Insights and opinions from our contributors on the current issues happening in the region

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Stop the killings! End impunity! Human rights for all!

Overcoming the 'tambay' lifestyle

EJK and human rights

Cultivating a sense of media responsibility

Time for US to step aside and let the Philippines give peace a chance

When religion is abused

Loving the cross is genuine sign of hope

Pinoy in Rome: At the Door of the Jubilee Year of Mercy (IV)

Outgoing regime, unaddressed violations

Two years Leyte




Souls of prayer

February 11, 2017

We really need to be souls of prayer. This is what is proper to us. It’s a fundamental need because when we pray we connect ourselves with our ultimate life source who is God. Our need for prayer is infinitely more than our need for air and food. Before anything else, it is what truly makes us a human person and a child of God.

That is why Christ preached abundantly about it, and encouraged us always to pray. He himself, who is both God and man, prayed all the time. He prayed before he started his public life, when he began his day of work as well as at the end of the day, when he performed miracles, when he had to make big decisions.

In the end, he clearly told us to pray always and not to lose heart when he talked about the parable of the persistent widow (cfr Lk 18,1ff). He also told us about the basic characteristics of our prayer – that it should be sincere, confident, humble and constant.

We have to be wary of our great tendency to be dominated by worldly and temporal concerns such that we fail to pray. That would be a disaster since that would be like being deluded that we are doing well in life when in fact we are failing big time.

We have to start to pick up the rudiments of prayer and begin the process of becoming authentic souls of prayer, such that wherever we are, whatever situation we may be in, somehow we are always praying, we are always in touch with God.

This should not be difficult because we know that God is always around. He is everywhere. Besides, he is always solicitous of us. He cannot fail to love us. We may fail him and earn his anger, but that anger would only be for a while, since his mercy is forever. We can always manage to pray any time any place if we just would have the proper disposition.

Definitely, we need to exercise our faith and be willing to exert effort and make sacrifices. That is how we can aspire to make our prayer alive always. We should put ourselves in God’s presence always so we avoid anonymity in our intimate conversations with him.

What can also help is to train and use our imagination in our prayer. In fact, we have to use all our human powers and faculties – our intelligence and will, our feelings and memory, etc. – in our prayer.

And we should be ready to handle the unavoidable difficulties in our prayer. There will be times when we would feel dry and uninspired or when we would be tempted to think that our prayer is going nowhere.

Those difficulties are actually opportunities to improve our prayer and to grow in our spiritual life. If we persevere in praying, using all the means that are always available, we will see how this improvement and growth are taking place, and be filled with joy and satisfaction.





Uninformed or misinformed?

February 7, 2017

APPARENTLY an American actor expressed the view recently that if he does not read the newspapers, he obviously would be uninformed of developments around. But if he reads them, he most likely would also get misinformed, considering the way the papers are now, he said. He found himself in a dilemma.

This is the challenge we all face at present. The truth is that we have to get informed, but informed properly. We simply have to find ways of how to get out of the state of being uninformed and misinformed.

This will require some skills, of course. But the basic and relevant virtue to live here is that of prudence. That’s what would enable us to judge whether we should read the papers or not, now or later, or to “smell” whether a piece of information is good or not, useful or useless, relevant or irrelevant, true or false.

Nowadays, the need to be most discerning is getting urgent precisely because of the proliferation of useless information, not to mention, misleading and deceptive ones and fake news that are laced with all sorts of biases and prejudices of those who make them. It’s not only political partisanship that occasions this phenomenon. It’s deeper than that. It’s now ideological partisanship.

This virtue of prudence, of course, presumes some criteria to guide our judgments. In this regard, it has to be made clear that we have to start with God’s moral law. We just cannot set aside this indispensable requirement and plunge immediately to merely earthly and temporal values like practicality, profitability, popularity, etc., to guide us. That would be like sailing a boat without the North Star, or the GPS.

Prudence, of course, presumes a certain hierarchy of values that we should respect, uphold and defend. It should be vitally connected with wisdom that in the end connects us with God and all others, as well as all things in the world, through love and truth.

We have to make sure that our prudence is not only motivated by secondary criteria, like efficiency, effectiveness, practicality, profitability, convenience, etc. If these criteria do not lead us to a closer relation with God, with others and the rest of the world, but would rather reinforce our self-absorption, then it would not be true prudence.

We might enjoy some perks that these secondary standards may give us, but it would not be true prudence when it fails to lead us to our proper relationship with God, others and the rest of the world.

Of course, true prudence springs first of all from our intimate personal relation with God, the source of all good things, of all truth, of all love. Without that foundation, our prudence would be limited to mere appearances of prudence that would be nothing other than the prudence of the world and the prudence of the flesh, if not the prudence of the devil.

Again, we cannot overemphasize the need to be vitally united with God for us to be truly prudent and able to discern all types of information that are being fed to us these days.





In the name of Jesus

By Fr. Roy Cimagala,
January 12, 2017

WE should form the habit of frequently invoking the name of Jesus. If there’s any name that we should call most often, it should be that of Jesus. It is the most important and necessary name we can call, as attested by St. Paul himself who said:

“God greatly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2,10-11)

jesus christCalling his name, for sure, is never just an empty form of pietism, or some kind of superstition. Calling his name corresponds to a basic necessity of ours who always need to be helped, enlightened, strengthened and ultimately redeemed.

We are assured that Jesus always listens to us and promptly attends to our needs, although in ways that may be different from our own expectations. It’s not in Jesus to be indifferent to our needs, no matter how unworthy and undeserving we are. His great love for us will always lead him to intervene always in our life.

The name of Jesus means “God saves.” Invoking that name will always remind us of our need for salvation, that is, our ultimate salvation from sin, from death, from all pain and suffering. It’s not simply liberation from some transitory hunger or worldly need. It’s liberation to eternal life.

If invoked with faith and love, if done with great piety, calling the name Jesus can only give us a lot of good. It can even give us an immediate relieving and calming effect.

I remember that one time, I had some muscle pain in my legs and in my back. A ‘manghihilot’ was recommended to me, and he told me to have strong faith and to follow him in calling the name of Jesus as he did his therapy. I must say that it worked.

But more importantly, we need to call Jesus’ name when we are faced with big challenges and difficult, if not irresistible, temptations. Somehow doing so generates a certain kind of spiritual strength that would enable us to handle these situations effectively.

When we feel our weaknesses stirred up, or when, for some mysterious reasons, we seem to be strongly drawn or lured to do something sinful, calling the name of Jesus would really help. More than just recovering our senses, we can feel a strong mysterious spiritual force that will enable us to do what we ought to do.

And if, in spite of everything, we still manage to fall, then calling Jesus’ name facilitates our repentance and reconciliation with God and with others. We do not actually need to go far or do extraordinary things for us to be helped, guided, enlightened, strengthened and redeemed. We just need to call Jesus’ name, and the process of healing starts.

Some people question whether it is practicable to be truly holy in the middle of the world that is full of sin and temptations. The answer to that is a resounding, ‘yes.’ Christ would not command us to be holy if that is not doable. And the practicability of holiness can start simply by calling the name of Jesus – with faith, love and piety.

The lives of saints can attest to this. And even our own personal experiences can prove it. Calling Jesus’ name can immediately soften our mind and heart that can tend to harden due to the pressures of life, not to mention, the temptations and sin around.

Calling Jesus’ name will always remind us to be good to others, to be charitable, understanding and compassionate with them. It will prod us to think well of the others, to be quick to serve and help them. It will push us to do a lot of good, never saying enough.

Calling Jesus’ name will help us to be quick to ask for forgiveness if we commit a mistake as well as to forgive others. It will lead us along the way of humility and patience.

Calling Jesus’ name will strengthen us so we can tackle the many and endless challenges and problems of life. It will help us to handle situations when we are insulted, mocked and offended. It will encourage us to identify with him on the cross when we suffer all kinds of injustice.

Calling Jesus’ name will also show us what else to do to follow him all the way to the end.





Prostitutes entering heaven

January 8, 2017

LEST you get scandalized, it was Christ himself who said so. Let us cite the exact quotation: ‘“Which of the two did what his father wanted?’ ‘The first,’ they answered. Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.’” (Mt 21,31)

Of course, the context was the precious lesson Christ wanted to highlight as to what would comprise fulfilling God’s will. He mentioned about two brothers. The first was asked to work in the vineyard, and said no, but later on, changed his mind and went to work. The second said yes, but actually did not go.

The precious lesson Christ wanted to impart is that what really matters is doing and not simply saying to do God’s will, even if at the beginning one declines to do God’s will. An important part of this lesson is the need for repentance and conversion in our life.

So the prostitutes referred to in this particular episode are those who repented and who actually did what Christ wanted them to do. They did not enter as prostitutes, but as sinners who have repented.

A significant lesson we can also gather from this particular story, and one that should serve as a constant warning to all of us, is that we have to be most careful when we think we are already good enough because of certain good things we have or have done, but still have failed to be very faithful to God’s will.

This is the lesson embedded in that saying that “the good is the enemy of the best,” that is the very germ of that most insidious spiritual illness called spiritual complacency and lukewarmness. That’s when we think we are good enough. There’s no need to be better.

We have to understand that conversion is a continuing need for all of us. We can never say that we are good enough and that we do not need further conversions. We should not forget that we are all sinners even in the best condition of our earthly life.

For this to happen, we need to be humble, which can be the result of the keen awareness of our sinfulness. It’s when we think we are sinless or with little and negligible sin that we fail to realize the need for conversion.

We should never allow whatever good we have done to lull us to think that we are good enough and that we don’t need another conversion.

I refer more to people who have been doing good all these years, but somehow are stuck at a certain point in their spiritual life. Doing good for them has become a kind of set routine that is turning to be more mechanical than spiritual, leaving an impressive shell but slowly being deprived of substance, desensitizing them from the urge for another conversion.

The mark of true saints is precisely this hunger and thirst for repentance and conversion. Whatever good they did humbled them instead of leaving them proud. They knew who and what was behind all the accomplishments they made, and were more keenly aware of their inadequacies, their mistakes, faults, infidelities, etc.

It’s not that they led a miserable life of having a dark outlook in life and a negative attitude toward their own selves. They were a happy lot, whose joy sprang from their living and faithful union with God, their father, but aware of their total dependence on God.

It’s their driving love for God and souls that keep them feeling always the need for penance and conversion. It’s not just fear of sin and evil that provokes this hunger. It’s love of God and souls. It’s this love that made them see more things that they need to do. It’s this love for God and souls that would make them feel that they have to go further than what so far they have accomplished.

This love has no limits. It does not have the word ‘enough’ in its vocabulary. It always urges them to do more to be more and better.

That is why it is often given as a spiritual advice that one forgets himself completely and just thinks of God and the others. Not only that, but also that one’s true growth and development toward human maturity and Christian perfection is measured to the extent that one thinks of God and the others and does things for them.

It might be good to replicate in oneself a true act of contrition that is involved in a conversion of a prostitute.





Good news and the fake news

December 13, 2016

There's a new scourge in the media today. It's called the fake news. It had its most devastating display during the last US presidential election where one candidate was touted practically by all the major news sources to be the winner, hands down.

The outcome was, of course, different. The upset was shocking. And the world woke up to the realization that it has been fed, maliciously or not, systematically or not, with fake news.

That this phenomenon happened certainly deserves a more in-depth study. How could such powerful news agencies, pollsters, etc., fail to read the mind of the people in general? What an epic, big-time fail it was!

There can be many, endless reasons behind it. But offhand, what I can say is that there certainly was a very devious virus of bias and prejudice involved among the media people that now include millions of netizens with their blogs and social media accounts.

It was a virus that found its host in the passion-filled arena of the political warfare, where the light that was shed blinded more than made people see things properly. It generated what may be termed as agenda-dictated journalism, where self-serving slanting of data and the objective assessment and the fair treatment of the issues were set aside.

Words were inflated or deflated to serve the biases and prejudices of those in media. More than words, ideologies corrupted the minds of people to the extent that the people could not judge things properly anymore and resorted instead to a simplistic black-and-white tack on the issues.

These ideologies tried to be the core basis for the people's faith and reasoning. But we know that for all their valid points, no ideology has exclusive right to be the sole holder and owner of what is true, right and fair in our human affairs. It's amazing that many people now turn to ideologies as the bedrock of their beliefs.

God, his word, his will and ways – in short, the Good News – are all but dismissed completely. They are considered irrelevant, a drag and an unnecessary baggage in resolving issues political or otherwise.

Many people have not come any closer to the realization that in fact God has to be in the middle of all our earthly affairs, be it business or politics, etc. No ideology, no personal convictions can replace him.

In short, we have to listen to the Good News God has given us through Christ and now in the Holy Spirit that animates the Church and its many instrumentalities. We have to understand that this Good News is the foundation of whatever opinion, view, philosophy, ideology that we may use to pursue our temporal affairs.

In other words, God’s word is the first and last word. Any word we coin and use in the fields of our sciences, arts, technologies, politics, business, culture, etc., should begin and end with God’s word. Otherwise it will have no proper foundation and orientation.

St. Paul has amply warned us about arrogating our words to be simply our own. “Let no man deceive himself,” he said. “If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God…Let no man therefore glory in men.” (1 Cor 3,19-21)

That's simply because God's word or the Good News, as described in the Letter to the Hebrews, is “living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (4,12)

Its primary purpose is to bring us back to God through our temporal affaris. And so more than just giving us some helpful earthly knowledge, it gives us the ultimate spiritual knowledge we need to return to God, even through the very contentious field of politics.

Christ himself said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mk 13,31) We need to echo that response of St. Peter who, when asked if the apostles would also go away from Christ when he talked about himself as the bread of life, said: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” (Jn 6,68)

We certainly have to sit down and see how we can be more aware of grounding and orienting our words with God’s word, the Good News. Otherwise, we will be wallowing in fake news.





Heroes and saints

December 8, 2016

HEROES need not be saints, but saints are always heroes in the sense that whatever their vocation and mission, they always live them with heroicity even if their heroic lives may not be publicly known in some political, social, historical or cultural terms.

Saints can even live their heroicity hidden from the public eye, and often they live it by going against the current obtaining in a certain society. They can be unpopular, in fact, as St. Paul once said: “We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world...” (1 Cor 4,13)

Heroes obviously can be saints too, as long as they live their vocation and mission in strict and heroic obedience to God's will and ways. They definitely have done some acts that we consider as heroic. They serve a certain purpose in the world.

But what we usually consider heroes are defined more in political, social, historical and cultural terms, and need not accord with the spiritual and supernatural criteria of sainthood.

In fact, there are many heroes now who can hardly qualify as saints, precisely because their heroism may go against spiritual and supernatural standards. Heroes work for some worldly values like nationalism, save-and-rescue operations, efficiency and effectiveness, etc. Saints work only for the fidelity to God's will.

While heroes are always involved in some extraordinary events, saints need not get involved in those kind of events. Most of them become saints simply doing very ordinary things but doing them extraordinarily well, that is, with great love of God and of others, with extreme fidelity to their vocation and mission.

Most saints live their heroic lives in secret. They don't show off their goodness, imitating Christ who said: “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you...And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men...” (Mt 6,6&16)

Saints live their heroic lives consistently, in season and out of season, when times are favorable and when they are not. They hardly are influenced by the opinions of people. They can go against the general trends, if need be. Theirs is in strict obedience and fidelity to God's will.

The distinction between heroes and saints is crucial because we need to realize that we have to aim more at becoming saints than at becoming heroes. If we happen to end up both saints and heroes, then that's good. It's quite a privilege. But if given a choice, we have to opt for sainthood rather than for being a hero.

What is truly important is that we are with God rather than with our own selves. We have to aim at heaven rather than some earthly advantage. “What does it profit a man,” Christ says, “to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul.” (Mk 8,36)

This does not mean that we have to belittle the value of the world. Not at all. The world and the things in it, our temporal affairs, are important and even indispensable in the pursuit of sanctity. But the world and things in it are simply means. They are never the end.

Thus, the call to holiness and sanctity is universal. It's meant for everyone, while the call to be heroes is quite selective. Not everyone can be heroes, but everyone is expected to be a saint. The occasions to become saints are always available, while those to become heroes are few and far between.

That is why even with his apostles, Christ would just choose practically anyone at random, including the one who would betray him later. And the reason is simply because all of us come from God and belong to him.

To become a saint is not so much a matter of the kind of skill, talent, position, etc. that one has. It's simply a matter of a total self-giving to God and to others, irrespective of the conditions and circumstances one may be in.

In this regard, we have to develop the appropriate passion. That's simply because to become a saint just cannot happen without fully involving all our faculties, including our passions. Let's remember what Christ told us about the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Mt 22,37)

To become a saint is to achieve the fullness of our humanity. Our fullness is not to become a hero simply.



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