Idealism

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I have always been a dreamer, an idealist. I sometimes imagine myself as one little candle trying to dispel as much darkness as I can.
Humbly, I acknowledge that I have received this light as a gift, freely and unmerited.
And I have shared this light through my work of teaching to dispel the darkness of ignorance;
through my engagements in healthcare to dispel the darkness that comes with the pain of sickness.
If I should be remembered I would want it to be for the people I have mentored, taught and helped change their lives;
and for the people who lives I have helped put back together and made whole again either physically, spiritually and psychologically.
And as I go into my latter years, all this caring comes back to me more focused as I share in helping care from those closest to me to the strangers whom I serve anonymously.
As I help teach and make them whole and more complete, I remember and pray for all of the people who have taught me and  made me whole and complete.

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Death, Be Not Proud

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I have always sought to live a life with meaning. And these days, I also think a lot about dying a death with meaning. Ninoy Aquino, whose death – murder – we remembered yesterday, lived a life full of meaning. But it was his death that had greater significance and meaning. “The Filipino is worth dying for.”

I remember one time when our eldest grandchild simply broke into tears because he, all of a sudden, felt afraid of dying. He was all of eight years old.

Man has always been afraid of death and death is indeed a sad occasion. It helps and even inspires me to think that death is not an end but another passage that I make in life. My life is a series of passages or passing over. Birth is a passage from non-existence into being. In life, I pass over from childhood into adulthood. In death, I pass over into a new life. Before my birth, I could have imagined myself to be afraid to leave the comforts of the womb, uncertain of what lay ahead. In death, I could imagine myself to be afraid to leave life, uncertain of what is waiting for me ahead. But it is precisely in the paradox of dying that I make the passage, the passing over, the being born to a new life in eternity. My Christian faith assures me of that certainty.

As I advance in years, my thoughts often turn to thoughts about death. Strangely, I am not afraid of death for I see it not as an end but as a portal for levelling up; or at the very least, for a ‘Reset’. Just as in a video game, the action gets more exciting as you near the end;  one must make sure to have enough points or energy to level up. So, every day brings me new challenges and deeper realizations as I approach the end-game.

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Jeremiads Over A Failed Revolution

No photo description available.On August 21, 1983, many of the streets of Manila were festooned with yellow ribbons to welcome back Ninoy Aquino from his exile in the US. History was made that day when he was assassinated while getting off the plane that brought him to Manila. His killing triggered a chain of events that eventually led to the EDSA Revolution of 1986.

When historians write out Philippine History of that period, they will probably be writing of actually two revolutions: the Bagong Lipunan Revolution of Marcos and the EDSA Revolution of Aquino. Both radically changed the course of Philippine History and both are still being played out till now.

By their fruits you shall know them?

Looking at what is currently happening in the country today, I am tempted to say that the Marcos Revolution has been the more successful one. Because of the massive corruption and human rights abuses by the dictatorship, it succeeded in galvanizing the country and uniting a very fractious nation for once in their history. We ousted Marcos through the peaceful EDSA Revolution. We did ourselves proud and showed the world what courage and nobility Filipinos are capable of. EDSA became the template of later People Power revolutions that toppled most of the authoritarian regimes in Europe that included the dismantling of the old USSR.

The Aquino Presidency came into into power on a moral high ground. It tried to govern based on values and principles. There were many who joined government with reforms and renewal in their minds. but alas, it was an uphill battle. The Cory Presidency was beset and buffeted by a never ending series of coup d’etat. It survived its term of six years but it seemed that it was all downhill from there. For there was the internal threat of people not really wanting changes. The people who were led out of slavery wanted to go back to the fleshpots of their place of enslavement.

Like the Israelites wanted to go back to the fleshpots of Egypt, people grumbled and complained. The road built of principles and values was not only difficult and steep to negotiate, it was also long and winding. People were impatient. They wanted shortcuts. It also meant that some of those who were in power were losing their entitlements. They would not take that sitting down. Even as reforms were being attempted, there were many still managing to get away with shenanigans. And soon everyone wanted a share of the loot. In the end, nothing has changed. Things have gotten worse. And being pushed to their logical conclusions, they have become even ridiculous in their irrationality and insanity.

So are we better off today or worse off? There are people I respect for their intelligence and uprightness who say things are better. Let us just help and do what we can to help the country. I am greatly distressed by what I see. I see the utter lack of principles and values in high places and thing going from bad to worse. And so many people just being resigned and trying to make the best out of a terrible situation.

And as always I cling to my faith. I cling to my God who writes straight with crooked lines. I cling to Him who is a contrarian God, who created us out of nothing, who fashioned man out of stardust, who calls us to the cross, and who in the last few days have consistently been sending me the same message:

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? 
No, I tell you, but rather division. 

“If you wish to be perfect, go,
sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.”

“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich
to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Again I say to you,
it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”

Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Posted in Change, Discipleship, Philippines/Filipino, Principles | Leave a comment

Poverty as a Choice

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Two days ago, Jesus declared:
“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? 
No, I tell you, but rather division.” 

Yesterday, he told the young man:
“If you wish to be perfect, go,
sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad,
for he had many possessions.

Today, Jesus said to his disciples:

“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich
to enter the Kingdom of heaven.”

Are riches really that bad?
Just consider, there is inherently unjust when the richest one percent of the world’s population owns more than what the lower fifty percent has.
Or, there is something not right when the three richest men in the US (Gates, Bezos, Warren) own as much wealth as the bottom half of the US population, or 160 million people. Any one of these three is has more wealth than entire countries among the lower fifty percent of the world’s countries.

Gates and Buffet sees the moral crisis in their owning such an obscene amount of wealth. they are ready to give away what they have through their philanthropy. But this will hardly solve the problem.

Even now, there are many who are willing to sell their soul to the devil to get to riches they lust after. They are will to steal, kill, con, do whatever it takes to get their hands on riches. And the world condones and even celebrated their success. Such people exist everywhere – in business, in entertainment, in politics and government and yes, even in churches and religion.

So are we in a hopeless situation?
Today’s Gospel offers us this consolation”
“For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible.”

Have the words of God fallen on deaf ears?
There are still does who choose to hear, listen and follow his Words.
Their numbers are small but they are around.

Anabelle and I had a friend who was a Poor Clare cloistered nun.
I remembered one time she was telling us that they do not change clothes everyday
but wear the same set of habits for several days.
They would sleep with their whole habit on so that they do not waste time
dressing and getting ready for their prayer times.
I asked if this was to save on clothing or on the laundry expenses,
knowing they had vows of poverty.
She said it was indeed because of their vow of poverty but not to save but to be in solidarity with the real poor, who may have just one set of clothing in their life
or who may not have anything to wear at all.

As long as there as Tessa’s who take on poverty as a choice,
I will not lose hope and I will always believe that good will triumph over evil
and that love will eventually conquer all the hatred and anger in the world.

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Sell What You Have And Follow

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There can be three levels of defining our relationship with others and the world.
There is ownership: I have possessions, I can even have a family and children. Ownership is good but it can give way to selfishness and acquisitiveness.

Then there is stewardship: I cannot own the earth nor other people
but I have been given responsibility for them and expected to make them grow,
for them to become more and better.

And then there is kinship: we are one with everything that exists.
The earth, and people for that matter, does not belong to me
but I belong to the earth and to other people.
We are fruits of the earth and sons and daughters of the land.
We all belong to one another: dust from dust, blood of m blood, flesh of my flesh.

This is the strongest and most intimate of relationships.
And this is the kind of relationship that Christ was challenging the young man to have:
If you wish to be perfect, go,
sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.”
For our real treasure are our relationships built on kinship,
our belongingness to one another in Christ.

This kind of faith is both a choice and a responsibility.
When I choose to believe, I acknowledge a Someone
to whom I owe the gift of life I have received.
As a sunflower turns towards the source of the light that provides it with energy,
I too seek to know and understand the source of this precious present.
I am responsible for this life and all the value attendant to it.
I am also responsible for this life that I share with the rest of the world
as I see it manifested and incarnated in others and in nature.
And I come to realize, the faith I have received brings me into a web of relationships
that is the very fabric of life itself.

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Making Space

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Even a barren desert can be full of life.
There is reason for hope even in the wilderness.

If I were so full of myself,
how could there be space for anybody else in my life?
If I were filled with so much anger and bitterness,
would there still be room for joy and happiness to come in?
When I feel empty and lacking,
isn’t that a sign that God is trying to find for himself a space in my life?
And I were to fill my life with goodness,
then I would be crowding the bad things out of my life.

I guess this is the reason why children are more attuned to the divine that adults are. Children are tabula rasa, waiting to be written upon.
Untouched as they are by disappointments and worries,
they have room for everyone and everything to come into their lives.
I love children and the lessons they can teach me.

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Families As Oases Of Love

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We live in a secular and open society.
Everything is up for questioning and subject to challenge.
Because nothing is sacred anymore.
No more absolute values or norms.

On the one hand, I welcome this for it has meant freedom
from many oppressive practices and beliefs from the past.
On the other hand, I sometimes fear that the freedom and openness
can go so far that people lose their moorings and become adrift.

I think of the family, long time the bedrock of all stable societies,
now buffeted by problems and challenges from all sides and being torn asunder. Divorce, for example, is now acceptable everywhere.
It seems the Philippines is the only place left on earth where it is not legally allowed.
And there is a strong push to legalize it.

Children are often the innocent victims of all this progressivism.
Abortions of unwanted babies are legal in many countries.
This damages families in ways we may not be aware of.
And all the discussions on same sex marriages and
same sex couple parenting have me all confused.

I thank God for my own family and pray that he keeps blessing us.
I pray for families I know and families everywhere that they may find
the strength, courage and grace to face up to the challenges confronting families today. And I pray that people will still find families as oases of love, hope and faith
in a world seemingly bereft of these.

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