Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Beheading of the "John the Baptist Movement".

We were on retreat from June 23 to 27. Young and energetic Bp. Ambo David was our retreat master. On the second day, June 24, Feast of St. John the Baptist, he gave a reflection on the role of the Baptist in God's plan of salvation. He was reflecting on the Eucharist as a commemoration. He said that the life of John the Baptist provided an important context to it. But what was striking in his reflection was the possibility that John was not actually beheaded. There was no doubt about him having been executed. It was was not certain if it was a beheading. Bp. Ambo said that it was the John the Baptist movement which was really beheaded as a result of the death of the Baptist, the leader of his own movement. The beheading story in the gospel was actually the story of "headless" characters save for John. That is why he was the one beheaded. The others were already "headless"! Herod, Herodias, the young daughter, the people in the gathering, and the executioners. They were acting "headlessly". They were ignoring the truth and challenge being brought forth by John. The absence or lack of appreciation of John's message made them all "headless". That is why it was very symbolic that John offered his head for these headless people!

To be considered "headless" is to merely live life automatically. More instinctive than reflective. Not using one's head means just living emotionally and according to feelings. God gave us the capacity to observe, appreciate, evaluate, relate, and make  reasonable conclusions on the state of things. An animal may have a brain like a human being, but it does not have the wisdom and freedom of a human being. God gave us the authority and power to steward all of creation. Together with that power and authority are the gifts to do it. That is why man was created on the last day and in His image and likeness. Man is the most important of all. 

But if man does not use his God-given talent to think, he relegates himself to an animal. No wonder, when we act unacceptably and unreasonably, we call each other names like; beast, crab, monkey, snake, rat etc. This just means that as human beings, we are expected not to act by mere instinct, but honorable and dignified as God formed us to be.

When we were young, it iwas not uncommon to hear our parents and elders telling us "Use your head!". They were reminding us that we have something between our two ears which could help us appreciate and deal with what is at hand meaningfully and satisfactorily.

In our society today, who can we consider as "headless"?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Anger Management

This is not about the movie by Adam Sadler and Jack Nicholson. This is about the command of the Lord to avoid anger. It is a style of the Lord Jesus uses extremes in order to drive home a point and stress the importance of what He was saying. He even said to remove parts of our bodies that are causing us to sin. He said that it will be better for us to go to Gehenna (state of punishment) without those members of our body that are causing us to sin. Less painful and less suffering? Most probably, during His time, anger is associated with violence. Anger must have always resulted to injuries and death. 

But anger is a feeling. A feeling is just that, a feeling. What we do with it is what makes it good or bad. If anger, is bad by itself, then all other so called "negative" feelings must be bad too; sadness, loneliness, fear, frustration, depression etc. Yes, they make us feel bad, but they are what they are. They are not necessarily offenses against God. Sometimes things happen which inevitably result to these feelings. To emotionally react is very human. 

But how does anger become good? When we express it against evil. Yes, anger is good when pointed towards evil. In fact, that is expected of a Christian. Jesus, Himself, when He saw money changers and merchants disrespecting the temple, unleashed His anger by shooing them away. As Christians, we are expected to follow Gods command. Anything that stops us from fulfilling these commands must be crushed. In other words, evil should not be tolerated. We must fight against it. And one evidence of it is our feeling of anger against it. Unfortunately, this attitude has become weak in the Christians of today. We have weaken if not lost our sense of sin. It is very disturbing that an attitude of tolerance of evil has penetrated and permeated society. Suddenly, the moral standards had changed or had  been lowered; pre-marital sex , abortion, corruption, dishonesty, lying, live-in, homosexual acts, deception, murder, etc. had become very prevalent. The worse part is that it seems that society had already accepted it. Was it a case of overexposure which resulted to familiarity with it? Had we become callous about their presence and prevalence? Also, it seems that the good are more afraid of the bad? Bad people are more courageous doing their thing because they know that nobody would dare stop them. To each his own had become the policy for so many. The good, on the other hand, is very much wanting in asserting itself. So much wanting that it gets drowned by evil.

Anger results because our person/heart disagrees with what it encounters. Because we were created by God, we were made good, for good and to do good. By nature, we should be against evil and should not participate in evil. We must be angry at it. If we are not anymore angry against or, much worse we paticipate with it, we had become insensitive to it. The 'sense of sin" ceased to prevail in our hearts and minds.

This is what we have to recover. And anger could be put to good use in the recovery of this "sense of sin". We must develop the anger for the evil that we do. 

Saturday, June 14, 2008

"Yes" means "yes" and not "No".

I find it disrespectful and objectionable when witnesses in court lie in spite of having made an oath with one hand on top of the bible. The Lord Jesus, in the Gospel, warned His apostles about making an oath. If we can not honor our promises and vows, we must not make them at all. The very basis of the teaching of Jesus was that there is really nothing we can swear to. There is nothing we can guarantee by ourselves. We are all dependent on the grace of God. And so, oaths are only possible by and with the grace of God.

Different professions have their own oath before they practice. How many had fulfilled their commitments? How much of those promised were followed and lived? What were violated? While the Word of God maybe applicable to secular oaths, His purpose is really more for the religious oaths people had made. We make many of those; creed, sacraments, and in prayers. We make our profession of faith at least every Sunday. We make oaths whenever we celebrate the sacraments. We make many of them when we kneel and pray to the Lord for graces. In fact, there are times when we bribe the Lord and let him believe that we are willing to do some things for Him in exchange for a particular grace. What is interesting is that some of those graces were granted. But were the promises fulfilled? I have known of cases when parents would beg for the lives of their children or professionals praying for positions or achievements and promised to do something. Many were granted. How many fulfilled their oaths? 

The Lord encourages truth in everything. Life becomes progressive when we live a life of truth. The less lies we make in our lives, the nearer we are with God. The more truthful we are, the lesser burden we have in achieving our real destiny.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Barrio Mauway, my place.

Yesterday afternoon, my eldest brother told me that another acquaintance died in our place in Mandaluyong where we were born and grew up. You may ask, "What's new?" Di ba normal lang ang may namamatay? True, death is a normal occurrence. But recently, such news had been affecting me in the sense that I am realizing the fact that one by one, those people I grew up with during my younger days in my native barrio Mauway in Mandaluyong, are now passing to the next life. 

Since I entered the seminary in 1985, I had not lived in our place anymore. Once in a while, I would go home to visit my parents. That was how I would be updated about the whereabouts of the people there. Usually, I would be given information about who had gone to another place, who got married and to whom, who were sick, and who had died. Then, they were just a news. Now they meant more. Most probably because now, I feel a certain kind of separation. These people were my playmates and neighbors for so many years. I had spent time with them in one place. We talked, laughed, worked, and celebrated. We practically lived in one "roof"! We shared basically the same experience.

When my brother broke the news to me, I felt very very sad. It prompted me to ask for others who I had not heard anything of. One or two were still good while many, to my surprise, had already passed away for a long time without having known it at all! (After ordination in 1992, I had lived at my place of assignment.) Our place had greatly changed. The once squatter area had been awarded (for a low monthly rent payable in 25 years) and divided among the original residents. The atmosphere had also changed. And of course, the people had changed, at least on who still remained and who had newly arrived. 

No doubt, physically, our place is a lot better than during our time more than forty years ago. Houses are better and are neatly arranged. The people's standard of living had greatly increased. This is evident because of the presence of many sari-sari stores, a mineral water station, lots of motorcycles and tri-cycles, home appliances, computers etc. With he advent of new things, new events, and new people, the old is slowly giving way and fading away. I am a part of the old. Yes, I may have gone a long time ago due to my ministry and assignments, but I am still connected because of my family who I visit whenever possible. But I know that my connection is only very minimal now. Much more, our generation in that place would soon come to its expected end. I am both happy and sad. Sad because it was a happy and worthy generation in spite of the prevalence of violence, crimes, and ills of that time. I believe that in that small place, I had known and lived life in its entirety or at least much of it. Recently, I had been going back to the memories I had in that place. Signs of growing old? I think so. But sign also of having lived there happily! Rarely do we go back to our past if it will not bring back some smiles and good feelings in us. I am proud of my youth. I am proud of barrio Mauway. I am proud of the people I had lived with in that place!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Priestess; Why not?

Bp. Oscar Cruz, D.D. of the Archdiocese of Lingayen, Pangasinan enlightens us why there are no priestess in the Catholic Church. He stresses that it is a theological than a gender issue. Read  his explanation on this in his blog It may not be a thorough  explanation of the issue but it gives us the basic reason why the church may not ordain women to become priestess.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The New St. Alphonsus Church: Sacrament of Reconciliation Room

On both sides of the church, under the stairway leading to the mezzanine, are two beautiful fully furnished confessionals (Arch. Hershey Quioge, Interior Designer). It encourages both those who want to have a face to face or with a divider confession. The confessional has a big rounded window which provides a view of the garden immediately outside the confessional. Depending on the season, the curtains match the color proper for the season (green for Ordinary Time, white for Easter and Christmas, and purple for Lent and Advent). To light the room, two black and white lamps were provided. One is located on the right side immediately upon entrance and the other in the innermost part near the seat of the confessor. At the farthest end is also located a ledge which contains decorative jars and scented candles to give the room its needed solemn and atmosphere. Two framed inspiring pictures hang on the walls to provide a point for reflection for the penitent. Two original and unique Berenguer chairs equipped with throw pillows give comfort for the priest and the penitent during the Sacrament of Reconciliation. A small center table completes the set up. An air-conditioner is available in case the heat becomes unbearable.

For those who do not prefer a face to face set up, they have option to enter the cylindrical room connected to the confessional. A curtained window allows communication and anonymity for both the penitent and the priest. 

All in all, it is a very conducive place for any one's resolve to find reconciliation with God. Hopefully, it will be visited by those who are in need of God's loving forgiveness. It is always available for those who believe that forgiveness must be celebrated in the sacrament.

How About Privatization Of The Philippine Government?

I arrived at this idea when I heard that another government institution, the National Food Authority, is being suggested to be privatized. So far, we have lots of government institutions that had already been privatized or were made private for a time; Napocor, North and South Super highway , Light Rail and Metro Rail Transits, University of the Philippines (semi), and Petron. Some government institutions, if not fully privatized are using private companies for some services.
The Philippine situation is really very unique. These government institutions are no doubt very potent institutions. They can generate much income for the government if only they were honestly and well managed. Because of this, funding should not be a problem. The viability and feasibility of the operation would give a guarantee to any financial institution to provide funding. Furthermore, because it is a government institution, there is no question about its patronization.
So why privatize? Our government is not good in management? Then why the attempt to take over Meralco? Only to offer it to private companies again? Operational expense is not an acceptable reason because it boils down again in good management. I believe the main reason why profitable government institutions are not progressing is because of so many corruptions from top to bottom. What is the difference between privately run and government corporation? Government can afford, in fact they possess, top caliber people. Government can afford to send them to prestigious learning institutions to train and study. Government can have the best people. Therefore, it can function and operate at its optimum. The citizenry would be all support for such moves. In the end, they will be the one who will profit from it. But then again, why is it not happening? Why resort to privatization? If some corporations would accept the offer, for what reason would they accept it that government could not see or could not do?
Only one logical conclusion could be arrived at here; why don't we just privatize our vital institutions; the executive, judiciary, and the legislative or all main departments. If we believe that institutions would be ran better by private companies, then let us just privatized the government of our country. Lots of benefits would be acquired; corruption  will be addressed considerably (we can easily change a corrupt institution because they are under our employ), the best personnel will be required, budget will be transparent and wisely used, not much red tape because decisions are always urgent and necessary. In other words, those involved in operations are always on their toes because they are being paid for it. So, instead of a president, we will have a salaried CEO. We will operate like any other company. 
But where will that leave us? Is being a country only about progress? Can heritage, tradition, sovereignty, patriotism, and the like be just left to some people to preserve or be relegated to history and memory? Definitely not. Hopefully not. But the way we are going, it seems that we are going to that direction.
No matter how attractive is privatization,  the government of the people, by the people and for the people is still the best. What we need is a changed in ourselves. We may have all the changes and expertise we need, but if we do not change our corrupt, selfish and unpatriotic attitudes, we would be where we were before and worse, will be on a rapid decline.