Monday, April 29, 2013

Can we evangelize through jokes?

New Evangelization, says Blessed Pope John Paul II, in his address to the Episcopal Conferences of Latin America, March 9, 1983 in Haiti, is “one that is new in its ardor, new in its methods, and new in its expression”. As we start this year the nine-year preparation for the 5th Centennial Anniversary of our being the only Catholic country in Southeast Asia, we reflect again and again on renewing our ardor, methods and expressions in professing, celebrating, living and praying our faith in Jesus Christ.

We may start by making a thorough review of the doctrines of our Catholic faith synthesized to us systematically and organically by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The very first step is to grab a copy of it and start a calm but persevering reading of its pages, in which, according to Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI, “we find that what is presented here is no theory, but an encounter with a Person who lives within the Church” (Porta fidei, no. 11) – Jesus Christ.

Getting involved in the Catechetical activities of our respective parishes, organizing group studies and discussions on social issues today in the light of the Catholic doctrines and coming up with reflections and resolutions for effective actions could be some of the concrete things every Catholic may undertake. The point is: we cannot just sit back and wait for things to happen. We must contribute even the littlest of what we can do. Christ is passing by in this Year of Faith. We might miss Him!

In Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, Obrero, we have already begun a detailed study and discussion of the Catechism. What moves us to come every Saturday evening is our thirst for understanding the faith that the Apostles had transmitted to us. Our motto is the Augustinian “Fides quaerens intellectum” (Faith seeking understanding): we believe first what the Church teaches; then, we try to understand in the measure God allows us to.

How can we reach out to more people, not only to those who attend daily masses, but most especially, to those who don’t even care that the response to the greeting “The Lord be with you” has already been changed to “And with your spirit”? This is our greatest challenge today, Catholics of the 21st century! And in order to meet this challenge, the Blessed Pope John Paul II, the Great suggested that we would take on new ardor, new methods and new expressions in this daunting task of new evangelization.

* * *

Is it possible to employ jokes and funny stories to transmit good ideas and thought-provoking concepts? If YES, then, why not start there? But choose the jokes that contain not only a clean sense of humor but also a heart-moving moral lesson. Let us try this one:

A signage placed at the exit of a church for people who would leave during the final hymn reads: Judas left early too.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ina, Kapatid, Anak: On Surrogate Motherhood

Telenovelas have their own way of inculcating principles, mentalities and ideologies without our being conscious of it. If we are not critical in watching our favorite TV drama special, we might end up agreeing to every argument, every belief, and every moral principle it presents to us. And before we know it, we already imbibe the immoral principle that the telenovela just took for granted to be right.

          Exactly, this is what happens with your favorite Ina, Kapatid, Anak. The writer – perhaps without really meditating about it – just took it as a generally accepted fact the reality of surrogate motherhood. The plot presents this issue as if nothing were wrong with it. Was Julio (Ariel Rivera) and Beatrice’s (Janice de Belen) move to have a baby through a surrogate mother (Cherry Ann Picache) morally acceptable?
          The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that “Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child’s right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses’ ‘right to become a father and a mother only through each other’ (Donum vitae II, 1)” (CCC, 2376).
          The CCC also notes that though some techniques that involve only the married couple (homologous artificial insemination and fertilization) – which seems to be the case of Ina, Kapatid, Anak – are perhaps less reprehensible, they “remain morally unacceptable. They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that ‘entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children’ (Donum vitae II, 5)” (CCC, 2377).
           Parents, teachers and those who hold serious responsibilities of forming the consciences of young people have the duty to explain this truth and this moral principle to them, especially to those who cannot take their eyes off this telenovela. Rated PG is how the MTRCB rated the show. But do parents really guide their young children by explaining to them the moral evil that surrogate motherhood entails?
          Again, beware of whatever the boob tube feeds us. It could be poisonous to our consciences – a real threat to the formation of the moral fiber of our society!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Listening to the Shepherd

          “My sheep hear my voice and I know them; they follow me and I give them eternal life”. The image of the shepherd-sheep relationship is central in today’s celebration of the Good Shepherd Sunday. Two characteristics of the shepherd and of the sheep catch our attention. The Good Shepherd knows his flock and gives the sheep eternal life. The sheep, on the other hand, hears and follows the shepherd.
          Do we still hear the voice of the Good Shepherd today? There seems to be great difficulty in listening to the Shepherd’s voice and His message. Why? There is so much noise within and outside of us. Aside from the literal and physical noise that we hear in our neighborhood, there is the lack of silence even in our own home. When was the last time your whole family just sat on the sala and listen attentively while each of your children, the father and the mother shares to everyone what transpired during the day? How often do you get together and just share laughter, stories, and anecdotes?
Today, we can hardly experience real silence at home because the whole house is dominated by the TV, the music stereo and other gadgets. We are not contented: we wear headphones all the time, as if we wanted to listen exclusively to music. Without external silence there can never be an ambiance for authentic listening.
The young people born into this noisy generation seem to want to fill every empty moment with music and images. They feel that without their headphones, there is emptiness. Most young people today are no longer capable of remaining for long periods in silence and solitude. How can we teach them to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd? We need to teach them first to love silence!
Then, there’s the inner noise, the lack of interior silence and peace. Oftentimes, this is caused by our own defects. In the First Reading, the Jews were jealous that Paul and Barnabas were winning the attention of the people with their preaching. “So they began to oppose with insults whatever Paul said”. Jealousy and envy can be the inner noise that prevents us from listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd. Unless we learn to fight against them and reject them, we can never hear the shepherd’s voice.
Inner silence takes place when we strive to fight against our defects and we cling to God’s mercy. Isn’t it true that after your confession you feel a profound inner peace? Interior peace is the result of our effort to come to Jesus and to abandon in His hands all our cares. Inner peace is the product of self-abandonment in the hands of God. The confusions around us are mere reflections of what’s within, as the song goes. There is so much noise outside of us because there is so much noise inside.
Only those who listen to the voice of the Shepherd attentively are capable of following His will. He who listens attentively follows diligently. Why is there lots of confusions nowadays with regards to the teachings on moral principles that guide human actions? Why are there people today who would embrace the idea of divorce, same-sex marriage, the use of contraception, in vitro fertilization and even abortion in various countries? Why is there so much disrespect of life and family and utter disobedience of the moral order God has placed in nature? It is because there is less listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd!
The Good Shepherd says: “My sheep shall never be snatched away from me”. No outside force can separate us from the love of Christ, the Eternal Shepherd. The only thing that can snatch us away from His hand is ourselves – our refusal to listen to His voice. The great crowd in the Second Reading, from every nation, race, people and tongue, standing before the throne and the Lamb, refers to those who persevered in listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd.
“Never again will they suffer hunger or thirst… For the Lamb near the throne will be their Shepherd, and He will bring them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away their tears”. May we learn to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd as He speaks in our hearts. We ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to help us listen attentively to the voice of Her Son. Amen.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Never compromise the truth

          “This language is very hard. Who can accept it?” When Jesus presented the bare truth on the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of His Body and Blood to His disciples, He immediately encountered oppositions, misunderstanding, rejection, withdrawal and even betrayal. His disciples were murmuring against this truth. Some started to leave Him and ceased to be His disciples. Their gesture was so eloquent of the stubbornness of their hearts.

          Two months ago, the ADDU President wrote in his blog: “The Catholic Church is in trouble – even in Catholic Philippines…People have been leaving the Catholic Church. People are about to leave the Church. It is time, I think, for Mahar Mangahas to take out his social survey tools to help us understand what is happening” (Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ). Taking its cue from Fr. Tabora’s assertions, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) conducted a survey and found out that “One in every 11 Filipino Catholics, or 9.2 percent, sometimes considers leaving the Church”.
          Why do you think some Catholics leave the Church? Fr. Tabora thinks that the following are the reasons: “Some may be exasperated with the RH debate. Others may be yearning for more palpable fellowship and experience of Christian communion. Yet others may be searching for greater depth and holiness as they search for God in this difficult world”. In other words, he said, “People are tired of the obstinate claim to absolute truth when the thinking world still searches for the truth”.
A few Catholics leave the Church because they could not swallow Her doctrines. Others think of leaving the Church because they lack a deeper understanding of their faith. But whatever their motives are, don’t you think it is illogical to conclude that if I don’t understand very well my faith, something is wrong with it; hence, I have to leave it? If you don’t understand Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, you don’t conclude that something is wrong with the theory. Yet, why would one think that something is wrong with the Catholic Church simply because a very few cannot understand or agree with Her teachings?
The scene at Capernaum takes place again today in the Philippine setting. History repeats itself. But let us look at the reaction of Jesus, so that we may learn how to react now in the face of this unfortunate exodus of few Catholics outside the Church.
          When the disciples began to leave Him, did Jesus clarify His pronouncements with more convincing words? Did He say, “Actually, I was just speaking metaphorically”. No! Did He doubt the truth of what He revealed? When His disciples began to leave, did it come to His mind that perhaps what He said was wrong simply because it was not acceptable to everybody? No! Though His doctrine was “hard language”, Jesus never compromised the truth!

          Today, we easily compromise the truth, our principles and convictions, our faith just to be acceptable to everybody. We’d rather silence our moral position on certain issues rather than to speak and be “politically incorrect”.
          When we don’t and we can’t understand some tenets of our faith, either we take it or leave it. Those who opted to leave it will never arrive at understanding and appreciating its beauty and experiencing the joy of believing. For us who opted to take it is bound to “rediscover the joy of faith”. The more we are confused, the more we should cling to Jesus and say with Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We now believe (even though we don’t understand) that you are the Holy One of God”. When we decide to cling to Jesus in the midst of our darkness, we shall begin to see light!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Beware of media conditioning

          There seems to be a concerted effort nowadays to discredit the Catholic Church in the Philippines by conditioning the mind of the people to doubt Her integrity and credibility. In the past week, there was the SWS survey saying that “Catholics are less religious and attend church less frequently than those of other religions”. The same survey found that “one in every ten (or eleven) Catholics sometimes think of leaving the Church”. The pollster also noted that “Of the 1,200 respondents who answered the survey, 81 percent were Catholic, six percent were Protestant, six percent were Muslim, three percent are members of the Iglesia ni Cristo sect, and three percent belong to other Christian denominations”.
          It’s not that I suffer a scarcity of trust in the Science of Statistics, but can the 81% of 1,200 respondents be enough to represent the over 70 million Filipino Catholics? And from the point of view of responsible journalism, would the “one-out-of-eleven” ratio constitute a news story? GMA news online is even more detailed. It says, “Pollster Social Weather Stations’ February survey has found that 9.2 percent, or nearly one out of every 10 Catholics who are registered voters, ‘sometimes think of leaving the Church’”. You see, not even one, but only “nearly one” – it could be a “half-ling Catholic” – who is “sometimes thinking” of leaving the Church!
          And they are making a sensational news out of it!
          Sensationalism is the media’s cup of tea, bread and butter, and Deus ex machina especially when what is behind its stories is the malicious intention to malign the credibility and integrity of the ecclesial institution. We call this strategy, “mind conditioning”. Whether it is true or not that “nearly one out of every 10 Catholics” is contemplating of leaving the Church is not really what interests the promoter of the survey and the media; rather, its effect in the society as a whole. Sensationalism is always like that: it is more interested in what is “sensational” rather than in what is true!
          But a wise and analytic person is never persuaded by sensationalism. The truth is the only thing that convinces him. I don’t mean to deny that there are really some Catholics who, because they misunderstood their faith or lack sufficient and deep appreciation of it, would rather embrace another religion or denomination. But that is not news! That is merely sensationalism! What is news is that over 1.2 billion Catholics in the world and nearly 90% of the 90 million Filipinos are Catholics who are trying to live and understand deeply their faith. That is news!
          By sensationalizing that a very few Catholics are leaving the Church, the media is implying that something is wrong with the Catholic Church. But that is a fallacious conclusion. Something must be wrong with these Catholics who are leaving the Church! If the majority of Filipino Catholics are staying and a very small minority is leaving, why imply that something is wrong with the majority? The truth is that “something must be seriously wrong with the minority that leaves or thinking of leaving the Church”.
Perhaps, they don’t understand the Catholic Church. But if you don’t understand Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, you don’t conclude that something is wrong with the theory. Yet, why would one think that something is wrong with the Catholic Church simply because we cannot understand or agree with Her teachings?
          If the media and the survey are not merely sensationalizing, they could have presented a more interesting story: why the majority Filipino Catholics are staying. This could have been more of news – truthful news! Sensationalizing is when you focus your attention to the diminutive and insignificant; while you intentionally neglect the informative and important. One sensationalizes especially when one aims to condition the mentality of the people. Sensationalism is the tool for mind conditioning.
Hence, let us be very wary and vigilant with the media’s sensationalism and mind-conditioning!

"Sacerdotes, 'consagrados en la Verdad'"

Estar inmersos en la Verdad, en Cristo, de este proceso forma parte
la oración, en la que nos ejercitamos en la amistad con Él y aprendemos a
conocerle: su forma de ser, de pensar, de actuar. Rezar es un caminar en
comunión personal con Cristo, exponiendo ante Él nuestra vida cotidiana,
nuestros logros y nuestros fracasos, nuestras fatigas y nuestras alegrías -es un
simple presentarnos a nosotros mismos ante Él. Pero para que esto no se
convierta en un autocontemplarse, es importante que aprendamos continuamente a
rezar rezando con la Iglesia.