Behold the Woman!

It is often said that behind every great man, there always is a great woman. This certainly has come true in Jesus and our Blessed Lady. Through grace and cooperation with God’s plan, she made him into what he had become for the world. Just like a woman is always crucial into what kind of person a child becomes, Mary was vital into what Christ became. Remember she was not a puppet in the hands of God; she freely chose to cooperate; no one forced her. As we celebrate the feast of her Assumption— the belief that she was taken body and soul into heaven without knowing any corruption— we owe her so much gratitude for allowing us to hope of salvation by giving us Jesus. I mean God did, but she cooperates. Is it not strange that in an era where Feminism is at its height The Blessed Lady is not on every lip, TV shows, books, movies, and arts as the greatest example of women’s power? If this movement got it right, she should be its vanguard.

M_AssumptionReflecting on what God had accomplished through her, it is concluded that she is the highest honor of our race. Why? No human beings can deem to be the bearer (mother) of God. No one occupies such a pivotal role in the liberation of a race as she did. No hero or heroine was that crucial in any cause. Our salvation begun as a result her fiat; we could speculate about what would have happened had she responded negatively, but all we know she did not. Because of her, heaven and earth, God and human had come together. By such occurrence, the human race that was galloping in the direction of hell makes a U-turn. The church never fails to honor her for playing such a powerful role. That’s why we dare call her Mediatrix, Co-Redemptoris of our salvation. That means she was the spark that started the whole fire though she probably did not foresee the consequences of her fiat. God could have done otherwise of course had he preferred it, but he did not and she cooperated with the divine plan. We can all learn from her exemplary life. Don’t we all want to do something heroic, magnificent, and extraordinary? Well, we can. Search for God’s plan and follow it intensely. Then be ready to be amazed.pier

She is such a powerful figure for all young men and women striving to be a “person of the Beatitudes”. She remained a virgin before (because she has not known Joseph yet), during (because she bore the child through the power of the Holy Spirit—that’s a miracle), and after (because both Joseph and her understood that what had happened set them apart for a special mission) giving birth to Christ. When promiscuity is so widespread, when clothes and body image are cut to show the power of our maleness and femaleness, when it is deemed “embarrassing” to preserve one’s virginity until marriage, she offers an alternative. Her voice goes out to all striving or doubting whether it is worth preserving themselves. She’s telling us a resounding yes; it worth it. The great pearl that you are was not made to be known by multiple partners or seen by all.

family2Moreover, as the greatest mother who had ever lived, she is a great model of what it means to be an excellent mother, and a teacher to all fathers. To all women, she teaches how to accompany a child as the child is trying to grow in wisdom and age. She let him be, and through that she discovered who he is—do whatever he tells you (John 2). To fathers, she teaches how to treat a child when things don’t go as planned. Finding him in the temple, notice how she did not yell at him, but rather she asked him a question— Son, why have you treated us this way (Luke 2:48)? Joseph stands there and observes how she does it. we men don’t handle things this way. Another lesson is that in our attempt to help those who need help in this journey, she is a great example of how best to do so— never in a nagging or imposing way. She teaches us that asking questions, attentive listening go a long way.

Mary Mother of God, teach us how to navigate this current!

Juxtaposing Amoris Laetitia and Cardinal Newman

It is often believed that doctrine and spirituality do not always go hand in hand. The former seems to care about maintaining the principles of the faith while the latter is concerned about the human person. In the apostolic exhortation Amoris Latitiae—the two seem to have juxtaposed beautifully; that’s almost an unprecedented move. It captures the attitude of our Lord who while he set forth a demanding ideal yet never failed to show compassion and closeness to the frailty of individuals. The way he treated the Samaritan woman and the woman caught in adultery are two illustrating examples.

Of course, the Church has always been aware of that attitude. John Paul II proposed the “law of gradualness” in the document Familiaris Consortium. It’s the understanding that the human person “knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by different stages of growth” (34). Just like a teacher would not teach his students Calculus until he goes through all the lower math levels, we should not impose the high idealism of the spiritual life until a person is ready to understand, interiorize, and embrace the full truth of Jesus’ teachings. It is prudent to gradually teach a person, accompany him/her until that person is in the position to fully carry out the objective demands of the law. We must say like St. Paul, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.” (1 Cor. 3:2). When will we know the person is ready to embrace the full teaching depends on the pastor’s relationship with the Holy Spirit who reveals the truth to his shepherd. Not black or white! What if the person is never ready? That’s a fair question.

UnknownThe church is in the business of reintegration not casting off. She is always ready to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart (Amoris Laetitia 296). So, if someone exhibits a way of life incompatible with the Christian ideal, that person needs to let the gospel penetrates his life so he can experience conversion. Pastors of souls are there to help through that process. that simply means there will be a lot of new beginnings and fall start. The church’s role is simple to patiently stand alongside each person as they keep on trying. Again, this is the first time a church document dealing with doctrine is juxtaposing doctrine and spiritual growth.

Remarkably, the document mentions that despite the struggles, a person can take part in the social service of the church like Knight of Columbus, Legion of Mary, St. Vincent de Paul, prayer meetings together with the discernment of the parish priest. That’s a way to avoid the person from feeling separated from the community. The goal is to help “people feel not an excommunicated member of the Church, but instead a living member” (299). It is important to understand that participation in the community does not always mean serving at the altar during the liturgy. I don’t think there has ever been any clearer statement on this issue until this. While no one was ever rejected, many did feel that way. The hope is that this clarification brings out some changes.

Now, in case of divorced and civilly remarried, “it is the responsibility of the church to help them understand the divine pedagogy of grace in their lives and assist them so they can reach the fullness of God’s plan for them” (Amoris Laetitia 297). Again, that’s when the law of gradualness comes handy. Pastors of souls must work with those living in an irregular marriage until they are fully integrated into the life of the Trinity. That means they must meet regularly with their pastor until they can find a solution that brings them fully into the flock of God. Currently, they are absolutely part of God’s flock, but not fully. Spiritual direction and instruction have as their ultimate goal to bring them fully into the church.

confessions-about-confessionWithout falling into casuistry, the document cleverly maintains that not all divorced and civilly remarried can be pigeonholed as one. There must be “a renewed encouragement to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases since the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases”. Therefore, priests have a duty to initiate a process of accompaniment and discernment in order to “guide the divorced and remarried to an awareness of their situation before God (300). A pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in “irregular” situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives (305).

The following cases cannot be treated in a general manner: A second union consolidated over time, with new children, proven fidelity, generous self giving, Christian commitment, a consciousness of its irregularity” must be treated atypically because it does not fit the general norm.

Or the case of someone who has made every effort to save her first marriage and was unjustly abandoned, and so entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing while subjectively certain in conscience that her previous and irreparably broken marriage had never been valid” deserves special attention.

Someone who has consistently failed in his obligations to the family cannot be seen as the same as the above.

The document throws light of factors at play when judging a case of divorced and civilly remarried. “ a person may know the rule full well, yet have great difficulty in understanding (notice it says understanding not accepting) “its inherent values”, or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.” This is an important point. It entails that a person may be living in an irregular situation yet possesses grace and charity. As Aquinas puts it, “someone may possess grace and charity, yet not be able to exercise any one of the virtues well” (ST I-II, 65, 3, ad2). This is very enlightening. That means because of the particular circumstances that surround a divorced and civilly remarried person, he/ she may not be as culpable as another person divorced and remarried couple (302). Again, not all cases can be put in the same basket. A negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about the culpability of the person involved. So responsibility with respect to certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases (302).

A logical question that follows from this unfamiliar teaching is: is this a departure from the mother doctrine as laid out in Familiaris Consortium, or is this part of hermeneutic of continuity? Put otherwise, is this a legitimate development of what Jesus said in Matthew 19:9 (whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.”), or a corruption of it?

That leads to what John Henry Newman, the great towering Anglican figure who converted to Catholicism, said n his work entitled On the Development of Christian Doctrine about the criteria for a doctrine to be developed genuinely. Chapter 5 is worth your time.

For a doctrine to be developed genuinely, it mus9c712f6115b426b6081d1f94edc217d9t preserve the essential form and structure of what came before it. It is genuine if it retains one and the same type, the same principles, the same organization; if its beginnings anticipate its subsequent phases, and its later phenomena protect and subserve its earlier; if it has a power of assimilation and revival, and a vigorous action from first to last. By the same token, butterfly can be seen as a genuinely development of caterpillar. While butterfly is not the same as a caterpillar, it preserves the essential form and structure of a caterpillar.

An authentic development illustrates, corroborates that from which it proceeds. A child is an illustration of the parents. Christianity is a legitimate development of Judaism.

An authentic development has the power to assimilate. While it takes what is best and sound for its own development, it rejects what does not square off with its future life. Doctrines and views as they relate to man are never placed in a void; they are found in the crowded world, and make way for themselves by interpenetration, and develop by absorption. They interpenetrate people and are absorbed according to the mode of the recipient. As recipients grow into deeper understanding and gain more experiences in life, their understanding of doctrines is bound to undergo deeper and expansive development.

So does Amoris Laetitia constitute a departure from Matthew 19:9? It would serve anyone interested in answering this question to take Cardinal Newman as a mentor and companion. He could save a great deal of embarrassment.

Nothing Yet All

Scholars have explained the human person as a phenomenon because he bore within himself the spiritual and the physical. Through our body, we reach down to the lower elements and are one with the animals and minerals; through our mind, we reach upwards to God and the angels.

jesus holding manWe know this is true instinctively; on one hand, we can enter into the depth of ourselves through silence and prayer, becoming as much like the angels as possible. On the other, we experience instincts and emotions that often get the better of us. as long as we are journey in this life, we struggle to strike a perfect balance between these two realities.

So, man is a mystery, a puzzle that generations have been trying to understand, but he still remains a depthless enigma incapable of being deciphered through and through; he is a paradox. He is simple yet complicated, straight yet crooked, lighted yet darkened, easy yet difficult. He often operates on the extreme; hence the need for direction. He can exalt himself as the absolute measure of all things or debases himself to the point of despair. Man needs help because he is split within himself. We tarnish the work of art that we are and destroy our inner beauty when we don’t control our divided self. We need God and that’s the truth. As Ecclesiastes shows and Blaise Pascal observes, “man without God is in total ignorance and inevitable misery.” The contrary is not true; God does not need us. we are completely contingent on him. What is man compared to God?

God could have left us in the lowliness of our choice, but like a mother who could not stop mothering, he intervenes. Why does he? After all, says Pascal, “what is man in nature? A nothing in relation to infinity, all in relation to nothing, a central point between nothing and all and infinitely far from understanding either….” our lives are less than a speck of dust lost among the solar system of the galaxies. Why does he have to intervene when live or die, it makes no difference? While we think we are the indispensable actor in the unfolding documentary of our lives, in God’s eyes, we don’t have to matter; we come, we live, we play, then we die. After a few years, no one remembers that we were here. While we think we are the most important, and our lives enfold before the camera of God, only one kind of things is recorded, those done for love. we are an empty show unless we marked our space through charity. Veni, Vidi, Vici we like to say! This is false unless God takes notice of us. We are great insofar as we get his attention.hqdefault

There’ s only one way to do that. Embrace love! That’s the only part that his camera records. We had better keep this in mind as we are developing new episodes for the documentary. That’s the very reason why he broke into the scene. He wanted to teach us how to love. When we finally grasp the profundity of this, we will go speechless. We may even have to say like job: “I have heard of you by words of mouth, but now my eye has seen you; therefore, I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

 

Saying Yes to Joy!!

What are you looking for?

Is there anything you’re looking forward to?

What drives you? What gets you out of bed on a daily basis?

What is one thing you’d do even if you wouldn’t get paid for?

If you have an answer to these questions, then you’re a happy joyful, full of life person.

If you don’t have an answer, if you’re actively looking for an answer, I’m glad you’re here. This talk should put you on the right path. It will at least point the right way.

This talk is entitled “the joy of saying yes”. Before we get to say yes, we need something or someone to say yes to.

To get you that point, you don’t have the luxury of simply going with the flow. You can’t simply do what you’re told without asking questions.

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point one—You can definitely not be indifferent.  Rev 3:15 I know your works.  You’re neither hot nor cold. Lukewarm. Indifferent.

Jesus alluded to this in Mt11:16-17— “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: We played the pipe for you and you did not dance. we sang a dirge and you did not mourn. When you live for nothing, even God gets tired of you. When you don’t care, what are we to do with you?”

When you live for something or someone, life becomes exciting. No fear. Bold. Joyful. Future is filled with adventure.

Look at the apostles. They started as frustrating fisherman or tax collector or simple men to boldly testify later “we mst obey God rather than men”. Jesus has been raised from the dead. That means something for everyone and we cannot not tell people about it.

If you want to experience joy, you have to make a choice. It’s a choice for joy happiness, abundant life.

Rev 3:20 behold, I stand knocking at the door

John 10:10- Jesus says: I have come to give you life and to give it abundantly.

Second point. John 1:35– what do you seek? Come and see. Be ready to be surprised by joy. When God calls, he gives you everything and takes nothing away. He does not make you less yourself. He allows you to be yourself and then some. stdas0374-1.jpg

Are you just surviving? You were made to thrive, to live life to the full. You were made to live in communion and deep intimate friendship with your creator. When that happens, you are completely happy.

Don’t you sometimes feels like something is missing? You have everything (job, car, career, good supporting family and friends, even money and popularity sometimes etc.) and yet something is missing?

If that ever happens to you, God is calling to Luke 14:10 come higher.

It’s when you come to what God is calling you to, that’s when you thrive. It’s when you ask God to help you discover what you were here for, that’s when you live life to its fullness.

It’s unthinkable that God created you for nothing.

In Jer. 29:11 the Lord says:  “I know the plans and thoughts  I have for you, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope”.

Are you thriving where you are? Would you do what you’re doing even if you don’t get paid? Does what you’re doing get you out of bed every morning thinking man I can’t wait to start…?

If the answer is no. You have an opportunity for a new beginning.

Third point: Isaiah 55:10 purpose. Everything has a purpose. Explain this.Isaiah_55-8.jpg

Now the million dollars question is this: how do you find your purpose? It’s much easier to find God’s plan for things, but how do we find out what God’s Plan for us?  not easy, but there is a way.

Sit before the Blessed Sacrament in the classroom of silence with phone off, and ask the One who created you to tell you what he created for. “Lord, what do you want me to do with my life?” Thats how I’ve found my purpose in life, and I am a person of joy consequently.

I can guarantee you he will answer. He loves you too much. He cares about you too much to ignore you. He wants you to thrive. There’s no thriving outside of his plan. That’s the beauty.

So stop looking for stuff in TV, iPhone, there’s no ‘App’ for Gods plan for your life. No one but he can reveal to you what he wants for you. So be still. Turn to the lord with your whole heart. And he will turn to you with his whole love.

The fourth point. Don’t say you’re too old or too young. Jeremiah was under 20 when called to give an unpatriotic message to Israel. Moses could not even speak when he was called to speak to the most powerful king of Egypt. St. John the evangelist was 16 when Jesus called him.

Therese of Lisieux was 21 when he discovered the little way. A genius way and simplified way to live the gospel.

St. Jean Marie Vianney was 33 when he was sent to one of the worst parish in France. He transformed the town and the parish to one of the holiest known part of the world.

Tiger Wood was 3 when he first broke 50 on a nine holes of golf.

Mozart was 5 when he wrote his first symphony.

Bill gates was 19 when he cofounded Microsoft.

Winston Churchill was 65 when he became Britain’s prime minister and picked a fight with Hitler. A much needed fight.

Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born.

Mary was 13 or 16 when she said ‘yes’ to become the bearer of the most important and greatest thing that has happened to our world.

Mother Teresa was 40 when he began the missionaries of charity. She is worth dwelling on. How did she begin? Silence in front the Blessed Sacrament. Then boom! Her calling becomes clear like a noonday sun. She discovered exactly what to do with her life. There was never a day she questioned that call.

There can be tough moment, but when God calls, nothing is too difficult. There’s nothing you cannot handle. No fear can restrain you.

Find what God is asking you to do. Then you will find joy. Lasting joy.

Empty Shell Without!

Man has a natural inclination for peace even if he is engaged in all sort of malfeasance. Man naturally needs a foundation to lay his head though he is soaring high like an eagle in the sky. Though most powerful, he needs a rescuer. Though he renders an account to no one, he needs truth, honesty, true freedom, and love; he needs someone or something to put him in touch with his inner life, his conscience. No one was yearning for these more than the character named ‘Unnamed’ in Alessandro Manzoni’s masterful work, The Betrothed. Although he had power, wealth and security, his life was empty until he was converted to Christ who offers the best way to live.

lllAfter the peasant and naïve girl Lucia was kidnapped, she fervently turned to our Blessed Lady for help. Being a merciful mother, she helps her not directly, but by changing the lion heart of her captor (the Unnamed) into a little lamb. That is the only reasonable explanation behind his tormenting heart once he accepted the task of kidnapping her. He gets angry with himself for accepting; a sort of remorse and disquiet settle in his heart; the memory of past crimes start to emerge.[1] This man is not an ordinary personality. He was like “the godfather” of his time. He is above the law, feared by all, judge and master of the affair of others, and notorious for the number of crimes.[2] His castle is a veritable hotbed of murderous crimes.[3] He is thought of as a strange, ferocious, legendary, and barbarous figure. The villagers are so afraid of him, they don’t ever dare use his name. so they call him the Unnamed (l’Innominato in Italian).[4] Yet, the moment Lucia claims that “God will forgive his multitude of sins for one act of mercy”[5], he was filled with hope and the desire to hear more. This can be seen as the encounter that sets him on the path to conversion. How was this possible other than by the powerful intercession of Our Blessed Mother giving birth to a dead soul? This good news is the rescuer he was looking for, though unknowingly.

bbbAn encounter with God is life-changing and ensues a better future. As pope Benedict puts it, “one who has hope lives differently [because he] has been granted the gift of a new life.[6] Before this encounter, the Unnamed was conscious of his great vigor and confidence, no thoughts of the future poisoned his memories of the past, the non-stop spectacle of violence, revenge, and murder used to fill him with pleasure; after the encounter now, the idea of judgment… has revisited him every often. A glimpse of Lucia’s cart fills him with inexplicable depression, horrifying feeling of loneliness, ceaseless terror, and a little voice inside of him does not cease crying: “yet I am”.[7] Hope of the mercy of God can transform the most wretched heart into the most docile one. Seeing Lucia only increased his torment, and her begging softens him and moves him to compassion. Consequently, he orders a woman to care for her, entertain her, and ensure that nothing harmful happens to her.[8] This is the most brutal of men, yet encountering Lucia is turning him into a “softy”. After seeing Lucia, his conscience does not stop speaking; he spends the whole night ruminating his past crimes; he even thinks of suicide; he longs to escape from his thoughts; he lies awake the whole night; He longs to hear further words of hope and comfort from Lucia.[9] “When the feeling of compassion overpowers a person, [the latter] loses his manhood until he follows through”, Manzoni believes.[10] So we see before he enjoys that newfound hope, he went through a sort of “dark night of the soul”. At the end of these dark nights, he is motivated by the hope of a future where he can undo the past insofar that’s possible, and embrace the beginning of a new life, which is precisely what conversion entails.

The encounter with the saintly cardinal Borromeo reinforces the Unnamed’s desire to embrace Christ. That’s the contagious power of holiness; that’s the arresting beauty of truly embracing the gospel. The cardinal’s dignified and majestic bearing, his serious and yet lively eyes, his magnificent simplicity of his purple robe, and his penetrating gaze help welcome the Unnamed with the utterance: “… I am most grateful to you for taking your admirable decision to come to me, …although there should have been many times… when I should have come to you.[11] Unsure whether the cardinal is truly familiar with his notorious exploits that he (the Unnamed) had performed, the latter is surprised that he is so well received—“Did you say you should have come to me. Do you know who I am”[12], he exclaims. The cardinal points out to the Unnamed that the obvious pleasure he feels at seeing him could only be inspired by the visit of a man whose reputation he knows too well.[13]

bbbThe cardinal suggests that this visit could only be good news that God has touched his heart. However, the Unnamed asserts that there cannot be good news when hell is raging in his heart. “Where is that God anyway”.[14] The cardinal confidently reminds him that God is near him, agitates his spirit, allures him, gives him a foretaste of the hope of tranquility and happiness, so if he so chooses he can find real peace.[15] Then the Unnamed was dubious whether or not God will welcome him back— “There is indeed something oppressing my heart…, what do you think God can do for me”.[16] The cardinal authoritatively and paternally reassures him of God’s ocean of mercy— “Who are you to think that your wretchedness… can outweigh God’s goodness”.[17] It is God who stirs him to seek him…. He does not rejoice that thousands abhor his actions… God will be glorified when he acknowledges his sins.[18] Hearing these good news, that iron fist, the strong, the unbroken, the brave that is the Unnamed breaks into weeping.[19] That’s a powerful sign the Unnamed had turned around and touched by Christ. After all, we know that God is a father who is always waiting for the return of his prodigal sons or daughters. The good shepherd did leave the 99 to seek out the one lost sheep. Everyone matters in God’s eyes. So as an instrument of God, the cardinal gives thanks to God, though unfaithful steward and neglectful shepherd that he is, he is found worthy to witness a so happy a miracle[20] i.e. the conversion of a most wretched soul.

mmmIn conclusion, in case we forget what the church does, this conversion is how the church relates to the world. She is a mother who never disowns her children regardless of how low they have fallen into sin. As long as they turn around and return home, her arms are wide open waiting to hug them. That’s what the church does for every sinner; he should seek them out. That’s what the new evangelization is about—seek the lost, and if she does not, when they return, her doors are always wide open. The sins of one sinner affect the whole. So when one sinner is converted, the whole benefits. The bigger the sinner the more beneficial it is for the common good. The whole benefits when one person decides to embrace a holy life. Although it is the task of the state to establish peace and security by means of power, conversion of heart is the most powerful way to establish peace and security. Only the church can establish it in such way. The cardinal had thus done well to receive the Unnamed with such open arm given the threat he was for society at large. He was saved and I suspect many of his household will also be saved with him.

[1] Alessandro Manzoni, , The Betrothed, transl. by Bruce Penman, Penguin Books, 1st publ in London, 1972, 369.

[2] Ibid 361

[3] ibid 363

[4] Ibid 364-6

[5] Ibid 386

[6] Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Spe Salvi, 2

[7] Ibid 370

[8] Ibid 379

[9] Ibid 395

[10] Ibid 392

[11] Ibid 414

[12] Ibid 415

[13] Ibid

[14] Ibid

[15] Ibid

[16] Ibid 415-6

[17] Ibid 416

[18] Ibid 416

[19] Ibid 417

[20] Ibid 417

Where we Stand in This!!!

We strive by an indirect approach to lessen evils, but we know we will not win the war.[1] Our future lies beyond this world.[2] “We work toward a brighter and more humane society… yet [we know] that our daily efforts… either tire us or turn into fanaticism, unless the great hope that cannot be destroyed even by small-scale failures or historical breakdown” radiate within us.[3]Caritas will always prove necessary; …no State can eliminate the need for a service of love”.[4] These are the mindset behind Catholic Social Doctrine. It is from this leitmotif that we are to understand pope Benedict XVI’s work on catholic social doctrine regarding church and state, and the human person.

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Charity is an essential element of the church’s life; pope Benedict holds it to be on the same par as the sacraments and the proclamation of the Word.[5] In fact, he understands that while it is the fundamental norm of the state to create a just social order, it cannot flourish without upholding the principle of subsidiarity, which demands the coordination of society’s activities according to the needs of the community. In this sense, the church must not sit on the sidelines in the effort to build a just society, even if the latter remains the domain of the state.[6] That is where church and state need to cooperate, although they constitute two distinct entities. This perspective can be deemed pope Benedict’s fundamental contribution to catholic social doctrine.[7]

The church reinforces the state’s effort to build a just society. The State must inevitably answer what justice is.[8] If practical reason is to properly answer that question, it must be purified. Faith is that purifying force. Faith liberates reason from its blind spots; …it enables reason to do its work more effectively. To achieve this, faith and reason i.e. church and state must cooperate. So while it is not the church’s task to build a just society, it is her role to form conscience and stimulate greater insight about justice. While the church cannot and don’t intend to replace the state, she cannot remain on the sidelines without offering her position. The state obviously benefits when its citizens’ actions are born of a pure, virtuous, and moral conscience. But the church is right institution that can make that happen.[9]

Why is the church so needed? Here’s why: despite how well a society is organized, there will always be a need for love. So we don’t need a state that hugs all powers. We want a state that guarantees religious freedom and harmony between the followers of different religions.[10] We want a state that allows the principle of subsidiarity thrives. A State that attempts to absorb everything into itself would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy. The state can never eradicate loneliness, suffering, cry for consolation, and material need.[11] That’s where the church intervenes.

CongressGovernments cannot solve the world’s suffering. Despite the scientific and technological advancement, material and spiritual suffering will always linger (ibid 30a). Through the inescapable sense of solidarity, through their commitment to love, both material and spiritual sufferings are alleviated. Church agencies can especially serve as a reference point and inspiration for civil society on how best to serve the poor. Through this cooperation, it becomes clear how faith enlightens reason in its work all the while remaining above politics. Consequently, Christian charitable activity is free of parties and ideologies.[12] It is not proselytism for love is free, and must never be practiced as a way of achieving other ends.[13] Thus church personnel are guided by the faith working through love.[14]

Another major contribution of Pope Benedict to catholic social doctrine concerns construing the greatness of man to the modern world. They believe that our redemption no longer lies in faith in Christ, but through “the newly discovered link between science and praxis”.[15] Faith, in this newly built kingdom, becomes “a purely private, otherworldly affair, and irrelevant”.[16] Hope, the ‘known unknown’ of eternal life that drives our desires to look beyond this world[17], is envisioned as faith in progress.[18] They presumed that progress toward perfect freedom and the rules of reason could be the dominant force behind the human race and the sole guarantor of a perfect human community.[19] They believed that scientific development is the answer to our problem, but they forgot something.

They forgot who man is. They ignore that economic power does not solve man’s inclination for evil. “Man’s freedom always remains freedom for evil”.[20] They forgot that technical progress dissolved from man’s inner growth is actually regression. They forgot that human freedom and reason need a rule of law in order to fulfill their nature and mission. Again, while reason is great, it needs the saving forces of faith in order to differ between good and evil and look beyond itself.[21] Economic power, freedom of choice, and rational capacity severed from God are man’s greatest threat. Social structures devoid of charity would demean man of his greatness.[22] It is the indirect duty of the church to purify man’s inclination. …[23]

Pope BenedictMan’s greatness is intrinsically bound to God. Man cannot be redeemed by science for he cannot be rebuilt from outside.[24] Man can only be redeemed by unconditional love.[25] Therefore, new generation can engage in the search for the right moral order by drawing upon the moral treasury of the whole of humanity while seeking to build itself anew.[26] New generation needs to be stimulated by new conviction that freedom can be won over for the cause of goodness[27], and that “the moral well-being of the world cannot be guaranteed through structures alone”.[28] That’s what it means to establish a convinced structure of freedom. This innate understanding is what redemption means.

True dignity lies by setting our hope on God, the great hope. He is the only one who can create the right structure that results in good moral order. This new vision should free us to live life in communion with God and neighbor, who free us from attachment to all material goods.[29] It allows us to accept our limitations to solve the problems of the world. It opens us up to believe that God alone can eliminate suffering, to accept our own suffering, and that of others.[30] In fact, the true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. It is cruel for a society to refuse to accept and share the suffering of its members.[31] The fundamental elements of humanity are the capacity and willingness to suffer with the other and for others, for truth, justice, and love.[32] That’s what it takes to become a person.

[1] Thomas More, Utopia, book I

[2] Augustine’s City of God, book XIX, Ch. 17

[3] Spe Salvi 35

[4] Deus Caritas Est 28b

[5] DCE 22

[6] ibid 28a

[7] Pope Paul VI’s address at the United Nations on October 4, 1965 about what the church desires in relationship to the state is arguably a wrong turn. Pope benedict can be said to correct that view in his unique understanding of CSD.

[8] DCE 28a

[9] DCE 28a

[10] ibid 28a

[11] ibid 28b

[12] ibid 31b

[13] ibid 31c

[14] Ibid 33

[15] Spe Salvi #17

[16] ibid

[17] ibid 12

[18] ibid 18

[19] ibid 20

[20] ibid 21

[21] ibid 23

[22] DCE 28b

[23] ibid 29

[24] Spe Salvi 25

[25] ibid 26

[26] ibid 24, 25

[27] ibid 24b

[28] ibid 24a

[29] ibid 28

[30] ibid 37

[31] ibid 38

[32] ibid 39

Laughter, Mirror of the Soul

The world speaks one language called laughter. It is the shortest distance between people. It is the place where people of every continent, race, religion, and culture meet. Mark Twain got it perfectly when he said: “The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.” It brings people together. It is the one irresistible phenomenon that connects and opens the most distressed of hearts. Laughter is a powerful medicine. No one can do without this medicine for too long. A perfect dose of it creates a healthy and well-balanced person. While God remains the Prime Mover over the universal, laughter is the prime connector wherever there are people. Those who can tactfully handle the “serious” world and the “funny” world simultaneously rule the world. Laughter is the master key; it opens all doors. No heart is too grim; no person is inaccessible.Closeup portrait of a group of business people laughing

Laughter reveals the truth about the human person. Although the manner a person carries herself, speaks, acts, thinks, cries, what he believes, and gets involved in reveals a great deal about that person, laughter is the quickest way to know that person. Through laughter, the innermost secrets of the person’s soul are revealed. It is the mirror of the human soul. It touches the deepest layer of the soul. While a smile only touches the lips, laughter bursts forth from the soul, overflows, and bubbles around. Many trust and judge others by their laughs. Fyodor Dostoyevsky went so far as to say: “If a person laughs well, he’s a good person”. That means if he/she lets the heart expresses itself, the real self comes out. Our true color is a beautiful reality that is fundamental good. Laughter brings it out.

lllA sincere, genuine, effortless laughter is irresistible. Who does not like a person with an easy laugh? Who can be unmoved before the laughter of an innocent child? Who does not throw a smirk when he sees or hears a loud, deep, joyful laugh? It can bail a person out of anything. Ingrid Betancourt, a French journalist who was held in captivity for 6 years by the Columbian guerillas, asserts “I knew of no instruction manual for reaching a higher level of humanity and a greater wisdom, but I felt intuitively that laughter was the beginning of wisdom, as was indispensable for survival”. Apparently laughing was the only antidote to her misery in the jungle. She chose laughter in the midst of darkness and light was found. So laughter can empower us. In this sense comedian Craig Ferguson is right: “You gotta laugh because if you didn’t, you’d cry”. Laugh! It will change your interior disposition and your thoughts. Laughter gives rives to a new you—new world, new perspective, and new horizon. Learn to laugh and do it often. Cultivating a cheerful disposition is the most conducive mean to laughter.

brighter-smile-contest

It is universally accepted and scientifically proven that there are many social and healthful expediencies to laughter. Just being around people who laugh often causes laughter and creates a better atmosphere. It is very contagious. Laughter is attractive. A good sense of humor is part of the top three features women look for in men. Having a good humor should be everyone’s priorities. Everyone knows how people who laugh easily create us by their laughter. As victor Hugo puts it: “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face”. No one enjoys winter. Laughter is beneficial for relationships. Research shows that people who use laughter and smile when discussing a sensitive subject feel better in the immediacy and report higher levels of satisfaction in their relationship. Happier relationship means longer relationship.

If only we could always laugh. Life requires us to be serious. Those who laugh too much are not taken seriously. This is where the ancients’ view of laughter makes sense. From Plato to Aristotle to Kant, laughter is seen as disgraceful. They saw it as an emotion that overrides self-control. The Stoics and Aristotle concur with Plato; they believe that laughter should be permissible, but ordered. In this vein, St. Basil the Great wrote “raucous laughter… is indication of a disordered soul, and a lack of self-mastery”. All other theories are a footnote of Plato’s view of laughter. It is only in the last century has laughter accorded so great a value. So although it is a necessity, it is the sign of a good life, it must be exclaimed virtuously.

mI hope this did not start a negative view of laughter in your mind. I only wanted to present both sides. As you know, nothing good exists without a good rule. Self-control is the rule by while laughter is measured. A cheerful and joyful heart is a peak into the eternal chamber of God. God has a good sense of humor as we often say. It is believed that if we could grasp the universe as it truly is, we would have to laugh because it would be interesting seeing the divine wisdom behind it all. That’s why holy people who get a privileged glimpse into God’s mirror always have a good sense of human. They see purely and it is humorous.

In conclusion, while laughter is beneficial to the soul and a sign of happiness, it needs to be done with control and under the right circumstances. So when Dostoyevsky says that laughter reveals the man, he is right after all. It tells you what moves that person. So do laugh, but do it appropriately.