Having a Higher Level of Commitment Translated into Action
By Rev. Fr. Rany P. Geraldino
What is commitment? Etymologically, it comes from the Latin con + mitto + mentum, literally together + sent + mind, meaning commitment is “having been sent together in one mind.”
Commitment is tested through time and life experiences.
In the beginning, the followers of Jesus were called disciples. The term Christian followed much later, then the term Catholic. St. Pacianus (an early Christian writer) once said, “My name is Christian, my surname Catholic; one puts me in a class, the other gives me a character; the first gives me a label, the second a testimonial." Christianity is a general term, a label, while Catholic is deeper. The latter asks us to give a testimony.
Thus the word commitment can also be identified in the word Catholic.
Commitment among Christians/Catholics includes both being disciples (discipulus) and apostles (apostolein), being both learners and missionaries (being sent).
We should undergo first discipleship (formation in Christ’s teachings) before being a committed Christian and apostle.
The following are the stages of discipleship we have to undergo:
1. The Call (Mk. 10: 21: “Come, follow Me.”)
The call may come through the witness of people around us.
We each have our own Galilee, where God first called His disciples. Because of God’s call, a lot of change happens inside us. Because of the call, there is greater intimacy, lasting friendship, lifelong partnership.
The first stage is always admiration, being drawn to the charism/charisma of the leader.
However, we must be wary of the danger of fanaticism. There should be depth in our admiration. We obey with reasoning and understanding.
2. Conversion (Mt. 4: 19: “I will make you fishers of men.”)
Conversion is our response to God’s call.
- It entails the cleansing of our mentality/perspective, works, and words.
- It involves healing. (“I came not for the righteous but for sinners.”)
- It requires acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, (not power, comfort, and other idols).
- Conversion means networking, acknowledging that we need one another (because we were made as social beings). Through others, we can mirror ourselves as social beings. Networking is mirroring of affirmation and recommendation.
- It involves growth, change, progress not regression. There must be progress in our change.
- It also involves empowerment. People think change happen through their own power. We must acknowledge that we need to be first be empowered by the Holy Spirit.
- - Conversion means service. It should be altruistic, not self-serving (i.e., full of pride, arrogance, credit-grabbing).
3. Crosses (Mt: 16:24: “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.”)
This is a crucial stage for a disciple. We often complain, “Kung kelan ako sumunod, bakit nagkaganito?”
But life is like that for Catholics/Christians. Without the cross, there is no salvation. If you love God and are committed to God, we ought to each have a cross.
4. Consolations (Mt 19:29: “Everyone who has given up houses, family, will receive a hundred times more and will inherit eternal life.” Jn 12:36: “The father will honor whoever serves me.”)
For every Good Friday, there will always be an Easter Sunday. There is always consolation for every cross.
Besides, not all crosses are really crosses. Sometimes, they turn out to be blessings.
5. Communion (Jn 14:6: “I am the way the truth and the life.”)
Unlike the previous four, which are very personal, communion involves others.
Communion is the sharing of:
a.) faith – creed (content of our faith/belief, ethical and moral character), code (liturgy and worship/prayer), and cult
b.) fellowship – life and love; communion with God through communion with fellow men; before we can love God (vertical spirituality), we should be able to love our neighbor (horizontal spirituality); the strength of a community
c.) function – mission and ministry; (ad intra vs ad extra?); serving even those outside the faith and those we think to be undeserving of our help
6. Commitment (Phil 21: “For me, to live in Christ…”)
This stage is reached after completing the above stages.
As our great model of Christian commitment without asking for any cost, Mother Teresa said, our goal is “to be with Jesus, to be like Jesus, and to be Jesus Christ to others.”
a.) Commitment means to be with Jesus Christ.
- Are we in the state of grace?
- Are we praying?
- In a given situation, do we ask, “What would Jesus do?” Do we pause to ask, “Is it just legal, or moral? And is it just right, or kind or loving?
b.) To be committed is to be like Jesus, modeling ourselves after Christ. See 1 Cor 11:1: “[T]o be imitators of me as I am of Christ.”
During the lighting of candles during baptism, the priest says: “Receive the light of Christ. This light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. These children of yours have been enlightened by Christ. They are to walk always as children of the light. May they keep the flame of faith alive in their hearts, so that when the Lord comes, may they go out to live it with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.”
c.) Commitment has a missionary aspect. To be committed is also to be Jesus to others. This is the most difficult standard of commitment.
We must remember that God is Emmanuel (God with us, the image of the invisible God). See Mt. 1:23 and Col. 1:15a.
How did Jesus become Jesus to others? by reaching out to sinners, healing the sick, proclaiming the Good News to pagans, giving favors even to unbelievers, becoming loving, forgiving, understanding, etc.
These stages don’t happen once and for all, but it is a spiral movement. It is a never-ending, continuous process. (My calling evolved was from being sacristan, then seminarian, then deacon, then priest.)
Three things are needed, if that is the case:
a.) True - is our commitment authentic? totoong-totoo? sincere?
b.) Total – todong-todo? (it is not enough to do one thing, but also to do it well)
c.) Together – sama-sama? (are we with others, in a community? one can’t be a saint and be alone)
Translation into Action
The social teachings of the Church are not a by-the-way or an add-on, but a constitutive part of the message of Jesus Christ.
Everything boils down to Jesus Christ’s message of love of God and of neighbor. These two are related, one can’t stand without the other. “How can you love God whom you can’t see, if you don’t love your neighbor whom you can see?
Evolution of the definition of neighbor:
- In the Old Testament times, neighbor means fellow Jew.
- In the Christian era, a neighbor is everyone in need (refer to the Good Samaritan story).
- - In modern times, neighbor is expanded to mean the whole of society and the environment that influences the person.
Persons have a social responsibility. All actions have social consequences. There is an interdependent web of life. Ang sakit ng kalingkingan ay sakit ng buong katawan. Everyone is considered our neighbor, a part of our family, a brother and a sister.
The Compendium of the Social Teachings of the Church was crafted so that the kingdom of God may be felt even here. “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Life on earth should be the beginning or foretaste of heaven.
There are four sources of Catholic social teachings:
a. Scripture – however, it is not a book of morality; not everything is in the Bible; social teaching is always contextualized; not all issues emerged during Biblical times
b. Magisterium (or teaching authority) of the Church – papal encyclicals and pronouncements; we believe in the papal infallibility ex-cathedra, i.e., in terms of faith and morals; despite the dark ages the Church went through (14th-16th centuries), the Church’s faith and morals were preserved, the Church being both human (wicked, frail, weak) and divine; includes the teachings of authorized Church bodies in the Second Vatican Council
c. Experiences of the Church – includes the lives and teachings of the saints, and the engagements of the Church in present issues
d. Dialogues with other branches of knowledge (psychology, philosophy, medicine, bioethics, sociology, etc.)
Catholic social teachings are jokingly called the “hidden treasures of the Church,” because most people are not aware of them or ignore them. Understandably, there is the danger of Catholic social teachings becoming liberation theology, as in the case of priests like Oscar Romero who were reduced to being (leftist) activists.
Catholic social teachings are not liberation theology!
Catholic social teachings are more of principles than concrete lines of actions.
The main principles of Catholic social teachings (actually there are seven)
I. Primacy and Dignity of Human Person
This means the person is the ultimate end, not the means to an end. Society is ordered to the person. He or she is created in the image of God.
Christ died for each one of us. Christ redeemed us. Therefore, we have to respect one another.
For example, in the Wowowee mentality, people are exploited for their poverty for entertainment purposes and for money.
Human rights are inviolable. This is the basis of Christian social teaching.
If God respected us, so should respect one another. As Fr. Rolf Ronheiser put it, “If God went down to our level, why can’t we go down to the level of our fellow human beings?”
Each human is destined for participation in the divine life.
Philippine dark spots on the dignity of human person:
- Upholding the right to life - who decides who are worthy of life?
- Extrajudicial killings
- Abortion - contraception mentality leads to the slippery slope of condoning abortion
- Euthanasia – this also happens through “waivers” in hospitals
- Care for the handicapped, mentally ill, aged - are we friendly to the other-abled?
- Decent living conditions for the poor, worthy of their being children of God
- Right for each one to work
- Right to truth – are we against envelopmental journalism, support for the passing of the Freedom of Information Bill?
- Right to vote – do we practice vote-buying?
II. Common Good
This means the sum of social conditions that enable persons to achieve their full human potential.
Stewardship is a spirituality, meaning we are not the real owners of our properties. We seek the will of the real owner who is God.
To whom much is given, much is expected.
In terms of politics, we must have participation.
In economics, we observe the principle of the universal distribution of goods.
Philippine dark spots on common good:
- Widening gap between rich and poor
- Forests and corals exploited for profit
- Laws for foreign interests and those of the elite
- Graft and corruption
- Slums – a symptom of uneven development
III. The Principle of Solidarity
Solidarity is based on the idea that we are interconnected and interdependent to each other.
Solidarity equals love.
In the Church, solidarity is expressed by being a church of the poor.
The principle of solidarity is evident in the case of creation and ecology itself.
Application of solidarity:
- Do we have a mind-your-own-business mindset?
- Are we too family- or group-centered? We also have obligation to others.
- Are we narrow-minded, do we have narrow concerns, are we too locally focused (regionalism)? Think globally, act locally. No to parochialism.
- Do we exhibit only momentary acts of solidarity (example: People Power/EDSA Revolution, flooding of donations after ecological disasters), instead of sustained efforts?
The big does not take over the small, the big enables the small, and allows the small to do what it can on its own, allows growth from within, respects and allows associations, unions, civil societies, to act on their own.
The big fish doesn’t swallow up the small fry. Ex.: the case of SM.
The principle of subsidiarity protects the people from abuses by higher-level social authorities imposed by these authorities to help individuals and intermediate groups to fulfill their duty.
This principle is imperative because every person and even intermediate group has something original to offer the community.
The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to certain forms of centralization and welfare assistance and to the unjustified and excessive presence of the state in public mechanism.
Example: Vietnamese and Chinese governments' control of the practice of religion. People can't have public declaration of their religious belief.
Applications in parochial and corporate settings: Problems should be solved with respect to the lower levels.
Dark spots of subsidiarity in the Philippines:
- Feudalism, padrino system - what matters is what you know, not whom you know.
- Paternalism - patronizing approach in helping; doleout mentality (giving without care as to the outcome after); providing technology/products on donor's terms (example: donation of contraceptives)
- Lack of entrepreneurship - overdependence on authority; people are not allowed to control their own destiny; even in families, parents who are too dictatorial violate the principle; children should be allowed to grow on their own (pace of) maturing
As community members, our commitment should not be limited to the community only, but also to the bigger community.