Saturday, December 31, 2016

An important New Year reminder

EVERY time we celebrate New Year that liturgically
coincides with the Solemnity of the divine maternity of our Lady, we
should be reminded that we have to make ourselves new again
spiritually and morally.

            Every New Year, of course, makes us a year older, but
spiritually and morally, it should make us younger until we reach that
point that we will forever be new and young, as we head toward our
goal of eternity, where everything is new, where there will be no more
past nor future. That’s where time is swallowed up by eternity.

            We then need to revise our understanding of what is to be
new. When we usually say something is new, we normally mean that in
time it will get old. The ‘newness’ referred to here has nothing to do
with ‘oldness.’ It’s a newness that has nothing to do with death.
Everything is life in the present.

            This is only possible if spiritually and morally we
conform ourselves to God in whose image and likeness we have been
created and whose children we all are through Christ in the Holy

            In the Book of Revelation, we learn this truth of our
faith: “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything
new!’” (21,5) We should have no doubt as to where to get this
everlasting newness meant for us.

            On our part, we just have to make sure that we take care
of our spiritual and moral life since it is through them that we are
enabled to receive God’s grace that is the sole principle of eternity.
Everything else in our life should get its life and purpose from our
spiritual and moral dimensions of our life.

            We need to deepen our faith in God’s love for us, which
should be shown in deeds. It’s in this way that we can participate in
Christ’s victory over sin and death with his resurrection to eternal
life. That victory will always make us new as St. Paul once affirmed:

            “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has
passed away. Behold, all things are made new.” (2 Cor 5,17) In another
passage, St. Paul said: “For we are buried together with him by
baptism into death, that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory
of the Father, so we also may walk in the newness of life.” (Rom 6,4)

            We need to learn the ways of this “newness of life”
offered by Christ through his passion, death and resurrection or the
Paschal mystery that summarizes everything that he did and said to
save us, to re-create us from our sinful selves to bring us back and
to enrich our original dignity as God’s image and likeness, as God’s

          And this means that we have to wage a lifelong spiritual
struggle against temptations and sin that are causes of our death. As
long as we struggle interiorly, there is spiritual life, the very
wellspring that produces the living water for our river of life. As
long as we struggle spiritually and morally, we will be approximating
that newness of life meant for us.

            We need not only to purify our thoughts and intentions
from any stain of pride, vanity, lust, envy, sloth, gluttony, anger,
etc. We need also to fill them and rev them up with true love and

            The ideal situation should be that we are always in awe at
the presence of God in our life, making him the principle and
objective of all our thoughts, words and deeds. We have to be
spiritually fit before we can be fit anywhere else—family-wise,
professionally, socially, politically, etc.

            That’s why we have to see to it that our thoughts and
desires are properly engaged with God who is their true foundation and
end, for outside of him, we will just expose ourselves to all sorts of
random and usually dangerous possibilities.

            This task of conforming our thoughts and desires to him is
getting to be very exciting, because these days many are the earthly
things that dare to be alternatives to God. Today’s world is so
immersed in worldly values that any reference to God is at best a mere
formalism, an ornamental item only, a lip service to tradition that is
already emptied of its true substance.

            We have to wage an abiding interior struggle to keep
ourselves new and young in our spiritual and moral life. This is what
the New Year should remind us of.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Why do we sin?

I SUPPOSE the most direct answer is because we misuse or
abuse our freedom. Instead of using it to love God and others as we
are clearly commanded to do, we use it to love our own selves or to do
our own will.

            Obviously, there can be many reasons why we misuse our
freedom. One could be ignorance. Instead of realizing that freedom is
God’s gift to us and that it can only be lived properly by conforming
our will to God’s will and law, we consider it simply as our own
making, solely dependent on our own will.

            We fail to realize that freedom is basically a relational
affair that involves our responsibility toward God and others, toward
what is objectively true, good and beautiful. We corrupt it by making
it simply our own, self-centered affair.

            Another reason could be confusion. As we struggle through
our life, we are often assailed by our own weaknesses and the many
temptations around. The lifelong struggle will always create some dust
and blinding lights.

            We somehow know what is right and wrong. Our conscience,
no matter how deformed, would in a certain way tell us so. But in the
ensuing battle for fidelity, we can fall because we don’t have a clear
view of the moral law, and our strength is not that reliable in spite
of God’s grace.

            Let’s remember that we are ranged against very powerful
enemies. We have our own wounded self to contend with, in the first
place. That’s truly a difficult predicament, because how can one
easily do battle with his own self?

            Then we have the world that continues to absorb all the
sinfulness of men, now getting more sophisticated and tricky. The new
technologies and new developments, while having their valid
usefulness, are unavoidably embedded with dangers. Then we have
spiritual enemies to do battle with.

            Of course, we sin also because we just want to, that is,
we do it with full knowledge and consent. This is where true and sheer
malice takes place.

            We should try our best to avoid falling into sin. We have
to learn to stay away from occasions of sin and temptations. We have
to strengthen our conviction that God gives us all the graces we need
to counter temptations and sins.

            And yet, in spite of all this and our best efforts, we
know that we somehow manage to sin. It’s something that we should not
be too surprised about. If our first parents, in their perfect
condition of original justice, fell to sin, we, who are already
wounded in our humanity, could more easily fall.

            Nevertheless, we should always remember God’s mercy. We
have to be most wary of the devil’s most devious cut when he would
tempt us to stay away from God through shame and fear whenever we fall
into sin. That would make things worse.

            God’s mercy will always be given to us. So we should go
back to him as soon as possible. We should develop the unshakable
conviction that no matter what sins we commit, no matter how ugly they
are, there is always hope, because God is all too willing to forgive.
It’s his delight to forgive.

            May it be that while our sinfulness would have the
understandable effect of making us feel bad and sad, we should not
allow it to scandalize ourselves to the point of running away from
Christ rather than running back to him contrite. And this, even if we
seem to be already abusing God’s goodness.

            Let’s strengthen our conviction that Christ has a special
attraction to sinners, that he is ever willing to forgive us as long
as we show some signs of repentance that he himself, through his
grace, will stir in our conscience.

            Let’s remember the thief who was crucified with Christ. He
simply said he wanted to be with Christ in Paradise. And Christ
granted that request without much ado. Same with Mary Magdalene whose
sins were grave. She simply cried and cried, and for Christ, that was
enough for her sins to be forgiven.

            All these should not undermine the importance of the
sacrament of confession. Recourse to this sacrament is the best but
not the only way to show our spirit of penance. In fact, this
sacrament would somehow require the complement of the other forms of

            It is also important that we form our conscience well,
because many of the confusion with regard to sin and penance is due to
certain deformations of conscience.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A working, not vacuous, piety

LET'S see to it that we have a working piety that
continues to vibrate 24/7 and in whatever situation we may find
ourselves in. It should be able to tackle all kinds of predicaments
and, in fact, is nourished, not undermined, by them.

            We should try to avoid what may be considered as a
fair-weather-only type of piety, or one that seeks only to achieve a
feel-good effect, or one that is good only on purely spiritual matters
but is helpless when facing down-to-earth realities.

            We should try to avoid a piety that functions only when
one is in church, or in a certain mood, or on some special occasions
like death of a relative or a calamity, etc. All these are forms of
false, useless piety. We need a real piety that genuinely comes from
the heart and that breathes with every breath we make, whatever the
conditions are.

            With the increasing pace of modern life, with its
fascination for technology and values like pragmatism, etc., it’s
crucial that we take a close, serious look at our responsibility to
develop genuine piety toward God.

            This is becoming an urgent necessity, since many now are
the factors that tend to snuff out our sense of piety. The many
concerns and pressures we meet everyday have an effective
desensitizing effect on piety.

            This is not to mention that especially in our very
complicated times, we also meet a lot of puzzles and contradictions
that tend to erode our faith and piety in a supreme being that is
supposed to be supernatural, all wise and all powerful.

            It’s a predicament that actually has been experienced
since time immemorial. The Bible, from the Old Testament to the New,
is full of such stories. We start to question, then doubt, and can
even fall into unbelief, once our expectations and understanding of
things seem to be consistently contradicted.

          Whatever the condition we find ourselves at a given moment,
let us just start to go through the process of learning certain
practices of piety. These practices of piety can be spending time in
prayer and meditation, going to the sacraments, especially Mass,
communion and confession, participating in some collective means of
formation and piety, etc.

            No matter how awkward we may feel at the beginning, let’s
just try to persevere. Virtues are usually attained by way of
discipline and self-denial. In time, we will understand more and
appreciate better the wisdom and beauty of these practices.

            Also, we should never think lightly of the little things
that effectively begin and develop our piety, like looking and
admiring pictures and images of our Lord and the saints, saying or
singing spontaneous ejaculatory prayers that spring directly from our
heart, offering flowers and other signs of devotion, including
dancing, to our Lord and the saints, etc.

            Not unusually do little things help in fanning the flame
of love alive and bursting. This is something we should always keep in
mind, because our tendency is to be fascinated only when big and
extraordinary occasions and events come our way.

            While there is need to be discreet and natural about these
practices given our human condition, we should see to it that we are
actually oozing with love and affection for God and the saints.

            This is, of course, a personal affair, and so let’s allow
our conscience to tell us about the extent and intensity of these
practices. It’s in our conscience that we can hear the voice of God,
who always intervenes in our life and tells us what and how to do
things. It’s there also where we bring our personal considerations to

            Let’s take advantage of our usual actions to keep our
piety alive, like attaching some ejaculatory prayer or pious thought
to things like whenever we open or close a door, climb up or down the
stair, or when we take a shower or fix ourselves in front of the
mirror, etc.

            These practices should be second nature to us. With our
current general mentality, they may be considered as a little bit
exaggerated, but they actually are not. These practices would only
show that our soul and our faith are alive and kicking.

            Let’s try to put passion into our life of piety. That
would make our relation with God and everybody else more integral,
more completely human. That would take us out of the dangers of
intellectualism and spiritualism, caricatures of the proper use of our
intelligence and will that will need the full complement of our
feelings and passions. But neither should we fall into emotionalism.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Ending well

AS we put another year to a close, we need to remind
ourselves that we have the duty to end things well. Whatever we begin,
we should end well, putting the last stone and the finishing touches,
and inspired always by the ultimate of motivations.

            We should avoid unfinished projects, unless they are
projects that should not be completed. But otherwise, we should not be
good only at the beginning. We have to be good also, if not better, at
the ending.

            This ideal can be attained if we ground this value of
ending well on God. Of him, St. Paul once said: “He who began a good
work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ
Jesus.” (Phil 1,6)

            Make no mistake about it. Everything that is meant by
“ending well” is derived from God and referred to him who is the Alpha
and the Omega. Outside of him, nothing begins nor ends well.

            To be sure, “ending well” is not only a matter of
technical perfection, or the attainment of a purely human and worldly
goal, no matter how legitimate in itself. These latter standards of
ending well only have a relative value, and cannot stand on their own
unless rooted on an absolute foundation which can only be God.

            It’s when everything we do actually gives glory to God
which is the purpose of our creation that we can safely say that we
are ending things well.        And giving glory to God is a matter of
obeying God’s will and ways in full freedom and out of pure love. It
has to reflect that state where in the story of the creation, God is
said to rest in full communion with his creation on the seventh day.

            That is how we give glory to God. That is how we ought to
end things—resting in God in full communion. If we do not meet this
standard by the end of the day, or of the week, month, year or life
itself, then we have failed to end things well.

            Of course, ending things well will require training and
perseverance. That is why we need to develop a practical sense of the
end and ultimate purpose of our life. This is unavoidable and
indispensable. Even in our ordinary affairs, we take it for granted
that we ought to have some idea of the end or purpose in mind before
we move.

            When we travel, for example, we first identify the
destination, and then from there prepare ourselves accordingly—what to
bring, how to dress, etc. A student, reviewing for an exam, would try
to figure out the likely points that would come out, and from there
start to plan his study.

            The end gives us a global picture and sheds light on the
present. It guides us and tells us what and when to correct when we
see deviations from our proper path. It gives us a sense of confidence
and security. It reassures us that we are on the right track, that we
are doing well.

            The sense of the end motivates us to make plans always, to
be thoughtful and anticipative of things. It teaches us also a sense
of order and priority. It motivates us to set goals, make schedules
and the prudent use of time. Ultimately, it helps us to distinguish
between the essential and the non-essential in our life.

            A person who does not have a sense of the end is obviously
an anomaly. He tends to be lazy and prone to his personal weaknesses,
to drift off aimlessly and lose control of his life. Such person is
usually called a bum, a tramp or a vagrant.

            It’s true that we may never know everything about the end.
But it’s not true that we cannot know enough about the end of
anything. That’s why we can only talk about a sense of the end, since
it is a dynamic affair that involves factors that are known and
unknown, absolute and relative, constant and changing.

            It would be good that as early as possible, we be guided
by our faith and eventually acquire the very mind of Christ who is our
way, truth and life. It is this faith, and not just some earthly
science or art that assures us of eternal life and joy. We have to be
wary when our sense of the end is ruled only by temporal goals.

            To be sure, to have that Christian mindset does not lead
us to develop rigid thinking and ways. Rather it helps us to be
flexible, adaptable and creative.