants us to learn a
virtue or to grow more in our faith, hope and love for him and for
everybody else.

            We should try our best, with God’s grace which he actually
gives us in abundance, to go beyond the level of the sensible and the
intelligible, and enter into the all-beautiful world of our faith
where the humanly ugly things are converted into divinely beautiful

            Let’s not be afraid of suffering then. We just have to
learn to suffer the way Christ himself suffered. Not only has he given
us the way to do it, but also the very power to suffer with him.

            I remember Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI  one time saying
that while God is good and cannot will evil, he sometimes allows his
children to be tried through suffering to lead them to a greater good.

            This truth should be at the core of our beliefs. With it,
everything will be beautiful. Nothing would be ugly, and could take
away our peace. Our joy and optimism would become stable. And we would
be more empowered to do good things.

            Suffering has to be viewed from the perspective of faith.
It should be taken out from an overly human outlook that restricts it
to its purely negative, painful and destructive character. There’s a
lot more to our suffering than what our senses and our reasoning
unaided by faith can cope and discover.

            First, we have to understand that our suffering was not
meant for us in the beginning of our existence. Nor is it meant for
our end. It came about as consequence of our mishandling our freedom,
that supreme gift God our Father and Creator endowed us with at our
first creation in Adam and Eve.

            But with Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, our
suffering has been converted into something redemptive for us!

Friday, May 20, 2016

About fear

FEAR is, of course, an emotion that can either be good or
bad, depending on how it is experienced, who or what the object is,
what motive, reason or cause produces it.

            One good fear is the gift of the Holy Spirit called fear
of the Lord. It’s a filial fear of offending God who is our Creator
and Father. The bad one is what is behind the words of Christ when he
said, “Be not afraid,” on a number of occasions.

            It’s clear that we have to know when to fear, and when
not. In the Bible, some studies claim that there are 365 passages that
speak of ‘fear not,’ while a little more than 100 passages only call
for a healthy sense of fear.

            That seems to indicate that we should live our life more
without fear than with fear. We should be fearless without
compromising those occasions when we should fear.

            In other words, to fear and not to fear can and should be
together. They need not be mutually exclusive to each other as long as
we know the reasons for each of them. They can even happen at the same
time, but obviously for their respective reasons that can arise also
at the same time.

            We need to fear because that is what is proper of a child
to his father. There’s always a healthy kind of fear involved in any
relationship that is based on love and respect. It is the fear of not
offending the other party. And this is much more so if the other party
is superior to us. If the other party is God himself, then this filial
fear is absolutely needed.

            Besides, such fear can trigger a series of good effects. A
passage from the Book of Proverbs affirms this. “The fear of the Lord
is the beginning of wisdom.” (9,10) Pope St. Gregory the Great, in
explaining the dynamism of this filial fear, says:

            “Through the fear of the Lord, we rise to piety, from
piety then to knowledge, from knowledge we derive strength, from
strength counsel, with counsel we move toward understanding, and with
intelligence toward wisdom and thus, by the sevenfold grace of the
Spirit, there opens to us at the end of the ascent the entrance to the
life of Heaven.”

            With this fear of the Lord, we acknowledge we are
creatures who are always dependent on God. This is what is called the
‘poverty of spirit’ that figures in one of the beatitudes, “Blessed
are the poor in the spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

            We therefore would not want to be separated from God. It
is the fear of losing God. Thus, this fear arouses in us as a keen
desire to be with God, a vibrant sense of adoration and reverence for
God and a sense of horror and sorrow for sin.

            I would say that this filial fear of the Lord is what
would lead us also not to be afraid of God when we are before his
overwhelming majesty, power and wisdom, just as what Christ told his
disciples when they saw him walking on the water (cfr Mt 14,27) and
when he appeared to them after his resurrection. (cfr Mt 28,10)

            There is obviously an organic link between this filial
fear of the Lord and the fearlessness of one who is truly with God. We
have to be wary of the possibility of reversing these two modes.

            This can happen because instead of having the healthy fear
of the Lord, we lose it instead, thinking we can be sufficient just by
ourselves, and we are not anymore to sin. Sad to say, this scenario is
now quite widespread.

            And on the other hand, instead of not being afraid of God
who is always a Father to us, ever understanding and forgiving, we
choose to be afraid of him because we allow ourselves to be
overwhelmed by his infinite powers, or because we are ashamed to
return to him to ask for forgiveness after we have fallen.

            This is a dangerous situation for us to be in. That’s
because when we are afraid of God and prefer to stay away from him, we
make ourselves an easy prey to the temptations of the devil, the
allurements of the world, and the tricks of our own personal

            It’s clear that we need to know how to handle fear. Yes,
it is an emotion, but like any emotion, it has to be enlightened,
trained and directed by our right reason, and ultimately by the
theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Christ’s cross gives the ultimate wisdom

DON’T look now, but if we want to be wise, we need to look
at Christ’s cross, understand its significance, and start to be
consistent with it.

            This is the kind of wisdom every believer and follower of
Christ should have. It’s not enough to have the wisdom of this world,
no matter how practical that may be, nor the wisdom of the flesh, no
matter how mind-blowing, much less the wisdom of words, no matter how

            The wisdom of the cross is first a gift of the Holy Spirit
to us before it becomes a virtue in us. Since it’s a gift, we have to
pray for it constantly. Since it’s a gift that needs to be a virtue,
we have to cultivate and develop it also.

            The wisdom of the cross is the most perfect gift,
embodying all the other spiritual gifts, since it completes charity by
infusing light and love into our soul.

            With it we are able to discern God and divine things in
everything that we see and do. It gives us the appetite to relate
everything to God, linking us to God through the things of this world.

            It goes beyond understanding and knowledge which enable us
to know divine and natural things in themselves and in their mutual
relations, but without necessarily relating them to God, their
ultimate cause.

            These gifts and virtues do not automatically lead us to
love, since they fall short of bringing us to God who is love, as St.
John said so succinctly. It’s wisdom that does that. Wisdom makes us
into contemplative souls, seeing and loving God in everything.

            With this definition of wisdom, it can be said that it’s
hardly seen around, since it is clear that reference to God is
scarcely done in the things we do. We think, reason out, speak, act
and behave often by ourselves, without God.

            But it can reside deep in our hearts, not visible to our
senses and our worldly ways. As the Book of Wisdom says: “In each
generation wisdom passes into holy souls, she makes them friends of
God and prophets.” (7,27)

            Saints and holy men and women have it, except that they
are not fond of showing it off. It is perceived only by those who have
the spirit in the manner spoken of by St. Paul:

            “We have received not the spirit of this world, but the
Spirit that is of God, that we may know the things that are given us
by God. Which things also we speak, not in the learned words of human
wisdom, but in the doctrine of the Spirit, comparing spiritual things
with spiritual.

            “The sensual man perceives not these things…for it is
foolishness to him, and he cannot understand, because it is
spiritually examined.” (1 Cor 2,12-14)

            In cultivating and developing wisdom as a virtue in us, we
need to struggle against things like laziness, disorder, unhealthy
attachments, pride and all forms of sin. In fact, everything can be a
frontline in this struggle.

            Thus, this wisdom has to be the wisdom of the cross, which
is the wisdom of Christ, since Christ showed the ultimate saving truth
and love, and shares these things with us up to now, by dying on the

            We have to understand this supernatural truth with the
grace of God, otherwise we succumb to what St. Paul once said about
the crucified Christ:

            “To the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and to the Gentiles
foolishness. But to them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ
the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor 1,23-24)

            It’s this wisdom that provides us with the proper furnace
to forge our love for God and others, the acid test to probe the depth
and range of our grasp of the truth in love. It’s the running
conviction that everything gets resolved in the cross.

            The wisdom of the cross goes much further than what our
intelligence and will can penetrate. It gives life and vitality to our
different human ways and structures, our cultural and personal ways.

            As Saint Pope John Paul II once said: “The wisdom of the
Cross, therefore, breaks free of all cultural limitations which seek
to contain it and insists upon an openness to the universality of the
truth which it bears.” (Fides et ratio, 23)

            Let’s learn this wisdom of the cross by conforming our
thoughts and desires, our whole life, to Christ crucified, studying,
praying, meditating on his words, and slowly and steadily assimilating
his example into our life! May that wisdom be the flesh of our flesh!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Be not afraid of psychology

I WAS happy to learn that the Vatican released some years
ago a document, “On the use of psychology in the seminary.” It’s about
time that something of this sort be officially recommended by Church

            Of course, the immediate context of the document was the
clerical sexual scandals that oppressed the Church in many parts of
the world a few years ago and continue to haunt us today.

            But it actually possesses a very objective importance,
regardless of circumstances, and a universal coverage that should be
highlighted, especially at these times.

            In it, the crucial help that psychology as a science can
give to seminarians and, I must say, to everybody else is traced.
Insofar as seminarians are concerned, the document says that recourse
to experts in the psychological sciences can:

            “…allow a more sure evaluation of the candidate’s psychic
state; it can help evaluate his human dispositions for responding to
the divine call; and it can provide some extra assistance for the
candidate’s human growth.”

            So you see, psychology is not only for handling mental
problems and illnesses, already a tremendous task. It also contributes
to human growth, which should always be stimulated by every legitimate
means available! We have to overcome a certain cultural bias against
the use of psychology.

            By now, everyone should be convinced that our life always
has a psychological dimension. Every virtue or vice has psychological
effects and triggers some psychological dynamics. We should try our
best to know them and use them with due prudence, of course.

            We don’t talk about it only when there are problems. We
always have to take it into consideration in all our dealings with
people. That at least would denote a growth in our sensitivity to
others. Yes, the use of psychology can enhance human sensitivity.

            Thus, in the seminary some psychological profiling has to
be done of every candidate to the priesthood, noting each one’s
strengths and weaknesses in this aspect, his good and bad potentials,
etc. And a close monitoring of this portrait, given its dynamic
nature, should be made.

            I frankly believe that not only the use of psychology
should be promoted but also some serious effort be made to mainstream
the skill and expertise on the part of seminary formators and others
similarly situated in this vital field of knowledge.

            We have to drastically rehabilitate the image of
psychology in the minds not only of the Church officials but also of
everybody else. We cannot deny that psychology is still treated like a
leper in the community or the house fool everyone tries to hide. We
have to get out of that antiquated mindset.

            At the rate we are developing with all the complicating
and insanity-tending elements around, there’s no way but for
psychology to be duly acknowledged, its need appreciated and its use
spread far and wide.

            Again, insofar as its use is relevant to seminary
formation, the document lists down several factors that undermine the
psychological health of seminarians and those asking admission.

            “Those who today ask admittance to the seminary,” it says,
“reflect, in a more or less accentuated way, the unease of an emerging
mentality characterized by consumerism, instability in family and
social relationships, moral relativism, erroneous visions of

            I remember some years ago that the then reigning Pope Pope
Benedict said something that today’s youth are a “fragile generation,”
and I could not agree with him more. My everyday experience and
contact with people more than abundantly validate this observation.

            There are many people with clearly psychological wounds,
some very deep and grave, springing even from their own family
environment, not to mention, the usual problem areas: pressures from
work, social relations, politics, business, showbiz, etc.

            I am no psychologist but that does not prevent me from
recognizing obvious irregularities in the mental, affective and sexual
aspects of many people. These concerns have to be given more effective

            Of course, the use of psychology should not replace the
spiritual and supernatural means that are always indispensable in the
formation of seminarians as well as of everybody else. The practice of
spiritual direction should blend both the psychological and spiritual
aspects of a person.

            Psychology should be the constant accompaniment of these
spiritual means, a tool to express and fathom the spiritual
developments, since these always have some psychological
manifestations. Naturally, it should also be an instrument to enhance
the seminarians’ personalities and temperaments.

            Thus, a sound psychology should be learned, since there
are many schools of thought in this regard, and not all are good.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Cultivating a universal heart

THAT’S the heart of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It’s also the heart we
should try to cultivate, since he himself gave us the new commandment
that summarizes and perfects all the previous commandments that “you
love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
(Jn 13,34)

It’s a love that covers everyone, including our enemies, the
unlovable, the sinners, offenders, those who are wrong in a human
issue and all others who for one reason or another we may have some
reason not to love or like.

In fact, one sure sign our loving is authentic is when we include
these people in our loving. Otherwise, our love is fake, no matter how
fervently we profess it. Our love gets spoiled and deteriorates into

Remember what our Lord said about this point. “If you love them that
love you, what reward shall you have? Do not even the publicans do
this?” (Mt 5,46)

Thus, our Lord explicitly said that we have to love our enemies, to do
good to them that hate us and pray for those who persecute and
calumniate us. This is how we are going to be identified as children
of God who makes his sun to rise upon the good and bad, the rain on
the just and the unjust.

Love by definition involves all and is given without measure or
calculation. This essence of love is what breaks us loose from our
limited human condition to make our world universal, not entangled in
some parochial, partisan or isolationist grip.

Love matures and perfects us. It checks on our tendency to be
self-seeking and self-absorbed so as to be “all things to all men.” (1
Cor 9,22) It brings us not only to others, but rather to God himself,
identifying us with him, for “God is love” and is the source of love.

This love is what properly measures out our true dignity and value as
persons and children of God. It’s not just some wisdom or knowledge or
talents and any human power. It’s love, dude!

It’s high time that we understand the need for true love, the love of
Christ, to give ourselves a universal heart. It’s not the sciences,
the philosophies and the ideologies, no matter how good and useful
they are, that can accomplish this.

We have to disabuse ourselves from this mentality that, sadly, is
constantly nourished and reinforced by some secularist and pagan
thinking that’s dominating our world today.

We have to go beyond them. That’s why there’s a need to develop the
appropriate attitudes and virtues, all done in the context of God’s
grace, for nothing succeeds without God’s grace.

We have to learn to be patient, and to be “rich in mercy and slow to
anger.” We have to know how to take on different and even conflicting
positions in human issues without undermining our love for one
another. Let’s always be sport with one another.

This surely means we have to learn how to discipline our feelings and
passions, knowing when to talk and when not. We have to learn how to
convert difficult, humiliating moments into moments of graciousness
and magnanimity. Humiliations deepen our humility that is so necessary
in life.

We have to avoid bearing grudges or worse, nurturing animosities.
Let’s remember that whatever happens, we are all men and women,
children of God, who are obliged to love one another. Our differences
and conflicts play some strategic role in our spiritual life.

We have to learn how to be positive, encouraging and optimistic in our
tack to problems instead of sinking into pessimism and hostility. We
can never overdo in our efforts to learn the finer details of tact and

We have to increasingly polish and refine our manners so as to keep
the bonds of unity amid unavoidable differences among ourselves. We
will always be human as to always need affection, and it should be
generously given. Let’s never forget that we can choose to make these
differences to enrich us rather than destroy us. It’s always a matter
of choice.

We have to learn how to drown evil with an abundance of good, dispel
darkness with light. We have to understand that ignorance, confusion
and error are not corrected by truth alone, but by truth given in
charity always. This, even if we have to make corrections that need to
be given clearly and vigorously.

Given the present world’s plunge to specialized knowledge and
ego-trip-prone technologies that inevitably generates divisions, we
have to double up our efforts to cultivate this universal heart.