Friday, November 30, 2007

Hope in the midst of hopelessness

In these times when the difficulties of life lead many to none but skepticism and cynicism, the Holy Father, Benedict XVI in his new encyclical, On Christian Hope, reminds us reassuringly:
Our daily efforts in pursuing our own lives and in working for the world's future either tire us or turn into fanaticism, unless we are enlightened by the radiance of the great hope that cannot be destroyed even by small-scale failures or by a breakdown in matters of historic importance. If we cannot hope for more than is effectively attainable at any given time, or more than is promised by political or economic authorities, our lives will soon be without hope. It is important to know that I can always continue to hope, even if in my own life, or the historical period in which I am living, there seems to be nothing left to hope for. Only the great certitude of hope that my own life and history in general, despite all failures, are held firm by the indestructible power of Love, and that this gives them their meaning and importance, only this kind of hope can then give the courage to act and to persevere. (Spe salvi, 35)
Amen to that, Pope Benedict.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

the ego and alterity

"You will know Life and be acknowledged by it according to your degree of transparency, your capacity, that is, to vanish as an end, and remain purely as a means."

- Dag Hammarskjöld

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Is Christ our King?

The Gospel today (Luke 23:35-43) presents us Jesus as King in a manner that defies all conventions on kingship – Jesus as King – tortured, crucified, dying, mocked by soldiers, jeered at by the rulers.

The ironic situation however does not negate the Kingship of Jesus; it defines it.

Christ’s Kingship is not about physical power – he was crucified, cannot even move his hands and feet; Christ’s Kingship is not about financial power – he was poor as a rat – “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”; Christ’s Kingship is not about political power – he was hanging on the cross, brought there to die by the greatest political power of that time, the Roman Empire, and the local political powers.

Christ’s Kingship is about LOVE – serving, self-giving, sacrificing – a love that gives life to others, even if it would mean giving up his own life – a love that is freely given, unmerited, but is never forced upon – like in the case of the repentant thief. It is only when we open ourselves to this love that we will receive it and its life-giving blessing.

The celebration of Christ the King, at the end of the Liturgical Year, reminds us of this great offer of Christ of love – that we receive him as our King, and allow his love to direct everything of our lives.

Is Christ really King of our lives? Accepting Christ as King of our lives entails:

That we make Christ King of our personal lives. This entails personal conversion. Before anything else, we need PERSONAL conversion. We need to accept that the Gospel and its message speaks to us, confronts us, challenges us, first of all addressed to ourselves;

That we make Christ King of our families. That we live in love and concern for each other. That we seek to understand, give and forgive, that we may see the need of each other and serve each other. The irony is, like in the Gospel, we ignore even those closest to us;

That we make Christ King of our relationships, the ties that we hold dear, the way we relate with others;

That we make Christ King of our work;

That we make Christ King of our economics – the way we make money and spend money;

That we make Christ King of our politics; in the Gospel, it was those who had political and military power who mocked and jeered at Jesus. We pray for all who have political and military power, that they may use power for the genuine good of all, and not for selfish aims, that they may use power to serve God’s Kingdom. We pray that they will not use power to jeer at and mock Jesus again by manipulating, dominating, exploiting the poor and powerless.

That we make Christ King of our culture;

That we make Christ King of each and all aspects of life. That we make Christ’s teachings and values direct our lives.

Today we celebrate Christ the King. Are we like the people of the Gospel who at the entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem were shouting, “Hosanna to the King!” but shouted “crucify him”? Are we like the disciples who promised to be with Jesus always, but left him to die alone at the cross?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Morning Prayer

"Before Thee in humility,
with Thee in faith,
in Thee in peace."

-Dag Hammarskjold

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Echoes from Fr. Jerry

Which side?
By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Last updated 01:28am (Mla time) 11/18/2007

In today’s Gospel (Lk. 21,5-19), Jesus talks about the signs of “end-times”: wars, earthquakes, plagues, famines, insurrections. Jesus also warns about the appearance of false prophets who will come in His name. Finally, Jesus warns us about persecution of His followers. Through it all, Jesus tells us: Do not be afraid, do not be deceived, and do not give up.

* * *

Fear is one of the greatest instruments of the evil one and his agents. How often have people been silenced because of fear? How often has the work of God been aborted because of fear, real or imagined? The Lord tells us today: Courage! What sort of fears haunt and affect us? Are we paralyzed by our fears?

* * *

Another instrument used by the evil one and his trusted agents in this world is untruthfulness. And so we have all sorts of liars all around us. Don’t you get the feeling that our country is fast becoming the lying capital of the world? The biggest problem we have now is “Truth Decay,” and what our leaders are saying is: “Don’t talk about it. Let’s move on.” No. We must talk about it, because without the truth, there can be no real moving on.

* * *

We need to listen to God in these trying times. A text message I received reads: “When you say, ‘it’s impossible,’ God says, ‘All things are possible.’ (Lk. 18, 27) When you say, ‘I am tired,’ God says, ‘I will give you rest.’ (Mt. 11, 28) When you say, ‘Nobody loves me,’ God says, ‘I love you.’ (John 3,16) When you say, ‘I can’t do it,’ God says, ‘I can do all things.’ (Phil. 4, 13) When you say, ‘I feel all alone,’ God says, ‘I will never leave nor forsake you.’ (Heb. 13, 5) When you say, ‘I’m afraid,’ God says, ‘I have not given you a spirit of fear.’ (2 Tim. 1, 7)”

* * *

We need to be courageous when we encounter all sorts of lies and intimidation. There will be problems, there will be pain, and even persecutions. Through it all, we must be joyful and strong. May our faith strengthen us and enable us to withstand all the pressures and attacks of the evil one and his trusted agents. Let us once more listen to Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel: “You will be hated by all because of My name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed; by your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

* * *

When will God take you and me? We often put the question: “Am I ready to face God?” Perhaps the question should be: “Is God ready to face me?” For those who think that they can go on sinning and can continue with their evil ways, they should realize that, perhaps, they are not yet being taken by the Lord because they are not yet acceptable in His sight. Or perhaps, they are still being given a chance by the Lord to mend their ways.

* * *

One other reason your and my personal end-times have not yet come is that, perhaps, you and I still have a mission in life. Mission not yet accomplished. Let us all be reminded today that we all have a mission to accomplish in life. Let us also remember that our mission in life is not just to become rich, comfortable, or powerful. Our mission is to do good in this life, to love God and spread His love, and to go to Heaven at the end of our earthly lives. This is the “big picture” that will help us persevere and that will encourage us to live righteously even when everything around us is infiltrated by the evil one.

* * *

Next Sunday, the last Sunday in the Liturgical year, is the feast of Christ the King. Where will you and I be when He separates the goats on His Left and the sheep on His right? Where will you and I be “when the saints go marching in”? The answer to these questions depends on how faithful and true we have been to Him, through it all, and how we have persevered in His grace.

* * *

Heaven, they say will be full of surprises. Let us all work out our salvation in fear and in trembling. And yet, let us be hopeful and joyful because it is by His grace that we will be saved. Instead of boxing out each other, why don’t we reach out to one another and help one another get to heaven?

* * *

Saturday, November 10, 2007

God of the living...

The readings this Sunday, (especially the Gospel, Lk 20:27-38) remind us of the truth of the resurrection of all from the dead, which we profess in the Apostle's Creed.

But it is important to ask whether we really believe in the God and in the Resurrection before we proceed reflecting.

Only with faith in God will we be able to have a certain level of understanding of the Resurrection.

God is Love, Pope Benedict reminds us in his encyclical with the same title. He says that this is the most basic (note the redundancy, for emphasis!) truth of the Christian faith. And the love of God, God who is Love, is eternal. When God chose to love, he loves not only yesterday or today or tomorrow, but he loves yesterday, today and tomorrow. God’s love never fails! God’s love is eternal, everlasting. God’s love outlasts the limits of our mortality. God’s love is greater than death! God’s love makes possible the resurrection!

The Resurrection of the righteous is a manifestation of God’s continuing, everlasting love. God loves us so much, and always that he wills that we share his love forever.

What is meant by the Resurrection? How will things be when we resurrect? The question of the Sadducees (Lk 20:27-33) seems to be valid at first glance. What will become of our relationships?

Our Resurrection is our liberation from the clutches of sin and death gained for us by Jesus' own Resurrection. In the resurrection of the dead, in heaven, in the Kingdom of God, we shall not have the same relationships that we have in this world. Instead, we shall have a different, more perfect, more fulfilling intimacy with God and with each other.

We cannot fully comprehend, but we hope for this resurrection.

Just as the Kingdom of God is not only something we hope to share in the afterlife, but a reality we struggle to begin realizing in the here and now, the Resurrection of all, is not only a future event we hope for, but a reality we work for, live and make present in the here and now – by defeating death-dealing structures and situations, and making present life-giving opportunities, conditions, communities and relationships. We make present the Resurrection we hope for by making possible a life worth living, the fullness of live, a life replete with the blessings of the Kingdom, a life filled with life-blessings of total well-being.

The irony is that we seem not to live a Resurrected life. The death of 12-year old Mariannet Amper of Davao (and the plight of teeming thousands!) is an illustration and loud wake-up call.

The girl committed suicide because of her family’s depressing condition of poverty. She snapped because of the incomprehensible duality of what should be and what is actually happening.

Suicide of course is not justifiable, and is no solution to problems. But the desperation that brought it about should be enough to make Christian rethink their role to be bearers and sharers of life and hope. It should lead the Christian to review his or her responsibility for the other.

I agree with Archbishop Cruz when he mused that the death of this child in a way falls in our hands. Fr. Gerry Orbos reflects along with Archbishop Cruz that this should lead us to review our social responsibilities.

It falls on the hands of authorities, civil leaders who are in position to serve the common good, and have special predilection for the poor, not to serve their own good, and have special concern for their personal gain and aggrandizement. If we have in one way or another power to help, we have greater responsibility to help. More so, if we have been entrusted with public trust and funds. Shame on us if we use them for our own pleasure and comfort when thousands wallow in poverty, when many slowly die in hunger, when countless cannot have access to decent living conditions, food, health care, education, when teeming thousands despair, or even when just one child snaps because of the seeming hopelessness. Shame on us for killing people gradually by killing their hope of a better world.

It falls in our own hands for we are all called to help each other, to serve each other, to make life more worth living for each other. We need not go far away, we just are to begin with our own families and neighborhood. Shame on us if we fail to encourage family members, if we withhold forgiveness to a repentant parent, child, or sibling, if we refuse to help a relative in need when we can, if we close our hearts, our homes, our pockets, our lives to our needy brothers and sisters.

Walang sinoman ang nabubuhay para sa sarili lamang. Walang sinoman ang namamatay para sa sarili lamang. Tayong lahat ay may pananagutan sa isa't isa. Tayong lahat as tinipon ng Diyos na kapiling niya.

Our God is a God of the living, not of the dead. Are we making the presence of a God of the living a reality in our lives, our families, our communities, our church?

We can make a difference. We should make a difference. We can be witnesses to a living God, a God of the living. We could live as people freed from the enslavement of death-dealing selfishness. We could live and let others live in the freedom of life's blessings.