Sickness is often seen in a negative light. It is blamed too much as the bad guy. But sickness can be viewed from an opposite angle.
In the spiritual realm, it can be viewed as having a lot of benefits. This is counter-intuitive, it is true, for after all, we are not made for sickness. We naturally want to avoid it at all cost, as we naturally avoid pain and suffering at all cost. It is a lot easier to view sickness as God's punishment because it seems more logical. When we get sick, a lot of us (maybe those of us who grew up with punishing parents) instinctively review what we have done prior to this 'karma' of illness.
But Catholic/Christian thought tells us that God is not a punisher; hell was created "as a contingency measure," to quote a theologian, meaning hell, and by extension earthly suffering, is not in the original plan of God.
It is us who punish ourselves for choosing actions that result in bad consequences. It is safe to assume that it is not enjoyable for God to see us fall ill and in pain.
But we all get sick anyway, and that is to say God allows it anyway, in his desire to give us freedom or for some other reason according to His ineffable wisdom. And it is at this point where we are driven to ask certain questions. If God is good, then why does He allow -- not cause, take note -- sickness? Could it be that sickness has benefits?
We are then driven to speculate on the answers. One of which is: Maybe it is His way of forcing us to take a breather and take stock of our life, to think of what is essential, like the reality of mortality and what goes beyond that. In short, maybe it is His way of trying to say, "Calm down, slow down, you are not God, you have physical limitations."
Sickness slaps us in the face with the truthiness of the cliche, "Health is wealth."
Sickness gives us life lessons we will never have a chance to learn in a state of physical wellness. Too bad the lessons are not free but painful to have.
We are all insecure in some way. That's part of our fallen nature. But some individuals may have been hurt deeply in their psyche at a young age they grow up to be very insecure. The worst part? They are largely unaware of it, thinking everything to be normal. Result? They project their insecurity on everyone and everything in the world, to much damaging effects for all, themselves included.
The following list of telling signs is based loosely on John Monbourquette's How to Forgive: A Step-by-Step (12 Steps) Guide
plus insights I gained from here and there. The key to 'diagnosis' is this: Each sign and/or symptom often comes with everything else on the list, in varying magnitudes.
1. Shattered Self-Esteem
due to trauma during fetal and/or developmental stages, resulting in deep insecurity or feelings of being unwanted, rejected, etc., or Toxic Shame
- unwarranted, that is (or unnecessary), and unconscious
- the excessive desire to repair hole in the soul/heart* due to basic unmet needs; more on this subtopic later -- meanwhile, here are just a few of the warning signs
3.1. Perfectionism - out of the intense desire to please, score brownie points, or prove oneself to be worthy and lovable
3.2 Overreligiosity/Hyperspirituality - religion may be used to make oneself feel superior to others; it could also be viewed as a pharisaical bribing of God to earn his love (in the Christian viewpoint, God's love is supposedly a gift, freely given, not earned, like a parent's love for a child who hasn't proven anything yet but already loved just because it's lovable).
3.3 Obsessive/Manipulative Caretaking - projection to others of what one needs very badly
3.4 Other Compulsions, Obsessions, Etc. - For other manipulative compensatory or defense mechanisms, you may check the whole slew of Ego Defenses outlined in this blog earlier: 1
3.5 Constant Catching of Attention - a form of begging or solicitation for the attention one didn't get growing up
- excessive guardedness to defend wounded pride
(or Surliness) at the slightest deviation or distraction or disturbance in one's carefully made-up (and thus illusory) world
as a result of unconscious (or subliminal?) blaming of oneself; most telling symptom is the inability to look at oneself in the mirror (or hating one's own photographic image); alternately, Narcissism
, to make up for the attention perceived to have been lost
- unconscious longing for what others have that one doesn't have; or alternately, Show-Offiness
, to boast so others may feel insecure
8. Medication or Numbing of Pain
via sexual, drug, etc. addiction, emotional dependency, etc.
- the neurotic kind; out of fear of being rejected or losing sense of self; may include phobias and myriad psychosomatic ailments
- intense grief at what is perceived as loss
*repairing a loss to restore balance is a human instinct (Jung)
Monbourquette's Test for Unforgiveness
We all know that forgiveness is one of the hardest things in life. That's no surprise considering, as Algeria-based Italian monk Carlo Carretto (Journey without End, 1989) once put it, "forgiveness is the apex of the journey." Love (or love as we know it) is easier, for it takes no effort to love anything or anyone who's lovable. Besides, 'love' is pleasurable even though it can be hard. But real love, i.e., loving the unlovable? That's synonymous to forgiving one's enemy, in which not only much effort is necessary, it is also too impossible to realize on our own. But forgiveness is necessary, an essential part of life, if only for our own sake. Life is hard enough without the baggage of bitterness and heartache that unforgiveness brings. Forgiveness is the key to the unconditional love of God.
Part of the difficulty with forgiveness is that it's an amazingly complicated animal, as the book by John Monbourquette (How to Forgive, 2000) or any essay or book on the subject will attest. It is riddled with many qualifiers, from "You can't forgive what you don't recognize as an offense" to "Forgiveness doesn't automatically mean reconciliation or that the offender must change." But complexity should be no reason not to try to forgive, for unforgiveness has its own complex team of monstrous consequences.
Like disease, unforgiveness comes with several complications, as Monbourquette says. With this list of complications, I shudder at the mere thought of not having forgiven yet my many offenders, both consciously and, most importantly, from the heart.
I always knew I should forgive, and as early as I can, if possible. I am selfish enough not to know any better.
In case you too want to take your chances or help diagnose yourself, try this exercise: The Test for Unforgiveness. The only requirement is total honesty, being in touch with your true (i.e., hidden) thoughts and feelings (including dreams and daydreams, or most especially so), the great 'outers' of our true emotional, psychological, moral, spiritual state.
Imagine a person you hate so much. Now tick off the points below that you are guilty of feeling or thinking.
1. "He's such a bad person, s/he should be punished, and s/he doesn't deserve my mercy and forgiveness."
2. "Why am I so sensitive and why do I feel so insecure when it comes to his comments? Why am I so hurt by what s/he said or did? S/He must be the one who's so malicious."
3. "I resent her success. I deserve it more than she does."
4. "I hate all the things he's fond of. If he's fond of God, I will automatically hate God too."
5. "I will never ever see him or talk to him again. If he needs help, I will not give it."
6. "Oh, how happy I am to see her run into misfortune. How sweet it is to take revenge."
7. "You know what this evil person did to me? Come, let me share all the gory details with you."
8. "I am surely better than he is."
9. "For all my troubles, I should be blest more than she is."
10. "The point is, I am hurt, and I don't care if I have hurt others too in the process."
11. "I hate him so much! I swear to God!"
12. "Wait, this new person is just like him, and so I automatically hate him too!"
13. "Oh no, I've become just like him -- I see myself in him!"
One important element here is missing, however: the hardest form of forgiveness, which is forgiving oneself. Without this, one remains stuck even one has forgiven everyone else. Thus, this additional item:
14. "I hate myself, I'm ashamed of myself, I can't forgive myself." (N.B. This is also known as Judas's sin, the loss of confidence or trust in God's mercy.)
How did you fare? A score of 1 or more will most probably entitle you to a chance to forgive that filthy rotten animal you've always cursed to hell.
Although "time heals all wounds," we easily learn from the foregoing that forgiveness is never passive, but always an heroic act, even when done for one's own sake, in the desire to move on. In this sense, it is forgiveness that makes the world really go round.
THE ART OF FORGIVING
-The most creative power given to the human spirit is the power to heal the wounds of a past it cannot change.
-We do our forgiving alone inside our hearts and minds; what happens to the people we forgive depends on them.
-The first person to benefit from forgiving is the one who forgives.
-Forgiving happens in three stages: we rediscover the humanity of the person who wronged us; we surrender our right to get even; and we wish that person well.
-Forgiving is a journey; the deeper the wound, the longer the journey.
-Forgiving does not require us to reunite with the person who broke our trust.
-We do not forgive because we are supposed to; we forgive when we are ready to be healed.
-Waiting for someone to repent before we forgive is to surrender our future to the person who wronged us.
-Forgiving is not a way to avoid pain but to heal the pain.
-Forgiving someone who breaks a trust does not mean that we give him his job back.
-Forgiving is the only way to be fair to ourselves.
-Forgivers are not doormats; to forgive a person is not a signal that we are willing to put up with what he or she does.
-Forgiving is essential; talking about it is optional.
-When we forgive, we set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner we set free is ourselves.
-When we forgive we walk in stride with our forgiving God.
Five Languages of Forgiveness (the offender's side)
(From the sermon of Fr. Dave Concepcion at the LNP Formation Center in Taguig on June 17, 2007)
1. "I'm sorry." - the offender feels bad, but doesn't necessarily acknowledge the wrong done
2. "I was wrong." - acknowledgment that one has done wrong
3. "I won't do it again." - promise not to do the same mistake
4. "What can I do (to make it up to you)?" - making amends
5. "Will you/please forgive me?" - actual begging for mercy
Forgiveness (diary entry)
I know I should forgive an offender seventy times seventy times. How come I just couldn’t?
I am profoundly hurt when A. accuses me of false things – to my face and within the earshot of others in the office. I am insulted when my co-worker B. bosses around more than the boss herself should. I am offended when C. whom I am having a harmless joke with, suddenly walks out on me when she herself would make really insulting jokes which I should have had walked out on. I am supremely slighted when D. goes around offering everyone but me something nice to eat. I am deeply outraged when E. who owes me a considerable sum, conveniently forgets it when he had even short of made a promissory note. I treat as an affront F.’s entering the apartment I am renting without even bothering to utter a vague trace of hello. I recoil in pain when G. slights me with chronic comments like I am a dinosaur and things like that. I still cannot accept it that H. has run away with my brand-new bag I have yet to use; this, after treating him like a friend. I am incensed when I. answers arrogantly after I ask him a very harmless and even well-meaning question.
On the bigger picture, I am consumed by a flaming anger whenever I read the classified ads and find them all requiring job experience. I gnash my teeth because I don’t have any money left. (That’s it. That’s it.)
I know that life is too short for hurts and pains to get the better of me. Still, I find it extremely hard to forgive, even if I know I have been and still am guilty of the same mistakes in the past and in the present. I know how it is to be forgiven but why am I so reserved when it is my turn to forgive?
Even something like forgiveness must be grace.
1. Forgiveness is realizing that the victimizer has been a victim himself/herself.
2. Forgiveness starts with me. "The buck stops here."
3. Forgiveness is breaking the vicious cycle of hate in the world.
4. Forgiveness involves: naming, separating, incorporating.
5. Forgiveness requires: competence, compassion, suffering.
6. Forgiveness is blaming oneself if really at fault. There's an adult takeover, a letting-go process, a choice.
7. Forgiveness is not: forgetting, indifference, naivete (looking for something/-one else to blame)
8. The call to life is not to deny our pain but to suffer with somebody, to become Christ-like.
9. Pain is bearable if we suffer with a meaning, a purpose.
10. We need pain so that we can fathom the meaning of love, to understand how much we are loved.
11. We need pain so that we can understand the pain of others. Only people who are at home with themselves can be at home with others.
12. People who suffered the most and have forgiven are the most compassionate, creative, contemplative. They become our mentors in this journey. (Ex. Einstein, Beethoven, Helen Keller, Francis of Assisi)
13. Be martyrs for the Lord! Take up the cross of Christ!
14. Count your blessings. Don't worry, God's grace is enough.
3.14.2000 (Based on Fr. Armand Robleza's (SVD) Lenten recollection, ~1997)
Forgiveness versus Reconciliation
Is forgiveness different from reconciliation?
Yes, says my guru. Reconciliation always involves two parties -- the one forgiving and the one asking forgiveness. Forgiveness, on the other hand, may not necessarily be a two-way street. You may forgive someone but no reconciliation ever happened -- whereas it's impossible to have reconciliation without forgiveness.
For a famous, or notorious, example, we Filipinos may forgive the Marcoses for the things they did through sheer forgetfulness, or Kris Aquino may kiss Bongbong Marcos on primetime TV for all she cared. While the former undoubtedly forgave the latter, the action does not mean that a much prayed-for reconciliation happened. It takes the Marcoses an admission of guilt and wrongdoing, plus the acceptance of legal retribution, before any reconciliation can ever happen.
In much the same way, we may forgive the Japanese for all the atrocities they've committed during the war, but it should take them at least an admission of their crime before reconciliation can ever start.
Sadly, as of this writing, both the Marcoses and the Japanese government intransigently deny their respective crimes, making reconciliation absolutely impossible.
This teaching solves a long-standing problem of mine. Why should you forgive someone who doesn't recognize the fact that he has sinned against you? How can you forgive a murderer who claims he did not commit the murder when in fact he did? Don't they say that God forgives all sins except blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which essentially means denying that one has sinned? How can you forgive someone who thinks he's done nothing wrong?
The answer to this, according to my guru is, we simply need to forgive, period. It is because we need forgiveness ourselves -- whereas God does not because he does not sin. We all need to reconcile with God and with one another -- whereas God does not need being forgiven at all. If there's one thing that we can fault God with, it is that he loves us so much as to initiate the act of forgiving.
Will God perish if He didn't send his begotten Son to ransom us from sin? No. But God, through Jesus Christ, chose to die on the cross for our sins. You still there?
Good, because much as we need to forgive, says my guru, it is equally important that we need not forget. "History is bound to repeat itself," somebody named George Santayana is quoted as saying, so it is prudent that we remember. Remembering does not mean constantly reminding the sinner of his or her past sins. What we remember are the valuable lessons learned.
Friday, August 29, 2003
Some Unsettling Things About Forgiveness and Repentance
Forgiveness requires metanoia, Greek for change of mind. (Mt. 4:17). Metanoeite is to change one's mind, i.e., in the mind of Christ. See Phil. 2:5: "Make the mind of Christ your own."
Refer also to Rom. 12:2: "…transformed by the renewal of mind."
To repent is to change one's mind.
Our natural temperament is but natural; it's our personality type. But it can be molded into character. That's what education is for. Someone who is mapusok (daring), for example, can be molded into a good leader because it means he can decide on short notice without relying on others.
Repentance is a continuous process. Don't be too hard on yourself.
What is the mind of Christ or the nature of Christ anyway? Refer to Mt. 11:28-29: "Come to me all who labor and I will give you rest,… for I am meek and humble of heart.." Meek means gentle. Meekness requires strength.
"If your brother has anything against you,…be reconciled with your brother." - This means you have done something wrong against your brother. "The road going to God passes by your neighbor's house" so you better be in good terms with your neighbor. Forgiveness requires meekness and humility.
Forgiveness is not ritualism or formalism, puro porma lang. If you have wronged someone, settle with your opponent. If you are the one wronged, make an effort to forgive. Huwag itanim ang galit at siguradong tutubo ito.
In cases involving deep wounds, though, don't be too harsh on yourself. Give yourself time to heal. God sees through your heart's intention. You may choose not to talk anymore to the one you have forgiven, but at least, try not to remember!
Q: Is that possible?
A: You bet. It takes a lot to remember.
In confession, ask the priest not just to give absolution but also to pray for healing (of bad memories and deep wounds)
Q: After the prodigal son decides to come back to his father and recites all his evil deeds, what did he say next? What did his father say next?
A: None. The father didn't even let his son finish. The next scene is, he now talks to the servants to prepare a feast for his son's return.
If you have asked forgiveness but was denied of it, it's no longer your problem.
You can forgive and refuse to treat the person like before. It's your choice. What's important is you have forgiven from your heart.
If you need to burn the reminders of your past hurts, then do so. The devil uses these reminders to hone our resentments into a burning flame.
Monday, September 12, 2005
Forgiveness and the judicial system
Just when I was preparing to sue our former manager of "unfair labor treatment," after I ran into this former officemate who's now a lawyer and who's with the Civil Service Commission, here comes a Sunday sermon that admonishes me to forgive "seventy times seventy-seven times," which is a Biblical idiomatic expression for "infinitely." I feel remorseful, of course, never mind that I was the one who was victimized and offended. But I'm glad all the same that I was also doing myself a favor: forgiveness = peace of mind = stress-/disease-free = salvation.
But tell me, doesn't that Biblical passage make the entire judicial system basically an un-Christian entity? Geez, we're actually far more secular than we thought!
Thursday, May 22, 2003
Mercy is Thy Name
Fr. Socrates Villegas is easily one of my favorite priests. Like his namesake, he's a great thinker. He writes well and consistently jumps for the jugular when it comes to his sermons.
I was at the Edsa Shrine when he talked about the parable of the prodigal son. "We have heard about the parable over and over again," he opened his sermon. "That's why we have a computer program running in our brains even before we hear the parable being read."
"By this, I mean that we always view the parable as a contrast - the prodigal son versus his jealous brother. One abused his gifts, squandered his inheritance. The other used them well and now feels deserving of his father's reward. One is disobedient; the other dutiful.
"We fail to see that there actually is something common between them. And that is, both of them are legalistic. The first thinks he has made a grievous mistake and therefore deserves punishment. The second thinks he has led a virtuous life and thus anticipates his just reward. Both failed to see the point.
"The point is we merit neither the Father's mercy nor His reward. The point is we don't deserve anything in this world. In the face of His love, it's inappropriate to say I have sinned, I don't deserve Your forgiveness. Or I did well, now give me what I deserve.
"If God actually gave what we really deserve, chances are we would think twice. God's mercy doesn't depend on us. We miss the point if we think otherwise."
Fr. Soc then relates a story: "During the time of Napoleon Bonaparte, there was a soldier who was accused to have deserted the army during the height of battle. The truth, though, was that he only failed to catch up with his comrades for some reason as they were trying to advance or escape. Napoleon learned about the 'deserter' and had him immediately court-martialed. The soldier was sentenced to death.
During the trial, his mother came over to plead with Napoleon. "Have mercy on my son!" she cried.
Napoleon answered, "You son does not deserve mercy."
The mother replied, "It wouldn't be mercy if he deserved it."
('So much mercy has been given us, why can't we be as merciful to others?')
Written before Fr. Soc became an Auxiliary Bishop of Manila
Thursday, September 25, 2008
On forgiving oneself
A lot of people make one crucial mistake when it comes to forgiveness: they seem to have forgiven everyone, but they can't forgive themselves. How does one forgive oneself?
Harry advises that one step back, retrace where one came from. "One solution is by feeling the pain, i.e., being aware of one's feelings, acknowledging that one feels this or that way. Expressing the feeling is healthy, provided the emotion is managed (not controlled, he cautions) at a legitimate (i.e., decent) level. Not acknowledging that one has been hurt will stress one out, possibly causing diseases." (But we're not about to jump to conclusion here: we're not saying all diseases are caused by suppressed or repressed feelings.)
What's worse is denial. "Denying one is hurt will lead to suppressed feelings, and suppressed feelings lead to repressed feelings, to burying of feelings in the subconscious, and ultimately to depression." This situation is oftentimes very hard to 'cure,' I imagine, because the 'sufferer' is no longer consciously aware of where the feelings are really coming from.
"Our emotions are the most neglected part of our self," Harry laments, quoting someone else from somewhere.
After being aware that one feels this way or that, the next step, Harry says, is to make a conscious decision to forgive one's offender -- and most especially, oneself. Someone butts in and correctly adds: "Nobody's perfect," and he is right. Acceptance of oneself, warts and all, is key. Like victims of child abuse are told to remind themselves, "I made a mistake, but I am not the mistake."
However, self-acceptance would be impossible without one crucial stumbling block: pride. It takes humility not to be too harsh or too hard on oneself.
Another key ingredient, says John Powell (in Fully Human, Fully Alive), is courage. Without courage, we won't have the strength to face whatever negative emotion is associated with confronting and forgiving ourselves. We need to first face the facts about ourselves, our feelings, before we are able to forgive. There has to be clarity so we'll know what we are forgiving and why.
Not going through this process will be doing a short-cut, which leads to a cul-de-sac, to nowhere. One cannot forgive something one is not consciously aware of.
"How does one know one has forgiven oneself?," I ask, a bit nervous that I'd be rebuffed.
"Has he or she already made a decision to forgive?," Harry asks back by way of an answer. "If yes, one can take a look at a possible indication: one is now able to look back on what happened and talk about it with others without bitterness."
"Confession leads to healing," another discussion participant adds, quoting James 5:16.
Then I remember what a priest once said: "Another strong sign that one has forgiven oneself is when one looks back and finds everything funny."
Of course, forgiving oneself presupposes that one desires change or have made the decision to change, to really move on.
Everyone longs to give themselves completely to someone,
To have a deep soul relationship with another,
To be loved thoroughly and exclusively.
But God, to a Christian, says,
“No, not until you are satisfied, fulfilled and content
With being loved by Me alone,
With giving yourself totally and unreservedly to Me,
With having an intensely personal and unique relationship
With Me alone.
Discovering that only in Me is your satisfaction to be found,
Will you be capable of the perfect human relationship
That I have planned for you.
You will never be united with another until you are united
With Me alone,
Exclusive of anyone or anything else,
Exclusive of any other desires or longings.
I want you to stop planning,
And allow Me to give you the most thrilling plan existing,
One that you cannot imagine.
Please allow Me to bring it to you.
You just keep watching Me, expecting the greatest things.
Keep experiencing the satisfaction that I Am.
Keep listening and learning the things I tell you.
You just wait.
Don’t be anxious.
Don’t look at the things you think you want;
You just keep looking off and away up to Me,
Or you’ll miss what I want to show you.
And then when you are ready,
I’ll surprise you with a love far more wonderful than any
You could dream of.
You see, until you are ready and until
The one I have for you is ready
(I am working even at this moment to have you both ready at the same time),
Until you are both satisfied exclusively with Me
And the life I prepared for you,
You won’t be able to experience the love that
Exemplified your relationship with Me.
And this is the perfect love.
And dear one, I want you to have this most wonderful love,
I want you to see in the flesh a picture of your
Relationship with Me,
And to enjoy materially and concretely
The everlasting union of beauty, perfection and love
That I offer you with Myself.
Know that I love utterly.
I Am God.
Believe it and be satisfied.
~ attributed to St. Anthony of Padua
The Catholic Church has its own calendar, and it is called the Liturgical Calendar. The Church's liturgical year is a series of spiritual seasons, namely:
- from the Latin ad ventum
, meaning start, this season "launches the new spiritual year by preparing us the faithful for a rebirth of Christ in our lives"
- "starting on Christmas Eve and ending on Epiphany, this season reminds us that Jesus became one of us to show us the way to heaven"
Ordinary Time -
"it is ordained to be a season of learning, with Jesus as our teacher;" at this time, the priest wears green vestment, to symbolize life and hope; Ordinary Time is long because it takes a long time to grow in faith and character
- "interrupts Ordinary Time for a season for examining how well we're living what Jesus teaches;" at this time, the priest wears purple to signify a time of preparation
- "the time when we give to Jesus all the ways that we have rejected his teachings"
- "we enter into this season of celebrating our victory over sin as we continue our journey of holiness"
- ending Easter, "it is a time when we recommit ourselves to the in-dwelling of Christ's Holy Spirit, who empowers us to learn more and live better the ways of holiness"
Ordinary Time -
"resumes until the end of the Liturgical Year"
Note: In the old calendar, there's no Ordinary Time. Rather it's called the season of Pentecost celebrating the Holy Spirit among us. That's why we have AD, Anno Domini, the year of the Lord.
Those in quotes are from Terry Mojica's Bible reflection.
The rejoinder is care of JJ.
The rest is from Fr. Celestino Jun Lingad, SDB, mass sermon/lecture.
I am basically a Jew, except that I believe in the New Testament.
I’m actually a Muslim in that I won’t say a bad word about praying to God several times in a day, although I don’t see myself as a slave of God but a servant or, better yet, His son/child.
I can be a good Pentecostal. I just love those gospel songs by black musicians – the same people who gave us the blues, jazz, rap, soul, hiphop, ska and reggae beats we love.
I love reggae and Bob Marley and I have a friend who had dreadful dreadlocks. Maybe I'm Rastafari, too?
Am I a born-again Christian? Amen, amen, I say unto thee, if it means it's no longer I but Christ who dwells in me, I am indeed born-again. (“Born from above” is reportedly the more accurate translation.)
I turn into a Protestant whenever I see the excesses - or inadequacies, of Catholics.
Sometimes I use the word karma; does that make me a Hindu?
I have much admiration for St. John of the Cross and his spirituality. That’s a lot of Buddhism, although I’m not sure which strain. Zen maybe?
I am essentially a Jesuit; I love to intellectualize until I miss the point, I mean, I will read the excellent magazine, America, from page to page if I could. Even if sometimes it means I’m just pretending I got everything down pat.
I guess I’m a Carmelite nun because I like to begin the day offering everything up to God, in the hope that He’d find it pleasing. I like bribing God that way.
I believe in talismans if they are pre-approved by St. Benedict. I know for a fact that this monk has his own brand of spirituality. I like doing his Lectio Divina sometimes, you know, reflecting on Biblical scenes by imaging myself entering into that scene.
It’s obvious I find it attractive working for the alleviation of the life of the poor, so this makes me a Franciscan, although I certainly hate being poor myself and I hate bad working conditions, hehe.
I am a Salesian. I’m fond of being around young people, exchanging jokes, swapping infos on what’s the hottest in fashion and music and whatnot, and teaching them what is good from bad if the opportunity knocks. Or isn’t this a Dominican state of mind, too?
I've learned that, apart from praying prayers in songs, it is a very Augustinian thing to see God working in everything, to see godly metaphors in nature and everything man has created.
I sometimes join the queue in Baclaran church in the dead of the night (or the dawn) to pray in front of the Perpetual Help. I guess I’m, uhm, a Recollect that way. By the way, I know for a fact that the image of the Perpetual Help icon is Byzantine in style, which we got from the Russian Orthodox Church. I guess this makes me a little bit Orthodox, right?
Sometimes I lapse into saying "Good luck," so this makes me Shinto or Taoist or Confucianist.
I love Ifugao sculpture and I wouldn't mind having a dark bul-lol sitting in my room as an objet d'art, that is, if it were not so scary to look at at night. I'm animist that way, huh?
Sometimes I pretend God can’t see through my actions, or inactions. Surely I am an atheist, too? LOL!
When I am in dire straits, God rescues me.
He has rescued me so many times before. Today, I will mention only those I can recall
When a cousin asked me to live at his
place, a place I have left several times but for some reason kept on returning
When I found work in these two companies,
where I experienced the same: I constantly found ways to ship out yet I found
myself going back again and again.
Up to this time, I can’t believe how I got
out of this sticky situation of bankruptcy, thanks to maxing out on my credit
card – twice! (I have learned my lesson since.)
How I entered college, and how I was able
to finish it despite my parents being jobless through that whole duration of time.
How I obtained my scholarship.
How I ended up in my high school. (I personally
preferred this school, but I took up the exam at the rival school anyway, only
to be interrogated about my real plan and with my test result stricken off from
the list of passers.)
When my young family was able to move out
of Manila and planted ourselves in the province, where life was simpler but
The so many instances I couldn’t make both
ends meet and I was living on loans on top of loans.
The several sicknesses I survived: allergic
attack, amoebiasis, ear infection that threatened my hearing, flu (severe cough
and cold with fever).
How I was led a charismatic spirituality and became an active Catholic again after a period of apostasy. How this brought me to have a prayer life.
How I eventually discovered the wonders of spiritual healing through integration work and silent prayer, how God led me to an awareness and eventual resolution of perhaps hundreds of personal issues I didn't know I had due to denial. This means a lot of things: lots of forgiveness, less neuroses, less insecurities, and less toxicity in general, meaning much growth and transformation.
All the ‘impossible’ requests I had for other people, starting with family members: my
siblings’ college education (my parents were jobless, and I certainly couldn’t
afford to send everyone in school); a brother’s employment in a stable multinational
firm after losing his job for a very long time, and his marriage in church; a sister’s
job in the difficult public school system; a sister’s troublesome marriage; our
parents’ own livelihood so they could have their dignity back especially in
their twilight years.
As to other people, the same prodigious story is happening on a smaller scale. at least in the restricted confines of my neighborhood back home, amazing is the operative word. No, stupefying, as I was left speechless, even humbled and mortified.
Thanks to OFW money, many people’s houses are almost like those of exclusive subdivisions in Manila: gated, with a tall fence, car... Make that cars. There is at least a couple of houses with high-end roofing material. When I was little, most people's houses were just huts made of palm leaf (nipa) or cheap cement and galvanized iron.
Gone are the days when certain people I know from childhood were just the helpless, sniveling kids that they were. Most of them are gone now, in that they have long left town, but look at their own families and houses today.
J’s house now looks like a grand mansion compared to its old self.
R’s house looked already grand then – marble tiles and all. It is even better furnished now, with an air-con in each room.
How on earth did J. possess a car? Or even his younger brother N? Isn’t life unfair in some funny way? J. couldn’t even pass his subjects in school!
One house even have, not one, not two, but three cars! (There was a time all of us only had tricycles or motorbikes, or not even, just bikes.)
As for B’s family – everything has now leveled up, starting from the ornamental plants.
L’s house is one of those high-end houses I was talking about. How did he obtain all that when he was just a high school dropout or something? I heard he hit the jackpot with his wife after they got a big break as local fish dealers at the public market.
As to my first cousins on the father’s side, if I recounted their good fortune one by one, I would not have enough space.
Most of my childhood classmates are gone as well. The nurses abroad have specially struck it rich, hit a gold mine, made it big. They can afford to travel around the world monthly and build palaces that would make the mansions at Ayala Alabang look like tenement or bunkhouses.
The shocker is when I went to B’s house. Also fueled by a nursing job abroad, the house improvement left me totally incredulous. The change was an unbelievable leap from a flimsy nipa hut to a richly upholstered and tiled affair! Oh my God! Was I overcome with a kind of envy I didn’t know I had.
I was reminded that nothing is indeed impossible these days.
Justin Bieber became an international star because of one YouTube video of his that went viral. How many such talents abroad have been featured by Ellen DeGeneres on her TV talk show? It's quite hard to keep count.
The same story is repeated locally in the case of, say, Charice Pempengco and Arnel Pineda. To be sure, these three people have something remarkable in them with or without the validation of gazillion YouTube hits. Their excellent talent has always been there. It just so happened that new technology turned things around to their favor.
These developments can only remind me of the many things we, people from the world over, never expected would happen in our own lifetime:
- The fall of communism, including the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the rest of the invisible Iron Curtain --> I honestly thought the so-called domino effect would run its course after a few more decades at least
- The end of apartheid in South Africa --> Just when I’ve accepted that man is evil and life is unfair comes this mind-blowing change, which I honestly expected would come only after perhaps a century of mass murder by both sides
- The return of Hong Kong and Macau to China --> If such hot ‘properties’ could be returned, then all natural and cultural treasures looted in the colonized nations can be demanded back?
- “People power” revolution in the Philippines and around the world, with many ongoing, with various results --> I was a 'Marcos baby' and a Marcos loyalist at 15, but I was praying that not a lot of people would get hurt when Cardinal Sin called for a rally. I never expected that almost no one would get hurt and that the demonstration would in no time become a gargantuan street party! And it would be replicated in a lot of countries in the world! We Filipinos wish we could claim the entire credit, but the French and Mahatma Gandhi’s India had something like it before, although most likely, we never consciously thought of them when we staged our own. Meanwhile, it would take years before I admitted to myself that I was deeply scarred about being wrong about Marcos.
- The ongoing fall of the American Empire --> Who would have thought the domination of a highly secularized culture could possibly have an end as well?
- Loose coalitions of Catholics, Evangelicals and Protestants (and even people of non-Christian religions) ministering to one another in love --> Never thought the day would come! The total lack of desire to convert each other into one's religion is simply jaw-dropping!
- A growing global ethic, a world crying out for a third way or a middle way --> The signs are everywhere, and I'm neither talking about communism nor New Age.
- The puzzling popularity of what I thought to be extinct spirituality in the form of meditation, contemplation, silence and the continued popularity of its opposite: rambunctious charismatism --> Funny how I used to despise both, lividly.
- The astounding exchange of free information in the Internet (lots of thanks to Google) --> Wow. This info and opinion junkie is on a roll.
- Business process outsourcing --> I never planned and never thought I'd work on other people's work from other nations -- and at home too.
Each event at which God's hand intervened to change the course of history is seemingly random and minor here on earth, but each deserves a special feast in heaven. Eternity will not be enough for you and me to express all our gratitude to God for how things had turned out.
With this parade of miracles in retrospect, we know He’ll come rescuing us again this time around, in this present hardship, and for always.
I have a lot of reasons to give up my faith
or leave my church or community.
The long-standing scandal of exclusive Catholic
schools and hospitals catering only to the rich, being an instrument of worldly
prestige, status symbol, social standing.
News of clergy figuring in sex abuse and
other serious misdemeanors
A vast majority of Catholics not living out
their baptismal commitments or worse (what commitment?)
Trials I can hardly bear, as though my
existing problems are not enough, as though I am being punished for the past
(I don't wish to mention the other reasons.)
Despite all these, I choose to remain, because
these contradictions are nothing compared to the kind of suffering Christians in Egypt, Syria, the rest of the Muslim world, North Korea, and China are going through right now.
What's more, these contradictions are nothing compared to the marvelous works of God despite the great setbacks, and they are many, both little and big. I am referring, of course, to spiritual consolations, the
insights, the valuable lessons learned (though learned the hard way).
I am also referring to the little things: new flavors to try, new clients, old clients knocking again, new friends online... These are many too, coming unbidden and almost unnoticed.
Herein lies the convincing power of the Holy Spirit, which no human hand can
ever replicate. Of course, only believers can understand this part. Maybe it
is meant to be that way.
At a time when nothing and no one can console
me, all I am left with is...choice.
I choose to believe. I choose to trust. I will
God will provide. “God will make a way where
there seems to be no other way. He works in ways we cannot see. He will make a way
for me. He will be my guide, hold me closely to his side. With love and
strength for each new day, he will make way…”
"Be strong and take courage. Do not fear or be dismayed. For the Lord will go before you. And light will show the way."
Come, new dawn. Come, sunshine; come, morning; and come, new
Shine, stars. Away with darkness, pain and grief -- I’m
done with you.
Quench thirst, water. Fall, you refreshing shower. Form a bright
arc again, rainbow.
Vanish, destruction, and let the
Turn back, turn away, you destructive waves, and bring
calm instead. Cease, war. Be over, grief.
Settle, dust. Begone, cobwebs. Ebb, flood, subside.
Bloom, flowers. Sprout, all you seeds. Unfurl new leaf;
grow bigger, you shoots; grow a branch anew, all trees of the forest.
Grow, each creature. Emerge, all you that
Sing, canary. Strut, deer. Low, calves. Moo,
cow. Buzz, bees. Squawk, parrots. Roar, lions; growl, tigers. Fly, eagle.
Be filled with good things, ye barn, ye fields. Overflow, milk and honey.
Be freed, prisoner. Heal, wound. Be banished, pain. Break into a smile, you face. Dry up, you tears, but tear up in joy, you eyes. Clap, hands. Dance, feet. Sing songs of praise and worship, you choir.
Turn, new page; begin, new chapter of my
I used double quotes in the title because the lovely phrase came from an article in Word Among Us
I don’t know what to feel about all these
Lenten shows on TV aimed at conversion and evangelization. Through no fault of
their own, they all sound to me like preaching to the choir, which leaves me feeling left out. That’s because I already surrendered
myself to the Lord, have long been in the service striving to do good works,
doing my share of the burden of evangelization – and yet this still happened to
I still lost my bread-and-butter job, I still
developed hypertension, I was not spared from anxiety and panic attacks, on top
of being besieged by other problems in the family that make me question what I believe
in, enough to empathize with atheists.
If I was able to relate at all at one drama show, the only part of the script I can relate to is this most bitter of paradoxes: "Lord, bat mo ko pinabayaan? Tapos parurusahan mo ko." (Lord, why did you abandon me? And only to punish me.) It rivals the worst lines in Biblical jeremiads, the most anguished verses in Lamentations and Psalms. I felt betrayed by God, no less.
One could argue, as one old friend did,
that I am being called to further conversion, to a new level of relationship with
God. Wow, I don't know if I like that, but thanks anyway.
The scarier thought, however, remains, nagging
at my conscience: maybe I displeased God in some way and I am reaping the
whirlwinds of past misdeeds?
Whatever it is, my dominant prayer is more of
deliverance – “Deliver me from evil” – than “Give me strength, for I don’t think
I can bear any more." I acknowledge my pain threshold is quite short.
It’s Good Friday. I anticipate that it will
soon break into the Dawn of Black Saturday, because this pain can be too painful
even for a masochist.