Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Pillow

Here is my Firstborn's poem:

MY PILLOW


My dear pillow
You are not a fellow
But you are to me
When I am weary.

Your softness
Like my mother's breast
Gives me comfort
When I need support.

When I'm up
I toss you up,
When I'm down
You can be found.

Without mom and dad
I'm very sad
Yet when I'm with you
As if they're on view.

My dear pillow
Though you're not a fellow
I love you so
coz you love me, too.

by JIM (Jesus in the Midst)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Labora et Labora

I am supposed to post a discussion on the Fourth Principle: Respect for Laws and Rules. Yet, the homily of our parish priest during our monthly mass in the Municipal Center is the one playing in my mind. He was elaborating on the two virtues of San Isidro Labrador, which is the motto of the Benedictines, "Ora et Labora".

Father Dan mentioned a very important point that I want to pick up for our reflection. He observed that many farm laborers do not anymore go to Sunday Masses to worship because they are not allowed by the corporation that hires them to be absent even for an hour from work. While others are in the churches praying, many are on the field working on a holiday. This practice reflects the kind of philosophy that this corporation has, which is in contrast to the employer of San Isidro who allowed him to pass by the church to pray before going to work.

I don't know if the reason behind is merely because of the exigency of scientific farming. But, knowing that the management are coming from an atheistic culture, I suspect there is a carry over of that atheistic culture and worse since it is being imposed on the laborers in a systemic and discreet manner. What if the people would defy the management? What if they would dialogue with the management on this matter? What if the priest himself would dare the management? Will the situation change? Will the management compromise? Will the laborers be liberated and grateful by showing themselves in the church?

The Municipality of Banaybanay, where I reside and work as government employee, is known as the Rice Granary of Davao Oriental. Being abundant in rice, we expect that people would not suffer the rice crisis experienced by other non-rice growing municipalities. However, that is not always the case here. A number of families are still without rice on their table. More than six hundred hectares out of the two thousand hectares, more or less, of ricefields are being grown with hybrid rice for seed production, not for food. Many people are mere laborers. Even landowners turn into laborers and their lands are rented out to corporations. As a consequence, these landowners do not own their produce anymore; and so they buy high priced rice from the market with the very low daily wage earned at PhP 80.00.

This alarming situation, though unfortunate, people would say: "It's better than nothing." With the soaring prices of farm inputs and without government's subsidy, people would just be contented with the very minimal income they have since, in fact, it is better than what the government is offering. What if the local government would subsidize the farmers' farm inputs? What if the provincial government would produce organic fertilizers to lessen the burden of high priced synthetic fertilizers? What if the government will buy farm equipments to be rented out by farmers at lower fee? Initiatives like these must be given serious consideration and immediate implementation or else the government loses its very essence as an agency that serves the common good.

When people are forced to work in order just to survive, they would surely work and work and work. Instead of Ora et Labora, it will turn into Labora et Labora. The Egypt experience of the Israelites is a classical example of this. Shall we wait for ten plagues to occur before we act? Shall we wait for God to appear to us on a Burning Bush before we realize our mission to liberate the people from this situation? I hope we give heed to the challenge of our Parish priest. Something must be done and it must be done NOW before it is too late!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Some Treasures of Chiara Lubich

I am blessed to have received some treasures of a Saint. Chiara Lubich, the foundress of the Focolare Movement, died last March 14, 2008. Among the many words of wisdom I learned from her, these are very valuable and among the earlier lessons that convicted me to the God Who is Love.

A RADICAL CHOICE

“… We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” When you realize this, your life changes radically. If you are objective enough to recognize that nothing is lasting, “all is vanity of vanities” and everything is relative, you will discover the sense of the absolute and make a firm choice of God because he alone does not come to an end. God will be the ideal of your life.

If you are sincere, you must make your life comply with this ideal without compromise, or reservations. How can this be done? There is a definite answer: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is logical, because it would be absurd to commit your mind, your heart and your strength to something transitory. Only the absolute can be loved with all your heart.

God is still no more than the name of someone in whom perhaps you believe but you do not know. Now he becomes more real in comparison with the emptiness of everything else. If you begin to love him, he makes himself known.


ACTION NOT FEELINGS


Love is not a feeling but action. “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love;” “If a man loves me, he will keep my word.” Love for God in practical terms is doing what he wants from us. “Not everyone who says to me: “Lord, Lord” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

You must unite your will with the Will of God. You must want it: your only will must be the Will of God. But aspiring to carry out the Will of God other than in the present moment is an illusion. The moment we are living in is all that is really ours.


A WAY FOR EVERYONE

Starting to act according to the will of God in the present moment is the beginning of an evangelical commitment. Soon, as God sees that you are loving him sincerely in the present moment, he shows himself to you and gives you his light. Gradually many questions you have always wondered about find an answer and many aspects of your life are linked by a new logic.
“My food is to do the Will of Him who sent me.” You can say the same to yourself, and you realize that the more you carry out the will of the Father, the more you become like Christ.
You no longer imitate Jesus Christ superficially in an external way. You do not strive to copy him in appearances, for instance in an outward show of poverty, in physical penances or literally traveling without luggage, but you want to resemble him in the most intimate aspect of his personal life, the heart of his life, in doing the will of the Father.
“Anyone who says, I know him, and does not keep his commandments, is a liar,” refusing to admit the truth. But when anyone does obey what he said, God’s love comes to perfection in him. We can be sure that we are in God only when the one who claims to be living in him is living the same kind of life Christ lived.”
This way is open to everyone. It is not restricted to one particular calling in life. It can be lived by men and women, by people of all ages. What really matters is that each person, wherever they are, tries to do what God suggests. Here is a realistic and practical possibility of uniting people of all kinds: doing the Will of the Father and finding as a result of relationship of brothers with the Son.
Each man has his own life and the Will of God is expressed in a different way for everyone, but it is the same Will of God which links everyone together and with the Father and the Son.
Life is transformed. So many things separate people but this one Will carried out by each person makes men brothers. They find that they are united with one another and with Christ, and through Christ with the Father. “So that you and we together may share in common life, that life which we share with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.”
This is how Christ is united to the Father. He is the living will of the Father: his will and action. It is up to us to act like him.

TOTAL RISK

If you choose to do God’s Will, your whole life must change. You must reconsider the plans you have made for the future. You must throw off your old way of looking at things and become adaptable, ready to accept new or unconventional ideas. The struggle you must now wage is against yourself.

Unless you want to deceive yourself, you must live fully in the present and not rely on a future which may never come. God is a Father; it is absurd to be afraid of what he wants us to do. He can only want our full development and happiness. He knows men better than they know themselves. They can surrender themselves to him without fear.

You must believe in love, but you must not confuse surrender with lack of commitment. On the contrary, it means carrying out each moment what you understand to be the Will of God with all your heart, your strength and your intelligence. If you are always to go with whatever God suggests, you must be ready to change continually as circumstances demand. In this way you become flexible.

You have taken the plunge. You have set out on and adventure, without knowing where will it take you, but certain that it can only lead to the most perfect fulfillment of your personality since you have placed yourself in the hands of the creator of the universe, of life and of time.

You discover that God has an original plan for each man. If we let him work freely in us, he is ready to create masterpieces of our lives as he did with those we call saints. But he has chosen to need man’s agreement, freely given, moment by moment, to his creative love.


VIOLENCE

Violence is needed. The old man in us must die in order to let the new man live. In order to listen to the voice of your conscience, you must shut out the appeals of the world that prey on you.

Your relationship with others must change. Instead of only seeking the company you find congenial, go out to each person you encounter without discriminating or holding back.

It is impossible to do two things at once – the will of God and the will of the old man in you. So your attitude must be positive – to fill yourself with God – rather than negative – to be emptied of self. And then as a result you will discover you are free from your attachments and free from your ‘self’.

And if you realize that you have gone off the rails and revived the old man, the only way to pull yourself up is not to waste time fruitlessly dwelling on your mistakes, but to start loving God again, doing his will which for a moment you had neglected.


ANOTHER LEVEL

And so in doing God’s will with all your heart, your mind and your strength, you find a great peace – the peace that the world cannot give, the peace that Christ alone can give. “Peace among men with whom he is pleased.” On the other hand, outside the Will of God there is only uncertainty, confusion, selfishness and conflict.

By experiencing this contrast, you realize what it means to live at a supernatural level and you learn how to clearly distinguish this way of life from the normal level of existence.

You become aware that you are not making the fullest use of this new way of living that you have discovered. Most of the time, you behave as though it did not exist because your heart and mind are cluttered with so many things but not with God.

And in contrast to this is Christ – the model for anyone who wants to love the Father; Mary, the woman who knew how to live God’s will exclusively: “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let what you have said be done to me.”


GOD NEVER REPEATS HIMSELF


When you live God’s will, all the references to it in scripture begin to form a pattern: “I have come down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” “Let your will be done, not mine.” “I will always do what is pleasing to him.” “I have finished the work that you gave me to do.” “Here I am: as it is written of me in the scroll, I have come, O God, to do your will.”

Two facts become clear if you live these words: the scriptures contain a pattern of life open to everyone; Jesus is indeed, “the true light that enlightens every man”. You must look to him. The greatness of other men and women pales beside him, and they are only of example to us in as much as they too have tried to do solely God’s Will. You will never have to copy the actions of those who went before you. Each man has his own way. God never repeats himself.



GOD IS LOVE

“God is Love”: John’s definition is overwhelming. If you accept it, the logical consequence is believing and trusting utterly in him. You understand the meaning of love: you must be born again of God and be love in action as Jesus was. Accepting the Will of God is accepting God. Answering love with love: this is what it means to live as sons of God, as Jesus.

Christ, the Will of the Father in action, is the word that the Father says to men. He is the expression of the Father: the expression of love. “God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son.” And on the other hand, as a man, Christ had his own will with which he accomplished the will of the Father: the perfect expression of the love of mankind for God.

Being like him by sharing in his life, it is possible for you also to be an expression of love for the Father.

Jesus, God made man, wants to make our humanity divine, to transform it into love, to make it God and make us the children of God.

We should be as much as possible the one will of God, one love, on earth as it is in heaven.

Jesus, both God and man, gives you the chance of becoming divine if you freely decide to be united with him: and so, moment by moment, be Jesus, be Mary, “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”, like God, be him, one with him.


THE NEW COMMANDMENT


Christ left many teachings, numerous words of eternal life, but he only gave one commandment: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I love you.”

If we have decided to love God as he wishes, we must love one another in the way he loved. Together with our friends, we must begin to live out this will of God. It is Christ’s testament, the pinnacle of his teaching.

We will be judged finally on brotherly love: “I was hungry and you gave me food…” In fact, “Owe no one anything except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law,”

Love for our brothers is the greatest proof of our love for God.



LOVE YOUR ENEMY

Without love every activity is useless. “If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but I am without love, it will do no more good whatever”.
With love, on the other hand, everything, even the most insignificant action, has value, because wherever we find love, God is to be found. “God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.” There is no sense in doing the slightest thing unless we are united for, “Above all, keep your love for one another at full strength,” and “If, when you are bringing your gift to the altar, you suddenly remember that your brother has a grievance against you, leave your gift where it is before the altar. First go and make your peace with your brother, and only then come back and offer your gift.”
God’s presence among men bound by mutual love and living the gospel literally, fills them with such light – “Anyone who loves his brother is living in the light” – such strength and drive that doing the will of God becomes easy and pleasant.
Even loving your enemies is no longer difficult. Alone, it is practically impossible not to react when someone offends us; once united with others, not only are we able to control ourselves, but to actually return good for evil. “If anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him.”
You do not even resent the insult or harm your “enemy” causes you. “If your enemy is hungry, you should give him food, and if he is thirsty, let him drink. Thus you heap red-hot coals on his head. Resist evil and conquer it with good.”


JESUS AMONG US

Experiencing the unity brought about by mutual love, you soon understand that, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them,” and you see the wonderful effects produced by this unity and particularly prayer in unity because, “If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”

Christ is present, therefore, among men united in his name. This presence of Christ in the fabric of society is so fruitful that we should be prepared to go to any lengths to safeguard it. Its effects are a new insight, a peace and a courageous certainty. Its absence is felt with equal force when you or someone else turns away from unity. It seems to be the end of everything. That understanding of the word of God as something beautiful, living and essential to real commitment seems to fade.

This is the moment when we must stand our ground no matter what it costs us and go ahead believing blindly in what we have seen in the times of light when we loved. In moments like this any attempt to improve things seems hopeless. Everything seems to be empty and meaningless. We are dissatisfied with everything until unity is reestablished, as a result of an even greater mutual love. Now we know from experience that, “We have passed out of death and into life… because we love our brothers. “Let Christ’s peace be arbiter in our hearts, to this peace you were called as members of a single body.”



UNITY

Without others we can do nothing. Unity is everything because it permits Christ’s presence: unity with God, therefore, being his will in action; unity with others by living out the new commandment, unity with Christ because his presence among men is in fact his presence in each one of them. “May they all be one, Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you.”

Those whom Christ unites and with whom he shares his light and strength – “I have given them the glory you gave to me” – discover that, “Life … is Christ”.

Whereas previously they ‘mixed’ with others, the presence of Jesus ‘fuses’ them into one, like a fire which out of two metals makes a third, an alloy with different features from either of the components.


JESUS IN OTHERS

Mutual love does not mean sentimental feelings. It means the constant sacrifice of everything of myself so that I can live the life of my neighbor. “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.” This means loving my neighbor in order to love Jesus crucified living within him, just as Jesus, once he had become man, took upon himself all the sins and sufferings of mankind.

We have to love our neighbor, therefore, as Christ loved us, entering into him as Christ entered into us: into our humanity, into our sufferings and into our sins without having sinned himself.

Everything which is ours, both materially and spiritually, must be shared with our neighborhood, just as Jesus gave himself to us completely on the cross, and gives us his soul, his body and his divinity in the Eucharist. “All I have is yours.”

Our neighbor is Jesus to be consoled, fed, clothed, visited in prison. Jesus lives in us and we must see him in others. “Insofar as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me,” “because we are members of his body.”


THE DEMANDS OF UNITY

To find the spirit of Christ again, you only have to meet with those who share this way of life. You are all filled with the one spirit. “Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit.” “As long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us. We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit.”

Going to others is going to Christ. To be one means to be Jesus, to all be Jesus. When unity is complete (which require a total renunciation of ourselves in everything) and we have to part due to work or any other reason, each takes with him no longer his own spirit, in other words his own way of thinking, loving or feeling, but that of Christ which was present in the communion of brothers.

You continue to love everyone you meet without expecting to be loved in return. “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” and preserve that inner peace. Then you will go home to your friends still capable of loving and establishing unity again.

But unity costs us dearly. We have to be small, totally poor, nothing, for God’s love to spread by means of us. The greatness of Mary is that she is the most humble of all.

To be one with our brother means forgetting yourself completely. It means losing everything, even your own soul, in order to live the other person’s joys and sorrows to prove your love for Christ: weep with the person who weeps and rejoice with whoever is happy.

BECOMING SIN WITH SINNERS

Charity is all that matters. When we succeed in making ourselves one with people who have problems – whether these be moral, emotional, intellectual or simply problems of communication – they find life again and love in return. They see the light once more because they feel loved; this light enables them to recover hope and over-despair.

If you act like this you relive the life of Christ: you continue it. He made himself one with us to lead us back to the Father. He made himself darkness with us who were blind to give us light again. “For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God.” He made himself death with us mortals to raise us up in his risen life.

We have to love every man in this way. “If anyone is weak, do I not share his weakness? If anyone is made stumble, does my heart not blaze with indignation?” Like Jesus, we must become the other person, so that we may become us and receive the fullness of joy that unity gives us.

A member of the body of Christ united with him continues the redemption in that he passes on fullness of life to others and by suffering other person’s sorrow he continues the passion: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is the church.”


THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

When there is charity among us, Christ repeats his words, “Be brave: I have conquered the world.” Alive in us, he continued his work.

You feel you too can say the words of Christ, “I am the light of the world.” Through this small cell, something passes which those who search with a sincere and open heart recognize as coming from God.

This light enlightens men and shows them that the thousands of things they are attached that are nothing compared with Christ, who unconsciously they have been seeking. This light brings a total revolution and breaks through to many souls as a call to leave everything and follow Christ. This detachment is helped by the presence of Christ among those united in his name. They witness the upheavals the coming of Christ provokes. “I have not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” He did not come to bring the quiet life of the world which breeds such boredom: he came to destroy this false peace, to break up the selfishness of families and to rebuild one family of children of God, a family formed by his brothers, whose father is in heaven.


JESUS FORSAKEN

You must know Jesus Crucified and nothing else. To be crucified with him and especially to be crucified with him in our brothers is the most conclusive proof of our love for the Father, “So that the world may believe it was you who sent me.” This is the example of the saints. They nourished themselves with God by loving the cross: the short-cut to him.

But of all the sufferings of Jesus on the cross, the most terrible was when after hours of the most terrible agony he cried: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The God-man was crying in giving himself entirely for his brothers. He had given everything. Thirty years of his life with his mother, a life of hardship, obedience and devotion. Three years of preaching and every kind of good work. Three hours agony on the cross in which he forgave his executioners, gave heaven to the thief and his mother to men. He gave us his body and blood which he has already given in the mystery of the Eucharist.

All that was left to him was his union with the Father which had made him so powerful on earth and so majestic on the cross. This feeling of God had to penetrate the depths of his soul, the soul of the Son of God, until it was no longer left. Love was extinguished in him. All light was put out. Wisdom was silent. He was cut off – at least in his feelings – from him with whom he had declared himself to be one: “The Father and I are one”.

He had compromised himself too much with mankind. He had made himself one with sinners.


WHEN SOMEONE FALLS AWAY

In time amongst those who have chosen God as their ideal some may fall away. This always comes as a tremendous blow. Just as in unity you find life, in the same way the absence of unity is death. Jesus forsaken is the antidote to death.

When someone forsakes us, we are in a position similar to Christ’s and we rejoice in this sorrow because we have chosen Jesus Forsaken as the only thing that matters in our lives. And if you realize that your brother who is out of unity is also forsaken and must be consoled and loved, unity will often be re-established.


I COME TO BRING FIRE

Those who lived this way are like logs crossed together to be lit and burnt by Jesus among them. What matters is that they are ready to give up everything except unity. If they are, a great number of people who come into contact with them will go away on fire, with the certainty that they have met God, and around them the community will take shape.

Unity will spread everywhere: unity of souls with God: unity within families; unity in the places where people work.

People will start to share. Each man’s needs will become everyone’s concern. The only right will be to serve and the only ambition to be the servant of all. “If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all. In the community, the last in other words those who imitate Christ most closely, are soon the first.


VALUES REVERSED

They lived and remained in the world, but they must take care not to be affected by evil. The normal values are reversed. Joy is being poor, pure, patient, persecuted for the sake of justice, gentle; or being separated if necessary when their relations – “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household” – do not understand and try to hinder friendship in Christ. What the world hates becomes pleasant to them because it is a way of being with Jesus.

Amidst difficulties of every kind they are filled with the joy which stems from the choice of God and of other people for his sake.

They acquire the spirit and language of Jesus. His words help them to determine, justify and decide on a course of action. Nothing remains unchanged. The most thorny problems find a solution in mutual love. Everything – science, art, religion, economics, the family, politics, - is penetrated by the spirit of Christ.

He is the beginning of everything and everything must return to him. “For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”


LIVING WITH THE FATHER

When men live together as brothers with Jesus, the Father is also drawn to them and lives with them. And he keeps the promises of the gospel to the letter.

“Give and it will be given to you.” Everything you give returns to you multiplied. Trust in God is strengthen and love grows.

“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well,” When each person looks only for God’s kingdom and he reigns among those who love him, everything else revolves around them. He discovers our most fleeting thoughts and desires and fulfills them. He is a Father and shows himself as such. We are no longer orphans when we live with the Father. Eternal life has already begun.

“So do not worry; do not say, ‘What are we to eat? What are we to drink? How are we to be clothed?’ It is the pagans who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. He uses the most unexpected ways to obtain our needs for us. Those who love most are, accordingly, those who receive most: “For to everyone who has will be given more.” “Take what food and drink they have to offer, for, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” Love is the true penance.

“Unload all your worries on to him,” so that he may solve all impossible difficulties: unfailingly he will put everything right.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Third Principle: RESPONSIBILITY

RESPONSIBILITY, the third principle

With Ethics as our basic principle and when we live with integrity, we expect a strong character of the people. The third and closely related to the previous principles is responsibility. Responsibility is the state, fact, or position of being accountable to somebody or for something. Responsible citizens participate in government, church, volunteers and memberships of voluntary associations. This can be displayed in advocacy for various causes, such as “political, economic, civil, environmental or quality of life issues.”

Jennifer Self, sees the importance of responsibility as paramount to the success of democracy. "By engaging in civic responsibility, citizens ensure and uphold certain national values enshrined in the Constitution. Those values or duties include justice, freedom, equality, diversity, authority, privacy, due process, property, participation, truth, patriotism, human rights, rule of law, tolerance, mutual assistance, self restraint and self respect. Schools teach civic responsibility to students with the goal to produce responsible citizens and active participants in community and government."

On a personal level, we often observe that irresponsible persons are being overly dependent on others for recognition, approval, affirmation, and acceptance; chronically hostile, angry, or depressed over how unfairly they have been or are being treated; fearful about ever taking a risk or making a decision; overwhelmed by disabling fears. These usually leads to being unsuccessful at the enterprises they take on in life; unsuccessful in personal relationships; emotionally or physically unhealthy; addicted to unhealthy substances, such as the abuse of alcohol, drugs, food, or unhealthy behavior such as excessive gambling, shopping, sex, smoking, work, etc. Furthermore, over responsible and guilt ridden in their need to rescue and enable others in their life will disable them to develop trust or to feel secure with others and resist vulnerability.

To be responsible we need to let go of our sense of over responsibility for others. We also need to protect and nurture our health and emotional well being by taking preventive health oriented steps of structuring your life with time management, stress management, confronting fears, and burnout prevention. Moreover, we should take an honest inventory of our strengths, abilities, talents, virtues, and positive points; developing positive, self-affirming, self-talk scripts to enhance our personal development and growth. As responsible persons, we have to let go of blame and anger toward those in our past who did the best they could, given the limitations of their knowledge, background, and awareness. Let’s work out anger, hostility, pessimism, and depression over past hurts, pains, abuse, mistreatment, and misdirection.

A responsible person acknowledges that he or she is solely responsible for the choices in his/her life and does not blame others for the choices s/he had made. Instead, a responsible citizen points the finger of responsibility back to him/herself and away from others when you s/he is discussing the consequences of his/her actions; not feeling sorry for the ``bum deal'' one has been handed but taking hold of your life and giving it direction and reason.

How much do we train our children, students, citizens to be responsible? We have to provide learning opportunities for our young ones about civic responsibility. Through service learning, citizens participate in projects to help or serve the needs of other people. By getting their hands dirty and actually doing work, citizens experience the value and impact of giving to people and learn to be productive members of society. Volunteering is a form of civic responsibility, which involves the giving of time or labor without the expectation of monetary compensation. Many people volunteer through local churches, Red Cross, fire fighting, etc. Volunteering allows citizens the opportunity to share their skills and talents as well as the privilege to learn new skills while helping those in need of assistance.

Daniel B. Klein, Associate Professor of Economics,Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA 95053 defines "individual responsibility" as accountability; more specifically, it means government-administered systems of accountability for citizens. Both liberty and individual responsibility, then, pertain to the citizens' relationships with government. Hence, one citizen's crime against another is not an encroachment on liberty, and the practices of a philanthropic organization, even if arbitrary, are not departures from individual responsibility.

A blogger’s insight is worth mentioning: “Political Correctness, Deconstructionism, Trans-National Progressivism, Liability mania, Crime and Punishment, Terrorism, Welfare, Gun Control, Media Bias, Affirmative Action, Abortion, Education Reform, Social Engineering ‘- all of it’- will divide people according to their idea of Responsibility.

He/she also contends that it has been our long, bloody and noble history to rise to this idea of individual responsibility; because if it is indeed correct, then it ‘- alone’- is the liberator of ourselves as a species. Individual responsibility frees us from our past, from the fate of our birth, from the millennia of class and caste and of failed ideas that have kept so many in bondage for so long. If we indeed do have the ability to control our own selves, then we can free our own minds from the river of history and experience.

Finally, “there is a single litmus that does indeed separate the nation and the world into two opposing camps, and that when you examine where people will fall on the countless issues that affect our society, this alone is the indicator that will tell you how they will respond. The indicator is Responsibility.”

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Philippines is a Poor Country

I was discussing with someone on the internet regarding the image of the Philippines as a country rich in natural resources. He asked me proof of this claim. I can only parrot what are being said and projected by writers and researchers. But, given comparative study of our natural resouces with that of other nations, we are not really at the top to be called rich. I'm inclined to believe that the Philippines, my beloved country, is in fact poor and our natural resources limited.

He wrote, "I think we might agree on this point. I think it is necessary to imbue the citizens of a country with the attitude that their country is "poor," meaning, its resources are limited and they have to be well managed for the sake of all the citizens of the country. I believe this attitude is necessary even for so-called "rich" countries like the U.S. The resources of a country must be well managed by the state. The state has, I believe, a grave responsibility toward its citizens in this respect. I learned from a scholar who studied in Japan that the Japanese are taught throughout their formal schooling that their country is "poor." They are taught that Japan has practically no natural resources, and so the citizens must work and innovate in order to prosper. This kind of attitude appears to have worked to the benefit of all Japanese. The same kind of attitude is necessary for the citizens of most countries, which have limited and sometimes even poor natural resources, if a nation is to prosper. It's not the only factor that influences the material well being of a country, but it is, I believe, a very significant one."

Yes, we have to be educated and believe that the Philippines is a poor country and our resources limited. Because of this acceptance of a sad reality, we need to do something great and double our efforts as a nation to improve our situation. We should do it ourselves and not depend on outside help. We should draw solutions to our problems using our ingenuity and indigenous materials. If we want to go forward; if we want to be at par with richer countries, we need to maximize our resources. We need to develop technologies appropriate to our situations.

I am saddened by our national government's strategy in resolving our rice crisis. Why do we need to import rice from other countries? Secretary Yap has an insight to the problem of the country when he called for reduction of waste on rice. It was a nice move, but it seems majority of the businessmen took it as suppressive act. This administration is known for its aggressiveness to bring about its programs despite the noisy opposition. They should not give in to the call of the already financially liberated groups. Millions of suffering Filipinos must be the prime consideration of the government's decisions. How much the NFA spent on cellophanes and on labor when they rebagged the rice by 1 kilo, when they can ask the people to bring their own container?

We are not a rich country, and we should not act as if we are.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Integrity, the Second Principle


Integrity

The second principle that the citizens of a nation ought to possess is integrity. We learn from the Book of Proverbs that the integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them (Prov. 11,3). In my previous post, I discussed few important ethical standards which are based from Chinese philosophy, the Bible and the Qur’an. Closely related to ethics is Integrity which is the firm resolve to follow or obey an ethical code.
Integrity, as Wikipedia puts it, “is the basing of one's actions on an internally consistent framework of principles…One is said to have integrity to the extent that everything one does and believes is based on the same core set of values. While those values may change, it is their consistency with each other and with the person's actions that determine the person's integrity…The concept of integrity is directly linked to responsibility in that implementation spawning from principles is designed with a specific outcome in mind. When the action fails to achieve the desired effect, a change of principles is indicated. Accountability is achieved when a faulty principle is identified and changed to produce a more useful action.”

Chris Zach Hidalgo connects integrity with truth and honesty as its guideline, benchmark, a point of reference or a goal. To him integrity is a skill that is developed and learned overtime. One needs to train himself in and practice integrity, since it is a trait that is taught and learned over an entire lifetime. He compared integrity with a building or a plant that one constructs or plants and maintains or waters in order to keep it standing or living. Like the building and the plant, integrity may collapse or wither and die. But, for Hidalgo, though the building may fall and the plant may die, you can always re-build it or plant a new seed, which again you need to maintain or take good care of.

Hidalgo said that people can tweak or modify their definition of integrity to suit their needs, desires and ambitions at the time. For that reason, it's possible to have a large number of definitions of the word or state of affairs in a person's life--but that doesn't necessarily mean they're all sound definitions. He gave other definitions of integrity:
Integrity will:
1. begin and continue as a personal ON-GOING decision to stand firm on principals that are inherently good.
2. most likely take the long, straight and narrow road and does not cave into cheating
3. tell the truth over a lie despite the consequences
4. suffer the consequences instead of compromise itself
5. help to steer a person clear of those that easily bow to a corrupt nature
6. be apt to lend a helping hand simply as a by-product of this special lifestyle decision
7. diminish and eventually disappear if you choose to ignore and abandon it's blessing
8. set you apart from a great number of people who have chosen to follow the lead of a different drummer
9. sometimes separate you from the "in" crowd, but that's not always the case
10. on some occasions, make other people feel uncomfortable around you because of their own insecurities, problems and guilt
11. impress others only because of your decision to adhere to such a (sometimes) difficult lifestyle
12. sometimes put you into tight situations that APPEAR to be needlessly difficult
13. allow for rebuilding. It will come back and continue to blossom if you choose and allow it to grow within
Integrity will NOT:
14. allow for decisions that may compromise personal belief and faith
15. always APPEAR to help a situation
16. be an easy decision for all situations
17. be Disneyland and roses all the time
18. give in to peer pressure simply because "everyone's doing it"
19. give up on you--you can always re-establish integrity by making a conscious effort to re-build what past mistakes have broken down
20. in an obvious way come to the rescue of a person

Our country now, more than ever, needs Filipinos with integrity. It is a virtue that we can have if we choose to have it every day and in every circumstance of our life. We have to possess clear principles that will govern our life and the ends that we will seek give purpose to our daily decisions. As a nation, we need to have a national creed which will give us a point of reference for navigating the sometimes-stormy seas of national journey. Without a set of such beliefs, we will have no rudder, and we’ll easily be blown about by the winds of fashion and selfishness. We need a National Credo to guide us and prevent confusion along the way.

Chiara's love for the Church


STRENGTH TO UNDERSTAND

In one of Chiara Lubich's writings, I understood how she loved the Church and united herself very much with the church, she said:

"The gospel, which is inexhaustible, the epistles and all the scriptures, for this is where God expresses himself, will inspire and confirm your actions, correcting them when necessary.

“You have only one teacher.” Christ is teacher and guide. His presence is enough to make us walk in the light. But the light, however bright, must be approved by the church. Did not Christ himself promise? “Anyone who listens to you listens to me.

For you, the church, can never be without Christ nor Christ without the church. Your love for her and the humility of recognizing her maternity towards you count more than the light itself.

If you do everything with this attitude, you can be certain that the Spirit speaking to you is the same spirit that lives in the church. One will guarantee the other. You will discover with amazement that the church is the home of truth. You will experience that the fresh, clear truth which lives ,,in the depths of your souls and which is ready to overflow among you if you love God, is the same truth that the church has preserved and treasured for two thousand years.

Love truth, and therefore the church. Love the gospel of Jesus Christ as the church teaches it and you will feel members of the church, you will that you are the church. Feed on the light which she spreads through the word and other signs which are hers to give, such as the Eucharist. How could you really understand unity without the sacrament of unity? This sacrament makes you all one, a single body. Then you will share the light of Christ."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI in the US

This picture is taken from EWTN.



I was following the historic visit of the Pope to the United States through Eternal Word Television Network, and I was dumbfounded to hear the answer of President Bush to the final question of Host Raymond Arroyo. He was referring to President Bush’s words about looking into the eyes of Russian President Vladimir Putin and “seeing his soul.” When Arroyo asked Bush what he saw when he looked into the eyes of Pope Benedict XVI, the president replied, “God”.

The main message of the pope to the people of America is: "Christ is our hope".

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ethics, as a basic principle

The first principle necessary in the making of a rich and developed country, according to Dr. Arsenio Martin, is Ethics. What is Ethics? Wikipedia defines it as “a major branch of philosophy, encompassing right conduct and good life.” What is right conduct?

Bhagavan Baba, in describing Dharma, gives us the synthesis of right conduct. “Dharma is a body of principles that are fundamental to social stability and individual progress. If we obey it, we are happy. It’s common definition is the adherence to the golden rule: 'Do unto others what you wish them to do unto you. Do not have a double standard. Treat all as your own self'.

“Dharma means certain obligations and duties and regulations over actions, words and behavior. For example, elders have certain obligations towards younger people and vice versa; neighbors have mutual duties and rights. The task of everyone is to do the duty that has come upon him, with a full sense of responsibility to the utmost of his capacity. There should be complete coordination between what one feels, says and does. Then work becomes worship…
“How are you to decide in any particular case what is Dharma and what is not? That which does not inflict pain on you and others - that is Dharma. This follows from the recognition that same God resides in everyone and if you injure another, you are hurting the same God who is in you. Dharma enables you to come to the recognition that anything that is bad for another is also bad for you. So act in such a way that you get joy and others too get joy. Or take another standard for your actions: Make the mind, the speech and body agree in harmony. Act as you speak, speak as you feel, do not play false to your conscience. ..
“Dharma is the eternal source. Dharma is a great virtue. Dharma is the basis for everything. In this world nothing is higher than righteousness. Man must follow the path of Dharma, to know himself, to discard demonic qualities, to foster human qualities, to develop divine qualities and to achieve a good life.” http://www.eaisai.com/baba/docs/right.html

Moreover, still within the Chinese philosophy, there are "noble eightfold path" which would lead to the cessation of suffering: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right mindfulness and right concentration. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_Eightfold_Path

1. Right view is commonly translated as "right perspective", "right vision" or "right understanding". It overcomes "wrong view" arising from ignorance. The purpose of right view is 'to clear one's path of the majority of confusion, misunderstanding and deluded thinking. It is a means to gain right understanding of reality. It should be held with a flexible, open mind, without clinging to that view as a dogmatic position. In this way, right view becomes a route to liberation rather than an obstacle.'

2. Right intention’s other terms are "right thought", "right resolve", or "right aspiration" or "the exertion of our own will to change". It 'enjoins renunciation of worldly things and an accordant greater commitment to spiritual matters; good will; and a commitment to non-violence towards other living beings.'

3. Right speech 'deals with the way in which one would best make use of his or her words.' By 'abstaining from lying, abstaining from divisive speech, abstaining from abusive speech, abstaining from idle chatter, ultimately means that "one naturally has to speak the truth, has to use words that are friendly and benevolent, pleasant and gentle, meaningful and useful".'

4. Right action, as the name implies, 'deals with the proper way in which one would act in his or her daily life. And what is right action? It is abstaining from taking life, from stealing, from illicit sex, from false speech and from intoxicants, which lead to heedlessness.'

5. Right livelihood is 'based around the concept of harmlessness, and essentially states that one ought not to engage in trades or occupations which, either directly or indirectly, result in harm to other living beings or systems. Such occupations include "trading in arms and lethal weapons, intoxicating drinks, poisons, killing animals, cheating". It also forbids slave trading and prostitution, several other dishonest means of gaining wealth, such as scheming, persuading, hinting, belittling, and pursuing gain with gain."'

6. Right effort or '"right endeavor" involves one’s continuous effort to, essentially, keep his or her mind free of thoughts that might impair his or her ability to realize or put into practice the other elements of the Noble Eightfold Path; for example, wishing ill towards another living being would contradict the injunction—contained in the "Right thought" element—to have good will towards others, and the "Right effort" element refers to the process of attempting to root out such an ill wish and replace it with a good wish.'
The four phases of Right Effort:
(1) make effort to prevent the unwholesome that has not yet come.
(2) make effort to destroy the unwholesome that has come.
(3) make effort to produce the wholesome that has not yet come.
(4) make effort to cultivate the wholesome that has come. '

7. Right mindfulness, also translated as "right memory", 'together with right concentration, is concerned broadly with the practice of meditation. Roughly speaking, "mindfulness" refers to the practice of keeping the mind alert to phenomena as they are affecting the body and mind.The mind is deliberately kept at the level of bare attention, a detached observation of what is happening within us and around us in the present moment. In the practice of right mindfulness the mind is trained to remain in the present, open, quiet, and alert, contemplating the present event. All judgments and interpretations have to be suspended, or if they occur, just registered and dropped.'

8. Right concentration, together with right mindfulness, is concerned broadly with the practice of meditation which is dependent on the development of preceding path factors:
The Blessed One said: 'Now what, monks, is noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions? Any singleness of mind equipped with these seven factors — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, & right mindfulness — is called noble right concentration with its supports & requisite conditions.' "

Philippines, as a Christian nation, based its ethical standards from the Bible. And the Bible teaches almost the same concepts above. The Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the Command to Love God and every person, the way Jesus did, are sure way for good life. Do Christians conduct themselves according to Christ?

In like manner the "Ummah", the Community in Islam are guided by the Quran which "regards individuals as part of a community in which the totality of Islamic values and goals can be expressed and realized... It is the embodiment of the model behavior expected of society and individuals, and as such represents an example to other human societies. It also embraces the wider goal in the Quran of maintaining a balance between the material and spiritual aspects of life. The Koran has supplied Muslims with a comprehensive code of conduct for everyday life. It prescribes a wide range of acts for Muslims, of either sex, from birth to death. These guidelines form the basis for their laws. Islamic laws prohibit wine and gambling. There are regulations covering the relations of the sexes. Women are granted a higher status." http://1stholistic.com/Prayer/hol_islam-right-conduct.htm
Hopefully, Muslims may also live according to their ethical standards so that the Philippine society maybe transformed and be saved from its worsening situation.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Why is Philippines Poor?

My friend sent me an email containing the article sent by Dr. Arsenio Martin of Fort Arthur, Texas. The article delineates the essential difference between rich and poor countries:

"The difference between the poor countries and the rich ones is not the age of the country: This can be shown by countries like India & Egypt, that are more than 2000 years old, but are poor. On the other hand, Canada , Australia & New Zealand, that 150 years ago were inexpressive, today are developed countries, and are rich. The difference between poor & rich countries does not reside in the available natural resources. Japan has a limited territory, 80% mountainous, inadequate for agriculture & cattle raising, but it is the second world economy. The country is like an immense floating factory, importing raw materials from the whole world and exporting manufactured products. Another example is Switzerland, which does not plant cocoa but has the best chocolate in the world. In its little territory they raise animals and plant the soil during 4 months per year. Not enough, they produce dairy products of the best quality! It is a small country that transmits an image of security, order & labor, which made it the world's strongest, safest place. Executives from rich countries who communicate with their counterparts in poor countries show that there is no significant intellectual difference. Race or skin color are also not important: immigrants labeled lazy in their countries of origin are the productive power in rich European countries. What is the difference then? The difference is the attitude of the people, framed along the years by the education & the culture & flawed tradition. On analyzing the behavior of the people in rich & developed countries, we find that the great majority follow the following principles in their lives:
1. Ethics, as a basic principle.
2. Integrity.
3. Responsibility.
4. Respect to the laws & rules.
5. Respect to the rights of other citizens.
6. Work loving.
7. Strive for savings & investment.
8. Will of super action.
9. Punctuality.
10. and of course...Discipline

In poor countries, only a minority follow these basic principles in their daily life. The Philippines is not poor because we lack natural resources or because nature was cruel to us. In fact, we are supposedly rich in natural resources. We are poor because we lack the correct attitude. We lack the will to comply with and teach these functional principles of rich & developed societies."

This email has challenged me, personally. I commit to discuss in my next blogs these principles in detail. Suffice to say that there is truth to what has been presented by the author. Only if these principles are lived and taught at home, in the school, in the church, at work shall we taste the true Filipino greatness. A strong Republic should start with a convicted individual to the right principles of living. A virtuous individual will contaminate the people around him/her to live these virtues. Together they will develop a cell of environment that will influence other groups. When these cells are multiplied to form a critical mass, we expect a transformation of our sick communities into a healthy and wealthy society.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Word of Life

Word of Life for April

BRING ABOUT PEACE
by Chiara Lubich

“Justice will bring about peace; right will produce calm and security” (Is 32:17).
“The spirit from on high will be poured out on us. Then will the desert become an orchard and the orchard be regarded as a forest.” This is the beginning of the text from which the Word of Life is taken this month. The prophet Isaiah, in the second half of the 8th century before Christ, announces a future of hope for humanity, almost a new creation, a new “garden,” inhabited by right and justice, capable of generating peace and security.
This new era of peace (shalom) will be the work of the divine Spirit, that force of life capable of renewing creation, and it will come about by respecting the pact between God and his people and among the members of the people itself, since communion with God and the community of people are inseparable.
“Justice will bring about peace; right will produce calm and security.”
The words of Isaiah recall the need for serious and responsible commitment in following the shared norms of civil society.
These norms prevent egoistic individualism and blind judgment, favoring harmonious and laborious co-existence aimed at the common good.
Will it be possible to live according to justice and to practice what is right?
Yes, on the condition that we recognize all other peoples as brothers and sisters, and that we see humanity as one family, in the spirit of universal brotherhood.
And how can we see it as such without the presence of the Father of all? He has already inscribed universal brotherhood, so to speak, in the DNA of each person. The primary will of a Father is, in fact, that his children treat each other as brothers and sisters, that they love one another.
This is why the “Son” par excellence of the Father, the Brother of each person, came on earth and left us mutual love as the norm for social living. To respect the rules of living together and to carry out one’s duties is an expression of love.
Love is the ultimate norm for every action; it animates true justice and brings peace. The nations need laws that are increasingly suited to the needs of social and international life, but above all, they need men and women who order their own lives on the foundation of charity. This order is justice, and only in this order do laws have value.
“Justice will bring about peace; right will produce calm and security.”
How will we live the Word of Life this month?
By devoting ourselves even more to our professional obligations, to ethics, in honesty, and legality.
By recognizing others as people who belong to the same family and who await our attention, respect and solidarity.
If as the foundation of your life, in your relationships with your neighbors, you put mutual and constant charity (which precedes all things), as the fullest expression of your love for God, then your justice will truly be pleasing to God.
“Justice will bring about peace; right will produce calm and security.”
A policeman in southern Italy, wishing to share with the most needy people of the city, decided to reside with his family in one of the newly-formed districts: there were dirt roads, no public lighting, no waterworks or sewerage, not to mention a lack of social services or public transportation.
“We tried to create with each family and neighbor in the district,” he recounts, “a relationship through getting to know one another and dialogue, in an effort to mend the gap between citizens and the public administration. Little by little, through an expressly created committee, the 3,000 inhabitants of the district became active protagonists in relation to public institutions.
“We were able to obtain public funds from the regional administration for reorganizing the district. It has now become a pilot-project with formative activities for representatives from all the neighboring committees of the city.”

Monday, March 17, 2008

WHO HAS BEEN CHIARA FOR ME?


Before 1995, Chiara Lubich was just a name, to me, among other names. The Focolare Movement was just a monthly reflection of a bible verse. When I met the Focolare Family in Davao City that year, Chiara has turned into a charismatic leader, a loving mother, a model of charity, a superstar, an inspirer, a child of God, an image of Mary. She has changed the direction of my life from Eden Celestino of confusion and disunity to Eden of Unity or "Denni".

Chiara has introduced me to a way of living a balanced rainbow life. She lets me love Jesus Forsaken in a special way and in every present moment. Her doctrine on Jesus in the Midst has extraordinarily captured my theological reflections that I named my three sons "JIM' to remind me of Jesus in our midst when we truly love the Jesus in one another. My wife, Edna, is able to ride the last trip of Volunteer Formation before Chiara died.

Chiara's death is a great joy. She is now with Jesus. And everytime Jesus and Mary come in our midst, there Chiara would be. Thank you, Mama Chiara.

The various dialogues that Chiara has left us to continue is a great challenge to me. She is my inspiration to continue the mission of living in unity with all as brothers and sisters, from whatever religious background, since we are children of One Father.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bye for now, my mother dear!

Bye for now, Chiara.

The Father is awaiting you with legion of angels.

Jesus has surely prepared a big room for you.

A heavenly Mariapolite is now going on.

With Foco and the rest who went ahead of you

Hail to Mariapolis they'll sing with you.

Here on Earth, we are sad because you are gone

Your brilliant eyes we don't behold no more

But, as we look at the sun,

we know you watch us from heaven with God.

Thank you, our mother dear.

Thank you for giving us Jesus in the Midst.

Thank you for being another Mary to us.

As we celebrate Jesus Forsaken,

Help us to understand God's immense love for us

WE hope, like you, we shall meet Jesus the Risen One.

Ciao.

SANTA SUBITO!!!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Unfortunate Farm Laborers

During the fiesta celebration at our neighboring purok, I had a chance chatting with some hybrid rice farmers who are working under a corporation. They brought in to our discussion many issues on labor. I wondered why these problems, though open to public knowledge, are not addressed by the politicians? The present political scenarios in Metro Manila are somehow used by those who are interested to run by 2010. Are we ready to elect another leader? What qualities should we expect from him or her? Aside from the quality of being committed to address the issues on systematic corruption, should we not also seek a future leader who has the heart for the plight of the laborers?


In the editorial of the New City magazine that I just received, dated March 2008, entitled, The Human Person and Work, the issue on labor was highlighted. The editor raised the question: "Is the candidate sensitive to the rights of workers—like their right to a just wage; to a day of rest; to a work environment or manufacturing processes which are not harmful to workers’ health or their moral integrity, their right to have their personality in the workplace safeguarded without suffering any affront to their conscience or personal dignity, their right to appropriate subsidies needed for the subsistence of unemployed workers and their families; to a pension and to insurance for old age, sickness, and work-related accidents; their right to social security for maternity leave; their right to assemble and form associations?"

Going back to my discussion with that group of hybrid rice farmers, we noticed the very low wage laborers received from the corporation in the amount of PhP 80.00 per day. The worse fact is that people would sell their daily wage at PhP 70.00 just to receive it in advance because their daily wage are given every fifteen days. What can they buy with that money for a family of five members or so? Another observation was the laborers who are spraying insectisides without protective gears. It was also noticed that the laborers do not have an association that has bargaining power. I doubt if they have access to medical care. Farm laborers in Banaybanay are working even on Sundays.

It seems that what is important only for the corporation(s) was the production of the hybrid rice in order to gain their profit from it. They do not take into account what the Catholic social doctrine considers as equally important, "the manner in which they are produced and the level of equity achieved in the distribution of income, which should allow everyone access to what is necessary for their personal development and growth." I am not familiar with the labor laws of our country, but, I am pretty sure that the PhP 80.00/day is far below the minimum wage required by law.

The more alarming situation is the silence of both the local government and the religious groups regarding these issues. I believe that prayer has it's power to change human situations. But, I equally believe that persons charged with authority are responsible to see to it that their constituents are not victims of dehumanizing systems. Unless they themselves gain from those systems, they should open their ears to the silent cries of the people. If they are, they should convert in the spirit of Lent. The human-divine Jesus gave up his throne and lived poverty for the sake of the many. His action challenges each one of us to take effort to live for others, especially, the poor and break the chain of greed in this country.

Where should our communal action start? First, we should increase our awareness on the issues. We talked about our situation without fear. Second, we make a solid stance to stop this unscrupulous liberal capitalists in exploiting our lowly farm laborers. Third, we dialogue with our responsible government agencies and put pressure on them to address the problems with efficiency and impartiality.

One of these days, I hope to celebrate with the same farm laborers. But then they will not only be among the many visitors of our host. They themselves will turn to be our hosts because they are already emancipated from their unfortunate situation.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Christologies

My response to Michael's post of Kevin Burke's discussion on the Christologies from below and from above:

"Burke's presentation is well-taken. I may add and emphasize that the best starting point is neither Christology from above nor Christology from below. A Christian should start from Christology at the center where he experiences Jesus in the here and now, at the Eucharist, with his brothers and sisters, with the events in his life, from live faith of the church, from the revelations of the human-divine realities. Only with a strong religious experience of the reality of the Risen Jesus can someone make sense of the other starting points."

It is my position that a more healthy Christology is an Integral Christology which considers all other starting points of Christology, viz., christology from above, christology from below, christology from behind, christology from ahead or from beyond, and christology at the center. My emphasis on Christology at the center is to give weight to the practical effects of faith to one's everyday life.



----- Original Message ----From: Michael E. Miller To: TheologyandReligion @yahoogroups. comSent: Wednesday, February 27, 2008 10:12:08 AMSubject: [TheologyandReligio n] What Are Theologians Saying About Christology?


"Christology is a complex discipline. It requires an intricate balancing act among assertions perennially in tension with one another. One of my first theology teachers, Brian Daly, S.J., emphasized this point in a course tellingly entitled "The Christological Controversies. " He noted how every orthodox Christological claim tends toward one or another heresy and needs to be complemented by other claims. Moreover, this process of complementing and balancing involves more than rehearsing the facts of church doctrine, for the language of faith often explodes like a riot of color in a wild garden or a true poem. As such, Christology involves evocation. Its arguments turn on the subtlest of metaphors.And the work is always unfinished. Theology itself has to grow to stay alive. Theologians betray their vocation if they simply repeat word-for-word definitions taken from Scripture or doctrine, as if formulas could contain faith or words exhaust mystery. Every age, every culture needs to find access to Jesus Christ from within its own distinctive language and worldview. But the future of theology does not undermine the importance of its past. Theological growth needs direction to remain authentically alive. It needs Scripture (the normative witness to apostolic faith) and the Christological dogmas formulated by the theologians of the early church. However, the teachings of Scripture and tradition are not self-interpreting. For this reason, Christology is not only complex but dangerous. Even devout believers can lose their way in the thickets of Christological reasoning. Even clear and apparently unambiguous statements like "Christians believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ" need to be interpreted in relation to other statements. Taken in isolation, without reference to the full humanity of Jesus, this statement is misleading and potentially harmful. In contrast, the classic formula developed at the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451, affirms the full divinity and full humanity of the one person, Jesus Christ, "without confusion, without change, without division, without separation." And even this profound and balanced definition is not the end of the matter, for inquiring minds want to know: How do we make sense of this? In the effort to make sense of the language of faith, the choice of where to begin is crucial because it shapes the way we imagine Jesus. This, I believe, represents the key difference between the Christology of Jon Sobrino, S.J., and the logic of the Vatican notification that criticizes his work. The notification implies that theology should start "from above," with the Nicene Creed's affirmation of Jesus' divinity ("one in being with the Father"). Sobrino, by contrast, begins "from below" where the synoptic Gospels begin, with Jesus as he appeared to his contemporaries ("Is this not the carpenter's son?"). The one approach starts with doctrine. The other begins in history.On the surface, starting from doctrine appears to be the strongest way to safeguard the faith. But throughout Christianity' s history, it is the return to Jesus that consistently protects theology from the greatest danger of all—the temptation to use its own logic to misrepresent God. Concern for this danger lies behind the commandment forbidding false images of God: God cannot be described by analogy to what we think a god ought to be like. For his part, Sobrino is wary of the assumption that "we already know what divinity is" when we apply the term to Jesus. Rather, Jesus reveals what divinity means. Starting with Jesus and moving from there to an interpretation of his being the eternal Word of God unmasks the temptation to manipulate his image (and thereby God's image) for our own ends. Furthermore, Sobrino begins with Jesus precisely to "make sense" of Christian faith in a world burdened by "senseless" suffering, especially the suffering that results from inhuman poverty and violent oppression. Starting with Jesus and his scandalous love for the poor provides the best way today to lead people to authentic faith in Jesus Christ. It empowers Christians to live as disciples of Jesus while confirming their claim to be advocates of a universal, integral justice. Finally, it provides a credible way of holding the tension between the divine and the human natures of Jesus. Sobrino directs the imagination to that which is most easily imaginable: Jesus as he appeared to his contemporaries. He then leads it beyond its normal limits, as theology must, in order to give a complete account of Christian hope.The Vatican notification warns that Sobrino's method might scandalize believers who are not sophisticated enough to follow his subtle theological ascent. If people begin by imagining Jesus in his humanity, they might remain there, with a "merely human" Jesus. Of course, a corresponding risk exists for those who start with the Nicene Creed and utilize a dogmatic imagination. This approach can lead simple believers into a heretically high Christology like Docetism, in which Jesus, the Son of God, only appears to be human.Christology wrestles with difficult questions. In-deed, its own use of reason can be dangerous. But not every danger can be addressed by authoritative pronouncements. More-over, while it may be prudent to warn believers about the possible dangers of Sobrino's Christology, it seems equally necessary to call attention to corresponding dangers in Christologies that begin with Jesus' divinity. At the very least it is a mistake to think that Christologies "from below" pose the only or the greatest danger to Christian faith.


~ Kevin Burke, S.J., America, September 17, 2007. Kevin Burke, SJ. Burke is academic dean of the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Political Bats

There is an old "Bat Story" that depicts the behaviors of many Filipinos, especially, during these times of power struggle between the administration and the opposition. Some had already made their position, but, many others still don't have, like the Bat.

Bat Story

"Once there was a great war between the beasts and the birds. Bat was on the birds' side. In the first battle, the birds were badly beaten. As soon as Bat saw that the battle was going against them, he crept away, hid under a log, and stayed there until the fight was over.When the animals were going home. Bat slipped in among them.After they had gone some distance, they saw him and asked one another: "How is this? Bat is one of those that fought against us!"Bat heard them and he said: "Oh, no! I am one of you; I don't belong to the bird people. Did you ever see one of those people who had teeth and hair? You can say that I belong to the bird people, but I don't; I am one of your own people."They didn't say anything more; they let Bat stay with them.Soon after, there was another battle; in that battle birds won. As Bat's side was getting beaten, he slipped away and hid under a log. When the battle was over and birds were going home, Bat went in among them.When they noticed him, they said: "You are our enemy; we saw you fighting against us.""Oh, no," said Bat, "I am one of you; I don't belong to those beasts. Did you ever see one of those people who had wings?"They didn't say anything more; they let him stay with them.So Bat went back and forth as long as the war lasted. At the end of the war, birds and beasts held a council to see what to do with him. At last they said to Bat, "From now on, you will fly around alone at night, and you will never have any friends, either among those that fly, or those that walk."http://www.boyscouttrail.com/content/story/bat-883.asp

What really is our stance on these pressing political issues? Are we for truth or for the half-truths? Are we for peace or for confusion? Are we being mobilized because there is an amount attached to whatever action we do, or we act according to the right principles that we believe in?

We cannot forever go back and forth, like the bat. We have to make our own choice; the choice that will make us be at peace with ourselves whatever the consequence of that choice
may be. If we keep changing positions, there will be a time that it will be the others who will determine our fate. Most likely the decision will be: "From now on, you will walk around alone at night, and you will never have any friends, either among the administration, or the opposition."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Called to PARADISE II

In my previous post, I defined the accronym PARADISE and the aim of this program. I would like to elaborate further the reason why there is a need for PARADISE to be understood and to move on a faster pace towards its fulfillment.

Michael Miller posted at T & R group at yahoo: "Fortunately in the last decade, a significant movement within the faith community (referring to the American Catholics) has been mobilized around the call to care for God's creation. We will need to learn to plead for creation. So far we and everybody else seems to be just preaching." I agree with him that many of these calls for the protection of God's creation are mere lip service or media mileage. We have not truly addressed what he called as " sinful structures" that "cause great harm to people."
I can personally attest how the poor are victimized and many are disenfranchised by the moneyed and the powerful while pushing their selfish way to grab more treasures out of the natural resources that God has provided supposedly for the victmized residents. The sadder part of the story is the involvement of the community leaders in devastating creation; they who are supposed to protect the interests of their contituents.
Just few months back, I trekked the rugged roads towards our local mountains that contain our mineral deposits. There, I witnessed how poor people worked rain or shine, day and night, in order to collect mineral rocks with the hope of receiving decent payment for their job if these minerals will be sold to the foreign investors.
Two years had past after the mining operation was started in our place. Hundreds of poor people had come and now are gone from that mining fields. None of them can say, thank God for giving us these minerals. Most of them, if not all, were underpaid or never been paid for the hard work they did. The operators had never successfully traded their product because of political interventions, without mentioning the national law that favors the oligarchs to have control over the national wealth.
More than the devastation caused by mining is the desperation that the poor are experiencing from the system there is in our country with regards to the use of our natural resources. Most of them who started to be an employee of mining firms ended up in joining illegal logging operations or in other criminalities. Morality is very low in the mining field because materialism has been the main motive for work.
There is therefore a need to address these realities the soonest possible time or else it will have a tremendous destructive domino effect to the soceity at large.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Called to PARADISE

For a long time, I've been haunted with the concept of PARADISE. This is not the Eden of the Bible, though it is inspired by the thought of the original paradise. My concern for the environment and the misuse or abuse of our natural resources led me to think of possible program that would address the ecological imbalance we are experiencing nowadays. I realize that this cannot be a single effort or an isolated endeavor.

PARADISE means Progressive Associations and Responsive Activities Designed to Improve and Safeguard the Earth.

There have been efforts from various groups from different countries, including the Philippines, to arrest the degradation of our natural resources. Paradoxically, more and more forests are decreasing; more and more seas are polluted; more and more plant and animal species are becoming extinct. The mining industry has been opened to unscrupulous miners, both locals and foreigners.
PARADISE aims to pool as many associations to be part of a worldwide web that organises responsive activities that would protect and cultivate the earth.
How can this be done? Who will initiate this? Presently, the most powerful intitution that has the respect of various countries is the United Nation. But, the UN seems to be making its own effort to solve environmental problems without coordination with other groups and organizations worldwide. It's time to take an extra mile to reach out to other groups and become like a server of pro-environmental activities. Nevertheless, PARADISE can also be a local effort even can be started at the household or individual level. One may start a project for cleanliness and beautification. By encouraging and supporting those who have initiated a campaign for environmental protection, you can be a great help for the sustainability of the various inititives.
PARADISE encourages creativity and unity among people who have a heart for this only earth we have.
The more people converge for the reason of improving the earth, the more creative solutions may surface. Conventions, conferences, meetings need to be organized on a regular basis so that difficulties may be lighten through the help of others, and successful activities may be communicated and replicated.

Readings of the Day

As lector of our local church, I am duty-bound to read the Readings of the Day and contemplate on them. Today's reading is very loaded with social relevance specially with the ZTE and other controversies that this present administration is confronted with.
In Isaiah 1: 10, 16 - 20, the Lord warns the rulers of Sodom and the people of Gomorrah:

Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomor'rah!

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil,

learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.

"Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins
are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land;

But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."


With all these left-and-right accusations, Psalm 50 has also something to say:


"But to the wicked God says: "What right have you to recite my statutes, or take my covenant on your lips?

For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you.

These things you have done and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you.

He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors me; to him who orders his way aright I will show the salvation of God!"


In the gospel, Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:

"The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.

They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men.

But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matthew 23: 1 - 12)


The three readings show that credibility and integrity are a very important values that leaders of both the church and of the secular society must possess in order to be pleasing to God. It displeases God than leaders keeps on bubbling their mouths with words without concrete projects that would uplift the unfortunate conditions of the people they are supposed to be serving.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Communal Action

The CBCP is calling for a communal action to be undertaken by the people relative to the expose of Jun Lozada. But what does communal action mean? What specific communal action the church is calling the people to do? Are they calling for another "people power"? another mass movement to topple the present leadership of the government? Are they trying to call the people to throw a stone to the corrupt government officials? Who will be the ones to cast the first stones?



The opposition senators? Who are they? What have they done that gives positive effect for this country? What laws have they promulgated that have changed our decadent nation?

WE haven't tried yet as a nation to radically change our system. There are so much in our system that need to be addressed; need to be uprooted. Jun Lozada had pointed out one or two of those. Instead of the need-driven projects, the supply-driven projects have controlled our government deals. The needs for abundance of food, decent shelter, employment security, free health services, high quality education aren't addressed with utmost priority. Why? Is it because our elected officials are not in contact or aware of these? or because they spent so much to win an election that they need those supply-driven deals in order to regain their loss?

If an honest, well-secured computer system of electing the leaders of this land cannot be installed; and if the very expensive way of winning the votes of the people cannot be stopped, there is no use heading to the call for leadership change. The same old corruption saga will happen. Who among those we saw on television had really sacrificed for the nation? Most of them in that Senate Session Hall are beneficiaries of the sufferings of the poor majorityFilipino people.

Federal System has proven worldwide to be better than this unitary system we have. But, why can't the law-makers pass a law to this effect? It is time for Nograles to prove his worth as a Mindanaoan. If he can't make a miracle while he is the Speaker of the House; if he can't cause the passage of a law that would transform this present system that is very centralized and very powerful top government; if he can't cause that the power of governance be distributed to the regional level, he cannot expect a salute from his kababayan.

The communal action needed nowadays is to keep cool; to influence those already in power to focus on the more important issues. Negative reinforcement does not work well with our leaders. They need positive push to do noble, heroic things than criticising them to the efffect that they bounch back violently or shield themselves with lies.

Madam president, I believe in your capacity to bring greatness back to this nation. Make a move to install election reforms. See to it that Education, Public Works, Social Welfare concerns be totally given to the shoulders the regional or provincial governments with their corresponding budget to capacitate them. The central government has wasted so much of the people's money. It is time to make a Supreme Sacrifice. The church's call for communal action is only meaningful and effective if it does not exclude you, but include you as one of the major players in that communal opera for national transformation. Enough for pointing fingers.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Positive Politics

Positive Politics is the "love of all loves". I don't remember the author, but, I heard someone said: "“Loving is good. Knowing how to love is everything.” Politics, whether in the secular world or in religious world, is necessary for the institution. Those incharged in the governance have their own strengths and weaknesses. They have also personal backgrounds that could have influenced their decisions. It would have been an ideal situation if the ones in the position know very well how to love. But the sad reality is that though these people intend to love, they don't know/practice enough the art of loving.

The big trouble in politics is when the good culture is being systematically overtaken by the not so good culture. The current example in the Philippines is the trouble caused by the "kickback system" present in our government's project procurement system. I don't know how these are arrested/controlled in your soceities. I need your suggestions.

Jun Lozada has narrated how deals have been closed relative to the projects of the government. He distinguished between need-driven from supply-driven projects.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A conversation with Pierre

Pierre: The Catholic hierarchy tends to squash anything new, i.e., new thinking.
Den: They test all spirits. They judge by their fruit. How can you expect the hierarchy to accept new things without doing the former?Discernment needs time. That is the vocation of the institutional church. But, the charismatic church fearlessly treads all possibilities of renewal. Where do you belong? Go ahead, fulfill your vocation.

Pierre: I don't understand this question. I never said I expected the hierarchy to accept new things without looking at the fruits.The culture of Catholicism is hostile to new thinking. Many persons have been tortured, killed, dispossessed, ruined, harassed, calumnied by both the institution and by individual Catholics because someone said something new. This evidently historical fact signals to me that cultural change is in order in Catholicism, and most belatedly. At the least, there should be safe fora sanctioned by the Catholic church itself where Catholics can indeed investigate new thinking. As it is, the Catholic church is a place where to be in the good graces of the hierarchy, you should not think except as a parrot. (An unfortunate metaphor, by the way, since parrots are very intelligent and sensitive creatures, and not all are capable mimics.)

Den: Pierre, you have pointed at the dirt of the pilgrim church very well. You deserve a medal for that. The people involved should convert. But, to single out catholicism seems bias and definitely incorrect.

As member of the catholic church, that is not my experience. Laymen are encouraged to participate in different fields in order to be leaven in their respective cell of environment. The problem with new thinking is because they are new. And new as they are need to be tested.

The problem with thinker of new things, myself included, is our inability to communicate well our visions whether they are inline with the truth held by the institutional church. Most of the time our impatience comes in between thus hinders the flow of communication. I agree that all old violent ways of resolving conflicts must end. This is a perennial struggle. Even as a father, it is my inner struggle to follow or not the ways of my parents in dealing with my children now. Shall I use the stick to discipline them or not? To some the stick was effective, to others it wasn't.

Pierre: I did not single out Catholicism to the exclusion of other religions. I cited Catholicism. And to cite Catholicism is not to exclude other religions.

Den: I stand corrected. Thanks

Pierre: Dear Den:I would like you to know I appreciate the integrity of your responses, at least currently. I hope you understand why I am plainspoken, conveying the impression of being curt. I am not interested in getting "involved emotionally" with anyone in these discussion groups. I am mainly interested in exploring ideas. Friendship, warmth, sympathy, etc.--I have no currency in these denominations in yahoo groups, except when I believe it is only but right to express them, e.g., when our moderator is ill.

Den: Thanks, Pierre. I feel flattered with such comment especillay when it comes from someone like you. I believe we are both seeking for reasonable arguments on issues. If our motive is only for that and not to convince others to transfer on our side, it won't be hard to accept our mistakes and the inferiority of our arguments.

Sacrament of Salvation

Intercessions: (from Liturgy of the Hours, p. 232)

God has revealed himself in Christ. Let us praise his goodness, and ask him from our hearts:

Remember us, Lord, for we are your children.

Teach us to enter more deeply into the mystery of the Church, that it may be more effective for ourselves and for the world as the sacrament of salvation.

Lover of mankind, inspire us to work for human progress, seeking to spread your kingdom in all we do.

May our hearts thirst for Christ, the fountain of living water.

Forgive us our sins, and direct our steps into the ways of justice and sincerity.