Saturday, March 2, 2024

Zeal for all the things of God

THIS is what we can learn from that gospel episode of Christ driving those who converted the temple into a market place (cfr. Jn 2,13-25), which is the gospel reading for the Mass of the 3rd Sunday of Lent. We need to develop this zeal because otherwise our heart can only be captured by earthly things that in the end would lead us nowhere. 

 With respect to the things of God, be they churches, liturgical items, sacred books, sacraments, means of formation, etc., we should see to it that there is that constant zeal that would let us consider them as our real treasures. Anything that would undermine these things should stir in us some passionate reaction to defend, protect and uphold them. 

 We should be wary of that common tendency of ours to be just casual about the things of God. Christ himself warned us about this danger when in that gospel cited above, he said, referring to those who claimed they believed in him, that he did not believe them. 

 “But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature,” says the gospel. He was referring, of course, to the fickleness of our human condition. Thus, we should be wary of this fact of life and do our best to do something about it. 

 Indeed, we need to exert effort, we need to educate our feelings and emotions, training them to consider the things of God to be our most precious treasure, for which we should be willing to sacrifice everything else when necessary. 

 In our relation with God and the things directly related to him, we have to involve not only our spiritual faculties but also the basic element of our humanity which are our feelings, our emotions and passions. 

 Our Catechism tells us that our emotions and passions 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.” (1763) 

 As such, we can say that our emotions and passions play an important and crucial role in our life. And that’s why we have to take pains in forming them well. We just cannot be complacent with this responsibility. 

 In fact, the Catechism tells us that our emotions and 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 mind.” (1764) 

 Our emotions and passions therefore serve as a link between our body and soul. They are where we materialize what is spiritual in us, and spiritualize what is material in us. As such, they create a rich texture in our lives. They create the consistency proper to us as a person and as a child of God. They also help to give focus on our judgments, modulate our will, and add sensitivity to our reasoning. 

 In other words, they play a decisive role in achieving a happy and fully human life. They contribute to achieving the full potentials of our humanity. But given the wounded condition of man, our emotions and passions need to be purified and thoroughly educated. 

 They should not be allowed to just develop at the instance of our hormones and instincts, for example, and the many other blind or short-sighted impulses and trends in our social, cultural, economic, or political environment. They need to be reined in, to be guided and given direction.

Friday, March 1, 2024

Christ wants us to be productive

THE gospel of the Mass of Friday of the 2nd Week of Lent (cfr. Mt 21,33-43.45-46) reminds us that Christ wants us to be fruitful and productive, making use of everything that he has given us—our life, our talents, and the many other gifts that we have. 

 The gospel also tells us that failing to be fruitful and productive is tantamount to nothing less than rejecting Christ. We should be wary therefore of our tendency to be lazy, to waste time, and to pursue useless and even harmful things. 

 Fruitfulness and productiveness here refer more to the spiritual and moral fruitfulness, a bountiful growth in our love of God and of others, than of mere material productiveness. More than profitability in terms of money and other earthly standards, our fruitfulness should be measured according to the growth in our own sanctity. 

 At the end of each day, we should be able to present to God something like a report card or a balance sheet that hopefully shows some improvement or growth in the virtues like charity, faith, hope, fortitude, patience, etc. 

 No matter how small or seemingly insignificant, we should be able to tell Our Lord, “Today, Lord, I am happy to say that I managed to hold my temper amid an irritating incident, or to be more understanding of an annoying person, or to be more patient and persevering in pursuing a goal, etc.” 

 Yes, everyday, we should be keenly aware that we need to be fruitful and productive. That’s simply because even from the beginning of our creation in Adam and Even, this has always been God’s will for us. 

 “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it,” (Gen 1,28) God told our first parents, clearly outlining his mandate to them. It’s a mandate that continues to be repeated up to now. Christ himself said as much. 

 In his parable of the three servants (cfr. Mt 25,14-30), for example, a master clearly told each one to trade with the amount given to them. He was happy with the first two who gained as much as was given. But he was mad at the third one who did nothing with the amount given. 

 We have to realize that God has already given us everything that we need, not only to survive but also to improve our lot that ultimately translates into realizing the fullness of our dignity as image and likeness of God, as children of his. 

 In this regard, we truly should be most enterprising, coming up with daily plans and strategies such that at the end of the day, when we make our examination of conscience, we can show God that we have gained something, and that the daily balance sheet of our spiritual life is in the black, not in the red. 

 We have to realize that the capitalization of this enterprise cannot be any better. God has given us everything—life, talents, intelligence, freedom, all kinds of capacities, his graces, etc. 

 And even if we commit mistakes or we fall into sin, no matter how grave, his mercy is always available. It’s really just up to us to make use of what is all there for the taking. 

 We have to assume the attitude of a shrewd businessman who is keen in discovering new possibilities of making money and expanding his business. Thus, in our spiritual life, in our relationship with God and with others, we should never say enough in loving them! We can always love them more.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Honing our concern for the poor

THAT parable of the rich man and the poor man, Lazarus, (cfr. Lk 16,19-31) which is the subject of the gospel of the Mass for Thursday of the 2nd Week of Lent, strongly reminds us of our duty to always take care of those who are in need of anything, not only material necessities but also and especially, moral and spiritual ones. 

 Said in another way, it reminds us of the danger, so common among ourselves, to be so trapped in our own affairs, in our own status or in our own world, that we become insensitive to the needs of others. 

 While it’s true that we have to take care of our own selves, it’s never an excuse for not attending to the needs of others. In fact, we need to realize that our true self-care can only take place when we take care of our duties, first to God, and then to others. Thus, if we truly want to take care of ourselves, we have to take care of our duties to God first, and then our duties to the others. 

 Indeed, we need to make some special effort to assume this kind of mindset since it cannot be denied that given our human condition, weakened and wounded as it is by all kinds of limitations, temptations and sins, the usual thing to happen is for us to be self-centered and self-indulgent. 

 We should see to it that our thoughts and intentions always revolve around God and the others. The moment we notice that they are revolving around ourselves, we should try our best to correct ourselves. We need to convince ourselves that by so doing, we are actually gaining in our human dignity, rather than undermining or losing it. 

 Thus, constant practice in this direction is a must, given the fact that everything around us sort of pressure us to be self-centered. This indeed will require of us a life-long struggle. 

 Definitely, some sacrifice in one form or another would be unavoidable. And we should not be surprised by that. On the contrary, we have to understand that for us to be truly human and a child of God as we should be, we need to do some sacrifice. Again, given our wounded human condition in this world, we cannot help but have to make sacrifices to pursue and keep our proper human and Christian dignity. 

 So, everyday we should be aware that we are making some sacrifices which is always possible, because even in our worst condition, as when we are sick or isolated for one reason or another, we can always make the sacrifice of thinking and offering prayers for the others instead of just thinking of ourselves. Our sacrifice can start in our thoughts and intentions. 

 We also need to realize that while we should try our best to help others in their needs, we have to give priority to those whose needs are truly grave, and that is always in the area of their spiritual and moral life. They may be rich economically, but if they are truly wanting of spiritual and moral health, they deserve our utmost attention and care. 

 This would indeed require of us a certain toughness that would enable us not to be scandalized by whatever sinful things they commit and to be somehow dirtied due to our accompaniment with them. But we should just persist until we manage to lead them back to God and recover their proper human and Christian dignity.