Thursday, September 29, 2016

Our motive for working

Our attitude toward our work should not be conditioned
mainly, much less, solely, by the fact we like a particular kind of
work or that we have the proper aptitude toward it, the relevant
qualities and skills for it. While these factors count, they should
not be made as the main principle. Such attitude can only confine us
to our own interest.

            What should guide is what God and the others want and need
from us, and how they want to be served. This attitude should
determine the kind of work we do and the way we do it, and would bring
us to confront the objective needs of the common good.

            To be conditioned mainly by personal motives, in the end,
only shows selfishness, pride and even vanity, with their usual
cohorts like greed, envy, etc. It restricts us to a subjective tack to
our professional life.

            Whatever service we give to others becomes a function of
one’s own interest, not the common good. It may give us some perks,
but to be sure, everything will end up badly especially insofar as our
eternal status is concerned.

            When our attitude toward work is a function of what God
and others need from us, then we enter into the true dynamics of love
and self-giving. We would be working for God’s glory and for the
common good. We put into practice what Christ himself did: “For the
Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life
as a ransom for many.” (Mk 10,45)

            With this attitude, we would be willing to be available to
anything, even in tasks that we seem not to be prepared for. We would
be willing to change jobs if necessary. We don’t get too attached to a
specific kind of work. We would become versatile and flexible, ready
to work irrespective of whether it is big or small, intellectual or
menial, etc.

            If we have faith in God’s providence, we would have no
doubt as to the effectiveness of such attitude and motive. In fact, we
would be exposed to areas and things that we may not be familiar with
and yet are good for us as well as for everybody else. In the end, we
would be working with God, and not just with our own selves. Our work
becomes a means of our own sanctification.

            Yes, some suffering may be involved. But that’s just fine.
We would be living out what Christ himself said: “Whoever wants to be
my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow
me.” (Mt 16,24) Such suffering would always do us good, since it will
purify us, strengthen and mature us.

            We need to examine our motives for work frequently. Human
as we are, subject always to weaknesses, temptations and sin, our
motives can easily be diluted with egoism and self-seeking. It would
be good that from time to time, we pause and take stock of our
intentions for working.

            We need to sharpen our skill in discerning God’s concrete
will for us in any given moment and in monitoring the changing needs
of others we are supposed to serve. Obviously, there are stable and
even permanent elements in this concern, but there definitely are
those that change and we should try our best to be prompt in adapting
to the changes.

            For this, we need to have moments of prayer, reflection,
study and consultation. We have to be wary of our tendency to fall
into routine and complacency that would precisely desensitize us from
God’s will and the needs of others while giving us the sensation that
we are doing fine.

            It’s always important that we develop a kind of
interdisciplinary approach in viewing things in general, even as we
give focus on our particular field of interest and expertise. In this
regard, we have to realize the need for continuing formation and
education, going through as many retraining programs as needed.

            Also important is to cultivate a good sense of teamwork
and solidarity, acknowledging the proper hierarchy of things and
persons and the proper place or role one occupies in any given set-up.

            Both leaders and followers, superiors and workers should
develop a good working relationship with the appropriate communication
channels in place. The leaders and superiors should carry out their
delicate responsibility of leading in earnest, while the followers and
workers should learn to be obedient and docile without undermining
their duty to also take initiatives where they are needed.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Tackling addiction spiritually

WHILE addiction may have prominent biological or organic
causes, we can not and should not forget that it too has spiritual
causes. Man is a unity of body and soul. How the bodily organism is
certainly conditions one’s spiritual soul. And vice-versa: the state
of one’s soul affects the body in some way.

            We need to tackle the problem of addiction on both sides,
using the means and methods appropriate of each human dimension. We
should not focus on one without considering the other.

            While we can recommend some medicine, emotional and
psychological counseling, physical therapy and exercises, and others
for the bodily aspect of addiction, we should not forget to recommend
the proper spiritual means to combat it: prayer, sacrifice, ascetical
struggle, recourse to the sacraments, etc.

            We should be clear, however, that of the two, the
spiritual dimension has greater weight, because it is there where the
whole global picture of addiction is found—its causes, prevention and
cure. The bodily dimension only captures a limited part of the whole
picture. Addiction is a spiritual and moral problem more than just a
medical one.

            The spiritual dimension goes further beyond material,
biological or organic causes. It goes further than just probing the
attitudes and motives that lead to addiction.

            In fact, it tries to identify the evil spirit behind such
problem. It goes to the root cause and the ultimate cure, rather than
just dealing with the symptoms and other inconvenient elements. It
goes beyond merely giving palliatives.

            I believe that the crisis that we are having today with
respect to drug addiction only shows us that we are lagging behind in
giving due attention to the spiritual aspect of this problem.

            More than that, what we are having is the accumulated
effect of decades and even of centuries of neglect insofar as our
spiritual life is concerned. If not neglect, then some anomalies
besetting our pursuit of the spiritual life.

            We are suffering the effect of separating God from our
personal life and temporal affairs, or of treating him as irrelevant,
a bother or at best a mere ornament in our personal lives and earthly
affairs. We are suffering from the effect of a secularized world

            We now need a lot of making up and of doubling time to
cope with the rapidly increasing challenges of our times. We have to
look into how we can infuse the proper spiritual nourishment to
persons, families, schools, offices, etc., as well as to our
institutions, structures and systems—social, political, economic,
police, legal and judicial, medical, etc.

            It does not mean that by relating things to God we would
be completely freed of problems in our life here on earth. We should
never forget that we cannot avoid problems, since these are
consequences of our condition that is weakened and wounded by sin.

            But at least, when everything is related to God, we would
still find meaning and purpose in our problems and sufferings. We
could still find hope in the worst of scenarios. Our suffering becomes
redemptive, rather than just destructive.

            Obviously, this spiritual attitude toward the problem
should in no way undermine or compromise whatever human care we ought
to give to this predicament. But the human aspect, like the medical,
police, legal and judicial aspects, etc., would not be truly human if
not infused with the proper spirit.

            I believe this is where most of the problem with regard to
this issue arises. Our spiritual leaders may not yet be up to the
challenge. Most individuals and their families are still awkward about
this matter. Our civic and political leaders find it hard to blend
spirituality in their field of competence.

            We have to start somewhere, and that means that each one
of us should just find ways of how to enliven his spiritual life in
such a way that it can effectively grapple with this drug problem of

            Toward this end, we all need to pray, and start to study,
make consultations, come up with certain strategies, each one doing
his best according to his competence and possibilities.

            Those who are good in leading this campaign and in
organizing things should do so in their own initiative. We should all
work in solidarity, united in spirit and purpose while organically
blending our different competencies and possibilities.

            This is how we can break loose from the grip of fear,
uncertainty, anxiety, and political divisiveness and conflict that so
far mark our attitude toward this particular problem.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Poverty helps piety

THE story of Lazarus and the rich man (Lk 16,19-31)
reminds us of a basic truth of our faith. Poverty helps while wealth
tends to harm our relationship with God as well as with others.
Poverty is a good path to heaven. We need to live poverty for us to
effectively be with God and with others, and to be assured of heaven.

            Christ reiterated this truth when he said: “Truly, I tell
you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and
sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Mt 24,40) Here he clearly tells us
that he identifies himself with the “least of these brothers and

            As for the rich, he told us in no uncertain terms how
difficult it is for them to enter heaven. “It is easier for a camel to
go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter
the kingdom of God.” (Mt 19,24) Wealth usually would make us
indifferent to the needs of others.

            With those indications said, we should now see what would
comprise the poverty and the richness that are being referred to. We
cannot deny that poverty and richness can have different meanings
according to our human standards, and can even conflict to what Christ

          It’s important that we know there is good and bad poverty.
At the moment, it seems people know more about the bad one, the one
that demeans us as persons. There’s hunger, ignorance, inhuman
conditions that rightly need to be fought if not eliminated.

            But while that concern is just perfectly fine, we should
not forget that it’s even more important to know and live the good
type, because it is truly necessary for us. We should do everything to
live this good type of poverty, even if we may happen to be well
endowed materially and financially.

            Our problem is that we seem to be exclusively concerned
about bad and inhuman poverty and we appear completely clueless about
the good one. We have to exert deliberate effort to correct this

            The good poverty can be gleaned from one of the
beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom
of heaven.” (Mt 5,3) I’m sure many of us are familiar with these
divine message, but I wonder whether we take it seriously, aware of
its practical implications and really eager to attain the goal it is
inviting us to reach.

            This good poverty is meant for all of us, and not just for
some who happen to be more religiously inclined. This is one of the
first battle grounds we need to win to have a proper understanding and
attitude toward this virtue.

            Good, Christian poverty is actually a happy poverty. While
it involves some self-denial and sacrifice, it on the whole and from
beginning to end is a very positive element in our life.

            With it we free our soul, the very seat of our identity
and the linking point between God and us, from any obstacle that would
impede our relation with God and with others. With our wounded human
condition, we tend to have material and temporal concerns dominate our
soul, desensitizing it from its true source and end.

            That’s why Christian poverty is not so much about poverty
in material terms as in poverty of spirit. It does not keep a negative
attitude toward material things, but rather considers them always in
relation to our duty towards God and others.

            And so Christian poverty can be and, in fact, should be
lived even in the midst of material prosperity. It is not averse to
earthly wealth as long as this wealth is taken as means in our total
self-giving to God and to others.

            Thus one should not be afraid to be a millionaire or a
billionaire as long as he is detached from earthly things and his is
heart to totally given to God and others. Christian poverty is
compatible with good taste, good grooming and certain level of human

            It is also open to any situation. As St. Paul said: “I
know both how to be brought low, and I know how to abound; both to be
full, and to be hungry; both to abound and to suffer need.” (Phil

            This is, of course, easier said than done, and so
Christian poverty demands of us constant struggle. We need to
continually examine our conscience, rectify our intentions,
increasingly get involved in the lives of others, always promoting
religion and social justice.

            This is the only way this Christian poverty can be lived
regardless of the situation.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Frontiers and front lines

IN a sense, our life can be described as having to do with
frontiers and front lines. As something dynamic that needs to develop
and grow, our life cannot avoid having to discover and explore new
frontiers as well to guard and defend the front lines.

            We cannot afford to be complacent and get stuck in a
certain level of life. We need to grow and to be better always in a
lifelong process that knows no limit until death intervenes.

            We can never say that we already have enough in our life.
That attitude would clearly constitute a kind of self-satisfaction
which is the antithesis of man’s purpose of life as taught to us by
our Christian faith.

            At the same time, we need to protect and defend whatever
we have gained and accomplished in our life. And in case we slide
back, we need to recover the lost ground.

            Our life has to do with frontiers because we are always in
a quest toward human and Christian maturity, fulfillment and
perfection. And the ultimate frontier to discover is heaven which, in
a letter of St. Paul, is described as where “eye has not seen, nor ear
heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which
God has prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor 2,9)

            In another part of the gospel, we can say that heaven as
the final frontier is when God appears to us and we become fully
identified with him. St. John describes this in these words: “when he
appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him just as he is.” (1
Jn 3,2)

            Before we reach that final frontier, we have to open many
subordinate frontiers that will always need thorough exploration until
we can master them. These frontiers are the many virtues that we have
to acquire to make ourselves more and more like God.

            At the same time, in our pursuit for new frontiers we need
to take care of the front lines where we have to deal with hitches,
roadblocks, setbacks and open enemies whose purpose is precisely to
keep us from reaching our ultimate goal.

            These front lines are endless, because any mastery we can
attain in a particular frontier will always be tenuous, at best. It’s
a mastery that cannot be definitive, although a high level of
stability can be reached, after so much effort is exerted on our part
and we correspond to the grace that God always offers us. It cannot be
definitive because we always have to contend with our human weakness,
the temptations and our sinfulness.

            Besides, a front line that has been conquered often
mutates into another front line. We may, for example, have attained a
certain level of humility at one point, but another strain of vanity
and conceit can emerge in a subtle way. This is true in all other
virtues. Their weeds that can look like the real plants can often
sprout nearby.

            Our Christian faith tells us that we have to contend with
our own wounded flesh, the world and the devil. In the words of St.
John, the world contains nothing other than “the lust of the flesh,
the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1 Jn 2,16)

            Insofar as our wounded flesh is concerned, we have to deal
with what St. Paul termed as the works of the flesh: “fornication,
impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy,
anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness,
carousing, and the life.” (Gal 5,19-21)

            And insofar as the devil is concerned, St. Paul warned us
that we are ranged against powerful enemies. “Not only do we wrestle
against our flesh and blood, but against principalities, against
powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against
spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph 6,12)

            That’s why we can never think that we can be totally at
peace in the world. We somehow have to engage in a lifelong warfare,
and thus learn how to guard, defend and do spiritual combat in the
front lines of our life.

            Peace, relative peace here on earth, as one saint put it,
is a result of war. It can never come without some struggle. We just
have to feel at home with this fact of life and cultivate the
necessary skills.

            We should not get nervous at the prospect of this dual
challenge of having to always break new frontiers and to fight in the
front lines. For, as St. Paul told us, “If God is for us, who is
against us?” (Rom 8,31)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Focus amid distractions

THIS is a big challenge we have today, considering the
tremendous amount of distractions we have, both the legitimate and the
illegitimate ones, the latter far outnumbering the former.

            Yes, we need some distractions as a way of rest and
relaxation. But in this human need, we should not lose our proper
focus. Rather, we have to learn how to stay properly focused while
having those legitimate distractions. We have to be most wary of our
tendency to be so carried away by them that we compromise that focus.

            At the moment, we can see a disturbing development
involving many people, especially the young. A big segment of the
people is getting addicted to games and the many other novelties
played out in the Internet and in the new technologies.

            They are now more self-centered and self-absorbed, prone
to idleness, laziness and comfort and pleasure seeking. God and their
relationship to others are all but blotted out of their consciousness.

            For example, a priest-friend of mine told me recently how
surprised he was to see a sudden gathering of people visiting the
grotto in his parish grounds at certain times of the day. He
discovered later on that they were there not to pray before the Marian
image but rather to catch some Pokemon. And many other Internet games
hook them.

            Of course, we just cannot be condemnatory and dismissive
of these games and fads. I am sure, there must be something good in
them, otherwise people would not spend time and energy for them. We
just have to learn how to channel this keen interest so that it is
purified and can truly contribute to our human and Christian

            It does not mean, however, that there would not be some
prohibitory indications. There will always be a place for the
“you-should-not” advice. We just have to make sure that the negative
aspects of any pastoral attention given to the people are always done
in the context of the over-all positive purpose of the ministry.
People should be able to see that. Otherwise, we will alienate them

            This will require a certain development in the sensitivity
and creativity in dealing with this new phenomenon. It would be good
if more studies and consultations be done to see how to handle this

            What is clear is the challenge of how to make God the
be-all-and-end-all of our life. We need to present Christ’s words in
this regard in a way that would be attractive to the people of today
with their peculiar sensitivity and culture. Let’s remember that
Christ himself did everything to adapt himself to us to carry out his
redemptive mission.

            How can we present, for example, the following words of
Christ to the people of today without scaring them: “Seek first the
kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be
added unto you?” (Mt 6,33)

            Or when he said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value,
went and sold all that he had and bought it?” (Mt 13,45)

            Or when St. Paul said: “Whether you eat or drink or
whatever you do, do all to the glory of God?” (1 Cor 10,31)

            It’s not an easy task. One really has to be truly inspired
by the Holy Spirit to be able to make these words hit a chord in
people’s hearts. At the moment, what can come to mind are some words
of Pope Francis when he said to the effect that priests should be
“shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.”

            It’s a more catchy way of what St. Paul said about Christ:
“He (the Father) made him (Christ) to be sin for us, who knew no sin,
that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (1 Cor 5,21)

            Again, it’s not an easy task, for the simple reason that a
priest’s immersion in the world, if he is not so identified with
Christ as to be strong and clear-minded, can suck him to the world
rather than him taking the world back to God.

            For this, we have to see to it that the spiritual life of
priests, and of everyone actually, is truly vibrant, one that is
regularly nourished through prayers, sacrifice, recourse to the
sacraments, study of doctrine, continuing ascetical struggle, etc.

            It should be a spiritual life that knows how to flow with
the times, very sensitive and adaptable to new developments, not
frozen and rigid in a certain mould.