Saturday, February 20, 2021

Source and giver of comfort

IT’S always good to read slowly the gospels and the other books and letters contained in the Bible because in them are contained precious lessons that we often take for granted. In fact, it is highly recommended that we spend time meditating on them in a place conducive to such exercise, so that we can more easily discern those spiritual and supernatural lessons that are meant for us. 

 Among the passages that struck me lately are those of St. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians. He literally is telling us where to find comfort and how we can give it ourselves to others. The pertinent words are the following: 

 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God. 

 “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.” (1,3-6) 

 Thus, it’s very clear where to find our comfort. It is in God. We should just enliven our faith to accept this truth. We should just believe this truth of our faith as articulated by St. Paul even if we do not fully understand how such truth can be true. 

 Remember that we are meant more to believe than to understand, even as we try to understand things as fully as possible. On this, St. Augustine made that famous dictum: “Crede ut intellegas” (Believe that you may understand). 

 That’s because the fullness of the reality that governs us transcends the natural and rational order. It involves things spiritual and supernatural. It involves mysteries that exceed our understanding. 

 Thus, we need to understand that our sense of comfort should also be a function of our faith more than just that of reason and feelings. It should be a matter of grace more than anything else. 

 It does not mean that such sense of comfort would have no effect on our reason and on our feelings and bodily dimension. It simply means that such sense of comfort would truly give us a sensation of relief, of reassurance and confidence, even if we are not exempted from feeling bodily and natural pain and suffering. It’s a sense of comfort that can bear all things. 

 This is the sense of comfort that is proper to us. It is a realistic one that considers all the dimensions governing man’s life, considered in their proper order. It also considers all the possibilities that can happen to us in this life. 

 We have to stay away from a fantasy-kind of comfort that is purely pegged on our feelings alone or on some worldly values without inputting the most important value of the spiritual and the supernatural. 

 If we have this sense of comfort, we would have no worry whatsoever. Come rain or fire, we would still have comfort. It’s important that we understand the true character of comfort and where to find it, so that we can help in giving it to others who may have a very limited if not erroneous understanding of comfort.

Friday, February 19, 2021

The quest for beauty

DEEP within us, there is an undeniable yearning for what we consider to be beautiful. Undeniable too is that fact that while many times such yearning is satisfied, there are also occasions, and they can be quite many also, that it is frustrated and disappointed. 

 But if we have the proper understanding of what beauty really is, then we will realize that beauty can always be found everywhere. Yes, even in situations where in our human estimation we consider as ugly, beauty can still be found. 

 The secret is to peg our quest for beauty on God. With him, everything is beautiful, or at worst, can be made beautiful. Without him, even what we consider in our human estimation as beautiful is actually not so. Beauty is where God is. And since God is everywhere, beauty can also be found everywhere. That is, if we know how to look for God. 

 Our problem is that we often separate beauty from God. And because of such separation, beauty has transformed, in the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “into a path that leads to the ephemeral, into banal and superficial appearances, or even a flight toward artificial paradises, which disguise and hide interior emptiness and inconsistencies.” 

 It’s a sense of beauty that is pegged merely on us, who in our limited and wounded nature, cannot find beauty everywhere, especially when some pain and suffering are involved. 

 We need to expand our understanding and appreciation of beauty. If by beauty we mean only the physical beauty of a scenic landscape, the romantic hue of a sunset, or a Miss Universe, then we are missing not only a lot of things but also the one thing that is most necessary to us. 

 There is beauty in persons, things and situations that otherwise are regarded as unbeautiful or ugly if seen only in the physical or strictly human and natural level. It is the beauty that comes straight from God who offered his son on the cross as a ransom for our salvation. 

 We need to expand our understanding and appreciation of beauty by including the most important element of beauty. And that is the love for God, and because of that love, it is also the love for others. 

 If we truly love God, then we should reflect his love and his attributes that can only be described, in the least, as beautiful. If out of his love for us, he sent his Son to us, and the Son had to become man and to suffer death on the cross, then we can say that there must be beauty in suffering and in death. 

 We need to understand and appreciate beauty from the point of view of our faith, more than simply from the point of view of our senses and our intelligence. To be sure, our faith does not reject the standards of beauty that go along the lines of the senses and the intelligence, but it goes beyond them. 

 That’s why we have to learn to be quick to discern the elements of beauty in what otherwise are considered as ugly when seen in purely human terms. Physical pains, sicknesses, problems, difficulties, deaths, etc., while truly unattractive and worthy of avoidance, can possess a certain beauty if seen with the eyes of faith. 

 Again, the secret is to peg our sense of beauty on God.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Daily conquests

IF our life is truly inspired by Christian faith, hope and love, we would know that our life would always involve some daily conquests, whether big or small, if only to make ourselves more and more like Christ. That’s actually the be-all and end-all of our life. Our life would never be in some static, idle mode. It would always be in a dynamic mode with the dynamism provided for by our Christian faith, hope and love. 

 We have to understand that our life here on earth is a training and testing ground for us to see if what God wants us to be is also what we would want ourselves to be. It is God who is actually shaping us to be another Christ, the pattern of our humanity and the savior of our damaged humanity. And we have to correspond as best that we can to God’s creative and redemptive work on us. 

 We should debunk the idea that we are just on our own, and that our life is what we alone make it out to be. That idea cannot explain many fundamental things about us, like how we came to be, why we have a yearning for a happiness without end when we know we cannot achieve it ever in this life, why we have intelligence and will that connect us to a spiritual world and would lead us to a supernatural reality, etc. 

 The correspondence that we need to do toward God’s continuing creative and redemptive work on us is what would give rise to the need also to have some daily conquests. That’s because we need to defend ourselves against everything that would undermine such correspondence. And this everything involves our own weaknesses and sins, the tempting and sinful allurements of the world, and the tricks of the devil. 

 Let’s remember that our life here on earth can be described also as a warfare. We have enemies to contend with. The Book of Job says it explicitly: “The life of man upon earth is a warfare…” (7,1) 

 And the enemies we have are no mean ones. As St. Paul would put it, “We are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6,12) I think that’s plain to see. 

 Besides, we need to make some progress in our pursuit of the goal God has made for us—that we be like Christ. Paraphrasing a Sound-of-Music song, there will always be mountains to climb, streams to ford, rainbows to follow. We have to grow in the virtues and in the consolidation of the means we need to reach our goal. 

 Thus, we need to see if we are growing in humility, obedience, fortitude, justice, prudence, purity, etc. We need to see if our life of prayer and sacrifice is getting stronger and is truly leading us to be like Christ more and more. We need to see if we are increasingly assuming Christ’s desires, intentions and passions. Do we have a burning desire for holiness that always goes with a growing apostolic zeal? 

 Our daily conquests should lead us to echo St. Paul’s words: “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2,20) There should be an awareness that such phenomenon is taking place in our life!