Saturday, May 1, 2021

Meant to go beyond ourselves

THERE’S a stanza in that Josh Groban song, You raise me up, that, I think, is worthwhile giving some more serious consideration. It’s when it says, “You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains / You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas / I am strong, when I am on your shoulders / You raise up to MORE THAN I CAN BE.” (Emphasis, mine) 

 That Christ can raise us up to more that we can be is a basic truth about ourselves that, sadly, we often take for granted. As a consequence, we would not know how to properly deal with such reality, since we would neither know what practical implications such truth would bring about. We would not know how to live with it. 

 This basic truth is about us being meant to be raised to the supernatural order of God, to live in the very divine life of God. That’s how God wants us to be. He created us in his image and likeness, endowed with the capacity to know with our intelligence and to love with our will. 

 With such endowments, we have the capacity to know and love God and also everybody else. As such, we have the capacity to enter into the life of God himself, to somehow be divinized ourselves. And this capacity is made actual because God himself gives us his grace. In fact, he gives us Christ himself, the son of God who became man to redeem us. 

 We have to understand then that we are not meant to live a purely natural life that is based on our biological constitution alone that can define us physically, emotionally, psychologically, socially, and in the other aspects that our nature can lend itself to. Neither are we meant to live a purely rational life only that can lead us to make big accomplishments in philosophy, the sciences, arts and technology. 

 We are meant to live a supernatural life with God, to share in the very divine life of God. Yes, we are meant to be divine ourselves, not just naturally human. And this is made possible because aside from endowing us with those spiritual faculties that would enable us to know and love God, God has given us Christ himself who wants to be in and with us, so we can share in his own divinity even as he shares our own humanity. 

 This is a truth about ourselves that we have to process slowly and as thoroughly as possible in our mind and heart, so we would know what we have to do, what we can expect, what other implications there are from it, etc. 

 One very clear corollary we can derive from this truth is that we truly need to go along with Christ as best that we can because it would be he who will do what we cannot do anymore by our human powers. As St. Paul would put it, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1,6) 

 We have to understand then that the fullness of our humanity can only take place when it is hitched to the divinity of Christ. As such, we can expect some awkwardness in the beginning due to the difference between the natural and the supernatural. 

 But Christ somehow reassures us, because he always comes to us with greetings of peace, even if he will somehow complicate our lives.

Friday, April 30, 2021

The cross as our constant companion

LET’S hope that we can develop a deep devotion to the Holy Cross of Christ, perhaps by carrying a crucifix with us all the time, saying some pious ejaculatory prayers everytime we see a cross and even kissing it, celebrating well the feasts dedicated to it in our liturgical calendar, etc. 

 Such devotion should always bring to mind what Christ himself said, that if we want to follow him, we should deny ourselves and carry the cross. (cfr. Mt 16,24) It’s in the cross that we can truly find Christ, and Christ in his supreme act of redemptive love for us. 

 Certainly, the cross is an unavoidable and even an integral part of our earthly life. But we should regard it the way Christ regarded it. We should be attracted to it the way Christ was attracted to it. 

 Thus, we need to overcome the awkwardness, if not, the resistance we may have against this devotion. We have to realize that our faith in Christ should filter down to the level of our heart, our senses, our feelings and emotions. It should not just get stuck in the intellectual and volitional level. 

 Making Christ’s cross a constant companion of ours will definitely help us to feel that we are never alone in our daily affairs. Christ is always with us, guiding us, enlightening us and empowering us to accomplish what is even beyond our human powers to accomplish. With the cross, we can manage to feel secure and confident despite whatever. 

 Especially in our moments of difficulty, trials and temptations, having the cross as a companion can truly help us to be strong and hopeful, preventing us from falling into our weaknesses. With it, we can manage how to suffer and to find meaning in suffering. We can manage to be at peace, and even cheerful, amid the pain. 

 And that’s because this devotion to the cross assures us that Christ is suffering also with us, a suffering that has redemptive effects for all of us. We get to realize that suffering is not purely a negative thing. Christ has turned it into a means of our purification, our strengthening, and ultimately, our salvation. 

 When we have those moments of vulnerability, as when we are tired and lonely, disappointed, frustrated and sad over something, or severely tempted, looking, clutching and even kissing a crucifix can truly help us to remain steadfast in our faith and trust in God’s merciful providence. We can feel his tremendous love for us. 

 It would be good if we can spread this devotion to Christ’s cross more widely. If properly understood and lived, there is no doubt that it can help all of us to live a good and happy life and to know how to deal with all the unavoidable negative elements in our earthly sojourn. 

 Let’s try to market this devotion especially now when we are celebrating the 500 years of Christianity in our country. This devotion will definitely be a sign of a certain maturity in our Christian life. And given the growing and more complicated challenges of our times, this Christian maturity is what we all need. 

 With the cross, we can attain what St. Paul described as “mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Eph 4,13-14)

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Consequences of addiction to pornography

SORRY if I have to bring up this topic. But we cannot deny that nowadays this addiction to pornography is getting widespread. It’s now all over the place, even affecting little children. We have to do something drastic about this problem that is eating away the strength of the people, and weakening the spiritual and moral fabric of our society. 

 We have to know more about the bad effects of this addiction if only to be more wary about it and be more ready to protect ourselves from it. Pornography, like drugs and alcohol, creates a certain state of euphoria which the addict longs for, yet which never completely satisfies him. 

 There are studies that show that pornography strongly affects the brain, such that the addict gets an irresistible attachment to pornographic images. It somehow modifies the workings of the neurons that can even lead to the diminution of the grey matter of our brain that can impair our decision-making. 

 Over time, a compulsion can develop when the addict needs more of it, and even more hardcore versions. What may start as a way to achieve pleasure can become later on as an irresistible urge to pacify whatever anxiety or negative mood the addict can have. The urge can be so strong that the addict would still resort to it even if no pleasure can be derived from it anymore. 

 This addiction will obviously affect the addict’s understanding of sex, love and relationships. It can even dramatically affect the addict’s sexual preferences. He loses his sense of autonomy and his ability to relate to others properly. He can tend to see others merely as objects of pleasure. From here, other forms of perversions can emerge. 

 The addict would likely be dominated by whatever sexual inclination he happens to have—heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, etc. And this will start the move to legalize certain practices that normally are considered sinful and immoral. 

 In this addiction, unlike some other addictions, there is no such thing as a moderate or temperate use. The usual experience is that it leads the addict toward a downward spiral, as the normal stimuli of sex becomes substituted by exaggerated ones that can lead to violence. 

 This addiction can affect even the so-called holy and pious people who are not sincere in their interior struggles during their confessions and spiritual direction, or worse, who refrain from seeking help. Things would be much worse for them since their double life and hypocrisy can become almost invincible. 

 And yet, in spite of all these bad effects of this addiction to pornography, not everything is lost. There is always hope. That’s because the same process which shaped the brain’s addiction can also form the mind in healthier ways. 

 Just as wayward cravings grow stronger over time when acted upon, such desires also become weaker if they are not acted on. A repetition of virtuous acts can create a positive ‘virtuous cycle’ that can lead the person toward higher ideals. 

 For this to happen, we may launch a campaign of building positive atmospheres, fostering positive freedom in the face of instincts and opening new horizons. The bottom line here is not so much just a matter of leaving this addiction behind as re-centering the focus of our life on God, of faith and piety.