Sunday, June 30, 2013

“Dictatorship of relativism”

The words of German psychologist and philosopher Karl Jaspers were prophetic when he said, “If I suppress something that I consider absolute, automatically, another absolute takes its place” (Jaspers, K., Filosofía, I, p. 385, English translation mine). Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger warned us, in a homily that he delivered on the eve of the conclave that elected him Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, against the “dictatorship of relativism” that characterizes our age.

I don’t want to sound like a prophet of doom but I simply wish to call our attention on this dangerous phenomenon because “to be forewarned is to be forearmed”.

But when you hear news like these: “US Supreme Court rules Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional”; “Pro-family leaders: Expect ‘persecution from the government’ over gay ‘marriage’; and “Traditional marriage supporters in short supply at US Supreme Court”, you will surely begin to understand Jaspers and Card. Ratzinger.

Once you suppress the absolute moral truths on marriage (as the sacramental union between man and woman), on life (as a gift from God that we should protect from womb to tomb), and on human sexuality (as designed by the Creator as naturally to be male and female, hence, are not within the arbitrary choice of any human person), another treacherous “absolute” will take its place: the “absolute dictatorship of relativism”.

Curiously, relativism, whether moral (that what is good or evil depends on one’s opinion or personal situation) or epistemological (that truth is relative), is self-destructive; hence, it is difficult to sustain. For instance, if you say that we have to respect everybody’s opinion on the morality of same-sex marriage for the sake of moral pluralism and peaceful coexistence, naturally we may have peace. But we don’t have truth because everybody’s subjective but different opinions – including the contradicting ones – will be all true.

As the motto of DCHerald says, “In truth, peace”. Peace without truth is superficial and momentary. Within a pluralistic and relativistic society, anyone who would affirm the existence of absolute moral truth would be suppressed and would be considered a threat to this fickle peaceful situation. Intolerance would be the name of the game. Relativism becomes its rule. Those who would defend the absolute moral truth would face persecution from those who claim that “moral truth is relative”.

Here’s the twist: Those who claim that “truth is relative” must admit that this claim is absolute. Otherwise, it would not be true. For if “moral truth is relative” is a subjective affirmation, then, the claim is not true to everybody. However, if the claim “moral truth is relative” is a true absolute assertion, then, truth is not relative but absolute. Thus, we see that relativism is self-contradictory and is impossible to defend.

But a relativist person is like an alcoholic: she is not aware of it, nor admits it. Here lies the danger of relativism: she may not know it, a relativist person has already done havoc to the moral fiber of the society.

Oftentimes, the cure to this ill comes with rigorous awareness of one’s relativist mentality. In order to help our young people avoid this danger, sound doctrinal formation is a must. Parent and educators may begin by explaining to young minds the absurdity and the danger of the “dictatorship of relativism”.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

How do you know Jesus, by heart or by head?

A Homily on the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time
“Who do people say that I am?”

At the first glance, we might think that Jesus is so concerned with His image among the people, that He cares so much what people say. We often say that we cannot please everybody. St. Josemaría said, “We are not like a 100-peso bill that everybody would accept if offered”. That is why we should not be concerned with what people say or who people say that we are, especially if we know that what we are doing is for the glory of God. Let us always rectify our intentions.

Because Jesus’ only concern in life is doing God’s will – He once said that His food is to do the will of His Father – then, we can be sure that He was not after His self-image when He asked, “Who do people say that I am?” With this question, He wanted to know how much His disciples knew Him through the knowledge of the people. Because, sometimes, we only have a second-hand knowledge of persons and we deal with them with this knowledge. We deal with a neighbor who just moved in with the knowledge that we have of him through our housekeeper.

Jesus asked His disciples “Who do people say that I am?” to test the waters. He wanted to know whether or not they are more or less ready for the announcement that would come later of His passion and death. He would introduce Himself later as “the one who was pierced and mourned for like for an only child”, as the Prophet Zechariah prophesied in the First Reading. It is very difficult to mourn for someone we don’t know. That is why Jesus wanted to find out if the Apostles really knew Him in order to tell inform them of what lies ahead – His imminent death. If they knew Him so well, they would know that He is the Messiah. And they would mourn for His death as Zechariah prophesied.

What was really important for Jesus was the answer to His second question: “Who do you say that I am?” Again, what He meant by this is that the way His disciples knew Him will determine the way they would deal with Him. This is human nature. We deal with the people around us according to who they are to us. Curiously, our dealings with them are as unique as their persons. There are as many types of relationships as there are unique individuals that we deal with.

The second question was not anymore to test the waters. It was to find out whether the Apostles’ knowledge of who Jesus is, was first-hand or second-hand information. When the Lord Jesus asks each of us today: “Who am I to you?”, He wants to figure out whether we know Him by heart or by head. Do we have a second-hand experience of Him (knowledge by head)? Can we boast of a first-hand, intimate experience of who He is (knowledge by heart)?

You know Jesus by head if you just go to Mass out of habituation. Your knowledge of Jesus is just head level when you pray only when you feel like it. When it is easier for you to talk about God rather than to talk to God, your friendship with Jesus is simply head-level. If suffering, for you, is meaningless and has no relevance to your relationship with Jesus, then, you know Jesus only by head. When you don’t walk your talk, your knowledge of Jesus is by head, not by heart.

But when you maintain a plan of life, a schedule for daily prayer and you fight to be faithful to it despite your failures, then, you know Jesus intimately in your heart. When you are convinced of the necessity of going regularly to Confession and of attending Mass daily and every Sunday, I’m sure you know Jesus very well in your heart. When you feel the drive to bring your friends and officemates to Christ through your good examples of virtues and prayer life, who will doubt your intimate knowledge of Jesus by heart? When you try to work well with supernatural vision of glorifying God in your professional work and of offering to Him your praises and thanksgiving, I am totally convinced that you know Jesus by heart very well.

My dear friends, it is very easy for us to address each other as “Brothers and Sisters in Christ”, but do we really mean it? In the Second Reading today, St. Paul tells us that “in Christ Jesus, all of us are sons and daughters of God through faith”. What kind of sons and daughters are we if we don’t know by heart our Father God?

We will know Jesus by heart once we receive the promise of God through the Prophet Zechariah in the First Reading. “I will pour out on the family of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of love and supplication”. St. Paul, in the Second Reading, assures us that “because we belong to Christ, we are of Abraham’s race – of the family of David – and we are to inherit God’s promise” – the Holy Spirit. Filled with the Holy Spirit, we can now cry out like the Psalmist: “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord, my God”. In the last part of the Gospel passage that we hear today, Jesus suggests that a true follower of Him – meaning, a disciple who really knows Him by heart – is one who denies himself and takes up cross each day, and follows Him.

Let us ask the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary to teach how to know Jesus more and more by heart, rather than just by head. Amen.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Davao City and the Sanctification of Work

 (A Homily for the Feast of St. Josemaria Escriva, June 26, 2013)

On the occasion of the Feast of St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer on June 26, the celebration of which we anticipate today for certain reasons, I would like to reflect on the relevance of the message to all Davaoeños, of what Blessed Pope John Paul II called the “Patron Saint of the Ordinary”. This message is summarized in the phrase “the sanctification of ordinary life”. And I wish to present it in the light of today’s readings from the Book of Genesis, St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, and the Gospel according to St. Luke.

Davao City today, undoubtedly, is a booming city economically, culturally and socially. The flourishing of infrastructures and business establishments and the surging number of the working class – especially the young professionals or yuppies – indicate that this city is, indeed, beaming with vitality. The same is true with the local Church of Davao. New parishes are being established recently, and more to come. Especially during this Year of Faith, the initiatives of parishes, schools and ecclesial movements or groups in promoting and understanding the Catholic faith are commendable. The successfully-held Marian procession and Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in our archdiocese last June 8 is also an indicator that the local Church of Davao is alive and kicking!

Yet, in the midst of these positive indicators, we hear our Lord’s voice in the Gospel today: “Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch”. New evangelization is duc in altum (Putting out into the deep)! In Davao City today, we need to find more efficient ways of catching more fish, in forming more priests, in educating more people in the faith. Self-complacency can be very dangerous and detrimental to our mission. If we see that, compared to other boats in the other shores, ours are more filled, we should not be too complacent because the waves are coming to us!

Economic prosperity brings with it the danger of spiritual poverty. We don’t want to see Davao to be an economic giant, but a spiritually and morally dwarf city. We want economic progress to be coupled with moral and spiritual upsurge. We want Davaoeños to work, not only with a two-dimensional perspective of making a living and living comfortably in life, but also with a third dimension – the third eye – the supernatural perspective of doing it for the greater glory of God and for our own sanctification.

This is where the message of St. Josemaria comes in. Since 1928, he had been preaching that “any honest work is an indispensable means which God has entrusted to us here on this earth. It is meant to fill out our days and make us sharers in God’s creative power. It enables us to earn our living and, at the same time, to reap ‘the fruits of eternal life” (Friends of God, 57). The invitation to work, to complement the work of creation, is the primordial vocation of every woman and every man. We hear it in the First Reading today: “The Lord God took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it”.

Man is created ut operaretur, in order to work. While work defines man’s dignity, unemployment harms it. Therefore, we should pray for our civil leaders and those who hold public office that, enlightened by divine Wisdom, they may discover and apply appropriate measures to bring their respective constituents out of unemployment, while fully respecting the dignity of the individual and the common good. Let us entrust this intention to God through the intercession of St. Josemaría, the apostle of the sanctification of work.

The sanctification of work becomes a reality in our lives only when we are moved by the Spirit of God. For as St. Paul says in the Second Reading, “Everyone moved by the Spirit is a son of God”. The Apostle to the Gentiles knew the anguish and fears of the society in his time, which was characterized by ancient paganism. Although they had many gods, they lived in fear and insecurity. Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI in Spe salvi commented: “but their gods had proved questionable, and no hope emerged from their contradictory myths. Notwithstanding their gods, they were ‘without God’ and consequently found themselves in a dark world, facing a dark future” (no. 2).

Today, we are also facing the danger of setting aside God from our work, our profession and our business dealings. Hence, today more than ever, we need to reaffirm our divine filiation. “The Spirit himself and our spirit bear united witness that we are children of God”. As children of God, we know that our future is filled with light. Referring to the first Christians of Rome, the Pope-Emeritus said “It is not that they know the details of what awaits them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness. Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live the present as well” (Spe salvi, no. 2).

When we meditate often on this truth – that we are children of God – our work will have a new meaning and a new dimension. It will not only be a professional doctor, engineer, accountant, nurse, company secretary, hospital janitor, street sweeper, housekeeper, or a dentist who is working, but a son or a daughter of God. We will, then, be finding God in the most ordinary task at hand. Our work will, then, become – not just the work of man – but operatio Dei, opus Dei, the work of God. When we do this every day, surely we are obeying the command of Jesus to put out into the deep water because when our colleagues, officemates and friends will see us trying to sanctify our job by working professionally and offering it to God, they will say, “Truly this man is a follower of Christ”. And we will win more souls to Jesus.

In a homily he delivered at a Mass in October 1967 at the University of Navarre, Pamplona, Spain, St. Josemaría said: “You must realize now, more clearly than ever, that God is calling you to serve him in and from the ordinary, secular, and civil activities of human life. He waits for us every day, in the laboratory, in the operating room, in the army barracks, in the university cathedra, in the factory, in the workshop, in the fields, in the home, and in all the immense panorama of work. Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it”.

My dear friends, Davao City may be slowly becoming a haven of economic and cultural prosperity. But if we don’t learn how to combine it with the supernatural motive of sanctifying these worldly, ordinary realities, they will mean nothing to us. “Heaven and earth seem to merge, my children, on the horizon” St. Josemaria says. “But where they really meet is in your hearts, when you sanctify your everyday lives…” Let’s ask our Blessed Mother, through the intercession of St. Josemaría, that we may learn to listen to Christ so that we too may become fishers of men in the middle of our ordinary occupations.

"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.