Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Our proper attitude toward the world

HOW should our attitude be toward the world in general? It
is to love it the way God loves it.

            We have to embody that attitude articulated in the gospel
of St. John: “For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten
Son; that whosoever believes in him, may not perish, but may have life
everlasting.” (Jn 3,16)

            It definitely is not a love based on “feel-good” emotions
alone. It certainly is not a love springing from naivete, or from the
other extreme of convenience, practicality and many other worldly

            It’s a love that takes the world as it is, its good and
bad sides, its lights and shadows, its beauty and scars, its joys and
sufferings. It’s a love that knows the origin and purpose of the world
insofar as we are concerned.

            It’s a love that carries out what God, its creator,
commanded our first parents to do: “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, although all these go into that divine command.
In fact, we have to develop as much as possible the good potentials of
the world.

            “To subdue the earth” also means that we have been given
the responsibility to keep the earth a creation of God through us. It
has to be returned to God, giving him glory since with our sin, the
world has somehow been detached from its creator.

            The world 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, giving it its proper soul, we would
be fulfilling our responsibility toward it.

            We should not therefore be afraid of the world, nor treat
it with some disparaging or merely tolerant attitude. We need to love
it, and in fact, to love it passionately, because it is there where we
engage God directly and where we fulfill the purpose of our life. It
is where we are supposed to develop and prove our love for God.

            To be sure, our way to God and to heaven is through this
world. It cannot be any other way. To think that we can know, love and
serve God by separating ourselves from the world is to fall into a
false spirituality. Yes, God is supernatural and is beyond what the
world can offer. But we cannot get to him without engaging the world.

            Of course, a well-established spirituality that espouses
the “contemptus mundi” has its proper place also, since it precisely
addresses that part of the world that is wrong, that needs to be
purified, that needs to be eliminated as much as possible.

            Those who live that spirituality are somehow also immersed
in the world in a different way, because in their material detachment
from the world, they effect a closer spiritual closeness to the world
because of their love for God and for souls.

            But for the laity who are mostly in the middle of the
world, they are not any less called to holiness and to apostolate in
their active engagement with the things of the world.

            In our relation with the world, we need to learn how to
infuse the Christian spirit in it, never allowing ourselves as much as
possible to be dominated by the worldly spirit of materialism,
secularism, relativism, and many other isms.

            For this the Church has articulated the social doctrine to
guide us—clergy, religious and laity. It shows us how to deal with the
world in ways proper to each one. Everyone of us, according to his own
state and possibilities, should do all he can to engage the world in
all its affairs in a Christian way.

            Here are some relevant words about the Church’s social
doctrine taken from the presentation page of the Church’s Compendium
of Social Doctrine:

            “To the people of our time, the Church offers her social
doctrine. In fact, when the Church fulfills her mission of proclaiming
the Gospel, she bears witness to man, in the name of Christ, to his
dignity and his vocation to the communion of person. She teaches him
the demands of justice and peace in conformity with divine wisdom.”

            This prophetic mission of the Church has to be done in a
more consistent way especially these days when we are faced with all
sorts of issues, controversies and challenges in the areas of
business, politics, environment, culture, etc.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Structures and our spirit of initiative

WE should not forget that while everything depends on God, everything
also depends on us. It’s a 100%-100% proposition. God’s full
responsibility over our sanctification and its corollary duty to do
apostolate does not detract any bit from our full responsibility over
our own sanctification and apostolic work.

    We need to take initiatives in developing our spiritual and apostolic
life. This has to be a personal affair, involving our most intimate
human faculties, our intelligence and will, our mind and heart.

    Of course, we also need some structures to make our initiatives
prosper. They are there to put our initiatives on the path of
prudence. But let's see to it that these helpful structures are not
abused such that we become overdependent on them and thereby undermine
our spirit of initiative. Both have to be given due attention, with
the structures playing a subsidiary role to our spirit of initiative.

Let us remember always that we are not ruled mainly by structures, but
rather by freedom and love as shown by always making initiatives.
That’s how we have been designed, meant for, geared and outfitted.

Of course, structures and programs are always necessary. But let’s
remember that there will be no perfect structure applicable to
everyone everywhere. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s
just make some kind of consensus so we can live in relative peace.
    We, for example, can go through the motions of sanctification and
apostolate, making the appearances of prayer, sacrifices, virtues,
etc., but still miss the true object—complete albeit dynamic
identification with God that, in the end, is what sanctity is all

    That’s why we can see that in spite of our impressive regimen of
spiritual exercises and practices of piety, we still can see gaps and
inconsistencies, as we easily fall into rash judgments, shy away from
sacrifices and occasions of self-denial, secretly splurge on
self-indulgence and self-absorption, etc.

    We may manage to be impressive in our external piety and in our
apostolate, in our theological thinking and reasoning, in assuming
certain characteristics of a charismatic person, but we may still be
far from true holiness. The scribes and Pharisees of old were also
good in some forms of piety, but they were far off the mark insofar as
holiness was concerned.

    To be sure, sanctification is not simply a matter of collecting pious
activities, the personal and the popular ones, but rather that through
these activities we get to have an actual encounter with the person of
Christ who is always intervening in our lives.

    True sanctification entails getting involved in God’s continuing work
of human redemption. It’s not just a status. It involves a till-death
active cooperation in the saving providence of God for mankind and the
whole world. That's why true sanctification will always involve doing

    It would be a real pity if after going through so many pious acts, we
still would miss the mark. It would be like what Shakespeare once
said: “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
signifying nothing.”

    True sanctity involves all aspects of our being. It’s not just a
matter of good intentions and desires, and nice pious words. It
involves our feelings and passions. It is readily shown in our
behavior that does not shun from sacrifices and can well tackle heroic
challenges and trials.

    We have to take initiatives in developing our spiritual and apostolic
life. We can never say enough—that we are already ok. There will
always be new challenges. Our weakened and erratic human condition
will take care of that. God will always be asking for more even as he
gives us more graces. He will always be asking us to look for new
frontiers in our effort of personal sanctification and apostolate.

    Everyday, we have to set some goals to reach, pursuing them with all
our effort. It can be in the way we pray, develop virtues, concern
ourselves in the lives of others. It’s important that we concretize
these goals and identify the appropriate means. The strategies we make
should captivate us as fully as possible and trigger us into constant

    It would be good if everyday we make some apostolic plans in terms of
what to do with those with whom we are dealing at the moment, as well
as of expanding our apostolic base.

    Let's never forget the marching orders Christ gave to his apostles
before he ascended to heaven—to go to all the nations, preaching the
gospel and baptizing them. These marching orders are now ours too.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Pastoral accompaniment

IT’S one concept Pope Francis is trying to popularize and push,
asking the clergy especially, and even the seminarians, to have the
appropriate training, so that the true spirit of the mercy of Christ
can be spread more widely, and especially to those in some special
conditions insofar as their spiritual and moral lives are concerned.

    For this, he is asking everyone to be more discerning of the
promptings of the Holy Spirit so he can make the proper assessments
and judgments of specific difficult cases.

    He has warned us against being too legalistic or too rigid in
doctrine as to be a doctrinaire, blindly or indiscriminately applying
laws and doctrine without the proper regard to the concrete conditions
of the people concerned.

    In a number of instances, he has expressed the view, for example,
that we cannot judge the present with the criteria of the past. And I
suppose he can also mean that we should not judge the past with the
criteria and standards of the present.

    Again, I suppose that he does not mean that our laws and doctrine are
all wrong. They definitely are not. They hold great value and are
always helpful. But they have to be understood, interpreted and
applied under the promptings of the Spirit, otherwise they can be
dangerous and even wrong. Human wisdom is not enough. We need the Holy
Spirit to be able to see, understand and do things properly.

    St. Paul once said: “We impart this in words not taught by human
wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to
those who possess the Spirit. The unspiritual man does not receive the
gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not
able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The
spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no
one.” (1 Cor 2,13-15)

    More directly, St. Paul also said: “Not that we are competent of
ourselves to claim anything as coming from us. Our competence is from
God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not
in a written code but in the Spirit, for the written code kills, but
the spirit gives life.” (2 Cor 3,5-6)

    The ideal to aim at is to be vitally united with the Holy Spirit, the
sanctifier, whose gifts and fruits would enable us to see, understand,
judge things and behave properly. This can only happen when with God’s
grace, that will always be made available, we truly take care of our
spiritual life, our life of loving relationship with God and with

    We cannot overemphasize the indispensable need for prayer, for a
living and vibrant faith, for unconditional charity and mercy for
everyone. Of course, all this would also presume an assiduous study of
the doctrine, the continuing development of virtues and other relevant
disciplines that are always pursued under the guidance of the Holy
Spirit and motivated primarily by love for God and others.

    Everyone, but especially the clerics, should know how to develop a
life in the Spirit. It’s not enough for us to be smart and clever in
philosophy and theology, nor to have some human charm, to be effective
in pastoral accompaniment. Without the Spirit, we would simply be left
with some brilliant theories, mother statements, etc., that would
hardly have any impact on our lives. The transforming effect would be

    We have to learn to discern the spirit behind everything that takes
place in our life. 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.

    St. John, for example, in his first letter, warned us, “Beloved 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 one.

    St. John was explicit as to which spirit is proper to us. “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. ” (1
Jn 4,2-3)

    Only then can we be effective in pastoral accompaniment.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Our body and eternal life

 WE need to be reminded that we have to take care of our
body, since our body is also meant for eternal life. Yes, it dies in
time and is reduced to a heap of dust, but our faith tells us that at
the end of time, it will resurrect, following the resurrection of
Christ who is the pattern of our humanity and the savior of our
wounded humanity.

            Let’s always remember that our body is an essential part
of our humanity. It’s meant to be animated by a spiritual soul whose
life is always a participation of the life of God. As our catechism
would put it, our body “participates in the dignity of the image of
God.” (CCC 364) If we know how, we can and ought to see God in our

            We have reason to even glorify our body since in it we can
glorify God. St. Paul explains it this way:

            “Your bodies are the shrines of the Holy Spirit, who
dwells in you. Ad he is God’s gift to you, so that you are no longer
your own masters. A great price was paid to ransom you. Glorify God by
making your bodies the shrines of his presence.” (1 Cor 6,19-20)

            Still in another part of the same epistle, St. Paul
teaches: “Your bodies are not meant for debauchery. They are meant for
the Lord, and the Lord claims your bodies...Have you never been told
that your bodies belong to the body of Christ?” (6,13)

            The current and dominant attitude toward the body and the
material world in general, I am afraid, has suffered a dangerous
mutation, a radical reversal of God’s designs for them. We seem to be
falling into two extremes.

            One is to consider the body as completely evil, as when
the distinction between the body and the soul becomes exaggerated that
they by nature become hostile to each other. This mindset is prevalent
among those who may be regarded as too spiritual in their life. These
are the puritans and the like.

            The other extreme, the more common one, is to consider the
body alone as completely good, with no more need for spiritual
animation and direction. This is the case of a variety of people—the
hedonists, the naturalists, etc.

            While there is a distinction between the body and the
soul, between the material and the spiritual realities of our life, we
should not forget that both make up our nature. They cannot and should
not be separated.

            The danger our body poses to our spiritual life happens
only when it is left on its own, ruled simply by instincts and
emotions, and by the purely worldly values and conditionings.
Otherwise, it should be all-systems-go for taking care of it and
developing it to the max, not only in terms of health but also in
terms of physical beauty.

            We, of course, should be wary of that danger, since
because of the effects and consequences of our sins, we are always
vulnerable to it. So we cannot over-emphasize the need for bodily
mortification and discipline.

            In fact, to be realistic, we always need to subject our
body to some discipline, sometimes of the severe kind, because our
body is always weak no matter how strong it looks physically. It will
always tend to indulge itself to madness, often falling into some
forms of addiction and bondage. It’s our built-in potential traitor.

            But when properly guided by faith, hope and charity, our
body care and discipline would stay away from any occasion and
temptation to fall into things like vanity, pride, sensuality and the
like. It would become an instrument of giving glory to God and of
loving and serving everybody else.

            We should subject the body to the dynamics of our
spiritual soul that in turn is subject also to the dynamics of faith,
hope and charity, or in short, the dynamics of the life of God from
whom our soul springs as God’s image and likeness.

            Yes, indeed, our body materializes the spiritual love
proper to us. The impulses of faith, hope and charity should somehow
be expressed in it, in spite of its limitations. It can be a most
effective instrument to attract others to God, and to transmit to
others all that is true, good and beautiful that in the end come from

            We should then have a constant concern for the care and
discipline appropriate for our body. We should train our body to be
filled with love for God and for others that is proper to it. That’s
how it can enter eternal life with God.