Holy, yet in need of purification

This marks my return to the online community and reviving my blog after more than a year of hiatus. I cannot exactly recall why I stopped writing for this blog.

Nevertheless, I have been itching to write. Now, my fingers are finally working on the keyboard of my laptop and find myself writing. And it is timely that I will be writing about a topic close to my heart. But I do not claim; least, assume; full mastery of the subject matter. I leave it to my former classmates who are more versed and updated with their ecclesiology.

Quite recently, the Catholic Church had been rocked by controversies. Various accusations have been labelled against the universal Church. In the Philippines, the Church and her leaders (bishops and priests and other religious) have been called names. In the online forums, priests and bishops are ridiculed. Some aggressive commenters go as far as telling the bishops and priests to keep quiet on important issues that affect our life as a nation, because as some bloggers say ‘the Church is far worse a sinner than the rest of us’.

 

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Lent- the journey back home

‘You have been told, O man, what is good and what Yahweh requires of you: to do justice, to love mercy and walk humbly with your God’. (Micah 6, 8 )

Today, Ash Wednesday, the Holy Catholic Church begins Her forty-day journey in preparation for the victorious resurrection of Her Lord, our Lord. Lent is a season of preparation, a journey of purification and a time for reflection.

In repentance and penance, the faithful are called upon to reflect on the forty-day fast of the Lord before His public ministry which brought Him to the pinnacle of the mission- the crucifixion.

To prepare is to cleanse ourselves, in spirit and in truth, for us to become worthy followers of the Risen Lord. This is the message of Lent— self-sacrifice. Many of us, Catholics, will observe the call for fasting and abstinence. These are external signs and symbols. Is this all that God wants us to do?

The prophet Micah has a very simple message for us for our preparation. He says there are only three things that Yahweh (God) wants of us and from us: justice, mercy, and humility.

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By nomos

The Little Pebble

Lately, we’ve been fed by the media with a lot of stories that ignite some fires of indignation and anger deep within us. We riled at the thought that we’ve been robbed and abused. The recent investigations and inquiries brought before us had become a staple for angst to some of us. They opened a lot of canned worms. They rubbed salt to our gaping wounds- as a people, as a nation.

We had mixed emotions when one of the most decorated generals and accomplished soldiers took his life because he wanted no part for his family. His was a story of a scandal brought about by another scandal, and may be another scandal. Some had become indignant, others had become less forgiving, and still others praised the man.

Days (or maybe, hours) from now, we will be divided again— what with the impending impeachment process of the ombudsman. What is the reason? The ombudsman lost the public (our) trust because she failed to act on the scandals brought before her for examination and action. Her acts were scandalous enough to classify as betrayal of our trust- a constitutional offense, but a fundamental flaw and neglect, first and foremost. It will be a divisive exercise that will all boil down to numbers.

What is a scandal? And what can we possibly do?

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By nomos

Unique But Not Alone

Today, I feel ‘renewed’ after reflecting from the words in the Holy Scriptures. It has been a while since I last read the Holy Scriptures. It is nice to regain the habit of reading the Holy Scriptures a few weeks ago.

This morning, while the sun is yet to break and while waiting for the chicken to crow, I felt the urged of reading the 6th chapter of the gospel of John, one of the long chapters in the Bible. It spoke about the miracle of multiplying the loaves and the fish. From this miracle event, Jesus went on with the discourse on the bread of life. I am not contemplating about Jesus or about the bread of life. I am particularly struck by these verses: “Then one of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, there is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many? (John 6 verses 8:9)”
From the barley loaves and two fishes, Jesus did miraculous multiplication to feed thousands of people who came to listen to Him.

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By nomos

ON INSPIRATION AND THE DIFFERENCE IT MAY MAKE

There is a general observation that people of this generation are either too abstract or too scientific. People who are boxed on the latter category insist that everything in the world can be explained by science.

To them, this can be said: try explaining your love to your beloved by the rules of physics or chemistry, and you can get a negative 12 cold reception. Or worse, consider your love as a mixture in chemistry, and you will consider each other as toxic waste. To the former belong the abstract people of this generation.

The proliferation of networking sites and their corresponding discussion boards can easily give us this perception. Just recently, the rise of the jejemon culture intensifies this belief. People are on the extremes? People are in search of identity.

Frankly, I have a different reading of the situation. People of this generation are people who are full of concepts. This I call the ‘generation of conceptualization’. And many of them we can find in our workplaces. This needs closer examination, with our office procedures and models patterned after the Industrial Age. It is true that people of this age are equipped with science and hard skills, but I believe that what they need is INSPIRATION.

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Of Self-esteem and Power

I am writing this on the occasion of the first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of the 15th President of the Republic, Benigno Simeon ‘Noynoy’ Cojuangco Aquino III or P.Noy. As things stand, he is the most powerful man in the country today. His power comes from his overwhelming election mandate. He not only possesses a moral mandate, but also emotional gravitas of the people. What is captivating about the man is his level-headedness and his feet on the ground in spite of the power his presidency. If all accounts of his personal encounter and appearances in the media are to be judged, P.Noy is the very human president of recent memory. His unassuming ways endear him to people.

Contrast this with my experience. In my last post, I was caught in the middle of conflicting perspectives on how authority must be exercised before my transfer. In the end, it was all about power, with persons wielding their power over me as a subordinate. I opt not to divulge the details here.

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SHORT REFLECTIONS ON JESUS’ SEVEN LAST WORDS ON THE CROSS

(Holy Thursday, 5 April 2007; Canberra, ACT Australia)

(As the date indicates, I have written this short reflection in 2007, after attending the Mass of the Last Supper at the St. Joseph’s Parish in Turner and O’Connor).

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. (Luke 23, 34)

Hanging on the Cross, Jesus was a figure of everything that is ugly, unpleasant and painful. His trial was so swift, so was His death. Crucifixion was the way the Romans implemented the death sentence to criminals and seditionists- those who tried to overthrow the Roman powers at the time. Therefore, crucifixion was a common sight. That is why the biblical accounts of Jesus’ death are so “matter-of-factly”. Surely there were some other ways to implement the death sentence. But it was crucifixion that was deemed the most horrible and painful.

By doing so, the Romans would send a very clear warning to those who were tempted to be adventurers and try to topple the government. That was why Jesus was to carry the Cross and be crucified. He was a criminal, accused not of any ordinary crime but the crime of trying to supplant the King of Rome by claiming to be the King of the Jews.

The idea was to have a long painful death, basically by suffocation. That was why the bones of those sentenced with such horrible death must be broken to ensure this suffocation effect, the loss of energy and reflex- coordination to lose the ability to breathe. But this never happened to Jesus for He died immediately. Yet, in spite of all these, we hear Jesus having His final words.

In a sense, technically and theologically, these are not the final and last words of Jesus. He spoke with His disciples after the Resurrection and He continues to speak to us now through the Scriptures and through the Holy Mother, the Church. But we must rather call them the Last Words of Jesus before His death on the Cross.

The marvel of these all is that Jesus was still able to utter these words despite all the pains He was undergoing. We must assume that His physical strength must have been consumed. But the spirit never was. First lesson, then. Human struggle is not only a physical struggle. The spirit is involved. Any ideals and aspirations can only be accomplished if we put our body and spirit into it. The total person is involved. There is no dichotomy.

Jesus gave us the example. Another and more communitarian one. Do we not observe anything unusual about Jesus’ first word? We must observe that His first word was a prayer. A prayer for what? Forgiveness. Forgiveness for whom? For His enemies and those who maltreated Him, those who inflicted Him and did so much harm, those who were in unison in shouting and asking for His crucifixion. Jesus did not pray for His family, His loved ones, His disciples, on the Cross.

He prayed for His enemies and His persecutors. In our daily life, we may be meeting people who displease us, who simply disgust us, people who blatantly discourage us. And it is not always the case of we being displeased. We might have offended other people and became “enemies” to them. Do we pray for them? Do we ask for forgiveness? I am aware that it is humanly difficult. But, our Master did it 2000 or so ago. There is no reason for us to do otherwise.

“Father, strengthen me to do what is asked of me with my whole self, spirit and body. Enlighten me to pray for my enemies, the people whom I find difficulty dealing with, and the people whom I displeased. Amen.”

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On traditions and Tradition

Drumbeats. Hands raised in the air. Feet stomping. Warm bodies dancing. Lively crowd of believers.

This is the usual sight and sound one will see and hear just outside the main portal of the church, at the patio, in the town where I temporarily live. The Catholic community of the town is eagerly participating in the novena in preparation for and in celebration of the Feast of Sto. Niño, the feast honoring the Holy Child, certainly one of the more famous feasts in the Catholic liturgical calendar in the Philippines. In fact, cultural festivals are held to celebrate this religious feast. And some friends I have known here enthused that there would be more dancing and glees come the day of the feast itself. Should I look forward to it? I reckon I should, if only to witness how people find joy in their faith, hopefully.

And this brings me to recall some of the best lessons and discussions we had when I was still doing my Tradition and Magisterium class at the Loyola School of Theology, under Fr. Danny Huang, a very intelligent and friendly Jesuit. No, I will not be theologising highly in this article. There may be another time and space for it. But I will focus more on how the feast affects people’s lives, and faith, as I see it through an outsider’s lens. The songs, especially the gozos, and the concluding hymn of the Eucharistic celebration speak of the people’s faith and undying belief in the protective and providing presence of God manifested in the little child.

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What ‘s in the (biscuit) can/pail?

I have always been traveling for the last fifteen years or so. And I had been brought to a lot ofdestinations, from the north to the south, the west and the east of the country. I have also been abroad, and these travels gave me new bits of knowledge and information and taught me valuable lessons. And most of the times, I learn it from ordinary people.

But one thing that really fascinates me about us Filipinos is our penchant for carrying with us a lot baggage. For instance, in my most recent trip back to Mindanao, in the check in queue, I was next to a young lady who had with her a couple of oversize boxes, a number of plastic bags, another couple of traveling bags, a number of hand-carried luggage and a backpack. Honestly, I wasworried for her. I could not imagine myself traveling in such circumstance. I always travel light. And I realize that it is common to people to travel with a lot of baggage.

But in all those travels, I have always been amazed, fascinated, and even intrigued by one sight- by people or travelers who bring along with them can(s) of biscuits. It used to be cans, but they have been transformed into plastic pails. Certainly, you have seen similar sight. When I used to travel by bus to Bicol from Manila years ago, people bought those biscuits because they sat on the biscuit cans when the buses were overloaded, especially on peak seasons such as Christmas and Holy Week. For this utilitarian reason, I could understand the phenomenon.

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A ‘radical’ Christmas and New Year

It is nice to be back after the break. By intention, I did not write during the height of the season. Firstly, because I might be more romantic, and I might have seen the season in more romanticized way. Secondly, the readers might also see the season to be more romantic and, for others- nostalgic. So here I am writing long after the ‘high’ of the season has been gone.

I had the fortune of spending and celebrating my Christmas season and welcoming the New Year in quite a number of places- up north, in the megapolis and in mid-south. These places gave me quite enriching experiences and realizations.

It is my first time to spend a Christmas day in a farm- with rice fields all around the hut, fruit trees, chicken roaming all over the place, livestock on the pens, hammock under the gigantic bamboo shade. What a simple but lively day, spent with laughter and joy of telling stories and sharing our dreams. It was a day spent in close communion with people I love and who love me. It then dawned on me that perhaps it was a way of reminding me of another aspect of Christmas that we often forget- the simple yet fulfilling experience of beholding and welcoming the Saviour born in Bethlehem. In my long years, I have attempted to theologize Christmas (partly, because of education), but little did I try to ‘humanize’ Christmas.

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