Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Forgiveness better than medical cure

“WHICH is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to
say, ‘Rise and walk’?” That was what Christ asked the scribes when
they thought he was blaspheming because he forgave sins instead of
just curing a paralytic. (cfr Mt 9,1-8)

            The episode highlights the fact that it is always better
to have our sins forgiven than just to have some medical conditions
that we may have cured. It’s a truth that should always be on our mind
especially when we find ourselves in some serious ailment.

            We obviously have to do everything to seek remedy for our
illnesses and predicaments in life, but that effort should not detract
from the fact that it is always better to seek forgiveness of our sins
than simply to have some cure and relief of our sicknesses.

            Forgiveness of sins heals the soul that eventually will
enjoy eternal life. A medical cure, even in a miraculous way, gives
only a temporary relief to the body that eventually will die.

            Forgiveness removes the sin which is the cause of all the
evil we can suffer in this life. The medical cure can only give some
alleviation of the effects of sin. The former takes care of the origin
of evil. The latter takes care only of the effects and symptoms of

            Forgiveness heals us and restores the human wholeness and
integrity as persons and children of God that was lost due to sin. The
medical cure simply restores our health in terms of eliminating the

            Forgiveness leads to an integrative process that
transcends the physical and includes mental, emotional, and spiritual
vitality and wellness. The medical cure only has a very limited

            We always have to be concerned more about the forgiveness
of sins, both ours and those of others, than seeking medical cure for
our illnesses. It can also help us to appreciate this truth better if
we realize also that somehow the forgiveness of sins usually leads to
the curing of our illnesses which are the effects of sin.

            In that gospel episode cited above, Christ forgave the
sins of the paralytic before he cured the paralytic’s predicament. The
miraculous cure was made to highlight what was more important in that
occasion—the forgiveness of sin.

            As a corollary, we can say that we have to seek
forgiveness more than seeking a cure of our illnesses. We should not
be too fascinated by any miraculous cure that can happen to us as we
should when the miraculous healing of our being is made when our sins
are forgiven.

            Again, said in another, if we want to lessen our human
predicaments and illnesses in this world, we have to increase our
desire and practice in asking for forgiveness for our sins. Let’s ask
for forgiveness before we ask for a cure.

            Let us therefore build up a culture of forgiveness. We
should continually ask for forgiveness, since we always have to
contend with our weaknesses, the temptations and sin itself in this

            At the same time, we should also learn to be forgiving of
others. That’s simply because Christ himself said so. We cannot be
forgiven unless we also forgive others. Let’s remember what Christ

            “For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly
Father will forgive you also of your offences. But if you will not
forgive men, neither will your Father for you of your offences.” (Mt

            This truth is reiterated in the prayer that Christ himself
taught his disciples: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin
against us.”

            We have to be clear that his injunction is meant for
everyone, and not only for a few whom we may consider to be
religiously inclined. That’s why when asked how many times we should
forgive, he said not only seven times, but seventy times seven,
meaning always.

            That’s also why he easily forgave the woman caught in
adultery. And to those whom he cured of their illnesses, it was
actually the forgiveness of their sins that he was more interested in.

            To top it all, Christ allowed himself to die on the cross
as a way to forgive all of our sins, and to convert our sins through
his resurrection as a way to our own redemption. What he did for us he
also expects, nay, commands that we also do for everybody else.

            Let’s be convinced beyond doubt that if we build up this
culture of forgiveness, we will effectively lessen the evil of this
world. The cure of our ailments will have greater probability if we
seek forgiveness first.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Always check the spirit behind anything

THIS is what we should always be doing. We cannot be naïve
and just accept things as they come. We need to check if the spirit
behind anything that involves us comes from God or not.

            In this, we have received enough warnings from Sacred
Scripture. “Beloved,” St. John, for example, in his first letter tells
us, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether
they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the
world.” (4,1)

            There are many kinds of spirits roaming around the world,
and we have to learn how to discern them. There is the spirit of God,
the spirit of Christ as opposed to the antichrist. There is also the
evil spirit, and the spirit of the world that is dominated by the evil

            St. John was explicit as to which spirit is proper to us.
“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that
Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which
does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of
antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in
the world already.” (1 Jn 4,2-3)

            St. Paul distinguished between the fruits of the Spirit of
God and the works of the flesh dominated by the evil spirit. The
former include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (cfr Gal 5,22-23)

            The latter include fornication, impurity, licentiousness,
idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness,
dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing. (cfr Gal

            We need to be wary of these truths of our faith so we can
be properly guided in our human affairs. In this current issue of
Brexit, for example, no less than Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his
many writings some time ago, was suspicious of the stability of the
European Union.

            He somehow pointed out that many signs indicated the EU or
Europe itself was not animated by the proper spirit of God that can
only work for unity in spite of obvious differences among the member

            It’s a pity because that wonderful project of integration
contented itself simply with worldly values. It was merely an economic
and political enterprise, ignoring the religious underpinning that it

            It cannot avoid being precarious and fragile since the
economic and political principles, deprived of the spirit of God,
cannot cope with all the challenges and trials of an integrated
continent whose members have strong nationalistic identities and

            In the case of the Brexit, it seems that Britain cannot
cope with the problems arising in the area of the trade deals, the
monetary and fiscal policies, and the surging migrants issue.

            There will always be differences in any attempts at
integration, there will always be advantages and disadvantages. There
is no perfect system. But if only economic and political principles,
unanimated by God’s spirit, are to be applied, things cannot go far.
Sooner or later, disintegration will come. It’s unavoidable.

            Those working for world integration and globalization
should learn precious lessons from this Brexit development. They have
to approach that goal with a wholistic attitude where the spiritual
and religious aspects of human life not only should be considered but
also regarded as a crucial and defining element.

            They cannot and should not play naïve, because even if
they say that they are only considering the economic and political
aspects of their work, the spiritual factor cannot be avoided. If they
are not for God, then they are for something else.

            Christ was very clear about this point. “He who is not
with Me is against me,” he said. “And he who does not gather with Me
scatters.” (Mt 12,30)

            These words remind us that there is no human activity
where God is not involved. From the most insignificant act to the most
global projects, God is and should be involved. We need to overcome
our awkwardness with respect to this truth of our faith.

            In our country, we are also trying to achieve some kind of
integration among our Asia-Pacific neighbors. We may just be contented
with enlarging our markets and other economic benefits like the
economy of scale, but then again, we should not forget that the whole
thing will require the proper spirit.

            This is a big challenge, and our country, still with good
religious grounding, should do its part in endowing this project with
the proper spirit. Let’s be convinced that we will go much farther
than we can expect if we only work by purely economic and political

Monday, June 27, 2016

Ensouling the world

THAT is, to endow the world with a soul, a living soul. We
usually understand the world and everything in it as nothing more than
an inanimate object, that is soulless. There may also be some living
beings in it, like the plants and animals, but in general we consider
the world as a mere object, fully at our mercy, with practically no
reference to God, its creator.

            That’s not quite so. We need to overcome that mentality,
because while the world indeed is inanimate or non-living, it needs to
be enlivened, to be animated, to be given a soul proper to it as the
place where God has placed us so we can make our ultimate life-choice,
that is, either we choose God or us.

            The world and everything in it acquire that soul when “we
order them to God and to fraternal charity.” (Catechism of the
Catholic Church or CCC 2401) This truth of faith finds its biblical
basis in that episode when God blessed our first parents upon their
creation: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue
it…” (Gen 1,28)

            “To subdue the earth” does not only mean to master and
dominate it, or merely to make use and take advantage of it. It also
means that man has been given the responsibility to keep the earth a
creation of God through us.

            It comes from God and it also belongs to God. It has to
give glory to God through us. Thus, to the extent that we manage to
order the world to God, we are giving it its proper soul.

            Otherwise, the world will have its own ethos, a kind of
spirit that is a product of a number of factors like the confusing
blend of beliefs, people’s aspirations, customs, practices, etc. These
elements need to be humanized, reflecting the way God has made us

            And given the fact that we have sinned and strayed from
God but also redeemed by him through Christ, we also have to
understand that the world has to be Christianized, reflecting the way
Christ has redeemed us.

            This can only mean that in ordering the world to God and
for the common good, it has to be purified of whatever impurity it has
absorbed due to our sins. As Christ redeemed us, we also have a big
part to play in redeeming the world.

            This is what gives the world its proper soul, not leaving
it with just any earthly ethos, whose integrity is not clear. In other
words, endowing the world its proper soul is to sanctify the world, to
offer it to God the way God wants it offered to him.

            Thus, we need to have a very positive attitude toward the
world in general, however its state and condition may be in a given
moment. This is not, of course, a call for us to be worldly, but
rather to love it the way God loves it.

            We should not just love the world, or portions of it, when
it happens to be in good condition or when it is favorable to us in
the many aspects it can be considered—politically, socially,
economically, and even morally and spiritually. We have to love it
even more when it happens to stray from God’s will, which is usually
the case.

            Let’s remember what the Gospel says about God in relation
to the world. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that
whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn
3,16) It continues, “For God sent the Son into the world, not to
condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”

            We need to have this mind of God toward the world. We just
cannot remain complaining about its problems and evils. Nor to be
indifferent to them. We have to have the attitude of saving the world,
transforming it from the inside. Again this is what ensouling the
world means.

            Its problems and evils should not turn us off. Rather,
they have to turn us on. We have to convince ourselves that precisely
the irregularities and anomalies it has are the materials that need to
be sanctified, first of all, by intensifying our prayers and
sacrifices, and by looking for concrete ways in which all these evils
can convert into goodness.

            Yes, a lot of patience is needed. We need to see quickly
whatever is good and salvageable in a situation that may be dominated
by evil.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Corresponding with our Creator and Savior

THIS essay is not about letter-writing or a certain type
of distance learning, though I must say that what I have in mind must
be the original from which these activities sprung.

            I am referring to our constant correspondence to grace,
actually a duty that we have to be more aware of and more adept in.
It’s actually a most indispensable duty without which Christian life
would practically be a sham, no matter how colorfully and dramatically
we show our Christianity.

            The basis for this duty is the truth that we are God’s
creatures who have been endowed with the dignity of being his children
also, sharers in his divine life.

            God is not content with creating us only. He made us very
special, making us in his very image and likeness, the masterpiece of
all his creation. This he did by giving us a spiritual nature, with
our intelligence and will, that allows us to receive supernatural
grace, that in turn elevates us above our nature to be able to
participate in his life.

            God’s sharing his life with us is a permanent feature of
our relationship, whether we are aware of it or not. This can only be
broken in hell, when by our own sins we produce an irremediable
rupture from him.

            This point is worth reiterating, since a common thinking
is that while it may be true that God created us, he already left us
to be on our own after our creation. This thinking is called in
philosophical circles as Deism.

            Just to be direct about it, my simple dictionary describes
Deism as “the belief, based solely on reason, in a God who created the
universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life,
exerting no influence on natural phenomena, and giving no supernatural

            Though not professed formally, it is in fact the attitude
many of us have. Many of us are Deists, if not formally then
informally. And this has to be corrected, precisely because it is

            God’s relationship with us does not stop with creating us.
While God continues to be present in all his creatures, he is
especially present in us, and in fact he shares what he has with us.

            This is what our faith teaches. After considering that the
Son of God became man, called Jesus Christ, and that he offered his
life for us, and through the Church and the sacraments remains with us
and continues his redemptive work in the Holy Spirit—all this could
only mean that he so loves so much that he wants to share what he us
with us.

            We need to go back to this truth many times, to relish it
and to engrave it more deeply in our heart so that it can truly shape
the way we think, speak and ac. In other words, so that it can truly
shape our life.

            We can presume that God never stops prompting us with his
grace, precisely to share his life with us. But he does not impose
himself on us. He waits for us to correspond to his grace freely.

            The problem is that we most of the time ignore these
uninterrupted promptings. We forget him, put him at the sidelines, and
use him only as some kind of ornament.

            Correspondence to grace is our effort to do our part in
this relationship of love between God and us. It is supposed to be an
existential relationship, lived moment to moment. We are not meant to
be alone. We are meant to be with God always, and also with everyone
else through him.

            Thus, our intelligence and will, our spiritual faculties
that open us the possibility of being elevated to share in God’s life,
should be properly focused. Their main and constant object is God, not
just anything we want to know and will.

            Using our intelligence and will to pursue only our own
personal goals would be an abuse of these faculties, and sooner or
later, disastrous consequences would start appearing.

            This is the common sickness we have at the moment, so
common that it looks like the normal thing to have. Unless focused on
God, our faculties cannot resist the lures of what are known as the
capital sins: pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony and sloth.

            We always need to correspond to God’s grace to the point
that we can echo what our Lord once said: “I always do what pleases
him (his Father).” (Jn 8,29) That should be our attitude always.