Monday, March 31, 2008

Word of Life

Word of Life for April

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


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.



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.