TO LIGHT A FIRE
The first half of the Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial last January 3 entitled “Sources of Hope” was somewhat parallel to that of the CBCP President’s message for the New Year, thus it started as follows: (emphasis added)
The Latin phrase “annus horribilis” has been in the popular lexicon ever since Queen Elizabeth II used it to describe 1992, a year plagued by misfortune for her property and her family. The same has been said of 2009; it surely qualifies as one of the worst years in living memory.
It comes as no surprise, then, that polled before the year ended, an overwhelming majority of Filipinos from all walks of life (89 percent, according to the Social Weather Stations) expressed hopefulness about this year.
We have dwelt on the disasters and the grim events that hogged the headlines in 2009, the political and economic difficulties that beset a nation battered by natural calamities.
What we wish to do now is point out that even as official irresponsibility and impunity alienated the public, and the economy and nature battered the citizenry, we were able to witness heroism and compassion temper these events, giving hope and providing inspiration to all of us.
Suffice it to say that if we saw our political institutions preferring to live lavishly, lie constantly, exercise impunity with a near-total failure on the part of the citizenry to exact accountability, we saw individuals and even groups demonstrate how to serve humbly, and live lives that bear authentic witness to truth and public service.
While still far less prevalent than we hope, these witnesses to virtue and duty have helped the public to realize that official corruption and indifference have a price; and that the public has the means to change the situation for the better.
Former Prime Minister (and recent convert to Catholicism) Tony Blair’s World View column entitled “A time of tests”, was also all about the tough times that decision makers have to face today. It ended up with the following conclusion:
“So no matter how difficult it is, we should remember what it is we believe in and why.”
“So now is the moment, even among all the uncertainty, for some clarity- and that clarity comes best from a worked-out strategy based on a strong set of convictions.”
TOUCHE! And thank you dear Mr. Blair…
If we combine the first half of the PDI editorial with Tony Blair’s last few lines, surprisingly and providentially we end up with a combined commentary that leads to a very Christian point of view and logical synthesis as well. On second thought, it should not be surprising at all, considering that some 90% of our people are Christians as well as Mr. Blair, most of whom we can safely presume to have acquired a certain level of HOPE which is one of the three Christian theological virtues, from where all human virtues are rooted, e.g. justice and fortitude.
Thus to synthesize: the local examples of “heroism and compassion” triggered by Ondoy and other disasters have truly given “hope and provided inspiration to all of us” and constitute “authentic witness to truth and public service”, even in the face of the government’s penchant for “irresponsibility”, telling lies to the public with “impunity” and the citizenry’s frustrated-efforts to “exact accountability”.
And Tony Blair’s suggested solution to the world’s equally or even more complex, problems of security, global warming and economic meltdown, for the purpose of achieving “clarity” in order to arrive at effective remedies and authentic service for the common good, starts, common-sensically, with what the decision-makers truly believe in -- “a worked-out strategy based on a strong set of convictions”. Indeed, any rational and potentially effective solution to any problem must start with one’s clear idea of what a “GOOD” END RESULT should be, and WHY.
And so I submit that there can be no better and clearer template, for such a set of convictions or beliefs for our predominantly Christian nation than that familiar and acceptable Doxology, the Lord’s Prayer: the “Our Father” which most of us already know! In fact the Catechism of the Catholic Church which the great John Paul II left as one of his most enduring legacies to us Catholics, emphatically states that the Lord’s Prayer “is truly the summary of the whole gospel.” (paragraph 2761), a topic which is discussed in the very last sections of the Catechism.
But for far too long we Filipino Christians have implicitly yet mindlessly accepted the conventional secular notion that it is possible “TRULY to be good” merely for its own ABSTRACT sake. The late Jesuit Father John P. Delaney used to refer sarcastically to this commonly misunderstood tautology about moral goodness or virtue as “it is good to be good”. It is Christianity’s basic belief however, that Christian values are morally “good” because these stem directly from our FAITH in Jesus Christ who gave and LIVED the most authentic examples of all virtues including “heroism and compassion”, in obedience to “Our Father”, thus showing us “the Way, the Truth and the Life” via the Christian and Blair-suggested “set of convictions”. And all these are embodied in the Gospel as God’s Eternal Word, and synthesized by our Lord Himself in the “Our Father” prayer.
Thus for example, for the last 2,000 years the Gospel and the Catholic Church Magisterium have been consistent in teaching the TRUTH about the sacredness and inestimable value of even JUST ONE HUMAN PERSON, whose body, soul and spirit are worth more than “the whole world” (Matthew 16:26). Why? Because ALL PERSONS are created by God in His own image and likeness for the purpose of enjoying eternal life with Him in Heaven. In fact that was one of the first truths about our Catholic Faith that I learned from my Kindergarten teacher, the Benedictine nun Mother Gracia in St. Scholastica in 1940 – that “God made me to know Him, to love Him and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven!”
I am aware that statements like these are JARRING to the sensibilities of people like former President Fidel V. Ramos. He even considers it a violation of the Philippine Constitution and Filipinos’ freedom of conscience, when our Bishops boldly and publicly proclaim the truth of the sacredness of human life by urging us Catholics NOT TO VOTE for candidates who support the Reproductive Health Bill’s provisions which promote the suppression of human life from becoming NASCENT, or even from attaining full maturity in their mothers’ wombs, by suffocation through contraceptives/abortifacients.
Nevertheless it is such transcendental faith-AND-moral issues which our Catholic Bishops are DUTY-BOUND to continue to speak out on, as forcefully and boldly as they may, because that is precisely what and why by solemn and sacred oath they have dedicated themselves to do and LIVE FOR and even DIE FOR! Thus to “Our Father”, these Bishops have pledged “Thy Will be done!”
Thus too, Pope Benedict XVI exhorted his African bishop-colleagues during their recent weeks-long Synod, for them to “deal with reality, but from the perspective of God and His Word”, and that “reconciliation, justice and peace are not possible without a profound purification of the heart, without a renewal of thought, a metanoia (conversion), without a newness that MUST come precisely from the encounter with God.” (emphasis added)
And so just like the PDI editorial, Tony Blair’s World View and William Esposo’s Noy or Never proposition last January 3 of the New Year, certainly NONE of these were “unconstitutional”, nor a violation of anybody’s “freedom of conscience”, obviously because these were not being imposed but merely proposed. And in the case of our Catholic Bishops’ exhortation to our voters, it was given to us Catholics in the context of their sacramentally conferred moral and spiritual authority, albeit with caritas in veritate or charity in truth, to boot! For such is the “heart of the Church’s social doctrine” according to Pope Benedict XVI in his latest encyclical, which by implication Fidel V. Ramos would similarly consider as violative of the Philippine Constitution if copies of Caritas in Veritate were to be distributed to us by the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines…
Providentially just like Tony Blair’s column piece, last Sunday’s First Reading for Holy Mass from the prophet Isaiah, and Responsorial Psalm as well, are both fitting reminders to us Catholics and Christians alike including Fidel V. Ramos, and also for me, to cap this last part of my series of articles about our nation whom Providence has gifted to us all in His unlimited Love and Wisdom..
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as men make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed, as on the day of Midian. For every boot that tramped in battle, every cloak rolled in blood, will be burned as fuel for flames.
For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this! (emphasis added)
Psalm 98: (Responsorial Psalm)
ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH HAVE SEEN THE SAVING POWER OF GOD!!!
EDUARDO B. OLAGUER
Catholic Xybrspace Apostolate of the Philippines
January 18, 2010