Wednesday, August 31, 2016

God-and-others formula

THIS is the proper formula for our own development. To the extent that
we are always thinking of God and of others, finding ways to love and
serve them, we achieve our own fulfillment. That’s when we would be on
our way to our human and Christian maturity and perfection.

To be persons for God and for others is written in our nature. The
structure and features of our life, especially our intelligence and
will, all demand that we actually need to get out of our own selves,
otherwise we get short-circuited. This is what a person is. He is
always mindful and thoughtful of God and of others.

We need to be mindful because we have to know what’s going around us.
We should never be aloof and indifferent. We have to be aware not only
of things and events that are taking place, whether near or far, but
also and most especially of persons, starting with the one right
beside us.

We also need to be thoughtful. We should think ahead of how things are
developing and of what we can do to help shape its evolution. Life is
always a work in progress, and there are goals, the ultimate and the
subordinate, to reach. We should not get stuck with the here and now.

Our joy, our fulfillment is in God, and because of God, it’s also in
others, since loving God always passes through loving others. The
gospel tells us that. “The greatest commandment is to love God with
all your might... and the second greatest commandment is to love your
neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22,38-39)

We need to be prepared to do serious and constant battle against our
tendency also to get self-centered and self-absorbed. This, of course,
is a very likely possibility, easily and quickly verifiable around.
That’s because we actually contend with a great number of hostile or
negative elements.

In fact, to the extent that we always think of God and of others,
again finding ways of how to love and serve them, we manage to stay
away from temptation and sin, as well as to deal with our weaknesses.

We need to do everything to be able to follow this God-and-others
formula. This task is not going to be easy. But neither is it
impossible. We just have to see to it that all the elements that go
into the upbringing of children—parents, home, teachers, school,
etc.—are properly equipped to carry out this delicate responsibility.

So important is the need to have the families and the schools undergo
continuing formation to be able to cope with new and old challenges!
How to form children in virtues to make them more mature and able to
face life properly, how to help them make use of their time and
overcome their weakness—these should be their constant concern.

In school, while children understandably have to be given a protective
and controlled environment, they also need to be exposed to the
realities of life. It would be anomalous if they are quite good in
school but seem not to remain so at home, and especially outside.

We have to consider that nowadays the environment is saturated with a
culture that fosters frivolity, triviality and easy-going ways, averse
to any form of sacrifice, as if sacrifice is in itself bad. We have to
find ways of how to tackle this real threat to the proper development
of children.

There may be children who can be active, but active in a selfish
way—pursuing only their own goals, interests and concerns, and never
thinking in terms of God’s will and the common good. This is quite
common also.

We should not hesitate to introduce these realities to them. They are
not mere theories or abstract values. The reality and immediacy of
God’s will and the common good have to be shown to them as early as
possible, done through personal witnessing and timely pieces of advice
and reminders.

Therefore, a lot of catechesis is needed, something that of course has
to be done with a lot of naturalness, always respecting freedom, never
using coercion or pressures.

That’s why it is also important that warm human relations should be
fostered and kept. We have to stay away from simply imparting things
through lectures. Things have to be based on real friendship and
confidence.

We need to spend time and develop the true substance of friendship or
paternity or filiation, etc. In these, we cannot cheat for long. It’s
an investment worth making, for its dividends will always come, if not
here, then definitely in our eternal life.

Monday, August 29, 2016

We are all sinners called to be saints

TWO forces somehow do a lifelong battle in the minds and
hearts of all of us. The forces of good and evil, the spirit and the
flesh, the supernatural and the world, clash endlessly there.

            But if we have the right frame of mind, that is, grounded
on our faith in God, we know that such conflict can only produce a
greater good. Evil does not have the last say, to be sure, though it
will ceaselessly continue to try its luck.

            St. Paul expressed this reality when he said: “I see
another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and
bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”
(Rom 7,23)

            But then, he made a consoling conclusion from all this:
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7,24) Further
on, he said: “In everything God works for good with those who love
him…” (Rom 8,28)

            We should not be too surprised and worried about this fact
of life, because in spite of its truly disturbing character, Christ
has given us a way out of it. We just have to be sport and try our
best, with the help of God’s grace, to handle this lifelong
predicament well.

            Getting too worried about this does not help us any in
resolving it. It will only make things more complicated. It will just
give more foothold to the real enemies of our soul.

            We just have to learn how to suffer the inconveniences of
our weakness, temptations and sin itself. We should not be afraid to
get dirty, to be defeated sometimes, because as long as we don’t lose
our faith and hope in God, we can always bear and conquer all things.

            There is some kind of dialectical relation between good
and evil, grace and sin in our heart. All the evil and the sinfulness
that we can have can actually occasion our holiness. And the more
exposure, temptation and even experience of evil and sinfulness we can
have can occasion a greater level and a more tested kind of sanctity.

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

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

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

            We have to remember always our sinfulness, but also always
with faith. This will lead us to be humble, which is a basic and
indispensable virtue that helps us to tackle this condition properly.

            Humility leads us to always seek the presence of God, stay
away from occasions of sin, and combat temptations resolutely. It
helps us to develop a spiritual and supernatural outlook in life,
nourishing our faith, hope and charity, all these done discreetly.

            Humility makes us simple, transparent and docile to
elders. It prevents us from being reckless and imprudent as we get to
have a clear view of how weak we are.

            Humility convinces us that there’s no point doing
balancing acts with temptations. It teaches us the effective ways of
doing ascetical struggle, using prayers, sacrifices, sacraments and
other spiritual and human means.

            Humility leads us to develop an abiding sense of penance,
knowing how to be sorry for our sins, confessing them to priests to
ask for forgiveness, and to do continuing acts of penance and
atonement, through mortifications and works of mercy.

            Humility makes our conscience sensitive and delicate and
at the same time strong and more resistant to the lures of evil. It
checks on our tendency to succumb to what St. John refers to as
“concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes and the
pride of life.” (1 Jn 2,16)

            Humility practically makes us immune to the persuasive
logic of our sinfulness. The flesh, the world and the devil cannot
gainsay and contest the arguments of humility. This is how we attract
the power of God to dwell in us. We should do all to grow in this
virtue!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Human life is sacred

NOWADAYS, when the value of human life has been greatly
reduced, we need to recover its true worth by revisiting the pertinent
Christian doctrine about it.

            It cannot be denied that in many parts of the world, an
open anti-life culture is taking place and it’s slowly coming also
into our country. Abortion is legal in many countries. Euthanasia is
fast gaining ground. Summary and extra-judicial killings are getting
rampant. Of course, there is now a creeping wave of terrorism in many
places.

            We need to reaffirm the truth that human life, no matter
how deformed and depraved in its earthly condition, is always sacred,
because it’s a life that has a special and very intimate relation with
God, its creator.

            No one can just put it away on his own volition or that of
another or even of the state. It’s a life whose death can only come
properly by God’s will. This usually takes place through natural
causes—sickness, old age, etc.

            Though God can allow death to occur due to human volition,
such event is clearly against his will and would constitute a grave
sin. Our Christian faith also teaches that if some evil is allowed to
happen, it’s because a greater good can also be derived from it.

            We should be quick to discern God’s designs when some evil
takes place, so we avoid falling into a vicious cycle that sin usually
generates. In this, we should try not to be scandalized by evil, not
by affirming that evil is not evil but rather by acknowledging evil in
the context of God’s merciful and wise providence.

            From there, we can start to perceive the good God has in
mind for it. This effort may be aided by our legal and juridical
system, some conventional wisdom that we have accumulated through the
ages, etc. But we should also be aware that these elements are never
perfect.

            At best, they can lead us to divine wisdom but can never
replace it. In fact, the way things are now, we may have to do a lot
of purging, since many distortions if not errors insofar as the moral
law is concerned may already have contaminated these systems.

            Human life is sacred because it is always a life
intimately linked with the very life of God. And that’s because we
have been made the image and likeness of God, children of his, endowed
with faculties that would enable us, together with his grace, to enter
into the very life of God.

            Thus, the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic
Church teaches that “from its beginning human life involves the
creative action of God and it remains forever in a special
relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end.” (466)

            In another point of the Catechism, we are told that “of
all visible creatures only man is able to know and love his creator.
He is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own
sake.” (CCC 356) In other words, our life somehow reflects the life of
God.

            That is how each one of us is designed by God. The full
realization of that original design may be thwarted by the many
manifestations of our sinfulness. Just the same, in spite of such
condition, we also know that God became man to save us and has given
us all the means so we can be what we ought to be, according to God’s
providence.

            This brings us to the conclusion that human life is always
sacred no matter how sinful it is. God is so in love with man that he
cannot abandon him. He will do everything to bring him back to him
while respecting man’s freedom. That’s why in Christ, God is made to
die, which is the greatest proof of one’s love for another.

            We need to counter the attack on human life by spreading
this fundamental truth about us. That may sound quixotic, but with
faith in God’s powers and with our persistent effort, we know that the
good and the truth will always prevail.

            In this regard, St. Paul gave us a relevant piece of
advice: “Purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new paste, as you
are unleavened. For Christ our pasch is sacrificed.” (1 Cor 5,7)

            This will certainly take a lot of time, effort and
suffering. But we need to convince ourselves that this is all
worthwhile. We should pray, offer a lot of sacrifices, and do whatever
we can, individually or with others, to do a battle of love to uphold
that human life is sacred.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Enabling

ONE of the sweet challenges I have as a chaplain of a
technical school for boys is to open new horizons to these kids who
often are entangled unnecessarily and uselessly in some predicaments,
most of which are actually just trivial. Together with that is the
delicate task of motivating them and helping them unleash some hidden
and untapped well of potentials that they have.

            I know that practically all of them have good intentions
to gain some degree of success for themselves and for their family in
the future. Besides, many of them show good capabilities in the many
aspects of human development. A good number excel in diligence, others
in creativity, still others in leadership and technical aptitude, etc.

            But very often, because of a host of problems and
difficulties, they get stuck at a certain level. These problems and
difficulties could be financial, emotional, and even psychological. In
these latter aspects, one can easily detect wounds and scars.

            It’s a pity because all these problems and difficulties
are really not that serious or unsolvable or incurable, and yet these
manage to slow them or prevent them from actualizing the many great
possibilities that they have.

            It’s when I win their confidence and they begin to talk to
me about their personal lives that things start to happen. What I
usually hear from them are what I consider as small things, but are
considered big to them.

            Almost invariably, I notice in them an erroneous
conscience, either lax, scrupulous or perplexed. Thus, the task of
clarifying things and liberating them from their errors in thoughts,
words and deeds takes place. I actually see them relieved when their
burdens of conscience, real and imagined, have been unloaded.

            After giving them some suggestions and pieces of advice, I
reassure them that things are really not that serious, that there’s a
lot of hope, that the future is actually bright.

            I focus more on their spiritual life which I consider as
the foundation of the developments in all the other aspects of their
lives—personal, family, social, their studies, etc.

            I see to it that their mind and heart, their thoughts,
desires and intentions, are filled with love for God and for others.
Of course, how this love is developed and lived has to be spelled out
concretely, always deferring to their specific circumstances. I tell
them to keep close watch on what and how they think, judge and reason
out, telling them to begin and end things always with God and others.

            That is why they are also taught to appreciate the
importance of prayer and how to do it.

            But it would not be good if all the spiritual and moral
inputs remain in the theoretical and exhortatory levels. These always
need to be related to their concrete circumstances. Otherwise, a
dichotomy between faith and life, between theory and practice, between
principle and performance is created.

            These kids always need to be encouraged and to be shown
ways of how they can improve and grow in their spiritual life as well
as in the other aspects of their life—in the way they study and work,
for example. In fact, they need to develop a certain spirituality that
would guide them in their work.

            Each one has a learning curve that needs to be respected.
Some move and learn faster than others. Some easily get things with
good consistency, while others are very erratic and awkward,
especially at the beginning.

            I always encourage them to be sport in this endeavor,
trying their best to reach their goals but not too serious when faced
with difficulties, setbacks and failures. Of course, those who tend to
chalk in more victories have to be taught how to be humble and
magnanimous.

            I always encourage them to begin and begin again, when
they encounter some failures along the way. I prod them to make
improvements in everything that they get involved in. They have to be
increasingly productive, efficient and effective. In short, they have
to develop a good character that will work well for them in any
season.

            Guiding and motivating them require a lot of patience. But
what can also help is to always keep in touch with them even when they
already get out of school. With the new technologies, this task has
become more facilitated.


           It cannot be denied that life has many more things to
challenge them, especially when they are already out of school and
start living and working on their own. They have to be prepared and
enabled to face all these.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Humbling oneself

THIS is what Christ clearly encourages us to do. He taught
about it and lived it himself. “When you are invited by someone to a
wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor,” he
said. “Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place...”
(Lk 14,8ff)

            There’s divine wisdom in these words. Actuations contrary
to this indication can only bring us trouble. They can corrupt, spoil
and even destroy us. We have to do our best to learn how to pass
unnoticed while doing a lot of good by humbling ourselves.

            Such self-effacement is akin to the self-emptying of
Christ who is the epitome for our behaviour. He would always tell the
beneficiaries of his miracles not to broadcast what he did. Rather he
would instruct them to simply go to the priest and report what
happened.

            When, out of extreme gratitude, these beneficiaries
offered to join him in his journeys, he would tell them to go back
home instead. When the hungry people, who were fed to satiety with
just a few loaves and fish, wanted to make him king, Christ quickly
withdrew to a mountain.

            Even after his resurrection, when he was supposed to be in
a glorious state, those to whom he showed himself did not recognize
him at first. He appeared like anybody else. He obviously did not like
to impress and overwhelm people just for the sake of impressing and
overwhelming them.

            There are also many practical advantages when we follow
Christ in humbling ourselves. We cannot learn anything unless we are
humble. Our prayer cannot prosper, cannot touch base with God, with
the Spirit, when it is not done in humility. We cannot exercise
political power properly, nor enjoy the true benefits of whatever fame
and wealth we may have, if these are not lived in humility.

            Imagine God becoming man, the King and Creator of the
Universe humbling himself to the depth of the human condition, and
reduced to a helpless infant lying on a manger, of all places, and
wrapped in swaddling clothes! He lowers himself to raise us up.

            He who comes to save us is telling us as clearly as
possible how we ought to be to share his dignity, and to merit the
fruit of his redemptive work. It’s in being simple and humble, in
truly living the poverty of spirit that will always make us look for
God and never be satisfied with any human and earthly good. It enables
us to love.

            This is the law that should govern our life, and
everything in it—our thoughts, desires, words and deeds. This is the
secret that should be announced to the whole world, the key to our
happiness that should be replicated endlessly and made available to
all.

            St. Paul a number of times warned us about being wise in
our own conceits. This is what conceit does—it tricks and deceives us,
making us think that we can be wiser than God by simply using our
reason and ignoring, if not dumping our faith.

            It leads us to be haughty and arrogant, always thinking
that we are better than others or that they always owe us something.
It leads us to despise others, to lord it over them, to mistreat them,
considering them simply as tools and occasions for our selfish ends.

            It leads us to be wily, but actually brings us to the grip
of envy, jealousy, over-sensitiveness, anger and hatred. It inflates
us with a feeling of superiority that cannot bear comparison with
others. It concocts a fantasy world of self-sufficiency for ourselves,
a painfully comical situation that we can fall into.

            It teaches us the art and skills of hypocrisy, pretension
and betrayal, until we consider a lie to be the truth. It deftly takes
cover behind a mask of goodness and even of holiness.

            It flaunts its appeals to truth, justice, freedom, beauty
and other values, corrupting them in the process by using them for
one’s selfish purposes rather than for God and the good of others.

            We have to be wary of the factors and conditions that can
make conceit germinate in our heart. These can be the tendency to
pamper ourselves and others, especially the children, with all sorts
of amenities, not saying enough to the demands of our flesh.

            We need to humble ourselves, because this indispensable
virtue of humility is a result more of humbling oneself than of being
humbled by outside factors. The former creates a stable state of mind.
The latter is dependent on passing circumstances.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tackling the impossible

WE have to be ready for the impossible situations in our
life. What we consider impossible in our life, those moments which we
fear to death and try to avoid as much as we can, can actually happen
anytime. They are unavoidable.

            In fact, nowadays with the complicated developments we are
having, these events are highly probable. And yet these cases are
nothing compared to the fact that we are meant for a supernatural
destination, completely impossible for us to attain simply by our own
powers. Plus the fact that the challenges, trials, obstacles and
enemies we have to contend with are simply beyond us.

            We have to train our mind and heart to expect these things
and not to be daunted by them. There’s always a way out, even if that
may involve a lot of suffering and pain, and even death. We have to
avoid plunging into unnecessary sadness, discouragement, pessimism and
depression.

            We always have reason for hope and joy. And that’s simply
because there is God. With him nothing is impossible. And what may be
considered as impossible, a failure, defeat and loss in our human
standards are actually possible, a success, victory and gain in God’s
calculus.

            The crucial thing to do is to be with God through faith,
hope and charity, and all the other virtues that derive from them,
especially humility and simplicity. The crucial thing to do is to
follow closely the example and teaching of Christ, the fullness of
divine revelation and our way, truth and life, which are also
reflected in the lives of all the saints.

            When we find ourselves in a seemingly hopeless and
helpless predicament, let’s imitate those characters in the gospel who
were of a similar situation and who approached and importuned Christ
in all humility and faith. They were all cured.

            We just have to learn to go to Christ with deep humility
and great faith. Christ is always passing by our side. In fact, he
always looks at us, especially when we are in an impossible situation,
with special concern, ever ready to give a helping hand.

            It’s good that we spend some time deepening our humility
and building up our faith. These tasks cannot and should not be taken
for granted. There will always be endless frontiers to open in these
virtues, not to mention the continuing effort to keep alive and
healthy what we already covered in them.

            We have to overcome our tendency to be complacent in this
regard, thinking that we are humble enough or that our faith is just
fine. In fact, the problem with these virtues is that we can never
have enough of them.

            The truth is the moment we say we have them, let’s be
ready to lose them, and again and again to go through the process of
recovering them. They are slippery virtues that require constant
interior renewal and conversion.

            To develop and nourish them, we need to realize that our
heart and mind are in constant flux. Their stability is never static
but rather very dynamic. They can turn one way or another in just an
instant, and in fact it can go to extremes.

            We need to realize that our control of these powers of
ours, which need to be properly grounded and directed, is at best
tenuous. And thus we have to constantly be watchful and at the same
time proactive in developing these virtues, never waiting for
occasions or some special inspiration to come before we do something
about it.

            Let’s remember that among the consequences of sin, both
original and personal, is the pride of life. It’s just kind of
automatic for us to be proud, so much so that another saint once said
that pride is so ingrained in us that it would only disappear 24 hours
after our death.

            We can precisely make use of our impossible predicaments
to deepen our humility and grow in faith. Humility strengthens when we
are humbled more than when we humble ourselves.

            When we approach God with humility and faith, we can be
reassured of what Christ told many persons: “With man this is
impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Mt 19,26)

            These words should make us wonder if our humility and
faith are really that strong since, perhaps, many of our urgent
petitions seem to go unanswered. If they are truly strong, then we
could have what we begged for, for Christ always responds promptly and
generously.

            We need to do a deep examination of conscience on this point.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

No pain, no gain, no glory

“ENTER by the narrow gate…” (Lk 13,24) Sorry if I bring out this
rather inconvenient topic, but if we have to be realistic about our
life, I believe we need to consider it and get to the bottom of this
need for suffering. If there’s no pain in life, there will be no gain,
nor glory in this life or in the life hereafter.

      In fact, the ideal attitude toward suffering is to welcome it,
since in the first place, it cannot be avoided no matter how much we
try. We have to cultivate a more positive outlook toward it and relish
its inherent benefits for us.

      We need to suffer for three main reasons. First is that our
human nature itself by necessity involves it. We are made of different
parts and aspects—material and spiritual, personal and social, and
ultimately, the natural and supernatural destination meant for us—and
this variety of parts and aspects unavoidably involves tension.

      While it’s true that these parts and aspects are by nature meant
for each other, and therefore, they ought to be harmonious, it’s still
a harmony that we have to work out. Because of that, we cannot avoid
some kind of tension, and tension is a kind of suffering already.

      Secondly, aside from the tension caused by our different parts
and aspects, we also have to contend with the effects of sin, both the
original one and our own personal sins.

      Sin makes us suffer some more. We know that due to original sin
which makes us lose the state of original justice meant for us when
God created us, we have lost not only grace but also what are called
the preternatural gifts.

      These preternatural gifts are integrity, immortality and
impassibility. The loss of integrity means there is now not only the
natural tension between the different parts of our nature but open
conflict and hostility.

      The loss of immortality means we now die. We are supposed not to
die in our original state of justice. Now with sin, there comes a time
when the original and harmonious union between the body and our
spiritual soul will be severed.

      The loss of impassibility means we now are prone to suffer pain,
tiredness, sickness, etc., where originally we were supposed to some
extent to be exempted from all these, except for the natural tension
due to the dynamics of our different parts and aspects.

      Thirdly, and this is the most important, we suffer because in
order to pay for our sins, in order to work out our own healing and
salvation, we need to share in the suffering of Christ who took on all
the effects and consequences of sin, dying to them only to resurrect
as a way of conquering sin and its effects.

      We cannot effect healing and salvation for our wounded nature
due to sin by suffering simply by ourselves all the effects of sin. We
need to suffer together with Christ. His suffering is the redemptive
suffering, the healing and atoning one.

      That’s why, Christ said it very clearly. “If anyone wishes to
come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”
And on another occasion, he told us that we enter by the narrow gate,
and not the big, wide gate that leads to perdition.

      That’s why, when Peter told him that he was the Christ, the son
of the living God, Christ told him to keep quiet, and not to say it
openly, because while what Peter said was true, there is something yet
to be known and done before one can truly believe and say that Christ
is the son of the living God, our Redeemer.

      And that is that he had to suffer. “The Son of Man,” he said,
“must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests,
and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” (Lk
9,21)

      Christ certainly does not want us to fall into a kind of
triumphalism. It’s the anomalous attitude of thinking that by Christ’s
resurrection, his conquest over death and sin, we are already saved
without having to undergo the suffering of the cross.

      This is a common tendency of ours. We like to call ourselves
Christians, saved and redeemed, and to frequent the sacraments, but we
don’t like to go through the cross. This is certainly anomalous.

      The cross purifies us, it strengthens and matures us, and it
truly identifies us with Christ in his redemptive work. That’s why, we
need to suffer. That’s why, we ought to love the Cross.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Christianizing business

BUSINESS, since it is an important part of our life,
should be done to serve the common good. That is why the Compendium of
the Social Doctrine of the Church dedicates a big section to this
topic of morality and the economy.

            In one point of the Compendium, it is said that “the
relation between morality and economics is necessary, indeed
intrinsic: economic activity and moral behavior are intimately joined
one to the other.” (331)

            We can go to the extent that business not only serves the
needs of people. It also is way of sanctification, a path to heaven,
an occasion to get truly in touch and with great intimacy with God.

            It should be redeemed from being simply done in a
materialistic and godless way, expressed in terms of money and profit
alone. That would be an inhuman business that would sooner or later
convert us into objects or targets, and not anymore as persons, and
much less as children of God.

            Rather, business should actively contribute in making
people fulfill their true dignity as persons and children of God, and
not just as workers and consumers though these also enter into their
being persons and children of God.

            The Compendium further clarifies that “the necessary
distinction between morality and the economy does not entail the
separation of these two spheres but, on the contrary, an important
reciprocity.”

            Given the big tendency today for us not only to separate
the two but also to put them in conflict, this doctrine is very
relevant. Quite often we are forced to make a choice between the two.
We are made to believe they cannot be together.

            Everyone of us, in the different levels and aspects of
life, from the individual to all levels of collectivity that we get
involved in, should realize that we need to be well grounded in the
correct delineation of the link between morality and spirituality, on
the one hand, and the economy, on the other hand.

            We cannot remain na├»ve in this regard. We cannot anymore
afford to stay primitive in this concern. Those involved more in the
promotion of morality—priests and teachers—should be mindful of the
objective needs of economics and should foster rather than obstruct
their fulfillment.

            So they should try their best also to know more and more
about economics—its laws and different doctrines—so they could attune
their teaching and counsels to concrete conditions of the people, and
not remain only in theories that hardly have any impact on real
situations.

            We are now into an interdisciplinary way of life. We
should continue our education and formation, updating ourselves with
the endless flow of developments that are now also monitored more
closely by our new technologies.

            Those working more directly in the economy—employees and
employers, businessmen, investors, etc.—should also be mindful of the
requirements of morality. They just cannot remain in the level of
practicality and profitability. They have to know the deeper needs of
men and learn to adapt their economic plans to such needs.

            The crises we are witnessing in the world at present are
caused to a great extent by our not integrating morality and
spirituality with our economics, business and politics. This is the
challenge we are facing these days.

            Let’s hope the bigger entities—churches, government,
schools, families--can help in tackling this challenge, developing
programs for this particular concern.

            A lot of pertinent education in all levels of society is
needed to make everyone at least to be aware of this concern, if not
to empower them to effectively participate in shaping and keeping our
economic system alive and healthy.

            What is desired is that more and more people develop a
growing sensitivity to the requirements of the basic social principles
of the common good, solidarity and subsidiarity in their different
aspects and levels. Alas, I wonder what efforts are made to pursue
this particular goal.

            Besides, there are basic questions that need to be
clarified yet. Like, how do we strike a healthy balance between profit
and social responsibility, private property and universal destination
of goods, individual initiatives and corporate activities,
confidentiality and transparency, etc.

            I could readily see that there can be no easy answers to
these questions, nor rigid formulas to follow. What’s needed is a
continuing vigilance and a deepening formation of consciences, since
we should be actually appealing to the sense of freedom and
responsibility of persons.

            Prayer and sacrifices should go hand in hand with
continuing study and consultation in pursuing this concern.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

EJK and human rights

THE Cebu clergy had their monthly recollection the other day. The
invited guest speaker, both a lawyer and journalist, among other
things, was one known for her advocacy in human rights. We were given
a drill on human rights, rule of law, due process and other related
topics, all of them as some kind of reaction to the rise of
extra-judicial killings (EJK) that we are hearing about these days.

From where I sat, I noticed that the priests were especially
attentive, except of course for a few. There will always be
exceptions, but this time, I noticed more rapt attention. The
archbishop was around, together with the two auxiliary bishops. There
were also all ears.

I was happy to note that the talk presented the nuances of human
rights as articulated by institutions like the UN and, of course, our
constitution, and other personalities of some standing. Since the
speaker was a lawyer and not a theologian, there was hardly any
theological explanation beyond the fact that human rights spring from
man’s being the image and likeness of God.

The reaction of the priests in general was mainly that of grave
concern, since it cannot be denied that the drug problem we have is a
first-class crisis. Recent developments have lifted the lid on this
crisis whose scary dimensions are getting far worse than what are
generally suspected.

Somehow priests get to know more details about this crisis because
they preside over funerals of drug-related deaths in their parishes,
they get to receive information from their parishioners, they hear
confessions and they also are sought for some pieces of advice from
people. They are near the frontline.

They have mixed feelings about this issue. While they are somehow
happy with the current campaign against people involved in drugs, they
are also alarmed at the rise of these extra-judicial killings whose
perpetrators we cannot be sure of—whether they are done by some
vigilantes, or the police, or drug people themselves in their own
internecine conflicts.

What comes to my mind is that this development we are having at this
time, provoked by the ascendance of our new president, has good
aspects as well as poses new challenges that we have to tackle.

Definitely, the drug problem has to be tackled head-on before it gets
any worse. As it is now, it is really ugly. But we need to further
develop our systems—police, judicial, penal, medical, political,
economic, social, etc.—to cope with this highly complex problem.

Let’s hope that our lawmakers can craft better laws that are more
effective in blending our need to get the culprits as well as our need
for respect of human rights, rule of law and due process.

We obviously cannot remain at the current state of our laws that are
now found to be ineffective or lacking in something necessary. We have
to understand that our human laws need to evolve without abandoning
their essential purpose. They need to be updated to adapt to current
situations.

A more appropriate system of checks and balances among the different
branches and agencies of our government should be put in place.

This should be a serious affair that should not be trivialized by too
much politicking and grandstanding. Let’s hope that we can choose
lawmakers and public officials who are competent to carry out their
responsibility.

As to the clergy, a great challenge befalls us. But before we start
thinking of building rehab centers and the like, we should intensify
our spiritual and pastoral ministry. We have to keep the priority of
Mary over Martha. While the state and civil society aim at making
people responsible citizens, we in the Church have to focus on
encouraging people to be saints.

As one saint once said, today’s crises are basically a crisis of
saints. People are not praying anymore. They are simply guided by
their emotions and instincts and some questionable ideologies. There’s
a lot of doctrinal ignorance and confusion, and religious
indifference.

Today’s drug problem is just a result of many previous crises that
have not been effectively resolved: corruption, deceit, infidelity,
lack of temperance, etc. There is little authentic spiritual life in
many people.

If these basic problems in people’s spiritual life are made to
persist, then we can expect graver crises after the one on drugs. In
other countries, this is what we observe. They are now into terrorism
and massacres and mindless rampage.

Everyone has to be involved, but I imagine that the clergy has to
focus more on strengthening the spiritual and moral lives of people.
These aspects are basic and indispensable.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Living in God’s presence

THIS is the ideal condition for us here in this world. We
need to live in God’s presence since in the first place our life is
supposed to be a life with God. We are meant for it. We are actually
equipped and enabled for it also. And obviously there is an objective
basis for this.

            God is everywhere. He is omnipresent. This is how one of
the psalms describes this reality: “Whither shall I go from your
presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in
Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in
the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.” (139,7-10)

            Christian theology explains this truth by teaching us that
God is present everywhere, that is, in all things and in all persons,
by the mere fact of their existence, since God is the giver and
maintainer of the existence of everything and of everyone.

            More than that, God’s presence is not merely passive but
active. He is always intervening in the existence of all the
creatures, ever applying his wisdom through the ceaseless providence
that he exercises over all his creation whose nature he always
respects, upholds and defends.

            In our case, since we are of a rational nature that
necessarily exists with freedom and responsibility, and that makes us
image and likeness of God, he is present in us also through his grace,
which is his way of sharing his life with us.

            We need to process all these details about this truth of
God’s omnipresence, so we can correspond to it as we should, that is,
knowingly and willingly. This correspondence of ours to God’s presence
in us is always possible and doable, no matter how imperfectly it is
done. We just have to be aware of this truth and learn to live it
effectively. And true enough, we have a lot to learn in this regard.

            Obviously, we have to overcome certain difficulties, first
of which is a certain awkwardness, since our natural condition has to
adjust to the supernatural reality of God present and acting in us.

            We are usually dominated simply by what our senses and
other human and natural conditionings show us. What we need is to have
a theological mind, a kind of outlook that is guided by faith, hope
and love, more than anything else. To be sure, to develop a
theological mind is not simply a purely intellectual affair. It comes
as a result of a deep piety, fueled by God’s grace that gives us faith
and love.

            And then we have to contend with the reality of our
sinfulness and its consequences. Our usual human tendency when faced
with this reality is to run away from God, instead of going to him,
begging for his mercy. We tend to jump from the pan to the fire.

            Still not everything is lost, since God, in his
all-powerful love and mercy and in his own mysterious ways, would know
how to bring us back to him. We just have to correspond to his
interventions as much as we can.

            May it be that our thoughts are also God’s thoughts. And
may our words and actions not be just our words and actions, but also
God’s. That’s how we are meant to be!

            On God’s part, everything has been provided for us to
reach the goal. He always gives us his grace. He sends us the Holy
Spirit, our sanctifier with his gifts and fruits, so that we can
concur with God’s actions and designs.

            We’ve been given God’s word, a living and definite
revelation so we can enter into the mind of God. We have been given
the sacraments and the Church itself, so that God continues to be with
us and in us in a very direct and abiding way while still journeying
in this earthly life.

            We have to do our part to reciprocate God’s providence
over us. We need to develop a theological mind, thinking always in
terms of our faith, and not just with our reason and senses. We have
to aim at nothing less than being contemplatives, able to see God in
everything and everything through the eyes of God.



            If we put our mind together, we can achieve what is really
meant for us. We just have to be aware of what is involved and
consistent in putting into action what we know and realize about our
life, thanks to our faith, regardless of the difficulties and
mistakes.