Friday, June 30, 2017

Gaining by losing

WE need to learn this skill, this art. We have to feel at
home with this possibility. This was what Christ clearly told us.

             “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up
house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands
for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a
hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and
sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and
eternal life in the age to come.” (Mk 10,29-30)
            In fact, he rounded all these intriguing remarks by saying
that “many that are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
(Mk 10,31) This is part of the mystery that Christ wants us to live
with and to live by. We should stop fretting whether these words are
worth following.
            Let’s always remember that Christ’s words hold what is
objectively true, good and beautiful for us. More than that, they are
what can bring about our salvation, of which we are in great need.
They are what would lead us to our eternal destination of heaven.
            If we bother to study the lives of saints, then we will
see how these words are indeed effective. We should try to give more
attention to saints than to media-hyped idols and celebrities, since
the former truly give more authentic witness to our life’s true
character than the latter.
            It’s not that we have to reject our parents, the family,
our business and other earthly affairs we have. Our Lord himself
commands us to honor our parents and to subdue the earth. We just have
to learn how to love our parents and to get involved in our temporal
concerns properly.
            That means that while we have to love our parents and
others as much as possible and get seriously immersed in our earthly
affairs, we just have to see to it that our heart and mind are solely
for our Lord, that our motives are nothing other than love for God and
love for others which should go together.
            We should not be afraid to go through the required
sacrifices and self-denial, since these can only lead us to the joy
and peace meant for us. We need to do better than a shallow and narrow
view of our earthly life, a knee-jerk reaction to things.
            Detachment does not remove our involvement and engagement
in our earthly and temporal affairs. It simply puts them in the right
context and the right direction. It frees us from unnecessary baggage.
It improves our vision and understanding of things, and predisposes
our heart to the real love which can only be a sharing in God’s love.
            We therefore should not have superfluous things, creating
needs that are really not needs, and thereby generating attachments
that can be a hindrance in one’s relation with God and with others.
            Together with this call to detachment, Christ is telling
us to be fruitful in this life. “Much will be required of the person
entrusted with much,” he said, “and still more will be demanded of the
person entrusted with more.” (Lk 12,48)
            It’s a call to generosity that he has reiterated many
times, like in the parable of the talents, for example, as well as in
the parables of sower and the seed, the tenants in the vineyard, and
the different images he taught about the Kingdom of God. We need to
trade and make a gain and an increase of what we have received from
            Our fruitfulness will depend on our proper detachment from
things so we can be filled with nothing else than God himself and his
power, wisdom and all other good things in abundance.
            This is when we can truly gain by losing!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A sign of contradiction

IT’S an expression that is first of all referred to Christ
before it is referred to anyone who chooses to follow Christ. That’s,
of course, all of us who call ourselves Christians and strive to be
consistent to that dignity.

             As defined or described in Wikipedia, the term refers to
“someone who, upon manifesting holiness, is subject to extreme
opposition. The term is from the biblical phrase ‘sign that is spoken
against,’ found in Luke 2,32 and in Acts 28,22, which refers to Jesus
and the early Christians.”
            We might ask, why should Christ and all Christians who try
to be faithful be a ‘sign of contradiction’? There can be many
answers. But we can already gather a lot of ideas simply by taking
note of what Christ himself taught and did.
            In the first place, in the gospel of St. John, we are
already given a description of the intriguing figure of Christ: “He
was in the world that had come into being through him, and the world
did not recognize him. He came to his own and his own people did not
accept him.” (Jn 1,10-11)
            From there we can already get the idea that Christ is
someone who will go through contradictions of sorts. And his teachings
would bear that out also. Consider the following words of his:

            “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Mt 20,16)
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses
his life for me will find it.” (Mt 16,25)
“Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or
mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a
hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Mt 19,29)
"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd
as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Mt 10,16)
“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground
and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it
produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever
hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” (Jn
St. Paul himself has also given an intriguing description of Christ
when he said: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that
in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5,21)
In all of these, Christ would conclude by saying, “Whoever has ears,
let him hear,” (Mt 11,15) as if trying to tell us that these words
just cannot be understood by using our reasoning alone. They can only
be understood and believed when there is faith, when one listens to
the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
We therefore should not wonder too much if Christ is considered as a
sign of contradiction. The same when we ourselves can also be so
regarded if we try to follow Christ closely.
The whole thing is part of the unavoidable tension that exists between
the natural and the supernatural aspects of our life, the material and
spiritual, the temporal and eternal, etc.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Leavening the world

WE have to be more aware of this aspect of our Christian
life. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, whatever may be our
status, we have the duty to infuse the Christian spirit to everything
that we handle. We have to be a leaven for the world.
            Christ himself said so in no uncertain terms: “The kingdom
of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of
flour until it was all leavened.” (Mt 13,33) Yes, the kingdom of
heaven already starts here and should be on its way to its definitive
state through our leavening presence and action.
            We just have to make sure that we make ourselves genuine
Christian leaven. That’s because Christ himself warned us of some
false leaven. “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of
Herod," he said. (Mk 8,15) This false leaven can refer to things like
hypocrisy, self-righteousness, or any worldly spirit that is not from
            This duty to be a leaven for the world is actually very
doable, because what is needed first of all is the intention to do so.
We may not be doing something with big public significance or some
external manifestation, but with the little ordinary things that we do
everyday and done with faith and love for God and for others, we can
already effectively leaven the world.

             In short, we can be active Christian leaven if we unite
ourselves with Christ always, if we unite whatever we are doing, no
matter how technical, mundane, and of low worldly value, with the
continuing redemptive work of Christ. We can always do this uniting
business, since all we have to do is to will it.
            We should not take for granted the great leavening power
of the little things that we do everyday. We may not see the direct
connection between these little things and the sanctification of
everyone in the world, but for sure the amount of faith and love with
which we do these things have great sanctifying effects on everyone.

             It will be Christ, more than us, who would do the job.
Ours is simply to cooperate with him, since Christ works through human
and natural means, without detracting from the supernatural means that
he can always do.
            On our part, what is needed is heroic fidelity to Christ
which is usually lived in the performance of our usual work and
duties. In fact, we have to understand heroism mainly in this regard,
for very few and far between would be the occasions where we can live
heroism in the extraordinary events and circumstances of our life.
            If we understand this point very well, then we would also
realize that our own sanctification, which will always require some
heroism, can be achieved through the faithful and loving performance
of our ordinary duties of everyday.
            This is what would truly comprise as leavening the world.
By doing with heroic faith and love for God and others the ordinary
little things of the day, we can attain our ultimate, supernatural and
eternal goal in life!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Our daily heroism

TO be holy is both hard and easy. Hard, because it really
demands everything from us. But it’s also easy, because God’s grace is
always available, and all the means for us to be truly a saint are all
there for the taking.

             Let’s always remember that we are all asked to be holy.
“Be holy, because I am holy,” St. Peter in first letter quoted the
Scriptures. (1,16) Christ himself said: “Be perfect as your heavenly
Father is perfect.” (Mt 5,48) It should not be regarded as
presumptuous or vain to aim at being declared a saint. In fact, it
should always be expected of us and we should work for it earnestly.
            We have to understand that to be truly a saint as we
should be, it should be proven that we live the virtues to a heroic
degree. In fact, in the process of canonization for any candidate to
sainthood, the proof of the heroicity of one’s virtues has to be
established before some miracles attributed to the candidate’s
intercession are required.
            In this regard, we have to feel at home with the belief
that indeed to be heroic in the virtues can be achieved in the
ordinary circumstances of our daily life. We don’t need to get
involved in some extraordinary events, like what happened to many
martyrs like St. Pedro Calungsod, for us to be truly holy.
            What is simply needed is that we are truly burning with
love for God and for others even in the most ordinary things in life.
This kind of heroism can even be more heroic and meritorious since it
would require constant prodding of our will which can easily fall into
complacency and into all kinds of rationalizations.
            These dangers can easily come to us because we can easily
think that the little ordinary things in our life—our usual daily
duties and tasks—have nothing to do with God, or with the business of
seeking sanctity in all events and circumstances of our life.
            These dangers are even constantly reinforced by a world
culture that gives little value to the ordinary things. The presence
of God and the working of his providence are hardly felt, if at all,
in these things.

            Besides, we can be affected by the thought that doing
good, trying to be holy all the time, gives us no real benefit. In
fact, we might envy those who do evil, as expressed once in the
            “I was envious of the arrogant, when I saw the prosperity
of the wicked. For they have no pangs. Their bodies are sound and
sleek. They are not in trouble as other men are. They are not stricken
like other men. Pride is their necklace. Violence covers them as a
garment.” (73,3-6)
            Like Christ who spent most of his heroic life hidden and
in silence before being raised up on the cross for everyone to see, we
should live heroic lives doing a lot of good while passing unnoticed.
Christ himself said that our praying and fasting should not be noticed
by others but should rather be hidden. (cfr. Mt 6,1-8)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

St. Josemaria Escriva

NO, I didn’t have the privilege of meeting St. Josemaria
Escriva in person, though I got in touch with Opus Dei five years
before he died in 1975. I was then an 18-year-old junior student in
college in Manila who was looking for a place to study, since I found
it hard to study in my boarding house nor in the school library.

             That was how I was led to know St. Josemaria whose feast
we celebrate on June 26. A classmate of mine introduced me to a place
that immediately got my interest. It was quiet, with an ample study
room, and the people were very friendly. I must say that I fell in
love with the place and started frequenting it.
            Along the way, I got invited to attend some talks they
organized there, and to have a chat with the priest, whom I deeply
admired since it was to him that I confided all my secrets, doubts and
issues as well as my dreams and ambitions that I had during those
youthful years. He clarified many things to me, broadened my
perspectives, and motivated me to study and work hard.
            Little by little, I was introduced to the practice of
mental prayer, spiritual reading, going to daily Mass, doing some
mortifications, and many others. That was when I “met” St. Josemaria,
because it was through his writings that I realized one can be a
consistently good person, even a saint, just by doing the ordinary
little things of each day with love for God and for others.
            The idea fascinated me. Of course, like anybody else, I
wanted to be a good person, but I did not know how. My desire could
hardly take off from the ground before I would already lose steam. And
my usual friends then were of no help. We were actually in the same
boat, filled with good desires by helpless in turning them to deeds.
            Besides, at that time I was attracted to the idea that one
can be a good person, yes, even a saint, without becoming a priest. At
that time, I just wanted to be a good businessman making a lot of
money, but consistently striving to be a holy person without showing
it off.
            St. Josemaria reinforced these desires of mine in his
writings. I found him preaching a lifestyle that called for turning
the ordinary circumstances and events of each day into opportunities
to love God and to others.

              In other words, I did not have to look somewhere else to
be truly in love. Where I was in any given moment is the very chance
given to me to develop love. It would be there where I could practice
to the full the demands of faith, hope and charity every moment of my
life and not just from time to time.
            This was what hooked me to him. And what strengthened this
attraction was to see many people following what St. Josemaria
preached, giving me the conviction that what he taught was doable and
that it must have come from above. It could not simply be his own.
            Now, as to how I ended up as a priest, that’s another
story. But St. Josemaria also had a lot to do with it.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Trust God and be not afraid

LIFE always has more to offer to us than what we can
understand, let alone, cope. And they can come in all shapes and
sizes, good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant, likeable and hateful.
There are surprises and moments when we seem to rot in expectation and
still things we long for don’t come.

             In the face of all this, I believe the attitude to have
and the reaction to make is to be calm, pray hard, and while we do all
we can, we have to learn to live a certain sense of abandonment in the
hands of God.

             In those situations, I believe we just have to allow
ourselves to play in God’s game plan, in his abiding providence whose
designs are beyond reckoning, are way beyond comprehension and

             We have to know when to be afraid and when not. We have to
distinguish between a good fear and a bad fear, a healthy one and a
sick one. We need to know how to handle and deal with our fears that
are unavoidable in our life.
            Fear is an emotion that we need to educate also. It just
cannot be on its own, guided only by our spontaneous judgments and
reactions, and appearing when it’s not supposed to, and not appearing
when it’s supposed to. It has to be grounded and oriented properly,
expressing the sublimity of our dignity as persons and children of
            In this life, we need to develop a sportsman’s attitude,
since life is like a game. Yes, life is like a game, because we set
out to pursue a goal, we have to follow certain rules, we are given
some means, tools and instruments, we train and are primed to win and
do our best, but defeats can always come, and yet, we just have to
move on.
            It would be unsportsmanlike if we allow ourselves to get
stuck with our defeats and failures, developing a loser’s mentality.
That would be the epic fail that puts a period and a finis in an
ongoing narrative, when a comma, a colon or a semi-colon would have
            We need a sporting spirit because life’s true failure can
come only when we choose not to have hope. That happens when our
vision and understanding of things is narrow and limited, confined
only to the here and now and ignorant of the transcendent reality of
the spiritual and supernatural world.

             This should be the attitude to have. It’s an attitude that
can only indicate our unconditional faith and love for God who is
always in control of things, and at the same time can also leave us in
peace and joy even at the worst of the possibilities.
            Remember the Book of Ecclesiastes where it says that for
everything there is a season, “a time to be born, and a time to die; a
time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill,
and a time to heal…” But everything is under God’s control, and even
if we are capable of eternity, we just the same “cannot find out what
God has done from the beginning to the end.” (3,1ff) We just have to
trust him.
            We have to follow the example of the many characters in
the gospel who, feeling helpless in the many predicaments they were
in, earnestly rushed to Christ for some succor. They went to him
unafraid and unashamed and they got what they wanted.

             It may happen that we may not get what we want. And in
this, we should not be too surprised or too worried. What is sure is
that God always listens and gives us what is best for us.
            If our request is granted, it’s because it is good for us.
If our request is not granted, it could be because what we asked is
actually not good for us. Examples of this kind of cases are aplenty,
and many would later on realize how lucky they were that what they
asked for was not granted.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Maintaining and changing

IN these increasingly complicated times, we need to learn
the skill of what to maintain and what to change as we go on with our
life. There definitely are things that we should keep constantly, no
matter what, but without getting rigid, and things that can and should
vary, depending on the circumstances, but without getting lost.

             This, to me, is a skill that should be learned by all of
us, especially the young ones who will bear the brunt of all the
challenges of our modern times. Let’s hope that we can put up the
proper structures for this purpose, the proper hardware and software,
so to speak, especially in the context of the family, school, and the
apostolate with the youth.
            Everyday, we need to ask ourselves this question of what
to keep and what to change, since everyday we have to adapt ourselves
to different persons and situations which can expose us to a dizzying
variety of possibilities.

             St. Paul offers us a clue when he said that he had to be
all things to all men. To the weak he became weak. To those under the
law as if he was under the law, etc. (cfr 1 Cor 9,21ff)

             If we look closely at this Pauline passage, we can see
that the very motive of St. Paul’s adaptability that gave him a
certain consistency is the salvation of souls.
            “I became all things to all men, that I might save all,”
St. Paul said. So, it is our salvation that drove him and should also
motivate us in all our efforts to adapt ourselves to every person and
to every situation of our life. It is the eternal salvation of man
that would give consistency to the changing demands of adaptability.
            Our adaptability should not just be a function of an
exclusively practical and worldly value and purpose like convenience,
or the pursuit for wealth, power and fame. Of course, these motives
can be legitimate as long as they play an instrumental role, always
subordinated to the necessary motive of our eternal salvation.
            In this regard, we have to understand that the true
standard and measure, the true source and purpose of our adaptability,
flexibility, versatility and consistency can only be Christ.

             We have to be wary when we reduce our sense of these
qualities to some human criteria alone, like sheer practicality,
publicity, or worse when we make them a tool for hypocrisy, deception
and other ulterior motives.
            What we have to do is to avail of a personal plan of life
that contains certain acts of piety, spread throughout our day, our
week, months and years. These should help us to be closely in touch
with Christ so we can follow him in his ways.

             This should include a time for prayer, continuing study of
the doctrine of our faith, recourse to the sacraments, never-ending
ascetical struggle to develop virtues and fighting against sin and
temptations, etc.

             Very often during the day, we need to pause and ask
ourselves: Is this what Christ is asking me to do at this moment? Is
this how Christ is asking me to do?
            This way, we can expect to be both consistent and flexible
in our ways, and achieve the effectiveness of the mission of Christ

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Materializing and spiritualizing

GIVEN the material and spiritual dimensions in which our
earthly life has to develop, we really need to learn how to blend the
two together in some unity and consistency without, of course,
confusing them. What is material is material, and what is spiritual is
spiritual, but the two should mutually affect each other. Focusing on
one while neglecting on the other would not be proper to us.

            Of the two, it is also a given that it is the spiritual
dimension that should be given prominence and priority. As Christ
himself said, “It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no
help at all…” (Jn 6,63)

            And yet the body can neither be disregarded since, as St.
Paul said, “Do you not know that your bodies are the members of
Christ…that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?...Therefore,
glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Cor

            We have to learn how to put these two dimensions together
in some mutual relation. We need to spiritualize our material selves,
that is, our body, our flesh, just as we need to materialize our
spiritual selves, that is, our soul.

            Otherwise, we would fall into the extremes of
spiritualism, a spirituality devoid of material effects, on the one
hand, and materialism, an ideology that denies any spiritual
constituent in our life, on the other. The former can easily give rise
to hypocrisy and self-righteousness, while the latter can only breed

            These isms are akin to what St. James in his letter
described as faith without works, for spiritualism, and works without
faith, for materialism. (cfr. 2,14-26) To be sure, one’s Christian
life may give more emphasis on one over the other, but both should be
given their proper attention and development.

            At the moment, it is clear that the materialistic
lifestyle is more rampant in the world today. Just the same, the
purely spiritualistic lifestyle is also growing and, in fact, is
hardening in some sectors. This divide should be overcome because
neither one nor the other is good for us.

            Since the time of Christ and the apostles, all kinds of
spiritualities, cultures and lifestyles have expressed their own
versions of how these two dimensions in our life ought to be lived and
interrelated. They always have valid points to give.

            But we need to develop a culture that is adapted to our
present conditions. Such culture should take into consideration the
technological developments, the socio-political milieus in the world,
the different sensibilities of the people today, etc.

            This aspect of our common life should be given due
attention and should never be taken for granted. It’s true that God is
always around and is in control of things, regardless of how we mess
up his providence. But we are expected to do our part.

            We need to learn the art of spiritualizing the material
dimension of our life, and materializing the spiritual as well. To be
sure this is the right path to lead us to the fullness of our human
and Christian life!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Eager to intercede

YES, we need to be eager and quick to help others. We
should never be indifferent to the needs of others even if we have our
own needs and predicaments. Actually, our attitude of interceding for
others has a way of resolving or at least of giving some relief to our
own problems and difficulties.

            Our own problems and difficulties should not be a
hindrance in our eagerness to intercede for the others. In fact, we
should make use of our own predicaments to spur us to get more
involved in the lives of others. By so doing, we would actually
simplify our life, not complicate it.

            We very likely would ask, how can that be when we already
are burdened by our own problems? And the answer can be that this
outlook in life and attitude to our problems can be the practical
application of what Christ himself said and encouraged us to do:
“Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses
their life for me will find it.” (Mt 16,25)

            The same divine logic can be found in these other words of
Christ: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed
down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your
bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be
measured to you again.” (Lk 6,38)

            Our eagerness to intercede for others should be based on
our faith and love for God. It should never be a product of mere human
calculations. We have to follow what Christ has taught and shown us.

            To be sure, we always have the capacity to intercede
because even if we can be very limited in helping others materially,
our capacity to help others spiritually is unlimited. We can always
pray for them, offer sacrifices for them. That’s the least that we can
do for others but also the most indispensable.

            We have to remind ourselves of the great truth of faith
that we actually form one family, the family of God. Through the truth
of our faith called the communion of saints, we are vitally united
with one another here on earth, with those in heaven as well as with
those still purifying themselves in purgatory.

            We need to feel responsible for one another, asking the
effective intercession of those already triumphant in heaven and
generously helping those still in purgatory. And with those still
struggling here on earth, we need to be pro-active in reaching out to
all, including those who may not like us for one reason or another.

            We need to train ourselves and form our mind and heart to
immediately be mindful and thoughtful of them, getting to know them
better, empathizing with them, helping bear with their burdens,
whatever they may be.

            As said earlier, we can always pray for them and offer
sacrifices for them. In this way, we reflect the very redemptive life
of Christ and assume his sentiments of love, compassion and mercy. We
approach the ideal of our life which is to be “alter Christus,”
another Christ!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Loving our work

WE have to understand that our work, whatever it is,
whether it is high or low, is our usual way to give praise and glory
to God. It is actually our way of cooperating in the abiding
providence of God. We should not underestimate the value of our work.
It can and should be our path to heaven.

            That is why we should see to it first of all that our work
is what God wants us to do. Our attitude toward our work should not be
conditioned mainly, much less, solely, by the fact we like a
particular kind of work or that we have the aptitude toward it, or the
relevant qualities and skills for it. While these factors matter, they
should not be the main criterion. Such attitude can only confine us to
our own interest.

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

            Having determined that, we should love our work, doing it
as best as we can. And this can mean that we carry it out very
conscientiously, “squeezing” each hour for all it is worth. We should
work in such a way that we would always be short of time for finishing
what we would like to do?

            It can also mean that we look very carefully after the
details in finishing well our daily work. We should lovingly exert the
necessary effort for it and embrace the sacrifices involved—that is,
the setbacks, the difficulties, the tiredness and fatigue.

            These are normal occurrences in our daily work that we
should not anymore be surprised about. We just have to be prepared for
them, since they are occasions to grow in our love for God and others.
In short, in our holiness.

            We should see to it that we are always eager to work,
always guarding ourselves from the threats of laziness and idleness,
and the many improper distractions that usually come our way.

            We have to take stock of the dangers that can undermine
our capacity to work and to work well. They can be certain undue
attachments to things, like games, shopping, daydreaming, or some
disorder in the way we work, or the bad spirit of complacency and
routine that can stealthily enter into our way of working. We have to
react to these dangers immediately.

            Another clear manifestation of our love for our work is
when we are eager to upgrade our skills and competence in our work.
Especially in these rapidly changing times, we need to be constantly
updated. We cannot stay stagnant in a certain level. We should also
learn to be highly adaptable, creative and versatile so as to catch up
with the fast-shifting developments.

            Most important is to review those aspects of our faith
that are more directly related to our work. Our work is not just a
purely technical affair. It has a highly spiritual and moral dimension
and apostolic purpose.