Saturday, May 30, 2009

Why We Must Care For More Than Our Own

"No man is an island. No man stands alone. 
Each man's joy is joy to me. 
Each man's grief is my own." 
No man Island -  橋咀洲 by Steve Wan^_______________,^.
This is the first stanza of a song communicating the relationship of man and the rest of creation. There had been songs, movies, books, articles, plays and all other media in almost every language that had been created to share this message of "connectedness" among everyone and everything in the world. However, it seems that man, the center and appointed steward of creation seems to be oblivious of this truth and most specially its consequences.
brazil-stephenferry-getty460 by qu1j0t3.
Brazil is known to be one of the greatest sources of fresh air. People from nearby countries, Venezuela, Africa, Cuba, Mexico,and the United States, for example, benefit from the the fresh air being emitted by the forests of Brazil. Recent developments in Brazil, however, had affected this supply of fresh air. Brazil is now considered the third greatest supplier of carbon dioxide, (a gas which is mainly responsible for the creation of a film around the earth which results to global warming) because of its massive deforestation activities. Deforestation is a form of land clearing done by burning forests instead of the more expensive and time consuming cutting of trees. The activity maybe local, but the effect is global.

Global warming is another phenomenon when we can not just sit back because we believe we are not affected and not affecting others. The earth's condition is influenced one way or the other by every activity that happens in it, whether by living or non-living things. Even the the most simple breathing contributes to the earth's condition. God had created a perfect world in the sense that if each creation is let to live according to its nature, each will live long enough to achieve its purpose. Science had discovered the need for the earth to maintain its balance. Climate change, the effect of global warming , had affected different countries in varying degrees. Climate, as we know is vital to the lives of everyone and everything. Lifestyles, agriculture, economy, construction, health, and what not, will be affected. Unless a country is thinking of controlling its own climate by isolating itself, it can not help but be affected by this global phenomenon. And even if it can, it will only be fleeting, because eventually, if the all of the earth is affected, they too will be affected.
HIV-Virus by Ice Blade.
For so many years now, one of the dangers being posed before humanity, is the threat to health. While it is true that there had been plagues that had appeared many many years ago, it seems that they are appearing more and more at less time space these days. The development of wider and wider ranged anti-biotics will attest to this. There was the lethal ebola virus which has actually mutated a lot of times. SARS appeared in Hongkong. Now we have the A (H1N1), "swine flu virus". There are actually many more being discovered every week. Some are not that strong as to affect life, businesses, and homes. But they are there. We do not know how they will re-appear. We know that viruses are capable of mutating to a different strain. There is always a race between the virus mutating and scientists discovering the cure drug. We know that we are no match to them. Human lives would be sacrificed first before cures, if we are fortunate, would be discovered. In doing so, we spend so much time, talent, and money to do it. The question is, are we always willing to offer time, talent, and money? Last year, another killer virus called "Lujo" was discovered in Africa ( Maybe the authorities are still keeping the details of the virus but it is certainly present and ready to unleash itself unless we do something about it. The virus maybe in Africa but because of the constant, fast, and easy movement of people courtesy of advances in transportation and communication, they can easily be transmitted to other countries including island countries like ours. It will be more devastating if it had reached the human to human level of transmission. It will be at its height if it becomes airborne! In that case, a pandemic is inevitable. I can not imagine myself breathing myself to possible death! And I thought the World War II holocaust had already been condemned and stopped! Now, it seems that we are our own executioners!
All of these boils down to one common solution; cooperation and awareness of our connectedness. We are our brother's keeper. We can not just clean, maintain and sanitize our own  home and backyard. We have to care for the home and backyard of our neighbors too! Rodents, cockroaches, flies, and other agents of virus transmission would not just limit themselves to your neighbor's unkempt place. They can invade other homes too. And the easiest way to spread viruses and germs is via these very active and constantly migrating creatures. We can not just fortify, beautify, and maintain our own. We just have to be committedly but respectfully involved and interested in others too for the sake of all.   

The song's last stanza says all of these; 

"When I help my brother,
Then I know that I,
Plant the seed of friendship,
That will never die."   

If we love our neighbor as ourselves, death will not be seen as the end but as a part of living. If in doing anything loving for every neighbor is seen as a service to God, then death will be seen as the door towards eternal life. Be connected and live forever. Decide to disconnect, and be prepared to die forever!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Men Are Losers Too?

In the Catholic faith, the sexual act done outside of marriage, even between consenting adults, is considered an offense against God. But what is interesting is that it seems that society, specially here in the Philippines, sees the woman as the more or the only aggrieved party and receives the greater humiliation and shamefacedness compared to the man. There is no doubt that the woman was pained, wounded and damaged by the act. How about the man? Just because he is a man does not mean that he comes out of the act undefiled or untarnished! While it is true that the sexual act is viewed by some as merely a physical issue, it is essentially also a psychological issue to many. To the Catholic faith it is a spiritual issue and therefore involves salvation eventually.

I know that the following reflection may be a vexation to some, will befuddle a lot, and pique many, but I believe I have to raise the thought and at least offer it as a question. My point is that in an illicit sexual act, why is it that it is only the woman who is believed to have lost, had been wrecked, or put to the disadvantage? In many cases, the woman feels more guilty about what happened to her. Society looks at the woman with more pity. On the other hand, the man seems to feel less remorse or very much wanting in self reproach. He is not also seen by society as having lost rather as one who had taken advantage of a "weaker sex". However, before the eyes of faith and God, he is equally guilty. He maybe physically unharmed, but he is definitely spiritually weakened. Therefore, there is no reason why he must have less contrition. Society should also look at him as another victim of the situation.

This difference in treating a woman from a man involved in a sexual act outside of marriage seems to convey the idea that it is always the woman who is more harmed while the man is not. This is not true and should not be propagated. The man should be made aware that he too loses something in a sexual act. He must be made aware that he would also be responsible before God. He must also realize that it will haunt him later in his life. On the other hand, society must also be reminded on the quandary of the man. Without neglecting and easing on the culpability of the man in the act (in case he was responsible for it), society should come to the aid of the man in realizing his situation essentially, psychologically, and spiritually.

I have heard of some lady legislators together with cause-oriented women's group lobbying for more laws against men who "victimize" women. I have nothing against punishing men who are guilty abusing women (and children). If they are guilty, so be it. But I believe that society and the men who are involved in these situations also need elucidation on the subtlety, gravity, and depth of the matter, much more the spiritual and moral damage it has inflicted. Men, after all are human beings too. The damage they have received may have been less than the women, nevertheless, it should be plain that they too needed care and assistance. It will be sad if we have addressed chauvinism but in the process had become ultra-pro feminist! Then, we have shifted from one extreme to the other. We are back to a situation where the problem was just reversed.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hasta La Vista, Tita Cora!

Tita Marina (Ilagan), one of the oldest member of our community, is a daily mass goer in our parish. If she happens to participate in the morning mass, Tita Cora (Padilla) would always be there to accompany her and attend to her needs in case she would need any. They will always be seated together in front. Every after mass, I would meet them and walk with them from the altar to the church door. Because Tita Marina speaks to me in Spanish, I would try to answer in my own smorgasbord Spanish. My Spanish would come from everywhere, e.g. "Si, Tita Marina. Las mujeres con todos los santos de las Islas Filipinas contigo. Entonces en seguida para per nalia aqui!" And then I would also recite with her the "Mi Ultimo Adios" of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. All the time, Tita Cora would be laughing at my Spanish which Tita Marina seem to understand! And all the time she would hold the hand of Tita Marina on the other side (the nurse on the other). When Tita Marina's car would arrive, Tita Cora will see to it that Tita Marina is safely in the car. 

A member of the Catholic Women's League, Tita Cora has always something to share during meetings. She speaks her mind. She proudly and lovingly expresses her feelings. She would always be relied on to remind everyone of some important details or announcements. She criticizes constructively. She is a woman of concern and charity. She rocks! She is!

Yesterday at about quarter to seven in the evening, Becky, her daughter, came to the office and asked for a priest. She wanted her mother to be blessed. According to her, they were having a good day. In the afternoon, they just had a sumptuous meryenda (including some doughnuts courtesy of Aida Tieng). Tita Cora retired to her room after the merienda. Later, one her nurses heard a fierce ringing of her bell alarm. The nurse rushed to her room and there she was, motionless, still, frozen. The nurse tried to revive her by calling out her name. But she was gone. I arrived just as the 911 mobile arrived. The doctor was already attending to her. I waited until she was ready for the blessing. As soon as the doctor was done, we immediately gathered near her bed and I gave her her last rites and blessing. Tita Cora will now meet her Creator. Tita Cora will soon fulfill her dream. Tita Cora bade goodbye to earthly life to enter into eternal life. Tita Cora will now accept Jesus' invitation to paradise!

Adios y Hasta la vista. Au revoir! Sayonara. Arrivederci. Shalom. Selamat jelan. La revedere. Paalam!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Not The Right But The True Connection.

vine leaves arching over the path by rosewithoutathorn84.
On this fifth Sunday of Easter we have the parable of the vine and the branches. The Lord Jesus used the image of the relationship of the vine and the branches to show our relationship with Him. In the same way as the branches could not sustain itself if not connected to the vine, we could not also live if we are disconnected from the Lord. In the same way that the branches could not bear fruit apart from the vine, we also could not bear fruit apart from the Lord. It was God who gave us life. It is God who sustains it. It will be God who would bring and receive it in its fullness.

So many times in today's Gospel, the word "remain" was mentioned. It reveals the importance of remaining in the favor of the Lord. Anyone, no matter how rich, famous, or powerful is nothing without the Lord. Anyone, no matter how deprived in this world, would be complete if he has the Lord. The Lord is our enough. The world is never enough.

In another teaching, the Lord said that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. In the last Gospels about the Good Shepherd, this was made clear. There are other kinds of shepherds whose caring and pasturing are wanting. In the same way, there are other kinds of vines which sustenance does not bring fruits. Only Jesus is the Good Shepherd and the "true" vine. He is the one who can see us through this life which His Father had created.

Genesis taught us that we were created in the image and likeness of God. It just follows that our fulfillment rests on living that image. No, it does not mean that we are God or we should become God. It means that God had shared Himself in a limited way to us and we have the responsibility to reflect them our lives. Kailangang magmana tayo sa Diyos! Because God was our creator, we are expected to exhibit His values, ways, most important, His Will. If dogs created us, then we can live like dogs. If crabs created us, then we have reasons to act like crabs. If we came from snakes, we should not wonder if we live like them. But as the Psalmist sang, "You have made me little less than a God and have lavished my heart with Your love. With dignity and honor you clothe me. Given me rule over all!" (Psalm 131). If we act other than our being, then we have degraded ourselves and we are not worthy of the dignity that God had given us.

Therefore, we must stay connected to God. Let us live in His milieu. Let our sustenance be His Word and His Deeds. And then, we will not only bear fruit, but much much more of them. Those fruits are what would form and develop us as children of God worthy of the Kingdom made available to us by the Lords death and resurrection. Those fruits will make our life complete. Those fruits will bring our life to its intended fruition.
Eaglet's future domain by aaardvaark.
(Let me share to you this story which is very relevant to the reflection above. There is a sad American Indian story about a young man who found an eagle's egg and put it into the nest of a prairie chicken. The eagle hatched with the brood of prairie chickens and grew up with them. All its life, the misplaced eagle thought it was a prairie chicken and did only what the prairie chickens did. It scratched in the dirt for seeds and insects to eat And it flew no more than a few feet off the ground with a thrashing of wings like other prairie chickens. Years passed and the unfortunate eagle grew very old. One day, it saw a significant bird high above cloudless sky. Hanging with graceful majesty on the powerful wind currents, it soared gracefully on its strong golden wings. "What a beautiful bird!" said the unfortunate eagle to its neighbor. "That's an eagle, the chief of the birds," the neighbor replied. "But don't give it a second thought. You could never be like him." So the poor eagle never gave it a second thought and it died thinking it was a prairie chicken.)

Not a few people had lived their lives different from how it should be lived because they had been placed in an environment or they were "branched" to the wrong vine. The difference we have from the eagle above is that we are human beings. God had given us the capacity to make decisions and changes if we want. Hopefully, once we realize that we are in the wrong environment or are being influenced by the wrong vine, we will have the strength and the will to find the true one. If we are open and sensitive, we will find the Lord who is just there in our hearts! Further, hopefully, it will not be too late or we would not die with it just like the poor eagle.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fifty-Two And Surviving!

I could not believe it but am already fifty-two! To think that I could not have been more than forty or more years older? Yes, it is true. It is because I had a domestic accident when I was about seven. It was probably a Sunday morning then (because we were all home) when we were playing at the second floor of our house. The wooden "horse" used for ironing was located near the open window. I sat on the ironing horse to watch my brothers and sisters. At one point I was laughing so hard that I leaned back forgetting that I was sitting with the open window at my back. I fell down. I landed face down and my rib hit the hard ground. My heart may have gotten a shock and caused it to stop because I was not breathing when my father got to me. He immediately carried me and brought me inside the house where he tried on me everything he knew about first aid. The first thing I felt when I recovered consciousness was the splash of water on my face. I saw my mother and my siblings all seated on the stairs leading to our second floor crying. Maybe they thought I was gone. As soon as I regained consciousness, my father immediately brought me to the Rizal Provincial Hospital in Pasig. I remembered the doctor asking me to walk. I was a little "groggy" but I was very determined to show them I was not hurt and that I was good. Some more examinations were done to me and it was good. I had not incurred a brain damage (so it seems! Ha ha ha ha.), fractures and other severe effects because of the fall. After a week, I was back on my toes!

Another time, I was imitating Tarzan by hanging myself at the door. When I let go, I did not have the right footing for the fall. My feet slipped and I fell on my back. I was not able to protect my head so that it hit the concrete floor and was bouncing like a ball! I was vomiting hard after that and I was brought immediately to the National Mental Hospital (which was very near to our place). After some examinations, I was fortunate not to have incurred skull fractures and severe contusions. 

One morning, I was reaching for the kettle with the boiling brewed coffee to fill my cup, when suddenly the handle broke and the boiling coffee spilled on my body. As soon as my father (again) saw me, he immediately rubbed my body thereby peeling of the burned skin! I did not really feel the pain of the rubbing because I felt more the pain caused by the hot coffee! I suffered second degree burns. Again, I was brought to the Rizal Provincial Hospital. Incidentally, the same doctor who took care of me when I fell from the window, again attended to me. My father told me that the doctor commented that I will not die of sickness but my being accident prone! Up to now, I still have the scar of that burning in front of my body. It is similar to the map of Luzon island!

Another afternoon, me and my friends were playing in a vacant lot full of trees, particularly bamboo trees! I can not remember the reason but I climbed the bamboo tree! The bamboo tree I climbed grew inside a drum which rim was already destroyed by rusts! Suddenly, I miscalculated my footing and slid down. My knee was caught by one of the protruding edges of the destroyed rusted rim of the drum. At first I did not feel anything. Then, I just felt blood flowing from my right knee. That was the only time I realized I got a cut! Blood gushed forth from the wood profusely. I went home and saw my mother washing our clothes. I told her what happened to me. When she saw my wound, she was frantic but maintained her composure. She let me lie down, got some gauges and agua oxinada and merthiolate. I think it is better known as iodine tincture? Anyway, she was able to stop the bleeding, cleaned it and put some bandages. It took more than a month before it got healed!

I had many more accidents. I think I have mentioned them in a blog I wrote earlier. But I am writing this because I came to realize and appreciate again how much God loves me and the mission He wanted me to do. As the kumpare of my father said, I still have a mission to do. Little have I known that it will be through the priesthood. The call of God to me was simple and direct. He inspired me to embrace the call. Like Mary, I was graced to say "yes" to the call. And so here I am, striving and struggling to do God's Holy Will!