Saturday, March 29, 2008

Pastoral Letter

Conrado's opinion (Healer, Heal Thyself) about the Bishops' Pastoral Letter "Toward a Morally Rebuilt Nation" is somewhat lacking in more ways than one. Corruption in the Philippines has not only seeped in the highest eschelons of the government but to the rank-and-file individuals. The focus of the pastoral letter is to command everyone to look into oneself and discern each his own's responsibility of this "plague". Though to the more has been given, more has been also expected, this does not mean to exempt those who have been given less. At the least, the basic exhortation everyone must heed is what Jesus spoke when everyone would have stoned to the woman from Magdala: "those who have not sinned must cast the first stone". Of course, it would be completely misreading the bishops' pastoral letter to negate the existence of this government's role and responsibility of the corruption; however, it must be borne in mind that the relation each one has to this national sin should also be taken into account. Our subjective contribution to this objective reality is what the focus of this letter without denying the existence of the possibility of the President's own grave role in this mess.

It seems to me also that our national consciousness has fixed our gaze to the government more than our contribution to corruption. Sometimes when we focus intently on one thing, we blur the divisions of its boundaries. It is like putting a wedge between subjectivity (our own culpability) and objectivity (the national sin); we forgot that in part we contribute to this reality. But shouldn't we clean our hands first before preparing the meal? The theological underpinning of the pastoral letter is to implicitly dissuade man from being Pelagians in any way. We have to check our own ascent to national salvation without due regard to the spiritual anchor of grace, which God can only provide. At the backdrop of all this is to stray from the focus of our inward-looking selves but to look at the one who was pierced to cleanse us before we can do the work he has given us: the salvation of our country.

On the other hand, we can take the standpoint of Conrado and to look where it truly stands in perspective. If, indeed, the head represents the whole, then the road toward national redemption must in the first place be actualized by the President before it trickles to the secondary. David was not even spared when he intently planned to kill Uriah beggetting the latter's wife in the end. But more poingnantly, this woman would bear the future great king, Solomon, who has been greatly favored by God. We could gleam from this that, though Filipinos will always be stained by the sin of Adam and found himself in a country besieged of corruption, in the end our efforts will not run into futility and drive us into hopelessness. We will find respite.

Friday, March 28, 2008


The word evokes a trilogy, three days of commemoration of something that has been considered special in the subset of a population. This word comes to be associated with most of the cultural events: it can be a three-series boxing fight, it might be a three-part movie installments, and it can even be a three-course meal. Just anything of threes. The number three itself is odd, it is not paired. So, the upshot could mean conclusion of something began. It can be decisive in a sort of way. In the secular world, the number itself has great significance in card games, in some combination of drinks, or even in picture taking.

The holy scriptures is not immune to this sort of category. We had three persons appearing to Abraham one hot day, three ministries in Israel (priest, prophet, and king), three loaves, three disciples of Christ who seemed to be his favorites, the three crosses on the mount of Golgotha, the three magi with of course their three gifts, and so on. We could surmise that three represents balance and proportion, an equally complementary fact of realities that mirrors man's need to something that stabilizes and gives man an equilibrium. This equilibrium thing only mirrors in man what he is part of. When you look at the universe, it is suspended in a balancing of forces and energy.

The holy triduum that has been the unceasing feature of the Roman liturgy every year is a seamless, united events of the passion, death, and resurrection of the Lord. When it comes to mind, it speaks of solemnity, that gravity which comes to us from without and imposed upon us with usual urgency - an urgency that has its beginning in the past. The week of the pasch has been a usual staple for most Christians, that though it is celebrated each year, it has been part of the fabric of our seasons. It does not come as new and surprising for it is passively anticipated and accepted. Moreover, this kind of attitude has been fostered culturally and handed over from generations to generations; however, this may be trapped into the pitfall of constancy, that it would soon lose its meaning, where the origin of such event does not come as truly consequential to the ones who hold it in their community.

The Catholic Church as a community of believers has come to be viewed as imposing restrictions, the gird of oppression and ignorance. In this age, she is seen as a bringer of unhappiness and hampers ascent of being himself, of having the capacity of finding himself in himself. This summit of Christian liturgy focuses that decisive event that gives identity to the believers of the messiah of Israel. Hence, our eyes should deviate from the focus of ourselves but turn toward the one whom they have pierced, to the one who had been hanged on the cross for the sake of others. This does not appear as just as anything to Catholicism; it is the lifeblood of its own existing in the world grown hostile to the Gospel. It is but right that the perennial attitude should be that this is accepted as imposed upon to those who have Christ as their identity-giver. Though this becomes visible as something external and coercive, the commemoration invites, albeit constantly bid to enter into the mesh of its narrative, us to penetrate that mystery of our salvation.

It does not come as a surprise that after Vatican Council II, that though the council loosen some strictures of the practices that have been the usual tradition of Catholics, some have gone out of their way rationalizing in their subtle and measured ways how to go about celebrating cuaresma. In one of the discussions over at ANC, a show host asked her panelists how did they usually celebrate the passiontide, I was particularly drawn to a couple who were Catholics who answered in a tone reminiscent of how progressives thought the Church is. They talked so much of the signs of the times, and that in celebrating this special time of the liturgical year, it robs the essence of setting our eyes on the cause of this celebration. They said that it was usual for them to celebrate this with their family and, in the course, would have just any spontaneous call to prayer and reflection. They came close to saying that they had disowned Catholic tradition, though from their lips they said that tradition is good and noble. I came to a question of how such thing could happen, when we praise our tradition but not practice it. How could we say that such is we and we as such, when we relinquish our claims to it and left it to parch under the sun of trivialization and relativization?

There is this thing as holding the tension of opposites and contrarieties that exists within the folds of Catholicism. Yes, indeed, it is a common fact that in the Church there are given differences that lives within its boundaries. Yet, this differences do not undo and nixes the existence of the other one. These apparent dissimilarities develop and find its rightful place that give a logical and intelligibility to the whole picture of truth, which does not demand the non-existence of neither. The attitude is not of the aspersion of that great wealth of patrimony that becomes part of Catholic existence but to insert within the whole stream of our individual responses past and present to that same Gospel, eventually bringing out the full measure of our act of faith. It has been the constant character of the Church to give the widest latitude of our gifts that we can bring to the altar of the Lord. Though we confront the times we are facing in, but we must at all times be conscious of the things behind us without neglecting it definitely.

The narrative of our faith, which in some way is the Word itself, must find its place within the present reality to draw it from there and raise it to the One seated at the right hand of the father. The world amidst the darkness of the times should find redemption within. This only happens when within the majority is a minority of fervent populace that brings forth this gift that does not dwell at a still but always seeks others and returns to the one who sent it. The speech act of the Church is indiscriminate to whom it rests for it invites everyone to heed the Word. Therefore, she does not rest assured but always proclaims loudly to the world the saving grace of God, even to the point that it sounds hollow to whose ears grown dim by the snares and demands of the world. We do not shrink from the challenge of the world, but should we recede when God calls us to meet up His dare?

The Paschal Triduum is clearly manifested from the institution of the Holy Eucharist to the glory of Easter. It is evident in the way culturally, Filipinos have allocated this specific time to prayer and reflection. Businesses close and silence descends to all quarters. Sections of the city, which used to be the hub of shoppers, finds its rest even for a day. People's focus becomes religiously colored; congregations flock to the Church for the liturgical events. We have been accustomed to gatherings before the 14 Stations of the Cross, of the Pabasa of the Pasyon, of the processions, of the candles, of the water, and of the varied prayers of this season. In Catholic countries, we have foods suited for this time and practices of flagellating and crucifixion, which would draw numbers from all persuasions and walks of life. Some would keep things that would create sound, and others would keep from travelling in fear of meeting accidents. Some would go on a pilgrimage of out-of-the-way places, on the mountains, and places of worship.