It is never easy being good.
It takes effort and practice.
It seems to be so much easier to just go with one’s natural tendencies
rather than to exert the effort to be good.
And being good often entails a lot of danger.
When one tries to be good and kind,
there will always be the danger that people will take advantage of one’s kindness.
When one tries to be forgiving and merciful,
there is the risk that this would be seen as a sign of weakness
and one ends up being a loser.
But does one really become a loser that way?
The way of the cross seems to be the way of a loser, doesn’t it?
It smacks of failure, defeat, ignominy, shame.
But the story does not end there.
It was the lamb, not the wolf, that rose from the dead.
I would rather be a lamb than a wolf.
All the wars, conflicts and struggles that the world is experiencing
are but the reflections of the very same things happening within ourselves.
Christ came preaching his commandment of love
so that we can experience the peace we sorely long for.
In today’s fast-changing world, people are often concerned with appearances.
Personality and practices are preferred over character and principles.
As long as in the end, people get what they want.
Leaders and so-called opinion makers are often looking for the ‘right spin’
to sway public opinion, sometimes even deceptively staging events
to make things appear as they want the public to perceive them.
I may not always agree with bishops and our Church leaders
but I am grateful that they remain faithful to their prophetic role,
speaking the truth and standing for principles
even when the tide of public opinion is against them.
There have been many times
when I would be frantic looking
for something I have lost or misplaced
only to find it sitting right there before me.
I seek Christ in wind and thunder
only to encounter him in my silence and solitude.
I want to serve him in some heroic and epic manner
only to realize my calling right now is to do small and humble things
for others in his name.
I pray for the serenity and equanimity
to see his face in the hustle and bustle of daily living.
I often come to prayer with all the ‘treasures and possessions’
from my past, present and future ~
my dreams and memories, my ideas,
and understanding of what is good and what is good for me,
what I want my life to be.
Often, I would try on insert God in all this clutter and make sense of it all.
I also do that in my relationships ~
expecting people to fit into my categories and small boxes
and then create a picture or a story of my own making.
I end up creating an understanding of God, people and relationships of my own making ~ created in my image and likeness.
I realize now that this is all so wrong.
I am so full of myself there is hardly room anymore for God or for others to come in.
And I end up disappointed and frustrated.
I have to empty myself of such preconceptions.
I have to let go of my ‘treasures and possessions’.
Christ on the cross totally emptied himself
of his will, his person-hood, his dignity and his very own humanity
to make room for the will of the Father.
Buddhists try to achieve enlightenment through the Mu, an emptying of all desires.
For as long as we continue to desire we will always be suffering.
Christ had a more proactive approach:
“Sell what you have, give it to the poor and then follow me.”
I need to empty myself of all the noise and the clutter on my life
to make room for God and others to come in ~ on their terms, not mine.
It is when the grass is withered and dried
and the trees have all shed their leaves
that we know that new life is about to spring forth anew.
From Kenosis to Zoe.
From Emptiness to New Life
Our Lady of China, Santa Maria Church
Yesterday was the feast of La Naval, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. It’s fiesta in Quezon City and Angeles, coincidentally the two cities I consider home. Marian devotion has always been a hallmark of Catholicism. Catholic lore is replete with stories of holy men and women with great devotion to Mary. Throughout history, Marian apparitions have been authenticated in many places: Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, LaVang. In the Philippines, every region and every province have their own unique Marian devotion. This devotion is often very emotional and goes deep into the soul and hearts of people.
Pan now to the American culture, which is very technology-driven, rational and highly pragmatic. And yet, watch Americans in sports arenas; and it is all heart, all emotions. The heroics and guts of the athletes defy the numbers and statistics to always come with highly emotion-charged plays. I come to learn and understand many things through logic and reason. But I often rely on my heart and soul for my life decisions. It is in the loving arms of my mother that I learned the language of the heart and emotions.
I fancy myself to be a logical and rational person, using reason as the basis for many of my decisions. But I also realize that I can be a deeply emotional person, at times acting on a whim or based on what or how I feel. Because my emotions tend to be fleeting, changeable, unpredictable and irrational, I am often wary of them. Because reason is what distinguishes me from brute and unthinking animals, I tend to make decisions rationally, Bit I feel I am most human when I am fired with emotions. Love, I love to say, is a decision but it speaks to me in the language of emotions. Anger, the rawest of emotions, can drive me to very calculating and rational behavior in my quest to get back at the object of my anger. My faith is often an affirmation by my intellect and will but it is in the soft area of my heart that I truly encounter the Person in whom I believe. Reason makes me a man but emotions make me human.
We Filipinos are very emotional as a people. Specially during these difficult times we are going through, it seems reason has totally left the country. Many things don’t make sense anymore.
Yet the strange and even tragic thing is that, while we are very emotional, we are very simple and even naive when it comes to our emotions. It seems we only know two kinds of emotions: good and bad. We do not have a good command or understanding of our emotions. It is not uncommon for Filipinos to lump anger, hatred, disappointment, sadness, loneliness into one big bag emotion. And there would only be two possible responses: fight or flight. On the other extreme, all the good emotions are also lumped together and there is only one response – celebration!
I think there lies the reason and the feeling why we are forever in a rut as a people.
My God speaks to me in the silence and in whispers ~
through the gentle breeze,
the caressing wind,
the gurgling sounds of a newborn.
He leaves me love notes and reminders all over the place ~
in the fragile beauty of the flower,
the soft melodies from nature,
the relaxing vista of the sunset,
the glorious quiet of a breaking day.
He does many small things I take for granted to keep me alive ~
the air that I breathe,
the water that I drink,
the loving people he has surrounded me with.
And yet in my moments of weakness,
I ask him to show himself more palpably
and to speak to me more loudly.
But if he were to come in storm and thunder,
in a mighty rush of the wind,
in torrential rains or rampaging waters,
I would probably die from the awe and shock of the experience.
I will settle for the small and quiet ways he speaks to me then.
I will be aware of his presence even
when I make myself blind, deaf and mute
to the love notes he strews into my life daily.