Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Good Politics: A Way to Peace

Every year, for 52 years now, the Holy Father gives a reflection on peace on New Year’s Day as his message for the celebration of the World Day for Peace. This year the message of Pope Francis is entitled: GOOD POLITICS IS AT THE SERVICE OF PEACE.

This is a good reminder for many Christians who think that the Church should keep off from politics. Jesus has come to save the world, and this includes the world of politics. All people of good will agree that politics too need truth, justice, peace and love. Politics is at the service of common good. This shows that politics is to be guided by moral norms. Politics can veer away from the right path either through ignorance, weakness of the character of leaders, or sheer ill will. Hence it too should be saved from abuses, weaknesses and ignorance. It too needs the light of Good News. For this reason no less than the Pope himself speaks of politics and gives it guidance.

Pope Francis wrote: “Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction.” When properly exercised, politics is a way of loving, which is the core of the message of Christ, and it can bring well-being to the citizens. But when abused, it can create a lot of harm. So the Holy Father continues: “Political office and political responsibility constantly challenge those called to the service of their country to make every effort to protect those who live there and to create the conditions for a worthy and just future. If exercised with basic respect for the life, freedom and dignity of persons, political life can indeed become an outstanding form of charity.”

When Pope Francis speaks about the virtues that politics should have, he quoted from the “Beatitudes of the Politician” that was proposed by Vietnamese Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyễn Vãn Thuận, who died in 2002. It is to be recalled that this Vietnamese Cardinal had been a prisoner of the Vietcong for 13 years, yet he bore no grudge against his captors and was even a good influence in the concentration camps where he was imprisoned. When assigned to Rome after his release, he became the head of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace, so he did a lot of reflection with the whole church on the politics that can bring about peace. Here is his reflection:

“Blessed be the politician with a lofty sense and deep understanding of his role.

Blessed be the politician who personally exemplifies credibility.

Blessed be the politician who works for the common good and not his or her own interest.

Blessed be the politician who remains consistent.

Blessed be the politician who works for unity.

Blessed be the politician who works to accomplish radical change.

Blessed be the politician who is capable of listening.

Blessed be the politician who is without fear.”

How I wish that our politicians would have these virtues so that they can be blessed and our people would be happy.

Finally, Pope Francis reminds us that “peace is based on respect for each person, whatever his or her background, on respect for the law and the common good, on respect for the environment entrusted to our care and for the richness of the moral tradition inherited from past generations.” So when good politics is at the service of peace it respects and promotes fundamental human rights. May the year 2019, which for our country is an election year, bring us politicians who really serve with the common good in mind, and thus bring about much needed peace to our people.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Human-Divine Exchange

Many Filipino Catholics are excited as Christmas approaches, especially during the Simbang Gabi days. But excited for what? For vacation? For going home? For Christmas parties? For gifts? There are so many things that can excite us. But as Christians, what should we be excited about? Not just for the date or the festivities of Christmas. We should be excited for the Lord! Christmas is the Lord Jesus!  St. Paul wrote: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again: Rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near!” (Philippians 4:4-5) It is the Lord we are waiting for. In Tagalog we have a unique word for this excitement: PANANABIK. It is a waiting with an intense longing. Come, Lord Jesus, Come! The whole Bible ends with this: “Yes, I am coming soon. Amen! Come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)

Jesus is coming to bring about a human and divine exchange. The Divine—God—became human in Jesus so that we human beings may become divine. God has taken on human life so that he can give us divine life. Indeed, the Son of God became son of man so that we sons and daughters of human beings may become sons and daughters of God. What an exchange! We can hardly fathom this divine condescension. The exchange is so unbalanced! We share our vile and limited humanity with God and he exchanges that with the wonderful goodness and greatness of his divinity.

When we meditate deeply on this, the things that we do on Christmas hardly approximates this reality. The so-called “joys” that we do by our gimmicks barely touch the surface of the joy that Jesus wants to share with us. And he really wants to share his joy with us—the fullness of his joy, not just a bit of it. He himself affirms this. “I’ve told you this, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)

In an exchange, we have to let go, to surrender something, in order to receive. So we have to let go of our humanity—its dreams, its limitations, and even its ugliness and dirt—and offer them to the Lord. Let us not be afraid. We are not really going to lose what we give up to the Lord. We receive them back but transformed by his divinity. He makes use of our limited human ways to make his wonders work among us.  Our time, talent, and riches when given to God returns a hundredfold.  We even give to him our sins, our problems and our hurts. We admit them and submit them to him so that he may kiss them with his love and cleanse and transform them. Because of the incarnation, that is, God becoming man, nothing human is wasted. He even transformed the cross, an instrument of death, to become an instrument of life and salvation. Even human sufferings and follies can be transformed for something that is good. This is what we are excited about in Christmas. This divine-human exchange has become visible, palpable, and touchable in the baby born in the manger.

So, let us have our attention and focus on Jesus.  He is Christmas!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Seeing through the smokescreen

IN the last two weeks, Duterte was relentless in his tirades against the Church and against religion. All of them unprovoked! He shamelessly and unjustly accused Bishop Ambo David of corruption by taking fruit offerings to his family and insinuating that he is involved in drugs because he follows up and cares for the orphaned victims of the war on drugs. He urged that bishops be killed because they do nothing but criticize him. He irresponsibly accuse 90% of the priests to be gay. He blatantly claim that the Bible is irrelevant because it was written thousands of years ago. He even accused Pope Leo XIV as having sired a son who also later became pope. How irresponsible this last statement is, that it shows his great ignorance of Church history. There is no Pope Leo XIV! The last pope who took the name of Leo was Leo the XIII!

While he was making these crazy statements, which were pronounced in speeches he was supposed to make on occasions which had nothing to do with his accusations, ignominious developments happened in the government. He signed 29 agreements with Chinese President XI without much public scrutiny. Are these advantageous to the Filipinos or are they a sell out to a foreign power? The Lower House surreptitiously passed the adoption of the resolution of Both Houses No 15 on federalism and charter change on second reading. In the resolution political dynasty remains, and term limits for congress and the senate have been eliminated. Bong Revilla was acquitted by the Sandiganbayan of the crime of plunder, and yet he was asked to return the 124.5 million pesos that he was involved in! Senator Trillanesis accused in a Davao court for libel. We have seen all of these before:corrupt people are being acquitted; critics are accused and threatened; unpopular laws that are self-serving are silently passed!

Duterte is either gravely sick or his attacks against religion are precisely timed and calculated to hide the machinations his minions are doing in the government. The media and the people are to talk about the tirades and not notice the mal-governance that is happening. The timing is so that one cannot avoid connecting the two.Are the unprovoked tirades calculated to be smokescreens to the nefarious government actions to hide them from public attention?

So what can we do? We should not lose focus of the two. We address both – the attacks and the manipulations in the government. Both are serious. The attacks on the religious beliefs of the people should be countered, not so much to prove Duterte wrong, but to help educate the people in their faith. The Chinese connection has to be exposed. We should demand the government to bare the agreements done with the Chinese because in the long run it is the people who will pay. The issue of federalism and charter change have to be continually denounced because it is getting clearer by the day that the purpose is self-serving to the present political powers. We have to protest against the Duterte administration’s prosecution and persecution of its critics. If we keep silent dictatorship and tyranny will overtake us before we know it. Let us see through the smokescreen!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Separation of Church and State

Separation of Church and State is often used to protest when religious leaders denounce government policies and government officials as they do injustice and oppress the people. But this is a wrong principle to invoke because Church people, even as religious leaders, do not lose their citizenship, therefore their right and duty to participate in political matters for the sake of the common good. Besides, it is within the mandate of the Church to proclaim what is good and to denounce what is evil wherever these may be found.

The doctrine of separation of Church and State, in fact, has been laid down for the government in order that it may not favor one religion over the other, but should treat all legitimate religions equally. It also means that government officials and policies should respect the internal governance and policies of all religions as long as they do not create any public harm. This principle has been laid down in order to assure the freedom of religion of everyone. Each citizen has a right to join any religion and to practice it according to its teachings.

What can we say then if the very president of the country destroys the good name of a religion, or tells the adherents of that religion not to follow its practices and teachings, such as going to church? Is this not a breach of the principle of the separation of Church and State? And these are precisely what Duterte is doing! Nay, more! What he does is already a form of religious persecution. And he does it unprovoked! He inserts his tirades in speeches which have nothing to do with the Church nor its practices at all.

Are these tirades just outbursts of unresolved issues or hidden anger that lurk within his mind that he does not speak rightly anymore? If so, we should really pray for him and be afraid for our country. Pray for him, because he is not in his right senses; pray for our country, because we have someone in the helm who is mentally or emotionally sick.

But no! These tirades can also be deliberately planned. They are strategies to divert the attention of the people to what is seriously wrong in the country. There are really serious issues in the country which are getting out of control. Many people are suffering because of the economy. The inflation is getting out of hand and many people are getting poorer. None of the promises of change ever took off: the traffic situation is worse, joblessness is not being arrested, the promised end of ENDO is nowhere in sight, criminality is on the rise, and the drug situation is worse in spite of the tens of thousands unjustly killed and more tens of thousands orphaned. Now the Chinese connections of Duterte is being publicly questioned. He has brought the country to the tutelage of China and has greatly compromised our territorial sovereignty. A way to keep these problems from the attention of the people is to create non-issues for the people to talk about. Hence the unprovoked attacks on the Catholic Church and its leaders.

Poor man! Does he think that Filipinos are slow of intelligence and can easily be fooled? Whatever purpose he may have in ranting against the Church, he is breaking the separation of Church and State! This in itself is a grave abuse of power!

Silence is not an option

WHEN Pope Francis was being maligned by some church people in September of 2018, he remained silent. Silence and pray...