The Heroes of Our Time

No matter what your belief is, whether or not you support religion, once you get to know their achievements, you will admit that that John XXIII and JPII deserve to be recognized as saints today. Who would not acknowledge that the world and the church are better off today because JPII and john XXIII were part of it? They opened up a real avenue of communication for the world and the gospel to converse. They believed that the Gospel lives in conversation with culture. They knew that if the Church holds back from the culture, the Gospel itself would be silent. Man would not be saved consequently. As a result, John calls the second Vatican council to tell the world that the church is theirs and they are the church. John opened the door of the church to the media and nations so they can understand that God and religion are not just “the sigh of an oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, the soul of soulless conditions, or the opium of the people”. The church accompanies people even in the most unspeakable situation, and explains to man their nature and destiny— they are pilgrims on their way to the Father. He quickly was effaced from the scene to make place for JPII to interpret Vatican II.

xxiii-1JPII is well known by my generation because he came to us. He is the man that young people like me fell in love with because he spoke to our hearts. He challenged us to aim for truth, greatness, and happiness. We found ourselves in his words because he challenged us to touch the palpable love of Christ, to acknowledge His voice resounding in the temple of our hearts, to return His bright and penetrating glance, to not be satisfied with mediocrity, to make a masterpiece of ourselves, to have no fear of jumping into the unknown and discover, to know the truth about ourselves, our end, our destiny, and to show faithful souls the unspeakable riches of the love of Christ. He inspired us to not be afraid of the radicalness of Christ’s demands because He loved us first.
JPIIThis was the man who appealed to men and women to embrace their dignity, greatness, and destiny. Through him, we know that a person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, never as an object for use. He helped men and women of my time to understand that true relationship is built on sacrifices and self-denial. He beautifully argued time and again that we flourish best when we rely on others, especially on God. We discover by his words that the human person is most flourishing when he or she is in a relationship with others. He boldly said that it is in a woman that a man finds his identify. It is in his mate that he discovers that he is meant to live in a relationship. Man realizes that his relationship flourishes when he is living in a communion of persons. It is when he gives himself as a total, selfless, free, and reciprocal gift that transcends his very being that he finds happiness. He then inspired to rise ourselves to that beauty. No one before JPII was more outspoken about who man and woman are and how they need to treat each other.

This is a man who did not hesitate one bit to say to scientists, when they thought that faith and science could not cohabite, that they are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth because they are concerned about the same fundamental questions that dominate man’s mind in their journey of discovery: Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life? Simultaneously, he was not afraid to tell them that the truth made known to us by Revelation is neither the product of scientific research nor the consummation of an argument devised by human reason. It is a gratuitous gift revealed by Christ. So science can never fathom the depth of that mystery.Unknown-1

Any person who encourages man to reach for the star in such an outstanding way and strives to do the same deserves to be called a saint. That’s what the church understands in declaring them a saint today. You may argue their motives. You may disagree with their method of achievement. You may dislike them as persons. You cannot argue the truth they proclaim: through Jesus Christ, man is the crown of creation whose goal is to become like his God. You may not be capable of living that truth, but I know you wish you could and many of you are striving for that. May Saints John XXIII and John Paul II pray for us to strive and reach the height of heaven.

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SPIRITUAL BUT NOT RELIGIOUS?

33% of the world population claim to be spiritual, but not religious. That implies for them that they are not attached to a particular religious group. They describe themselves as “unchurched”, spiritually eclectic, religiously unaffiliated, freethinkers, or spiritual seekers. They give many reasons for refusing to subscribe to religion. The most common reason is religious leaders are not living what they preach. They preach the word of God not as God’s calling, but as a career. They don’t want to be confined to a system or structure, as if they are already part of a system. They claim scientism, as if science can explain everything like ‘why there is anything at all’. They argue that while religious’ substance may be good, they don’t like the style as if each believer is not responsible for his personal faith, in some way. I will not answer all these concerns for the sake of brevity. I will analyze whether or not it makes sense to be spiritual without being religious. Can someone have a deep, abiding friendship with God without religion?

RIDICULOUS

I believe in human’s willingness to achieve phenomenon. I know that fundamentally human beings are created good. I know that each one of us has a deep desire to achieve the good. The reality is to know and desire the good does not mean having the capacity to achieve it. Morally speaking, we may learn the Nicomachean Ethics and the golden rule and be very convinced about it, but when it comes to applying it, we break all the rules. We know what to do, but when the occasion surfaces to act, we just fainaigue it as if we never knew better. The truth of the human nature is that we possess both a soul and a body. We are both human and animal. We vacillate between doing the good and the bad. We love the good due to the presence of the soul, but we do the bad because of the animal. As a result, we need to order our lives so the animal or the body does not rule the soul. You only need to read Plato’s republic to understand how we are built and what to do to properly order our lives.

HELP

We need light to enlighten our darkness. We need encouragement to stay on course. When crises strike, we just are not in our best, perhaps due to emotions, biases, fear etc. We need to constantly be reminded of why we need to stay on course. It is natural that the more we hear something, the more likely we are to act on it when need there is. It works the other way too. The less we hear something, the less likely we are to utilize it when we should. We need the “good news” to strengthen our good behavior and avoid stupidity. You only have to read Dostoyevsky’s Brother Karamazov to see how immoral someone can be when he starts fabricating his own moral codes without religious guidance.

That is where religion comes in. it is always there to remind us what it means to be human. It is constantly there to help us answer in the right way the deepest and most important questions of our lives that stir our hearts. What is man? What is the meaning, the aim of life? What is the right course of action? Why do we do bad things even if we want to do the good? What ought we to do? What’s our purpose? Where does suffering come from and what purpose does it serve? Which is the road to true happiness? What is death? What happens after death? What, finally, is that ultimate inexpressible mystery which encompasses our existence: whence do we come, and where are we going?

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No one can answer these questions in a way that speaks to the depth, height, and breath of the human soul without turning to religion. No man can remove himself i.e. his emotions, fears, and biases from these questions unless he lets the God who reveals himself through religion speaks, the God who uses man to speak and yet transcends all men in time and places when speaking. These questions stand above any transgression man commits in the name of religion. They go beyond science, particular system, or style. They come from God and lead to God if properly answered.

Finally, no man is an island. Just as no one can finish high school without being committed to some kind of program or school, just as no one can become an engineer without going to an engineering school, no on can reach God without using the ladder of religion to climb to God. It is okay not to be the biggest aficionado of a ladder, but if God used it to condescend and speak to us, why should we despise it? Religion is the mean through which spirituality is built. It gives essence and sense to spirituality. It makes known the true God. Ask any respected anthropologist; he should know that. Religion informs spirituality. There’s no spirituality without religion. Spiritual always has to do with religion. When that is not the case, two things happen. Either a person creates his own religion so he can erect the God that pleases him, or he’s really not a believer at all. This theme, spiritual but not religious, is therefore an illusion.

That being said, the real reason why anyone would reject religion while claiming to be spiritual is really to be able to do whatever he wants without being judged by the standard set by the God of religion. These people want to do what any non-believers are doing, but they simultaneously feel guilty of renouncing God altogether. Their sensus divinitas and conscience bark at them. So they prefer to say that they are spiritual. None of them can answer what it means to be spiritual.