Monday, January 30, 2017

Fervor and lethargy

WE need to see to it that our life is characterized by
fervor and passion. We have to be driven, because this is a clear sign
of genuine love. When there is lethargy or lukewarmness, you can be
sure love is fading or has faded out.

            This fervor and zeal was expressed by Christ himself who
said: “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be
already kindled?” (Lk 12,49) And he went all the way to offer his life
on the cross. That was how passionate he was in carrying out his
mission in the world.

            We need to train ourselves to develop this ardour. Yes, it
will take time and a lot of effort. It will involve some complex
process. But it simply has to be done, and the earlier we start it and
keep the pace, the better!

            We have to be most wary of the danger of routine, which is
like the tomb of fervor. This can easily fall on us, especially these
days when there are just too many things that grab our attention to

            Routine is when instead of pursuing our real goal, we get
entangled with other not-so-important things though they also have
certain legitimate value. This is a big problem, since very often we
get lost in our sense of priorities in life.

            The subtle and very deceptive character of routine is that
it can fill us with many things, it can engage us with all sorts of
exciting challenges and projects, and yet miss the main or the most
important point in life.

            Routine is when we can deaden our sensitivity towards God
and others, and enliven our self-absorption to the point of
invincibility.    Routine is actually a form of escapism from God,
from reality, from our true responsibilities. It is a form of
pampering and spoiling ourselves. Whatever effort, sacrifice,
investment is involved in routine is done in pursuit of self-interest
rather than of God’s will.

            We have to make sure that we are always burning with the
zeal of love. We need to fill our mind and heart with love, and all
that love brings—goodness, patience, understanding and compassion,
mercy, gratuitous acts of service, generosity and magnanimity.

            The zeal of love should always come out fresh from the
heart, fresh from its real and ultimate source who is God. It’s always
new, original, virginal, creative and productive. Love, if it is real,
can never grow old and stale, it cannot be just a copycat. It likes to
renew itself perpetually, without getting tired.

            It always likes to be better, to do and give oneself more.
Its motto can very well be captured in the message of an old song that
says today should always be better than yesterday, and tomorrow better
than today.

            If we have true love, we will always feel the need to
begin and begin again for that is how our constant renewal becomes
attainable, and not left simply as a mere desire.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Means not ends

I’M referring to our human laws. No matter how well
crafted, they are not meant to be the end or the goal themselves, but
rather as means or a way to our ultimate goal who is God or our
eternal life with God.

            We are reminded of this point in the gospel of St. Mark
(2,23-28) where Christ clarified to some questioning people that the
law regarding the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the

            This was occasioned when Christ and his apostles broke the
law on the Sabbath rest by picking some grain of wheat to eat, because
they were hungry. In the end, Christ told those who questioned him
that he, being the Son of Man, the Son of God who is the fullness of
God’s revelation to us, has the right to revise or even revoke a human
law when it is found to be irrelevant in a given situation.

            We have to be careful with our tendency to fall into what
is called as legalism, which is a way of making our human laws so
absolute as to regulate even matters of conscience that they become
the end in themselves. Legalism is when we make our human laws so
absolute that they cannot stand any more improvement, enrichment, or
even revision and revocation.

            Legalism is when we get too obsessed with following the
letter of the law at the expense of recognizing the true spirit of the
law. It is usually characterized by rigidity and heartless treatment
of people, especially those disadvantaged by a given law.

            This is not to say that our laws are useless. No. Laws are
always necessary and very useful. But they should be treated as means
only, not as ends. As such, they cannot be treated as if these laws
are the only laws that have to be followed. In a given situation or
case, other laws may be followed.

            We have to learn to be open-minded to other options that
may be different from ours. As long as these options are in keeping
with God’s natural and moral law, then they are valid and legitimate.

            This also means that these human laws can be reformed.
There should be a continuing effort by the authorized body of a given
society to make their laws adapt to the changing circumstances of
people and society.

            While we need to have laws and a whole legal and judicial
system to regulate our life in society, what we don’t need is
legalism, or the distortion and abuse of our man-made legal system.

            We are, of course, vulnerable to this predicament, since
man’s intelligence and free will can take tortuous turns that in the
end are determined by how our heart tilts—either toward God or is it
just stuck with our own selves?

            We need to see to it that our laws conform themselves as
faithfully as possible to God’s law. God, after all, being the
Creator, is the supreme lawgiver to whom all human lawmakers should

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Educating our senses

IT’S important that we realize the abiding need to educate
our senses, that is to say, to make our eyes, ears, nose, tongue and
hand discern the ultimate object and purpose of our life, who is God.

            They should not be allowed to go every which way, led
simply by the impulses of our hormones, instincts and the many unclear
trends in the environment. They have to be guided by our higher
faculties of intelligence and will that in their turn should also be
guided by faith, hope and charity.

            Or said in another way, unless our senses are trained to
see God in everything, they will just be stranded and entangled with
the material qualities of things. We would just be trapped in the
world of the material or at most the social, cultural, historical and
other conditionings. And this predicament can get so bad that we would
find it impossible to detect anything spiritual, much less,
supernatural in the things around.

            While the immediate object of our senses are the material
and physical things, they should be made to find God in everything.
After all, behind all these material and physical things is God
always, since God is their creator and with his abiding providence he
is always behind everything in the physical world, directing things to

            This is going to be a big challenge because the prevailing
world culture today laughs at this fundamental truth of our life.
Linking shape and color, sound and smell, taste and feel with God—is
that ever possible? Modern people would ask.

            Precisely because of this problem, big as it is, we have a
great need to coax our senses and their respective organs to discern
God in everything.

            Christ’s words, “Seek first the kingdom of heaven and
everything else will be given to you besides,” are not meant to
involve our spiritual powers of intelligence and will alone. They are
meant to involve the whole totality of our humanity, including our
senses and emotions.

            We have to avoid making dichotomies in our life and pursue
the task of building up unity and consistency in our life. Yes, there
are distinctions to be made, since we are made of different parts, and
our life have different aspects, but our life is supposed to only one.
We should build up, protect and defend that unity of life.

            Our piety should also be lived in the very concrete
details of our life that are first apprehended by our senses before
they are “processed” by our intelligence and will, and later by the
supernatural gifts of faith, hope and charity. We have to acknowledge
the unity among those levels of our way of knowing and loving that
enter into our piety.

            We cannot just be intellectual in our piety, because that
would make piety abstract. We have to involve the senses. If Christ is
only acknowledged in our intelligence and will and not in our senses,
we cannot go far in our relationship of love with him.

            We need to educate our senses and feelings, purifying them
of their usual limitations that apprehend only the externals of things
without going to the essence of things and their proper origin and
end, who is God. This is when our senses would be properly used. This
is when we protect them from superficialities, errors and
deformations. This is when they are made to serve God and our true

            When this happens, the senses and feelings and their
accompanying components actually enjoy a sublime, exquisite joy and
sense of beauty. They would be rescued from a shallow and cheap kind
of pleasure that is actually dangerous to us.

            When this happens, the senses and feelings actually sing
and dance, completely unburdened by any load of concern even as they
continue to be mindful of the reality of life that surely would
include problems and other negative elements. They would know how to
deal with them, living a certain kind of sportsmanship, detachment and
abandonment so indispensable in our life.

            Unfortunately this sublime joy and beauty experienced when
the senses relish their true freedom, and not the bogus one, is hardly
known by many people nowadays. It will take some massive and heroic
effort to reverse and correct the situation.

            That’s why great attention has to be given in forming the
young children in the right use of their senses, feelings, imagination
and memory. It is necessary that this aspect be taken care of, since
these elements enter into the building up of their character that more
or less, defines their whole life.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Loving the Holy Mass

WE need to exert effort to grow in our love for the Holy
Mass. Human as we are, we should not take this concern for granted,
since we always have the tendency to get so accustomed to celebrating
or attending Mass as to become complacent, like a rock where water
would just pass by without absorbing anything.

            We have to constantly remind ourselves of what the Holy
Mass really is. It is not just a ceremonial, a dramatization of past
events in the life of Christ. It is the very sacrifice of the Body and
Blood of Christ, sacramentally renewed in an unbloody manner on our
altars under the appearances of bread and wine.

            In short, the Holy Mass is substantially the same as the
sacrifice of Christ on the cross. It has the same Priest and Victim,
and the aims and fruits are identical. Only accidental differences
distinguish the two.

            We attend the Holy Mass to identify ourselves with Christ
as our Savior, and to make our own Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We
should not be mere spectators in the Holy Mass. We should make that
sacrifice our own together with Christ, and we offer it to God in the
Blessed Trinity, again together with the merits of Christ’s work of

            Our abiding attitude and disposition in attending the Holy
Mass is to seek forgiveness, an increase in God’s grace and
ultimately, eternal life. In the Mass, we adore God with Christ’s
adoration, we make up for our sins with Christ’s sacrifice, we pray
with Christ.

            There in the Mass the best expression of our shared life
with God is achieved while here on earth. What belong to Christ become
ours, and what belong to us also become Christ’s. In the Mass is where
all our thoughts, words and deeds assume a supernatural and eternal
value. That is why the Mass should be the center and root of our life.
Everything in our life should be offered there.

            In the Mass, we enjoy a certain “oneness in time” with
Christ on the cross. We become contemporaries of his. Time and space
are done away with in a mysterious way, so we can be with Christ on
the cross. And united and identified with him in the Mass, we become
co-redeemers with him for ourselves and for everybody else.

            So, you can just imagine what tremendous importance the
Mass is for all of us! We should not take it for granted. We should
develop the desire to celebrate or to take part of it as often as

            In fact, for priests, the Code of Canon Law earnestly
encourages them to celebrate Mass daily. “Remembering always that in
the mystery of the Eucharistic sacrifice,” Canon 904 states, “the work
of redemption of redemption is exercised continually, priests are to
celebrate frequently; indeed, daily celebration is recommended
earnestly since, even if the faithful cannot be present, it is the act
of Christ and the Church in which priests fulfill their principal

            The Mass is so important for everyone that the Church
obliges us to attend it on Sundays and holy days of obligation. Of
course, it is also highly recommended for the lay faithful to attend
it daily. Given what the Mass is, it is the most important event of
our day, and in fact, of our whole life.

            We need to develop a strong love and devotion for the Holy
Mass. We need to learn the proper attitude and dispositions for the
priests to celebrate it and for the lay faithful to participate in it
as best as we could.

            Our celebration or participation in the Mass reaches its
culmination in Holy Communion where we achieve a complete
identification with Christ in an indescribable way.

            Remember Christ saying: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks
my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
(Jn 6,54) St. Paul reiterates the same point when he said: “I no
longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2,20) Of course, we have to
know what eating Christ’s flesh and drinking his blood would involve
in concrete terms. Such eating and drinking certainly involves dying
and resurrecting with Christ.

            Our love for the Mass should extend to the point of
developing a Eucharistic piety in ourselves. This can be shown in
visiting Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, making frequent spiritual
communions or that desire to receive Christ mentally.

            We have to spread this Eucharistic culture more widely.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The concern for manliness

NOW that there are strong gender-bending influences
around, the distinction between male and female is getting blurred. In
many places, the transition from boyhood to manhood seems to be
trapped in a warped understanding of what to be manly is.

            The youth are mostly affected by this situation. With
today’s communication technologies, they can get exposed to a lot of
concepts about manliness and yet can still miss the right one.

            Many would rationalize that the world is big enough to fit
all sorts of cultures of manliness. Besides, there’s a trend toward
tolerance, precisely because of the increasing variety of mentalities
and lifestyles we have today.

            In fact, across history, cultures and peoples, the search
for manliness has always been a prominent feature in social life.
That’s a very understandable natural process. The problem with that is
that since it is time, place and culture-bound, the idea of manliness
is not planted on firm ground.

            In a primitive society, for example, to be manly means to
fight, to be a soldier. But when civilization improved and conflicts
were resolved less through battles, its idea of manliness entered into
a crisis.

            There were other notions and practices that while
containing some good elements just could not be given a universal
applicability. I learned that among the Spaniards, they were told when
still young that it was not manly for boys to cry.

            I remember when I was still in kindergarten learning
English with American nuns in the city. Whenever I would go to the
barrio where my father came from, the people there, rough and tough,
would laugh at me because I spoke English and would distinguish the
long a from the short a.

            I was made to understand that speaking English that way
was not manly. It was good that my parents assured me I was on the
right track, and told me just to understand the barrio people.

            Several incomplete and even wrong definitions and
descriptions of manliness have appeared in history. To be manly was
viewed before as being like the Spartans of old, or like the
privileged class of society, or an independent artisan or successful

            Sometimes, manliness was attached to having a
Hercules-like physique, or being a Casanova or a playboy. Caricatures
of manliness proliferated.

            We need to cultivate a culture of manliness grounded on
the terra firma of the true nature of man. The old Greek and Roman
civilizations have already given us a cue, by associating manliness
with developing virtues, with the idea that everyone, man or woman,
tries to excel and be the best one can be.

            What Christianity has done is to even ground this
initially correct understanding of manliness by the Greeks and the
Romans to its ultimate source. And that is to be like Christ—to be
“alter Christus, ipse Christus” (another Christ, if not Christ

            In short, the test of manliness contains a crucial faith
element to it. Absent that, everything becomes a mess.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Engaging in advocacies

IT’S an understatement that the world today is sunk quite
deep in ignorance and confusion. This phenomenon is actually to be
expected. Given the way we are designed, we are prone to them.

            And yet, even if all these were so, we still can affirm
with certainty that truth has not disappeared from the face of the
earth, and our capacity to know it objectively, while handicapped, is
not totally destroyed.

            That’s why we have to continue to study and teach, learn
and transmit things, dialogue and others. It’s a never-ending duty of
ours. And this is even more so when we realize we have to purify and
clarify things in the face of creeping ignorance and confusion that
can envelope us.

            Nowadays, we cannot deny that there’s a battle of truth, a
battle between faith and ideologies. This a most tricky battle, since
the two share many things in common.

            Faith should not remain abstract. It has to be worked into
something operative, translating itself into a kind of practical
ideology that can result in a palpable culture. Ideologies need to be
inspired by faith. Ideally, the two should work in tandem.

            It’s when faith is not put into practice and ideologies
are developed contrary to faith that we get into trouble. And this is
what we are witnessing these days.

            Much of faith is kept in the realm of theories, and
ideologies are sprouting like weeds that grow not from the seed of
faith. And so we have all sorts of isms blighting our society now:
liberalism, modernism, relativism, exaggerated pragmatism, run-away
feminism, wild environmentalism, etc.

            What is important is that we make the truth of faith bear
on the many issues we have at hand. A big part of the problem is the
metastasizing mentality that Christian faith has nothing to say about
many of our questions.

            This is where we have to enter into advocacies to take
part of the action of infusing faith into our earthly concerns and
problems.    Everyone, as much as possible and in accordance to one’s
own possibilities, should try to participate to be able to reach all
levels of society, imbibing everything with a Christian spirit.

            Many things are needed here. First we have to know the
Church’s doctrine really well, especially its social doctrine. We have
to spread this doctrine as widely as possible.

            Then we need to know the skills and art of engaging in
meaningful and charitable dialogue, one done in a pro-active way but
full of charity. Nothing can be more repulsive than a zealot taking
off into a self-righteous and bitter barrage of attacks.

            In this task, we have to be wary with staying in the level
of justice alone. We need to meet the standards of charity, where we
would be quick to understand, ask forgiveness and give it to others
where the circumstances demand it.

            Most important is that everything should proceed from a
genuine source of sanctity. Otherwise, we would be indulging in
dangerous and even counter-productive moralism.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Newspeak is the devil’s sophistry

GEORGE Orwell invented the word Newspeak. It means “a
deliberately ambiguous and contradictory language used to mislead and
manipulate the people.”

            We have to be wary of its existence, because it is
actually present in today’s world. It’s a language that deftly mixes
truths and untruths, and cleverly exploits a window of acceptable
concepts and beliefs to introduce false and harmful ideas

            It must come from the devil, because our Christian faith
considers him as the “father of lies” (Jn 8,44), and newspeak in its
core is actually a lie, irrespective of the many beautiful and true
things it also emits.

            Its pedigree betrays a complicated mix of isms—atheism,
agnosticism, deism, relativism, socialism, etc. Common among them is
the element of making man, us, not God, as the ultimate source of
truth, the final arbiter of good and evil.

            In the first place, the agents of newspeak laugh at any
mention of a possibility of God’s existence or of his providence in
our affairs. They only believe in themselves and their brilliant

            It can originate and thrive in an environment described in
St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy:

            “There will come a time when they will not endure the
sound doctrine, but having itching ears, will heap up to themselves
teachers according to their own lusts, and they will turn away their
hearing from the truth and turn aside rather to fables.” (4,3-4)

            In this issue about reproductive health and distributing
free condoms to highschoolers, for example, I cannot help but think of
this tricky phenomenon of newspeak.

            We are regaled with many good and true things about them,
but we have to look closely at the fine print, because it’s there
where the lies and dangers are hidden.

            Whenever I read their statements, I find myself also
agreeing with many of what they say, and even praise them for some of
their views. It’s just that they do not say everything, and where they
think they would go against truth and faith, they become evasive and

            I have no quarrel with the need for everyone to attain
reproductive health and have sex ed. It’s in what is meant by these
ideals, and how they are to be implemented where I seriously beg to

            One can readily see the remaking of the concepts of
morality, of faith and religion, of human progress and development,
etc. It’s a hideous activity.

            Sad to say, newspeak is now widely used by politicians and
pundits, social pacesetters and cultural gurus, and even religious
leaders who are actually referred to as false teachers in the gospel.

            They cleverly distort the concept of freedom. It’s an
understanding of freedom that simply floats according to the fashion
of the times. It speaks the language of what is politically correct at
the moment with no reference to a universal, absolute truth.

            This understanding of freedom confuses objectivity with
subjectivity, and divorces right to privacy from the common good and
universal truth.

            We need to be wary of the evils of newspeak.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Sharpening our natural knowledge of God

OUR knowledge of God can either be natural or
supernatural. The former simply relies on our reason and human
capacity to know. The latter is the fruit of faith, of grace, of God’s

            While there is distinction between the two, we have to
understand that we need to have both of them working organically.
While our natural power to know God would already give us a certain
knowledge of God, we have to understand that, due to our human
condition that is weakened by sin, we are in great need of the divine
gift of faith which God himself gives generously.

            We should avoid falling into the extremes of rationalism,
where we use reason alone in our relationship with God, and of
fideism, where we use what we call as faith alone. Reason and faith
should go together.

            This faith does not replace our natural powers to know
God. In fact, it requires the full play of our natural powers. What it
does is to purify, deepen and elevate our natural capacity to know God
to the supernatural order.

            We have to understand that our faith could go to waste if
our natural powers to know God fail to do their part. That is why we
have to realize that we need to develop our natural capacity to know
God as much as possible.

            We should see to it that these natural powers to know God
are not obstructed and entangled in some earthly values alone, but
should go all the way to acknowledge God’s presence and love

            This is where much of our problem in this area spring. We
fail to make our natural powers to know God to go all the way. And so
we fall into many inconsistencies in our Christian life.

            How does this natural knowledge of God work? And how
should we develop it?

            “The person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming
to know him. These are also called proofs of the existence of God” not
in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but rather in the
sense of converging and convincing arguments which allow us to attain
certainty about the truth. These ‘ways’ of approaching God from
creation have a twofold point of departure: the physical world, and
the human person.” (Catechism 31)

            The Catechism continues: “The world—starting from
movement, becoming, contingency, and the world’s order and beauty, one
can come to a knowledge of God as the origin and the end of the
universe.” (Catechism 32)

            “The human person—with his openness to truth and beauty,
his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his
conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man
questions himself about God’s existence. In all this he discerns signs
of his spiritual soul. The soul, the ‘seed of eternity we bear in
ourselves, irreducible to the merely material,’ can have its origin
only in God.” (Catechism 33)

            What we have to do to develop our natural knowledge of God
is to pursue to the last consequences the logic of these natural
approaches of knowing God. The problem, as I mentioned earlier, is
that we tend to get contented at a certain point of the development
process and refuse to go any further.

            We easily get contented with merely worldly values, like
practicability, ingenuity, profitability, etc., and refuse to
acknowledge the God who is behind all these values. As a consequence,
we make our own agenda and detach ourselves from the providence of God
in which we play a vital role. We little by little become secularized
and paganized, until we become insensitive to that basic longing of
ours to seek God.

            While it’s true that there is a certain autonomy we enjoy
in our earthly affairs, that autonomy is never meant to be a complete
disregard or separation from the ways of God’s providence. If anything
at all, that autonomy should stir even our desire to seek God.

            Seeking God, whether having the physical world or the
human person as points of departure, should be a wholistic effort that
involves all our faculties. It should not just be an intellectual
exercise without the feelings, or vice-versa, a matter of pure
feelings without the use of the intelligence.

            Christ himself said so: “Seek first the kingdom of God and
his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
(Mt 6,33) And, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with
all your soul and with all your strength, and with all our mind.” (Lk

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Developing a Christian perspective

WE need to develop a proper framework and angle for all
our thoughts, views and reactions to things. Especially these days
when many confusing elements present themselves, we cannot remain
oblivious to this need. We need to have a good sense of perspective.

            The sense of perspective starts with a worldview of
things, enabling us to relate events, experiences, insights,
observations, to an over-all picture of our life and its purpose.

            It enables us to relate parts among themselves to form a
certain whole. It provides us with a sense of confidence and serenity,
a sense of dominion and responsibility, and therefore of freedom, over
our life.

            It’s what builds a person’s character, since it springs
from a body of core beliefs and convictions, from where we put our
faith on, generating a corresponding hierarchy of values to guide our
thoughts and actions.

            It gives us a sense of right and wrong, of good and evil
in all aspects of our life. It endows us with a moral and ethical
vision of our life.

            Thus, there is such a thing as a Christian perspective,
based, of course, on the Christian faith. There are also ideological
perspectives, whether leftist, rightist or centrist.

            There’s the liberal perspective where freedom dominates
over responsibility. There’s also the secularist perspective where
things are assessed without any consideration for anything spiritual
and supernatural.

            Whatever it is, what is important is that we have a clear
idea of the perspective we are assuming. We have to continually assess
and develop it, because it is a living thing that has to contend with
the vital flow of new elements and factors.

            Much of our problem these days stems from the fact that
many people do not realize this. Though there is a natural albeit
hidden yearning for this sense of perspective, the reality is that
many people are not aware of it and do not know how to develop it

            As a result, there is a lot of shallowness and narrowness
in the grasping of reality, leading one to simply be reactive rather
than pro-active, if not to behave in on-the-spot improvisations, prone
to knee-jerk responses.

            The Christian perspective is what Christian believers
should have. This has Christ as the constant reference point. His
perspective is none other than that of his Father. He said:

            “The Son can do nothing of himself, unless it is something
He sees the father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son also
does in like manner.” (Jn 5,19)

            St. Paul describes it this way: “We have received not the
spirit of this world, but the Spirit that is of God, that we may know
the things that are given us from God.

            “These things also we speak, not in the learned words of
human wisdom, but in the doctrine of the Spirit, comparing spiritual
things with spiritual.

            “But the sensual man perceives not these things that are
of the Spirit of God, for it is foolishness to him, and he cannot
understand, because it is spiritually examined.” (2,12-14)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Our prophetic mission

WE have to remind ourselves of our role as prophets these
days. We have to understand that to be a prophet is an integral part
of our Christian identity.

            We all share in different ways in the prophetic mission of Christ and
the Church, because we are made in God’s image and likeness, and
somehow commissioned also by Christ to go “preach to all nations….”

            It is not just for a few who have some talent and knack
for it. Of course, different people have different ways of doing and
living it, and there can be a kind of hierarchy involved among them.

            Thus, prophecy is something done all the time. It covers
all aspects of our life, and not just confined or focused on certain
fields like business and politics, much less, on some controversial
issues only.

            What makes this whole business more exciting these days is
that it seems that to be prophetic involves only the bishops and
priests and that they do so when concerned almost exclusively about

            We get the impression that prophesying is reduced to
things political. Some bishops, priests and religious talk about being
prophets only when they want to say something about political issues.

            Not that they can’t. In fact, they should in some
opportune moments. To be sure, to be a real prophet in politics can be
considered as one of the highest, if most difficult, way of exercising
the prophetic mission. It’s just that being a prophet involves a lot
more than what they so far are showing in public.

            It requires not only the sacraments, but also the doctrine
well assimilated and lived. It requires a living union with God, a
real sanctity and genuine integrity, and not just put-on patina of

            It requires a lot of patience, broadness of mind,
prudence, flexibility, capacity to integrate varying and often
competing factors. It requires discretion, fortitude, rectitude of
intention, good manners and even cheerfulness, and, of course,

            It also involves a constant effort to evangelize, not only
in the big things like business, politics and other social concerns,
but also and mainly in the little and ordinary things that are with us

            To be a prophet in politics is actually a must. We just
need also to know how to respect the nature and character of politics,
just like any other temporal and earthly affairs we have.

            There is a certain autonomy in politics that needs to be
understood and handled well. It’s this autonomy that precludes easy
dogmatization of views and positions that in itself are open to
opinion. It attracts pluralism of views that should be respected.

            The clergy’s role of prophet in politics is in preaching
Christ and infusing the spirit of Christ in our political life and
discourse. It’s not in ramming our views on others just because we
think they are the right ones. That would be a kind of tyranny and
dictatorship, of unhealthy clericalism. Christ preferred to die on the
cross rather than fall to these practices.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Reviving our spirit of penance

WE need to revive our spirit of penance. This important
aspect of our spiritual life is in crisis at present.

            Yes, our sense of penance is in crisis, mainly because
people are turning away from God who in the end is the one who sets
what is right and wrong, what is good and evil.

            Our sense of penance is in crisis because our idea of what
is good and evil is now reduced to our personal preferences or, at
best, to what can be termed as our social, political, cultural or even
ideological consensus.

            In short, we are not anymore referring things to God but
to ourselves. This is what is called the post-modern thinking which
views “realities as plural and subjective and dependent on the
individual’s worldview.”

            It proclaims that there can be diverse interpretations of
truth. It rejects sharp distinctions and global, absolute and
universal truths. It sees truth as highly individualistic and
subjective, as absolutely bound by culture, time, place and all sorts
of conditionings.

            Truth is we are pushed to get disengaged from God and from
others, and to plunge headlong into self-love. In fact, we need
special efforts to keep ourselves on course, on the right track in our
relationship with God and with others.

            The media abet this situation. More mindful with ratings
and profitability, they practically leave behind the finer demands of
morality and spirituality. In fact, they deftly make use of legitimate
values to inject effects toxic to us.

            We now have, for example, the celebrity syndrome where
physical beauty, talents, and accomplishments in the fields of sports,
arts and theater, etc., are exploited to market frivolity, vanity,
greed, sensuality, envy, etc.

            Today’s movies and TV shows now seem to aim at riveting
and nailing our senses to the here and now, to the shallow and the
pleasurable, to our untamed subliminal instincts, while starving our
intelligence and our faith.

            We need to know how to deal with these conditions. We need
to find a way to derive some good from them, since if we have hope,
some good can always be achieved from them.

            It's good that we never forget this reality. Precisely,
the virtue of penance starts when we acknowledge these conditions
about ourselves. We should be humble enough to accept this reality.

            But the virtue of penance goes farther than that. It grows
when we put up the necessary defenses against these enemies of our
soul and wage a lifelong ascetical struggle.

            And for this penance to be a true virtue, it has to
include an indomitable hope that can survive even in the worst of
scenarios. In fact, this hope gets stronger the uglier also the
warfare gets. It's a hope based on God's constant mercy.

            The virtue of penance also includes the desire and
practice of frequent recourse to the sacrament of penance. This
sacrament not only reconciles us with God, but also repairs whatever
damage our sin would cause on others and the Church in general.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Creator and procreator

WE need to know the difference as well as the intimate
link between the two. The other day while presiding at a wedding, I
brought up this topic to underline an often forgotten and
misunderstood truth of faith.

            Newly-weds will most likely become parents soon, and they
need to know the difference and the link between the two, so they can
carry out their parenthood properly. There’s a lot more than meets the

            Creator, in the strict sense, is only God. He is the only
one capable of bringing to existence something or someone out of
nothing other than himself. As creator, God is the maker of everyone
and everything. Everyone and everything is his creature. Everyone and
everything cannot help but be a creature of God.

            A procreator is the creaturely instrument who begets an
offspring definitely not out of nothing, but from something. He only
cooperates in the work of God’s creation. Everything that reproduces
itself, in a sense, is a procreator, though the term is more properly
used to refer to human parents.

            A parent as the human instrument in the process of human
reproduction begets a child obviously from some biological raw
material that he or she has. But that’s not all. As procreator, he
cooperates in the bringing into existence of another human being who
is not purely a biological or a material being that can be reproduced
biologically, but also a spiritual being that can only come directly
from God.

            In other words, every human person is not just a
biological entity. He is, much more than biological, a spiritual
being. His existence just cannot come about merely through biological

            His existence depends directly on God. In fact, everything
depends on God directly for its existence even if its coming to
existence goes through the different forms of reproduction.

            In the case of man, his coming into existence depends
first of all on the knowing and willing cooperation of the human
instruments with God’s work of the creation of a human person. That is
why, these human instruments, the parents, are called procreators,
strictly speaking, since they have to actively cooperate in God’s

            Not so with the other creatures. They beget their
offsprings in some automatic fashion dictated by some laws of biology
and other laws of nature. And that’s simply because the plants and
animals do not have intelligence and will that would enable them to
cooperate actively with God in the process of reproduction. Their
nature determines the kind of reproduction they can make.

            This distinction is crucial since it will bring out the
fact that the husband and wife as procreators of their children have
to carry out their responsibility as procreators by always keeping in
mind the will, the purpose, and the means God has for creating a

            Begetting a child should not just be a physical,
biological or emotional expression of one’s urges and love. Begetting
a child has God in the middle of it. In fact, it has God at the
beginning and end of it.

            Parents as procreators should always bear this fundamental
truth in mind, and conform their duty to beget children according to
this truth. In our country, thanks to God, we still have a generally
religious culture that recognizes every child as a gift from God. That
fact is indeed a blessing, but we need to go much further than such
basic recognition.

            According to our Catechism, God has a plan for the
creation of every person. Parents as procreators should fully do their
part in fulfilling the divine purpose for the creation of a person. I
would say this is their most important responsibility as parents. This
is the summit of their responsibilities. Everything else has to be
subordinated to this.

            In the Compendium of the Catechism, we have the following
point that articulates God’s plan for man:

            “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan
of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own
blessed life. In the fullness of time, God the Father sent his Son as
the Redeemer and Savior of mankind, fallen into sin, thus calling all
into his Church and, through the work of the Holy Spirit, making them
adopted children and heirs of his eternal happiness.” (1)

            It is important therefore that couples who want to enter
into marriage be made to realize this duty more deeply and
effectively. Once married, they should be constantly guided and helped
so they can carry out this responsibility properly.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Our faith should involve our entire life

OUR faith should not just be an assent to some religious
truths. It should be an act of our entire being. Better yet, it should
be a commitment that involves our whole selves. It should be shown in
every action of our lives. As Christ himself said: “Whoever
acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my
Father in heaven.” (Mt 10,32)

            Our faith should not be held hostage by our personal
experiences alone. We have to understand that it goes beyond the
bounds of our reasoning and experience. It requires an act of belief
in someone who will not deceive us nor be deceived by us. Definitely
this will involve humility and docility to whatever Christ taught us.

            To be sure, such understanding of faith is not fanaticism.
It respects our humanity, but does more to it. It will purify and
elevate our humanity to the supernatural order from where we came and
to where we are meant to go.

            We should try to avoid the predicament of the doubting
Thomas who wanted to see the wounds of Christ first before believing
believe in the risen Lord. We should not be afraid or ashamed to
express our faith publicly.

            We should reach that point where we always believe in
Christ who promised that “if you have faith the size of a mustard
seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it
will move. And nothing will be impossible to you.” (Mt 17,20)

            If we consistently live by faith, we can manage to make
Christ present among ourselves. We would not simply be involved in
some intellectual discussion about Christ. More than this, we would be
able to plant the seed of Christ’s love in everyone and spread the
saving truth about ourselves.

            Lest we forget, we need to remember that Christ, who is
the Way, the Truth and the Life for us, who is our Savior, wants to be
with us, but through us. And that can only happen if we correspond to
the gift of faith that he himself gives us abundantly.

            We have to be more aware of our duty to take care of our
faith. It should so inspire our whole life that we cannot help but
give constant testimony of it. It should be shown in the way we carry
out our profession or job, fulfill our civic duties, practice all our
rights, and handle and resolve our daily problems and challenges.

            It should be shown in the way we develop and keep our
relationships with others. Our faith should always show the face of
Christian love that goes all the way to suffer for others, just as
Christ suffered death for all of us.

            We can imitate the faith of Mary and Joseph who simply
said yes to whatever was told them by the divine messengers. Such
faith will bring us to a global and objective understanding of things,
and enable us to participate actively in the ongoing providence of God
over his creation.

Friday, January 13, 2017

In the name of Jesus

WE should form the habit of frequently invoking the name
of Jesus. If there’s any name that we should call most often, it
should be that of Jesus. It is the most important and necessary name
we can call, as attested by St. Paul himself who said:

            “God greatly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee
should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and
every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God
the Father.” (Phil 2,10-11)

            Calling his name, for sure, is never just an empty form of
pietism, or some kind of superstition. Calling his name corresponds to
a basic necessity of ours who always need to be helped, enlightened,
strengthened and ultimately redeemed.

            We are assured that Jesus always listens to us and
promptly attends to our needs, although in ways that may be different
from our own expectations. It’s not in Jesus to be indifferent to our
needs, no matter how unworthy and undeserving we are. His great love
for us will always lead him to intervene always in our life.

            The name of Jesus means “God saves.” Invoking that name
will always remind us of our need for salvation, that is, our ultimate
salvation from sin, from death, from all pain and suffering. It’s not
simply liberation from some transitory hunger or worldly need. It’s
liberation to eternal life.

            If invoked with faith and love, if done with great piety,
calling the name Jesus can only give us a lot of good. It can even
give us an immediate relieving and calming effect.

            I remember that one time, I had some muscle pain in my
legs and in my back. A ‘manghihilot’ was recommended to me, and he
told me to have strong faith and to follow him in calling the name of
Jesus as he did his therapy. I must say that it worked.

            But more importantly, we need to call Jesus’ name when we
are faced with big challenges and difficult, if not irresistible,
temptations. Somehow doing so generates a certain kind of spiritual
strength that would enable us to handle these situations effectively.

            When we feel our weaknesses stirred up, or when, for some
mysterious reasons, we seem to be strongly drawn or lured to do
something sinful, calling the name of Jesus would really help. More
than just recovering our senses, we can feel a strong mysterious
spiritual force that will enable us to do what we ought to do.

            And if, in spite of everything, we still manage to fall,
then calling Jesus’ name facilitates our repentance and reconciliation
with God and with others. We do not actually need to go far or do
extraordinary things for us to be helped, guided, enlightened,
strengthened and redeemed. We just need to call Jesus’ name, and the
process of healing starts.

            Some people question whether it is practicable to be truly
holy in the middle of the world that is full of sin and temptations.
The answer to that is a resounding, ‘yes.’ Christ would not command us
to be holy if that is not doable. And the practicability of holiness
can start simply by calling the name of Jesus—with faith, love and

            The lives of saints can attest to this. And even our own
personal experiences can prove it. Calling Jesus’ name can immediately
soften our mind and heart that can tend to harden due to the pressures
of life, not to mention, the temptations and sin around.

            Calling Jesus’ name will always remind us to be good to
others, to be charitable, understanding and compassionate with them.
It will prod us to think well of the others, to be quick to serve and
help them. It will push us to do a lot of good, never saying enough.

            Calling Jesus’ name will help us to be quick to ask for
forgiveness if we commit a mistake as well as to forgive others. It
will lead us along the way of humility and patience.

            Calling Jesus’ name will strengthen us so we can tackle
the many and endless challenges and problems of life. It will help us
to handle situations when we are insulted, mocked and offended. It
will encourage us to identify with him on the cross when we suffer all
kinds of injustice.

            Calling Jesus’ name will also show us what else to do to
follow him all the way to the end.