Monday, October 16, 2017

In matters of opinion

WE have to play it cool when we discuss matters of
opinion. These, in the first place, are views that are hardly based on
absolute truths of faith and dogmas. They are more expressions of
one’s preferences and tastes, and therefore we should expect a wide
spectrum of differences, since things depend on people’s different
temperaments, backgrounds, cultures, etc.

            Yes, we can have some exchanges and try to sort out these
different and even conflicting opinions if only to clarify things and
perhaps to eke out a most fair view with respect to a particular
issue. We can attempt to have a kind of consensus.

            But all these should be done in an atmosphere of mutual
respect and utmost charity and delicacy. We have to avoid bitter zeal,
sarcasm, irony, insults, ad hominems, mockery, vulgarity, nitpicking,
fault-finding, one-upmanship, the crab mentality and the like.

            In our discussions, let’s see to it that we try our best
to see and understand why the others have views that are different and
even conflicting to ours. We have to know where they are coming from.

            Let’s be conscious of the most subtle trick to impose our
opinions on others by asking questions or clarifying based only on our
biases and preferences. I must say that in this regard, many people
fail to realize. This usually happens in the area of political issues.

            And that’s why, very often the discussion turns into
wrangling, bashing and slamming. It becomes ugly and unproductive. We
have to learn the art of agreeing to disagree, and manage to leave the
hot discussion as friends and gentlemen. In this way, we can maintain
a certain unity among ourselves despite the wide diversity.

            Even in matters of faith and dogma where our core and most
sacred beliefs are involved, we should not impose ourselves on others.
We can proclaim our beliefs and we can do it as forcefully as
possible, but still always in the context of charity.

            We have to follow what St. Paul once said—that we have to
speak the truth in charity so that “we will in all things grow up into
Christ himself, who is the head of the body, the Church.” (Eph 4,15)
In the end, to be like Christ, “alter Christus,” if not “ipse
Christus,” is our ultimate goal.

            And if we look closely at the example of Christ, he was
always open to anything even as he proclaimed the truth which is not
anymore a matter of opinion. He showed utmost fidelity to his mission
without twisting people’s arms, much less, spewing threats.

            In the end, he accepted death which can only mean that he
bore all the sins, mistakes, faults, and all the other negatives of
men. He offered not only understanding but also forgiveness.

            We have to learn how to be sport and cool in our exchanges
of opinions. We need to rein in our emotions and have a clear vision
of the ideal that we have to live in these discussions. Charity should
always prevail, because the truth, justice and all the other values we
are interested in would lose their essence if charity is absent.

            And charity here can only come from the charity of God as
revealed to us and lived fully by Christ.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Continuity in an age of discontinuity

THIS is a big challenge today. How can we have a sense of
continuity in an age that is so clearly galloping with new
developments, creating new categories, structures and meanings that we
can say that we are entering a phase of disruptions and discontinuity?

            In fact, it is now a given that we are today in times that
are significantly different from the previous generations. It seems
that we are having a kind of quantum leap, an abrupt and extreme
change in things in general.

            We have to learn how to cope with this new phenomenon. And
the most important and indispensable thing to do is to ground
ourselves more firmly on God. He is the foundation of all reality, of
things that are absolute and permanent and also of things that are
continually changing either gradually or abruptly.

            Without him, there is no other way but to get confused and
lost, carried away by “all kinds of strange teachings,” as the Letter
to the Hebrews would put it. (13,9) St. Paul went further by
suggesting that we “put on the full armor of God, so that you can take
your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Eph 6,11)

            It’s true that we have to do everything humanly possible
to be able to cope with the new developments. We cannot overemphasize
this need. That is why we have to be very open-minded, flexible and
adventurous, creative and innovative.

            This may mean in concrete terms that we should do a lot of
reading and studying, observing and experimenting. We have to have a
sportive attitude so that we can manage to move on even if we
encounter many setbacks along the way.

            We can precisely use the new technologies to expand and
deepen our knowledge of things. There are now many journals and other
sources where we can get a good understanding of how these new things
are working and achieving.

            It’s good that we organize our day very well so that we
can optimize the use of our time and other resources that are always
limited in the face of seemingly limitless possibilities.

            We need to motivate ourselves constantly, putting
ourselves always in good condition to face the growing challenges and
opportunities. We need to flow with the times and help others to do
the same. Our attitude should be that no one should be left behind.

            But all this should be rooted on the firm foundation of
our vital union with God. We have to pray and pray hard. We have to
plumb deep into the word of God which as the Letter to the Hebrews
would put it is “alive and active, sharper than any double-edged
sword. It penetrates even to the dividing souls and spirit, joints and
marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (4,12)

            We have to do everything to be always with God whatever we
are doing, whatever our situation is. That is why we need to have some
working plan made up of some traditional and innovative acts of piety
that would put us in touch with God always.

            With him we can judge things properly and know how to make
a road map toward our eternal destination without getting lost along
the way. This can give us a sense that there is some continuity and
direction in our present age of discontinuity!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Recollected amid the hustle and bustle

WE have to learn this skill. It’s actually a fundamental
and indispensable skill. Without it, there’s no other way but for us
to get confused and lost in our worldly and temporal affairs. And
instead of reaching our final and proper destination, we end up
somewhere else.

            We have to learn to gather all our powers and faculties
together so they can be engaged with their proper and ultimate objects
which, ultimately, are God and others. We have to see to it that
everything we do and get involved in, somehow get into the lifelong
dynamic of loving God and others.

            What we have to avoid is to have our powers and faculties
scattered and often in conflict with one another, entangled with
objects that, though having some validity, are not the proper and
ultimate objects we should try to pursue.

            This need for recollection simply indicates that our life
consists of different aspects and levels that we have to orchestrate
to be able to reach our final end. We just cannot go about reacting
spontaneously to things, depending solely on instincts and feelings.
We are meant for something much, much more than these.

            Our tendency, given our fallen nature and the effects of
our personal sins, is to get dispersed in our attention and to plunge
into activism. In the process, we lose our interior serenity and
eventually our true way.

            The loss of serenity can lead us to bad consequences—loss
of self-control and dominion over things, proneness to temptations,
vices and sins, disorder in our sense of priority, etc.

            For Christian believers, the source and end of their
consciousness should be God. This is simply because the Christian
faith teaches that God is the creator of the whole universe, including
us, and continues to govern us intimately in our hearts. There should
therefore be a living relationship between God and the believer.

            We need to be focused always on him. Straying from him
would be to stray from reality. It would lead us to make our own
reality and our own world, with consequences that sooner or later will
always be bad for us.

            For Christian believers, reality is not simply the items
that we see or hear or even feel. Reality is a given, not made by us.
It has to be discovered, not invented by us. But it has to enter deep
into our being, since we have a subjective mode of existence.

            And ultimately the one who gives the reality to us is God,
since things just don’t break into existence on their own. There is an
ultimate cause—God. God is the foundation of everything.

            This human need for recollection will always bring us to
the realization of the existence of God, with the corresponding rights
and duties towards him. We should therefore see that everything in our
life has God in it, or at least traces of God in it. We just have to
learn how to discover God in these things.

            If we have the proper spirit of recollection, everything
in our life, whether good or bad, big or small, can be an occasion to
know, love and serve God and others.

            We have to work this skill out, helping one another, being
patient and understanding with one another, since the road to it,
aside from being narrow, is strewn with difficulties, traps and


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Making Christ alive

THIS is no gratuitous, baseless pursuit. We are not
indulging in some fantasy when we exert the effort to make Christ
alive in us. In the first place, because Christ himself is alive. He
continues to be with us and is, in fact, actively intervening in our
lives. We are not in some make-believe world.

            It’s us who have the problem since we tend to ignore him.
It’s the same problem once articulated by St. Augustine: “You were
with me, but I was not with you.” And even the things around all point
to us about Christ’s constant interventions in our lives. Still, we
fail to be aware of him.

            Christ, of course, died, but then he rose again, never to
die again. And even if he rose again, he after so many days ascended
into heaven. He should not be around anymore. But, no, he continues to
be here, this time in the Holy Spirit!

            Let’s remember that before he went up to heaven, he
promised the coming of the Holy Spirit who would bring to us
everything that Christ did and said. More than that, the Holy Spirit
brings Christ alive in us.

            This is how God works. The entire trinity of the Father,
the Son and the Holy Spirit is involved in this continuing divine
effort to bring us back to where we came from—that is, from God
himself in whose image and likeness we have been created. And God in
his work cannot be frustrated despite the mess we make.

            We just have to exercise our faith to the hilt. With it we
enter into a reality that goes beyond what we simply can see and touch
and understand. With it we can feel at home even with mysteries which,
by the way, abound in our life since we are not confined only to the
sensible and material realities. Our world includes the spiritual and
the supernatural.

            Exercising our faith means constantly dealing with the
Holy Spirit. Dealing with the Holy Spirit involves certain
requirements, like deepening our knowledge of the truths of our faith
by meditating on the gospel, studying the catechism, following the
teachings of the Pope, etc.

            It also involves constant spiritual struggle against our
weaknesses, temptations and sins. It certainly involves developing
virtues so that we gradually can be more perceptive of the promptings
of the Holy Spirit.

            Also indispensable is the recourse to the sacraments which
are the very channels of grace that Christ himself instituted so that
his presence and the effectiveness of his redemptive work on us can be
perpetuated till the end of time.

            This is how we can make Christ alive in us, Christ who
will always understand us even if we many times fail him. We just have
to do our part, and do it as best as we can, even to the point of
heroism and martyrdom. This, in fact, is also the extent Christ does
to reach us and to save us.

            If we correspond actively to what Christ has done for us,
we in the Holy Spirit can truly manage to make Christ alive in us. It
is really just a matter of being consistent with our faith that brings
with it the other virtues of hope and charity. In that way, we would
be dealing with the Holy Spirit who will bring Christ to us alive.