Thursday, August 31, 2017

Exploiting our limitations

WHENEVER we come face to face with our limitations or our
defects, mistakes, falls, etc., something that we could expect to be a
usual occurrence in our life, given our weakened human condition,
let’s be quick to assume the attitude once expressed by St. Paul.
Let’s not waste time lamenting or feeling sad because of them.
            “Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it (what
St. Paul termed as a thorn in the flesh) should leave me. But he said
to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect
in weakness,’” he said.
            Then he concluded: “I will all the more gladly boast of my
weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of
Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships,
persecutions and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2
Cor 12 ,8-10)
            Our weaknesses, our limitations and mistakes should not
hold us hostage for long, keeping us in the state of sadness,
depression and even despair. They can be very good occasions to
attract the attention, the mercy and the help of God.
            Let’s remember Christ telling us that “those who are well
have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to
call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mk 2,17) What consoling words of
Christ which he acted out a number of times!
            He fraternized with tax collectors and others considered
as public sinners of his time. He was merciful with the woman caught
in adultery. He chose as his apostles people who were clearly with
defects though they also had good qualities.
            As to men’s limitations, he reassures us not to worry
about them. What we cannot do, he can always do. This was shown in
that miraculous catch of fish, when Peter at first said, upon being
told to go to the deep and lower the nets for a catch, that he was
fishing the whole night before and caught nothing.
            The same when Christ told the apostles to feed the crowd
with a few loaves of bread and fish. What could such amount of bread
and fish do with so many people, they asked. But in the end, not only
were the crowd fully satisfied. There was an excess of the few that
was given out.
            We should not worry so much about limitations. We have to
train our feelings and our emotions to remain calm and hopeful when we
experience the burden of our incapacities. And let’s be quick to
assume that Pauline advice about how to handle our limitations and
            In fact, we can take advantage of our weaknesses and
limitations to attract God’s attention, mercy and tremendous help that
would really astound us. If we are humble enough to acknowledge our
limitations and just go to Christ as soon as we can, we can always be
sure that God helps us beyond our expectation and imagination.
            This does not mean that we have to take our limitations,
weaknesses, failures and sins lightly. We have to try to avoid them as
much as we can, fight them and atone for them. But we should not
forget the other side that would make all these a magnet for God’s
mercy and grace. “Where sin has abounded, his grace has abounded even
more.” (Rom 5,20)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Make war to gain peace

WE have to understand the proper relationship between war
and peace. Christ himself who is the prince of peace recommended a
kind of warfare that we have to undertake all the time. This can be
gleaned from the following words of his:
            “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the
earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword…Whoever loves
father or mother more than me is not worthy of me…” (Mt 10,34 ff)
            In another part of the gospel, he also said: “From the
days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers
violence, and the violent bear it away.” (Mt 11,12)

             We have to understand though that to be violent in this
sense does not mean to be destructive but rather constructive, driven
by love and the desire to be united with God and with the others in a
way proper to us as children of God and brothers and sisters among
            Our life here on earth cannot but be in some form of
struggle. Aside from our innate urge to grow and develop that requires
some effort, we also have to contend with enemies whose sole intent is
precisely to bring us down, to divert us from our proper path toward
            We are not simply ranged against natural difficulties,
challenges and trials in life, but rather with very powerful and
subtle nemeses. The natural enemies alone are already formidable.
            But we still have enemies tougher than these. As St. Paul
said, “Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against
principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of darkness,
against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.” (Eph 6,12)
            Truth is many people—in fact, I would say all of us one
way or another—are looking for effective ways to develop our spiritual
life and to be skillful in the unavoidable spiritual warfare in this

              People, including the young ones whose stirring for the
spiritual can be sharp and intense if hidden, want to know, for
example, how to pray, or how to keep it going amid the many concerns
in life. Getting engaged with God all throughout the day eludes them.
            They actually want to know how to grow in the virtues but
do not have ample support to pursue the goals. For example, to remain
chaste, if the interest still flickers, remains an impossible dream.

             They see glimpses of the need for the cross, for
sacrifices in this life, but they get stalled if not hostaged by
worldly distractions. Many want to get out of their self-absorption,
but no one helps them, giving them ideas or simply encouraging them.

           We need to find ways of how to wage war to gain the peace
that is proper to us. We have to do a lot of personal apostolate based
on friendship and confidence. We should teach our friends in personal
direction and confidential chats how to wage this spiritual struggle
in the concrete environment they are in.
            One clear principle to follow here is to motivate them to
truly fall in love with God and with everybody else. That love has
creative ways of waging war against the enemies of God and of our

Monday, August 28, 2017

Both idealistic and realistic

AD astra per aspera. That’s the motto of a school where I
was assigned once as its chaplain. It means “To the stars through
hardships.” It’s a way to encourage the students to aspire for the
best without fear of the sacrifices involved.
            The motto certainly injects optimism in the students,
motivating them to do their best, but always giving due consideration
to their capabilities and other personal circumstances.
            It’s also a good reminder to all of us that we have to be
both idealistic and realistic. Yes, we should reach for the stars but
fully aware of what it takes and of what possibilities we have, given
the conditions around.
            There definitely will be some tension involved here, but
it is a healthy tension that serves only to prod and spur us to
action, but does not compromise our physical, mental or emotional

            We however should understand being idealistic properly.
It’s not about pursuing fantastic and quixotic dreams. It’s not about
running after whims and caprices. These dreams, whims and caprices are
largely false and unrealizable. They exist only in our mind.
            To be truly idealistic is to go after what is most
important to us—our sanctification, our relation with God and others,
our capacity to love as we should. It is to aim at nothing less than
heaven, the real heaven as distinct from the false heavens and utopias
marketed by some ideologies.
            But we have to be realistic in pursuing this ideal. And
that means, first of all, that God is actually providing us already
with everything that we need to achieve our ultimate end. There’s his
grace, both the sanctifying and the actual ones. There’s his Church
and everything that is in it—his word, sacraments, etc.
            To be realistic also means that we really have to know
ourselves inside out. We have to have a good inventory of our
strengths and weaknesses, our assets and liabilities. We should keep a
good running balance of this personal inventory and start making plans
of how we can use it optimally.

            That is why a thorough daily examination of conscience is
always advisable. There we can see the movements of the different
elements of our daily life, noting the shifts and changes, the ups and
downs, the state and direction of our thoughts, reactions, desires,
feelings, etc.
            To be realistic is also about knowing the concrete
conditions around. That’s why we should always be observant,
broadening our perspectives and deepening our insights. With all the
new technologies now made available, this should not be a difficult
task. We just have to be very open-minded, receptive and perceptive.
            Toward this end, it may be good to give due attention to
our continuing intellectual and cultural formation so that we can
better read the signs of the times and act accordingly.

              To be sure, to be both idealistic and realistic will lead
us to an exciting lifestyle. It can be full of fun and dynamism. It
can lead us to know and to learn more and more things. And most
importantly, it can lead us to where we should be at the end of our
life. And that is heaven!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Faith and the emotions

WE are told that our faith should be materialized. It
should be enfleshed. It should not remain purely spiritual and
intellectual because that faith would not be operative given our human
nature that is made of body and soul.
            We have to overcome that rupture between our spiritual and
material dimensions caused by sin. Let’s remember these words from the
gospel that describe the severity of this rupture.
            One is Christ saying: “The spirit is willing, but the
flesh is weak.” (Mt 26,41) And the other is St. Paul saying: “I see in
my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me
captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.” (Rom 7,19.23)
            We have to see to it that our faith is truly enfleshed.
Once that is done, we can say that that faith would truly be sealed in
our life. We would be establishing in the basic level of our life the
unity and consistency that is expected of it.
            And how do we enflesh the faith? By working on our
emotions and passions. As defined by our Catechism, passions are
“natural components of the human psyche; they form the passageway and
ensure the connection between the life of the senses and the life of
the mind.”

             In other words, it is working on our heart, because as the
same Catechism tells us, “Our Lord called man’s heart the source from
which the passions spring.” (CCC 1764) Besides, passions and emotions
are “movements of the sensitive appetite that incline us to act or not
to act in regard to something felt or imagined to be good or evil.”
(CCC 1763) They definitely play an important role in our life.
            We have to see to it that the truths of our faith get to
settle down all the way to our emotions and passions, and then to our
senses and instincts. We have to be wary when we get too doctrinal or
too theoretical and too idealistic without seeing these truths really
inspiring our emotions and senses and those of the others with whom we
are doing some spiritual direction.
            Otherwise, we can get alluded to by what Christ said of
some leading Jews of his time: “Practice and observe whatever they
tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.”
(Mt 23,3)
            If we look at the lives of saints, what we can readily
observe is how their piety and religiosity is immediately perceptible
even in their external behavior and appearance. There is a certain
aura that they exude, somehow indicating that their faith is lived and
not simply professed.
            That’s why we need to exert continuing effort so that,
among other things, these truths of our faith get internalized,
assimilated and lived in our emotions and passions. And if we want
this faith to get so internalized, assimilated and lived in the
emotions and passions of others, we need to present it in such a way
as to be respectful always of the emotions and passions of others.
            This is simply to follow what St. Paul once said about
being all things to all men. We have to be most mindful of the
sensibilities of the others and try our best to convey the faith
according to how they are without, of course, compromising the essence
of our faith.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Pope leads us to heaven

“I WILL give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. And whatever you
loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16,19)
            It is quite clear from these words of Christ that the
Pope, whoever he is, since he is the successor of Peter to whom these
words were first addressed, holds the keys to heaven and can lead us
to heaven himself.
            In other words, we cannot enter heaven without passing
through Peter and his successors, the Popes. How true then is that
aspiration coined by some holy men, “Omnes cum Petro ad Iesum per
Mariam!” (All with Peter to Jesus through Mary!)
            We need to meditate on these words more often if only to
understand them better, fathoming its depth and scope, discerning its
implications and consequences. More importantly, we need to meditate
on them to strengthen our belief that they have to be accepted in
            There is no other way. If we take them only with our
reason alone, supported only by our human and worldly criteria, we
have every reason not believe them. Peter, though he was the head of
the apostles, also had major defects that would surely nullify the
veracity of the words of Christ!
            But the fact is that these words were spoken by Christ
who, if we believe in him, cannot delude us nor can he be deluded. We
just have to have some allowance of abandonment from the usual doubts
and questioning brought about by our reason in order to accept
Christ’s words at face value.
            With these words, the Pope can rightly be called as the
Vicar of Christ here on earth, or as St. Catherine of Siena would have
it, he is the Sweet Christ on earth!
            Nowadays the status of Pope Francis is somehow put to
question by no less than some high ecclesiastics, because of certain
pronouncements he made. Most of these questions revolve around his
“Amoris laetitia” that, they claim, contain assertions that, to these
ecclesiastics, can be considered at least as dubious and even
reckless, inviting danger.
            This has caused some consternation, dismay and even
disbelief in many sectors. The situation is actually very delicate,
and I would not like to worsen things by coming up with drastic or
radical comments. I would rather appeal to everyone to pray and offer
sacrifices, and practice restraint and moderation in reacting to this
particular development.
            But what I can say is that Pope Francis is leading us to a
new frontier, a new territory in Church teaching that is not
necessarily disruptive of past and present Magisterium. It is the new
territory that can be considered as an organic extension of the status

             This organic evolution of Church teaching brought about by
Pope Francis is now more sensitive to the finer points of the
spiritual and moral lives of people that can hardly be captured by
legal and doctrinal categories.
            It’s an evolution that is doctrinally faithful to Christ’s
teaching, releasing us from a certain grip of legalism and
doctrinalism. It invites us to be more discerning of the promptings of
the Holy Spirit that go beyond what the doctrines so far could
            To me, what he has taught in Amoris laetitia is an
expression of what is known as the “law of gradualness,” as opposed to
the “gradualness of the law” which is unacceptable as a moral
            Obviously, the distinction between these two principles
can be confusing, and thus can create tension. But it’s a distinction
that cannot be avoided, and we just have to face it, relying on the
goodwill of people concerned and the competent supervisory attention
of the appropriate Church offices.
            Yes, there is a possibility of an anti-Pope and an
anti-Christ. But unless these are clearly revealed, we just have to
trust in Christ’s words to St. Peter: “I will give you the keys to the
kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in
heaven. And whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Patience and self-forgetfulness

I BELIEVE that the practice of patience is unavoidable in
our life. We have problems, difficulties and all sorts of negative
things that can happen everyday, and one way or another we are forced
to bear them, even if we don’t quite like bearing them.
            Of course, the ideal is to develop patience as a virtue,
something that we should willingly and lovingly do, based on our faith
in God who knows what to do with every predicament we may get into. We
should also willingly and lovingly do it, fully aware that a lot of
good can be derived from practicing this virtue in the spirit of

            Patience is first of all a grace of God that we should
constantly ask for. But it is also a virtue that we need to develop
ourselves. And as a virtue, a good part of it consists in simply
forgetting ourselves.
            We have to discipline ourselves so that we can develop the
attitude of readily doing the will of God no matter what it costs.
God’s will is expressed in his commandments and implied in the events
of our day that we have to learn to relate to God.
            With self-forgetfulness, many of the difficulties that we
have would actually just disappear, since these difficulties usually
arise due to the exaggerated consideration our egos give them. When we
manage to forget ourselves, that is, when we try to slay our egos,
life is cleared of many of its problems and difficulties.
            To slay our egos, we have to learn not to take ourselves
too seriously. In fact, we should regard ourselves as nothing but
servants, always thinking of God and of the others, ever eager to
serve them. In this way we follow what St. Paul suggested:
            “In humility count others better than yourselves. Let each
of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests
of others…” (Phil 2,3-4) From there, St. Paul talked about imitating
Christ in his self-emptying.
            Our self-forgetfulness should reflect this self-emptying
of Christ. It may take the form of not getting over-sensitive,
especially when we are insulted and mocked. In fact, it may be a good
idea to expose ourselves as early as possible to insults and
mockeries, so we can develop a certain immunity towards them.
            We have to learn the art of holy indifference and the
practice of dismissing certain stray thoughts and reactions that are
not helpful at all to us nor pleasing to God. We have to learn not to
worry and, instead, develop that healthy sense of abandonment in the
hands of God.
            Somehow we have to learn to be sport in the sense that
whatever happens in our game of life, we continue to be of good
spirit, to be calm and cool. We have to learn to be quick to forgive
and to forget, not allowing resentments to settle in our hearts.
            We should be cheerful all the time, positive in our
outlook and encouraging in our words. In this way, we would actually
be identifying ourselves in a very concrete way with Christ who went
through his passion and death with serenity.
            Let’s empty ourselves so as to be filled only with the
things of God and of the others.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Both sheep and shepherd

IT’S good that we develop a sense of the pastoral. And
that’s simply because our earthly condition can be likened to pastoral
life. Truth is we are all both sheep and shepherd, both to be taken
care of and to be nourished, on the one hand, and also to take care
and to nourish each other, on the other hand.

            That is why Christ frequently made use of the pastoral
imagery in his preaching. “I am the good shepherd,” he said once, “I
know my own and my own know me.” (Jn 10,14)

            In other parts of the gospel, he is also described as a
sheep, or to be more precise, as a lamb. “Behold the Lamb of God who
takes away the sins of the world,” St. John the Baptist said. (Jn
1,29) He is, of course, the sacrificial lamb par excellence.

            But he is a lamb that is also a shepherd in the sense
that, as expressed in the Book of Revelation, 144,000 others were with
him. (cfr 14,1)

            Conformed to Christ, we have to be both sheep and
shepherd, both to be guided and to guide, following the same process
of receiving and giving that characterizes our whole earthly life.

            As good shepherd, Christ lays down his life for his sheep.
He contrasts himself to the hireling. The latter “sees the wolf coming
and leaves the sheep and flees.”

            As members of the Church founded by Christ, we form one
sheepfold whose door is Christ himself. We are a flock taken care of
by Christ as the good shepherd, and we also take care of one another.
Yes, we are also a shepherd to each other, being so in the name of

            We have to understand that we ought to develop a keen
sense of the pastoral. We both have to learn and to teach, to be led
and to lead, to be offered like the sacrificial lamb and to be the
offerer himself.

            We have to understand that this sense of the pastoral
involves all of us, and not just the priests and bishops. It’s for the
clergy, the laity and the religious. We all take part in the
continuing mission of the Christ and of the Church, which is the
salvation of man, though in different ways.

            As sheep and lamb, we have to try our best to learn
everything about our faith and to live it to the full. Christ has
given us everything already that we need to know. He has given us all
the means we need to be who we ought to be—nothing less than another

            Like the sheep and the lamb, we have to be docile and
meek. We have to be willing to be sacrificed too, because with all the
sins of men, we cannot avoid having to suffer, and we have to suffer

            As shepherd, we have to learn how to help others get
closer to God. We do it by all means—by word or example. We have to
learn how to give spiritual direction to others, starting with those
close to us.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Let’s pray always

ST. Paul tells us to pray without ceasing and we have to
take his words seriously. (cfr 1 Thes 5,17) We are meant to pray
continuously, because we need to be always in touch with God and
prayer is our basic way of doing that. And as a necessary corollary to
that, prayer also enables us to get in touch with everybody else which
we also need to do.

            Without God who is our creator and source of all good
things, we can only do evil. We would be like a branch cut off from
the vine. We may manage to give an appearance of life and goodness,
but without Him, we actually have and are nothing.

            We have to be constantly aware that we cannot be simply on
our own. We need God and we need to be with everybody and everything
else. We have to overcome our tendency that we can afford to be
isolated. We should never forget that we are always in communion and
we need to make that communion alive and healthy.

            Communication, which is primarily done through prayer, is
indispensable to keep our communion with God and with others alive.
When we would just keep quiet, there’s no other thing that can happen,
except, first of all, to be indifferent to God and to the others, and
eventually to go against them.

            That is why in the context of marriage and family life,
for example, communication is essential and should always be done.
When for one reason or another, communication is frustrated in these
areas, problems will always arise. They become unavoidable.

            Thus, when we notice that someone in the family is quiet
or is isolating himself, it should give us a warning that something is
wrong. And everything has to be done so that the flow of communication
continues and greater communion in love and understanding is kept.

            And what would give us the idea and material, the reason
and the impulse to communicate is when we first of all communicate
with God through our personal prayer. That is why prayer is so
indispensable in our life.

            Let’s see to it that our prayer is truly a living
encounter with God, a loving conversation with him, an intimate
sharing of love. That is always possible and doable because God is our
Father who is not only everywhere but is always in love with us,
irrespective of how we are. In fact, his love for us becomes more
special if we get into some difficult moment.

            It’s God who takes the initiative to come into our lives,
into our mind and heart. It’s up to us to correspond to God’s
initiative. That’s why we need to have some time to pray, to pause and
reflect, and to assume a recollected lifestyle. With today’s noise and
hustle and bustle, a time of prayer and silence is truly needed.

            Sometimes, because of our weakened and wounded condition,
we find it hard to correspond, but God tells us to just apply some
force on ourselves. “Ask,” Christ said, “and it will be given to you.
Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Mt

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Weeding out

WEEDS are a fact of life, and we just have to learn how to
deal with them. Not only are they in our gardens. They are practically
everywhere. They, in fact, appear in all aspects of our life—personal,
social, economic, political, etc.

            Where we have to be most careful about them is in our
spiritual life. That’s because a spiritual life full of weeds is the
seedbed of all the weeds we can have in all the other aspects of life.
The condition of our spiritual life determines the condition of all
the other areas in our life.

            We have to see to it, for example, that our prayer is a
real dialogue with God and not just a soliloquy, our sanctity not
sanctimony, our piety not pietism. We have to see to it that
everything in our spiritual life is genuine and authentic, not fake.
And to think that nowadays we are practically swimming in an ocean of
fake things!

            We have to flee from any signs of pretension and
hypocrisy. We have to strengthen our unity of life, always making an
effort to fix our often fractured life. We have to know how to
dominate the many distractions we are having nowadays in our prayer
life, and these can be very irresistible and, worse, addicting.

            This, of course, will require constant effort at
vigilance, discernment and weeding out. But first, we need to know how
to distinguish between the true and the false.

            This can be very tricky, because weeds can also have the
quality of looking like the genuine plants. But thanks to God, we also
have the means to be able to identify which is which.

            We already have well-defined doctrine of our faith, a good
variety of spiritualities to choose from, a rich body of testimonies
of saints who can serve as guides, and other means like recourse to
the sacraments, to spiritual direction, etc.

            We just have to do our part. Much like what we usually do
with our gardens, we also have to see to it that there is a regular
pruning and weeding out done in our acts of piety. This should be a
habit for us, something we do quite automatically.

            Christ himself referred to this when he said: “He cuts off
every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does
bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (Jn 15,2)

            In our daily examination of conscience, we should be able
to make some cutting off and pruning. We cannot let some days pass
without doing this very important thing of cutting off, weeding out
and pruning. Especially days when we are confronted with a lot of
distractions, we should be quite active in doing this.

            This is the way we can manage to create an air of goodness
wherever we may be, edifying people around, which is what we should be
doing all the time. The end result should be a certain surge of
eagerness to do good always. We can notice a certain sense of
driven-ness in our life, and that’s simply because we are fit and
lean, cleansed from unnecessary burden.